After much preparation, we finally hit the road for our first culinary retreat in Tuscany. Having a group of people over that have never met beforehand, is always a bit scary - and stressful. Luckily, everyone hit it off from the first arrival. Enjoying a glass of prosecco and some homemade appetizers, was the perfect way to break the ice. Our group existed of two ladies with a passion for traveling, one couple from The Netherlands with a big love for wines and another enthusiastic couple from Grimbergen, Mandoline from Georgie's and myself. When sharing a love for a mutual passion ( in this case we had several mutual interests like Tuscany, good food, delicious wine and beautiful sceneries) there's always a way to easily connect with one another.
After settling down on the first day, and a good breakfast, we hit the road to Montepulciano where we wondered around and gazed upon the wonders of this ancient town, meeting again for a delicious lunch at 'Il Poliziano'. The best pasta carbonara you'll ever taste. Afterwards we gathered back at the villa for a cooking class, given by Marco from La bandita. On the menu: homemade pici all'aglione, Peposo stew with roast potatoes and chard, and torta della nonna. We shared this dinner together underneath the stars and candlelight. A night to remember.
The next day, we set off early for a wine tasting at Bakkanali, a young vineyard on the foot of the Monte Amiata. We were welcomed by Ugo, one of the founders of Bakkanali, and he showed us around, explained the process of organic wine, and we tasted some fermented wine grapes before hitting the good stuff at the tasting. It's interesting to hear about how climate change is also changing the area where grapes are planted. The Monte Amiata is a fairly new terroir, with rich, natural flavors when sipping the goodies. The flavor in combination with an excellent steel of marketing and you'll find a product worth investing in.
We had lunch at Da Luca in Pescina, a local hunter's cabin with the best homemade ravioli I tasted in a longtime. We passed by Il Silene, a Michelin star restaurant in the middle nowhere. It's added on the list of places to visit. We split up the group for some free time and some of us drove to Abbadia Sant'Animo, a thousand year old convent near Montalcino.
We met again for diner at Ristorante Daniela in San Casciano dei Bagni, a restaurant very close to my hart since I have spend many afternoons and nights with my children and family on this beautiful square. We are always welcomed with open arms, and the service is exquisite. The restaurant slowly began to fill itself with all nationalities, and the mixture of languages, good food and excellent wine made everyone leave with the upmost satisfying mood. Another star struck evening.
For our last full day, we set course to Podere Il Casala in Pienza, this farm to table Podere is one of my favorites. Yess, it attracts a lot of tourists. No, it does not matter since the concept is pure and contains everything I believe in: self produce and process directly to your table. We had a tour around the farm and looked into the cheesemaking process before tasting the different cheeses ourselves at the table, again accompanied by good wine (home produce) and balsamic oil. We did not even notice the wind and some rain, since we were fully focussed on the passionate explanation from our tour guide.
We ended the night in La Bandita, another close-to-my-heart restaurant. I have been coming here since Maximiliaan was only a few months, and it always feels like coming home when entering this light-filled place. The food is not traditional, but high quality and creative. The staff is always welcoming, thoughtful and open hearted. The perfect ending of our days together in Tuscany. So much food, but worth all of the extra kilo's. While driving home to the country side, we encountered some wild boar. I could not help but think that they would make a fine homemade ragu. Yess, even after all that food...
Want to be a part of the A Tavola experience?
Find all of the information on our dedicated website . You will find our new date available in May. only 6 spots available. The program may differ from this one.
Special thanks to my parents, for opening up their house and forever supporting me in all of my ideas. To our guests, for trusting us. To Mandoline, for helping me out, making sure our guests had everything they needed. To David for introducing me to Marco. To Marco for showing us Italian hospitality. To Ugo for the interesting tour and passionate explanation. To Silva for making our morning croissants. To the Daniela team and the La Bandita team for making us feel welcome and well fed. And to my children, Max and George, for I do what I do for them.