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When in Italy, Eat Like the Italians!

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When in Italy, Eat Like the Italians!

Posted by guest blogger: Krista Haynes

Eating in Italy is like entering a culinary landscape far removed from what Americans have become accustomed to, where time remains still, and recipes have been passed down for generations. I have visions of a rustic kitchen with a ray of sunlight beaming though the window, a puff of cloud from freshly kneaded pasta dough primed to be hand rolled and cut into various shapes and sizes, or wrapped around humanely raised meats or unprocessed cheese. The noodles would soon be graced with a naturally sweet tomato sauce so delicious it may be mistaken for candy.

Food of this caliber makes a girl following a “restricted-vegan-diet” question whether it’s necessary to stick to her “rules”. How does one experience the finest of Italian cuisine when traditional fare is centered on Parmigiano-Reggiano, mozzarella, salami, crema, and white flour? I think to myself, “When in Rome”…well, in my case, “When in Firenze”. I decide to let loose and allow a few slight modifications. What I left with was a truly scrumptious experience worth writing home about.

Cook under the Tuscan Sun

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Cooking Class in Tuscany

Cooking with Costanza: a culinary adventure to awaken and inspire all your senses and allow you to experience the very essence of Italy!

The Renaissance Villa, on a hill with all of Florence spread out below, focuses on regional cuisine that is more regal and elaborate in preparation than in the villages. Set in a heritage-protected five-hectare property with colourful gardens, this is an opportunity to experience the lifestyle of the Tuscan city folk and immerse yourself in Italy as you imagine it in films. Your experience begins al fresco with a tour of the organic herb gardens. You are encouraged to smell, feel and taste the various greens. Learn how to choose the most perfect natural flavour enhancers of Tuscan cuisine. The discussions will cover food traditions, history, and what makes food such an integral part of everyday life in Italy. Of course you choose the freshest herbs for your cooking lesson.

tuscan cuisineFood choices are seasonal and take advantage of the freshest produce. The first dish to prepare is an authentic antipasto. Too many restaurants ignore antipasti and focus on pasta, but this is a traditional meal to be enjoyed all evening long, and enjoyment of each course is paramount to your culinary experience. The antipasti selection is based on seasonal and local produce. Each course is paired with an Italian wine.

Appetizers are based on both wild and cultivated foods. In spring you might make frittata di carciofi – fried artichoke. Jewish Romans made this dish famous in the ghetto, and it is still a staple of spring cooking. Chef Costanza may thinly slice an artichoke and treat it like a carpaccio – which is usually thinly sliced raw beef or fish – and serve with a deep grassy flavoured olive oil. In summer tomatoes ripening on the vine make delicious bruschetta al pomodoro (tomato bruschetta), insalata caprese (tomato salad with garden fresh basil, oregano and local buffalo mozzarella). Autumn is the season for melt-in-the mouth crostini con i funghi procini (porcini mushrooms in a flaky crust).

Breakfast in Tuscany

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Breakfast in Tuscany

Some mouth-watering delights from Italy

By Eva Stelzer

Starting breakfast with dessert is a slightly wicked Tuscan tradition that I thoroughly enjoy. At Florence’s Hotel Il Guelfo Bianco, the chef’s freshly baked crostata is a sensory delight. The sweet jam oozed in my mouth as the buttery crust crumbled onto my tongue. Manager Antonella Rocchini says the cheerful chef can be heard humming and whistling while baking. “Of all the treats on our menu, crostata is the most popular,” she adds. After devouring too many pieces of the lattice masterpiece, I understand the attraction.

The tiny, unadorned breakfast room hardly seems like the setting for such delicious food, but the morning buffet is filled with goodies from melt-in-the-mouth burratta cheese to warm apple tarts topped with smooth, creamy ricotta. As in most small Italian-owned hotels, a barista makes guests the perfect morning coffee. A barista is a professional coffeemaker who understands the important harmony between milk frothed into white airy peaks and the bitter dark espresso base. The combination of taste and texture creates the perfect balance.

“A barista is a professional coffeemaker who understands the important harmony between milk frothed into white airy peaks and the bitter dark espresso base.”

Food Markets Italy’s Cities

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Food markets in Italy can be found in every city, town and village. In the larger cities the food markets are generally in permanent locations and even within permanent structures. In the smaller towns these markets may appear once or twice a week, pack up, and move on to the next town. When visiting smaller towns it’s best to check ahead and find out what day of the week the market will be there. Here are a few permanent food markets in the larger cities.

Bolognia

Bolognia has been called Italy’s heart of food. My pick in this city is Mercato Centrale, Bologna. The main produce market overflows from via Francesco Rizzoli to il Quadrilatero. The surrounding region of Emilia-Romagna is home to some of Italy’s greatest gastronomic gifts (prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, mortadella, balsamic vinegar, and more), and you can find them all here, along with fish vendors, meat stalls, fruits and vegetables, and a great housewares store, Antica Aguzzeria del Cavallo, which carries every kind of pasta cutter imaginable. For me, the highlight of the market is A.F. Tamburini, a 78-year old pasta and provisions store where you can buy excellent ravioli, tagliatelle, and tortelli, either fresh or, in the adjoining cafe, cooked and served with a rich ragù bolognese. (9 via Francesco Rizzoli, Bologna.)

MY TOP 5 FLORENCE RESTAURANTS

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The culinary experience in Florence is unlike any other, filled with plenty of spots that any foodie will enjoy. But with so many choices it can get overwhelming. That’s why we’re offering our Top 5 Florence Restaurants that you must visit. For many foodies, eating in Florence is a must experience. We sample some of these restaurants on our Walking tours in Italy.

ABSOLUTE MUSTS

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For the foodie and food savvy there’s an amazing new restaurant slash club in Florence. Across the river Arno, on the Pitti Palace side, and in an unsuspecting, rather dreary location, is an upscale new destination for fish loving, fun loving locals. A few tourists are finding their way to this trendy spot but only because some upscale connoisseur concierges are referring their clients.

FIVE GREAT GELATO FLAVORS

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After you’ve had gelato there is no going back to ice cream. Better yet, after you’ve had authentic Italian gelato there’s no going back to anything else. With that in mind, here are our choices for five great gelato flavors that you must try when you visit Italy.

Stracciatella – Translated from Italian, “stracciatella” means “a little shred”. Appropriate for this milk-based gelato that includes fine, shredded bits of chocolate. This is the gourmet version of chocolate chip ice cream, with a smooth, delicate flavor. A modern classic!

How to Freshly Press Olive Oil

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For many foodies olive oil isn’t just an ingredient, it’s a ritual. Which makes a lot of sense, as the notion of ritual is visible in every facet of a fresh Italian olive oil’s creation. All over Italy it is produced in largely the same way now that it was thousands of years ago with a process called first cold-pressing.

Before we get to the first cold-pressing process, it’s important to discuss what makes extra virgin olive so special: purity. In fact, less than 10% produced each year qualifies. Extra virgin means that the oil is extracted from the olives without using heat or chemicals. Usually this means that it is extracted when the olives are crushed or pressed at room temperature. Any taste or odor defects that happen in the process will lead to the oil being labeled as virgin, rather than extra virgin. That’s why first cold-pressing is such a valued process, it takes longer and requires more work, but you get purer oil out of it.

5 Italian Cheeses You Must Try

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Anyone visiting Italy knows that they’re in for some fantastic meals, and for many food-lovers cheese is foremost in their mind. Naturally Italy is brimming with delicious cheeses that will tantalize any palate, so here are our suggestions of Italian cheeses that can’t be missed.

Buffalo Mozzarella – Starting off with the basics here, everyone knows Mozzarella, but until you’ve tried the fresh Italian variety you have not truly experienced this cheese. Italy’s soft, fresh cheese offers a rich, creamy texture that must be tasted fresh to be appreciated. The most popular variety is the Buffalo Mozzarella, which is made from, yes, water buffalo’s milk. Ever wonder where the name comes from? It’s from the Italian word mozzatura meaning to cut by hand, which is how the curd is separated into small balls. 

Eat, Drink, Walk Tuscany

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Tuscany Back Stage Pass

Escape to Tuscany’s idyllic landscape. There is something eminently peaceful in wandering through vineyards and olive groves, passing vines tended by generations of winemakers, and savoring traditional cuisine made of the freshest local ingredients. Walk the lush rolling hills and medieval towns with their meandering roads.  Experience the magic of medieval towns and renaissance landscapes and you’ll never want to leave.

  • Discover the Tuscany countryside, culture, food, and traditions.
  • Visit the Tuscany of your dreams on this awesome trip.
  • Check out Chianti’s main wine market town of Greve.
  • Walk past vineyards to the Castello di Brolio, home of the original Chianti Classico recipe.
  • Enjoy guided visits to important Tuscan towns of Siena, Florence and Pienza.
  • Meander up the steep hills of Medieval Montalcino.
  • Savor the super Tuscans: Brunello di Montalcino and more.
  • This is a bespoke travel group limited to a maximum of 10 people.

COOKING AND CULTURE – FLORENCE AND TUSCAN HILL TOWNS

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Capture the essence and flavors of Tuscany on our iconic cooking and culture trip. Visit Florence and the Tuscan Hills. Feast your eyes on picturesque rolling hills, charming renaissance gardens, medieval towns, and hill-hugging vineyards. Whether it’s your first time, or if you’ve been there before, let the magic of Tuscany memorize you.

Highlights

  • Florence Cooking and Cooking will awaken your senses.
  • Tuscan wine tour and tasting.
  • Heritage architectureal  walking tour of Florence.
  • Tour of Siena including Piazza del Campo and Palazzo Pubblico.
  • Sleep in the noble house of a Renaissance Villa, surrounded by heritage protected vineyards.
  • Cooking with our Master Chef, making authentic regional foods using updated versions of centuries-old Tuscan family recipes.
  • Go deep into the heart of the Tuscan countryside.
  • Sip wine fat our carefully selected vineyards.
  • Meander the cobbled streets in Medieval Siena a and Renaissance Florence with our expert local guide.
  • Visit authentic food markets and learn about local produce.
  • Eat, drink, walk and be immersed in Tuscan culture. Enjoy!

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