Food and wine are the best ways to fully immerse yourself in Italian culture without knowing the language. They connect us to both nature and traditions. Cooks, farmers, foragers, and winemakers are the people who can give you the most meaningful experience of Italy which is what inspired me to create a series of food workshops in Cilento, the birthplace of the Mediterranean Diet, where some of Italy's most precious food traditions persist.
When designing these programs, I combined the best experiences from past tours with other activities that pair with the season's rhythm. I am the official host and translator, but I am joined by chefs Mario Stellato and Anita Di Pietro, Sarah Pompei from The Authentic Irpinia, and many other local farmers, foragers, cheesemakers, and home cooks.
The deadline to register for the spring workshop is February 5th!
Here are a few more details that I hope will convince you to join me!
The home base for our trip is Borgo La Pietraia, a gorgeous property overlooking the Amalfi Coast and the Cilento Coast in the town of Capaccio-Paestum. You probably never heard of Capaccio-Paestum, but this small town is home to Italy's best producers of buffalo mozzarella, an abundance of organic farms, and three Michelin-starred restaurants.
A highlight will be truffle hunting with dogs in the Cilento National Park. You have certainly heard of Alba truffles, an internationally recognized luxury product. Yet, truffles cannot be cultivated, and only so many are found yearly without any ability to predict or control the outcome. So... how do Alba truffles reliably end up on restaurant tables in New York and Shanghai every year? Well, wink, wink, they're not all coming from Alba.
The week's second highlight will be a full-day cooking class at Antica Trattoria di Pietro, which has been open since 1934. About an hour away from Capaccio-Paestum in Melito Irpino, the Di Pietro family maintains culinary traditions that are lost in modern Italy and are at the roots of so many dishes in the Italian diaspora. The family will close the restaurant so our group can enjoy a fully immersive cooking class in their kitchen and dining room. On my first visit there this summer, Teresa Di Pietro brought me into the kitchen to show me the pot of ragù slowly cooking over a low, thin flame. Unexpectedly, I felt tears streaming down my face -- the warmth and wisdom that come with this type of cooking can't be explained but it is deeply felt.
Chef Mario's Stellato's bread is a revelation. It tastes alive the way fresh vegetables do. I thought it was because he bakes it fresh every day, but I learned it's because of the 10-year-old starter he uses, along with organic flour from a nearby farm, where the soil is full of nutrients. I noted that I also loved it because it doesn't taste sour, though Mario told me it shouldn't. That sour flavor that characterizes sourdough bread in the United States is actually the taste of rancidity. And if the starter is dead, you're not actually getting any of the health benefits of a sourdough starter. We learn so much about health and nutrition when we look closely at traditional foods, and Cilento is a Blue Zone, so there is much to learn.
If you're thinking about joining us but have questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or make an appointment to speak with me via Zoom.