To celebrate my parents’ visit from Canada this October, I arranged for a family dinner on a farm in Tuscany, near Radicondoli. Think baby animals, autumn’s bounty and fresh cheese… all carved up and on our table!
We asked our friends at the enogastronomic society De Gustibus to put us in touch with Giovanna and Giovanni at Podere Paugnano near Radicondoli in the Senese. We’d been there once for a fantastic dinner event with De Gustibus and wanted a repeat! Paugnano is an agriturismo and although there is no formal restaurant here, guests of the agriturismo and the public can book ahead for a dinner.
We arrived around sunset as I knew we wanted enough light to see some the animals on the grounds before settling in for our feast. In late October there are lots of baby animals around, and by mid November the place will be full of them. We started with the sheep, which the family uses for pecorino made on the premises. The first baby sheep of the season have been born, and are so cute and fluffy at 2-10 days old. By next month, we learn that there will be 90 babies in this enclosure. Needless to say, by next Easter there will be fewer…
We also visit the 3 month-old piglets who squeal and snort around their huge mamma pigs, but it’s too dark to get a reasonable photo of them.
Next stop, the cheese lab, where Pino shows us the storage fridges for fresh and more seasoned pecorino. There is a cheese shop on the farm that you can visit at any time to purchase cheese directly.
Speaking of cheese it’s time for the aperitivo to start, out on the balcony, with a sampling of many of the cheeses we just saw maturing. Giovanna has made delicious mostarde, jams and honey to serve with the cheese.
We try to contain ourselves knowing what’s to come, and enjoy the display of freshly harvested zucca (pumpkin and squash) by comparing the size of the vegetable to our heads.
Inside, Giovanna and the other ladies of the house are preparing ravioli.
Talk about fresh! Rather than the more common ricotta and spinach filling we are having potato and pecorino filled ravioli with a tomato sauce. They have kindly respected my food allergies so there’s no garlic in anything, and it’s all vegetarian except for the roast baby pig…
The secondi are abundant and so very yummy. There’s roast slices of zucca (pumpkin, but not like the American kind, more like an orange squash), amazing oven-roasted potatoes with sage and rosemary (we had to ask for seconds of these!), a torta salata di bietole for us vegetarians… and the much awaited roast piglet.
Just as we figured no more could enter our stomachs, out comes a bowl of seasonal fruit – pears, cachi and grapes – and the final touch, seadas. These are fried pockets of cheese topped with lemon rind and sugar, a Sardinian specialty.
The newborn kittens hung out close by to enjoy a little extra meat and cheese, receiving much attention as they were just too cute to resist.
Everything we ate was organic, and almost all was produced right there on the farm. We were an hour and ten minutes away from Florence but a whole world apart from the city, where you can be a special guest in a warm, private home, eating home-made, relatively traditional food. If the dark road’s too much for you at night, accommodation can be arranged in their agriturismo.
Update: we were back for a summer dinner with De Gustibus in June 2014. Same fabulous hospitality, similar menu, better light and lots of kittens!
33 Radicondoli Siena – Tel. +39 0577 793027