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Montefollonico's Liquid Gold
ALiquid Gold, AKA Extra Virgin Olive Oil, is the treasure produced from those lovely trees that blanket the hills surrounding Montefollonico. This region's oil is particularly prized by chefs world-wide for its fresh, grassy flavor.

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Olive cultivation began here during the pre-Roman-Etruscan times and took hold during the Renaissance when the ruling Medicis offered farmers free land if they planted grapes and olives. Today local farmers still practice age old traditions. They harvest grapes by hand and pay those who show up to help with liters of olive oil. Maintaining the groves is intense work year round, and Montefollonico farmers have persevered through all kinds of hardships, including winter freezes, the most recent in 1985, which wiped out two-thirds of the region's trees.

We began this year's harvest in mid-November and it took about two weeks. We had our olives pressed at a nearby frantoio (olive mill), operated by our friends, the Bindi family.  The Bindis have operated their businesses in Montisi since 1633.  Now we are enjoying the olio nuovo (new oil) that came from the first pressing of these freshly picked olives.  As with all superior new olive oil, ours has a slight peppery bite in the back of one's mouth when first tasted.  This light peppery taste will be evident in the oil for several months.
 
Though the harvest is over, the farmers are still at work. You'll see them back in the groves with their saws and clippers. They're doing the all important job of tree pruning-making room for new growth, new beginnings.

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As we approach our New Year, we're doing our own versions of pruning. We're leaving behind what we don't need so we can welcome in the new. As we do, let's take a cue from those farmers in the olive groves. They're constantly out there, focusing on what needs to be done in the moment, weathering obstacles that come at them-be it a sudden storm or invasion of insects. They don't give up. They do their best, with patience and faith. In the end, their efforts bear liquid gold.
For Food Lovers!
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For lovers of Italian food, we offer a unique hands-on opportunity to participate in small groups as Tuscan women cook. The local women of Tuscany will share their techniques, special ingredients, and family recipes. Our cooking classes in Italy are ideal for cooks at all experience levels. And you'll join them a tavola to enjoy what you've prepared.


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January 2010. Tuscan Women Cook, LLC
Greetings!

We recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of our cooking program in Tuscany.  Most of our past guests, and many prospective new guests, have asked us to stay in touch and keep them updated about Tuscan Women Cook.

So, welcome to our very first newsletter designed to give you a better insight about Tuscan Women Cook plus, hopefully, entice you to join us in Tuscany one day in the future.

We will be sending you additional newsletters from time to time on a somewhat irregular basis.  That's how things get done in Italy-what can we say?
 
We Are Moving!

BOne of Italy's Most Beloved Luxury Properties Becomes the New Home Base for Tuscan Women Cook

We're happy to begin the 2010 Tuscan Women Cook season with great news:  The new home base for lodging our Tuscan Women Cook guests will be La Chiusa, an elegantly restored farmhouse and olive oil mill. La Chiusa's luxurious accommodations and award-winning restaurant have been critically acclaimed for decades, and travelers from all over the world come to Montefollonico just to stay in this enchanting place.

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We came to La Chiusa for the first time in the late 1980s and were instantly mesmerized by its beauty.  We returned here several times each year, each time enjoying it more than the time before.  Our decision to buy our own home nearby in 1998 was influenced strongly from our fabulous time spent there. La Chiusa is truly a step up for the pleasure of our guests.

The property is ideally situated for glorious views of the Chiana Valley: rolling hills covered with olive trees and vineyards, and the ivory-colored hilltop town of Montepulciano in the distance. You can have breakfast on the terrace, enjoying bread that's been freshly baked in La Chiusa's wood-burning oven, slathered with jam made from the property's fig trees. A breeze may blow through, carrying with it the scent of lavender from the herb garden. In the evenings, the sunsets over La Chiusa's panorama will dazzle you. Here is a country retreat that calms, inspires, and lifts your spirits.

La Chiusa was created in the 1970s, way before the Tuscan tourist boon, by an enterprising couple, Umberto Lucherini and Dania Masotti. Their vision was to turn the old buildings into a luxury getaway, retaining the rustic simplicity of the place, always honoring the landscape, and keeping true to Tuscan traditions. They have beautifully succeeded. Today, you'll find every part of La Chiusa tastefully decorated with Tuscan antiques, and every taste of it paying homage to the rich farmlands which surround it.

Each of the 15 rooms is unique, featuring architectural elements from the original structure-exposed brick walls, millstones from the olive press, wood-beamed ceilings, and fireplaces. That's not to say that you won't also feel very pampered here: rooms have deep soaking tubs, many with Jacuzzis.

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The restaurant presents an airy, gracious setting, with white-table-clothed-draped tables adorned with wildflowers. Dania Masotti is the shining star here, a recipient of a Michelin star for her cooking. She'll be one of your cooking teachers and is also a most memorable hostess. Don't be surprised to find her dressed in Prada head-to-toe, exuding the beauty and air of an Italian movie starlet, as she sips prosecco while stirring tomato sauce in her country kitchen.

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Using produce from La Chiusa's gardens and orchards, along with food from local producers, Dania cooks Montefollonico's classic peasant dishes in elegant renditions that don't lose any of their soulful quality in the process. Most outstanding is her homemade paparadelle with ragu - silky pasta with a perfectly balanced tomato sauce. Guests enjoy the restaurant's old world style. Sorbets are served between courses. Mini ottomans are placed next to women's chairs, so they have a place to perch their purses. The wine cellar offerings range from top local picks (Vino Nobile, Brunello di Montalcino), to world renowned vintages. 
    
Everyone you meet at La Chiusa, beginning with Dania and Umberto, warmly welcomes you into the family, delivering superior custom service. Not surprisingly, this place has many return visitors. Simply put: It's heaven on earth, Tuscan style.
100 Places in Italy Every Women Should Go
C Tuscan Women Cook a Featured Cooking Program!

A wonderful new travel book came out this past November: 100 Places In Italy Every Woman Should Go. One of the 100 places, in the book's "Go To Cooking Classes" Section, is Tuscan Women Cook. Author Susan Van Allen describes it as "A week long program that winds up fulfilling every aspect of a traveler's Under the Tuscan Sun fantasy."

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Van Allen was enrolled in our program many years ago and enjoyed it so much, she's come back a couple of times since. All through the book, she reveals a philosophy that inspires travelers to go deeper into exploring Italy, wherever the spirit takes you.

Even if we weren't mentioned, we'd be singing the praises of 100 Places In Italy Every Woman Should Go. It's one of the most innovative and informative Italian guides out there. Author Van Allen, an Italian American who's been traveling to Italy since 1976, makes you feel as though you have a savvy, fun-loving friend by your side, guiding you to choice spots-whether it's the Roman palace where Audrey Hepburn lived in Roman Holiday, the best shop for leather in Florence, or a statue in Naples that glorifies womanly curves. She ingeniously combines her sights with perfect restaurant recommendations to create what she calls "Golden Days"-those vacation times that shine on for a lifetime.

Frances Mayes (author of Under The Tuscan Sun) who lives in nearby Cortona, had this to say about 100 Places In Italy Every Woman Should Go: "Makes me want to pack my bag and follow Van Allen's alluring suggestions...she reveals an intimacy with Italy and a honed sense of adventure. Andiamo!"
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We love what we do, and we love having so many wonderful guests join us each year in Tuscany.  Hopefully, you will come (or come back) to be with us again soon. 
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Sincerely,
 
Bill & Patty Sutherland
Tuscan Women Cook, LLC
www.tuscanwomencook.com



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