Thursday, May 7, 2015

Tuscany - Thursday - 5/7/15

Oh no, only 2 full days left here. I don't want Tuscany to end. Sleeping here has been the best by far. There is no noise whatsoever and the bed is the most comfortable. 

I hopped out of bed, threw on clothes, and headed to breakfast. People here get dressed for breakfast. Every guest looks showered and very polished. For example, I always see men sporting the "sweater tied over the shoulder" look, with a button down shirt, slick back hair, and shiny watch. This style is so pretentious it makes me giggle. Let's not forget the forecast was almost 80 degrees, so why bring a sweater? Eric and I show up in yoga pants and running shorts, old t-shirts, no make up, and of course my hair was frizzed out. It's a good thing I genuinely don't care what anyone thinks! 

The staff at breakfast are incredibly friendly and accommodating. I'm really going miss my leisurely gourmet breakfasts next week when I'm back to work. We ate light because our Michelin star 5-course lunch was scheduled for early afternoon and we wanted to have an appetite. 

It was a stunning morning, with the sun shining and the sky completely clear.  I figured it was a good opportunity to walk around and practice my photography skills.

View from the pool. The town of Casole d' Elsa seen in the background

I can't stop photographing this gorgeous infinity pool

View from the terrace

Crystal clear countryside!

Early morning pool view. I can't believe how BLUE the sky is.

Absolutely gorgeous terrace that we enjoyed every day of our stay

After breakfast we headed to the terrace to relax and enjoy the view.  The plan was to be well on our way by 11:30. We ended up leaving a few minutes early which is fine because getting lost is always a possibility. 

It ended up being a simple drive and we made it to "Badia a Passignano" without an issue. The drive up the hill was fun. We stopped and photographed the "skyline" which from afar looked like a castle. 

The town of Badia a Passignano

We drove into the teeny tiny village and our restaurant, Osteria di Passignano was there on our right. Very easy. We pulled into a parking spot and started walking around the village. We took a few shots of the pretty views. The vineyards here were vast and never ending. 

Antinori Vineyards

Touring around the village

It was a great day!

This is one my favorite photos taken on the entire trip

By 12:30 we entered the restaurant and were seated immediately.

Entrance of Osteria di Passignano

Upon entering you'll find yourself in the wine shop. We were greeted and escorted to our table inside the restaurant. The interior had your classic Tuscan decor, and there were many servers standing around waiting to pounce. 

Our table - apologies for the shadow

There was a large party in the other room. The group was American and had that southern drawl. I've noticed many southerners from the USA here in Tuscany, even at our hotel. I looked around and wasn't surprised that the majority of diners looked middle aged or older. It's the same type of crowd at our hotel. I feel lucky that Eric and I can enjoy these types of extravagances before we're ancient. 

Our waiter approached us and he was kind and animated in a good way. It was clear that the staff were expertly trained to provide guests with a specific high-end experience. We had a fixed menu which I prefer in a Michelin star restaurant. I would rather eat whatever the Chef wants to cook. 

Our fixed menu, which we got to take home with us

I felt a little uncomfortable whipping out my DSLR to zoom in on every entree, but did it anyway. I love food pictures! 

Our elaborate meal began with homemade crackers and dip. The presentation was so fancy. This is probably how the Royals in England eat every day. We dug in immediately and tried not to look like savages. The crackers tasted homemade and dip was similar to hummus.

Crackers and dip

Next was our olive oil tasting. I think this was the first olive oil tasting we've ever experienced. A lady came to our table and explained each oil in detail, and they all tasted delicious. There were three total and the first was light, the second medium, and the third heavy. To taste, you're supposed to spoon the oil with a chick pea. We both thought it was difficult to distinguish between the three oils. I decided we definitely need to invest in higher quality olive oils at home, especially since I cook with them all the time.

My personal olive oil tasting. We ate every drop of oil with bread.

The bread basket deserves a paragraph all on it's own. It had to be the most scrumptious bread basket of all time! There was an elaborate selection of Italian breads that perfectly complimented our food and wine. I would have been happy with just this alone! 

The most scrumptious bread basket of all time

The first course was fresh spinach and ricotta flan, paired with a white wine called Cervaro della Sala 2013. The plate looked like a piece of art and I felt like I was in an episode of Top Chef. The flan looked like something I've never eaten before, but tasted light and flavorful. I really enjoyed it, but Eric wasn't in love.  

Spinach and ricotta flan

Next we were served my favorite, a plate of ravioli with basil pesto paired with Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Badia a Passignano 2009.  The homemade ravioli melts in your mouth. We chose from our variety of fresh breads to dip into the remaining sauce. 

Ravioli on basil pesto - My Favorite

I haven't commented on the wines yet. I knew we'd love the wine and throughout the meal we thought highly of each pairing.

The third course was pan fried duck with red beet compote and wild spring salad. Eric loved it. I had a few a few pieces that were too rare for my taste, but otherwise it was flavorful and tender. The salad and beet compote complimented the duck well. 

Growing up, I never ate duck. Years back I was in NYC with Eric and we were visiting my friend Anne. We ate at this restaurant in the Meatpacking district and I tried duck for the first time. I was hesitant, because it sounds so gross. But it was great! I guess I would say it's a cross between steak and chicken. Like seafood, I'll only eat duck at very high-end restaurants.

The last time I had duck was in Aruba

The duck was paired with our absolute favorite wine, called Tignanello 2012. It's referred to as a "Super Tuscan" wine. We have been drinking wine from Tuscany for years, but have never heard the term "Super Tuscan." The waiter explained this term was derived from a news reporter decades ago when describing a Tuscan wine that did not fit into the traditional Chianti Classico category. The quote caught on, and now every winery in Tuscany offers a "Super Tuscan." This allows wineries to experiment with different percentages and types of grapes which do not meet Chianti DOCG regulations.  

If you want to know what we learned about Chianti's, just contact me/Eric and we'll talk. We find this all fascinating but I won't bore you with the educational details on this post.

Anyway, Eric raved that this was the best wine he's ever had! He taught me how to swoosh the wine in my mouth to really taste the flavor and potency. We asked the waiter and each bottle is 64€, yikes! I would love to ship some home but not at that price! 

Our fourth course was a cheese selection with Pear-Filled Puff Pastry and Honey, paired with Brunello Di Montalcino Pian delle Vigne 2010. The waiter said Brunello is the most popular wine from Italy, which surprised me because I thought it would be Chianti. This wine went down easy and it was great with our cheese selection. 

This was our first ever cheese tasting and it was fun, especially because we LOVE cheese (who doesn't?). The tasting order was sheep, then goat, and last cow cheese. The cow cheese was so gross! Eric and I couldn't even finish it. To help you imagine how gross it was, think of the last time you've been to a farm, and everything smells like cow manure. Well, the cheese tasted like cow manure! Eeww. 

I was shocked because I thought cheese from a cow would taste like our basic blocks of cheese from the grocery store at home. Eric told me that those blocks of cheddar and jack are filled with additives and chemicals to make it taste good. Wow, this was an eye opener! I thought my cheese at home was safe and made from a cow, but I guess not. I'll only buy organic cheese from now on!

Our first ever cheese tasting

Last but definitely not least was dessert. We didn't want coffee and stuck to additional wine pours. The array of desserts was tasty and not overwhelming. The presentation was amazing!

Unique dessert presentation

We thoroughly enjoyed each course and had a special time together.  Good food, wine, and company is all that matters in life right? 

Our Antinori wine pairings

After our meal our waiter led us outside to the wine cellar for a private tour. He was 36 years old and had been working for this winery for 11 years. What a unique lifestyle. It was cool to walk through the cellar and listen to him educate us about the history of the winery and oak barrels. He claimed this was the most spectacular cellar he's seen and he's been to wineries all over the world.

He took our camera and shot photos of us together throughout the entire tour which was so nice! 

We asked for glasses of wine to enjoy during our tour. Of course they said Yes.

At the end of our tour, the waiter led us to the wine shop and we ended up purchasing 2 bottles of Eric's favorite Super Tuscan wine. They bubble wrapped it so we could pack it for home. 

They ended up making it safely back to Boston tucked away in our checked suitcase

Afterwards we parted with our waiter, dropped the wine off in the car, and took a short walk around the village. It was still beautiful outside.

Antinori Vineyards

Finally, we left and drove down the road to explore a bit more. We pulled over a few times to take photos and then at one point, I fell asleep. 

Chianti Region

View from the car

Me about to fall asleep

Eric said I slept the majority of the ride home. I don't understand why I pass out after a few glasses of wine but I guess that's how I roll. When we returned to the hotel Eric told me he enjoyed the views and peaceful ride while I slept. 

At 6:30pm, our hotel had a free wine tasting. We went downstairs and out of nowhere the wind picked up. The weather around here certainly tends to change drastically at any given moment. 

We sat in the lobby and tried two average wines, one white and one red. I thought there would be a selection of at least 4. I would definitely say this "wine tasting" was a bit of a joke. Whatever, it's not like we had other plans. 

For dinner, we decided to go back to the pizzeria and see if they were making pizzas. We didn't feel like spending another 18€ on a small bowl of pasta at the hotel. When we got there Eric ran up to ask and yes, we were in business! 

I ordered the same vegetable soup from the night before. Tonight it was much better. The temperature was perfect and I could taste the yummy pieces of bread inside. Eric and I still agree this is the best soup/stew we've ever had. Maybe I can find a recipe somewhere...

Eric ordered pizza with pepperoni. It was a healthy size and had great flavor. The total bill came to 17€, including a glass of house wine. So refreshingly cheap! I think we'll head here again tomorrow for our final night in Tuscany. It wasn't busy at all, and the service was quick. This place is a gem! I can see why our hotel doesn't advertise.

We drove back up the hill and caught the end of a beautiful sunset. We walked around the resort and took photos. 

Hanging out on the terrace


Straight ahead is the spa and gym

Eric thought the lamps on the terrace were cool


So Tuscan

The flowers kind of match my dress

Tosca, the high-end restaurant at our hotel was busy. I guess there are plenty of people who don't mind their sky high prices. 

All in all, we had an awesome day and I was looking forward to the next.

1 comment:

  1. These are great photo!! Eric really does look like a model in the pic you said he was modeling. You guys have to rent the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. Its a great movie and you will feel like you back in Tuscany. Manyof your pictures remind me of that movie, I have seen it several times over the years.