La Polentata: Cornmeal Communion

January 25, 2011

Breaking of bread together denotes communion, sharing, in Judaic and Christian traditions. In Italian tradition, the most communal food is certainly polenta, when spread out on a wooden board (lo spianatoio, literally "the spreader") down the center of a long table, diners on both sides scooping up the polenta with big spoons. A meal of just polenta, la polentata - best savored with a robust red wine... read more...

Mediterranean Diet: from Art to the Table

December 13, 2010

What do the Acropolis, Angkor Wat, the Great Wall of China, the Old City of Havana, Dubrovnik, the Great Barrier Reef , Yellowstone Park- and pasta, tomatoes and olive oil have in common? They've all been cited by UNESCO as world heritage treasures. The places named are World Heritage sites, but there is another part of the World Heritage list that is less-known. It is called the "intangibles" and includes cultural traditions such as dance, song, textile weaving traditions, religious processions, and festivals. Italy's two "intangibles", Sardinian pastoral songs and the Sicilian marionette theater are now flanked by another one: the Mediterranean diet. Requested by Italy, Spain, Greece and Morocco, UNESCO recently declared the Mediterranean "intangible cultural heritage" due to the important role it plays for health. read more...

MOSTRA/MERCATO or “Show-and-Sell”

November 30, 2010

Not "show and tell" but "show and sell" is the theme of the Italian mostra mercato. These markets - generally open-air - can feature just a handful of vendors or hundreds and anything on display can be bought - and in some cases, tasted. For us, no better way to warm up a chilly November night than at the Mostra Mercato del Tartufo near Valtopina... read more...

Truffles Reign Triumphant

November 24, 2010

The truffle has always been the richest and most refined element of Mediterranean cuisine. Certainly not desired for its beauty - it resembles a measily rotten potato - the truffle grows underground, like the potato, far from light and air, taking its nourishment, like other mushrooms, from the forest undergrowth. read more...

Umbria’s Coveted Gold

November 23, 2010

Umbria, "Italy's green heart", is green all year thanks to the non-deciduous live oaks blanketing the mountains and the silver-green olive trees which cover our hills. Umbria boasts about 56,000 acres of olive trees in the region and 27,000 producers of top extra-virgin olive oils. This is a golden year for our liquid "gold"... read more...

Monteleone di Spoleto: Chariots, Chickpeas and…. Farro

November 16, 2010

Monteleone. The picturesque hilltown's name, "Mount of the Lion", denotes force, domination and greatness. The name might seem pretentious for this tiny mountaintop village in the Val Nerina area of Umbria, not far from Spoleto, nearly abandoned, with two cafés and one restaurant But the sixth-century B.C.gilded bronze biga (chariot) - unearthed here in 1902 - and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York - "was certainly owned by someone powerful," local "chariot expert", Roberto told us proudly. The chariot - of possible Etruscan workmanship - embodies a glorious past. read more...

Corn Harvest, Past

November 5, 2010

Like bent over old men, dried cornstalks stand forlornly in fields joining our farm land. The corn has been picked and who knows if it has been pulverized for chicken feed or for the corn mash which will fatten the pigs, turning their rear thighs into tasty prosciutti? Then again, the corn might have been ground for corn flour for polenta or brustengolo, one of the few sweets which highlight Umbrian rural cuisine. read more...

‘Open House’ at Umbria’s Olive Oil Mills

November 5, 2010

Umbria, called "Italy's green heart", is green all year thanks to the non-deciduous live oaks blanketing the mountains of our region and the silver-green of the olive trees which cover our hills. The superb olive oils of Umbria (and particulary those of the Assisi/Spello area) - considered the best in the world by Alain Ducasse, famed French chef - are celebrated in the Frantoi Aperti (best translated "Open House at the Olive Oil Mills") festival from the end of October to early December... read more...

San Martino, San Martino, castagne e vino

November 3, 2010

Umbria welcomes in the Feast of St. Martin, November 11th, with the saying "San Martino, San Martino, castagne e vino" ("St. Martin, St. Martin, chestnuts and wine"). As the days turn cooler, the smoke of the wood-buring stoves snakes out of farmhouse chimneys... read more...