I realize that gluttony is not something to gloat over, but it is certainly difficult to resist. I am pleased to report that Dante only considers gluttony to be a Circle 3 punishment offense in The Inferno. Nevertheless, it is nothing to be proud of even though you are on vacation in Tuscany.
Scholars differ on where gluttony ranks as a “mortal” sin, but I opted to overindulge in Tuscany rather than engage in the pre-election hysteria in our own country. Hopefully, St. Peter will cut me a little slack on Judgement Day:
Gluttony–like lust–is one of the seven capital sins (sometimes called “mortal” or “deadly” sins) according to medieval Christian theology and church practice. Dante, at least in circles 2-5 of hell, uses these sins as part–but only part–of his organizational strategy. While lust and gluttony were generally considered the least serious of the seven sins (and pride almost always the worst), the order of these two was not consistent: some writers thought lust was worse than gluttony and others thought gluttony worse than lust. The two were often viewed as closely related to one another, based on the biblical precedent of Eve “eating” the forbidden fruit and then successfully “tempting” Adam to do so (Genesis 3:6). Based on the less than obvious contrapasso of the gluttons and the content (mostly political) of Inferno 6, Dante appears to view gluttony as more complex than the usual understanding of the sin as excessive eating and drinking.
Most foodies prefer to refer to gluttony as “fine-dining” – it sounds more politically correct. I am no exception. Sheila and I had wonderful meals in Trequanda, Monticchiello and Montefollonico. All are within relatively easy driving distance from Montepulciano. For those who are expecting great cultural insights, read no further.
The image below is a picture of me in front of “Il Conte Matto” restaurant. Literally translated, this means “The Crazy Count” and Sheila has suggested that he could well be one of my distant relatives.
According to legend, the villagers considered this family to be crazy for some 200 years. My sister Alison, a feminist revisionist historian who joined us for this part of the journey, argues that the Count’s family must have been particularly naughty or that rampant incest was allowed to run its destructive course. I prefer not to know, since rumors and legends are probably far more titillating than the truth.
People come from around the world (read Germany and France) to taste the exceptional extra virgin olive oil produced in the vineyards and olive groves below the restaurant. We sampled the 2015 and NEW 2016 pressing and found the olive oil to be exceptional. Overlooking a most beautiful valley, this restaurant should be a must if you are visiting Tuscany as the olive oil and food are truly exceptional.
Alison settled for tagliatelle with white truffles, but I opted for Pici con le Briciole. Pici is the “poor man’s pasta” as it consists solely of flour and water. Briciole refers to lightly seasoned breadcrumbs. This homemade Pici con le Bricole featuring the 2016 olive oil is as close as you can get to culinary heaven without levitating from your chair. Wow, what a treat! The image below is the “main course” of roasted pork, mushrooms and greens flanked by two vintages of olive oil and a vino nobile. The EVOO from 2016 has a cream colored seal (far left).
We didn’t explore the town as we rushed off to a nearby Benedictine Monastery to see a library featuring many ancient manuscripts and a fresco that is believed to show images that may have represented Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli.
Sheila and I dined at Osteria La Porta in Monticchiello which is only a few kilometers from Montepulciano. If possible, you should sit on the terrace overlooking the valley. If you are fortunate, you can get a table in the shade. Since Sheila had the same hair color as the owner, we were provided privileged seating on the terrace.
While I was still trying to indulge my white truffle fetish, Sheila opted for quail on toast with foie (see below). It was far more delicious than my Pici.
She followed this up with an equally impressive panna cotta with wild berries and cherry liqueur. This is one of those “special” desserts you only get once every few years.
We did take a walk into this precious town, but the tower at the top is now owned by a Scandinavian sculptress and is “private property.” Personally, I thought her contemporary sculpture in a garden leading to the tower looked only slightly better than lawn furniture at Walmart, but that is just one angry old man’s opinion.
Montefollonica is one of those small walled medieval towns on the top of a hill that is within easy driving distance of Montepulciano. I am quite sure there are some interesting sights in this small town, but Nick, Abigail and my sister Alison were very hungry. Needless to say, our primary goal was to dine at 13 Gobbi, a restaurant well known for its tagliatelli served from a wheel of pecorino.
Look, it doesn’t get much better than this and even Dante couldn’t persuade me to resist the temptation. Gluttons unite!