Last night a good friend here in Florence invited us to her home for dinner. We were all looking forward to the evening together..the food is wonderful and the conversation is often wide and deep and always interesting.
Last night was no exception. She introduced me to fava beans, a vegetable that I see in the market all the time but have never been sure exactly what it is or how to serve it. I assumed they were eaten by everyone else because there are baskets piled high with these beans in the market. This time of year when the beans are newly harvested at their peak they are best eaten raw, like we used to eat peas out of the pod straight from the garden. With them we had some young pecorino cheese and some salami and a nice sparkling rose wine.
Our first dish was actually three different dishes. First ravioli stuffed with pear and pecorino cheese with a truffle butter sauce that was truly beautiful. Second was a typical ricotta and spinach ravioli with a tomato and basil sauce. Also very, very good. Finally we had another ravioli this time stuffed with fish and seafood with a light fish sauce. I could have stopped there and been satisfied, but there was more.
Out of the oven came a beautiful Filet Mignon roast wrapped in prosciutto and pancetta with red peppercorns. It melted on my tongue. The salt from the prosciutto, the sweet from the pancetta and the bite of the red pepper danced around my mouth. Just when you think something can't get better, it does. Following each bite with a bit of Barbera wine was heavenly.
But wait, we weren't finished yet. There is still the cafe and dolce. Coffee with just a dash of grappa (who doesn't want to finish a great meal with an espresso and a shot?) to go with the traditional Italian Easter cake called a Colomba. It's a dove-shaped cake made from egg whites and sugar and candied orange peels, covered in more sugar and almonds. Every grocery store in the country has had a pile of these boxed cakes that reaches the ceiling for several weeks now. By tomorrow they'll all be gone.
Four hours after we started dinner we finally finished. We had eaten everything on the table and talked about ourselves and our friends and the state of the world. This, my friends, is part of what I love about living here. For many people here, this is an every day occurrence. At this point in my life, this is something I enjoy.
On our way home we walked by the Duomo because it is an icon of the city and to see it at night is a very different experience from the daylight. At midnight all the bells in the city rang for the first time since Good Friday. Easter day had arrived and every church in town rang their bells in celebration.