Cook in Tuscany – La Chiusa, A Surprise, Innocenti and Farewell

*** EIGHT – yes, EIGHT!!  months have gone by since I returned from Tuscany.  I had so many issues with my computer that I had put this aside to finish later and later never seemed to come.  I am now, if you don’t mind, ready to finish the telling of this fabulous life-changing (for me) trip! ***

♣♣♣TWO YEARS – yes, officially TWO YEARS have, as of today, gone by since I started my Cook in Tuscany Trip.  I am not counting my day in Zug because that would have made yesterday the official two-year mark.  Though I am not pro-resoution, I have promised myself to finish every project I have started and that includes this one.♣♣♣

Now where was I….

Sigh, the last full day in Montefollonico, at La Costa with this fabulous group that made the start of my trip so wonderful. The next morning most would be hopping the van to Chiusi-Chianciano Station to continue their adventures elsewhere or return home.  But till then, we had a full day of wonderful stuff!

As per usual, we had our breakfast in the closed-in veranda before making our way to our last cooking class.  It is kinda funny that we had the van, considering how close we were!  We could easily have walked there and back but hey, why not?  And it’s not like any of us knew where we were going anyway.

This time we made our way to the restaurant La Chiusa, run by Michelin-star chef Dania, a woman who is somewhere in her 70’s but does not dress “accordingly” (whatever that is supposed to be)!  She is one sexy lady!  Though divorced, her husband still works with her.  How very European, eh?

Dania is very artistic and she showed us how to decorate plates with zucchini and beet purées.  We made stuffed zucchini flowers, pesto risotto, chicken stew, caramel nests, fig and caramel ice cream.  The colour of the egg yolks… I have no words.  And this standard for them!

Once most of the mains were started, Dania brought us through to her gardens, which were still amazing in September.  Huge kale, leeks, rows and rows of rosemary, basil, eggplants, peppers, fig trees, zucchini with their blossoms – it was amazing to walk through, while Dania chattered away, occasionally translated by the lovely Geraldine – same who had translated on truffle-hunting day.  I think I would spend hours on this bench, dreaming of what to pick next…

Group photo!

We then went into the “pasta” kitchen where Antonietta had us making ravioli stuffed with ricotta and lovely gnocchi.

All that hard work meant we got to eat al fresco on the terrace.

To return “home”, we decided to walk this time.  It was just up a hill, less than a kilometre and let’s face it, walking was not a bad idea.  As we entered the gates of Montefollonico, we were chattering and laughing when I heard “Dale?”.

What the… I spun around and there was Pierre.  One of Mick’s close friends and former clients.  Oh. Em. Gee.  You cannot make this stuff up!  I mean, come ON!  This is not THE rocking place of Tuscany.  This tiny village is tucked away in the middle of nowhere!  I can still hear Donna saying:  “You turned French Canadian in front of my eyes!”  Speaking of eyes, the whole gang got all misty-eyed at seeing us hug.  Pierre looked at me, then up at the sky and let out a “Mick, tabarnac!”  He said he was a little bit of a believer but now was full-fledged.  I had no idea he and his wife, Geneviève, were there on vacation.  And it was his in-laws who wanted to go visit there.  What were the chances?

Pierre and Me

We exchanged emails and made arrangements to hook up in two days.  So. Very. Cool.

We had a few hours to kill before our next adventure and Sandy wanted to deliver an apron to Dania in thanks.  So I joined Donna and her for a walk back to La Chiusa and Dania.

Our last excursion was down the street from LaCosta to Innocenti Wines.

We were greeted by Vino, Vittorio Innocenti’s sweet dog.  We entered and a few feet in, found ourselves in a fairly dark and musty wine cellar with the big casks.  Vittorio and Laura (Geraldine’s mum) were waiting for us to give us a tour.  Not a very big one!  The place is quite small and feels very intimate.

It was our last night together! How quickly it passed.  How much fun we had.  The memories created will remain forever, of that I am certain.  Friendships created and with the magic of Facebook, maintained.

Our last supper was at La Costa in the closed veranda as the evening was quite cool.  We had a lovely feast of pork chops and the lemon roasted potatoes and balsamic roasted cipollini, three types of crostini (mushroom, roasted tomato and olive), salad and a birthday cake for Cindi and Alison!  A perfect ending to a perfect week in perfect company.  Linda and George gave us each a lovely ceramic plate as a memento.  We would save our good-byes for the morrow.

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Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7



#WeekendCoffeeShare – Drab Weather and Big Plans


Hello my pretties!  Another week has flown by and we’ve our hostess Diana to thank for grouping us all together to share.  Just click on the box above, and you will be brought directly to her site to read other shares and maybe add your own!  Do come in, we are a most sociable bunch!

If we were having coffee, I’d offer good old drip coffee from my Melitta cone, or a stronger espresso or latte or cappuccino from my Italian coffee machine.  It takes a little longer but oh my, the flavour is so much better!  The weather has been wet and grey and blech.   The all-powerful “They” say that we are dreaming in Technicolor if we think we’ll have a white Christmas this year.  I decided to Google to find out how many “Green Christmases in Montreal” there have been since at least my birth year (1964) and couldn’t find it.  Heard a “ping” from my Facebook, and there it was!  The Universe does work in mysterious ways, doesn’t it?

green christmas

Wow, I cannot believe what I am seeing.  It was a green Christmas for my birth year, my sister Lisa’s, and my three boys!  Funny how we don’t remember these things.  All I could remember was being pregnant for Iain and the famous ice storm hit in 1998.  Mick and I had wanted to go visit Austin’s, our firstborn, grave as it was the first anniversary of his death on January 17th and the Mount Royal Cemetery was closed due to the detritus that were broken tree branches.  We ended up going up to the St. Joseph’s Oratory to light a candle for him.



If we were having a nice cup of coffee, I’d have to apologise to my youngest for not mentioning what a fabulous job he did on his aquarium last Sunday.  The filter was dead so no matter how often he tried to clean the tank, in no time, it was a box of green.  A new filter, a major scrub and voilà!  The fish can now see outside their home!

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If we were having coffee, I’d tell you it has been a rather quiet-ish week activity-wise.  There were a couple of outings, including a date with a very nice fellow who is not quite my type.  We had great conversation (mostly my motor-mouth) and a lovely meal but I’ll have to leave him to another lucky lady.  There was coffee with my friend Andrea who wanted to make sure I was okay as this is a bit of a difficult period.  So very sweet of her.

I, of course, am pretty much always in front of my stove or chopping board so will have to share a couple of meals I prepared…  The chicken, pasta and chickpea stew doesn’t look all that exciting but I really enjoyed the flavours (hope my client did too!)  The Italian sausage and veggie frittata, on the other hand, was most delicious.  I was jealous of my client having one, so I made one for me and the boys.  Neither of them came home for supper and I have been eating a quarter of it every day since Wednesday!  And I’d have it again tomorrow but there is none left.  Sigh.

Every Wednesday, (or Thursday or Friday), I participate in Friday Fictioneers.  There have been a few that were none too fictional as the image prompts had me writing more personal stories.  This past Wednesday, I found myself dreaming of Tuscany.  So much so, that I actually sent my application to Linda and George of Cook In Tuscany and booked my culinary stay for next September!  What Linda and George offer is exactly what I’ve been dreaming of doing for years.  I used to (and still do) warn my family that I was going to pull a Diane Lane and never come back!  Now I have to try and wait patiently for nine months!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I am so very happy I got my hair done.  My bangs were driving me nuts and those roots?  They had to go! If I didn’t look so darn tired on the selfie I tried to take, I’d show you my new ‘do!

I was supposed to go help a new client cook at her place (another thing I’ve been wanting to do) but her guest list went from 20 to 9 so she decided to do it all herself.  She did, however, need help with dessert which I was more than happy to do!  A ridiculously rich brownie trifle!


Friday would have been Mick’s 52nd birthday and my Facebook page was filled with love and good wishes.  I am blessed indeed.

And now my customer has hauled off her dessert (yes, it is that heavy!), I’ve gobbled up my poached egg with avocado and tomato and my coffee to go is ready to go.

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Look at that!  The sun has come out full force for the first time in what feels like ages!

I wish for you all a most wonderful week leading up to Christmas and I hope you take the time to sit back, relax and enjoy the spirit of the holidays without too much frazzle!

Merry Christmas to those of you who do celebrate it and Happy Holidays to those of you who celebrate something else!