Farmers' Markets in Umbria: Back to the Future!

Bruschettina-1One of the biggest culture shocks I experienced when I moved to Umbria from Seattle was something completely unexpected  - there were no farmers' markets!  Now, whilst living in Seattle, I was a central part of the booming farmers' market industry there - I had a very popular stand called Bruschettina, lines down the block, I even had an employee - the farmers' markets were my life.... So imagine my shock (and dismay and horror) when I moved to a place where, honestly, in America we think we are modelling our markets after, that is barren, so to speak. 

Understand that other than bananas and citrus, I had not bought a piece of produce in a supermarket in years.  I was dying on the inside...  The 'markets' here were what I oh-so- lovingly deemed Socks and Underwear Markets.  Basically a bunch of stalls selling knock off clothing and plastic crap.  Deep within the rows of socks and underwear, there might be a fruit/veg stand, but you know if they are selling bananas (and they always are) that most likely nothing is local and forget about organic.

When I moved from Foligno to Cannara I had the absolute fortune of discovering Ada.  Ada is mentioned frequently on my blog as she was my 'savior.'  She and her family have a small farm here and she sells her produce 2 days a week in our town.  So that solved my produce predicament, but I was still driving all over the hinterlands to buy meat, cheese, grains etc...

Now, I always joke that Italy follows in the footsteps of the United States (right or wrong), only 20 years later.  When the American style big box stores and supermarkets came in, small farmers in the area went out, as did the markets.  Slowly but surely, Italy is again following the fashion (better late than never) and catching on to the Farmers' Market trend.  What really kills me is when I see Farmers' Market written in English - I just want to scream - don't you know this is your lost tradition?!?!  Anyway....

In the past few years, a national group called Campagna Amica has been introducing markets showcasing local products all over Italy... and I am so happy!  The first time I went to one I felt all the memories of the Seattle markets rush back because many of the producers in these Campagna Amica markets are already my friends/ trusted producers - now finally all together!

If you are visiting Umbria, please take the time to visit and support one of these local markets, granted they are not the immense banquets of Provence, but it's a start in getting back to our future.

Weekly (not socks & underwear) Markets in Umbria

  • Santa Maria degli Angeli (Assisi) - Monday
  • Todi - Monday
  • Spoleto - Tuesday 
  • Città di Castello - Tuesday
  • Perugia (Pian di Massiano) - Thursday
  • Foligno - Friday
  • Gubbio - Saturday
  • Umbertide - Saturday

Most of the markets run from 8:00 - 12:00/13:00.  Perugia also holds an organic market once a month and of course, Ada is in Cannara on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

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My New Food & Wine Tours in Umbria for 2015!

See Umbria through the eyes of a Chef with
Jennifer from Life Italian Style!


A professional chef since 1998 by way of Philadelphia and Seattle, Jennifer is now a private chef and leader of active Food & Wine tours in the heart of Umbria. She works closely with the local, artisan producers she has met over the years and keeps her ears open at the markets, always ready to learn a new traditional recipe from an Italian Nonna to share with you!


Custom Food & Wine Tours
Single or multiple day tours available for guided exploration of the best local artisan producers in Umbria!


Private Chef in Umbria
A classic Umbrian dinner prepared directly in guest villa, using only the best local and seasonal ingredients. Umbrian DOC wines included. “Pizza Night” available for those staying in villas with a pizza oven. Please enquire for Cooking Classes as well!


Cycling Tour of the Umbrian Valley
Tour along country roads with a professional Italian guide through the beautiful vineyard and olive grove covered hills of the Umbrian Valley, stopping in small villages along the way. A full Umbrian Picnic lunch in the countryside completes the day!
Hiking and Walking Tours also available.


Horseback Riding & Winery Lunch
A 45 minute tour on horseback (no experience necessary) through the vineyards of the Terre Margaritelli winery in the countryside of Torgiano (just outside of Perugia), followed by a tour of the winery, wine tasting and lunch.

Nature Abounds in the Valnerina
We begin our day with a visit to a local pecorino cheese maker to see the production of various sheep’s milk cheeses.  This is followed by a visit to a local family which specializes in saffron production. We will then take a walk through the forest with them to forage for edible and medicinal herbs. Afterwards we enjoy a lunch with a guided tasting of local sheep & goat cheeses as well as delicacies prepared with foraged greens.

Farm to Table Tour
Our first stop is at a unique stone flour mill and wood-fired oven bakery. We learn about breadmaking beginning with grain!  We then move up to a local farm where a local family raises animals for salumi making, meat and cheese production. We will make cheese and pasta with Nonna Rita before indulging in a traditional farm lunch.
*Wild Asparagus hunting in the Spring
*Truffle hunting available in June and July

The Artisans of Perugia
We begin at the base of the historic town with a visit to the weekly farmers’ market. Then we will move up into the center to discover the lost art of weaving jaquard and silks on 17th century looms. We then stroll through the city stopping in artisanal bottegas along the ways before enjoying lunch in an enoteca known for its exclusive use of Umbrian products.

Meat Lover’s Tour
A tour of a local farm which raises prize-winning Chianina (native white cow of Italy), Cinta Senese pigs, sheep, birds, and crops. Included is a brief demonstration of butchery & salumi making. We then move on to the Terre Margaritelli for a lunch of grilled meats from the farm accompanied by a wine tasting & tour.

Wine and Chocolate Tour
We will first visit an artisanal chocolate producer to see how some of their specialties are produced.  From there we will move on to the Terre Margaritelli winery for a tour of the winery and full wine tasting lunch.

Umbrian Cooking Class & Lunch
Cooking classes are held in the rural village of Cannara, located in the heart of Umbria between Asissi and Spello or directly in guest villa. They are based around the best local ingredients in season, and includes making antipasto, primo, secondo and dolce followed by a lunch (eating what we just made, of course!)


Please contact Jennifer directly
at lifeitalianstyle@gmail.com
for booking and information!

 


 


Decoding Italy: Wine!

IMG_6179One of the biggest challenges for visitors to Italy is usually trying to understand Italian wine labels.  Yes, it can be daunting task for the uninitiated, but after learning a few simple rules, the whole endeavor becomes much more potable...

Classification  All Italian wines are classified according to their designation or denomination.  It is a way to help guarantee to the consumer what type of wine to expect in the bottle.  I like to think of these designations as concentric circles.

The smallest circle would be DOCG Denominazione di Origine Controllata e IMG_3312Garantita.  These wines are identifed by a purplish tag placed on the cap of the bottle.  DOCG controlled wines have very strict requirements which range from how densely the vines can be planted, to how much alcohol is in the wine, to aging requirements, color, fragrance, and of course, which grapes to use in each wine.  The wine must also be produced from grape to bottle within a very specific zone, and the bottles are counted and analyzed by government officials.  These wines typically carry a heavier price tag due to the costs of production.  This is not a guarantee that it will be an amazing wine - it is only a guarantee that the winemaker followed the specific rules of vinification during the winemaking process!  Here are a few examples: 

Continue reading "Decoding Italy: Wine!" »


Decoding Italy: Cheese!

This is the first in a new blog series that I am starting, Decoding Italy - I hope to demistify some daily aspects of Italian life (food, wine, cultural) for future visitors to Italy!

IMG_0008Hunting for cheese in Italy is usually on the top of everyone's bucket list.  Here are some helpful tips to help you whey(d) your way through the Italian curds!

The Italian for cheese is formaggio, from the Latin formaticum, meaning 'form' and (according to legend) the month of May, maggio, when milk is at is best.  Another word we see often in Italy is cacio, from the Latin caseus.  Cacio is just a generic word for formaggio, but we see it frequently:  pasta Cacio Pepe (pasta with cheese & black pepper), Caseficio (a place where cheese is made/sold), and caciotta (a form of typical local cheese - we see this everywhere in Umbria).

Continue reading "Decoding Italy: Cheese!" »


An Italian Recipe...

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This week some students of mine asked me to teach them how to make a certain type of cookie that they had been eating in nearby Spello.  Now remember, here in Umbria (as well as pretty much all of Italy) recipes and typical dishes can vary greatly from town to town - even villages just 10 km apart, like Spello and Cannara.

Continue reading "An Italian Recipe..." »


Umbria's Best Borscht

-1I know, I know, Umbria and borscht are two worlds that generally do not collide, especially since it is nearly impossible to find fresh, local beets in central and southern Italy (they are always sold precooked in the supermarkets - yuck!).  However, Ada, my trusted veggie lady here in Cannara happens to grow beets, mostly for the Eastern European population living in our area... but also for me!

Continue reading "Umbria's Best Borscht" »


Wine Soaked Memories

....oh, where to begin?!  We are wrapping up the main season of 2014 (of course, we are always here to continure to welcome our off-season guests as well!) and what better way than to give a little recap of our 4th annual Food & Wine Tour of Umbria with Ciao Thyme of Bellingham, WA.

Every year we try to do the seemingly impossible and out-do the previous trip, and yes, we achieved this goal yet again!  More food!  More wine!  More Umbria!

Continue reading "Wine Soaked Memories" »


Ciao Thyme Umbrian Food & Wine Tour!

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We are welcoming back our good friends Matiao and Jessica from Ciao Thyme in Bellingham, WA, for our 4th annual culinary tour of Umbria!

As always, I have a lot of great experiences planned for the group, including rustic cooking classes, saffron picking, the olive harvest & pressing of the new oil, farm tours, winery visits and tasting, cheesemaking and more!

 

Follow along with our adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+, hashtag  #CTumbria.  

Then, come join us in 2015 for our May and October tours - A presto!

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Back to Blogging!

IMG_4065You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged in a while…well, May thru October is my busy season, so other than quick photos or a blurb on my social media sites, you won’t hear much from me.  But I have a lot of ideas rolling around and have been furiously scribbling notes in my daughter's various Hello Kitty writing pads. ;-)
Here’s what you can look forward to reading this winter:

Decoding Italy:  a new series that I am starting!  I actually got the idea from a client in one of my cooking classes.  I will be going through the basics of learning how to decipher things once you reach the motherland:  everything from types of cheese & salumi, wine labels, and pasta to basic restaurant and coffee etiquette…. because it’s a different country and they just do it… differently!

News:  Two Onions Collide:  The Walla Walla and Cannara Sister City Association

and What happened when I attended my first ever soccer/football game in Italy.





The Infiorata of Cannara - Flower Power!

IMG_0517For anyone in Umbria on June 21-22, there is a wonderful festival called L'Infiorata going on.  Some of you may have heard of the more well-known version held in nieghboring Spello, but in my opinion, the Cannara version is a must!

The Infiorata is a 17th century Baroque celebration of the religious feast of Corpus Christi (known as Corpus Domini here in Italy).  It is one of those "moving holy days" so every year it falls on a different Sunday.  What happens is that local townspeople get together to line the streets with beautiful carpets of flowers, intricately laid to create stunning works of art, mostly with religious and cultural themes.

While in Spello the Inforata is created mostly by professionals, in our village of Cannara it is a local affair... which means a party!  For weeks before the event, flowers are harvested from the area.  Then on Saturday, which this year will be June 21st, all of the flowers are "prepared", meaning that they are all de-petalled, de-stemmed, and put through grinders to make sure that they are uniform.  After sunset, all of the townsfolk begin to lay the flowers down onto their respective designs along the streets to create their masterpieces.  The process continues throughout the night (until dawn) with a break around midnight for the Spaghettata, when some of the local women bring out pasta in the piazza for everyone to enjoy - then it's back to work!

The next morning, there is a Mass to celebrate Corpus Domini followed by a procession, during which the priest walks over the the flower carpets.  Don't worry, he usually treads lightly!  The carpets are left on display for the entire day and then are washed away until next year...

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The Infiorata has an extra special meaning for me because the very first Infiorata that I participated in was back in 2008, when I was still living in Foligno and no intentions of moving to this sleepy onion town... but when I looked back at the photos, I realized that I did the infiorata in front the house that we eventually bought!  It was kismet to say the least!

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That's me unknowingly "infiorat-ing" in front of my future home back in '08.

I will be live tweeting, instagramming and facebooking the Infiorata of Cannara June 21-22, with the hashtag #CannaraFlowerPower - follow along virtually if you can't be here!

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