To take part in the preparation of traditional Italian dishes with a master of the culinary arts is every cook’s dream. When my wife, a fantastic cook, and I (a so-so cook) had the opportunity to attend a Tuscan cooking class under the tutelage of Massimo, owner of Le Logge del Vignola in lovely Montepulciano, we were beyond ecstatic. It was my Mother’s Day gift to my wife, and she said it was the best present ever.
The class started at 9:30 am. We drove to Montepulciano that morning from San Gimignano, another one of our favorite Tuscan towns. Walking up the winding streets of this medieval village, just across from the Italian Language School, sits the wonderful Le Logge del Vignola. We were welcomed with smiles and open arms, and met Massimo, the owner, and Federico, the head chef of this spectacular restaurant. Making us feel right at home, they showed us around the kitchen, explained what we would be doing that morning, and began to unleash their culinary magic right in front of our eyes.
The cooking class is limited to four people, and my wife and I were joined by another couple who just happened to be Academy Award winning filmmakers from Australia. They were very friendly and gracious, and we shared stories and laughs during our time with them. We had fun with each item on our menu: Osso Buco, homemade pasta and tomato sauce, cheese soufflés and a tasty tiramisu.This was a hands-on cooking class. Although Massimo and Federico demonstrated and explained what to do with each dish, each couple did our own cutting, measuring, mixing and cooking. The wonderful aromas of homemade tomato sauce, fresh garlic browning in virgin olive oil, and cheese soufflés baking in the oven were overwhelming. Thankfully, we were given copies of each recipe we made so we could recreate them at home.
Massimo shared some of the secrets with us for preparing traditional Tuscan dishes. Most importantly, of course, is to start with fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. When we completed the cooking class, we obviously had to sample our creations. Each was delicious, starting with the tender veal shanks simmered in the onion, carrot and garlic infused tomato sauce alongside the homemade pasta. The cheese soufflés were also fantastic, and the tiramisu was the best I’ve ever had.
After we spent several blissful hours preparing a delicious meal alongside the master, we left for a few hours to enjoy the shops and sights of Montepulciano, and then returned to Le Logge del Vignola for a late lunch. We were treated to what may be the most delicious and eye-appealing meal I have ever had. Some dishes of note included a hot tart with goat cheese and zucchini and the crispy egg with topinambur (Jerusalem artichoke) sauce, black garlic and chips with sweet paprika. Other dishes included the traditional Pappa al pomodoro soup with sbrisolona (almond cake) and Buffalo stracciatella cheese mousse, and an excellent Risotto with bell peppers, calves sweetbreads and roasted onions powder. My son enjoyed the Tepid compote of seafood, tuna, shrimp, marinated salmon, squid, mussels, vegetables and seawater.
For main dishes, my wife had a tasty Sirloin beef steak from Val di Chiana, with aromatic herbs, baked potato, light tarragon sauce and reduction of sour grapes Tuscan dressing. I had my first ever pigeon dish, which is very popular in Tuscany: a delicious Pigeon breast with VinSanto wine sauce, foie-gras with cocoa beans and candied orange. Another new experience for us was the octopus ragout with marinara sauce and black olive powder, served with potatoes and seaweed dumplings.
Each dish was superbly presented by a very friendly and competent wait staff. With a wine list of over 500 wines from throughout the world, diners can choose from the wonderful local wines, including the famous Nobile di Montepulciano or the nearby Brunello di Montalcino. Or if they prefer, diners can choose from other fine Italian wines or wines from France, Australia, New Zealand and other foreign lands.
If you have room for dessert, try one of their creative desserts like the Ball stuffed with Pabana mousse on a coconut semifreddo and absinthe, a fiery spectacle as flames melt the outer shell of this yummy dish. Or the Chocolate Cigar with tobacco ice-cream and rum sauce, served on a platter with a clear cover. Enjoy the show as the “cigar smoke” escapes when the lid is lifted, and then dig into the delicious chocolate filled delicacy.
From a fun and educational cooking class, to a delicious meal, Le Logge del Vignola is a destination-worthy experience in lovely Montepulicano.
Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort. – Ruskin
For information about the cooking classes or restaurant, check the website at http://www.leloggedelvignola.com or call +39 0578717290.