Friday, December 29, 2017


We woke in the morning to the sound of rain tossed like a handful of sand against our bedroom window while the olive trees made wild undulating circles in the wind.  The droplets hung to tree branches like so many pearls.
It was a slow rollout in that damp cool morning from under the warm blankets. Rick was the first up. I just pulled the covers up a little tighter until the smell of fresh eggs from the hen house baking in a bath of olive oil from the farms olive orchard started wafting in from the kitchen. When the scent of a sizzling sliced cake Rick was grilling followed I couldn't resist any longer. I stepped into my insulated slipper and padded out into the kitchen with my arms wrapped tightly around me. He had concocted a topping of cut fruit in yogurt and cinnamon and added a cup of coffee swirling in milk and sugar both of which were now sitting on the table. I floated to a seat at the table under the enticing aroma of his simple yet so delicious culinary skills. When I return and you don't recognize me since I'll probably have doubled in size you'll know who is to blame.
The Sarcenis had been so generous with adding meal after meal to our stay we felt the need to reciprocate. We offered to cook that evening's meal for everyone. So we were off to Montelcino to purchase the most important ingredient of an evening repast: the wine. This is where we met Ilaria at Franci Bio, a natural and organic wine shop. Talk about knowledgeable; this woman knew everything there was to know about wine. She even told us where the best wine store in New York was located. The secret: Chambers Street Wine in Lower Manhattan.
Prior to going back to Armena to begin our cooking "moment" as Alessandro would call it we had a little more shopping to do. There's a beautiful shop in Montelcino called Montelcino 56h. The 56h refers to the altitude of Montelcino. The jacket hanging from the shelf was made by a friend of the owner out of a World War I army blanket. If it hadn't been almost seven hundred euros we might have found room for it in Emmy's suitcase.
Instead Emmy walked out with these polyethylene boots. Why? Don't ask, something she had to have to complete her New Year's Eve ensemble.
On the drive back to our cooking chores I made everyone stop at the Altesino Winery. We had been there many times before. Alessandro's best friend Mirando was the former wine Maestro at Altesino.
It's not far off the road leading back to Armena. We've been there in the summer when the sun lit up the cypress trees and filled the gardens with flowers.
This was a different look at the winery's beautiful grounds.
After that it was time to put together the evening feast we'd promised. Turns out the only easy part was uncorking the wine we'd bought from Ilaria. Rick arranged the menu and then delegated the tasks
Here's what we put together. A frittata with onions, red peppers, parsley, 3 kinds of cheeses, prosciutto, and traditional Tuscan ham. A caprese salad with basil and drizzled with the house olive oil.  Two pasta dishes, Spaghetti with sausage in a red sauce, and Penne with sage brown butter and parmesean then topped with lemon zest. Finally, a salad of mache, cucumber and celery with a dressing of more olive oil and lemon. Dessert was our only missed cue. We bought panetone basso, a kind of fruitcake instead of pandoro. Of course the Saracenis had one stashed away.
I filled my first plate with frittata, salad, the sage pasta and the caprese. Maybe because of the wine and the lemoncello I can't remember what was on plates two and three. All I remember is it was delizioso but time to go to bed!

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