It’s only when there is a legend that things can become legendary.
But after all, gluttony is not a sin… but a talent!
Possibly one of the finest tastings I had inhaled off late, it was omenic simply given the name of this Michelin Star perched up on a pretty hill in the picturesque Florence, a scenic route away from Ponte Vecchio‘s iconic sunset: La Leggenda Dei Frati, aka Legend of the Friars.
The legend itself has it that in Abbadia Isola, a village from Siena in Tuscany, three friars gathered the best of foods and drinks, had quite the wild night of whimsy, and as a result were locked into the tower of the Abbey, where they continued for days. Their echoes and ghostly shadows can still be heard every July 11, but rather than being a spooky tale, this one evokes joy. The restaurant is in Villa Bardini‘s garden, a former home of Stefano Bardini. And the elegant travels took us through a magical trip that allowed an intimate exploration of Chef Filippo Saporito‘s epic vision. It started with a voyage of the garden, where the chefs grew a plethora of their own herbs and vegetables. From pink peppercorns to mints to an aromatic and beautiful foliage of hand picked leaves, it was truly a pleasure to better understand the dedication to fresh taste that constituted the legend from Chef Erez Ohayon.
The favorite part of this meal was a personalized class by Chef Filippo Saporito on pasta making! Putting my limited cooking skills to test, we made noodle pasta from scratch in small batches, which the chef whipped up in al dente in a flash, blending it with rosemary and Greek basil pesto with a glass of sparkling wine and sparkling water which was local to the region. With a sense of fulfilled pride of having actually attempted to make pasta in the heart of Tuscany, we felt part of the chef’s own family in a cozy school styled kitchen.
The scene moved into the Michelin styled restaurant, complete with valiant artwork, glass figurines on every table and seductively dim light at each table for a multi-course tasting menu.
The bread selection, owing to the fact that we were in Italy, were a trip to heaven and back. From the elongated breadsticks to the sweet and sour breads of poppy and black sesame and the 7-cereal homemade focaccia, all with homemade butter, it was a cozy start to an epic meal.
The duality of crackers with breads was a trait that continued from the west, only with apt flavor and impeccable portions. Dulce seaweed with wasabi rice crackers were doused with just the right amount of pepper for an aromatic finish to a crackly, spice.
A simple but effectively pretty and leafily textured salad comprised of basil, coriander, peppercorns and light seasoning, which was an extension of the freshness we had observed in the magical garden trip earlier.
A more cheese and yoghurt focused salad had a central white kaffir yoghurt base surrounded by foliage of leaves, cucumber caviar (a gastronomical feat as it retained that fibrous flavor!) and dil. A tasty, creamy bite when scooped up in one spoonful.
It was about time that the epicurean egg yolk got it’s due as the star of a dish, once again. And how! With snap peas, fresh peas and albium snow. I quite liked the saltiness of the cheese with the runny-ness of the yolks that married well with the fresh and raw textures of the vegetables for a hearty, complete bite.
Never an Italian meal without fresh pesto! With aged goat cheese, tarragon pesto and delightfully crunchy almonds chopped in generously large pieces, this was a hearty bite with a union of classic flavors in a modernist presentation.
Making the much ambivalent onion the star of a dish was a testament to the bravery and bravado of the chef. With a large, whole cooked purple onion, dil sauce and a massive puddle of creme of cheese, this was a fun take on bringing a much disguised vegetable to the forefront. The taste was absolutely magical: the onion was almost sweet and tender, with a crunch from the dil and an aromatic, warm hug from the gooey, creamy cheese. Truly a transportive meal that almost made us leap like the friars!
After the hearty savory bites, we needed a palette cleanser which arrived in the form of passion fruit juice and pineapple foam – my favorite combination of citrusy fruits. With a glowing golden hue, it was a wake up call and a refresher all in one.
The main dessert was a gastronomical piece of art on a plate, with a dramatic red splash that was an awakening of all the senses. The rhubarb and berry combination was a flavorful dose of fresh fruit, offset well with the sweet coconut foam and the rhubarb gelee. Almost like a twist on a simple childhood pleasure, it ate like an adult treat.
The supplements that closed the meal and the entourage of wine pairings (the Castello di Fosini Pinot Nero and Cinciano Bianco Toscana) comprised of a buttery and delicious almond biscotti, a cacao covered indulgent dark chocolate truffle, a gelatinous marshmallow and a petite tartlette of chocolate that ate like a kids meal.
As this was a spot that was a former home and a legend all in one, we took a quick, wine infused tour to the moonlit rooftop, which was truly the icing on the cake. With a full moon that overlooked the Arno River and the entire glittering skyline of Florence, I was literally a step closer to heaven in my favorite Italian city… and now my favorite culinary city of the Mediterranean.