Tuscan mountain food (WARNING: EXTREME OFFAL CONTENT)

The second night and second dinner of our stay in Tuscany, we had the great pleasure of being invited into the home Stefania and Fabrizio Bindocci in Sant’Angelo in Colle. I’ve known Fabrizio, the winemaker at Tenuta Il Poggione, for many years now and Tracie P and I were thrilled to get to taste his wife’s cooking.

“We’re not having ‘Tuscan’ food,” joked Fabrizio when he invited us. “We’re having ‘mountain’ food,” he said. He met his wife, he told us, when he attended a dance as a young man on Mt. Amiata (to the south of Montalcino and Sant’Angelo in Colle). There were no women in the valley back then, he joked.

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Dinner began with a nice light chickpea soup, accompanied by Sbrancato, a Sangiovese rosé produced by Il Poggione.

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Next came a dish I’d never had before: chestnut flour polenta, a classic dish of the Tuscan mountains, said Fabrizio and wife Stefania. She used a string to slice the individual portions.

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Fabrizio’s son Alessandro authors a blog about Brunello and life in Sant’Angelo, where he has posted about the pigs they raise at Il Poggione. We dressed the chestnut flour polenta with facial glands (above), butchered from the estate-raised pigs.

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Next came the true “stick to your ribs” dish: pig liver wrapped in caul fat.

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The liver was followed by sausage made from other organs, the darker of the two was spicy.

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To my knowledge, Il Poggione was the only producer to make a “riserva” Brunello in 2003, an extremely difficult vintage throughout Europe because of the heat and lack of rain. Brunello di Montalcino does not allow irrigation (not even emergency irrigation). But the elevation of the vineyards and their age (and thus the depth of the roots, which allows the vine to find the water table even in drought years) made it possible for Il Poggione to make a superb expression of Sangiovese despite the growing conditions. This was my first taste of the 03 Riserva, which is the first vintage that the winery has labeled as its “cru” Paganelli (the oldest vineyard on the estate, with vines more than 40 years old, and the source of the clones that inform the estate’s identity). The 03 Paganelli was superb: its fruit was bolder than most vintages I’ve tasted from Il Poggione, but the surprisingly powerful tannin and acidity kept the fruit in check. Very impressive. The 2001? To my palate, that’s one of the greatest vintages for Brunello in recent memory. The wine was unbelievably good, nearly perfect I’d say, a glorious balance of fruit, tannin, and acidity, with many years ahead of it but already showing gorgeously — and what a wonderful opportunity to taste it a stone’s throw from the estate, with the winemaker, paired with his wife’s traditional cuisine!

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Winter means fresh chicory as a side dish in Tuscany, red and green chicory, dressed with the estate’s olive oil.

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What Tuscan meal would be complete without castagnaccio, a short bread made with chestnut flour, topped with pine nuts and rosemary, for dessert?

Oops, I didn’t mean “Tuscan” food. I meant “mountain” food! ;-)

Thanks, again, Stefania and Fabrizio, for an unforgettable meal…

8 thoughts on “Tuscan mountain food (WARNING: EXTREME OFFAL CONTENT)

  1. “We dressed the chestnut flour polenta with facial glands, butchered from the estate-raised pigs. ”

    wow – where to begin regarding this sentence…i love how casually it is written, like it could happen at any moment of any day, facial glands as dressing. any specific facial glands, or just glands from about the facial area in general?

    how do you eat the liver – straight up or with any sort of accompaniment (more facial glands, perhaps)?

    great photos!

  2. and the chicken livers and the tripe florentine style and the lampredotto with the abomasus….I just discovered your blog can’t wait to read more!
    oriana

  3. I’m totally intrigued by that polenta. I’ve lived in Florence for three years now and I’ve always only seen the kind of yellowish relatively liquid polenta with ragout or as part little squares as a starter. I wonder what that big brownish chunk tasted like!

  4. that was such a wonderful evening, the company and coversation were as good as the food!

    the chicory salad was DIVINE.

    for the polenta-curious: i had always heard of chestnut polenta and i had seen it on a couple tv shows, so my ears perked up too when it was mentioned. it tasted very much like chestnuts–imagine that! ;) the flavor was sweet and starchy with a very fine grain texture like that of wheat flour. that sweetness complemented the extreme savory side of the main course perfectly.

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