Spotlight on Tuscan Cuisine
We're very eccitato for our upcoming trip to Tuscany this fall (and could definitely use the refresher on some common Italian lingo - it's a work in progress)! As we prepare for our incredible Tuscan Culinary Adventure, we're researching all things Tuscan to ensure our guests have the most delicioso experience (that sounds right, right?). Here are a few Italian staples that we're excited to savour when we travel the lush valleys and rustic kitchens of Italy's countryside!
White truffles, or Piedmont truffles as they're formally called, are sought out by dogs with a nose for that unique earthy scent. These delicate fungi form underground at the foot of white poplar trees, so that's why dogs, pigs or other four-legged creatures are needed for their more sensitive sniffing capabilities. And these particular truffles (which we'll be hunting on our excursion to an organic farm) are the most aromatic of all varieties! Since they're so expensive to buy, white Piedmonts are used very sparingly, often shaved super thin to add an ambrosial, yet un-mushroom-like flare to a number of Tuscan dishes.
The first thing we'll do when sitting down to our gorgeous Tuscan dinner table will be to ask for the vino della casa - because the house table wine wherever we go will no doubt be delicious! Leave it to our expert hosts to select a perfect locally produced Chianti to compliment our curated meal. Chianti Classico, sourced from the rolling glens between Florence and Siena, is believed to be the first officially established wine region in the world, dating back to 1716.
Now to the meat of the issue! This is a fabulous must-try farm feature that Tuscan locals enjoy in their higher end ristorantes. Bistecca Fiorentina is a large T-bone beef steak, traditionally from the Chiana valley, so thick that it must be cooked on all of its front, back and various sides! It generally weighs three to four pounds - priced accordingly by weight, (on average something like 35 Euros). Apparently the most authentic way to truly enjoy this dish is rare - and make sure you get more than one fork and knife for sharing!
Rabbit Ragu Tagliatelli
This is one sumptuous dish we can't wait to dive our forks into when visiting the off-the-beaten-path trattorias around the Greve valley. The comforting blend of tender morsels of wild rabbit in a rustic ragu sauce - the freshest natural ingredients with little doctoring and slowly simmered - is a reliable staple that locals and visitors savour. The quality of simple a rabbit ragu is also a reliable indicator of a restaurant's overall approach to Tuscan cuisine. This essentials-only ragu features extra-virgin olive oil, red Tuscan wine (locally sourced of course), chopped tomatoes, red onion, celery, carrots and country herbs and spices. No preservatives or artificial additives here!
Talk about the perfect souvenir or gift from your Tuscan Culinary Adventure! The warm hilly landscape of the countryside south of Florence boasts hunter green grids of some of the world's best olive oil trees. In Chianti, olive oil represents so much more than a drizzle on a salad - it's a lifestyle. Subtle notes, time-laden processes, no chemical-additives and fragile bottling processes are quality measures that Tuscan olive oil producers take very seriously. Even in describing the particular taste of regional olive oil, flavours ranging from "freshly cut grass, sage and artichoke to tomatoes and bananas," are used to differentiate farms as noted by Donato D'Ocio of Chiarentana. We can't wait to visit the farms around our Medieval castle estate where we'll get insightful tasting tips from locals like D'Ocio who says, "a good Tuscan oil should scratch your throat slightly.”
Who doesn't love a refreshing scoop of creamy gelato at the end of a meal (or as one, no judgement)? The gelaterias of San Gigimano (where we'll spend an afternoon exploring on our trip) are renown for their impeccably rich flavours, using nothing short of the freshest ingredients from regional farms. One of the town's must-have gelato shops, Gelato Dondoli, is world famous (literally, he's led the Italian team to victory in the Ice Cream World Championship twice!) with his innovative and excellence-oriented approach to master gelato making. Be sure to try some of his notably unusual flavours, including Sangue di Bue (spicy chocolate and sour cherries) and Crema di Santa Fina (cream with saffron and pine nuts).
We only have to wait a few more months until we can indulge in these incredible delights and more Tuscan classics (October 10-14 to be exact!). For details on our delicious itinerary, be sure to check out our Trips page where our Tuscan Culinary Adventure, as well as our Sweet Trip to Paris will no doubt tempt your sense of adventure!