It's seven pm. you've just finished an intense day of biking through the hills of Tuscany. You're exhausted but invigorated by the complete high of accomplishment. How do you celebrate? By diving into an incredible bowl of fresh pasta with homemade tomato sauce, paired with a glass of local chianti. With the first bite, you finally understand the meaning of true Italian food, and wonder why you ever wasted your time with the store bought (or restaurant bought) stuff from the United States.
Ok, perhaps I'm being slightly harsh on American-Italian food, but I am not remotely over-exaggerating the unbelievable tastes your palate will experience on your Austin-Lehman Tuscany bike tour. Italy, and Tuscany in particular, is a stunningly beautiful part of the world. It is steeped in rich culture and history, and food plays a very large part of that. As you can probably tell, it happens to be one of my favorite parts about the country. Personally, I've had some of the best meals of my life in Italy, one of which was at an intimate, candle lit enoteca (wine bar) in Siena. It had barrel-vaulted ceilings and a menu resplendent with Italian delicacies. I ordered a glass of wine from the Sangiovese region of Tuscany. (I later learned that it was a mere 50 miles away from where I was sitting, and that the style of wine dated back to the fourteenth century.) I turned my attention to the menu, and my eyes lighted on the gnocchi. This wasn't just any gnocchi... it had a porcini sauce and was topped with local wild boar. I was sold. I'm a pretty adventurous eater, and am always game to try local specialties. After seeing several boar heads in the shops across Tuscany, I couldn't resist the chance to try it.
Quite frankly, my writing skills are not adequate enough to give this meal its dues, but I will do my best. First of all, gnocchi (or pasta filled with potato) is small in Italy (unlike most places that I've encountered it in the US.) It is the perfect bite. Add fresh mushrooms and succulent boar to that, and when I say the perfect bite, it's no joke. The wild boar was beyond expectations. It was incredibly tender, and not as sweet as pork typically is, the flavor was out of this world. I hope to one day return to Tuscany and try the delicacy again. Until then, I'll always consider it one of my best meals ever!