After much anticipation, the day came and the guests of the Food Lovers' Tour in Puglia have arrived! They enjoyed a relaxing travel day at what will be our home for the next 9 days, Masseria Provenzani. We had a poolside lunch and time to lounge by the pool and/or wander around the grounds of the masseria. Their official welcome came as we kicked off the tour with a private oil and pate tasting from Azienda Taurino and a dinner of typical Salentine dishes.
Dinner included traditional Pugliese dishes: Orecchiette, Fava bean puree with chicory, Fagioli with tuna and onions in agrodolce, focaccia Salentina, potato salad with tomato and basil, and grilled eggplant
The first full day of the tour started off with our group going crazy over a behind-the-scenes gelato-making and tasting demonstration at Gelateria Tentazioni in Lecce. Chef Antonio, who has been making gelato for 35 years, opened up his kitchen to us and gave us a look at how they make gelato and sorbetto in Italy. Antonio also shared his recipe for one of his latest gelato creations: a vincotto sorbetto. We sampled chocolate, pistachio, hazelnut, vincotto, fior di latte and another creation from Antonio called the Fiesta. Inspired by many popular candy bars in Italy, Antonio made the Fiesta and other gelato bars using gelato flavor combinations similar to the candy bars. The Fiesta is a pairing of chocolate and orange. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group of grown ups get so excited. There were squeals, ooohs, aaahhs, and moans of satisfaction with every spoonful of gelato we tasted.
There was a short pause between gelato and lunch with a photo op stop at Porto Badisco. Those who’ve been following Food Lover’s Odyssey, might remember my story of Porto Badisco and tasting sea urchin. Although we didn’t taste any of the sea urchin fresh from the sea, we were able to see the beach at its bluest under the bright summer sun.
On this tour, you can bet that the next meal is right around the corner. And it was. Lunch was at La Fattoria, a trattoria that embraces the Zero Kilometro philosophy, the term Italy uses for its movement of eating local and seasonal. Almost all ingredients come from the trattoria's farm and garden, and those that don’t come from no farther than 100 kilometers away. We dined on countless plates of traditional Salentine antipasti that included pittole (fried batter), fried zucchini flowers, bruschetta and tomatoes, freshly-made ricotta, peperonata, carpaccio di zucchine and grilled eggplant and zucchini. The primi (pasta dishes) included more traditional flavors of Salento: cavatelli with zucchini and massa (a Salentine pasta) with cabbage and chickpeas. On the tour with us is Eva, a master gardener, and she and her husband Del brilliantly detected a hint of cinnamon in the massa pasta dish.
To walk off lunch we took a leisurely stroll through Otranto, located on the eastern coast of Salento, entering through the ancient castle walls that were built as a protection against invaders from the east. Our visit included one to Otranto’s cathedral, where everyone stood in awe of the Tree of Life mosaic that covered the church’s entire main floor and the crypt that holds the bones of the 800 martyrs of townspeople who refused to denounce their religion after Otranto fell to the Turks in 1480.
The day was far from over. Imagine wine tasting and listening to music under hundred-year old olive trees, under the stars, with the scents from candles wafting through the air and illuminating the olive orchard and then listening to music in the same olive grove. Our amazing first day ended with us doing just that at Masseria Terre dei Padri.
Before the piano concert, chef Alessandro invited us for yet another behind-the-scenes look into his kitchen where he showed us the steps involved in creating one of his most popular antipasti, a platter of smoked swordfish, shrimp and a marinated salmon roll.
Dinner was also at Masseria Terre dei Padri where chef Alessandro’s dishes were loved and devoured by all. Chef Alessandro started with traditional dishes of the area and reinvented and recreated them to fit the very upscale setting of the four-star masseria. We paired our meal with two of our favorite wines from our earlier tasting, a rosato and Salice Salentino, made by the masseria.
Here are just a few of our favorites from this fantastic meal:
And this was just day one. I'll be back soon with highlights from Day 2!
If you'd like to see more photos of all the fun and food we're having here in Puglia, check them out in the tour's album on the Food Lover's Odyssey Facebook Page.
Join me in Puglia in 2013! For this food lover's culinary tour, we'll be cooking with our beautiful Italian mamme and professional chefs. We'll also be eating and exploring our way through the region. There are four tour dates available from which to choose! For tour details, check out this page: Culinary Tours in Puglia 2013!
***Early booking discount: Book and pay by check by January 31, 2013 and receive a $200 discount off the tour price.****