In the spring of 2013, Henderson Productions was proud to travel with the experts from the restaurant chain, Olive Garden to explore as much about food and Tuscan life as possible.   We’ve created this series of blogs which, like the region, should remain relatively timeless.   Bon Apetito.

Riserva di Fizzano Tuscan view

The view from our window at Fizzano

“Tuscany is a state of grace.   The countryside is so lovingly designed that the eye sweeps the mountains and valleys without stumbling over a single stone.   The lilt of the rolling green hills, the upwardly surging cypresses, the terraces sculptured by generations that have handled the rocks with skillful tenderness, the fields geometrically juxtaposed as though drawn by a draftsman for beauty as well as productivity, the battlements of castles on the hills, their tall towers standing gray-blue and golden tan among the forest of trees, the air of such clarity that every sod of earth stands out in dazzling detail.”   Irving Stone

We passed more hillsides and checkerboard farms and as we moved east and inland away from the sea every hillside worth a nickel had a fortress town perched on top.    Artistic inspiration was everywhere and a reminder of the work I had begun with abstract mountain villages.    Resolved to continue gathering digital images as inspiration to get back to THAT!

We rolled into Fizzano around 5:30 with instructions to meet at 7:30 in the restaurant and to not miss sunset!   Choices – should I snooze and maybe not get up or should I wander/shower/force being awake?   At this point in the day, I choose option B.    Better for a solid sleep overnight and who on earth could miss sunset over grape vines and olive leaves?

Olive grove and vineyard in Tuscan sunset

Sunset in the olive grove at Fizzano

Our little apartment is more than adequate with great water pressure – I’ve missed that! – and a fridge for cooling down water.    Radiators keep air temps comfortably warm and terra cotta tile floors remind me of all those years in slippers and fuzzy socks.   We don’t mind at all.    Our little TV gets CNN and BBC News – just enough to keep us periodically informed but certainly no distraction.    Turns out the wi-fi is available but not in our apartments so will plan to write and then wander for signal.

Tuscan vineyards and farmhouse

Arriving at RIserva di Fizzano

The evening dinner and introduction to the kitchens was fabulous.   I’m thinking just providing a menu will have to suffice as I can’t continue to rave about everything.   We are in a help-yourself setup with wine, full bar and non-alcoholic fridge.   The breakfast buffet is already setup with cereals and toasters and utensils.    The staff of Valentina and Valentina continually serve with 3 chefs in the kitchen churning out Paolo’s instructions while he and Alex joined us for dinner.

Tuscan cheese and salami

A selection of cheeses and salamis served all week

We began with appetizers – mortadella, chunks of parmesano and small bread rounds with pecorino Tuscano (as opposed to the saltier Romano) drizzled with balsamic and melted in the broiler for a split second.    Simple and absolutely delicioso.    Easily repeated if Wegmans stocks pecorino Tuscano!

Then into the dining room with menus at each setting.   Pecorino cheese soufflé with garlic and tomato sauce.    Crespelle (savory crepe) stuffed with ricotta cheese, buffalo mozzarella and Chianti-style ragout (meaning beef and pork make a ragout not one OR the other).   Both of those served with Rubizzo Tuscana Bianca white wine – a blend of sweet and dry grapes perfectly paired, of course.

An olive oil decanter by Olive Garden

Olive Garden has their own oil decanters at Fizzano

Then switch to red wine, Campomaccione Morellino, to highlight our hunter-style chicken with capers, sundried tomatoes and olive sauce.    The entire meal ended with a vanilla ice cream parfait with crushed almond biscuits and chocolate sauce drizzle served with a Vin Santo (almost a sherry) dessert wine.    Two hours later we waddled our way back to our apartment and FELL into bed!