Tasting Tuscany

Today was our Context Market Tour. We had a great cup of coffee at ChiaroScuro and met Luca, our informative guide, and a couple from California, she a cook and caterer and he something in business, both small and dark and at ease. Luca, a native Florentine, led us through back streets past the Duomo, through more back streets, pointing out recommended restaurants and wine shops like the one at left, to the Central Market, a covered market filled with butchers, fishmongers, dried fruit sellers, and sandwich stands.

As he led us through the market, Luca was full of information about the Slow Food movement, the correct way to cook and eat a Florentine steak (rare, rare, rare!), why some Italians eat horseflesh (it helps with endemic anemia, its rich red color indicating a high iron content),

and the importance of eating while sitting down with your feet under the table and never alone if you can help it. Entertaining, though not much room for questions.

We made our way past the lompredetto stand (tripe sandwiches) and through the market to the stand of the Conti family where we were made welcome at a tiny table with tiny stools. Here a smiling woman, one of the family, had us try tiny sips of five different balsamic vinegars, four kinds of olive oil (one with such a bite that I coughed and coughed), bits of cheese with fruit and honey, bread with arugula pesto,white peaches with balsamic vinegar, sun-dried cherry tomatoes and other delicacies too numerous to count.

All were accompanied by Luca’s store of information on the current truffle season (too dry), the grape harvest (in full swing now), and on and on.  Meanwhile, the bites were so delicious. I was enchanted with the biscotti and vin santo and ended up buying a bottle, plus some sea salt with truffles and a tiny jar of acacia honey.

After we parted ways, Alison and I headed straight for the lampredetto stand,with the other couple right behind us. This is a Florentine specialty that is, in fact, tripe.  The raw thing displayed at one of the butcher stands was interesting rather than appetizing, but it’s all part of the experience. I suppose, after all, that there are some people who don’t like scrapple…

Here’s the sandwich maker.  He took a hard roll, removed the innards, chopped up the cooked tripe and slammed it inside.  I nodded yes to the sauces, one green and one red.

I enjoyed my sandwich, even if the spicy sauces did make me cough, plus a small tumbler of rough red wine.  I am happy for the experience and don’t need to eat tripe again any time soon.

Thanks, Context, for another great tour!

One response to “Tasting Tuscany

  1. Oooh, “Caroline”. This is why it is good to have tour guides instead of only stumbling about on one’s own.

    So happy for you that you get this experience!!

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