Thursday, October 1, 2009

Our House in Umbria, Part Due

Sunday, up early with the hunt and all, we made our way to nearby Panicale. Based on the recommendation of Stew Vreeland's blog, See You in Italy , we chose Bar Gallo for lunch, having arrived too early for the last day of the town's wine festival. The small piazza had several choices for outdoor dining, so we had plenty to look at while we ate our torta al testo, a panini made with the local bread, which is thin and unsalted and quite delicious and in our case filled with mortadella and rocket, known to us as arugula. The Italians like their bitter flavors.

Oh, wait. I have to backtrack. After United's debacle caused us to miss our connecting flight to Rome, rerouting us through Frankfurt on Lufthansa, a much better airline all around, we had a few hours before departure and really enjoyed the respite of Vino Volo on Concourse C at Dulles Airport where it was easy to decompress seated in comfy sleek leather armchairs, a few flights of wine, a bowl of buttery Moroccan almonds roasted in sea salt, safflower oil and rosemary, and a plate of fantastic cheeses: Humboldt Fog, Manchego and Stilton. The servers were impressive, too.

After Panicale, we drove to Castiglione del Lago, which felt much more touristy and had lousy gelato. Women stood in doorways of shops with samples of salami on trays and lace in the windows. It was pretty, though.

On Monday, we drove to Montepulciano in Tuscany. On the outskirts of town, we came to Madonna di San Biagio, built in the 16th century. It gave me goosebumps when we went inside.

We stopped in for a tasting at the nearest winery, where luckily the staffer spoke perfect English and we bought a bottle of Vino Nobile to bring home.

We walked into the historic center and chose to eat our lunch at La Dolce Vita, an enoteca, or wine bar. We ordered too much and felt like bad Americans not cleaning our plates. I started with ribolitta, a traditional Tuscan/Umbrian bean soup drizzled with olive oil, then had a crostini with roasted eggplant and melted pecorino drizzled with a balsamic glaze. Gnome had bruschetta with chicken liver pate that was rather strong tasting and an antipasti plate with salume, prosciutto, capicollo, fresh mozzarella and pecorino. Please note the vantage point of our table on the city street. Many pedestrians walked past, diners sat at tables, and cars passed each other all in that skinny space. Clearly not an American street.

Tuesday we drove to Orvieto and had a pizza margherita and a Peroni at an outdoor table. It was good, but nothing special. After walking around a bit, it started to rain, so we ducked under the large tent and took a table at L'Antica Piazetta for a cappuccino and tiramisu for me and a beer for Gnome. After finally finding our car thanks to a couple of very nice Italian ladies who spoke about as much English as we spoke Italian, we headed back down the winding road and, as everywhere we went, saw this view:

Wednesday night, we drove the twisty roads to Cetona, another little gem of an Estruscan hilltop town. Once Gnome managed to back the car out of the overcrowded parking area that we'd driven into, we found a place to park and walked to the piazza to Osteria Vecchio da Nilo and were seated at a lovely table in a very well lit room. Our server, Silvia, knew only a little English, and was very friendly and efficient. We started with a plate of assorted antipasti: roasted zucchini artfully rolled around buffalo mozzarella, bruschetta with tomatoes, basil and garlic that was sublime, bruschetta with pate, prosciutto and salame. Next, for our primi, we had a melt in your mouth, savory sweet ravioli that was the best single thing we ate on the trip. Divine. For secondi, we had guinea fowl with juniper berries and a contorni, or side dish, of steamed spinach and onions. Silvia recommended a 2008 Dorigo Ribolla Gialla from Friuli that was refreshing and a little complex. Perfetto. I ended the meal with a wedge of chocolate torte. We would eat this entire meal again in a heartbeat.

Thursday night, we drove the twisty roads to Citta della Pieve and ate our dinner at Serenella. We couldn't take photos because it was like we were eating in a church. The conversation at the four other tables in our dining room (there are a couple of them) was very quiet, causing things to seem a bit somber. Our server spoke no English and our Italian exasperated her a little bit. We had a yummy salad, which was served with olive oil and white wine vinegar everywhere we went, followed by a spaghetti bolognese (delicious), and for dessert, a panna cotta with chocolate sauce for me (also delicious), with a bottle of 2006 Rubesco Lungarotti, all for 26 euros.

Our favorite meal overall was in Cortona, a lunch enjoyed once again outside. Gnome had a decadent steak in a peppercorn cream sauce while I had a pecorino and pear risotto. I now know that I cook mine at home for too long, at least to suit a Tuscan. My salad also had pears, hazelnuts, fresh goat cheese, and bacon. Yum.

In the next post: our last supper. Ciao!


  1. Looks like y'all had a wonderful trip; I'm so jealous.

    When you have some time between cooking amazing dishes and studying, I've given you an award on my blog.