Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 23 - A quick lunch in Chianti

3 of our crew went to Florence for the day, they were heading off early and I had not had a good night due to threatening cold so decided not to go.  Connie Dave and I drove in the Chianti countryside as Connie had not been there yet, and there was a restaurant that Dave wanted to take me to. The countryside everywhere is beautiful, but especially spectacular in Chianti Classico region.

We drove through the countryside admiring the views.  At one point we were able to see Sangimiano in the distance. The towers are very distinctive and set it apart from all the other hill towns.

We wended through the countryside until we came to the restaurant that they had lunch in the day before and indeed it was in a beautiful location with an expansive view over the valley.

The food was not bad either! I ordered scallopini with mixed funghi (mushrooms)

Wonderful very intense mushroom flavour.  Dave ordered pasta with the funghi sauce.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A month in Tuscany Day 22 - A quiet day at the villa

Dave, Gord, Nancy and Al were going to rent scooters and buzz around the Chianti region.  Originally I planned to go, but remembered that I lost my drivers licence just before coming away.  So I stayed back at the Villa with Connie who was not feeling confident enough to ride them. Connie and I decided to walk the other way along the road and see what we could find.  The scenery was stunning and we walked and talked and constantly clicked away with our cameras.

Every directions the views were beautiful.

At the end of the road it turned from rural to more urban going in to a residential area adjoining the University.  So we though we would look for a coffee shop.  What we found was a small market.

Of course we had to check it out, Connie found the perfect black cardigan for 10.00 euros and I found porccetta

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A month in Tuscany Day 21 - Another 3 hour lunch!

Today was the day that my British childhood friends were leaving, so we decided to go up to Siena and have lunch before bidding them farewell.  We were trying to find somewhere to eat when we walked past a restaurant that I had been eyeing for a while and was getting very good vibes on.  There was room for only 8 on their very small terrace and 8 we were.  We let the waiter decided what to bring for us, and he did not dissapoint.

First up was a antipasto platter. We sat 4 at each table and so they brought out 2 platters of everything.

This platter had bruschetta with tomatoes and liver pate, as well as deep fried croquettes.  None of us could figure out exactly what these consisted of except there was definately meat of some kind and they were delicious.

Next came the obligatory meat platter.

In the centre is pecorino cheese with honey to drizzle on it which is a wonderful way to eat it.  Next was the ribilliata bread soup.

This was the best version that I have had so far with a lovely crunchy toasted bread served with it.

A month in Tuscany Day 20 - 33 years of married bliss

Today was Jacky and Howard's wedding anniversary.  When they were married 33 years ago I had emigrated to Canada and was not able to be at their wedding, so I was happy that they invited me and Candi along to celebrate with them.  Well maybe they did not invite us but they put up with us anyway.  We drove to Castallina in Chianti and found this wonderful deck to have lunch on.

After the chill of yesterday it was warm and sunny again and it was the perfect temperature for lunching in the shade.  We ordered to starters to share the first was the charcuterie platter.

As always this was beautiful with 3 different types of bruschetta and and some artichoke hearts.  The bread basket included some wonderful topped foccacia bread.

We also got a burrata mozzarella sitting on a bed of arugula pesto which was not only beautiful, but very tasty.

For my main course I had lamb with the most amazing parsley mashed potatoes and red cabbage.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 19 - Fall comes to Tuscany

Day 19 dawned much cooler, not cold but cool enough that you needed to wear a jacket, I think this was about the first time I have worn a jacket since June! It was cloudy and threatening rain, but we decided we would go to the market any way as it was market day. We wandered around the market for about an hour in small groups and then 8 of us met up for lunch. Dave bought himself a leather jacket and scarf, looking very Italian.

It was starting to rain quite hard so the obvious thing to do is find a restaurant for lunch!  A rather large warm inviting restaurant called to us and we heeded the call.  First thing 2 bottles of vino de cassa.  I ordered potato and mushroom tart served on saffron fondue as I had no idea what that would be.  This is what I got.

What this turned out to be was a crust of mashed potato filled with porcini mushrooms with a saffron cream sauce absolutely delicious.

Dave ordered mushroom risotto as it is porcini season.

Dov ordered lamb chops which were grilled and served kind of like lamb popsicles.

Several people ordered the wild boar which was amazing.

By the time we got out of the restaurant it had stopped raining, but was still cool and overcast so we decided to go in to the Duomo.

The inside is quite dramatic and in the month of September all the inlaid floors are exposed.  The remainder of the year they are covered with carpets.  They are quite stunning and we spent a while in there listening to an audio guide we bought. We emerged into sunshine once again and after coffee in the campo made our way back to the villa.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Month in Tuscany Gato update

Our poor failing cat spent all night in the living room and her paw was getting larger, so we decided that we had to try to find the vet again and deal with her one way or another.  She is such a sweet little thing and purrs every time you touch her though she was no longer eating.  However she managed to get off the chair and limped outside we thought to do her business, but she disappeared.  We assumed that as cats do, she had gone off to hide and die.  So sadly we went about the day and mourned her loss.

That evening however, when I went down to get a cardigan there she was on our bed.  We gave her some cream and she stayed in our room over night crawling in to the closet at 5:00 am.  When we got up we did extensive research found the vet and went to get her. Lo and behold she had disappeared again! Obviously she understands English and did not want to go the the vet.  A few minutes later Jakopo's mother appeared with the cat, it had gone to her house.  She is also a cat lover and said that her two cats would not put up with this intruder, but she knew of a cat shelter where they had a vet and she would take her there.  At least we think that is what she said as she spoke very little English and I only speak menu Italian.

We miss the gato, but I believe she is being well looked after, having used up several of her nine lives.

A month in Tuscany Day 18 - A night at the Opera

I route marched the new arrivals in to Siena, I really have to get a lot of walking in each day or I will not be able to fasten the seat belt on the plane on the way home from this trip.  Dave drove Gord down to the train station and they came up the escalators as Gord does not have the problem of eating too much! We arranged to meet in the Campo, which at the allotted time was packed.

By this time it was time for lunch a good friend of mine who sadly could not be here had given me the name of a restaurant which was reputedly the best restaurant in Siena.  I suggested that we find this and go there for lunch, it turned out that the restaurant was about 1/2 a block from where we were standing! Al and I went and got the table while poor Nancy waited in the Campo for Gord and Dave. We ordered the house wine, the waiter said he would bring 2 litres and we would only pay what we drank. We paid for 2 litres!

There were no menus and when everyone arrived the chef told us the options for pasta. Nancy ordered ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach with mushroom sauce.

Which was delicious, I ordered the ribilliata which is the Tuscan bread soup.

This was also wonderful, Dave, Al and Gord had pici with wild boar sauce.

Also delicious.  All the pasta was made on the premises and scooped off a large table in to the pot at the time of ordering. The chef then came back and asked what we wanted for our main course, we were all full and will have to come back another day for the meat course.  Excellent restaurant, not sure if the best in Siena, but right up there.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 17 - Our first winery

Day 17 dawned foggy but warm, first thing Dave, Nancy, Al and I went to the Co op to load up on supplies for food and wine.  Then 8 of us headed out in two cars to Pienza.  We stopped in a small town for lunch.  The special of the day was panzanella the Tuscan bread salad.

We all ordered this and got a large platter of it and plastic plates and cutlery to eat it with! Not the greatest presentation, but very good salad.  We washed this down with a litre of house wine and continued on our way. We happened upon a winery that was actually advertising sampling that was open so of course both cars pulled in.  I lovely young Italian women directed us to sit in a covered area with the a view across the vineyards. We were also greeted by a St Bernard the size of a small horse.

We sat down and she brought out the three wines that we would be tasting and 3 glasses each.  For each tasting we got about 5oz of wine!

The winery had been in the her husbands family for 300 years.  We had one pinot grigio and two reds which both had a large percentage of san giovase grape. This was the best one and we bought several bottles at 15.00 euro a bottle, which to us Canadians seems cheap but not necessarily to the Brits.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 16 - The british invasion

I am writing this a day late as the last 24 hours has been a whirlwind. The day started calmly enough, Connie and Dov arrived late the night before managing to get a train when there was supposed to be a 24 hour strike! So along with Carl and Lois we walked in to Tuscany for lunch.  We went to the same restaurant that we had been to, several times before.  I took a picture of the name on the place mat as I thought they ought to have credit.

Dov ordered gnocchi with arugala sauce, he was very happy with this choice and indeed it was very tasty.

I ordered the cut pork, which I now know is grilled pork sliced and served over apple and radicchio salad drizzled with balsamic creme and topped with shaves of cheese.

This was so good, but unlike most meals in Italy far too big a portion, I was not able to finish it, there was just so much meat.  Carl had a Pizza, Lois had the chicken that I had the previous time and Connie had the pici with wild boar.  All in all a very good meal.  We walked around a little to orient the newcomers to Siena.  Connie told me that I had not posted any pictures of the sights of Siena just food and views so this one is for you Connie, a picture of the unfinished wing of the Duomo.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 15 - A trip to Chianti country

Three of our guests were wanting to rent scooters and scoot around the Tuscan country side.  So Dave and I drove them up to a small town in the centre of the Chianti wine district Gaiole, to rent them.  This took far longer than you would expect.  Jennifer you are far more patient than I. When Bri and Ern get together it is indeed like herding cats! When they finally had there scooters running they took off and we arranged to meet them in Radda for lunch.  Radda is yet another beautiful little hill town and we sussed out a good place for lunch.

We ordered two glasses of Chianti Classico and waited for their arrival.  Amazingly they were not that late, and using impeccable Italian we ordered lunch.  I had Bruscetta Tuscany, which is, warm liver pate with toasted bread.

This was delicious with a real liver flavour which I love.  Bri and Dave ordered the pizza for two, I think really it was a pizza for four!

Ern and Jen ordered salads, which were fresh and probably much better for them than either of the other options.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 14 - halfway through feeling like home

One couple left for Monaco early in the morning and another couple took the bus to another hill town and I walked in to Siena with the two new arrivals from yesterday, and Carl who is always game to walk into Siena. As usual I could not help taking some more pictures of the movie like scenery.

Ernie was wanting some Italian black T shirts and I was able to take him to the a store where my sons had bought several.  I then bought a pair of sunglasses to replace the ones that I had lost :(. By this time it was 1:00 and time for lunch, I took them to the same restaurant that we had lunch on the first day at.  I ordered cut chicken? This is what arrived.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A month Tuscany day 13 - We adopt a villa cat

I woke this morning with the sound of purring in my ear, we seem to have adopted a large skinny grey tabby cat.  The owner does not recognize it, and fears it has been abandoned. It does have a flea collar, seems very domesticated and loves to be held and sit on your lap.  After 24 hours of hanging around with us we broke down and bought cat food!

After Breakfast and getting some of the necessities done around the place, Dave and I walked all the way in Siena.  This is a good walk and necessary to counteract all the not healthy things I am doing to my body.  We stopped in The Campo (main square) for a cup of coffee and people watching.

I realize that sitting having coffee in the main tourist attraction in a city is not going to be the cheapest cup of coffee, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and this is what we did.  After a nice sit in the shade, we explored around a little more, and were just heading back to go home for lunch when we saw a small restaurant in a back street which caught both of ours eyes.  So we decided to stop for lunch.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 12 - market day in Siena

Wednesday is Market day in Siena, so 5 of us set off on foot and walked all the way from the villa to the market which is in the old town about 3km of very hilly terrain, so good for working off some of the wine, cheese and gelato which I have been consuming. We arrived at the market and were immediately overwhelmed by the size of it.  There were stalls selling clothes, nightwear, pets, leather goods food and almost anything else you can imagine.

It was quite crowded and so much to see, so we decided to divide and conquor.  Lisa and I went off to find food.  We stumbled upon the food section near one end of the market and immediately started sampling cheese and salami.

We bought the cheese with the black speckles.  Those black speckles are truffle yum! We also bought some salami.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 11 - My family leaves

I can not remember the last time that my husband, two sons and I spent over a week together, it has to be years.  We also had my Father with us for this whole time as well, it has been good to reconnect and spend some time together as a family.  But today the boys and my Father headed back to Florence and then to fly back to Canada, hopefully this has been a trip that they will remember for a long time.

In the morning Nicholas Mark and I walked the 1.5 km down to the local stores to pick up some bread, butter and shared a cappaccino at the local cafe. The bread that we picked up was used to make tuscan sausage hot dogs for their last meal at the villa.

After we dropped them off we went to the Co op to pick up a few items that we needed. As we drove home the heavens opened and it poured rain for about 15 or 20 minutes then cleared up again.

All the others were out and about 2 in Florence, 3 in Siena and 2 cycling around the countryside.  They all avoided the rain by being on a bus or a coffee shop so no drowned rats that day.

Darren was making mushroom risotto for dinner, I had picked up both dried and amazing fresh porcini mushrooms for him.  I am afraid I do not have a picture of the finished risotto, but here is a picture of it in the making.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 10 - the wood fired pizza oven

Day 10 the last full day with my family.  My husband drove me, Lois and my Father to a very small town called Monteriggioni, which is about 13 km North of Siena. This is a very small walled town or village really, you can walk across the whole town in about 5 minutes.

At the entrance there was square with a couple of restaurants with shady umbrellas, but we chose a restaurant to the right of the square that had a garden at the back.  This was very pleasant and the menu was full of Florentine specialities.  Dave ordered ribollita (Tuscan bread soup) this was delicious and more like a stew than a soup as it was so thick.

My Father ordered grilled porcini mushroom cap.

Porcini mushrooms are in season and there were several specials using them.  Lois ordered porcini mushroom salad which she was extremely pleased with.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 9 - The hoards descend

The morning dawned quietly with the boys sleeping in until after 10:00, and I enjoyed a leisurely morning doing laundry.  The washing machine has been a bit of a trial, but I believe we have if figured out now, and have determined that it is not a combo washer and dryer but but just a washing machine.  Therefore the drying is done on drying racks in the sun.

For lunch I made some chicken vegetable noodle soup from the stock made from the chicken the other night.

After lunch we went down to pick up the first two couples who arrived at the train station with in 20 minutes of each other one couple from Rome, the other from Cinque Terra.  We brought them back to the villa for the obligatory tour and drink on the deck.  The afternoon passed pleasantly swimming and chatting on the deck in beautiful warm sun shine.  Then at about 5:30 a large cloud came over and suddenly the heavens opened.