“Life offers you a thousand chances … all you have to do is take one.“
~ Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun
After that fabulous pappardelle fatte in casa al cinhiale, we head southeast towards our intended stay at a farmhouse in Montepulciano.
The 50-minute drive from Siena takes us along stretches of narrow and windy roads with spectacular views of the Tuscan countryside. And the notion of getting lost on a sojourn in the heart of Tuscany with Mysaucepan is every bit as romantic as I had imagined.
Agriturismo Pescaia, a farmhouse in Montepulciano
Set on acres of olive groves, vineyards and farmland, the farmhouse is spacious with two bedrooms.
The low-season of winter means we have the entire house to ourselves, including a fully equipped kitchen, living and dining areas that walk out onto the garden.
Countryside tranquility is the essence of the Tuscan lifestyle, one that we came to experience, albeit just for a few blissful days.
The landscape is dotted with silvery olive groves, rolling stretches of farmland and vineyards bare after the last harvest in late autumn.
Gazing at the medieval town of Montepulciano across the horizon, I feel warm despite wearing just a thin woollen jumper in winter temperatures nudging zero Celsius.
Maybe the promise of a hearty dinner is stirring my appetite. Or perhaps it is the soft tannins of a Brunello di Montalcino that are keeping me warm and cosy.
I wander into the barn to retrieve fire logs for the fireplace and the wood fire grill.
Judging the pile of freshly cut logs, I think it is sufficient to fire up the grill quite a few times let alone keep the fireplace going for the next few days.
Although there is a fully equipped kitchen with cooking appliances in the farmhouse, I am looking forward to cook a few meals using this outdoor grill that doubles up as a wood fire oven.
On the way to the farmhouse, we pay a visit to the local supermarket and pick up a hunk of T-bone steak for our bistecca a la Fiorentina.
True to the spirit of serving cuts of Chianina in the tradition of Fiorentine steaks, local butchers are more than happy to slice each piece of T-bone from the entire rib according to the thickness requested by each customer.
This ginormous piece of T-bone is particularly lean. I think it is at least 1.5 inches (3.8 centimetres) thick at 1.3 kilograms or 2.9 pounds.
Mysaucepan is setting up our dinner table next to the fireplace. I walk around the garden because I love the cold, wintry weather especially in such a beautiful setting in Europe.
Sunlight is fading away as I nurse a whisky rocks in my hand.
Frances Mayes may have relished her time under the Tuscan sun but I am savouring these moments under a solitary Tuscan star.
The town of Montepulciano has turned into a huddle of warm glowing lights in the distance without a single ostentatious white florescent.
“Are these people all thinking in concert?” I thought to my self. “This must surely be one of the romantic beauties of the old world!”
As the logs under the grill start to glow, I think it is time to wander back into the farmhouse to check on proceedings.
The logs in the fireplace are cracking and the house is now beautifully warm and toasty.
“We ought to remember to come with friends in future” I tell Mysaucepan.
“I totally agree” she says. “This place is good for at least another two.”
It is a cold winter evening and we sip a 2010 Col D’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino as the log fire crackles and warms the room.
True to its 100% sangiovese tradition, this wine exhibits high acidity complemented by well-structured tannins that make you yearn for that piece of charred steak from the barbeque. Thankfully, that is exactly the thing on tonight’s menu.
I try to capture the spirit of Tuscany’s cucina povera (cooking of the poor) … tearing leftover bread into crumbs and dry roasting it in a pan with just a touch of olive oil, salt and Tuscan dried chilli, garlic flakes and herbs.
After just 5 minutes of tossing, these bread crumbs are super crisp and good enough to eat on its own as a pre-dinner snack.
“Stop eating it all!” I try to restrain Mysaucepan as she is feeling peckish in this cold weather. “I need it for my soup.”
On the simmer is a small pot of Tuscan style peasant soup with carrot, onion, celery and tomato.
Well, it is not quite “peasant” as I added generous chunks of Italian smoked ham hock. After slow simmering for about 2 hours, this is a hearty soup for a chilly evening.
Call it minestrone if you like, but I prefer to see this as a decadent bowl of peasant soup with crispy bread crumbs.
After an hour, the logs under the grill has turned into devilish red glowing embers.
The grill is ready for that 1.3 kilogram bistecca a la FIorentina.
With just a light drizzle of olive oil and a few pinches of salt and black pepper, I slap the steak onto the grill.
Despite this cold Tuscan winter, I feel incredibly warm with a Brunello in hand and the sizzling aromas from the grill.
The spirit of the bistecca a la Fiorentina is a smoky charred finish with rare to medium rare pink inside.
After resting for a good fifteen minutes, I carve the sirloin and rib off each side of the T-bone and slice them into smaller pieces.
Washed down with an easy-drinking Brunello, I could spend six months eating this Tuscan Chianina meat.
We have been eating almost a kilogram of citrus fruits each morning since we first arrived in Venice.
Blood oranges are in season and though they look a far cry from those in Aussie supermarkets, these are sweeter and juicier by a long shot.
Our host brings us 2 carafes of red wine from their vineyards. From my limited Italian vocabulary, I decipher that one is the sparkling version of the other. The embedded reason for my fondness of Italians, apart from their rich food heritage and culture is I get to drink red wine for breakfast.
I could not resist this piece of rib-eye and a few Italian style sausages from the butcher yesterday.
Even after a 1.3 kilogram T-bone last night, I am hankering for more meat.
Italian style pork sausages are softer and more delicate than regular ones as they have a good amount of fat to lean meat ratio. . I like to sear them gently on low heat for at least 25 minutes so they turn dark golden brown. This ensures the skin is not punctured and all the juices are sealed. Add your favourite herb during searing to impart more flavour even if the sausages contain fresh herbs. I love rosemary with my Italian pork sausages. . #foodspotting #foodporn #foodart #fuckthatsdelicious #yummy #masterchef #chefsofinstagram #foodgasm #allshots #instafood #lastmeal #foodsafari #cheflife #cooklife #buzzfeast #CMSPinItaly #winetasting #vines #oenology #sommelier #vineyard #italianfood #italianwine #italianchef #bestinlife #bestrestaurant #capocuoco #italiansausages
Click on the image above and check out the sizzle on these sausages!
With just a sprinkle of salt, black pepper and a sprig of rosemary, the flavour of these Italian pork sausages with sweet ripened Tuscan tomatoes are truly unforgettable.
The beefy aromas of this rib-eye are mouth-watering.
Although it is not the thickest cut of meat, I let this rib-eye rest for fifteen minutes with a sprinkling of salt crystals, black pepper and charred rosemary.
Laced with a small sprig of charred rosemary and pepe nero, this is an unforgettable mouthful of our Italian food sojourn.
The meat is packed with flavour, succulent and effortlessly melts in my mouth.
I love my steaks with a dollop of French Dijon but in this case, the natural seasoning of salt, black pepper and rosemary is all that is needed.
This chunk of fat is yet another eye-closing moment I will remember for a long time.
Italian breads make beautiful sandwiches especially with dried Tuscan herbs and some salad leaves.
What’s leftover from our bistecca Fiorentina and prosciutto are going into scrumptious sandwiches for our road trip exploring the Montepulciano countryside today.
Our accommodation details:
Via di Pescaia, 8, 53045 Montepulciano Siena, Italy
Tel: +39 329 387 7027