How it Started

When I was 12, I found a blank ledger book. It was a treasure beyond treasure to me. I debated and debated about what to do with it - it had to be something special. Finally I decided to make a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see in my life and then cross them off when I had accomplished them. At first they were simple things, but soon I was adding dramatic things, impossible things, but things still worth dreaming about. Oddly enough, putting them on the list somehow made them attainable. I have kept the book and updated the list my entire life. Here is the story behind some of the entries - successes and failures, embarrassing and proud moments, laughter and tears - the ridiculous to the sublime!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fancy Dinner with Wine Pairings - DID IT

We were on a mission to find my grandmother's village deep in the hill country of the Appenine Mountains in Central Italy.  We just needed a place to spend the night, and Perbacco in the village of Sant'Angelo Limosano, population 400, was the only one mentioned on the internet.  We booked it, expecting a simple bed and, hopefully, a simple meal somewhere in town, but what we found in this ancient village was a meal like no meal we have eaten before or since.

The albergo (Italian for small hotel) has only 5 rooms in the top floors of a 400-year-old barn.  The original stable area is now a restaurant with optimistic seating for 30.  You will need a GPS, a smattering of Italian and lots of patience to find the place, fortunately, we had all three.  The hotel's restaurant was closed to the public the night we were there as the owner was hosting a private party, but he quickly added us to the invite list.
Twenty-plus partiers, all members of a wine-tasting class conducted over the last three months gathered to celebrate the completion of their studies.  They were restaurant owners, celebrated chefs, magazine food and wine writers, and newspaper restaurant reviewers - and they traveled from as far away as Naples, Campobasso, Pescara, Termoli, and Rome to celebrate their new-found knowledge of wine with a fabulous dinner and, what else, more wine!
 The evening started with tiny handmade crackers hot from the oven with a bubbly Prosecco-style apperatif. Dinner started at 8:00 with an antipasto plate followed by two separate appetizer plates, each with a different wine, of course.  Next the Primo Piatto (first - or pasta - course), a creamy pasta dish paired with a mild rose'.  Rich reds followed for the Secondo Piatto (second - or main - course)- thin strips of tenderloin in a rich, beefy/onion wine sauce nestled next to a shell formed from a paper-thin slice of bread and accompanied by potato strips that may look like "french fries" but put the term to shame.
Dessert followed with sweet port-style wine, then our pallet was cleansed with another sparkling wine... the kicker to all of this was that those pouring the wine spoke very little English and we didn't speak enough Italian to understand a thing about what we were drinking.  Those pouring did understand that we liked it, so they kept it coming. It was a happy relationship!  Our "Tasting" sample glasses were refilled over and over.  Wine far outside my normal price range (most were in the $100+ price range) was flowing like water, and no one at our table could say no, it was just too delicious.  The party was still going strong when we struggled off to bed after midnight.

The next morning as we attempted to pay our bill, our host scratched his head with uncertainty.  We hadn't actually been restaurant patrons, we didn't peruse a menu and select our meal - we had been party guests.  He apologetically charged us 25 Euro.

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