The stunning scenery and food of Umbria

Late last week, we left Venice and traveled by car to the gorgeous region of Umbria, where the wedding of one of my best friends in the world was being held.  This region is seriously jaw-droppingly beautiful and can really only be accessed by car, where you are regularly treated to casual views like this when driving:

The first night there, I hosted an informal ladies night for the girls and of course ended up cooking, which was a delight considering there was so much fresh produce hanging around the house.

First I made an arugala salad with fresh plums and melon wrapped in proscuitto…definitely the kind of meal you literally can just throw together (just requires a bit of chopping of the melon and plums)

For the main I did a quick pasta with veggies and fresh basil and grated parmesan – I took the basil from the garden outside the house, used some nice pasta they had on hand, and made no sauce at all – just used the juice from the tomatoes and a bit of olive oil, seasoned to taste with sea salt and black pepper.  I also threw in zucchini and peppers, and everything cooked slightly from the heat of the pasta.  Accompanied by liberal amounts of prosecco, this was a great meal and a fantastic start to the weekend.

The next day, we explored the tiny and adorable medieval town of Gubbio, which is a basically a walled city.  We ate at a place called Osteria dei Re, where I got an amazing sampler platter of delicacies of the region:

Starting at the back and moving clockwise, there were bruschetta with mushrooms and crispy bacon, polenta, a frittata, a potato, fried zucchini flower and bread, and more bread to be eaten with cheese and proscuitto.  Even thought it was quite hot, the bean soup in the middle was also delicious.  And we also got this fantastic caprese sandwich with arugala:

What a meal.  Of course, always room for the gelato, especially after walking up and down all the hills of the town:

Favourite combination by now is definitely chocolate and cherry.

The place where we were staying also had a perfect example of the ultimate Italian buffet breakfast, which I managed to take pictures of this time.

Lovely fruit section.  I tried to start here each morning.

However, it is difficult to resist the cake section…

And of course there is a massive section just full of freshly baked breads, cheese, meats, and breadsticks.  Not pictured are their jars of homemade nutella (yes that’s right) and apricot preserves, which were of course spread liberally on aforementioned breads.  It is going to be difficult to go back to my boring yogurt and fruit breakfasts, that’s for sure.

The day before the wedding, the ladies went to a spa, which included among other things, lounging by the pool, massages, and this lovely lunch of salad, pasta with melon and tomato (I know, I was intrigued!), and super fresh caprese salad, all served with fresh bread of course.

Tough life, I know.

The rehearsal dinner was AMAZING – held at an authentic agriturismo, buried impossibly far and high into the hills of Umbria. The selection of food was massive and all grown either at the farm or locally.  The pasta and meats were delicious, but my favourite course had to be the antipasti:

It included a huge variety of delicious sliced meats, a lentil salad, this amazing apple and porcini mushroom dish, fresh bread, and yes those are truffles you see in the foreground, which they literally shaved over everything.  Soooo good.

Onto the wedding, which was utterly spectacular in EVERY way, but since this blog is just about the food, I’ll restrain myself and just talk about that.

Right after the wedding, as an appetizer of sorts, there was an entire pizza vendor set up just making the MOST amazing thin crust pizzas in this brick oven and handing them out immediately to us.  I will never look at pizza the same way again.  This was the most amazing pizza I’ve ever had.  It was mostly just margherita, but the freshness and the thinness of the crust were just unbelievable.  Nothing fancy, just absurdly good fresh pizza.

Then there was a table just for cheese.

The antipasti were of course incredible – meats and breads galore

And these salds were fantastic too – couscous with veggies, a tortellini pasta salad, and this vegetarian lasagna with several types of squash.

But the crowning accomplishment of this entire table was without a doubt this ENORMOUS slab of pork.  I speak as a mostly vegetarian in saying this was truly beautiful, and the crispiness of the pork skin was just to die for.  I was such a carnivore that night.

Heaven on a plate.

So there you have it.  Italy = food mecca.  I admit to actually being sad to being back in Australia for the first time.  But that means it’s back to cooking and baking for me, and I have a fantastic friend who is coming to see me a bit over a week, so more restaurant exploration here to come as well!

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