Wednesday, April 28th - Tuesday, May 4th
Florence taught France how to cook. Alright, maybe that’s a bit of a myth and we’ll need to dig into it, but Florence did start the Renaissance. And that truth feels even more mythic - how could so much genius reside in one place? Petrarch, Dante, Botticelli, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Galileo, Boccaccio, Machiavelli....these Tuscan Renaissance men will leave you believing that everything is possible. And Tuscan cuisine, we’ll see, is as beautiful as its other arts.
So how did the French learn their culinary arts from the Florentines? It all began with a wedding. Caterina de’ Medici married the second son of the King of France in 1533. Their wedding was a party that people are still talking about. When Caterina left home for the foreign court, her courtly chefs travelled with her. They taught the French cooks how to prepare dishes fit for the queen. While the rest of Europe still used their hands to eat (Medieval style), she introduced the Florentine fork to the French. Perhaps her pastry chefs left the biggest mark with their delightful puff pastries and now iconic macaron. The depth of her chef’s culinary influence may have been embellished, but there is truth in the fabled tale.
The story of Tuscan cooking is more than the fables of kings and queens. Its heart lies in the simple, rustic dishes born of its fertile, verdant land, suffused in quintessentially golden light. The cooking is not complex, sophisticated, or riddled with complicated recipes. Excellent, quality ingredients like its robust, peppery olive oil, lush tomatoes, and crisp greens afford simple preparation. The Tuscan character has always been modest, at times austere. But their humble dishes also express an elegant finesse. Simplicity never gives way to brutishness. There is, rather, an exquisite balance between rusticity and refinement.
Before turning to the Tuscan dishes we’ve prepared below, we want to give a shout out to Tuscan cuisine’s loving partner - Sangiovese. As in all Italy, the wine is married to the food. Whereas, in America, the wine tends to parade around like a bachelor, hitting the town on his own. The wine of Tuscany is ardently devoted to its food, rarely sitting at the table without it. Some believe the name Sangiovese derives from sangue di Giove, the blood of Jove, but the name is as uncertain as the grape’s origin. Traditionally the Sangiovese grape was thought to be native to Tuscany, planted by the Etruscans, but new evidence has shown that one of its parent grapes thrived in coastal areas like Sicily and its other parent originated in Calabria.
Though its past is mysterious, its flavors are clear and bold: black cherry, roasted tomato, basil, espresso, and sweet balsamic. It’s high acidity, strong tannins, earthy aromas and fruitiness practically cry out for classic Tuscan cuisine, pairing brilliantly with tomatoes, red peppers, prosciutto, Tuscan salami, pasta and meat sauce - and almost anything grilled. If there is such a thing as a perfect marriage, it is the marriage of Sangiovese & Tuscan cuisine.
We recommend pairing every dish below with one of our Tuscan wines to experience this charming couple for yourself - you’ll definitely want to dine with them again. Buon Appetito!
The extraordinary mixture of austerity and splendor defining Tuscan cuisine is perfectly expressed in the salad Panzanelle, where stale bread is magically transformed into something magnificent. Hard bread is soaked in water, then dried and mixed with fresh summer vegetables and fragrant olive oil. This peasant dish is an exquisite example of cucina povera, where necessity (mother of all great invention) bears culinary treasures.
Pappardelle al Cinghiale
Originating in Tuscany, wide, flat Pappardelle pasta is perfectly paired with ragù di cinghiale, made with wild boar, to create a delicious gastronomic feat. The ground and shredded boar meat is stewed over a low heat for hours with red wine and tomato to create an intensely rich ragù sauce. The dish is finished with a healthy amount of Aged Pecorino Toscano that adds the perfect amount of salt to round the pasta and sauce together.
Pollo alla Diavola
Although Bistecca alla fiorentina is the most famous dish of Florence (and we love that iconic Chianina T-bone steak, cooked over wood embers, salted, peppered and brushed with just a drop of olive oil), we have decided to give one of Tuscany’s other iconic dishes - Pollo alla Diavola - its due respect. Translating to “Chicken of the Devil”, the chicken is smothered in cayenne pepper and herbs before roasting in a wood-burning oven. As with the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, the people of Tuscany enjoy Pollo alla Diavola with a side of roasted potatoes tossed in rosemary, sage, and a touch of lemon.