La Petraia is another place that caught our attention immediately when researching Tuscany. La Petraia is an Agriturismo located in Radda in Chianti. An Agriturismo is an Italian country inn on a working farm. La Petraia differentiates itself from the thousands of Agriturismo around Tuscany, and Italy, by means that can be summed up in 2 words - quality and sustainability.
Petraia begins and ends with the land itself. The owners, Susan and Michael, don't view themselves as owners of the property, but as the lands current custodians. The property has been inhabited for over 2,500 years.
The great Pesa river begins it's life at Petraia and so they are blessed with natural spring water year round. An environmental study was commissioned, and in their planting they have taken great care not to disturb the native flora & fauna that call this place home. Over their 55 acres of forest it is rich with wildlife - wild boar, hare, deer, muflon, pheasant, foxes, wolves and countless other species. All the vegetables, meat, fruit and honey are produced on site, and grape vines & olive trees have been planted for producing wine, vinegar and olive oils. Animals are being raised at Petraia like the Cinta Senese pig and Val'Darno chicken, rare Tuscan breeds that teeter on the brink of extinction. In 2006 they also embarked on a project with the province of Siena to grow several varieties of heirloom fruit trees, once indigenous to the area, but now almost extinct.
And all of this passion and love for the land and everything it has to offer, we had summed up in one delightful Autumn lunch at Petraia.
We arrived quite early. It's a fair drive up a dirt road, but you are then greeted with the large stone gates, in which we are immediately buzzed into this little paradise.
As we drive in, the scent of fresh lavender is mesmerizing .... all the hedges have been tied into bunches.
We see 2 men coming by and slicing them off at the base, the bunches then carried up the hill into a little stone hut.
Perched up on the top of the Tuscan hills, looking down over all the native tree's, fields of olives, vineyards and animals, it's a quite surreal moment ... it's as if we've had a glimpse into heaven. We both pinch ourselves before turning around and walking up to the entrance. We are greeted by one of the farms dogs, who just wanders towards us ... with a rubber chicken in his mouth! So cute.
We are quite early, but head on into the dining room. It's such an intimate dining room, today set with only 6 settings.
We're quick to jump at the opportunity of aperitif on the balcony. After we are seated, we are presented with a Apperitiveo Della Casa, which is prosecco with a Petraia blackberry perfume. Then 2 little ramekins, filled with fresh baked crackers. The first, a crumbly seeded version, that has surprises throughout - poppy, caraway, pepper. The second, a parmesan cracker - parmesan and sesame smeared into paper thin wafer. An intense flavor that just melted in the mouth.
Next we are graced with a few fried sage leaves. The quality and preparation elevated this dish to something out of this world. We found out this particular variety of sage is bred just for frying. The batter, thin and crisp, all served on a little slab of slate.
We're still being treated to tasty morsels on the balcony, the next to arrive little pieces of fried mushrooms, that one of the chef's foraged for in the forest that morning, and 2 perfect little cubes of pigs head cheese.
It's as though even if the lunch finished now, we both would have been more than content. But it's only just begun ... we are lead through the back door, and through the kitchen, before being seated at our table.
House wines were included with the lunch menu. We start with the house white, which is poured from the bottle, which we manage to finish only half way into our meal. Then the amuse arrives. It's a squash flan with parmesan fondue. Each mouthful fills the mouth with excitement, so much intensity packed into each little bite.
Susan's fresh baked bread arrives just in time to mop up any of the parmesan fondue that sits left in the plate.
The next course is simply detailed as Serra & Selva on the menu. This translates to 'Greenhouse & Forest' so everything on our plate has come from either one of those. There are steamed potatoes, roasted pepper, mashed carrot, cucumber slices, wedges of cabbage, little pomegranite pearls, baby silverbeet and an assortment of herbs, leaves and flowers. Drizzled with house vinegar and oil, each crisp bite was so fresh and invigorating.
Prosciutto di Cinta con Fichi - farm raised Cinta Senese proscuitto with fresh figs, arrives on a slab of wood, and is just that. Farm raised local Tuscan pig prosciutto, that is so sweet & salty at the same time & plump, fresh, green figs, that just explode with each bite.
Tortelli di Zucca con Burro & Salvia - squash tortellini with butter and sage. Another fine example of simplicity in all it's glory. Beautifully made pasta, filled with sweet autumn squash topped with fine Italian brown butter and garden picked sage.
Gnocchi di Ricotta co Erba Cipollina - ricotta gnocchi with chive oil. Or perhaps this here was the finest example of quality execution ... Little pillows of soft ricotta gnocchi were coated in a rich chive oil, and all encased in a parmesan hay. Delightful!
A little sorbet with lemon and melissa herb cleanse the palate ... although I could have sat for days with those flavors.
Prosciutto di Capriolo, Estro Dell' Orto - grilled venison prosciutto with a medley of fresh vegetables from the garden. As well as fresh vegetables, there was a house-made wild boar sausage, a creamy mash and Tuscan white beans that we are told cost, if you are lucky enough to be able to buy them, around 60euro a kg. Wow! The venison and sausage have a lovely charcoal aroma, and are cooked to perfection.
The vegetables on the side are some satueed chard and roast squash,
as well as beetroots sliced with olive oil and borage flowers.
A glass of sweet wine wets the appetite for dessert ....
Semifreddo al Panpepato Cioccolato Amarillo di Siloe - panpepato semifreddo hot chocolate with panforte. Each bite is rich and succulent ...
A glass of walnut liqueur arrives at the table in perfect time. The flavor combination with all that chocolate, divine!
Some coffee and petit fors to finish off, and it's a surprise we even made it out of our chairs.
But we did ... and got a tour around the property. We first are lucky enough to go out into the kitchen, which is pristine.
Before heading outside. We walk past the little outisde woodfired stove, which is where our venison and boar sausage were cooked.
While walking through the vegetable garden, we notice the 3 varieties of sage.
Before heading on further down to meet all the animals.
Oh, Cinta Senese piggy, may we bask in your beauty again.
You can stay at La Petraia, partake in various cooking classes, foraging classes or tastings, or simply pop by for lunch or dinner. Full details can be found on their website.
53017 Radda in Chianti (SI) Italy
T: +39 0577 738 582