After three great days and some truly memorable meals in Siena, it was time to find where I had parked the car and hit the road again. I fought the exiting ‘city traffic’ and headed north to Quercegrossa, the closest small town to Fattoria di Petroio, the wine estate where I would be staying for a few days. Got a bit side tracked at the post office, but that was mostly because I couldn't figure out how to use the mailbox. I arrived down the cypress lined drive and was greeted by the owners of the estate and a beautiful Irish setter, who rolled over so I could scratch her belly. Both Diana Lenzi, who I had met at the restaurant a few months ago, and her mother, Pamela were warm and welcoming.
They had just harvested the merlot grapes that day, and I got to watch the sorting and crushing of the fruit followed by a very in-depth tour of the winery by Diana. It's a beautiful estate and the family took me in graciously. The next few days were spent relaxing in the countryside at the winery and enjoying meals with the family.
Pamela and I went into to Florence one day for a bit of shopping and lunch with her oldest daughter. We enjoyed a nice walk around Florence where I was able to explore the San Ambrogio Market. The produce, cheese and meat looked so good, I could not wait to get back in the kitchen.
My visit was timed nicely, as Saturday was Pamela's birthday and Diana, the chef, was planning a big traditional meal for the entire family. The three of us spent the day in the kitchen creating a fantastic meal. We obviously made everything by hand, much of it picked from the garden. Antipasti were prepared. Diana and I rolled gnocchi made from olives, bread and milk. The sausage ragu was simmered. The pork roast was marinated. Broccoli rabe and potatoes were cooked. Diana baked Fanny Farmer Chocolate cake and tuilles to be filled with berries and crema. I had an amazing time in the kitchen bonding with these two incredible women, sharing not only recipes and cooking techniques, but our personal stories as well.
Mid day, we stopped to enjoy two pizzas Diana had made - one topped with pesto and tomatoes from the garden, the other topped with roasted eggplant and pancetta. A tortino of risotto and a quick salad that I was invited to mix completed the feast.
Hours later with the whole family gathered at the Petroio estate we started with Veuve Cliquot and lots of toasts, well wishes and gifts. Antipasti of crispy flatbread held us over until we sat down close to nine. The meal was fantastic and lasted over three and a half hours. I think there may have been enough leftovers for days. They all spoke in a mix of Italian and English, and I did my best to follow along. We drank many bottles of Chianti Classico and followed with as many bottles of Riserva. Any possible language barriers were easily mended with the incredible wine, food and company, and it all made for a truly memorable evening.
Figs picked right from the tree stuffed with salami
& mascarpone mousse
Roasted eggplant stuffed with cheese,
rolled & wrapped in pancetta
Olive gnocchi & sausage-fennel ragu with orange & pecorino
Roasted Garlic, Rosemary & Soy Crusted Pork Loin,
Broccoli Rabe & Roasted Potatoes
Frutti di Bosco Tuilles