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Exploring and Eating Off the Beaten Path

Author: Beth Elon

Just when we thought we knew everything there was to know about Tuscany, along comes Beth Elon – cookbook writer and 30 year resident of a small village at the foot of the Appenines – who takes us along the back roads and through the ancient hill towns to remote restaurants that are for the most part overlooked by tourists and known only to the locals. At each restaurant the cooks share their highly personal recipes for regional dishes made with local ingredients.

With this guide in hand, you’ll not only know where to dine, but what to order when you get there. Each regional section begins with illuminating and absorbing explanations of what makes Tuscan cooking so unique: location, location, location. You’ll read about a bean so beloved by a village that it’s been elevated to cult status–but that is totally unheard of a few kilometers down the road; the specialty of the Zeri Valley, a milk-fed aboriginal baby lamb, that is almost unknown elsewhere in Italy; the endless array of vegetable tarts found only in Lunigiana and Garfagnana.

Elon has organized ten itineraries that include stops at gourmet shops, food festivals, greenmarkets, and private kitchens. Along the way, she points out significant architecture, historic sites, churches, art, museums, and points of interest in the memorable landscape. The indispensable travel information in this guide is enriched by the author’s deep personal knowledge of the history and legend of the region.

Included here are descriptions and contact information for restaurants, trattorie, gourmet shops, wineries, olive oil producers, local markets, and regional food festivals, and how to find the monasteries, workshops, and artisans' studios that offer local items ranging from herbal beauty products to traditional ceramics and hand-woven linens.

From Booklist
This travel guide and cookbook charts a fresh path. Elon has little interest in the well--documented, popular sites of Tuscany. Florence and Siena attract her not at all. Out-of-the-way villages nestled in valleys or atop hilly crags summon her, and the unusual culinary specialties of these places really make her prose flow. Elon's taste buds lead her from one small-town restaurant to another. There she finds traditional dishes, whose recipes she records. Exploded Beans, garlic and herbs flavoring beans whose skins have burst open in the oven, offers an unusual side dish. Farro, an ancient grain undergoing a modern revival, appears in risotti and soups and in combination with other ingredients. Hot-pepper marmalade pairs with local sheep's-milk cheeses. Rabbit and simple poultry dishes abound. Onions and polenta bake together to form a large tart for a first course. Many dishes will appeal to vegetarians looking for new tastes. Elon's meticulous documentation of restaurant hours and locations makes this an especially practical guide for anyone driving through Tuscany. Mark Knoblauch
© American Library Association.
$24.95 (hardcover)
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