Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tuscany: A cooking class, a ton of wine, and a day in Umbria's Orvieto.

Though tired and jet lagged from our trip to the States we couldn't pass up an opportunity to go to Tuscany for the weekend for a cooking class and wine tasting. We went to Torciano Winery in San Gimignano where they also have accommodations. We actually went to this winery in September just for a wine tasting and loved the atmosphere, wines, and food. It is family owned and they genuinely care about their business and what they're putting out there. The grounds of the winery are picture perfect and the small cottage like accommodations we had were fantastic.

When we arrived on Friday we were welcomed by the owner with big glasses of wine, a small tour of where we'd be staying, and where the class, dinner, and wine tasting would be. About an hour later we met the owner and his cousin in the kitchen. Another glass of wine in hand we learned to make dishes such as ragu (meat sauce), saffron risotto, lasagna, steak with green peppercorns and sauce, ribolitto (a typical Tuscan dish made with vegetables and bread), and crepes. All of these dishes were then brought out for us to eat while we tried eight more wines. We thought we were going to burst from all of the food! This was such an amazing experience that we'll remember and treasure forever.

Outside of our room
Saffron risotto
Our dining/wine tasting area
The next day we woke up with no set plans for the rest of the weekend. Since we had been to the town of San Gimignano before we decided to drive to Volterra which is about 30 minutes away. We made frequent stops to take pictures of the beautiful landscape.

View from Volterra.

Inside the Archeological Park

Inside the park.
On the drive back to Torciano we stopped at two wineries. The first winery overlooked endless valleys and San Gimignano. They were very hospitable and welcomed us without hesitation when we showed up at their door. They too have nice grounds and accommodations with an outdoor pool. We may just have to come back...

Enjoying the nice view. That's our jetta!
The entrance to the winery.
So happy.
After we came back from wine tasting we bought a bottle of wine from Torciano, enjoyed the wonderful weather and played a game of Bocci ball. That night we went to dinner in San Gimignano. We walked the empty streets and picked a random restaurant that looked good... and it was!
Lounging with some wine.
Bocci ball!
San Gimignano.
 The next day we hit the road to begin our drive back. We knew we wanted to go to Orvieto, a beautiful city about 1.5 hours away, so we left right after breakfast. Orvieto is a medieval city, walled in and sitting on a big chunk of volcanic rock called tuff. The city rises above the practically vertical faces of tuff cliffs overlooking the Umbrian countryside. Sigh... it was so beautiful.
Yep, that's me.
And there's Jon!

The streets of Via del Duomo and Corso Cavour are perfect for strolling and shopping. We hopped into a shop where a local craftsman specializes in olive wood. The pieces were beautiful, some decorative and others meant for use around the house. We bought two fish trivets and a small cutting board. We also stopped in a wine shop and bought half a case of delicious Umbrian wine.

The restaurant we ate lunch in was spectacular. We said to each other as we walked in, "No more wine"! But as soon as we sat down we couldn't pass up some good Umbrian wine, so we ordered a bottle. We had the typical mixed appetizer, where many plates continuously came out consisting of different meats, cheeses, fig spreads, white bean salad, and different kinds of bruschetta. A general pasta dish with a boar tomato sauce came out for our meal. Yum!

After lunch we made our way to the Duomo. We had heard that the Duomo was something we needed to see, but we were so surprised at the architectural masterpiece we found ourselves looking at! We had just been strolling down these medieval streets and all of a sudden we were face to face with the astounding facade of this building. It was a mass of mosaics, stained glass, and sculptures. The side of the Duomo is made of white and black horizontal stripes which very much reminded us of the style of the Duomo in Florence. We found out later that it was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio who was the architect of the cathedral in Florence, so there you go!

There are other things to do in Orvieto that we didn't get to because we had to make the drive home to pick up our fur child, Maya. In no particular order these include the underground city of Orvieto, the archeological museum, St. Patrick's well (Pozzo di S. Patrizio), and whatever else we discover along the way.

All in all we made out pretty well buying a total of 36 bottles of wine to take home, receiving two others on the house, drinking a total of seven bottles in less than two days, and buying a few bottles of balsamic vinegar, spices, and white truffle oil. We may have to test our Italian cooking skills now!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dan and Rachel's Wedding! Another Trip Back to the States.

The wedding of the century finally arrived! Last weekend my brother Dan married the best girl in the world, Rachel. This was the most beautiful wedding I've ever attended and I just don't mean aesthetically. The love that Dan and Rachel have for each other was evident everywhere you turned. I just can't believe that my baby brother is married. He is officially Dan the Man.
Dad and Dan.
The week started out with our arrival into New Jersey. We made our usual Chipotle stop on the way home from the airport and spent the day relaxing and hanging out with family. The next two days were spent shopping, eating, running, sleeping, and picking up family members from the airport.

At the Cheesecake Factory after a set of grandparents flew in.
Since our nephew Matt's first birthday was on the wedding day, Beth and Scott had a birthday party for him the day before at the hotel. 70 people were at this party, including all of the out of town guests and all of his great grandparents. He was lucky that his birthday coincided with this wedding!
The birthday boy!
At the birthday party with the bride and groom.
That night my parents hosted the rehearsal dinner. Beth had put together a slideshow of Dan and Rachel in their younger days as well as pictures of them as a couple. Great food, family, and excitement for the big day made this night so special.

Matt at the rehearsal dinner.

After much anticipation the wedding day arrived. Some of the bridesmaids, along with my mother and grandmother, went to the hair salon to get dolled up for the big day.
The beautiful sisters of the groom!
Parents of the groom.
The Fab Feinberg Five
The beautiful bride!
A large wedding party!
The cocktail hour had an abundance of food and drinks including sushi, dumplings, lo mein, a meat carving station, a martini bar... the list goes on and on!

The ceremony was tear inducing as we watched Dan, and then Rachel, walk down the aisle to various instrumental Beatles songs. After he presented her with my Grandma Lila's wedding ring I don't think there was a dry eye in the room.
Jon and I walking down the aisle.
Dan watching Rachel walk down the aisle.
The reception followed and it was a night filled with a lot of dancing (a 45 minute hora!), food, fun, and a lot of drinks - whose grand idea was it for the tequila shots???
The happy couple!
Another happy couple!
Dancing away!
Beth, Scott, and Matty
Before we knew it the reception was over and this magical night had come to an end. We'll never forget the love that was shared that night and we wish the two newlyweds a lifetime of happiness. Now go relax in Fiji for the honeymoon!
Rachel and Dan