Every year I lead hiking and touring trips to Tuscany, like this one from 2015. My partner in these efforts is a lifelong resident of Chianti who has been showing people around for years. And on my last visit, I got to see him and his American wife host a dinner for a group — a dinner which was billed to the guests as a “hearty country dinner” in the Tuscan countryside.
And that it was. So I thought I would share some images and a few notes from the evening. I call my trips the Trails and Tables of Tuscany, and this is an example of how we might eat after a hike in the hills.
This is in a 16th-Century house in Chianti; the fireside you see was the original cooking place in the original kitchen, now a dining room. Sometimes my friend will still toast some crostini, or grill a bisteca, over that fire.
Everybody gets one bruschetta, with fresh tomatoes and basil; one with chicken liver pate; and one with a mix of gruyere and blue cheese.
And we dig in.
Next up is minestra di pane, or ribollita — a classic peasant soup of old bread, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, and white beans. In this case, it’s hardly even a soup, more a … well, hearty dish.
She then finishes the pasta by adding it to the sauce pan …
… then adding some grated cheese and a little hot water from the pasta pot, to melt it thoroughly.
I couldn’t even get a photo of this dish at the table before it started getting snapped up.
Next — because, really, aren’t we still hungry? — is the meat course, the secondo. In this case, it’s chicken with tomatoes and olives, which really doesn’t convey how beautiful and scrumptious it was. So tender and awesome!
And, finally, dessert, or dolce. She kept saying this was “just a simple cake with some ricotta cheese,” but I swear there was a lemon tint to it. And blueberry marmalata on each piece. Only pride kept me from finishing the whole thing that night.
In fact, let’s just get a wee bit closer to that:
It was a magical evening, even though every single time I got up to help, within seconds this happened:
We eat meals like this most nights on my tour — which is why we do enough hiking to come back all weighing the same.
Want to read more about eating in Italy?
Here is my Ultimate Italian Meal: Part I and Part II.
You can also read about my 2016 trips and other events here.
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