Truffle Hunting!

Ciao Readers! Happy Monday!

Today (Sunday) I got to do something amazing that I had no idea I was going to do – I went on a real truffle hunt!

So, to back up for a bit, when we lived in Florence we went to a fabulous truffle “sagra” (“sagra” = festival) in San Miniato. It was exactly what you’d picture – tons of booths featuring all types of truffles and truffle-based foods. I went on about it in detail in this blog post.  The event we attended today was called a “mostra” – I didn’t get the difference before hand and expected a festival very similar to the one in San Miniato….

The trip started off well – the rains held off and we drove into the beautiful town of San Giovanni D’Asso:

But once we got into town, I have to admit my heart sank a bit – while the town is gorgeous, look at the small area of booths we encountered:

What I hadn’t understood is that unlike a “sagra,” a “mostra” is an “exhibition” – more about learning than just booth-wandering. I also didn’t know we were signed up to go on a real truffle hunt. I stress the word “real” because there are apparently ones staged just for tourists – the truffles are purposely buried before-hand, so it takes no time for the dog to find it and success is guaranteed. Our hunt was nothing like that – we started with about a 45 minute lecture about the process from a life-long professional truffle hunter (all in Italian; the rest of the participants were Italians, not tourists). We then proceeded to trek through the woods for about an hour, over hills, through mud, you name it.  Then came the real excitement – at the top of a very steep hill, behind a ton of pokey brambles, one of the dogs signaled it had found something!  I didn’t take any pictures climbing the hill because it was all I could do to stay upright and continually untangle myself from the brambles (and I thought breaking a second iPad in a week would be a bit much, even for me), but aside from that part, here’s the adventure (full disclosure, despite the enthusiasm of the white dog, the other dog actually found the truffle – can you pick it out in the hole it/its owner dug once it found it?):

And, of course, I had to pretend to eat the truffle (I hid it and said “delicioso” to the truffle hunter, cheesy I know):

Our truffle hunt and the accompanying (mostly) educational lectures lasted till after 1:30 – we were hungry! Now, lest you worry that I never actually got to eat my beloved truffles, all of the (very packed) restaurants in town were featuring truffle dishes, and we chose ours on the recommendation of the professional truffle hunter.  (In one of his tangents during the hunt he explained how much he hates people taking pictures of their food, but since he wasn’t at lunch, I couldn’t help myself) – Buon Pranzo!

The Best Truffle Festival EVER!!! (In San Miniato)

Ciao Readers!

I have to admit, I’ve been hard-pressed for inspiration for a new blog post since my gallbladder removal. Some of the rejected ideas I’ve had include “Gallbladders and Other Extraneous Organs,” “The View from My Couch (a photo anthology),” and “Chicken Broth and Other Boring Recipes.” However, as I recover I am thinking about Italy (no surprise), how I can get back there this Fall, and if I can time it to coincide with the “Best Truffle Festival Ever.” So, please come along and reminisce with me about the wonderful truffle festival held every November in a nifty little Tuscan town….

New Mexico to Italy

Ciao Readers!

Okay, my mouth is watering just reminiscing about this festival and I am still smiling thinking about the fabulous little town it was in – San Miniato.  Apparently for the last 3 weekends of November every year for the past 42 years this little town has had the largest truffle festival in all of Tuscany (truffles as in fungi, not chocolate, though there was some of that as well).  It was so much fun (and soooooo delicious [if you like truffles])!

Now, for those of you paying extra close attention, you may remember that San Miniato is the name of the church on the top of the hill overlooking Florence (and supposedly where San Miniato brought his severed head).  Contrary to what I first thought, this is not where the festival was – there is actually a separate town (requiring a 40 minute train ride, then a bus…

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Florence Fall Food Festival Photo Fun!

Ciao Readers!

Yes, the alliteration and food festivals continue!  There have pretty much been non-stop festivals since September, but apparently November is the month for even more festivities.  There is a month-long ongoing food and cultural festival in town – complete with lectures, art exhibits (stay tuned for a future blog), and of course – food!  It’s not only wine and olive harvest season, but the season of my most favorite delicacy – truffles!

In addition to this big event, there are small food festivals popping up in different piazzas all the time.  The first weekend of November there was one in the piazza across from Sant’ Ambrogio market, which we discovered totally by accident when we went to do shopping.  This festival (pictured first, with red and blue tables) was off the tourist trail, so the tasting portions were more generous and the truffle guy even took time to “pose” his truffles for my photo (the next photos are from the festival in Piazza della Repubblica the following weekend).  We got this great spicy vegetable spread (pictured wrapped like a firecracker) and munched on yummy sweets from Sicily (also pictured).

Since I think this is definitely a case where a photo is worth more than words, I’ll stop talking and just let you see for yourself.  Enjoy!

Traveling in Europe

Okay, I have to admit after writing that packing post and thinking about all of the work this adventure requires I had fleeting thoughts of retreat.  To redirect myself I re-read some of my own blog posts and decided to contemplate even more cool things about this move… and whatd’ya know – my enthusiasm was renewed!  On that note – ya know another totally awesome thing about living in Italy?  The rest of Europe!!!

I was watching a “No Reservations” episode from Croatia and it really hit me (in addition to the fact that I apparently watch way too much t.v.) that we will be living just a train ride or a €49 Ryanair flight away from everywhere else in Europe!  The way we can now get to Santa Fe, Colorado or Las Vegas, we will be able to go to Venice or Paris.  How cool is that?

When we traveled in 2008 we got to visit many amazing places (and yes, eat lots of yummy food), so I thought I’d reminisce about a few of those and share a few pics from that adventure.  (If you think I am also subliminally trying to tempt you to come to Italy, you are right!).

There were the more famous places, where we had fabulous experiences, including Paris (I took a pastry class at Le Cordon Bleu, we saw the city and the Eiffel Tower decked out for the holidays and climbed the stairs at Notre Dame) and Barcelona (where we went to the amazing La Boqueria food market and spent days exploring the architecture of Antoni Gaudí).  Then there were the lesser known places, where we also had fab, though more “quirky” experiences, such as the breathtaking Plitvice park in Croatia (which we almost never saw as we got stranded in the middle of nowhere Croatia by an ornery bus driver, but were rescued by nice folks at a lodge, who served us the bbq, pictured below [one is a pig, the other…we have no idea!]), Ljubljana in Slovenia (funky cool Euro vibe meets old communist architecture), Brugge in Belgium (where the best chocolates in the world are made…and maybe somewhat known after the Colin Farrell movie “In Bruges”), Orvieto in Italy (where the incredible [and twisted] Signorelli fresco, “The Damned” is painted in a church, and the first place I ever tried real truffles [shaved onto my pasta] – YUM!), and Bath in England (a town so picturesque and storybook-like I seriously expected Hansel & Gretel to come skipping out of the houses).

Here are photos of the places I just described…  Come check it out for yourself!

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