Monday, November 17

Sample Heaven!

We ventured into Umbria a little over a week ago to celebrate the white truffle in Citta di Castello only 35-40 minutes drive over the appennine hills into the valley & the region of Umbria. It is was a perfect day for a fall drive! Il Tartufo Bianco, the 29th annual festival for the white truffle & market was in full swing -

The festival was spread all over Citta di Castello & ended up to be a sample heaven! I don't now about you, but I just can't pass up good tasty bit size samples!

First stop: the freshly pressed olive oil tasting hall - yes please! Fresh bread, drizzled heavily in peppery olive oil - the freshest you've ever tasted with just a barely there sprinkle of salt on top!
Let's just say that we came back to sample the goods many times - oh I made my rounds - I was just trying to become a connoisseur if you will, really get to know each bottle...oh who am I kidding, I love the stuff, it was free, I was hungry & technically speaking, it's freakn delicious!

Next into the meat, cheese & olive tent -
There were many other artisan vendors from chocolates to bread (the biggest loaf I've ever seen actually - which just makes you think - what size oven are they using....), candies, spices & more! But one of my favorite things was watching a young cheese man, cut open his first wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano under the close watch of his mentor!
I had never seen this done before & requires much more concentration & technique than I expected - lots of repositioning the little cheese knives to change the pressure on the wheel, some wiggling of the knives & lots of patience - these things cannot be rushed!
But once it popped open & the smell of nutty parm took hold - uh! it's all worth the wait! Of course, after being such a good audience we again, sampled the goods!

Slow Food was involved with the festivities as well, offering "Showcooking" - a cooking demonstration with lunch. We opted to find lunch from a vendor & I was looking for polenta.. or just more samples!
We enjoyed rambling from one place to the next, weaving our way around the city, popping into old palaces for a grappa & chocolate tasting, watching an artisan woodworker, chatting with the locals about the rough truffle season & more-especially after we hit up the wine tastings...

For 6Euro each, we bought a wine glass with a specially made necklace/cup holder & a pass to 2 different 'cantina's' for wine tastings - not a bad deal! One cantina was dedicated to vino novello - which is the new wine, freshly made, unfermented and the other cantina was full of the best vino from Umbria. We bellied up to the bar - chatting it up with each different vendor, looking for another wine to add to our wine list at the house - what a rough job!

All in all I must say, it was a great day! A true sample heaven! We contemplated switching jackets or taking off a top sweater - essentially altering our appearences a bit if needed to take a another taste at the olive oils before we left - but as luck would have it - no one cared, no quick change needed or a shoddy story about how I wanted to give this sample to a 'friend...or that was my twin sister...'
We left with a bit of a buzz, a full belly, a bottle of artisan vin santo (wine of the saints) and a plan to buy 20+ litres of fresh olive oil from a local grower!
...this beats 'Sample Sunday's' at Costco by a long shot!!
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