Sitting here at work, at about 12:45 on a fine sunny day, I feel hungry. It's that time...lunch time. So, while I slurp my non-fat yogurt and crunch on my carrot sticks, I dream of lunch in Umbria. Hey, I can totally get down with the calorie counting most of the year, if I get to eat like a queen while on the yearly visit to Panicale......
The lunch I am gladly revisiting today was slowly enjoyed in Montefalco, a lovely Umbrian hill town known for it's exquisite Sagrantino wines. I prefer this red to the Brunellos of Montalcino, myself. You can find Sagrantino wines at good shops that specialize in Italian wines.
On this, our second trip to Montefalco(first was w/Loreen & Christopher, last year), we had another wonderful meal at L'Alchimista. This is not only a lovely little trattoria, but also an enoteca, selling wines, olive oils and other treats from the local area. L'Alchimista is located right in the main piazza, easy to find.
This visit we had a difficult time deciding on a wine, so we chose two half bottles, with the help of our server. She let us try sips from a few different vineyards, and we chose our favorites. Both 2005 vintage, they were a very special treat.
|Half bottles of 2005 Colpetrone & 2005 Cantina Fratelli Pardi,|
both are Montefalco Sagrantino.
After being served our wine, and in a very happy and mellow mood, we were brought a little taste from the chef, Patricia. A small bite of house made ricotta, served with a sweet and slightly spicy pepper sauce. It was a perfect start to our meal...
|I wish I had better color here...the sauce was beautiful,|
and the ricotta was pure white.
|Just doing my job, people.|
Good thing I remember to take notes for most of our meals out. I get so excited about the food, I often forget to keep track. It's the ongoing balance of "being in the moment", and really wanting to have a little record handy so I can write about said "moment".
This lunch, along with the day trip itself, was one of our first ventures out and about on this past trip. As I've mentioned before, I ended up with a nasty stomach flu early on, but I was still feeling quite fine on this particular day.
I had a hard time ordering, in fact, because there were several options that sounded amazing. For starters, we shared mixed bruschetta, always Johnny's first choice.
|Bruschetta...We have caramelized onions over a soft cheese, mushrooms,|
roasted peppers, eggplant and a fantastic truffle spread.
Each topping had it's own very distinct flavor, both from preparation and various fresh herbs.
We also enjoyed a super light and fluffy cheese soufflé over pan roasted wild mushrooms. It was my choice, and I loved each bite. We always share, so all together we had some real taste treats in this combo of starters.
There are only a few tables at L'Alchimista, and they are downstairs. I think in the warmer months they put tables outside, though. We have had excellent service on both visits. Very knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. The chef will prepare gluten free dishes, which I've noticed more and more on local menus.
For our main course, I had a tough time making a decision, but settled on the gnocchi in a Sagrantino/brown butter sauce. Totally site appropriate!
And totally scrumptious, too, I must say.
Johnny often has me order for him, since he will enjoy most anything, and doesn't always understand the Italian menus.
So I ordered one of the other dishes I really wanted to try, of course. Described as "crespelle", or crepes, with mushrooms, it was more like a lasagna. The layers of crespelle were super delicate and thin, and the creamy mushroom and cheese filling in between was dreamy. It was one of those dishes, that when it was finished, I just wanted to pick up the plate and lick it clean. What? Is that wrong...? Plus, they made sure there was just enough of a crispy, toasted cheesy top layer....
We had a mixed salad and some grilled veg as our side dishes.
|Johnny's "crespelle" was to die for.|
The veg don't look very exciting, but they had been marinated in herbs with a touch of garlic
before being grilled. Sweet, smoky and tasty.
We were fine with no dessert, and just had espresso to finish our meal. I was perfectly content, and ready for a walk around town.
|Details of the small and cozy dining room of L'Alchimista"|
After our meal, we spent some time in the enoteca upstairs. We bought a couple of bottles of Sagrantino to have in Panicale, to be sure. Actually, we asked about shipping home a case, but it was kind of pricy for us, so we will just have to be content with waiting until we go back. I'll look forward to it!
I also bought a couple of bottles of the vinegar that I had fallen in love with last year. It's made by the Dodi family, but not a balsamic. I think it's made from white wine, but aged in oak barrels for months and months. The result is a sweet, nutty, rich flavor that just rocks a green salad or even panzanella....
Anyway, I have thought about this vinegar for a year, so had to have some to bring home. It is that special. We went through one bottle while in Panicale, but I still have a bottle I'm using sparingly at home. I wrapped it as though it were a Murano glass chandelier, I kid you not.
Next year, I am bringing more bottles home. Period.
|L'Alchimista in the main piazza, Montefalco.|
Montefalco is about an hour and a half drive from Panicale, and we wanted to make a day of it. We just loved walking the back streets...it was still early in the trip, early in the season, so the town was really quiet. The sun was shining, though, so it was perfect for our strolling....
|Just outside of the restaurant, in the main piazza. What a sweet ride!|
|Also in the main piazza, the symbol of Montefalo, a beautifully simple falcon.|
We saw this image over and over, in ceramics, glass, cards....we bought two small ceramic wine "cups"
which we now enjoy at home.
Montefalco is known for it's wines, as I have mentioned, but also for it's textiles. I like it's position the most. It is referred to as "the balcony of Umbria" because it is perched way up above the plains. This allows for the most incredible views of Assisi, Trevi, Spello and other small towns dotting almost every hilltop.
We were so lucky to have a clear day...we were able to get a great view of the snow capped mountains in the distance. This would have been in early March.
|The small town across the valley is Trevi. Have not been, but it's on the list. Next year.|
Like most all of these towns from the Middle Ages, Montefalco is full of charming back streets to wander through.
|You know what blows my mind? I often see women in really high,|
really spiked heels walking this type of street. And with gusto.
|I was bummed that we missed this exhibition. But the poster outside|
the museum was pretty cool.
So the last image here, which is sweet, is a shot of Johnny's idea of heaven. He has many ideas of Heaven, and why not?
Dear Johnny dreams of a place, just like this, to sit with a glass of wine in hand, perhaps the latest issue of Modern Painter magazine within reach....a little fire going to roast some veg...a cat snoozing in the lap.....
Really. We stood at this spot and just stared for as long as we could, without looking like a couple of weirdoes, and he asked me to take a picture so he could remember it. I think he sees his old man self right here. Just perfect.
One of the many things about him that just keeps me in love, I reckon.
|Nothin' fancy, just the basics, man.|
We'll return again and again to Montefalco, I have a feeling. It's just close enough to be a good day trip. And then back home to our favorite Panicale....