Last weekend we held the last, and quite possibly the best, Cucina Cinzia suppers. All the stars were aligned. The menu was original, authentic, and exquisite (if I say so myself). The diners were charming and delightful (as usual). Cinzia and I were in high spirits, putting out of our heads the fact that this might be the last of our suppers.
So if we love it so much, why stop? Well, we may still do them from time to time, once a season, or on the side when Cinzia is coming to London for something else. In fact, if you would like to invite Cinzia to cook, to cater a party or to organize a cooking lesson for you and a group of friends, should would be more than delighted. And we’d probably do a supper on the following night. Cinzia was quite happy to keep going despite the travel and having to be away from her family. She found in the supperclubs something that she doesn’t always get back home – a houseful of strangers and friends, people enjoying discovering her special gifts and family recipes, an outlet for her passion for cooking authentic Tuscan food. I was the one getting bogged down. Not by the suppers, but by the rest of my life. My two kids, my husband, my dayjob – a new business that needs my full attention at the moment in order to be successful. I was running low on bandwidth and I’ve had to pare things down a bit. I love the suppers, but now I will have more time to go as a client, rather than running ours. Any of our former diners reading this, let me know if you need a supperclub buddy as I would love to try out more of them and now I’ll have a little more time and foodie energy. The final thing was that part of the joy of the supperclub is the spontaneity of it. As ours was getting more mature, it was feeling more and more to me like a business (albeit a not-very-profitable one!) and less like a culinary jam session. So, we move on from here.
But first, let me bask in the moment of our last regularly scheduled dinner. It was awesome was it not? We had our signature fried sage leaves. It’s just flour, water, salt and sage. But… wow. Then we had crostinis – crostini toscani as usual, but also some cavolo nero (black cabbage) crostini. These are what Tuscan food is all about. Just boiled/steamed black cabbage, toasted bread rounds, rubbed with garlic, soaked with a bit of the cabbage water, piled high with cavolo nero and dressed with a wonderful green olive oil from Marcello Paoli. After that, we had our primo, which was for this particular supper the main dish. Polenta from the Molino Grifoni, stone ground just a few days before. “What’s in it?” asked the diners! “Nothing but corn,” I responded. Corn, with all of its oils, zero processing, fresh off the stone presses just above Florence. It was creamy, light, in fact, I’m eating some it as leftovers right now! The fab polenta was topped with a sauce of wild boar.
Sugo al cinghiale (Wild Boar Sauce)
Take 1 wild boar from your local huntsman (5 kg or so of it, cut into pieces). Add red wine and juniper berries, carrot, celery, onion and bay leaf. Marinate for three days. Take out the boar. Stick it in a pot with some bay leaf and slow cook for a day or two. Voila! Boar sauce!
It seems like it has special spices, maybe some tomato or oil or… something. But it’s just boar. In this case, a particularly good boar. Not a gamey or stringy one, this must have been a beautiful young one. It was delicious and I think you’d be hard pressed to find anything like it on any menu in London.
Since the primo was pretty substantial, we had a cheese plate for the secondo. We had a young pecorino (ewe’s) cheese and a more mature pecorino. We served these with a selection of jams that Cinzia had made – spicey onion, sweet chili, red pepper, and my personal favorite miele di castagno – bitter chestnut honey. Along with that we served zucchini al funghetto, or roughly translated, courgettes made like mushrooms. They are cooked with oil, garlic and nipitella, an wild herb (kind of a minty thyme) that grows alongside porcini mushrooms. The classic porcini dish is with this herb – which is not sold but given away or foraged with the porcinis. Once the porcini season is over, the herb is used with courgettes and recalls the porcini dishes.
We wrapped up the meal with our espresso mousse, and vin santo, followed by tiny ristretto coffees.. Then we hung out chatting, getting to know one another, enjoying the company around the table, thankful for a warm spot, new interesting friends, and a full belly. And thankful for Cinzia for bringing it all to London.
Do check back with us as we may have further dinners from time to time – which we will advertise mainly through a direct email to people on our list! If you would like to be added, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you dined with us, we’d love to get your comments on our guestbook! Thanks to all of our diners for making it the wonderful year that it was!
Jill & Cinzia