Remember last summer I went to Italy? And I started blogging about it but never finished? Yeah. My theory is that if Robyn, The Girl Who Ate Everything, can put off blogging trips for 11 months and still maintain a loyal readership and an awesome job at a high-profile food site, I can too. Right? Okay.
So guys, first things first: I regret to inform you that I will be unable to share with you the name of the restaurant my family gorged at in the Tuscan countryside. I didn’t make note of its name (ALWAYS MAKE NOTE OF NAMES. DON’T BE LIKE ME.), said name isn’t on the credit card statement, and despite pretty intensive googling I can’t say with certainty that I’ve located it. All I can tell you is that it is most likely in the vicinity of Castellina in Chianti, though it is outside of any town; it is located on the west side of Rt. 222 at a bend in the road, overlooking the road directly (you can see the restaurant from the road, unlike most other restaurants in the area); and it’s gorgeous. So basically this post is one long “nyeah nyeah i ate this and you didn’t.” Consider yourself warned.
The Tuscan countryside is every bit as beautiful as you’ve heard it is. To see it, my family and I rented an intrepid little Fiat Panda – lesson learned: cars in Europe are really small and can be freaky when going up hills – and drove la Via Chiantigiana between Florence and Siena. We chose it because, just eyeballing the map, we figured it had the best chance of showing us the most of Tuscany in the day we’d reserved for such activities. Turns out that using the sheer power of mom’s map-reading skills, we selected a famous and historic road right through the heart of Chianti wine country. It takes a little while to get through the suburbs of Florence, but once you hit open road Rt. 222 provides a truly glorious window into Tuscany.
When it came time to eat, we chose our restaurant using extremely careful criteria: we were hungry and it was serving lunch. (We’d gotten an early start.) Also, it had a sick view:
Those are vineyards, my friends.
Here’s the thing about me in Tuscany: I don’t drink wine. I’ll have a glass of white here and there, and I even enjoy it sometimes, but it’s not a regular thing with me. I don’t even know what kinds of white wine I like beyond “sweet” and “sparkling.” So I’m a total waste in wine country. My mom is allergic to yeast, so she can’t drink wine. This left my dad by his lonesome to drink all the good red he could find. I guess it was tasty? He seemed pretty pleased across the board. I had a glass of white with lunch that I guess I didn’t mind. What I’m trying to say is that this won’t be a post about frolicking in wine country tasting fifteen kinds of wine. It’s a post about eating delicious food. And what did I eat at the nameless Tuscan restaurant, you may ask? Well may you ask, because I ate crazy-ass shit. I am relatively sure it is representative of standard Tuscan cooking, but even if it wasn’t, it was pretty damn tasty.
For my pasta course (primo), I ordered buckwheat venison ravioli in fowl sauce, which I chose on the strength of “venison is always the right choice” + “what the fuck is fowl sauce.” The Google tells me that fowl is guinea fowl, which I’d definitely never had before – nor since! Tragically, I do not remember this as delicious. It was pretty good, and unlike anything I’d tasted before, but I remember the flavors being a little on the gamier side than I typically like. Which is shocking, in a dish comprised of two types of game. For my main dish (secondo), I chose wild boar with apples. This I remember as being fucking insanely delicious, as any kind of pork cooked with apples tends to be, and I remember being heartbroken that I couldn’t finish it and didn’t have a sensible way to transport it for the rest of the day.
All that said, though, here is the real reason I am telling you about this meal: the panna cotta I had at the end of it. Are you guys familiar with panna cotta? It is an Italian dessert in the pudding family whose texture is a cross between Jell-O and custard. It’s creamy, but it jiggles. (Never let it be said that you can place a dish of panna cotta in front of me without me picking it up and jiggling it around.) It is smooth and light. It is made of cream. It is basically the best shit on earth. I ate a lot of panna cotta in Italy – I try to eat a lot of panna cotta wherever I am – and I can honestly say that the panna cotta I had at this vineyard was the best I’ve ever had.
One of the things I like about panna cotta is that in most cases when you get a flavor (chocolate, strawberry, etc.), the pudding itself isn’t flavored. Instead, it’s covered in a flavored syrup of some kind, which leads to a much more interesting flavor profile than if (for example) chocolate had been cooked right in. You get the panna cotta taste (amazing), but you also get the separate syrup taste, and then you get the combination of the two. At this particular restaurant I ordered chocolate panna cotta, and was brought a perfect serving of pudding drenched in semisweet chocolate syrup. It went down as you would imagine: with much groaning and celebration.
So that’s what happens when you eat in a vineyard. In all, it is an experience I highly recommend.