This is always one of my favorite days of the trip. It’s basically a simple day in Umbria and then the 6 hour cooking and eating class at our country houses hosted by Elizabeth Wholey, our house host and author of her new book, Sustenance – Food Traditions in Italy’s Heartland.
We start the day with a quick drive into our nearby town of Umbertide right on the Tiber River. Once we got everyone parked we made our way to the main piazza and the scene of the weekly Farmer’s Market in Umbria. I love this whole experience – food and people! It is definitely as much a social event as a food and shopping event. The little coffee bars are packed with locals and tourists all conversing with their voices and hands in typical Italian fashion.
My first, and most decadently, my last stop here in Umbertide, was the porchetta sandwich truck! I think just about everyone grabbed one either on the way in or the way out of town – as I said I made the most of both coming and going! I love these sandwiches – basically a couple slices of meat and a couple slices of the crispy fat from a whole roasted herb infused pig laid in a French roll. Heaven in Umbria.
From there we made it to the main piazza for a walk around the food vendors and to the coffee bar for a cappuccino. We all caught up and discussed our shopping strategies and we were off for more shopping. At the main piazza where the food vendors are located you can find meat, cheeses, fish, flowers, fruits, herbs, plants for your garden, etc., etc. Then outside of the main piazza and off to the side of the main part of the old city are the street vendors selling everything from shoes, to kitchen ware to under garments! A quick stroll through that part and it was back to the rendezvous spot and that second porchetta sandwich!
Some of the travelers then ventured back to the country houses and some ventured with me to Lacole’. Isabel took the day off and relaxed at the houses and caught up on a bit of work. Others returned and went on their own little explorations around the area. Many went to the village of Preggio up on the hill.
My group went to Lacole’ – an amazing and huge showroom and outside garden full of everything from antique furniture, to fireplaces, to doors, to tableware, urns, roughs, gate, reclaimed tiles, fountains, etc., etc. It is pretty endless and all salvaged from old villas and farmhouses throughout Italy. On virtually every trip to Lacole’ we have been met with a torrential downpour and this year was no exception. Fortunately it was during the drive and upon our arrival the rain stopped, the clouds broke, and we once again had brilliant sunshine.
We spent about an hour at Lacole’ exploring the rows and rows of treasures. We grabbed a soft drink and some snacks at the next door gasomat and then we rendezvoused with Gabrielle who took us to their two new antique door showrooms and warehouses. We are designing a home for one traveler couple, Glen and Lisa Wysel, and they said they would love to see some doors….and doors we saw! From 15th Century salvaged antique doors to reproductions they have created from reclaimed wood. All spectacular!!!
With the door and antique shopping completed it was a quick 40 minute drive back to the country houses in Umbria for our cooking class! This is always one of the best moments and one of the most bonding moments on the trip! This year proved no different.
As we arrived, Elizabeth, Paula and Fausto were getting things ready and prepped!
We did the same by getting the wine bottles opened and our aprons on. We started with stuffing little sweet peppers with ground sausage and cheese. We prepared deviled eggs stuffed with tartufo. We made a ricotta dip and prepped veggies for dipping, then cut up fennel, zucchini, and sage and got those ready for some frying! Then it was time to make our tomato sauce and our pasta fresca – fresh home made pasta! Yes the party had started!
Meanwhile the men were getting the coals ready at the grill! We prepped the pork shoulder and the sausages for the grille and kept the fire stoked while we enjoyed vino and a cigar. It was then back up to the pasta table to knead the dough and start feeding it through the pasta machine. Then grab some more wine and back to the grille to keep the fire burning.
By then the appetizers where done – the stuffed peppers, the ricotta dip and veggies, the fried sage, fennel and zucchini and the food coma began! Nothing better than fennel dipped in flour salt and fizzy water then fried in 350º oil just like in tempura – amazing! Then the pasta was cooking stuffed with ricotta and spinach and then the Fausto had the sausages and pork shoulder grilling! Wow what an assortment of amazing smells.
We had been cooking since 4pm and now, 4-1/2 hours later it was time for dinner! Antipasti, wine, salad, wine, pasta, wine, pork shoulder and sausage and more wine! I love Italy! After some toasts to our chefs, a few songs and a little dancing it was time to wind down this wonderful day in our little piece of heaven in Umbria!