Wednesday was a goof off day for everyone after that long drive to the seaside. Some folks went off to Cortona and other places around. Others stayed in town. I walked into town with the Fishers and shopped a bit in town. Got breakfast at the patisserie that made our "Welcome to the villa" sweets. 2 croissant thingies filled with fruit preserves. That was only €1.40. Got a bottle of mineral water (fizzy, alas!) for €0.37 - wow! At a small clothing store I bought a beach towel for €3.90. And I got a toy at one of the tobacconists for €1.50 if I recall. I walked around some more and sat at a park where I could write some before lunch.
I walked to Al Viale to meet up with judiang, the Fishers, Jacki & Jo. Gary & Judi ordered the ravioli that I had the night before (still fabbo). I ordered pici with tomato & garlic sauce. It tasted like Gramma's goulash! (That, btw, was not REAL goulash.) Not as good as the ravioli, but very fine.
Oh! Forgot to mention my gelato for the day. Before getting to the restaurant, I ordered some vanilla gelato from the only place open that was selling. It wasn't homemade, but was still good. And only €2.50 or so.
Anyhoo, after lunch we walked back to the villa. Man, that last hill up the drive is a killer! But we made it and I got into the pool to cool off before our cooking class.
We left an hour before the cooking class, but it didn't take too long to get to the house where we were to have our class. At first we stopped at the hotel next door, but then moved on to the right place.
The place was once home to a saint (with her own church in Cortona). The lady hosting the class, Antonella, welcomed us in and set us out back where we drank wine and water (mostly water). She introduced us to her chef, Viviana, and to Pia, the pici master. They brought out oodles of antipasto.
Wheat (some Tuscan style) with carrots & celery, wheat with tomatoes & olives, eggplant, zucchini, cabbage - all with balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and salt. Plus bruschetta (pronounced with a hard "c" not a "ch") with tomato & basil, pecorino cheese (don't eat the rind - sometimes made using the residue from olive oil pressing), and some other stuff that I don't remember. [Fava beans with the same balsamico/olive oil treatment as the others.] It was all good, especially the first one and the eggplant. Secret to eggplant & zucchini is the deep fry before doing the coating. Oh, and before the deep fry, salt & let the moisture come out. The wheat was a real surprise - rice like texture, but different taste. All was yummy.
Next, Viviana showed us how to make bruschetta while Antonella translated. Garlic is the key - rub the bread with a piece first. I volunteered to try to make one and of course, forgot the garlic! The others in the class (Fishers, judiang, Tammy, Ruth, O'Neals, and Jacki) reminded me before I put the oil on. Don't think I'll ever forget that step when I try it at home!
The bruschetta a success (Mary volunteered after me) we came inside to learn how to make & roll pici (thick spaghetti - pasta fresca, not secca (dry)).
First, Viviana went through the steps and Antonella once again translated. Then it was our turn. I'd never made pasta before & Pia had to come and repair mine, but all it took was a little more olive oil.
We let the pasta set for a bit (resting) and Antonella took us over to the area next to our "classroom" & Viviana showed us how to make a simple tomato & garlic sauce. When that was done, it was back to our dough.
We rolled our dough & put olive oil on it, then sliced, as Pia showed us. While we attempted to roll our own, Pia made a really long pici - 10ft? Just for grins, really.
Pia was this little old lady, almost bent double. She still makes fresh pici for her family every week. Viviana was an older lady too, but I don't think as old. Antonella has high school aged children - and even grandchildren, but through her husband's children from a previous marriage. He is an amazing artist with wood carving!
Anyhoo, back to the class. They took some sample pici from each of us to boil later. However, the pici we were going to have for supper was made by Pia earlier in the day.
We returned to the other room where Viviana made crostata with wild plum preserves (from Montepulciano). She and Pia put the lattice on (which wasn't easy because it was so warm, the dough didn't stick to itself well) and I was pleased to see they weren't putting lettuce on (that's how it sounded when Antonella described it).
After the crostata lesson, Antonella took us on a tour of the house. Their chapel is actually a holy place because inside their canvas & stone altar is a relic sealed by a Pope from the 16th century or somesuch. The chapel/tower was from the 13th century.
We went out back & saw her mother and two kittens (one with a bent tail). Oh yeah, there were baby kittens in a box in the chapel - so cute!
Antonella took us up to the tower next and we sat around enjoying the view, the breeze, and the drinks (wine & water) though not necessarily in that order.
We talked with Antonella while the meal was being cooked. We decided that, at that point, we'd already gotten our money's worth, but we went downstairs when it was time for pici. Pici doesn't wait for you - you wait for pici!
They had a table set for 9 when we got down - in the same room where we'd made pici (mess since cleared by Pia). We had salad first - tasty greens, salt, balsamic vinegar & olive oil, I think. Then came the pici with a Tuscan meat sauce that was out of this world!
She brought out our pici with the tomato sauce that Viviana had made, and it was pretty good. We did well for first timers!
Dessert was crostata with little cookies. I didn't care much for plums, but the crostata was very tasty. Will need to try with unsweetened peach preserves or similar.
The final part of the meal was lemoncello - an alcoholic drink that tasted like lemon meringue pie - with a kick!
As we were eating our meal, Antonella had a CD of oldies (US) playing. Once done with the meal, the Fishers danced for us to "Stand by Me." Then Gary & Jacki danced. And finally, Gary pulled Antonella onto the impromptu dance floor and they danced too. It was a wonderful celebration of food, culture, learning, and life. Probably the best night of the trip.
Back to the ranch (after a slight detour where folks didn't listen to me and went to the wrong exit - silly people!) I got into my suit & swam lots. Yeah!
As with my other Italy posts, I have photos to go along with this one. I took some photos of Foiana della Chiana this day, but I'll save them for Friday's post. (The Friday of the trip, that is. No idea if I'll post tomorrow or not.)
The tower at Antonella's place.
Antipasto! From left to right, fava beans, cabbage, wheat with tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and wheat with carrots.
Antonella translates as Viviana makes a volcano with her flour. Judi watches earnestly.
Pia rolls pici while Antonella translates.
Judi and I and Marcia enjoy the view from the tower. (That's Gary's wine I'm holding - honest!)
Our pici! Doesn't it look simply scrumptious?
BTW, if you examine the door behind Antonella and either of the chefs - that was hand carved by her husband. It had stained glass in it. And it's their front door. The furniture in the house was almost all carved by him, and it was all amazing stuff.