Saturday, February 16, 2008

My mentor in Florence.

Months before, while planning my trip, I contacted & booked Judy Witts at Divina Cucina, (found her in Bon Appetite magazine). An American living in Florence who knows the ins and outs of life there. She helped me plan my month's stay, pick a neighborhood to rent an apartment, complete a pack list of kitchen equipment to bring along and generally held my hand through the process of fulfilling a chefs fantasy; To live and cook in Florence!
The view from Michaelangelo hill, Florence.

The main event with Judy was a 3 day class (along with another chef friend and my brother who visited for the 1st week). This included a market and neighborhood tour each morning followed by cooking a 3-4 course menu at her kitchen studio close by. She is an experienced chef who has done it all, a serious plus over many of the other tours in town. We met and befriended many of the shop owners. Tasted their wares and talked food, life and Italy. This process enabled me to return day after day when shopping for my own meals. Their help was invaluable and I formed new friendships that will last a long long time. More on these shop owners in another posting, stay tuned.

We decided to book an excursion for our first full day in Florence together. Judy drove us out to Chianti. We toured the back roads through villages, vineyards and farm land. The highlight was a stop at Antica Macelleria Cecchini where we met Dario Cecchini of "Heat" fame. More about Dario here. We then stopped along the way for walks, pictures and snacks. Met wonderful people and sampled terrific cured meats, paninis and wines

Paolo Gaeta. Proprietor of Il Vinaio, Panzano in Chianti.
And God blessed the espresso...

3 panini @ Il Vinaio: Grappa, fennel salami, pecorino. Vin santo, cooked ham and parmagiano. Vin santo, proscuitti and parmesan.

Church steps. Panzano alto, Chianti.

Metal dragon on wall. Panzano alto, Chianti.

What can I say? Divina Cucina made this chef's dream a reality. Judy's knowledge, recipes and tours have been amazing. She has continued to be of help with restaurant, recipe and shop advice.

It's been only 21 days and yet it feels like years . I can have the wine shop owner pick the perfect wine for each dish, the produce/ gourmet food shop family select my ingredients and the butcher preps the correct meat after we discuss what is to be cooked. Feels like home to me.

1 comment:

floozigrl said...

oh that picture on top is just perfection!