Under the Tuscan Sun
So today I decided to have a "day off" from site seeing. No plans.
After a nice, late breakfast and shower at La Locanda di San Martino, I wandered over to Piazza del Campo and sat in the morning sun watching the little kiddies run around chasing pigeons. It really ought to be a national sport. Silly pigeons; so focused on the possibility of food left from tourists, they don't have the sense (or desire) to fly off. Then a Jack Russell terrier and a very excitable dachshund started in on the game. Pre-schoolers, small dogs and birds...what could be more entertaining?
After that I headed over to the Siena Cathedral to sit on the white steps and soak up some more sun. Did I mention today is clear skies and 23 degrees? Slight breeze. Anyhow, sitting against the warm white stones, feeling the sun shine down on my arms and face...in late October. Amazing.
Time to stroll along the winding streets and do a little window shopping. After about two hours of walking, it was time for a late lunch. I found myself back at Piazza del Campo and opted for a little table, some fresh bruschetta pomodoro, some house pasta, a glass of wine, and you guessed it....more sunshine.
Next up was some gelato. It's absolutely true that Italy has the best gelato. I mean, Spain and Portugal come pretty close, but I think Italy has it down to a science. This time, I chose Cherry English Trifle and coconut. English Trifle in a gelato you say? Why yes! The gelato custard base is made and then a layer is spread into the pan. Pieces of sponge cake, amarena cherries and liqueur are then layered on top. Then more gelato custard base is spread on top. Repeat the layers. So good! And where did I eat my gelato? Why, sitting in the sun of course!
Back to wandering the streets. There are so many leather goods and pottery shops here. My mom has asked for a pair of brown leather boots. She and I are the same size shoe, as well as the same through the ankle and calf muscles. Which means if the boots fit me then they should fit her. I think she's going to really like the ones I bought her. And if she doesn't, well..... I really like them, and I know they fit me....so it's really a win-win situation.
Then it was time to head back to the hotel for a quick nap and to catch up with family back home. I also worked on some design sketches for a bit. I'm happy to report the new sketches are coming along nicely.
Osteria La Logge. This Michelin-rated restaurant is warm, inviting, and just a little quirky. I passed by the spot during the day and couldn't help smiling at the display of old trumpets used as candle holders in the window and the old weigh scales by the cash register. Also catching my attention were the large display windows into the kitchen, and that one of the windows was open with a screen in place. This meant that the kitchen is the star of this restaurant (as it should be), and that the restaurant is happy to display their working kitchen in hopes of enticing the people walking by. The open window let prospective guests (the restaurant does not advertise but replies on word of mouth) know that the kitchen is "open for conversation" and therefore approachable. And the wonderful aromas coming through the window definitely had people stopping to take a longer look. An interesting way of advertising, but it seemed to be working. I knew I needed to eat in this restaurant.
The lead server is Mirco. He was amazing at finding me a spot in an already-booked restaurant. If you do visit, be prepared that you might not be seated at your own table. I was seated at an oval table with two other men, but the table gave me a great view of the room. The kind gentlemen promptly offered me some of their Brane- Cantena Margaux 2000 Gran Cru (yes, a French wine in Italy....even Italians get tired of their own wines I guess). Already in the room (and in full swing) was a party of ten gentlemen from various states in the United States. They were visiting the area on business. More on this gang a little later.
The space used to be a pharmacy, and still retains the beautiful cabinetry; now filled with books, glassware, bottles of grappa and scotch, as well as limited edition bottles of wine. A cabinet of additional glassware by the kitchen proudly displays snapshots of famous guests including Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Stiller and Morgan Freeman.
And what a kitchen! High end Italian kitchens tend to be laid out in a square format, rather than the traditional "kitchen line" I'm used to in North America. Essentially, each cook works in their space on their particular item (garde manger, veg, meat, etc), and then bring their item to the center island to plate. This, to me, seems to cause less confusion, less shouting of "BEHIND", and ensures each station has access to the plate, which means in theory it would leave the kitchen sooner. And as a result, all of my dishes arrived within great time.
The food was fantastic. I started with a simple pappardelle with house ragu. Noodles and meat sauce, right? I didn't want this dish to end; I could have ordered another portion it was so good. The meat sauce was somehow both robust in flavour and light in texture at the same time. The noodles were spot on.
As soon as my plate was cleared, it was replaced with my second course, stuffed rabbit. The medallions were crispy on the outside while moist on the inside and stuffed with spinach, rosemary and salvia.
Jackson Family Fine Wines .....Freemark Abbey, Hartford Family Wines, Kendall-Jackson, La Crema, Stonestreet...and Tenuta di Arceno, which produces Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Reserva under winemaker Lawrence Cronin. Meeting a group of like-minded people also interested in wine and food is fantastic and always evokes great conversations, along with some hilarity. Case in point: I was educated on the word "Schmeg"...as in "Waiter, there is some schmeg in my glass".
For dessert I took Mirco's advice and had a hazelnut cake and chestnut sauce dish. I liked how cheeky this dish was. It resembled mushrooms and a forest floor in the fall. The airy sponge cake was divided into pieces on the plate in a puddle of hazelnut cream. Cylinders of pastry made to resemble pasta or the stems of mushrooms offered a bit of saltiness and were filled with vanilla pastry cream; a nice contrast. Chestnut gelato. Heaven.
The business men headed out to their next party and I found myself with Mirco, his friends (my original dining partners) and their friend; a lovely woman from New Jersey. Some grappa, scotch and more wine resulted in dancing into the wee hours of the morning in a closed restaurant, causing people passing by to (once again) pause and look in the windows.
So a day with no plans turned into my most enjoyable day in this city. Tomorrow I leave for San Gimignano (again) and then on to Montepulciano. But I will take with me these wonderful memories of this beautiful city of Siena, and look forward to returning again soon.