Sunday, October 26, 2008

An Embarrassment of Richness

Here in Umbria we never get anything good to eat, but we try to make do.

Yesterday morning, standing in the middle of the medieval center of Deruta, I threw back a big slug of hot chocolate so thick and creamy it made my taste buds dance a jig. Think of it as the perfect fall day: crystal blue sky, slightly cool air, sunny, with the aroma of chocolate in the air.

It was the second annual Ceramics and Chocolate celebration in Deruta, an offshoot of the huge Eurochocolate madness that takes over Perugia every year in late October.

This festa is smaller, combining Deruta's central theme, the creation of hand painted maiolica ceramics, with the region's devotion to chocolate. Tied into the over five-hundred year history of the town is the sale of maiolica chocolate mugs, handpainted and fired by artists all over town. These can, and should be, filled with the complimentary and divine hot chocolate.

On regular days, you can wander the streets of Deruta, poking your head into tiny studios, where artists are painting plates, tiles, or bowls; yesterday, a group of artists were painting a wall of chocolate with the traditional patterns of Deruta ceramics. Last night, the wall would be broken and the crowd would be fed a piece of local chocolate.

But we weren't there. Last night, we had moved on to other culinary delights at Roccofiore Winery's annual harvest dinner, this year themed "Il Giuoco dell'Oca," the game of the goose.

We were seated in the cellar, among the barriques full of wines of various vintages, bottles of new red wine on the table.

The menu went like this:
gli antipasti
(starters)-- goose prosciutto in salad with balsamic vinegar, goose salami, goose liver crostini;
primo piatto (
first course) -- gnocchi made from potatoes with a ragout of goose from the farm;
secondi (
main courses) -- goose roasted in a wood-fired oven, pork from Siena baked with herbs, roasted potatoes, field greens doused with local olive oil;
dolce (
dessert) -- roasted chestnuts with the late harvest wine, Passito Collina d'Oro.

I know, I know. Today we will eat simple, low fat things: lentil soup, salad, broiled chicken breast with rosemary and sage, a glass of white wine.

And, just maybe a piece of that chocolate from Deruta.
copyright Sharri Whiting 2008

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