April 23, 2009

Edible Tuscany- Officina della Cucina Popolare


We went to the Officina della Bistecca at Dario's for my birthday lunch on Monday and enjoyed a MacDario and a Tasting Menu- which was perfect!

The Tasting menu is several courses for 20 euro and the MacDario is 10 Euro for the one plate.

As we were talking with Dario after lunch, we met another couple who had come into the Officina before we left.

They looked familiar to me, but I see a lot of people that look familiar. But eavesdropping, it seemed they were ordering some of Dario's products for " their" restaurant. I asked where their place was and they responded, "Officina della Cucina Popolare" in Colle Val d'Elsa - I had joined their facebook fan club awhile ago, as they opened in the next town over and sounded great.

Taking advantage of some days off, we hopped over for lunch the next day. I prefer long Tuscan lunches instead of dinners as we can explore the village in the daytime after and walk off lunch.

We arrived early and were seated right away. The simple restaurant is well lit and decorated nicely. We sat in the front room to benefit from the natural light outside. Of course having just met the owners they were happy to see us there.

I adore antipasti and dessert so eyed both before ordering. I ordered mixed crostini, my husband the anchovies with butter, a Tuscan classic, more often saved for home eating or a wine bar.

The anchovies were PERFECT- served with toast and fresh butter and mascarpone cheese and some salsa verde on the anchovies.

My crostini were also a wonderful mix, warm polenta with onions, toasts with the classic chicken liver and another with rabbit ragu as well as two others.

I opted for a second antipasto for my first course and was surprised by the HUGE portions.
A clay pot with melted gorgonzola cheese, made by a local producer, with a mix of cows and sheeps milk served with long lovely heart of celery stalks.

I went wild! I am not a bread-eater, but their bread was so good as was the cheese, that I used it to enjoy every last drop~

My husbands house-made fresh pasta with wild boar was one of the specials- they have game on Wednesdays. ( Lasagna on Sunday!)

I kept eating my melted cheese, but my husband had the boneless rabbit. Another perfect dish that had me wondering if he was hiding his mother in the kitchen! I hadn't had rabbit prepared like this in ages.

Having been a pastry chef, desserts are my weak point. They were kind enough to create a tasting menu of the desserts for us!

All of them were perfect!

Apple cake with calvados sauce, warm pear cooked in red wine with chocolate mousse- Coffee creme brulee

What can I say... it is such a pleasure to find young couples with such passion.... and reasonable prices. If you are staying nearby, they are also doing food to go!

I hope you get the chance to enjoy a meal here soon, but this great team!
you can also follow them on facebook!

Officina della Cucina Popolare
Via Gracco del Secco, 86
Colle di Val d'Elsa (Siena)
Tel. 0577.921796 -
E-mail: officina@cucina-popolare.com
Closed Tuesday

Located on top of the old city. Park in the free parking area and it is only a few minutes walk.

April 22, 2009

It's a Party-

If you will be in Chianti on Sunday April 26th around 5pm, stop by the Macelleria Cecchini for my book signing and presentation!

Celebrating my 25 years in Tuscany!


If you can't come, order you autographed copy online
I ship!

April 18, 2009

Lessons at the Market- Pinzimonio


Teachers: The Vegetable Ladies, upstairs at the San Lorenzo Market

60 years at the market.... WOW....

Pinzimonio is the way raw vegetables are eaten in Tuscany. It can be ordered as a vegetarian main course or sometimes served as a starter.

Sister-in-laws, they are always together in work and out. The shorter woman is obviously in command!

Pinzimonio is one of the easiest recipes in Tuscany.Fresh raw seasonal vegetables - the best extra virgin olive oil and salt.( possible the addition of vinegar in the dipping oil, red wine not balsamic)


Put a small amount of extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl.

Season with salt ( optional: pepper and red wine vinegar)

Prepare raw vegetables, traditionally we use:

raw artichokes, as in the video, she pulls off the leaves and dips eating only the white part.

I was taught to trim the chokes to eat all the of the tender choke, using the younger artichokes which also have no purple choke. See foto on my site.

Fennel, carrots and celery are also used.

I like radishes too.

Every trip to the market is a lesson for me, learning from the masters.... of the Italian way.

From Leo, who has since retired, how to clean artichokes and other recipes for them.

My mother-in-law Tina's Fried Artichokes and Leo's Preserved Artichokes

April 16, 2009

Edible Florence- Coccole

When I was down at Q.B the other day, someone also mentioned a new chocolate shop- say no more.. I was off on my search. I walked up Via Ginori and found Coccole on the left hand side of the street, where an old furniture store had been not far from Q.B.

David Belloti has been training with some of Tuscany's best and has created a lovely spot to stop and refuel in Florence, I had met him when he was at Luca Mannori's workshop in Agliana apprenticing.He has followed Luca's idea for space creating a sit-down chocolate "bar".

David with his mom and sister

Like most "bars" in Italy, it is less expensive to stand and enjoy your coffee and sweets, but for me, sitting down is worth the extra charge to take a break after walking on hard stone all day.

When you walk in to the shop, you walk right into the chocolate case with his bonbons, classic flavors such as hazelnut and amaretto and also some newer twists such as a light lemon sage or ginger ganache.

On top of the case you will see his cookies and pastry selection.
Today my friends tried several and gave Coccole their seal of approval.

There are tables to sit and people watch while enjoying chocolates, cakes, cookies with tea, coffee or hot chocolate! Get EVERYTHING with whipped cream!

Mixed plate of cookies, Ganache dessert and David's house "brownies", Chocolate and carmelized apple cake

Via Ginori, 55/57 r ( red numbers)

Just opened 2 weeks ago so not sure of their hours yet.

April 14, 2009

Spring is Here!

I left snowy, icy, windy Denver and Kansas City to come back to Spring in full swing in Tuscany.
Velvety green hills, a nice breeze and today was warm enough for gelato!

We headed down to Florence with a suitcase full of cookbooks to take to some of my friend shops which will be selling them, Conti and Baroni in the Central Market, Casa del Vino and the English language bookstore on Via delle Oche, Paperback Exchange.

To get to Paperback exchange, one must walk right by Grom Gelateria, one of the newer, "best" gelato's in town. The line coming out the door was long, so I headed around the corner to an old favorite, Perche Non. Open since 1939, you know they have to be good or would not have lasted that long.

I opted for a icy granita- two flavors- lemon and strawberry. They hit the spot.
My husband, the Florentine has always gone to Perche No for their semifreddi, which are more like soft flavored whipped cream than gelato- truly decadent!

The shop itself is tiny, but there are a couple of benches all the way in the back and one at the door. I adore the hip marble and mosaics as well as the RED- neon lights, accents and even lights under the counter in the front giving off a cool glow!

Here is a list of some of my favorites in town.


Via Ricasoli, 65/r
Tel: 055.289.476

Perché No?
Via dei Tavolini, 19/r
Tel: 055.239-8969
Read my review!

Le Carrozza
Piazza del Pesce
Near the Ponte Vecchio
Tel: 055.239-6810
Read my review!

Caffè Ricchi
Piazza Santo Spirito,10/r

Viale Strozzi, 12/r
Tel: 055.496-677

Borgo degli Albizi, 11/r
Tel: 055.234-0374
Read my review!

Via Isola delle Stinche, 7/r
Tel: 055.292-334

By the stadium:

Viale dei Mille, 20/R
Tel: 055.578-682

April 12, 2009

The Books in the Mail

I feel like a proud mom, the first books I mailed are beginning to arrive in the hands of their new owners.

I received a very touching review of the book from a ex-student, chef, Sansunshine,who was in Italy in the early 90's and came to my class with his friend Justin who was studying at the Syracuse University program.

I taught a once-a-week survival cooking class for the kids for four weeks. This is where the collection of recipes started.

It is always nice to hear back from the kids that still use the old book and remember the class as one of the best things they did when in Florence.

Here is another feedback with the foto of the old book!

The book has finally come come full circle and will soon be available in Florence for sale.

If you are not coming to Florence, you can order online.

I will provide online assistance for the recipes too.

I am a teacher after all!

Plans for the future are online video classes,, using the book as a reference.

Click here to order your own copy!

Happy Eater!

April 3, 2009

Edible Florence- Q.B.

When one first learns to cook in Italy one of the first phrases you hear is q.b., Quantobasta, whatever is enough.

Well, Quanto Basta is now in my old hood, in a huge space which used to the the Cafe Caracol, mexican restaurant.

Run by two charming sisters, Elisa and Alessandra ( left to right in foto). This incredible space is going to be a new favorite of mine. For them a little is not enough!

What is so amazing is that it's multi functional- breaking away from the traditional lunch or dinner only, it will also serve as a space for tea and pastries, winebar with cheese and salumi, and the famous Italian "aperitivo", drinks with a buffet.

I also saw live music written on the blackboard annoucing concerts with some famous singers, so looks like these women want to party!

Not only that, but they are opening a pizza place next door and a cooks store!

Already you can buy many of the foods displayed to take home.

We went to try the buffet lunch which is 9,50 but read through the menu and prefered to do a "tasting".

We had a selection of sliced meats- salumi and 2 orders of the gnoccho fritto, a fried dough (served in Emilia Romagna with prosciutto), some bruschetta's, a fabulous splet- farro salad with artichokes and herbs. Hot battered fried cod, baccala, was probably the BEST! and would be wonderful with a bottle of white wine.

Alessandra is the wine expert, she was part of a wine show on the famous Gambero Rosso TV channel, which is based in Rome and their selection is incredible, by the bottle and by the glass.

But the true shining star was the desserts!

Tiny rice pudding mousse, served in a pastry shell with blueberries and the chocolate mousse served in a pitcher! WOW....

the bill was about 20 euro per person.

I can see it will be a place to meet and hang out as there is the restaurant space in the back but also a lovely inner courtyard, under a glass ceiling perfect for sitting and talking with friends!

q.b.- Quantobasta restaurant, winebar, sauce shop, wine store, pizza and store
click here for website, contatti for map)
Via Ginori,10/r
Closed Tuesday