Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Truffle hunting in Le Marche (Part 2)

After a leisurely breakfast at Ramuse, Moreno came to pick us up to take us to where we were meeting the truffle hunter close to Montefortino and under the Sibillini Mountains. A 30 minute drive through some spectacular rural scenery with hilltop villages ensued – I was particularly relieved that I wasn’t driving because a) I don’t think I would ever have found where we needed to go and b) the roads were incredibly narrow and windy. While driving, Moreno filled us in on a host of information about the area, and in particular about truffles. This area is home to 3 types of edible truffles – the summer black truffle, black truffle and then the famous and much sought after white truffle. October to December is best for white truffles and December to March for black truffles which unfortunately our trip didn’t coincide with.

Pic: The spectacular scenery

We finally arrived at our destination where Francesco, the truffle hunter, and Suza, his prize truffle hunting dog were waiting. Extremely passionate about truffles, Franceso has chosen to leave behind his career as a lawyer and instead to work on the family farm and hunt truffles during the week, which he then sells at markets over the weekend. Since white truffles can sell from between R7000 to R21000 a kilogram, I can easily understand why. Moreover, the surrounding country side and its sheer tranquility would also been strong draw cards for me!

Pic: Francesco and Suza

With much anticipation we soon set off. Given the time of year, and according to Moreno, the presence of “vipers” (they pose a danger to the dogs which need to sniff low to the ground to seek out truffles), we couldn’t visit the natural surrounding forests and had to rather restrict ourselves to the inoculated truffle tree orchard. Once in the fenced off orchard, Suza was taken off her leash and sent hunting while we tried to act disinterested so as not to distract her from the job at hand. Soon Suza started to dig and Francesco had to quickly pull on his gloves and retrieve the truffle before Suza got to it. Once retrieved, Francesco gave the truffle to Sash and then got Suza to start looking again.

Pic: Suza finds the truffle in Sash's pocket

Sash put the truffle in her pocket and then sat down once again, trying to act disinterested. Suza was too clever for that – she was quickly sniffing at Sash’s pocket where the truffle was. Unfortunately Suza had become too excited and distracted so we decided to call it a day. It was also time to head on to our lunch destination which would be followed by a pasta making course.

More to follow…

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Le Marche (Part 1)

After an extremely busy week back at work, Le Marche seems to be a distant memory – how I would love to be back at Ramuse looking out over the lush scenery, the sound of a cuckoo in the background and sipping on a chilled glass of Cherri Pecorino wondering what Paolo has up his sleeve for dinner. I really do hope that one day we will be able to get back there…

Pic: Admiring the view from Ramuse overa glass of wine

So why Le Marche? Well it all started with Sash stumbling across what appeared a random site (Le Marche Holidays) on the internet claiming to offer truffle hunting. We both love mushroom hunting, and have always dreamed about the logical progression to truffle hunting – bigger stakes, harder to find. It is only recently possible to hunt truffles in SA but this is all on private land on commercial ventures with inoculated trees and no “hunting” tours are offered that I am aware of. Anyway, it was always a dream to do this in Europe and preferably Italy.

Pic: The Sibillini Mountains

I was a little dubious initially, but the site claimed that Heston Blumenthal had visited the area and then after corresponding with Moreno at Le Marche Holidays, we decided to go for it. And, we weren’t disappointed! Le Marche has to be one on the most beautiful places I have ever been (not that I am well travelled, although Cape Town is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world), and to make the experience even more special, Moreno has to be one of the most passionate people I have ever met – he literally eats and breathes Le Marche, always referring to it as “his area” and bubbles information about this and that type of food, and the special Rosa Sibillini apples that he and his father grow. Le Marche may not be the most famous and touristy place in Italy, but Moreno is working hard to show the world its magic!

Pic: Moreno, our tour guide

Moreno went out of his way to make our trip unforgettable, even organizing to pick us up and drop us off at the closest train station (about an hour’s drive away). He grew up in Comunanza and, as a result, has contacts throughout the surrounding area and will arrange a host of activities to suit any budget. For us he arranged the accommodation at Ramuse Agriturisomo, the truffle hunting near Montefortino just under the Sibillini Mountains , a tour to a local shoe maker and a pasta making course with a real Italian mamma!

More to follow...

Monday, May 2, 2011

What is passion?

I have recently been contemplating what passion is and how to find it. To be the best you have to be passionate about whatever it is that you are doing. But the converse however is not necessarily true – to be passionate about what you do doesn’t mean that you will necessarily be the best.

Maybe this has all been a result of my forced break from rock climbing (i.e. a passion of mine) due to my knee operation or maybe just where I am in life and needing to better understand where I want to go, both career wise and also personally? Whatever the reason, I have come to realize that whether your are the best or not in your chosen activity doesn’t necessarily matter because being passionate about something is a personal journey (of course which is great to share with others) as ultimately you are the one that experiences the reward. Even if you aren’t the best, being passionate about what you do should be reward enough; therefore there is no excuse to not do, whatever you enjoy doing, with passion!

Given this, our trip to Italy has been synchronous since passion is found in abundance there; our food pilgrimage to Italy became much more than just a gourmet experience. No matter what Italians do, they seem to strive to do it to the best of their ability, whether cutting hair or making a simple espresso. This holiday was therefore the perfect opportunity to reflect because around every corner I have been exposed to truly passionate people. In the next few posts I intend sharing these experiences.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Prudential Eat Out awards 2009

The list for 2009:

1. La Colombe, Cape Town
2. Mosaic Restaurant, Pretoria
3. Rust en Vrede Restaurant, Stellenbosch
4. Terroir, Stellenbosch
5. The Roundhouse, Cape Town
6. The Restaurant at Grande Provence, Franschhoek
7. The Greenhouse at The Cellars, Cape Town
8. Roots, Johannesburg
9. 9th Avenue Bistro, Durban
10. (In joint position) The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais, Fanschhoek & Overture, Stellenbosch

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nominees for Eat Out 2009 top restaurants award

The 20 nominees are:

1. 9th Avenue Bistro, Durban
2. Aubergine, Cape Town
3. Bizerca Bistro, Cape Town (9th last year)
4. Bread and Wine, Franschhoek
5. Carne SA, Cape Town
6. The Foodbarn, Cape Town
7. The Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort, Cape Town
8. Hartford House, Mooi River, KZN (10th last year)
9. Jardine, Cape Town (2nd last year)
10. La Colombe, Cape Town (1st last year)
11. Mosaic Restaurant, Pretoria (5th last year)
12. Overture, Stellenbosch(4th last year)
13. The Restaurant at Grande Provence, Franschhoek
14. Reuben's Restaurant & Bar, Franschhoek
15. Roots, Johannesburg (8th last year)
16. The Roundhouse, Cape Town
17. Rust en Vrede, Stellenbosch (6th last year)
18. Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais, Franschhoek (7th last year)
19. Terroir, Stellenbosch (3rd last year)
20. Zachary's, Knysna

So will La Colombe be able to hold on to their top spot? And how will the newcomers perform? Watch this space...