Too Much Tuscan Sun

March15

I have just completed reading another piece of non-fiction entitled Too Much Tuscan Sun-Confessions of a Chianti Tour Guide by Dario Castagno with Robert Rodi.

Dario is a native Tuscan and in this recounting he recalls some of his more remarkable clients.  This chapter in entitled Intervello-the Dutch.  Here is an excerpt.  I don’t know what I was more enthralled with-the detailed accounting of the dishes and wines or the Dutch’s capacity to consume them with relish.

For lunch we stopped at Foscos place.  He sat us under the shade of a large oak and served us a sumptuous meal composed of Tuscan appetizers, tagliatelle in wild boar sauce, ribolitta, an abundant tray of mixed, grilled meats, gigantic forentina steaks, and stewed rabbit with olives-all of which the group washed down with the most expensive vintage Brunellos.  Afterward, when they complained of needing sugar, Fosco brought out a tasting of his best sweets (cooked cream, tiramisu, homemade jam tarts) and some different types of vin santo and sweet sparkling wine.

We had no sooner got on the road than we found ourselves stopping at the bar in Viagliagli where, for digestive purposes, we had a tasting of various grappas and amari.

By the time we finished, it was almost time for dinner, so we moved from the bar to the adjacent restaurant and started again from the beginning-porcini mushroom appetizers, polenta served in hare sauce, and crepes stuffed with white truffles, followed by casseroled guinea fowl, wild boar, and still more desserts-everything accompanied by bottles of Chianti Classico, Nobile de Montepulciano, and fortified wines for dessert.  Toward midnight, unsteady on my feet, I accompanied the happy group back to their hotel, where Han proposed some grappa nightcaps.  I fled in terror….

The next day.  Mario came to greet us himself, holding a wicker basket filled with porcini and ovolo mushrooms, and with a wink told us that in just a few moments a friend of his would arrive with some truffles hed just unearthed.  No sooner had he said this than the friend entered the garden with his truffle-sniffing dog close behind.  Under our very noses he unrolled a white paper wrapping to reveal a bounty of the precious tubers.  As soon as they were freed from their confinement, they released their uncanny aroma, making our mouths water.

Mario put them to good use for us, whipping up a series of black and white truffle sauces on homemade sliced bread, followed by a raw mushroom salad, taglierini with truffles, tagliatelle with porcini, steak fiorentina for Han, gigantic grilled pecorino cheeses and homemade honey ice cream.  At close to five in the afternoon, when with tremendous difficulty we managed to stand, I counted twelve empty bottles of Brunello, two of Moscadello, and one of grappa.

Kaths quote: “Presently, we were aware of an odour gradually coming towards us, something musky, fiery, savoury, mysterious, — a hot drowsy smell, that lulls the senses, and yet enflames them, — the truffles were coming.”-William Makepeace Thackeray

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