Cari Amici (Dear Friends),
Recently I attended “Mondays at the Markets” with the fabulous Judy Witts Francini. Judy not only teaches Italian cooking classes, but she gives tours on how to buy the right ingredients (and wines), blogs and publishes cooking books, and SO much more. Monday, she took her small group (always small, she says, she prefers it that way) on a tour of the Mercato Centrale di San Lorenzo (central market) in Florence, Italy, as well as many of the surrounding merchants that she adores.
Today I want to share some of my experiences that day with the Conti family. I met Stefano and Grazia Conti, as well as their son Manuel, who I understood to have recently received some prestigious award that permitted him to be considered an expert on wines or some other culinary honor. [I really need to work in my Italian language skills, not to mention my memory!]
There was so much tasting and so many scrumptious things that I had to narrow it down for this blog post. I choose today to talk about the Conti’s balsamico. I have tasted balsamic vinegar plenty of times – it is a staple in Italian homes and goes well on salads and even pasta. But what we tasted this day was not this. Sure it had the similar tanginess to it, but was so much more intense and pure of flavor (and I think Judy said – no vinegar)! One drop of this thick concoction, and one was thinking of the nectar of the gods. I am not exaggerating.
These images were taken at the Conti’s tasting table inside of the mercato centrale. The first image is of the handsome Stefano and his charming wife Grazia. In the second image, Grazia is showing us one of the family’s offerings, while their elegant and perhaps modest son Manuel lays out the tastings of the day.
In this third image, the fabulous Judy [wearing Florentine purple, the color of the local soccer (calcio) team], explains to us how balsamico is created over a period of many years, moved from one barrel into the next in line. In the fourth image, the lovely Grazia waits for the balsamico to find its way finally to my spoon. When one knows of the time involved to create such treasures and how long it will last (a tiny amount goes a long way), the price becomes reasonable indeed.
And just look at some of their offerings! The bottles are beautiful, as well as the treasures inside: worth every euro. Life can be a dream when we follow our passions. Thanks so much to the Conti family for sharing theirs.
Tuscany Flavours – the site for the Conti Family’s delicious offerings
Divina Cucina – get to know more about Judy Witts Francini and her cooking knowledge
Judy’s blog about food and Italy