The food in Siena was good. The overall cuisine is Tuscan which means it has bits of everything – meats, cured meats, vegetables, pasta and legumes. If you look at a map of Italy the lower parts of the `boot’ use olive oil as a cooking medium. The upper boot uses butter. Tuscany is in the middle, so there is both.
Siena has a few local specialities. The first is a kind of pasta called Pici which is like thick spaghetti. This is eaten with Ragu. Pecorino cheese is used a lot, much more than Parmesan. This is a goats milk cheese and is used much in the same way as Parmesan. The most important local product is the Sienese Pig called Cinta Senese. This black and white pig is free range and lives in the woods. Landowners own the pigs and guard them fiercely. The pigs eat whatever they find, and by law, they are not permitted to be fed, unless there is heavy snow on the ground making foraging difficult for the pig. In the true Italian tradition the Cinta Senese is eaten fresh and is cured into all kinds of charcuterie. The local butcher from whom we bought Truffle Salami had 3 small plastic pigs showing the difference between the animals. I guess an example will be dogs – a Golden Labrador, Poodle and Pomeranian are all dogs and all different breeds. The other local delicacy is Panaforte which is a dense cake made with Ginger and nuts. Today you get many flavours chocolate and others.
|Left to right - Farm bred hybrid pig, the black and white Cinta Senese and lastly the wild pig|
It is Autumn, so Porcini mushroom are in season. All restaurants serve a dish with fresh mushrooms. This is also Truffle season. So Truffle is offered by many restaurants. A simple pasta dish with shaved Truffle is sublime. The heady aroma of Truffle being shaved onto hot Pasta is quite something. This is a special treat.
Before we went for dinner it was time for an Apertivo. There was a very nice bar near our hotel. We went there two nights in a row. It is quite civilised to have an Apertivo before dinner. Be it a Campari Spritz or an Aperol Spritz or a simple glass of cold Proseco, or even a glass of red wine. Relaxing and invigorating. A time to unwind. The number of what we in India would call `chakna’ you get is really large. This was across Siena and Rome. In fact at the Siena Bar they served platters of fresh hot pizza. Everyone, including the Italians devoured this. The Apertivo time includes all sorts of cocktails, many of them fruit based. I was quite surprised by the number of fruit they used.
|Free snacks at Apertivo time|
|The fruit waiting to used for Cocktails|
We had 3 dinners in Siena. Unfortunately the meal we had at Di Lella e Dado also known as Osteria Nonna Gina was disappointing. Well not disappointing, but ordinary. That was one blip. The other two meals the first at Ristorante Da Muglone and La Taverna Di San Giuseppe were very good. Good wine was available all over.
|Fresh Porcini baked in a `bag'|
|Truffle shaving action|
|Pasta with Fresh Porcini|
|More Truffle action.|
|Truffle on Veal with White Bean Puree|
|Beef Carpaccio with Arugula [Rucola] and Shaved Pecorino|
|My first real Spaghetti Carbonara. Very disappointing|
|Pici with Ragu and Pesto. Strange|
|Sauted Cinta Senese. Very good indeed.|
|Pici with Boar Ragu and Porcini Mushroom|
|Fettuccine with Truffle|
|The local Chianina Beef Steak with Mushroom & Borlotti Bean Stew|
|The Borlotti Beans Stew|
|Gnocci with more Truffle|