[Note: This post was horrendously delayed due to …insert your best excuse here….]
The last few months of 2017 were a bit nutty. We spent two weeks in Italy, attended Oktoberfest in Munich, and moved to Seattle for a new job (for me, not Dan). As the holidays approached, we prepared for (yet another) cross-country move. It was a stressful end to 2017. And when I get stressed, I eat. And I bake. And I cook. And I partake in an exceptional amount of wine.
And all of those things send a wave of warm and fuzzy memories of the culinary prowess of Italy…
Our tour of Italy was a whirlwind. We landed in Rome during a horrendous downpour that caused enough flooding to shutdown the city landmarks. But we traipsed around anyway, and with soggy shoes and inadequate umbrellas, we sought out delicious food and coffee to warm us up. Our trip took us around the “boot” with a sampling of Italy’s best. We walked the eerily modern roads of Pompeii, navigated the back alleys of Naples, saw the beauty of the Amalfi coast, hiked a volcano in Sicily, drank wine in Tuscany, and did a cicchetti “crawl” in Venice. But no matter where we were in Italy, the food was incredible. Never have I eaten so many carbs with so little regret.
Too often we complicate things. We make recipes with enormous lists of ingredients, spend hours standing over a stove, use every pot and pan in the kitchen…and we believe that it is necessary to create an impressive meal. Enter the Italians.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the food we ate in Italy was its simplicity. Caprese, burrata, cacio e pepe, carbonara…even the iconic Napoli pizza is just a few simple, albeit incredibly fresh and regulated, ingredients. It is no-fuss cooking, perfected.
A Tuscan steak grilled to your exact preference and approval. Fresh handmade pasta with a rustic ragu. And a fire-kissed pizza crust topped with only San Marzanos, fiordilatte, and basil. Simple. Delicious. Done.
Some of our best vacation memories are the ones that happen by accident. In this case we were driving the back roads of Tuscany, somewhere near Gaiole in Chianti, and saw a small orange sign that said “Rural” with an arrow. Intrigued and always up for adventure, we wandered our way to town.
A few more twists and turns of country roads, and then…magic! We stumbled upon a fabulous local festival of all things artisan – cheese, wine, meats, vegetables, farm-to-table restaurants… All the samples to be had and the price of free. Free, you say? Fresh delicious things, you say?
What was more impressive that the extensive selections of provisions were the warm, welcoming, and characteristically loquacious locals serving them up to mere wanderers like ourselves. In Italy there is so much pride, in every. single. thing. It’s encapsulating and contagious.
Handcrafted cheese wheels of your 90’s ‘Supermarket Sweep’ dreams. Slices of meat so tender it melts on your tongue. Glasses of lambrusco with the perfect blend of sweet, dry, and bubbly. Gelato that’s perfectly creamy, not too sweet, and always made fresh.
Sure, you can wander the fashion-forward streets of Milan or get passed by a Ferrari or two in Maranello, but Dan and I will choose the option to wander the rural backroads and snack from farmstands any day. When food looks like this, it doesn’t need to be complicated. And that’s exactly the lesson Tuscany taught us.