Friday, July 04, 2008

tuscan glutton

As you know, Catholicism runs deep in Italy. Therefore, being in this country begs the age-old question: could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot that even He, Himself, could not eat it?

The historic Castello di Verrazzano. Greti, Italy. (2008). Fine wines, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey have been produced for centuries at the Verrazzano Estate.

While you're pondering that holy chestnut, let's talk about one of my favourite seven deadly sins: gluttony. Now let's not kid ourselves, the Colosseum and the Vatican are nice, but the real reason we're in Italy is to eat and drink ... and excessively so. And what better place than the heart of Tuscany to partake in the guilty pleasures of food and wine?

Yes. Exactly. Tuscan food. Tuscan wine. Now we're talking business, see.

Today's venue (or temple, if you will) for our ravenous inclinations: the Castello di Verrazzano (Castle of Verrazzano). Perched on a hill high atop the Greve Valley, the historic castle dates back to the 12th century and is notable as the birthplace of explorer Giovanni da Verrazzno (1485 - 1528), discoverer of the Bay of New York. More importantly (for us, anyway), the Verrazzano Estate has been producing fine wine, olive oil, balsmamic vinegar, and honey for hundreds of years, and today we're on board for a full-course food and wine sampler.

After a tour of the manicured gardens and aged wine cellars, it's onto the dining room for a meal featuring several Tuscan epicurean delights. Specifically on the menu ... bruschetta brushed with the tastiest of olive oils ... paper-thin prosciutto and flavourful wild boar salami ... sharp Pecorino (sheep's milk cheese) and Parmesan dipped in honey-sweet balsamic vinegar ... fresh penne in a spicy wild boar and juniper berry sauce ... a salad of fresh local greens with thick slices of buffalo milk-oozing mozzarella and just-off-the-vine cherry tomatoes ... scrumptiously tender roast loin of pork and chicken ... crunchy cantuccini (almond cookies) and full, rich espresso ... and a shot of grappa strong enough to clear the sinuses twice over. And to drink? A complete sampling of the estate's fine Tuscan reds, of course, with the deep cherry, velvety-soft Sassello being the memorable star.

The final verdict? Easily, one of the best meals I've ever had. Mmmmm ...

Ok, let's end this here because writing this post is making me hungry and I need to get something to eat. Bon appetito!

Vines and olive groves fan out into the Greve Valley from the Castello di Verrazzano. Greti, Italy. (2008).

Verrazzano fine wines. Greti, Italy. (2008).

Oak barrels filled with estate wines age in the cool cellars beneath the Castello di Verrazzano. Greti, Italy. (2008).

Gastronomic excellence in the dining room of the Castello di Verrazzano. Greti, Italy. (2008).

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