It should come as no surprise that our Thanksgiving week in Tuscany was all about the food. There were truffle hunts. There were wine tastings. There were three different cooking classes. And, of course, there was Thanksgiving dinner. I’ll cover each of those foodie experiences in a separate post. (Be warned: If you are likely to grow weary of hearing about Italian cuisine, then you may just want to excuse yourself now.)
As an antipasto, here’s a foretaste of the bountiful food experiences we enjoyed in Tuscany.
Italy is all about eating with the seasons. In late November, that means white truffles, chestnuts, and zucca. (Usually translated as “pumpkin,” this isn’t quite the jack-o-lantern that’s plastered on every product at Trader Joe’s. In Italy, it’s closer to what we’d call “winter squash.” Italians call a dim-witted person il zuccone — “ol’ squash-head.”)
This time of year is also the season of the persimmon (cachi). These plump fruits — which look like bright-orange tomatoes but have a sweet, bright bouquet — dangle from spindly little branches all over Tuscany.
Much has been written about the Osteria Acquacheta steak house in Montepulciano — one of Rick Steves’ favorite restaurants. And, of course, I had to bring my steak-loving father-in-law here for dinner. We started things off with some delicious, handmade pastas. (Acquacheta — a place where everything is overshadowed by the steak — cranks out pastas that are far better than they have any right to be.)
When the owner, Giulio, came by to present us with a 1.75-kilogram (four-pound) T-bone of prized Chianina beef, we could only say yes.
After a trip through the wood-fired oven, the steak — crusty with char and sea salt — hit our table. The meal was, in every sense, tremendous. (The vegetarian in our group decided to skip this restaurant…and was glad she stayed home.)
Another key point of Italian eating is appreciating where your food comes from. Our agriturismo offered a guided tour of their working farm, where we explored the barn, saw equipment old and new, and met the animals.
At the end of the tour, we dug into a generous lunch of what they grow: wine, cured meats, and bread drenched in vivid-green, new-harvest olive oil. It may not rank as high cuisine, but it was one of our favorite meals of the trip.