I don’t care what anyone says, there is no better food than in Italy! The “fresh factor” probably accounts for most of the fabulous tastes, but ahhhhh, the food is fabulous. I had a new whole grain salad the other day…at least it was new to me: spelt. It resembled barley, but it was so tasty in a salad with EVOO and grilled veggies. Yummmm!
Then there is the wine. The Chianti region is where we are staying. The special appellation known as Chianti Classico (a dry smooth red) can be made here. It’s a red wine that pairs well with food. You may not be aware, but the making of wine is very controlled and regulated by government officials who inspect the agricultural methods, bottling and content of the wines which want to be considered Chianti Classico. Many of the vineyards make extra wine that they do not bottle. For these wines, they don’t bother to preserve them by adding sulfites. This makes it seem that we can drink more and not suffer the normal headaches we might get otherwise (at least that’s what we’re telling ourselves as we drink from lunch through dinner!) They serve these un-preserved wines as their house wines. The house wines are often great, and because they are meant to be drunk right away, they are not available outside the country. These are sometimes white and sometimes red, but almost routinely delicious. Another reason to visit Tuscany!
I am staying at a restored monastery known as San Fedele. The owners made their fortunes in the cell phone industry and hopped off that fast track for life in Tuscany. They felt a special kinship to this land and this property and claimed a piece of it for themselves. After over 7 years and an incredible investment of energy and money, they took the property from abandoned ruins to restored beauty. It has a very good vibe and is tastefully authentic. We have WiFi and good plumbing. The rooms are spacious and modern. Our group also has a large room in which to use as a studio for painting during the evenings or inclement weather. That makes it especially ideal for our group. The other evening, as the sun was setting and we were drinking some wine before supper, we were treated to a triple rainbow of incredible intensity. None of us had ever seen such a thing, and I will forever associate San Fedele with that moment.
Though all the things I describe are great, one overwhelming perk of this place is the food! Breakfast is cooked by Renatta, the owner. Those generally feature a couple of home baked cakes, yogurts, fruits, meats, eggs, breads and juices. It’s very good, and I am not a breakfast lover.
We eat lunch elsewhere as a rule. Andrea is our chef in the evenings, and we have had extraordinary meal after extraordinary meal thanks to him. He is a lively and funny guy who loves to describe each course we eat every night. Generally there are 5 courses: Anti-pasti, Prima Pasti, Vegetable, Salad, and Dessert. All the food is organic and fresh He doesn’t use anything which is frozen, and shops every day for the food.
|Last night’s Anti- pasti: Tuscan Salame with large peppercorns, spinachini (baby spinach), and home made chicken liver pate’ on Tuscan toast
|Our chef- Andrea Anichini|
We have been so spoiled. The pasta is amazingly fresh (and made by our Chef’s sister-in-law). The vegetables and meats are from local producers and are incredibly tasty. Our chef Andrea is a fabulously enthusiastic cook and loves to tell us all about each course. He puts such heart into his efforts to serve an authentic and tasty representation of Tuscan cooking at it’s finest. I will miss his warm hospitality and our happy conversations about food and life and art. His talents and sweet friendship really added to my time here. He offers lessons in his home kitchen and comes to the US to cook in the off season for special events. I hope to find my way to his table again…either here or on our side of the Atlantic.
Arrivederci San Fedele…I will leave a little part of my heart here.