Our Italian holiday - October, 2016
Tim and Janet's Italian adventure is done, and we're back full of inspiration for La Bonta - including new ingredients and dishes for the menu, new wines for the list, new music for our playlist, and slight improvements to our Italian vocabulary!
Here are some highlights from our trip.
We spent the first part of our trip on the hosting and teaching team for the Savour Italy Yoga Holiday at Oasi Biologica Agritourismo in lovely Le Marche. In the east of Italy, Le Marche is a region with beautiful beaches, mountain ranges, and great produce from the rich farming area.
While on the Yoga Holiday, Tim had the opportunity to cook in the kitchen of Oasi with 'Nonna' and Irma watching over his shoulder and sharing tips. Tim got the nod of approval from the local Chefs especially for his Pannacotta and his Meatballs. After a bit of recipe swapping he was given the local Biscotti recipe and Irma gave the group a lesson on how to make them. Giovani and his family also make wine under their Cardocchia label. It was great to talk to him about the families dedication to organic, traditional winemaking.
The Savour Italy Yoga Holiday was a great experience, sharing Yoga practices with the group during morning and afternoon sessions, with group adventures to local sites such as Assisi and the beaches of San Benedetto del Tronto during the day, and delicious shared meals at night. Janet was pretty inspired by the opportunity to teach Yoga in such an incredible location.
In terms of our La Bonta 'research', we had the pleasure of meeting Owner/Winemaker Fabrizio Quaresima at his boutique winery Azienda Agricola Quaresima in the hills of the Cupramontana in the Jesi region of La Marche. Fabrizio produces a great Verdicchio, a spicy mid-weight red blend, a really special Sangiovese, Montepulciano and stunning cherry sweet wine - coming soon to La Bonta.
(CLICK the images below if you would like to see them larger).
A highlight for both of us was the few days we spent driving around Tuscany - we've come back vowing to return for a longer visit soon. The countryside of Tuscany is like a live renaissance painting, with pine trees, farmhouses and ancient cities on hilltops, and miles and miles of rolling vineyards and olive groves. There really is a lot to love about Tuscany.
While there we stayed in a former palace (now B&B) in Montepulciano, and visited two great wineries, wines from both of which you will find at La Bonta - Biondi Santi and Tenuta di Trinoro. Biondi Santi is a premier producer of one of Tuscany's most well regarded wines, Brunello di Montalcino, which we were fortunate to taste. Experiencing these wines 'on site' in the hills of Tuscany provided a fabulous sense of place and context to their delicious deep reds.
Our fantastic visit to Tenuta di Trinoro has a story which goes back to the Wine Dinner we held with Letizia Patane from Passopisciaro Winery and Anthony D'Anna Mondo Imports in May this year. Tenuta di Trinori and Passopisciaro are 'sister' wineries, both part of Vini Franchetti, the product of visionary Owner/Winemaker Andrea Franchetti. Passopisciaro is in the south of Italy, and we visited Tenuta di Trinori in Val d'Orcia in southern Tuscany. Tim was thrilled to meet Andrea in person while he was in the vineyard working on the current vintage, and to have a tour of the winery with Gabriele. This winery has become another of our favourites and you will soon be seeing them on our list at La Bonta.
With nine days in Rome we had the opportunity to see the beautiful historical sites the city is famous for, and also plenty of time to wander off the tourist trail to experience more, including the fantastic Italian restaurant scene. While there Tim had the opportunity to meet and observe Chef Cristina Bowerman, co-owner of Glass Hosteria restaurant. With a Michelin Star as one of the many accolades Cristina has achieved, Tim was inspired observing her and her team during a busy dinner service. Their food takes fine Italian dining to a really exciting level.
And the coffee... oh the coffee! Some people complain about the coffee in Rome, but the issue is possibly coffee with milk. Given most Italians don't add milk to their coffee it's always better without it. We became huge fans of the stand-up espresso at the bar, and as a result probably drank more coffee than was good for us - the coffee we had was great everywhere! (And the coffee did help to balance out the wine).
OUR favourite DinING experiences
The whole experienced of food for us in Italy highlighted exactly what we believe at La Bonta - take good quality ingredients and don't mess with them too much, let the quality of the ingredients speak for themselves.
With so many wonderful meal experiences it's difficult to narrow this down, but we'll give it a try:
- super fresh seafood, cooked with a delicate and modern touch at the lovely Congusto in San Benedetto del Tronto - this is a restaurant we really wish was in our part of the world, we would visit often
- the modern classic that is Roscioli in the heart of Rome, where burrata, prosciutto and carbonara are king - we ate here three times, and would happily go back for more
- the fresh and vibrant southern Italian cuisine at Meridonale in Trastevere, including a fabulous gnocchi with beetroot and guanciale
- slow food focused Spirito DiVino with the ability to make spaghetti carbonara seem like a delicacy
- a wonderful dish of burrata cheese with pumpkin and mushrooms at Ristorante Franci in Montalcino
- street food in Trastevere, from take away pizza by the slice from so many great trattorias, to the suppli we enjoyed wherever we could - similar to arancini but with melted cheese in the middle... what's not to love
- artisan gelato - everywhere!
And if we had to name one stand out dish of the whole trip it was this - a simple and exceptionally delicious Tuscan bean soup on a cold rainy day at Osteria Sette di Vino in Pienza. Food with a strong sense of place, season, and culture, made with love and served with pride. It doesn't get any better than that.