Cucina Povera, an Old World Workshop
Along with eleven others and four instructors, I recently attended a Plate 2 Page workshop in the small town of Pistoia, Italy. We indulged in food, wine, conversation, writing and photography. The following shares an afternoon experience.
Nestled in the Tuscan hills surrounded by olives and vines, colors changing from green to fall, we gathered around a table. Nicoletta stood in the kitchen doorway holding the first course of our Tuscan lunch, Serafina behind her. They began setting down plates and bottles of wine. On the cheese plate, a young pecorino with its natural sweetness surprisingly accentuated by a drizzle of honey contrasted with a buttery Camembert that stood nicely on its own. A bite of crusty bread unexpectedly failed to please until paired with capicola, musty and rich, tasting of complexity. Tuscan dried ham is saltier than the same from other areas in Italy thus works well with pane Toscana, unsalted Tuscan bread. At least that’s one of the myths but it worked for us.
Nicoletta appeared with a frittata causing eight people to jump up with their cameras. The air was filled with the sound of shutters clicking, clicking. When we finally let her set it down, the steam wafting off the frittata’s cratered top- peppered with leeks- had subsided leaving behind the aroma of egg, onion and olive oil.
Next, the sound of popping corks held the promise of a tasting adventure. The aroma of the garnet colored wine began with mild cherries and finished with Christmas spice. Smooth on the palate, gliding effortlessly over your tongue, it turned dusty and bright, awakening the sides of your mouth. The Sangiovese grape enjoyably complimented the rich creaminess of the eggs. Nicoletta, cook, winemaker and host proudly offered wine from her vineyard, Il Salicone.
Warmed by the sun and delighted by Nicoletta’s food and wine, by the time dessert came we had relaxed into the comfort of the Tuscan meal. Biscotti? Cantucci? We were quickly educated about both, learning the tradition of dipping cantucci into sweet wine but our glasses of red worked just fine.
Crostada di cioccolata followed the biscuits teasing us with the taste of hazelnuts. An espresso jolt later, we were feeling sufficiently energetic for a winery tour. Hands-on, down to earth methods are why Il Salicone’s wines are unforgettable.
Sitting in my house now, all I need to take me back to Tuscany is the sound of a cork popping and the aroma of mild cherries and Christmas spice.
Kate McNalley was my jovial winery lunch and tour partner. Together, we wrote, took pictures and strolled in the wee hours of the morning. Kate currently resides in Belgium with her husband. You can visit Kate at her colorful blog, Serendipity.