This is always one of my
favorite days of the trip. It’s basically a simple day in Umbria and then the 6
hour cooking and eating class at our country houses hosted by Elizabeth Wholey,
our house host and author of her new book, Sustenance
– Food Traditions in Italy’s Heartland.
We start the day with a quick
drive into our nearby town of Umbertide right on the Tiber River. Once we got
everyone parked we made our way to the main piazza and the scene of the weekly
Farmer’s Market in Umbria. I love this whole experience – food and people! It
is definitely as much a social event as a food and shopping event. The little
coffee bars are packed with locals and tourists all conversing with their
voices and hands in typical Italian fashion.
My first, and most
decadently, my last stop here in Umbertide, was the porchetta sandwich truck! I
think just about everyone grabbed one either on the way in or the way out of
town – as I said I made the most of both coming and going! I love these
sandwiches – basically a couple slices of meat and a couple slices of the
crispy fat from a whole roasted herb infused pig laid in a French roll. Heaven
From there we made it to the
main piazza for a walk around the food vendors and to the coffee bar for a
cappuccino. We all caught up and discussed our shopping strategies and we were
off for more shopping. At the main piazza where the food vendors are located
you can find meat, cheeses, fish, flowers, fruits, herbs, plants for your
garden, etc., etc. Then outside of the main piazza and off to the side of the
main part of the old city are the street vendors selling everything from shoes,
to kitchen ware to under garments! A
quick stroll through that part and it was back to the rendezvous spot and that
second porchetta sandwich!
Some of the travelers then
ventured back to the country houses and some ventured with me to Lacole’.
Isabel took the day off and relaxed at the houses and caught up on a bit of
work. Others returned and went on their own little explorations around the
area. Many went to the village of Preggio up on the hill.
My group went to Lacole’ – an
amazing and huge showroom and outside garden full of everything from antique
furniture, to fireplaces, to doors, to tableware, urns, roughs, gate, reclaimed
tiles, fountains, etc., etc. It is pretty endless and all salvaged from old
villas and farmhouses throughout Italy.
On virtually every trip to Lacole’ we have been met with a torrential
downpour and this year was no exception. Fortunately it was during the drive
and upon our arrival the rain stopped, the clouds broke, and we once again had
We spent about an hour at
Lacole’ exploring the rows and rows of treasures. We grabbed a soft drink and some snacks at
the next door gasomat and then we rendezvoused with Gabrielle who took us to
their two new antique door showrooms and warehouses. We are designing a home for one traveler
couple, Glen and Lisa Wysel, and they said they would love to see some
doors….and doors we saw! From 15th Century salvaged antique doors to
reproductions they have created from reclaimed wood. All spectacular!!!
With the door and antique shopping completed it
was a quick 40 minute drive back to the country houses in Umbria for our
cooking class! This is always one of the best moments and one of the most
bonding moments on the trip! This year proved no different.
As we arrived, Elizabeth,
Paula and Fausto were getting things ready and prepped!
We did the same by
getting the wine bottles opened and our aprons on. We started with stuffing little sweet peppers
with ground sausage and cheese. We prepared deviled eggs stuffed with tartufo.
We made a ricotta dip and prepped veggies for dipping, then cut up fennel,
zucchini, and sage and got those ready for some frying! Then it was time to
make our tomato sauce and our pasta fresca – fresh home made pasta! Yes the
party had started!
Meanwhile the men were
getting the coals ready at the grill! We prepped the pork shoulder and the
sausages for the grille and kept the fire stoked while we enjoyed vino and a
cigar. It was then back up to the pasta table to knead the dough and start
feeding it through the pasta machine. Then grab some more wine and back to the
grille to keep the fire burning.
By then the appetizers where
done – the stuffed peppers, the ricotta dip and veggies, the fried sage, fennel
and zucchini and the food coma began! Nothing better than fennel dipped in
flour salt and fizzy water then fried in 350º oil just like in tempura –
amazing! Then the pasta was cooking
stuffed with ricotta and spinach and then the Fausto had the sausages and pork
shoulder grilling! Wow what an assortment of amazing smells.
We had been cooking since 4pm
and now, 4-1/2 hours later it was time for dinner! Antipasti, wine, salad,
wine, pasta, wine, pork shoulder and sausage and more wine! I love Italy! After
some toasts to our chefs, a few songs and a little dancing it was time to wind
down this wonderful day in our little piece of heaven in Umbria!