Thursday, August 15, 2013

Il Tiglio deserves a Michelin star!! Great dining experience on the flanks of the Sibillini mountains.

15 , agosto, 2013
Just passed into my 57th year in grand style at a fantastic restaurant near Montemonaco in the Sibillini mountains.  It is called Il Tiglio and has a masterful chef, Enrico Mazzaroni, who has trained with the best Parisian chefs and has brought the best of French cooking and married it with the wonderful fresh ingredients from our Appenine mountains, like white and black truffles, new potatoes, and other fresh produce and meats cured in house.  I always have said, for everyday eating, italian food can't be beat for freshness, simple goodness etc., but if you tell me I am going to die tomorrow, I am off to the best french restaurant I can find.  Now I have found Enrico who does this marvelous mix of the two and tops off the great kitchen work with a marvelous wait staff and a room captain/sommelier who has put together the most impressive wine list I have seen in our region, full of nice choices from our province, our region, most other regions of Italy and international entries.  Because it was my birthday and I talked with Enrico before coming, he was nice enough to let me bring in one of our Cabernet Sauvignon wines from 2010 and I shared a glass with him and the sommelier, who is a big fan of C.S. and hopefully now will search us out and be enthused enough to add PS Winery to their list.  Here is their link for more information -
I started out with a  white truffle appetizer covered with a candy shell, which just exploded with flavor when I bit into it and had a wonderful persistence afterwards and I told the waiter I just wanted 20 of those and I would be in paradise, no need for the full menu (they wouldn't let me).  It was nested in a plate with big stones and blended in, so be sure and pick the right one to put in your mouth.  Sorry, no photo, I was too avaricious.
And now....the photos of the other plates:
Our C.S. showing itself off on an elegant table

Carrots with curry sauce with a foam of anchovy 

Carpaccio with strawberries and roasted red pepper and a poached cherry tomato

Il tiglio salad with house made cured lonzino, fresh greens from the garden and a parsley sauce

Smoked potato pure , under the sponge is a wonderful  elk"meatball" and upper left, truffled caviar

egg, rice cracker and stuff I have forgotten, sorry haha

fois gras with blackberry sorbet

new potato with a "rock" shell, goat cheese base and olive sauce

I call this one fois gras Pac man accompanied by a locally produced soda, INCREDIBLE!

Home made pasta with rabbit and a jelly made of red wine

Perfectly cooked pigeon and fois gras and reduction sauce

Reeses peanut butter cup:  peanut butter, then milk chocolate, then dark chocolate spread out on oven safe paper placed on the table, topped with whipped cream and frozen with liquid nitrogen.  Great way to top off a great meal!

Forgot, one more think a wonderful home made crispy doughnut on a tree branch and the "nut" on the "ground" is a beautifully made chocolate truffle.
The most amazing thing about the menu is the price, just 45 euros for this masterpiece, with a smaller menu for 33 or a vegetarian menu for about that price as well.  Did I say they had a great wine list?!  This meal at a starred restaurant in Florence would run you 360 euros for the food alone.  After the 2nd plate, I was already thinking about when I could come back!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

7 peaks over 2,000 meters in 5 hours, 2 cars, 2 hikers and a dog

3 Agosto
The first part of this hike, from forca di Presta to Pizzo di Diavolo has alway been one of my favorites.  The views are incredible and the people are sparse.  I have written before about choosing your hikes in the Sibillinis, and for those of you who want to check off the tallest peak in Le Marche, you can start from either this trail's beginning or its end.  Obviously if you do the latter, you will do this hike in reverse and end up doing 8 summits over 2,000 meters and you are tougher than me, probably.
We started this hike at 0835 from forca di Presta above Arquata del Tronto to the southeast and Castelluccio to the northwest.  At 1600 meters rounded off, you have only 800 meters of altitude gain to reach these summits (not counting the saddle descents and re-ascents of the subsequent  peaks which are not difficult).   Head on up to the little rifugio Zilioli and take a left.
Heading up, sometimes seems like straight up, from forca di Presta to Prato Pulito, that point on just to the right of center photo.

A puppy left at the refuge or escaped from one of the local shepherds was thirsty and hungry, so he got a bit of Bacco's ration of water and dog biscuits.

The top of Prato Pulito on the left and Cima del Lago distant right
This picture from my hiking buddy, Sven and his panoramic capable iphone shows Prato Pulito to the right, Cima del Lago to the left and then continuing right from Cima, Redentore and Pizzo di Diavolo which are your next stops.  For us, it was 1 hour and 15 minutes to the refuge from forca di Presta, and to include pizzo di Diavolo and a return to Redentore (it's a dead end) figure another hour and a half.
One of the best things about this hike are the views of lago di Pilato below, which you can't see from Vettore unless you add a leg to that hike.

You can also see the marvelous Piano Grande of Castelluccio from all along the crest

Looking back from Mt. Redentore, you see my friend Sven walking on the edge
The 20 or so roundtrip hike from Redentore to Pizzo di Diavolo is one of the few "hairy" hikes I have done in the Sibillini mountains. It gets pretty narrow along here with a steep drop on both sides, but is well worth it for the views from this mountain "peninsula"

Looking towards Mt. Sibilla from Pizzo

The view of the Sella (saddle) delle Ciaule where you see the trail leading down from the flank of Vettore to either the scenic overlook of Lago di Pilato or the descent to the lake.  In the distance you see all the way to Gran Sasso, tallest mountain in southern Italy

This photo shows the last 2 named peaks Bacco and I had not done over 2,000 meters.... but, we are on our way!

Love this panorama with Bacco and I atop Pizzo di Diavolo, Vettore just slightly to its right then far right you see Cima del Lago
Mt. Osservatorio, you just walk along this crest down from Redentore to forca Viola and you finish up all those hidden, unknown 2,000 meter peaks

Bacco  along the crest looking towards Mt. Sibilla

Bacco atop Quarto San Lorenzo

Finishing the last supra-2,000 meter peak in Le Marche. Bacco and I, as far as we know, have now done them all.

This is the last un named mountain (Mt. Bacco?) over 2,000 meters looking down into the valley where you find the town of Foce and lots of scouts camping right now.

No trail down from Mt. Bacco (haha), just a steep descent.

Looking back at where we have been with Mt Bacco, Quarto San Lorenzo, Osservatorio, Redentore all visible from the last part of this trail which involves a 3 km walk along a road to return to Castelluccio where we left the 2nd car.

You can still see some blooming in the valley even on 2 agosto.
The total hike with Pizzo thrown in took 5 hours and 5 minutes for the 3 of us, who move along pretty steadily (quickly) and it clocks in at probably around 14 km or just about 8.5 miles.  If you have just one car, I would do the hike out to Pizzo and return, it is one of my favorites!
I will leave you with a photo of Castelluccio from our descent, always a very photogenic spot from any angle.