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.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7



Holy Windy Day, Batman!

Zeke has come to realize that having me home full-time is a great deal for him. He has figured out that he gets good 45-60 minute walks with me so he lies there, moaning and groaning to get my attention. It’s like he’s telling me: “Leave the blasted apples alone and show me some love! The jelly can wait – I can’t!”

Having done my first Be Fit class (a totally less psycho version of Cross Fit) on Tuesday and planning on doing an hour of karate at noon – despite having re-discovered my quads and glutes – I wasn’t going to go back out there for a super long walk – run – walk…. Zeke won. But I lie, it was more of a walk – walk – walk – sorta run – walk – walk – trot – walk… you get the picture!

Off we went towards a new adventure. Holy windy day, Batman! I thought I was going to end up in Kansas!

Windy Day

On our way back, I stopped off at my favourite garden to re-take pictures (last time they were washed out as it was just too sunny!) The woman who created it told me that back in ’98, the year of the infamous ice storm, everything was pretty much destroyed. Sure doesn’t show now!

My Favourite Garden

Just before noon it was off to the dojo for karate! Then, and only then, will I be able to replenish my energy! Luckily for me, I was able to nuke myself a lovely lunch of re-heated lamb chops, taters and string beans…

Dear Mrs. Spider

Dear Mrs. Spider,

Let me begin my missive by telling you how much I appreciate your existence. I totally believe you have your place in this world. You do keep certain bugs away and you are a most creative creature. Your webs are works of art indeed! Depending on the light, they shimmer and shine. In the early morning due or after a light rain (not one so wild that it would destroy your oeuvre) is when your web positively sparkles! Yes indeed, you are truly appreciated.

I do, however, have issue with where you choose to weave… Must you absolutely, positively HAVE to do it right between the plants and trees I NEED to walk through to get my lovely heirloom tomatoes? Could you not choose, say, between a tree and the house, far away from the steps I must take?



Yes, yes, I know I could go through my patio doors (as I did to take the first picture above) but these doors are, quite frankly, a pain in the ass to open, especially when it is only to collect a handful of cherry tomatoes for my lunch. Plus, I usually forget they are there as the dining room is not often used in the summer.

It wouldn’t be so bad if I always saw your “abode” – but even then, I cannot pass by without having to destroy at least one side of it, which is a shame, really; you need to renovate each and every time. No, it’s those times when the sleep is still glueing my eyes shut that I just plow right through, having totally forgotten your existence that truly bother me. UGH!!!

The Only thing worse about you having to rebuild, or re-weave? The feeling of cobwebs all over my skin and hair. I then spend the next 10-15 minutes shaking my hair out and rubbing myself trying to ensure that YOU are not stuck to me as well!!!

It’s not that I’m frightened of you per se; I just don’t enjoy the sensation of having something crawling over me. You have such power over me that as I write this, I feel you all over me!

So I ask this of you, dear Mrs. Spider, when I go out later and destroy your latest creation, please do not come back to rebuild in the same place! I will do my utmost to choose a more satisfactory location; one far from us two-footed beasts, most of whom have nary a care for the serious work you do.

I do apologise in advance that I cannot save your web and do wish you a long and fruitful life doing your spidery things.

Most sincerely,