Tuscan Cooking Experience

Giulia, born and still living in Tuscany, runs an awesome cooking class. In her family’s village in Colle di Val d’Elsa, she has an Italian kitchen to die for, complete with farmhouse style table and tasteful decor.

As we were staying in nearby Siena, we opted to take a bus to Colle di Val d’Elsa. Guilia, picked us up from the bus stop and we began our afternoon together. We rode with her in her car to the nearby market in Poggibonsi, as we thought up the lunch menu that we were going to prepare together.

At the market, we decided on learning to make fresh red pomodoro sauce. Giulia knew these market stands well, as she frequents here, explaining to us that in Italy (like the United States), there are stands simply distributing produce, but better stands where the people are the producers or close to and can tell you where the products come from exactly. We couldn’t agree more with her on the importance of knowing where your food comes from. She led us to the cheese stand, where the man let us sample cow, goat, and sheep milk cheeses – 3 of each. Each one was divine, but our favorite was absolutely the cow milk cheese with champagne grapes on top. You could taste the subtle grape champagne in the cheese.

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The Cheese Stand at the Market. The Champagne cow’s milk cheese is the half wheel in the front center. Our favorite of the samplings.

Before leaving the market to head to the family run butcher shop in Giulia’s hometown, we witnessed what would have been the perfect photo (if we only had the camera ready) to sum up the lampredotto (the 4th stomach of the cow) being served up in a little street food cart. A paying customer anxiously awaited his order while the man working the stand swirled around thongs in a crock pot vessel and lifted up a gray, stomach shaped organ. This would have been one hell of a picture. It was exactly what you would picture a stomach to look like. We scrunched out faces up as Giulia laughed. She grew up on this “Tuscan delicacy”, so it’s (rightfully) nothing to her. She told us that she can’t get behind eating the cow brains though, as some of her Italian friends find delicious. I’ve tried escargots in Paris, but I’m not really at all interested in ingesting the organs of anything.. ever.

At the butcher, we were warmly greeted and given samples of the local salamis. I loved the ones with the fennel seeds and the peppercorn seeds. One type of cured meat known really only to this area as Giulia told us, is the cheek of the cow. It has the appearance of raw bacon – very light and fatty. We picked out a pork roast from a nearby farm with Giulia and she got some of the salamis and off we went to her house.

We were greeted by her sweet dog, Noa at the gate, and welcomed into her humble abode fit for a cooking show.

Let the cooking begin! We started with the dessert, off course; biscotti!. She told us it translates to “twice baked” which is exactly how they get their little crunch, baking them twice. One before cutting them and once after. The flavor varieties are endless. I chose dark chocolate & hazelnut. We WILL be making these at home very soon.

Giulia knew how to time everything perfectly so that it would all be ready for a feast at once.

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Excited about our creations – Fennel Salad and Pork Loin.

We followed her expert instructions through the rest of our menu:

  • Pork Loin
  • Homemade Pomodoro Sauce
  • Fresh Tagliatelle Pasta
  • Killer Cheese/Meat Board (arranged by Giulia)
  • Fennel Blood Orange Salad

Giulia’s boyfriend Tomasso met us upon completing the preparation of the meal (good timing, Tomasso) and the four of us enjoyed some laughs and great conversations over this incredible food, complete with a bottle of Chianti made by their neighbor. A few times I felt like I wasn’t talking enough because I was so focused on the food. It was all So Good! We ended the meal dipping the biscotti in the Vin Santo (Italian dessert wine – also made by the neighbor), and tasting Walnut Liquor – homemade by Giulia.

Garrett and I are certain that what we wanted out of this experience is exactly what we got. Real deal Tuscan food, in Tuscany, with good people (and Noa). Saluti to that!

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