Friday, 15 June 2007
.....after a couple of days traversing the countryside of South Tuscany. Ancient landscapes and beautiful weather. And very, very winding little roads that snake endlessly back on themselves as they negotiate the contours of the hills. With the unfortunate result that by the time we got to Vivo d'Orcia - where in fact the restaurant Il Castagno is situated; Pienza is the nearest town of any note - I couldn't actually face any lunch, and instead sat in the square outside, under the eponymous Chestnut Tree, drinking in great gulps of fresh air and mineral water to try and recover. The assembled party remarked on the fact that it was unusual for me to refuse food, as they tucked into plates of Tagliatelle with tartufo sauce, followed by Rabbit cooked with Orange. All very good, they assured me enthusiastically afterwards. I take their word for it. Il Castagno was plucked from the pages of this year's Slow Food Guide, which is normally pretty reliable.
And thence to the gardens of La Foce - by which time I felt completely recovered, and significantly regretting the Rabbit! An interesting visit, but probably more for the literary associations than for any 'wow' factor in the gardens themselves. It looks as though there's rather a lot of 'blokey' garden maintenance, involving heavy duty motor mowers and lots of power-tool hedge trimmers, but not a lot of thought devoted to interesting planting and garden design. Splendid location and views, though!
Thereafter, up to the outskirts of Siena and thence cross-country to Belforte. Since we'd been warned there was no dolce on offer as part of dinner, we detoured via Radicondoli, where we invested in a rather makeshift assortment of gelati from the town's main bar. Possibly, 'only' bar. They weren't used to selling in bulk, and the various ice creams ended up being crammed together into a foil roasting dish - for want of any more suitable container - and we drove at speed to Belforte before the whole lot could collapse into a multi-coloured puddle.
A bucolic summer's evening, sitting in the garden in the lengthening shadows, drinking prosecco and admiring the new kittens. Who are deeply admirable. Before eventually we dragged ourselves indoors for a splendid feast of Fegato alla Veneziana (so, by chance, we had it two evenings on the trot - which was unexpected, but at least allowed a vertical tasting. I have to say that white rather than red onions work better with this dish, and that the butcher in Colle val d'Elsa, surprisingly, supplies even better calves liver than does Maurizio in Pisa).
Tarts of Melanzane, with Garlic, Parsley and Parmesan.
Spit-roast Chicken, with Potatoes roast with Sage and Rosemary.