CHEF’S TABLE WITH JAMES CLOSE

A trip to Italy is the stuff of gourmet dreams, says luxe columnist, James Close.
CHEF'S TABLE WITH JAMES CLOSE

Bistecca Fiorentina, Parmigiano, Chianti and truffles… oh yes, truffles. Guess what we got up to on a recent getaway to Tuscany?

This is the heartland of fabulous food. Where the vineyards are abundant and pretty well every meal delivers. In fact, our meal of the trip wasn’t in a Michelin restaurant but in a neighbourhood restaurant called Osteria di Porta al Cassero in Montalcino.

We’d asked a local the best place to try pasta and this was the recommendation. The traditional pasta in these parts is Pinchi, a hand-rolled tube-shaped pasta with a nice bite to it. We ate it with an amazing sauce – made with cep mushrooms – and a gentle liquor of a cep stock I’d say. It was perfect. In fact Maria had a second plateful by way of ‘dessert’!

We started our trip with a visit to the three-star Osteria Francescana in Modena to experience the food of Massimo Bottura – one of the most celebrated chefs in the world.

He’s quite a character and Osteria Francescana is Italy’s best-loved restaurant and was ‘World’s Best Restaurant’ 2016. Bottura takes inspiration from contemporary art to create highly innovative dishes that play with Italian culinary traditions.

Foodies out there might like his book.

Butcher‘Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef’, is the story of his a 25-year career and the evolution of Osteria Francescana.

Naturally our food was exceptional – he has a witty take on dishes – the ‘Five Ages Of Parmesan’ a case in point.  Arguably Bottura’s most famous dish. So, from the kitchen come five cheeses of different ages in different formats, from sauce to soufflé. It’s pretty spectacular.

As long as you like Parmesan.

If you’re a meat fan then one place I can’t recommend highly enough is Dario Cecchini. It’s a name to watch if you’re a fan of Chef’s Table on Netflix – he’ll be on in February.

He is one of the best butchers in Italy and at his Officina della Bistecca you sit down and eat some of the best meat you’ll ever taste, notably the original Bistecca alla Fiorentina and her ‘sisters’, the Costata and the Panzanese steak. You sit by the open wood grill and devour steaks and BYO wine. The Officina has a €50 per person fixed menu, half for kids under ten.

It’s a really memorable place – you can be a butcher for the day too for €200.

This is an opportunity to put on an apron and go behind the scenes of the butcher shop, sharing the daily work and getting your hands dirty. You make Chianti butter, garlic sausages, see preparation of porchetta and the cutting of monumental Bistecche alla Fiorentina. There are trips to a local cattle ranch nearby and ‘after work’ you sit down at their table. Definitely recommended!

dariocecchini.com

We visited a pork version of the above in the village of Greve in Chianti – Enoteca Falorni.

Part butcher shop, part bistro, it is packed with cheese and wine and an incredible selection of the salamis and hams which the family has been making for generations based on their family recipes and techniques.

Wine played a big part on the trip, this being the heartland of Chianti. We met up with wine suppliers and stayed at Borgo San Felice, pictured top of the page, which has its own vineyards making exceptional wines. These are now on the wine list at Raby Hunt.

We ate the first white truffles of the season and drank an amazing bottle of 2010 San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico, one of the best vintages.

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Obviously delighted to retain our two Michelin stars and had a great night celebrating with, among others, Gordon Ramsay and Sang Hoon Degeimbre of L’air du temps, Belgium

There are only 20 two-star restaurants now so it’s a happy club to be in!

In other news… we will be making a limited edition collection of our luxurious skull chocolates for Christmas with a selection of enticing new fillings.

They will be available to pre-order from us mid-November and can be collected from Raby Hunt.


rabyhuntrestaurant.co.uk

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