Sunday, April 4, 2010

San GimignanOMG!

Sorry for no post yesterday - my internet was not being cooperative. Sometimes it's like a small child; it gets cranky if it doesn't get a nap in the afternoon.

Friday was super exciting because it was my cooking class field trip to an organic farm in San Gimignano, a town made of little hills in Siena and what I think is one of the most beautiful places in the world. 
Exhibit A (and then some):

The farm, San Donato, dates back to 1001!!! How cool is that??? They mostly produce wine, olive oil, saffron and spelt, but they grow other crops as well, and just a couple years ago became an organic farm. In fact, they recently bottled their first organic wine product in 2009. We were there to taste the wine and the olive oil, and taste we did! They produce Vernaccia wine, which comes from a grape introduced to the San Gimignano area dating back to the thirteenth century. The Pope's cellarmaster declared it the finest white wine in Italy! It was also the first Italian wine to be given DOC classification and was later upgraded to the higher DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) , which is basically the highest award of quality insurance possible for a wine to receive. 

We got off the bus, the farm owner gave us a brief history of the farm and the vineyards, and then it was on to the eat/drinks!!
There was a spread of olives (of course), picked peppers, Tuscan bread topped with salami or prosciutto, and garlic bread bathing in olive oil. And wine. Lots and lots of wine.

I swear I was not in any way inebriated when I took this picture. But I think Frida may have been...

I started with the white - the Vernaccia (you are supposed to start with white - see, I'm learning!) OH MY GOD even I could tell this was good freaking wine. I actually had seconds! (And by seconds, I mean I poured myself a 2nd tasting portion, so like 2 oz) It was delicious. And because we were at the farm it was produced at, they sold it there for 5 Euros a bottle. I bought 2 and a half! Cha-ching!!
There was also a blush wine and a red wine, which were nice. I liked the blush a little more than the red. I wish I could use sommelier terms to describe them, but all I can tell you is I liked them. Baby steps, people.

On to the food! 
Salami isn't really my thing, but I've been feeling like I've not been getting enough protein, and I wanted to try at least a bite of everything. I have, however, discovered my love for prosciutto....
Italy just knows how to do food right.

There were also bite-sized pieces of bread spread with fresh ricotta cheese mixed with the farm's saffron (hence the yellow color) - I was a little disappointed, I really couldn't taste much after 2 or 3 tries. I love saffron; perhaps ricotta is just the wrong vehicle for it? Or maybe my tastebuds just weren't awake yet. 
These other pieces were spread with a very soft and creamy cheese, and I think it was bleu cheese - this I adored. Usually bleu cheese is too stinky for me and I really don't like it, but this was incredible! Very mellow, but with just enough bite to it to satisfy. I kept thinking my mother (bleu cheese's #1 fan) would have died. I'll have to ask my teacher what it was! 

Ok, these olives are probably the best. I've. ever. tasted. And I am quite the olive connoisseur - when I was a tyke I ate an entire can (and then some) of black olives for breakfast. It was unreal how good these were. I left quite a little collection of pits behind.

With olives that good, the olive oil must be drop-dead amazing, right? 
They brought plate after plate of toasted Tuscan bread slices that had been salted and baked with garlic, drowning in pools of liquid gold, aka the best olive oil my taste-buds have ever had the pleasure of meeting. The aroma was so fruity and fresh and the flavor was just out of this world!! I just...I can' words. Ohsogood.

After our "light lunch" (HA!), we wandered around the farm. What a life. I could so live here.

My kind of stone lion - napping in the sun.
And vineyards=wine cellar:

And get a load of their backyard:
The wine I drank at lunch came from these exact vines. It is pretty cool to see the actual vines that went into my glass. Pretty freakin cool.

I  got back around 2:30 to pouring rain in Florence. The sun came out bright and shiny not 10 minutes after I had gotten back to the ya Florentine weather. I went to the grocery store and got OATS!!! because they finally restocked them, and then Alaina and I ventured off to a chocolate store I had heard about to look at the Easter goods!
Benvenuti a Vestri!

In Italy, instead of baskets, each child gets a BIG hollow chocolate egg that has a little present inside. I considered it necessary for my cultural assimilation here to partake in this tradition...and bought myself a big ole dark chocolate egg. Don't worry, you'll see it...I can't wait to open it!!!

Alaina and I had planned on getting some gelato after our chocolate quest, and whoda thunk that the chocolate store would have gelato? This we had to try!
Mango + dark chocolate
OH.EM.GEE. This is quite possibly the best gelato I've had here yet - the mango was just perfect (I'm a little mango obsessed - it's just so dang delicious!), and the dark chocolate was satisfying. Rich  and dark, but not overwhelmingly so. I enjoyed every last bite.

Quite a gastronomically successful day, I would say. My favorite kind of day.


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