I call myself a foodie. Not just because of the fact that I love to eat (I swear my diet starts the day I arrive home in Memphis), but rather because of the overarching experience that defines and complements the meals I enjoy. It’s not just the taste, but also the atmosphere, décor, culture, and people behind the dishes that etch true memories in my mind. That’s why I love my Jewish religion: we’re all about food, but we wouldn’t be that way without the family and greater community who prepare and enjoy it!
Our second day in Florence confirmed my foodie-ness fixation. We joined a guided, three-hour tour
of the secrets of Florence’s local food and cultural treasures. Café after café and bite after bite, we “oohed” and “ahhed” at the tastes of unique delicacies that define Florence’s quaint and luxuriant lifestyle. I’ll never forget the taste of juicy roma tomatoes at Nerbone
and the smell of the Robusto espresso shot, or the sweetness of vin santo
wine and the laughter of our Utah group members when realizing how much wine we consumed before 1 p.m. When in Florence, people!
Here’s a summary of each stop on our Florence Foodie tour; and if you’re ever in Florence, please don’t miss these local delicacies. Or just go on the tour yourselves! You won’t find these places in a tourist guide…
Known for its diverse blends and imported coffee beans from across the world, Café Chiaroscuro challenged my taste buds and introduced me to some truly bold Italian coffee! We tried the Indian monsooned Robusto and Mexican Arabica espressos, both of which were very strong compared to my usual Starbucks. In fact, our guide told us that there is only ONE Starbucks in the entire country of Italy in Milan! And it’s not even doing well. Imagine that, fellow Americans.
“Espresso” denotes “express,” so most customers walk in and finish theirs in three sips at the bar to kickstart their day. Those busty flavors surely kickstarted our day too!
A truffle shop. What more could you ask for.
White truffle (the rare, fancy shmancy kind that upscale restaurants like db bistro serve) is in fact found in Northern Italy. We were served a 3-inch truffle sandwich (panini tartufati) with a secret filling that combines truffle-infused oil, truffle butter and some other yumminess. I savored every bite.
La Divina Enoteca
This treasured restaurant and specialty food store was founded in the early 1800s, serving everything from cheeses and meats to homemade regional pastas, spice blends, beers and wine. We were seated by the store owner at an antique wooden table and led through a delicious food and wine pairing.
Our first pairing was a Bianco di Toscana white with a slice of salty prosciutto on bread and a slice of sheep’s milk with pepper jam. The second pairing was a ruby red Chianto classico (like the Corsini wine we had tried the day before at the vineyard) with fennel seed infused salami and a sharp but soft pecorino cheese. I learned that Italians always pair white wines to balance a salty but light prosciutto, fish, veal or light pastas with olive oil. Their reds go with heartier meals from Bolognese to t-bone.
I walked out with a box of homemade pasta that I cannot wait to cook with at home. I’m going to craft an Italian-style recipe to share on the blog!
San Lorenzo Central Market
Our entrance into the San Lorenzo Market allowed us to immediately experience the hustle and bustle of fresh Italian cooking ingredients. We tasted salted bread, which is unusual for Florence. We learned a rumor that when Florence and Pisa were in battle centuries ago, Pisa placed high tariffs on salt exports, which caused Florentines to cut out salt completely. Imagine that!
Within the Central Market sat this busy and exciting café founded in 1876 – the history is consistently so rich in this town! I tried the best bruschetta (pronounced with a hard “c” – Giada would be proud) I have ever put in my mouth. Drenched in olive oil, the sweetest chunks of tomatoes and torn basil covered my piece of crostini. I about went to heaven.
Julia, the sweet employee of this impressive wine and olive oil shop, brought dozens of pieces of bread, which she proceeded to drench in two types of olive oil. Both were peppery and much heavier than the typical olive oil at home; rather than using for cooking, these were meant to be dipped in to fully take advantage of the flavors.
Next was a treat. Strawberries were drizzled in 10-year-old aged balsamic vinegar and a pecorino was drizzled in a younger balsamic. As balsamic vinegar ferments, the liquid thickens and sweetens to the point where you can pour it directly on your fruit and ice cream! Such a delicacy.
Fresh prosciutto was next with a glass of Chianti; and then came the real surprise: almond biscotti dipped in vin santo dessert wine, which has aged for at least ten years and tasted close to a liquor. I found my new favorite dessert!
Antica Florentina Gelateria
I thought we had enough sweetness, but there was more. Our guide led us to a local gelateria to pick two flavors of our choice! I picked crema (sweet vanilla custard) and dolce latte (caramel coffee goodness) in a cone.
What a food-filled, fun-filled day! Thank you, Florence Food Tours.