Saturday, March 7

Norcia: A Land of Pork, Butchers, Boar and Truffles

We recently spent a night in Norcia (Umbria) a land famous for it's pork, butchers, wild boar and truffles. (Not so different from our neck of the woods in Le Marche.) Just over two hours from Rome (and about two hour from our farmhouse) time seems to stand still, it is the perfect place to unwind and loosen your belt because you are about to eat pork for every meal!

We stayed at the gorgeous Palazzo Seneca in the center of town. (The family seems to own a bit of everything in Norcia.) It was nice being the guest instead of the host! The hotel was luxurious yet comfortable with a cozy fireplace & chess room, library, spa and restaurant. The breakfast was irresistible with hand sliced prosciutto di norcia and a half dozen homemade cakes and pastries (Jason kept sending me back for more)!

Breakfast at Palazzo Seneca

After a stroll through town to get our bearings (and making reservations for dinner) we decided it was time to eat! We hoped in the car and headed to scenic Scheggino (a tini tiny Venice) for a lunch of grilled trout that was out of this world and worth the drive. (We knew that dinner would be pork-heavy and we had already stopped at a few butchers to sample the goods so fish sounded good for lunch!)  In a restaurant perched on the river we ordered the mixed antipasti and was blow away by the black truffle crostini (better than either of us had ever had.) The trout was moist and flavorful sourced locally and the veggies done up perfectly. (The total bill for two including antipasti, wine, secondo & veggies = 40,00 Euro)
Scheggino & the Italian flags
mini Vencie - Scheggino
  Strolling around Norcia signs for butchers and stuffed boar heads are everywhere. The prosciutto from this village is famous, Prosciutto di Norcia is sweeter than salty and melts in your mouth when cut by hand paper thin.  Even if you don't speak a lick of  Italian you will know at least one word before you leave this town, "norcino" a pork butcher. Visit Ansuini, the oldest butchery family in the area. But make sure you visit the shop outside of town in the 'zona industriale' the other shop in the center of town (with the same name) bought them out years ago and it's not the same quality, price or family history. (I had read so many articles about the area, where to eat, what to do & of course I came across this name "Ansuini" a dozen times, all with the photo of the original shop in the center of town. But it wasn't until we meet with the owners did we discover the real story and how they were bought out.)
in the center of town - beware of imposters
the real deal - Ansuini Family!
Before dinner, if you get a chance visit the crypt in San Benedetto to hear the monks chanting, it is spine tingling hearing their haunting voices echo off the cold stone. (I grew up Catholic so it could be just the rush of memories from weekly mass growing up.) As the snow began to lightly fall we made our way across the empty cobblestone streets and enjoyed one of the most memorable meals I've eaten!

Directly across the street from the hotel is the best restaurant in the area (and one of the oldest), Granaro del Monte. We settled in for a full meal. (Jason jokes that I ordered the entire right side of the menu - so what if I did!)  The area is famous not only for it's pork products but lentils as well (from Castelluccio in the Sibillini Mountains) so I started with the lentil soup.

Then came my second primo (most people only order 1), the fluffiest, melt in your mouth, truffle topped gnocchi. I died and went to fatty heaven! Red potatoes are used for their creamy consistency. I was hooked  - this dinner was amazing! After I licked my plate clean, the secondo arrived - pork tenderloin with truffles, pecorino, potatoes & tomatoes, dry fried chicory and a poached pear in red wine. (Basically all five flavors balanced on one plate). Jason didn't order nearly as well as I did opting for fish which ended up to be a vehicle for prosciutto & cheese. (Lesson learned: never order fish in a pork town). In fact, I ordered so well they brought me out a commemorative plate to take home! We waddled across the street stuffed like a ...pig and fell into bed as the snow continued to blanket the hills. 
Twenty-four hours in Norcia was the perfect weekend getaway! (We'll visit again the spring when the lentil fields are in bloom in Castelluccio...)

Where to STAY:
Palazzo Seneca
Via C. Battisti 12 Norcia (PG)

Where to EAT:
Granaro del Monte
Via Alfieri 6 Norcia (PG)

Del Ponte
Via del Borgoo II Scheggino (PG)

Ansuini (Butcher)
Zona Industriale Norcia (PG)

For more photos of our trip to Norcia & Scheggino visit our Facebook Page

Sunday, March 1

Lavender + Orange Cake = Love at First Bite

The perfect balance of orange & lavender makes for an absolutely heavenly cake that it is quick & easy to make!

Each year I add a few more lavender plants around the pool but never really knew what to do with the fragrant flowers. Sure, I dried them & placed them in the guest apartments but to be honest I was afraid to cook with them at risk of making a lovely dessert taste soapy! Well this year I was determined to try - Jason made the first attempt with lavender short bread cookies - they were amazing & eaten in one sitting. I was inspired and my taste buds were salivating for more... The perfect opportunity arose when a we found ourselves with extra yogurt in the fridge and I thought -great, I'll make a lavender yogurt cake. I actually made two - orange & lavender cake and rosemary cake with lavender glaze and they are both to die for!

Tuesday, February 17

Celebrate "Fat Tuesday" with Homemade Strutto (Rendered Fat) & Ciccioli (Cracklings)!

 What better way to celebrate "Fat Tuesday" than to make our own rendered fat!
Strutto is rendered pig fat or lard. It is the process of removing water and bits of meat from the lard so that all that is left is pure fat. There is no smell or no taste.

The finished product can be used in baking or cooking anywhere that fat is used. We think of Italy as the land of olive oil - but in some places here in Le Marche there are no olive trees but plenty of pigs, leaving strutto or lardo the main source of fat for cooking, etc.

Lard is simply uncooked pig fat. Jason uses lard to rub on roasts in particular - usually salt is added & tastes/smells like pig. Strutto to on the other hand is boiled and should have no smell/taste and can be used to make pies, in baking and to fry. In fact, according to our resident Cardiologist, Dr. Gaggi he prefers and suggests to frying in strutto over olive oil because of the way the fat molecules penetrate the skin of the potato! Pork Fat Cardiologist Recommended
 He's not alone...our free range hens love it too!
the chickens go crazy for the bits of fat left behind!
The best part of making strutto at home is the by-product of the fat (if you can call something this amazing a by-product), the ciccioli, all those bits of meat that were stuck to the lard are now crispy fried bits of deliciousness! Some call it cracklings even thought there is no skin, we call it ciccioli (pronounced: chee-cho-lee in our area) but whatever it's name, it's porky goodness! Everytime we make this - we are reminded "do not eat them while they are hot because they will give you an upset stomach." And every time we all reach in and devour handfuls while they are piping hot until our bellies ache…not sure if it’s the ciccioli or the sheer quantity we consume!

Types of Fat/Lard
The best type of pig fat for strutto is usually cut from the back.

The Grind
The fat must be ground, similar to grinding pork shoulder for sausages. Each person has their own preference for the size of the grind - this will affect the time it takes for the fat to melt.
The courser the grind the larger the pieces of “ciccioli" or fried bites you will have.

How to Make Strutto & Ciccioli
In a large pot, melt down a little bit of already made strutto on the bottom of the pot to get it started so the fat does not stick and nothing burns. Add in your ground lard a bit at a time, stirring to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Once everything is in - allow the lard to completely melt and start to boil. Lower the heat and allow the fat to simmer until the little pieces of “ciccioli" can be mushed apart when pressed with a spoon upon the side of the pot. Once the ciccioli are golden & ready, strain them from the fat and toss with bay or laurel leaves and salt.

Extracting the Strutto
There are a number of different ways to press the fat out of the ciccioli - from homemade strainer to two pieces of wood as a press (as seen above). Be prepared this could get messy!!

Allow the liquid strutto to cool slightly, then funnel into whatever mode you like: long plastic sleeves, empty water bottles, etc - then you can freeze it or hang in your cellar and use as needed. In the rustic Italian countryside this is considered a beautiful gift - an old plastic water bottled filled with rendered pork fat, just cut the bottle away as you use it!

Jason & Dr. Gaggi at our farmhouse making homemade strutto

Tuesday, February 10

It's a Cold Cold Night in Le Marche...

On a cold winter's night we set up the camera & shot the Marche night sky & stars! Enjoy the first test of playing with 'nightlapse' time lapse on a GoPro Hero 4! Working on more...

Thursday, February 5

"Made in Le Marche" Culinary Holiday in Italy: Wine Tour, Artisan Meat & Cheese Market Trip, Craft Beer Tasting + Cooking Classes

"Made in Le Marche"- D.O.C. Wine Tour, Artisan Meat & Cheese Market Trip, Craft Beer Tasting and 3 Cooking Classes 
May 12-17, 2015 and May 26-31, 2015
(5 Nights) = 928 Euro/person

Celebrating the culinary traditions of Le Marche with a gourmet getaway of five nights with three diverse hands-on cooking classes teaching traditional seasonal recipes of the area, a wine tour and cheese tasting with Marco then feel like a local on Friday with our very special meat market tour & tasting (including a stop for porchetta), a visit to our favorite award winning craft brewery Collesi and then lunch at the Hunter's Hide-away!  Our Cooking Classes were just featured in USA Today "Bucket List Cooking Classes from Around the World"!!
Includes 5 nights, welcome five course dinner with local wine,  3 half-day cooking classes with meals and wine, 1 day wine tour with lunch and transportation, Pizza Night Dinner and Apecchio market tour & tasting, beer tasting and lunch at the hunter's hideaway,  breakfast daily. Price based on double occupancy.
La Tavola Marche (farm, inn & cooking school)

Friday, January 23

Cooking in Italy: Wild Edibles & Bottling Wine April 22-26, 2015

   Cooking with Spring's Wild Edibles & Bottling Wine 
22 - 26 April 2015 (4 Nights) = 500 Euro/person
Fields of wild radicchio ready to be sauteed, young nettle perfect for tongue tingling ravioli, rich & creamy artichoke risotto - the flavors of Spring in Le Marche, Italy. In our farm to fork cooking classes we will collect wild edibles for both a pasta class and a five course Italian dinner party! Learn to make pasta (both cut & stuffed) with two seasonal sauces as well a complete menu of antipasti, primo (first course), secondo (main course), contorno (side dish) and dolce (dessert).  Plus this is the time of year that we refill our cantina with local wines and we need your help bottling, corking & labeling the hundreds of liters of red, white & rosè!  
Here's a look at what to expect!

Spring in Italy, Wild Edibles Cooking Class:
Jason helps guests identify the different edibles and with bags full of dandelion greens, poppy greens, grispigno & then head into the kitchen to create a rustic tart with the fresh picked wild greens, ricotta & prosciutto.
Bottling Wine & Filling our Cantina with Guests:

Every year we visit our favorite winemakers to collect hundreds of liters of wine for guests. In this short film we visit 3 vineyards & winemakers, buying 600 liters of loose wine or vino sfuso and then return to our farm to bottle, cork and label the bottles with guests!
Cooking with Spring's Wild Edibles & Bottling Wine   
22 - 26 April 2015 (4 Nights) = 500 Euro/person
Includes: 4 nights, guided wild edible walk, 2 half day cooking class with a custom hand-made apron, wine bottling, two meals with wine, five course dinner and breakfast daily, price based on double occupancy.

Don't forget...THIS IS OUR LAST SEASON!! 

La Tavola Marche (farm, inn and cooking school)

Thursday, January 22

{Video} Two Old Italians: A Short Lesson in Salami & Sausage Making

It's that time of year again when we ignite our passion for pork by making hundreds of kilos of salami & sausages to cure in the rafters of our farmhouse during the winter! We come together with our friends and come una volta - like a long time ago, we pass the day with our elbows deep in meat, chatting about life, breaking for lunch (and more than a few cafes) ensuring that we've got a years ration of cured meats set the same time ensuring that this old way of Italian life stays alive. As I type, Jason is at our dear friend Vittorio's with the good Doctor (Gaggi) making the first round of our homemade homecured sausages so it felt like a great time to repost one of my favorite videos we've made!

Here's to the two old Italians that have taught us so much - Grazie Gaggi & Vittorio!

If you are interested in taking one of our Sausages from Scratch Class, Whole Hog Butchery Courses or joining our 5th Annual Forage, Slaughter & Butchery Program contact:

Thursday, January 15

BIG NEWS: It's our LAST season and your LAST chance to visit....

It's our LAST season & your LAST chance to visit!!
A bucket list year...
If a visit to La Tavola Marche is on your bucket list, then buy your plane tickets to visit in 2015 now. This will be our LAST season! We're ready for our next adventure & will keep you posted on our upcoming plans...

That means BOOK NOW because we are filling up quickly!!

Over the past eight years we have grown roots in a foreign land, learned from our neighbors & shared our lives in Le Marche with you! Thank you for your energetic emails, thank you for your kind reviews and thank you for returning year after year with your families. We are truly grateful for all the memories made is this old farmhouse and excited for all to see all of you that will join us in 2015!
If you think you've got what it takes to have a B&B in Italy contact us...

Hope to see you in the kitchen!
Ashley & Jason Bartner

A few of our 2015 Culinary Packages:
April 22-26 Cooking with Wild Edibles & Bottling Wine  500 Euro/person
May 12-17 & May 26-31  Made in Le Marche  928 Euro/person
June 9 - 14 Country, Sea & Garden Cooking Classes  775 Euro/person  
June- October  Thursday to Sunday 3 Nights Special starting at 715 Euro/COUPLE 
Any 3 Nights Fall Foraging for Mushrooms from 345 Euro/person

27 October - 1 November 5th Annual Forage, Slaughter & Butcher Your Meal 925 Euro/person

Click Here for the complete list of cooking classes & culinary holidays!
Book NOW before it's too late!!

The 30 Best Autumn Escapes  - The Sunday Times
Top 10 Quirky Food Adventures -Lonely Planet
Top 10 Food & Drink Holidays in Italy - The Telegraph

Tuesday, January 6

{VIDEO} Festa della Befana: The Italian Folklore, Festival & Food!

A "Taste of Italy" episode celebrating Festa della Befana -

A short film capturing the magic of Befana with the smell of roasted chestnuts and spiced wine, the cold air fills with festive music as Befana's of all ages descend upon the cobblestone streets to celebrate in Urbania (Le Marche) Italy. 

La Befana is believed to hail from the medieval village of Urbania in Le Marche Italy. In Italian folklore, La Befana delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on the night of January 5th, the Eve of Epiphany.  In addition to delivering gifts, she will sweep the floor before she leaves! It is customary to set out a glass of wine and snacks to thank her for cleaning the house!

A short film by La Tavola Marche (sharing a slice of life in Le Marche)
Directed & Edited by Ashley Bartner & Jason Bartner
Music: Live from the Band of Urbania,
"Sugar, Rum, Cherry" by Duke Ellington
 "Sleigh Ride" Instrumentals only by Harry Connick Jr

Thursday, January 1

How to Make a Legit Plate of Pasta - This Sunday on YouTube LIVE!

It’s all about pasta! First we will make a semolina dough pasta, Cavatelli or little caves. This is a perfect intro to pasta making because no rolling pin is even needed! After you get down the knack of forming the cavatelli we’ll move on to how to make a simple plate of pasta, starting with the size of your pot of boiling water! Cacio e Pepe (cheese & pepper) is a perfect example of a simple sauce with three ingredients, when done right is outstanding! Just to drive the idea home on how to make a proper plate of pasta, we'll make a sauce of the moment using whatever local seasonal vegetable is looking good for you
Literally make Sauce of the Moment as your water boils! Many people think that Italian sauces are all tomato based and heavy, but in fact there are many types of ‘sauce of the moment’ that you can make depending on what’s in season. 

**CLICK HERE TO WATCH: Sunday, January 4th Link to Watch LIVE! on YouTube
Recipe Links, Ingredient/Shopping List Below

Depending on where you live in the world:
12-noon PST (Seattle)
3pm EST (New York)
8pm GMT (London)
9pm CET (Rome)

9am + 1 day (New Zealand)
How to Register:
Reply to this email with RSVP in the subject or just tune in to the YouTube LIVE! link above. The classes will be recorded and available to view at anytime on YouTube.

The Classes will be about 45 min - 1 hour in duration and will be recorded so you can watch it at your convenience on YouTube.
The Cost = FREE! We just ask that you spread the word, share this email, retweet, post photos, etc. If you feel inclined you can help support the show & keep us sponsor free!

What you need to cook along:
Recipe Links & Ingredient 
200 grams/ 1.5 cups of semolina or ground durum wheat/ grano duro
25 grams / 1/4 cup of regular flour or soft wheat flour
pinch of salt
125 grams or 3/4 cup warm water

Spaghetti (or pasta of your choice)
small handful of hard aged pecorino or parmesan
black peper or peperoncini (chili flakes)
olive oil

We'll use the cavatelli as the pasta to pair with this sauce 

veg of choice: brocolli or brocolli rabe, cauliflower, zucchini, depends on what's in season where you live
small handful of cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons of white wine
4 tablespoons of chicken stock or pasta water
handful of parmesan cheese
clove of garlic, kept whole
olive oil
salt & pepper

mixing bowls
cutting board/work surface for the pasta
pairing knife
large pot for the pasta water

Photos sent in from students/viewers around the world cooking along during the LIVE! classes!! 

and back at our house...

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