A Beautiful Ending
May 30, 2016 Comments (0)
Days 8 and 9 of our Tuscan Biking and Culinary Adventure
Saturday morning in Montepulciano brought bright sunshine and warm air perfect for biking. Some highlights:
-the gourmet breakfast made by Mama in our luxurious accomodations, courtesy of Bliss Travels. Six different cakes and tarts - we absolutely love that these are appropriate breakfast options in Italy. Asparagus and spinach fritatta, 3 kinds of cheese, mixed local salumi, drippingly ripe canteloupe melon, 4 different breads, tomatoes, cucumbers, local honey and homemade jam.
-The scenery biking from Montepulciano to Pienza. Words fail me. We felt as though we were on our own Italian Mary Poppins adventure into a beautiful landscape painting.
-The winding, medieval streets of Pienza and the beautiful flowers and plants everywhere. If we had been judging a gardening show, Pienza would have won hands down.
-Seeing the men setting up the fireworks show in front of the cathedral for 10:30pm Saturday night. It involved stripping and wrapping wires and lots of tin foil. An extravaganza if we've ever seen one!
Sunday morning signalled the end of the bike riding on our trip with a full blanket of clouds and steady rain. Ramo, our lively driver, arrived for the drive to Florence, and andiamo!
-By the time we arrived, the rain was only intermittant, and our beautiful Florentine accomodations, also courtesy of Bliss Travels, awaited.
-Returning our bikes to the shop was another adventure in itself. Riding a bike through the streets of Florence should be on everybody's bucket list. The cars are respectful, so we embarked on beautiful daydreams while pedalling.
-Even getting caught in the rain in Florence is fun. Ducking for cover in the doorway of a 500 year old building never felt so good.
-And finally, a cooking lesson and dinner at our chef's home, just steps from the Arno river. Her apartment had a coveted garden with lush greenery, flowers, and a stone jacuzzi which merged perfectly with the architecture of the building. The real magic happened in her professional kitchen, though. Asparagus cream with seared king prawns, homemade potato and thyme raviolis with a delicate red octopus sauce (all of which we assisted with) started off the bountiful meal. We soon learned that it is practically, ok definitely, a mortal sin to put cheese on any sort of fish or fish pasta dish. Don't even ask. And then "spaghetti on the rocks". A light sauce made from the liquid of fresh clams and mussels, delicatley seasoned with garlic and a brodo 'broth' which the lovely Ellaria had on the stove. Delectable and dramatic to the eye; the clamshells were a rainbow of colors. The secret to the sauce: finish the pasta in the pan with its dressing; the starch from the noodles makes it extra creamy. Sea bass with a citrus butter and roasted vegetables followed, much to our delight. Part of our education was being shown how to go from whole fish to delicate filet. She made it look so easy... I neglected to mention we began with with a Vermentino, then a sparkling Rose, and then a light red with the sea bass. We were sad to see the dessert being plated because it meant that we were nearing the end of our lesson, and evening with Ellaria and Anna, her charming and funny partner. There isn't enough time for the full story, but we convinced our hosts to release their kitties from their prison for the evening, and were rewarded by their company too, especially the stage personality of Aiko, a regal long-haired tortoiseshell who loves to pose for the camera. Could the evening get any better?? Vanilla cream custard with a lavender honey gelee over fresh strawberries drizzled with balsamic reduction. Molto bene e assolumento perfetto!