While England was battered by storms, we swanned off to Italy for half term and soaked up some very welcome sunshine. Staying first with friends just outside Rome and then in Naples, we were mainly there to see some old friends, and for 'culture' of the child friendly
variety, but on our first day, we had the most wonderful, foodie experience.
We drove through the Nutella hazelnut groves, skirted the shores of Lake Bracciano and passed the castle where Tom Cruise married Katie Holmes. You'll be pleased to hear that our visit had a far more auspicious end than the ill-fated Cruise/Holmes union - LUNCH!!
Eventually, the road petered out to a dirt track on the edge of the village of Castel Giuliano, and at the end of the track: Agriturismo Tenuta Monte la Guardia.
|Piggies. (Actually these are boar, and were behind a fence. The piggies were too quick...|
The owners are much in evidence, really friendly, and it's a lovely place to eat. While my university friend who we were staying with took us, her husband came on a little later with their daughter (so she could have a nap before we ate) and this was all perfectly acceptable and easily accomodated. The presence of the pigs in the garden, giant acorns to be gathered, and the relaxed Italian attitude meant that the kids could get down and run around when they needed a break, leaving us to enjoy the chat, the food and the wine.
We kicked off with antipasti of bruschetta, salami, cheese with a kind of fruit jam smeared on it, and slices of a rustic savoury tart reminiscent of a Greek spanakopita. There were also 2 delicious dishes, one a barley salad and another a dish of bread, cabbage, onion and cheese, that sounds like nothing but is just the sort of thing Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall would weep for joy over.
This was followed by the pasta course - tagliatelle with a delicious sausage sauce, then the meat course: 2 dishes, one a mouthwatering, rare roast beef, sliced wafer thin, the other a divine venison casserole, flavoured with lemon and juniper, plus some beautiful fennel roasted potatoes. Just wow.
There was of course wine and water to wash it all down. We also had puddings (not included in the fixed price, but oh so worth it) - a choice of 3 and between us we sampled the chocolate brownie tart - rich and luscious - and also a local loaf cake/pudding which was a bit like soft biscotti, packed with nuts and fruit. Both came with cream and strawberry jam, a combination I intend to repeat.
|Mmm - which would you choose?|
When we felt like we could move again, we spent some more time admiring the pigs, then took a slow meander through the woods, just starting to hint at the possibility of Autumn...
down to a nearby waterfall.
Pretty much the perfect day.