Our adventure in Venice was over and it was time to make our way to Casa Ombuto for our next culinary adventure. The day began with a quick train ride to Florence. As we approached Florence, it became clear that the weather Gods were not happy with the world. Sheets of rain were beating down. From the train station we grabbed a cab to the car rental area of the airport only to discover that Alamo does not have a sign like Budget, Avis, Europcar etc. The cab driver said he had never heard of Alamo (except the American historical version) and of course this did not sit well. The thought of making our way hours into the countryside through the torrential rains by cab or some other mode of transport seemed a tad daunting. I braved the rain and checked with Avis and wouldn’t you know that the only Italian car company was also Alamo….Maggiore. So we did indeed have a car. Brand new. No kilometres. So once we spent some time getting acquainted with the vehicle (and grabbing another GPS as the one in the car was not set up although they did send us on our way telling us it was…lesson for those to follow….do not leave until you have everything working).
With the rain pouring down, we obeyed the GPS lady and turned left in 300 metres. We continued this trek bravely through the snow….yes the snow. The rain turned into snow on the narrow mountain roads. We were surprised and wished that we had rented a Land Rover rather than the Mercedes. Three hours later we found the Casa. After kilometers of castles, ancient walled towns and narrow cobblestone roads we arrived. We pulled up and were immediately greeted by Alex who insisted we have a drink and snack before unloading the car. After five or six glasses of wine and platefuls of delightful snacks, we saw our room. The chef, Paola, was preparing a feast for us which included a variety of wild boar treats. Casa Ombuto is amazing. The buildings are beautiful and our room was amazing. The combination of modern amenities with 700 year old structures (all of which have been redone with brick) make for a lovely location.
Speaking of wild boars. It turns out if you want a wild boar, you just have to wait until they wander through your room. Yup, if you leave the doors open, they will just help themselves to drinking out of your toilet. Anything with nasty ass tusks and a bad attitude gets all the water it can drink! Fortunately we actually had the upper rooms with our doors shut. No nasty pigs sleeping with us.
There is also a warning about one of the pictures we are posting here. First it looks like a poster child for the reason we have an alcohol policy. After dinner, a couple of bottles of “special wine” and the fact that they had been plying us with the local vino since we showed up, they brought out the big guns. They filled the table with all the local aperitifs they could find. It was stunning. If you are wondering what happened next, you haven’t been following our story close enough. Needless to say, the next morning was a bit on the slow side and the old Irish Rovers song, “wasn’t that a party” kept running through the remaining 4 functioning brain cells I still possessed.
Gina’s update on the food: Paola made us a feast, last night, which included the infamous Florentine steak. This time it was sliced and only a few pieces served to each making it much more manageable. The steak followed an amazing course of red rice with parmesan and wild boar with mushrooms. Somewhere in there was fresh arugula with extra virgin locally made olive oil. Seriously, being Italian is a gift from the Gods. There was a meringue, strawberry semi-fredo delight for dessert. This I will master.
I heard that breakfast was an amazing feast but there was no hope for us after all of the liquors. Lunch was salad, variety of cheeses (different ages so we could compare), acacia honey, fresh made (less than 10 minutes earlier) pasta with basil and more olive oil. Lastly, if that was not enough, we had local sausage with cauliflower. Dessert at lunch was a light snack of lemon cookies with whipped cream in between (a high end version of whoopie pie).
Today we cooked for 5 hours and had the dinner over three hours….did I mention I LOVE Italy, Casa Ombuto, Alex and Paola. We made bruschetta, tomatoe sauce, roasted veggies, minestrone (which is for later in the week as it gets better with age), asparagus rolled in parmesan and other delightful things, panna cotta, and last but not least, wood fired pizza. Bryan also learned a new trick for the pizza oven. We made our own dough and mastered 13 Italian dishes today. I made the panna cotta and for those of you who have had my ice cream you will LOVE the panna cotta. It was divine. We learn how to make pasta tomorrow. Yay! Will keep you posted. By the way….boars running rampant makes me happy that we are on the second floor too. I would also be fine without seeing another flake of snow until next winter. We have been told by many that it is extremely rare for it to snow this late in Tuscany (yeah…I bet it is about as rare as hotels exploding in Mexico….tell me a story I haven’t heard already)!