Friday, April 22, 2011

A Taste of Cortona: Installment #1: Turkey is NOT just for Thanksgiving!

First night's antipasta: thinly sliced turkey,asparagus and carrots with some sort of Bechamel-type sauce. Incredible!
I just recently returned from Cortona, Italy, where I was privileged to lead a workshop on creating your own travel journal as part of your travel experience. This was one of the offerings of the University of Georgia's "Cortona Experience", an annual 10-day trip to Cortona, Italy that enables its participants to be immersed in this wonderful Tuscan Hill Town and its environs. The trip was truly a "Cortona Experience", jam-packed with excursions, demonstrations, cooking classes, wine tastings, and wonderful meal after wonderful meal.  I may post some of my journal entries and sketches later, but since I made an effort to record some of these wonderful meals, I thought I would do a series about the FOOD. . . because, after all, I'm all about good food!

The first installment is from our welcoming dinner at Tonino's Restaurant. If you've been to Cortona, you know where Tonino's is: right in Piazza Garibaldi, where you get off the bus (if you've arrived by bus!) If you were a student in the UGA Cortona Studies Program, Tonino's is where you had many a meal. . . but I can promise you, students were never served anything like this!

This was the "opening act" of an over-the-top meal, and it was my favorite course (as well as my cousin Leisa's favorite course.) Had I not been a glutton, I could have happily stopped here.

So simple, yet so sublimely good. Thinly sliced roast turkey (and when I say thin, I mean mandoline-thin!) along with just as thinly sliced asparagus and carrots (just a touch of carrots for color.) I had never seen asparagus sliced length-wise before; it was brilliant. Not only did it look great, but it let your tongue taste the tender greeness of the asparagus as a silky counterpart to the roasted saltiness of the turkey. The sauce was creamy and rich -- just enough of it to wrap everything up in a hedonistic flair. I'm not sure what it was, but it reminded me of Bechamel: not too cheesey, but just enough tang-to-sweetness ratio to make me have to control myself from licking the plate.

And like I said, this was just the first course! It epitomizes to me what is the essence of Italian cooking: emphasis on a few simple but QUALITY ingredients, put together in a pleasing way.

So, I shall savor this taste memory for a while!

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