EXTREMELY LONG POST.......
After a long day starting at 6am in london, we arrived via Milan (the airport cafe has amazing bresola sandwiches!) a 40 minute straight-forward motorway drive and a little narrow road with only the odd trulli (its like being in a film, they are quite unique!) at 6.25pm at our very pretty villa in the Valle d'itria (half way between Fasano and Monopoli) to be welcomed by our lovely hosts, treats from the area and a very very much appreciated local shop done for us that the villa offered to provide as well as a gorgeous view out the sea..... its a lovely villa with its own little trulli, we really feel very far away from London here!
(now,i have to warn you, most of this report is going to be about eating an drinking
Apparently there are 53 different varieties of olive oil in Puglia (and you can see why- in just one day we have seen a LOT of olive trees!!), and the owners of the place we are staying at make their own (every other year- the trees have to have a year off as they cant produce two years in a row we are told) and were kind enough to give us a welcome bottle of it (as well as the most amazing sugared almonds and orreciette pasta and local savoury ad sweet almond biscuits!)- it is yummy olive oil, such a powerful flavour and the olives even just from the supermarket are so intense and delicious it puts the ones we get at home in london to shame (why oh why do they taste less good when they have been exported!).
We were so knackered we decided to stay in and enjoy the delicious goods we had. Our hosts also gave us some great reading material about the area and so got even more excited about the foodie treats all around us. We cooked a yummy orreciette pasta (couldn't be any other-c'mon we are in Puglia!) with tomatoes, a splash of red wine, olives, buffallo mozarella and wonderful salty, creamy parma ham added at the very end (it is so cheap here it's not fair!). ....Even though i cook a similar dish at home, it just seemed different here- the ingredients really stand out as being superior. We washed this down with the most lovely red wine we have tasted (again was just 4 euros!) and i thought i hated red wine!! its from the Salento (Primitivo 100x100 Taurosso) and was very light and floral and just yummy really!
After a wonderful night's sleep as it really is very quiet up here, with only little birds and the very occassion odd "toot" in the distance we enjoyed yet more ham with bread (almost sweet tasting here...) and marvellous fresh Italian coffee made on the hob (can't remember the thing's name, but you know the silver flute style coffee maker that just screams that's its italian and for proper coffee!). Even just opening the coffee contained we were blown away with the delicious aroma......We then decided to venture out to one of our furthest planned trips- Santa Maria al Bagna near Gallipoli. We wanted to get one of the long trips out the way and get familiar with distances etc etc. About an hour and a half drive, with just one major mishap- wrong turn through Galatone, which seemed liked a lively town we reached the pretty spot by the sea. It was so very busy already despite only being May! maybe it being a Sunday meant everyone came down the little beach. The water looked very clean and a gorgeous turquoise blue- we were surprised the Italians were in the sea as it was cooler than we expected and so thought for them it would have been way too cold- but no the families seemed to be enjoying to sun,sea and sand already. For lunch we had booked (and glad we did book as it was full, with a big party having booked the whole interior)
We had a lovely table out on the terrace overlooking the sea and a very helpful English speaking man welcome us. Now let the Puglian food fest really start.......
For "starters" (looking around the tables, there doesn't seem to be a clear starters and main format, its just food that you can order any way you like, we saw one table have a platter of seafood followed by pasta and another have the exact reverse ordered items). I had a wonderfully succulent prawns ("cooked on the fire") in a creamy truffle oil infused sauce-hmmmm excellent, the prawns were cooked to perfection (are these 'prawns" i hear myself ask, they seem to have a different texture-the texture of being cooked right i tell myself!) and the truffle was a lovely touch. My partner's muscles were the freshest and tastiest we have had in as long as we can remember. So so yummy, with parsley and white wine (i thought we should be more adventurous but seriously glad we went for these so so flavoursome, it was like the tastiness of salt but without the saltiness of salt- if that makes any sense at all!! We also got plenty of fresh bread which mopped up the sauces...
Next..time to sample some pasta cooked by the Italians!- i had a wonderful tomato based home made pasta with a twist (i forget the name but like long thin penne that has been twisted in the middle) with a lovely meaty fish chunks throughout (again so sorry i forget which fish- it was a dish called macronchini or something similar!!). It was perfectly al dente and tasty without being too heavy and was very very nice. My partner had a gnocchi- very large basil green gnocci which tasted of pesto even though it was not pesto as we know it but just seemed like it as all the ingredients of pesto seemed to feature with such intensity so i thought of it as being the meal pesto tries to mimic This too was yummy but very very filling!! we wanted to order more as we saw loads of wonderful seafood on the surrounding tables (boy the Italians can eat, the couple next to us had course after course after course!!) but we were absolutely stuffed. (On the way back we even had to stop mid road as my partner needed a breather after all the food being so filling!!). We finished off with the the one caffe (expresso- apparently u do not have cappucinos after breakfast in Italy or it's a big clue you are a tourist!). The kind waiter also offered us a lemonchello/lemon sorbet which we unfortunately had to decline (driving/full!) The restaurant was very nice, with a lovely setting and great food and one we would reccommend. The coated squid we kept on seeing (not skinny onion ring style but rather wide very lightly coated golden pieces) must be good as everyone seemed to order it and it seemed we were the only non-italians/locals there). We also saw a lovely looking fish cappaccio and a family of 6 all order a greta looking vongole...slurping away at it in silence-it must be good!! Total 53 euro- not bad! - this was one of our more expensive planned options so were pleasantly surprised, although if you wanted to stretch your purse strings some of the seafood could have you tempted!!
Now, seem as we've had pasta, the evening was screaming out for pizza.....we were told that I'l Tronco just of a tiny slip road near the villa served the best pizza in the area puglian style (thin and crispy!) so we gave it a go. We were warned that dinner is from 8pm and even then thats considered early...but excited an ridiculously too keen for pizza that we turned up at seven.....hmm we should have listened!! 8pm it was as the whole place was deserted and chefs were arriving at 8. Quick drive a long the coast, past yet more olive trees, caught a glimpse of Monopoli edging it's way out from the coast (tomorrow's visit!) even came across a mini fun fair with your british style burger vans (they have burger vans in Itlay!!-shock horror) and back again (7.50pm but we were too keen to wait much longer!!). Suddenly it has livened up, there were even people inside ordering. We were ushered to squeeze up to the car in front (oh dear how will we ever get out of this space!!) and then it was decision time....130 pizzas, a whole list of those with tomato and cheese, a whole list of those with just cheese, a whole list of those with neither tomato or cheese (hmm).....we were typical brits and picked both with the cheese and tomato base. We watched them being made (interestingly no tossing, just rolling.....have faith we told ourselves) and in and out of the oven literally in 4 minutes!, in which time we had been given a nice little appertizer of foccacia which oozed with peppery olive oil and was perfectly fluffy!! Yum! We had planned to do take out as we had some of that wonderful red wine left so we rushed to the car with our steaming pizzas.........drove home and quick as was legal via the trulli tiny bends (trulli suroounding tightly either side- we were back in Harry Potter again!) and then enjoyed the most delightful thin and crispy proper Italian style pizzas......the mushrooms while fresh had the gorgeous flavour you only get from the dried and soacked stuff an home (c'mon no fresh mushrooms in UK actually taste of much), the gorgonzola.....hmm wow so full flavoured and the most yummy salami piccante with the perfect amount of silky mozarella base and thin layer of t pomodoro. We literally ate this "hmm"ing al the way through. We decided we had to go and eat in at least once while we were here......
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Trulli Foodie Puglia-two weeks to eat through!!!
EXTREMELY LONG POST.......