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Hotel dei Vicari - Surroundings - Tuscan Gastronomy

The Mugello area in Tuscany boasts an exquisite gastronomy and can be found almost anywhere you turn. Generally speaking, the area of Mugello boasts a food tradition based on simple tastes with plain but genuine ingredients, such as oil, bread, meat and game, and fresh vegetables, naturally all cultivated here at home.

Because a big part of this toe of cuisine depends greatly on the freshness of the ingredients, you will discover that a good part of these traditional dishes of the Mugellan gastronomy are seasonal and it is for this reason that the food fairs, with typical food themes, are held almost every month of the year. During Carnival time you'll have the chance to taste Cenci and Migliaccio and not long after, Pan di Ramerino. With the arrival of Spring, look for food fairs that prepare the famous Potatoes Tortelli and in summer you'll find dishes based with duck or goose. In autumn, it's Pappardelle and wild boar with mushrooms, while in winter during the Christmas season don't miss a good glass of Gemma d'Abete, a liquor produced by the friars from the convent of Monte Senario.

If you're a guest at Hotel Vicari you can enjoy a variety of food festivities held in the Mugello area all year round like the Tortello Food Fair, the Wild Boar and porcini mushroom Food Fair, the Truffle Food Fair.

In March Mugello area hosts the Sagra del Cinghiale (Wild boar). The Sagra del Tortello (Mugello fritter) is held in March, April, May, and June. A variety of mushrooms are found in the Mugello area and cook at the Sagra del Fungo Porcino (Pore Mushroom) in August during the Sagra del Fungo and the most tasty in November at the Sagra del Tartufo (truffle). Of course, we mustn't forget to mention the highly acclaimed Tuscan wines and oils.

Tortelli Mugellani (type of ravioli)is a traditional Tuscan recipe.

Tortelli di patate - Ingredients for 4 people
For the Stuffing:
500 grams of potatoes
100 grams of Reggiano parmesan cheese
parsley and garlic (to taste)
nutmeg (to taste)
extra virgin olive oil
For the dough:
500 grams of flour
4 eggs
pinch of salt

Boil potatoes, peel and mash
Add finely crushed garlic and parsley, the parmesan, nutmeg and oil (to taste)
Mix all ingredients until achieving a homogenous paste with no lumps.

Shape the flour in a volcano form and add the eggs and a tablespoon of oil and salt.
Work the dough until achieving a homogenous paste.
Roll out a thin layer of dough (about 2 mm) and cut in rectangle shape of 6x10 centimetres.
Place a tablespoon of the stuffing at the center of each rectangle and fold over and seal by pressing with fingers making sure that all air is out of the square.
Give the "tortella" square more shape by outlining with a ravioli cutter and pressing with a fork (be careful not to break the dough).

Place the tortelli in boiling salted water for approximately 10 minutes.
Dress with salvia sautéed in butter and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

A little about wine
Countless vineyards and wine cellars can be found nearby and throughout the entire region. Given its climate, soil and exposure to sun, the Tuscan area is ideal for wine-growing. "Rufina" is the smallest of the specific geographical Chianti areas but nonetheless one of the most renown of Chiantis dating back to even before the Grand-ducal period.

The beautiful Chianti region which includes Greve in Chianti and part of San Casciano Val di Pesa, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, and Barberino Val d' Elsa) is found nestled in the rolling hills of Tuscany just south of Florence. The term "Classico" refers to the old and original production area of the Chianti. Famous vineyards and a vast selection of popular wineries line the area with farmyards and wine cellars all inviting you to enjoy a taste of wonderful their wonderful Chianti wines. Also found in this area are fine Extra Virgin Olive Oils and aged Balsamic Vinegars.

In Montalcino, a little hilltop village south of Siena, the origins of the renowned Brunello grape and wine, invented more than a century ago, are discovered. Brunello, one of the most famous wines in the world, was originated by Ferruccio Biondi-Santi in 1863 and is praised by important wine critics, collectors. Up until the 1960's, Brunello di Montalcino was virtually unknown outside its production area or beyond a limited circle of connoisseurs and has become so famous that it has earned the reputation of being perhaps the most esteemed of Italian quality wines.

A little about Marrons (Chestnuts)
The Mugello area is home to numerous chestnut groves with trees that produce some of the world's best chestnuts. The quality of marrons and chestnuts has become a modern phenomena producing 4 million Euros a year in economic value. The Marron is a very special fruit only grown in a geographic area special for its history, customs, environment, landscape, culture and economy.

Although grown on what is known as a Chestnut tree, only certain fruits are known as marrons. Unlike the chestnut which has an oval shaped lining, the delicate filament that holds a chestnut to its shell, the lining of the marron is always rectangular in shape. And, while the chestnut husk can contain up to seven fruits, the marron husk contains only up to three. Even though the chestnut and the marron come from the chestnut tree, only fruit that meets these exacting standards can be called a marron. The marron is very easy to peel, and its compact white flesh is particularly sweet. The marron is used for a number of culinary uses and can be prepared and eaten in a number of ways.

One of the most flavourful is by roasting them in a fireplace on hot coals (not directly on the fire) but they can be also boiled or braised. They make for an excellent game stuffing as well as dessert. Some desserts include that of marron glacés and fruit tarts. Local specialties include the sweet ravioli and tortelli made by mashing the cooked chestnut pulp and combining ingredients like milk, sugar, eggs and aniseed. The most famous dessert of this area is the "castagnaccio" chestnut cake.

A little about olive oil
Tuscany has its share of olive trees including the frantoio, leccino, moraiolo, and divastro, each determining a distinct taste from the olives that grow on it. The process called "Brucatura" takes place during the harvest season from mid November until mid-December when the olives are hand picked, before reaching full ripeness and still attached to the branches.

Normally, Tuscan Olive Oils are divided into two types: naturally spicy (piccante) and sweet (dolce) oils The difference between the two is the result of several factors including the variety of the olive that make up the oil, altitude, and time of harvest. The quality of the particular oil, whether it be spicy or sweet, is the result of the process of production. The highest quality olive oils require that the olives be picked by hand in late October and early November, taken to the mill within 24 hours of the harvest, cold pressed in clean sanitary conditions, and not blended with other grades of oil.

Olive oils from Tuscany have a distinct green color and a fruity flavor with hints of aromatic herbs. Proven to be an excellent nutrient, it is an excellent flavourful accent when drizzled on pasta, vegetables, meats, fish or simply on toasted bread.