So here's a little back story for you. I am notorious for ruining surprises for Adam or not even attempting them. I may think of a great idea, but then don't follow through or tell Adam about it before pursuing it. Not sure why. Just one of those "quirks" I have I guess. Adam struggles with this quirk of mine because he LOVES surprises. He has successfully pulled off a large number of surprises for me including bringing in two of my best friends for a weekend at Grandview for my 30th birthday. I had no idea. So, I had a great idea to surprise Adam with an experience in Florence during our stay. Shockingly enough, I pulled it off! A few months ago I was invited to participate in a Beta program for AirBnB that involved trying an experience in cities around the world. Florence was one of their offered cities. They offered a long list of options including everything from dancing to perfume making and art to theatre. With Italy being such a food-centric country, cooking classes were also on the list. We love to cook together and have taken a number of cooking classes throughout our marriage. So it was an easy choice and one I knew would be a hit with Adam.
When looking to book, I hesitated for awhile, but eventually purchased "The Tuscan Lunch" option with chef Massimiliano (or Max). This experience was much more extensive and inclusive than previous cooking classes and it was amazing. I successfully pulled off the surprise last night and we have had an amazing experience the past couple days! I will try to do the experience justice with an explanation and a few pictures, but know that no words or pictures could adequately portray our experience. We loved it all!
Last night, we met Max and his friend and co-chef, Luca, at a local restaurant to meet and talk over wine and charcuterie. For two hours, we had the opportunity to talk with two true Florentines while enjoying wine, cheese, various cured meats, and sandwiches. There was plenty of food and fun conversation getting to know Max and Luca. We are amazed over and over at how many people here speak English. Sometimes it is a bit "broken", but at the end of the day they can communicate perfectly fine in English. Through our travels, Adam and I have become more and more determined to learn how to speak another language. We are attending language school starting on Monday, but will pursue opportunities once we are back in the States. Anyways, back to our evening. Max and Luca were absolutely delightful. We loved talking with them and navigating the language barrier playing a game called "Como si dice..." or How do you say...? There were several pauses and Google translator searches, but we learned more about our hosts all over a LOT of delicious food. Their friend, who worked at the restaurant, was also incredibly friendly and helpful in explaining the meats, cheese, and wine pairings. After getting to know one another and planning our menu for the next day, we said good night and walked away full and happy!
The next morning, we met Max and Luca at the Sant'Ambrogio Market, a local food market in Florence. They walked us through local ingredients, cuisine, and in-season vegetables and we shopped together. Every time they do this experience, they use the same vendors in the market and get fresh, local ingredients. We decided on a few local breads and cheeses for our appetizer, rabbit ragu with ravioli di patate (potato) for our first course, and trippa (cow stomach lining) for our main. We went all in with the menu and wanted to eat as the Florentines do! Our gracious hosts assured us it was good and we said yes. Yikes! After stopping for espresso in the market, prosecco on our walk to the kitchen, and one more market stop for tomatoes we made it to our professional kitchen to cook. So far, so good!
At the kitchen, Max and Luca coached us through various stages of the cooking process and we stepped in to help with chopping and prep work. We learned the base of a good ragu sauce (carrots, celery, onion, and olive oil) and how to make our rabbit ragu. Luca was in charge of the trippa (Max said he makes the best trippa). We worked in the kitchen, chatted with our hosts, and enjoyed smelling our lunch and getting hungrier by the minute.
Once food was prepared, we sat to enjoy our Tuscan lunch together. I'm sure it was a quiet day for Max and Luca only having two of us instead of the normal ten, but we loved it. Quiet conversation, plenty to help with in the kitchen, and a memorable experience. The food was also incredible! The rabbit ragu had a white wine sauce with a hint of orange that made it extra delicious. Despite the scary idea of cow stomach, it was delicious in it's red sauce. We also enjoyed burrata cheese with bread and sun-dried tomatoes as an appetizer. Burrata is a mozzarella exterior, filled with cream and found in the south of Italy. We then finished our meal with cake made from chestnut flour, raisins and walnuts with slices of persimmon on the side. All while sipping on wine from the Chianti region, always a win!
I truly can't say enough about this experience. The AirBnB experiences are now available to all on the AirBnB app and I highly recommend the Tuscan Lunch with Max and Luca. Incredible hosts who are friendly and helpful. We got an endless list of recommendations from them as well as tips for cooking and experiencing the region. Look them up! If you don't want to do the group experience, they also offer home cooking experiences, classes, or meals for you. They come to you and cook for you or with you! You can check them out here. It is worth every penny and they will work with you on dietary preferences. You don't have to try get too crazy and try trippa, but you should try this experience, it's second to none. Max also manages various accommodations around the region and you can check out some pretty spectacular places here.
Our plan is to try out some of their restaurant and activity recommendations, as they had some pretty good ones. We will be sure to let you know how it goes! I can't say enough about these guys. Such an enjoyable couple of days. Grazie Max and Luca! Spettacolare!