Friday, October 19, 2012

First communion, mushrooms and a party.

Before you jump to conclusions about how much my moral compass has strayed, none of these events were connected. I promise mummy dear! This was merely summing up the last 2 weeks

Two weeks ago I had my first introduction into the Italian Catholic church... The first communion of Lorenzo's cousins son, where all the kids dress in white robes and do... church.. stuff (I had coffee with Lorenzo's uncle next door... is that bad?). Then they have a big lunch with all the rellies... 39 in total!!! It reminded me of a wedding! Everyone wanted to know if we make such a big deal about first communions in Australia...... Can anyone help me answer that???
Non religous jokes aside it was a really nice day! I met all of Lorenzo's mum's brothers and sisters (8 in total, and no, I don't remember all their names...) and almost all of their kids! Lunch was at a restaurant called "Casa di prosciutto"- literally translated house of ham... which lives up to it's name. It was gooood! And as usual we ate too much...what a surprise!

To be honest I have no idea who these girls are, but how cute are they all dressed in white!!

Then last weekend we went to La Sagra della Castagna- The chestnut festival in a little mountain town in the Maremma area of Tuscany called Montorsaio. We went to this festival last year as well for Lorenzo's friend Marco's birthday where lots of families open up their basements, set up tables, chairs, kitchens and wine barrels and host one big festival. Marco's housemate Ale (who you may or may not remember from the first time I came to Florence) is from the Maremma area, and together with a few friends they run one of these "basement parties", where we ate, drank, danced and were merry... and Marco and his jazz band played at 2am. Needless to say we had a good time (Marco most of all!) and many a chestnut were eaten.

We will never know why...

Last, but certainly not least the mushrooms. These mushrooms, however, are no normal mushrooms... oh yes, you guessed correctly, Porcini mushrooms. That's what you were thinking too right?
I can't say that I had actually seen fresh porcini before coming to Italy... but now I have not only seen but picked... or is it foraged... or hunted? Whichever it is, today I went with Lorenzo's dad and one of his friends into the forest on the way to Bologna to find some funghi. I can't say I'm any good at finding them without someone pointing them out to me (I mean literally calling me over and asking me if I see anything 2 metres to the left of my feet) but just walking through the forest on such a beautiful Autumn day was the best. I learnt which mushrooms to eat and which ones I should probably just let grow, how to pick them and re-plant the roots and most important of all, how to be quiet so that other foragers don't come too close and find our mushrooms!

No I'm not blind, this is not a porcino

Riccardo showing me that if this mushroom has a ring around the stem it's good to eat... we roasted it for dinner... so I will tell you tomorrow if his theory is correct!

Silvano and his porcini

Overlooking the Mugello hills

Little red mushroom picker with her basket of goodies.

What a beautiful morning I had, and what awesome dinners are coming up with fried porcini, tagliatelli con porcini, roasted porcini, porcini soup... you get the point! Mmmmmm!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Un Giorno nella Vigna

They say that you learn something new every day… and then there are those days when you learn enough for the month… Today I think I learnt enough to not go to uni for a week… does uni work that way??

It all came about because a friend of Lorenzo’s dad, Valerio, is good friends with Bernardo, the manager of Colle Bereto, (which is an incredible, and reasonably small winery near Radda in Chianti) and thought that considering the viticulture and oenology course I just started, I would benefit from a tour at Colle Bereto. So Valerio called Bernardo and organised for Lorenzo and I to go down to Radda when the harvest began to see how it all works…

Neither Lorenzo or I had any idea what the day would actually bring, but I have to say it way surpassed my expectations (which pretty much involved a day of picking grapes)!
We arrived at the grand stone … house? Castle? Mansion? on the hill with an incredible view of rolling green vineyards leading up to Radda and the nearly restored monastery (built in 1000).
We were greeted by Bernardo who joined us into an impromptu tour of the cellar and wine making facilities with a group of 4 Americans  who arrived at the same time as us.



When the Americans then moved on to their wine tasting and we moved on to the vineyards with a group of  Italians, who work at a bar in the centre of Florence (also called Colle Bereto) owned by the same company as the vineyard, and had been invited by Bernardo to do pretty much the same thing as us.

So all together in the Jeep we headed down into the vines do some San Giovese grape picking for an hour or so. I would say more grape eating than picking on my behalf… but the vines were clean when I was finished, so I think I did a good job. For anyone who hasn’t been lucky enough to eat San Giovese grapes from the vine- they are small, black, sweet and juicy grapes and are really, really good!

Majority of the vines at Colle Bereto are San Giovese, of which they have 2 or 3 varieties, then the rest of their land is made up with a section of Pino Nero, a section of Colorino and a section of Malvasia. Their main production is Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Reserva, but also make some other fantastic wines…

At the end of our extremely strenuous hour of labour, we made our way back up to the house where lunch was ready and waiting. Antipasto (cheese, prosciutto, crostini and mortadella) with a 2005 vintage of their sparkling wine (made with their Colorino grapes), followed by pasta (2 different sauces) followed by a mixed grill (pork steaks, sausage, stuffed rolled chicken and roast potatoes) accompanied by 2009 Chianti Classico, followed by gelato, followed by biscotti and chocolates, along with Vin Santo (which is an amazing intense Italian dessert wine- which they don’t sell… they only make a really small batch every year for themselves and their guests, using their Malvasia grapes)  followed by coffee and a really big stomach ache. Oh when will I ever learn that my stomach is NOT bottomless!

So with overfull stomachs the next logical step is to play a game of soccer together in the afternoon sun… fun, but uncomfortable!! After which it was time to thank our hosts and head back to Florence.

Bernardo was a fantastic host and guide and was able to answer every question I had about the wines, from the growing, to the harvesting, the fermentation and of course the drinking. A really good experience and a fantastic contact to have for a budding oenologist!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Procrastination time

As much as I told everyone that starting uni would mean more emails and more blog posts as I would have more procrastination time... it's not true, I lied. Unlike when I was at school and it was "cool" not to know what was going on in maths, now it just means that I will fail and waste money if I don't know what's going on... so procrastination at the moment is only around 5% (which is clearly filled with sourcing comfort food).

I am 2 weeks into my course (well... that is kind of cheating because we don't start physics until next week... so these two weeks have just been Monday to Wednesday, maths and chemistry. But to make myself feel better let's make it a neat 2 weeks) and I am struggling to remember what I did in high school maths...the answer to that question is probably not much, which is making it a whole lot of fun trying to figure out post high school math equations, but I'm getting there slowly. Chemistry on the other hand is a subject I have never taken, so I guess on the up side I don't have to try to remember that one... however I am increasingly wondering why I thought it was a good idea to take a science based course, over 6 years after finishing school, in another language!!

Luckily the teachers so far are understanding and happy to help (they also speak english which might come in handy at some point!) which should make life a little easier! But for now, blog post will probably be few and far between (how strange you say, normally I am so on top of updating this page!? I know, I know).

I can't say I have much news other than starting uni. We have been adding a few touches to the apartment... and we finally have a wardrobe!! I guess that's big news (considering I have been harping on about getting it for a good 3 weeks). The bedroom now looks like the fair is coming to town and the kitchen has gained a colour, but we like it, so stop judging us and our multicoloured house!!

So even if there are lots of finishing touches to be added, finally the house has all the essentials, and I must admit it has turned out to be a really cute little house. I even have a veggie garden!! I can't guarentee we will be eating out of this garden any time soon, but it's pretty cute all the same!!