October 27, 2006

Divina Destinations: Chiaveri

Anytime I take a road trip in Italy, getting right to the place I am going is not myidea of fun, but rather where can we stop in the way?

Today, we left for Torino and the Slow Food Salone del Gusto.
The easiest way to get to Torino from Florence is to go over to Genova and turn right. If one is going towards Genova, that for me means passing pass Chiaveri.

A small town, reminiscent of the French Riviera, Chiaveri is home to Luchin a small family run restaurant in the old part of town.

I am traveling with my Webmaster Phil and his wife Gioa who are as passionate about good food as I am ( they have 52 piatti di buon ricordo!) so when nearing the Pistoia turn-off outside of Florence, I told them about my fabulous experience with Mrs Corsini on the Chocolate tour I put together for a master chocolate tour.

First stop Bruno Corsini in Pistoia.
Since the early 1900’s famous for their “ confetti” what we call Jordon Almonds, the candied almonds given at weddings.
The variety is incredible of flavors as well as shapes and colors for celebrating any sort of occasion.

They also make a “Panforte” which is actually a large chocolate filled with a hazlenut paste, candied orange and toasted chopped almonds. I am already addicted!

That was our energy bar for the road.

The actual question about where to stop was either to go to Recco for the foccaccia al formaggio and a Buon Ricordo plate at Manuelina or Chiaveri for a meal at Luchin and to try to stop by Franco Casoni, woodworker, who hand carves the mold for making Corsetti, the traditional Ligurian pasta disks.

I already have a set, but gave away my other so was really pulling for Chiaveri… I won!

I am a great backseat driver and navigator and may have saved Phil and Gioa’s marriage on this road trip, a trying experience for any couple in a foreign country without GPS and with a tick shift!

I got us to the parking lot near the Historic Center with only one or two bad turns and we were there in time for lunch.

Every morning until 1pm the open air food market is held.

Next year Luchin celebrates 100 years of business. I am so there for the party!!!

The focus of the front room is the woodburning oven where they cook the Farinata, Chickpea crepe,( called Socca in France and Cecina in Tuscany) and the stuffed veggies, Polpettone,a mashed potato pesto and string bean dish, as well as a huge selection of other veggies and dishes on display to the side of the ovens.

We had the farinata, a tasting dish of the baked goodies and spaghetti al Pesto, which according to tradition has a couple of cubes of boiled potatoes and a couple of string beans mixed in.


I of course, ex-pastry chef, had eyed a lovely selection of freshly baked cakes when we walked in, so we had one of each. That is the benefit of traveling with friends.

We had some time to kill waiting for Franco’s workshop to reopen after lunch and window shopped.

We all decided that Chiaveri is a place to spend some time. Great Antique shops, on the sea and fabulous food and wine!

Franco’s shop reopened and we were invited into the workshop.
It is not a store but really a workshop, gallery filled to the brim with huge Polene, the bodies which adorn the front of the ships, Angels from Baroque Churches and whatever else he is working on.
When I first walked in I had to leave as there was some freshly cut wood and sawdust that was setting off an allergic reaction.
But I got over that as soon as he said he would custom cut a Corzetti maker for me!

I told him my story about having a cooking school in Florence and showed him my card with my angel logo.


Next week, the recipe for making your own corsetti.

October 22, 2006

Dario Throws a Party... Again!

My favorite season has arrived!

Driving over the hills to Panzano for the Sunday Market/Butcher Festival I had to stop and take pictures, it was PERFECT!

Today was Panzano's day to celebrate butchers!

Dario chose October 31 to celebrate,inviting all his butcher friends to serve their best, it is Beato Tommaso Beacci's day, patron saint to Butchers (except he is Beato and not Santo!) Tommasso Beacci was Florentine so what better place to celebrate than in Chianti.
Red meat and red wine.

This year Slow Food is having their Salone del Gusto the last week of the month so the festa was moved to this Sunday. Good think I found out the date changed. This is the street party of the year in Chianti!

This is the season to celebrate food... and celebrate it does.

A cool August and a warm September continued into October, giving us an incredible wine harvest. The olives are looking great too and the harvest has begun.
I just attended Eurochocolate with my friends from Ecole Chocolate.
The end of the month is Salone del Gusto, the Slow Food festival in Torino. Next month the white truffle festivals begin in Tuscany, both in San Giovanni D'Asso and in San Miniato.

When Dario throws a party, he doesn't hold back!

As usual, anything Dario does benefits the Children's Hospital MEYER in Florence.
One makes a donation and then is banded, this year with an orange paper bracelet.. which gives you access to free food and wine for the whole festival!

With over 50 butchers from all over Italy this was some feast.
I had several variations of meatloaf, roast pork,lard, raw sausage and head cheese, grilled sausage, boiled salami

there was also grilled polenta with ragu and prosciutto as well as Farro soup from the Garfagnano, a wonderful onion and cheese frittata, some cooked spinach, which all the Californian's were grabbing for.

Some stands had goods for sale, my friend , Yari was there with his custom cutting boards,

Not just meat but also jams jellies from Grande Terra, two fabulous guys that live over the hill. Bruno is the archetect that designed the new space SoloCiccia.

and cheeses from local shepard, Giovanni

Dario's Chili pepper production, in collaboration with the University of Pisa provided Brucioculo a hotter than hell chili sauce called "Butt burner"... I'll let you know!

and a wonderful chili powder with a mix of the over 100 types of chili's being grown.

Angelo, Dario's friend and chili guardian!

What festival would be successful without wine, women and song.

Dario's good friends the "Bandaccia di Marcialla" were there is full force playing and when I left around 3pm there was dancing in the street.

Grazie Dario for the good times!

Dario is getting ready to start a newsletter.. so you won't miss the next party!
I'll let you know!

October 8, 2006

la Mia Famiglia

The Mafia ( some say from MiA FamiglIA my family) is real.

Not always in the shoot 'em up way pictured in television or in the Godfather films, but often as the only way to get something done it Italy. With all the red tape, often a word to the correct person with connections is the only way to get something done.

I think we all create our own mafia... of friends to make life easy.

But the Bad Mafia, drug dealing, payoffs, called pizzo, and prostitution... also exists.

When caught and taken to jail now, the Italian government is requisitioning the land.. and there is now a new line of food products from the land.

The product line is called LIBERA TERRA, from the lands freed from the mafia.
Above is the tomato sauce, they also produce flour, pasta and beans.
I find these products at the local COOP grocery store.

I would assume that most of the land is in the south of Italy.

The pasta is made in a factory in Corleone, ( sound familiar?) that has made pasta since the 1800's and is still made in the slow way, 40 hours drying time. This creates a wonderful chewy pasta, hard to overcook and the sauce clings to it as it is extruded through brass dies, which leave a rough edge to the outside of the pasta.

Life is made up of lot's of little things.... that add up!

October 6, 2006

Another tough day at the market

Here is a little glimpse of a day with me...

We start the day by touring the neighborhood, first stop DiVino the new vino sfuso shop, where you have your bottles filled with fabulous wines for about 1,30 Euro a bottle for table wine to 5 euro for a Brunello.

Never shop on an empty stomach so first snacks with Benita or off to Sieni pastry shop for cappuccino and sweets. Then off to the market, great ingredients make a great meal.

We begin by tasting and building up our Tuscan Palate.

Olive oil, traditional Balsamic Vinegar (ok not tuscan but I use it)
12 year old, 20 year old aged only in cherry wood, 30, 50 and 80! YIPES... for some lucky Italian girl that is a dowery. When you realize what goes into making balsamic vinegar, and the concentrated flavor and BAM it gives the food, it is worth every penny.Of course here a 12 year old balsamic is only 45 Euro instead of 95 to 125 $US, there is the 30 year old Patriarch that sells for 85 euro I saw it online for $499 plus tax.

Almost worth flying over off season to shop once a year!

cheese tastings:

The rich nutty 4 year old parmesan cheese made by my friend Gianpiero Bonat and his family with their 200 cows, is 25 Euro a kilo. 2.2 pounds, drizzled with 25 year old balsamic vinegar.

Two week old pecorino cheese still so fresh it is creamy and a wonderful tang, made by Tillo of Corzano served with Pear Mostarda jelly.

There are still tomatoes, some of the seasons last green tomatoes which make a wonderful pasta sauce as well as ripe red ones still coming up from the south.

It is probably nicer weather now than it was in August, so we have a late summer with fall creeping in slowly.

The first porcini and white truffles nested next to long green aspargus. New red onions and freshly shelled beans.

Butchers calling us over to show their skills in breaking down a whole side of beef,
the Florentines are proud of their grass fed lean beef..and rightly so!
I was a vegetarian for 7 years and they converted me.

When you find such high quality ingredients, you really don;t need to do anything to them. As my mother-in-law Tina said wisely,

- Spend more time shopping and less time cooking!

Today at the market it was a tough choice, but the lovely artichokes won.

Our market menu was:

Handmade potato gnocchi with a fresh tomato sauce, topped with Bonat's 4 year old Parmesan Riserva Cheese.

Roast Veal with Tuscan herb infused oil with chili and black pepper.

Stewed artichoke hearts with garlic and orange

Salami dolce, a chocolate dessert mom makes if she loves you!!!

I love you!

the recipe for salami dolce is on my site.

Grappa anyone?