Firenze for Foodies; Balsamic, Bolito and Biscotti

Breakfast in Florence

Breakfast in Florence

Ponte Veechio in the morning light

Ponte Veechio in the morning light

The hand outside the Uffizi Gallery

The hand outside the Uffizi Gallery

The light peeked through the window and splayed itself over our bed around 6.30am on Monday morning. This was more like it! Many of the travel blogs I had read about Italian weather in May had promised sunshine, now here it was, a welcome relief after Sunday’s thunderstorms. It was also perfect weather for our Florence for Foodies tour that I had booked. Being an avid cook and lover of food, I had widely researched where I could learn about Italian cooking and in particular Florence/Tuscan specialities. Once again Trip advisor came through and I discovered the Florence for Foodies website. The tour we selected was for four hours between 10am and 2pm and covered the famous San Lorenzo Indoor Market, after an easy booking process, we were set and today was the day we’d find out how great it was.Before setting off, we had a very light breakfast and cappucino. The website had warned against eating too much prior to the tour, and I am really glad we took that advice. The meeting point was on the steps of the San Lorenzo basilica, a few moments walk from the Duomo, and bang on ten o’clock, our vivacious tour guide Sam appeared. A Florentine by birth, Sam had lived in London for eight years and married (surprise!) a Kiwi from Christchurch, needless to say we liked her immediately. There were a mix of people on the tour, in the end there were three other couples (American, Singaporian and British), Sam and us – nine was a great number.

Budini di Riso compliments of http://alturl.com/n7cgf

Caffe at Seini

Caffe at Seini

We started by visiting Seini, a famous pasticceria (pastry shop), where we enjoyed a sample of Budini di Riso and Cappuccino or for lucky Craig a caffè marocchino (an espresso sized chocolate infused Cappuccino). Sam explained that in Italy, it was traditional to enjoy a pastry and coffee for breakfast and that it was a traditionally eaten/drunk at the bar. This form of breakfast is really an Italian institution, many famillies have been visiting the same coffee shop for generations, and make it a social occasion. Furthermore, if you eat at the bar you pay about a quarter of the price of sitting down. Coffees are typically under 2EURO and pasteries are between 1 – 2Euro each, times that by four if you want to sit down.From the pasticceria, we walked a short distance to the San Lorenzo Market, where we found Nerbone also known as Trattoria Mario, the oldest Panino stand in Florence. It was opened in 1872 and had been serving it’s famous Panino Bolito for over 140 years. The Panino con Bolito, is a bread roll filled with slow cooked veal shoulder that has been simmered for many hours with a range of vegetables (carrots, celery, potatoes, parsnips etc.). Traditionally the vegetables were selected from whatever was freshest/easiest to obtain from the garden or local mercato (market), but know the stock contains around 25 different vegetables. It is served with a salsa verde and salsa rosso (very hot!) and tastes delicious!

Trattoria Mario or Nerbone in Centrale Mercato

Trattoria Mario or Nerbone in Centrale Mercato

From here we walked through the markets and sampled a range of products. These included proscuitto, salami, and cured meats infused with Black and White Truffles, as well as several different types of peccorino cheese and parmigano. We ate biscotti dipped in sweet white wine, preserves, pestos and olive oil and sampled all ages of Balsamic Vinegar, topped off with a glass of vino bianco (white wine).
Biscotti

Biscotti

Conti (Gourmet Food Shop)

Conti (Gourmet Food Shop)

It is incredible the difference between true Balsamic and the rip off stuff we get in New Zealand. True Balsamic, according to Sam, must be from Modena in Italy. I was not aware of the complexities of Balsamic until going on this tour. It is in fact aged in wooden barrels for anywhere up to 34 years, once it passes 10 years, 12+ vintages require certification by a specialist and receive a seal. Although many assume balsamic is used only for savoury dishes, the complex flavour of the older Balsamics would lend themselves well to sweet dishes, even simply drizzled over vanilla ice cream or fresh strawberries. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the different balsamics. Craig and I splurged and bought a ten year aged bottle to use at home.

All of the Balsamics!

All of the Balsamics!

T-Bone Steak - buy by the Kilo!

T-Bone Steak – buy by the Kilo!

Pecorino Cheese

Pecorino Cheese

I was beginning to feel rather full, so the next stop – a wine bar a short walk from the market was a much needed break. The wine bar had been there since 1392, and we were lucky enough to use the cellar below. It was cool and filled with dusty wine bottles, most befitting of a bar dating back 720 years. Mario – the owner, produces his own Chianti Classico which we sampled. As with the balsamic, Chianti Classico must receive an official seal to prove it is produced in the Chianti region. As well as the Chianti we sampled Proseco (a dry sparkling white wine) and Grappa (Italian version of Danish Schnaps or Aquavite), from a perfume spray bottle. It was an experience to say the least. Laughter filled the small wine bar as Mario tried, with sporadic success, to spray the bottles into the couple’s mouths simultaneously.

Grapa

Grapa

Chianti Clasico

Chianti Clasico

Proseco - anyone?

Proseco – anyone?

There was only one place left on the tour at this point and it was the Gelati shop. It was a ten minute walk away, close to the Duomo. Once again I learned something new, Gelati should always be made fresh and without preservatives. If you eat it and the flavour remains in your mouth for more than ten seconds it is probably not fresh. We tried 7 – 8 different types of gelati, rose and meringue infused, coffee cream, pear sorbet, crema, and they were all DELICIOZO!

Sadly at that point our tour ended and we parted with the lovely Sam.

We're happy campers

We’re happy campers

Nom - Gelati!

Nom – Gelati!

I loved it, my feet were a little tender from standing, but my stomach was full, my brain was stimulated and I had a new love/knowledge of Italian Cuisine!If you go to Florence, do not think twice about booking this tour! Check out Florence for Foodies and book fast.

Tomorrow we say “Ciao” to Florence and “Czesc” to Warsaw.

Ginga Musings Complete.

One thought on “Firenze for Foodies; Balsamic, Bolito and Biscotti

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