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If you flip open 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, you'll find Tuscan Women Cook was chosen to be in the book's Go To Cooking Classes section. Italian-American author Susan Van Allen came to our class in 2003, fell in love with our cooks and the program, and has been back to enjoy our area more over the years. Her book has been praised by both male and female readers, who enjoy being guided by this fun loving, savvy writer, whose passion for all things Italian inspires many to pack their bags and head on over here.
Buon Ricordo Plates



CTwo of Italy's finest arts-cooking and ceramics-are wonderfully combined in the tradition of Buon Ricordo plates. You'll find them in selected restaurants all over Italy, where, if you order the chef's special, you'll receive a plate that's uniquely designed, with a whimsical painting to symbolize the meal and location, so you can take home a Buon Ricordo (Good Memory) of your experience. Over our decades in Italy, we've collected over 100 Buon Ricordo plates--some from restaurants, some from the Milan Flea Market, where we got to know an old signor who set up shop near the Navigli bridge and always had a good supply of these treasures. One of our favorites is from Genoa's Osteria dei Bai, that's designed with fish floating inside a giant ravioli, to commemorate the osteria's Ravioli con Pesce specialty.


The plate tradition began when the Unione dei Ristoranti Buon Ricordo set up a non-profit association in 1964, to promote the value of Italian regional cuisine. All Buon Ricordo restaurants go through rigorous testing and monitoring to ensure that they uphold local traditions, serve high quality food, and are welcoming to diners. Now there's over 120 Buon Ricordo restaurants, and they've expanded to Japan, Hong Kong, and other European countries-ranging from family run trattorias to high-end restaurants. We like the Italian plates best. They're made by the Amalfi Coast based Ceramica Artistica Solimene company, famous for its superior work, so they never break, and even if they get a chip, it just adds to their character.


Memories are born with each dish - eating the Risotto with pumpkin at Ristorante Nizzoli, the Lombata di Manzo (beef with an aged balsamic sauce) in Modena and the Stracotto with Polenta at the beautiful Albergo del Sole in Maleo over 15 years ago.


At Tuscan Women Cook, we carry on the Buon Ricordo tradition. All our guests receive a colorful, painted plate, (designed by Patty), so the happy memories of your cooking week with us will brighten your home kitchens for years to come.







April 2012. Tuscan Women Cook, LLC

We are delighted that everyone continues to enjoy our newsletters as much as we enjoy sharing stories of the people and places near us in Tuscany.


We know you will enjoy our story about Agriturismo Belagaggio, which has a special place in our hearts as it is where Tuscan Women Cook first began. Originally, there were four generations of the Bernadini family all living under one roof. Sadly, a couple of years ago great-grandmother died, but we are fortunate to have a video of all four women making pasta before Bisonna's passing which you can view.


We also have Flavio's views of Texas when he visited the United States a few months ago. It is so interesting and fun to see our wonderful country through the eyes of Tuscans.


On of our favorite collectables from Italy are the Buon Ricordo plates which you receive for FREE when you dine at a participating restaurant and order the specialty of the house.


We still have a few places remaining open in our 2012 schedule and we hope you can join us. Our 2013 schedule is now posted on our website. Click to view the typical weekly schedule with Tuscan Women Cook.


We hope you share Tuscany with us one day in the future.


-Bill and Patty Sutherland
Agriturismo Belagaggio: A Tuscan Women Cook Classic  


AAgriturismo Belagaggio is one of Montefollonico's local gems--set on the highest hilltop in Val d'Orcia, with amazing views. Best of all, it's run by three generations of women who are excellent cooks. During our Tuscan Women Cook week, we spend a delicious day at Belagaggio, making pizzas in their wood burning oven and enjoying the lovely surroundings--amidst olive groves, vineyards, and vegetable gardens.


We discovered Belagaggio through Angiolino, the contadino who came along with our farmhouse when we bought it in 1998. Angiolino was in his late 70s when we got there and had worked on the property for 25 years--a good bit of it without pay, as the place had been virtually abandoned before we moved in. He was a quintessential hardworking Tuscan farmer: never married, dedicated his life to the land, showing up every day to do what had to be done--be it pruning, harvesting, or repairing a fence. One of the best men we've ever met.



One day, after we'd lived here a year or so, I sat with Angelino on the step of his little tool room on the ground floor of our house and told him I had this idea to start a cooking school, where the teachers would be the local women, because the best meals we had around here were from home cooks. Angiolino nodded along as I talked, and his approval felt like a good sign. "But where can we find women who'd be up for doing something like this?" I asked. Angiolino answered, "Bill, I've lived here all my life, and I've eaten at every woman's house for miles around." Then he pointed to a farmhouse on the distant hill. "I'll tell you, those women over there at Belagaggio, they are the best cooks." "Can you take me to meet them?" I asked. "Sure," he said, "Let's go now."


And that's how we first met the Bernadini women: Annunziata, the 80-something year old matriarch (since passed away), her daughter Ada, Ada's daughter Antonella, and Antonella's daughter Gloria. With one taste of Ada's delicious ragu (tomato-meat sauce), I realized that Angiolino had brought me to an extraordinary place. And so, in 2000, we had our first Tuscan Women Cook class at Agriturismo Belagaggio.


belagaggio photo3  

Guests come to Belagaggio from all over the world, and feel the great sense of family pride that brings an elegant, old world touch to these rural surroundings. The Bernadini women speak with reverence about Bisnonna=Great Grandmother Annunziata and her husband who moved to this spot in 1952, living only in the small farmhouse. Over many years, the family worked to renovate the surrounding 18th century buildings, turning the place into a gracious guesthouse with adjoining apartments, and opened it all as an agriturismo in 1999. In the meantime, Annunziata taught all "her girls" to expertly cook this area's regional specialties. Now Grandma Ada is getting on in years, but still makes that amazing ragu I first tasted over a decade ago, and is typically wearing pearls when we see her. Mamma Antonella has taken the reigns to expertly steer the whole operation. And Gloria, who I remember perfectly, rolling pici when she was 12, has grown into a beautiful 23-year old woman.


The agriturismo is perfect for families--with a big pool, duck pond, bikes, and a ping-pong table on the terrace. The excellent restaurant uses the bounty from their land--wine from the vineyards, olive oil from the groves, fresh produce from the gardens, chicken and pork products from their livestock.


Belagaggio has also become a popular spot for locals to have weddings and big parties. I remember a summer night a few years ago, when at 3 am we were suddenly awakened to the sounds of exploding fireworks. We looked across our hill and realized the noise was coming from a big Belagaggio celebration. If this were back in the USA, the thing to do would be to call the cops and get our neighbors to quiet down. But here in Tuscany, we enjoy life. So we took out our lawn chairs, sat back, and enjoyed the show of colors bursting into the night sky, feeling a part of the happy Belagaggio party. 



 Click on the photo to watch the pasta-making video! 

Flavio Meets the Cowboys!

BIn January, it was exciting for us to have special visitors come to our Texas home: The award winning Tuscan winemaker Flavio Andreucci, his wife Lara, and her 18 year old son Matis. When we're in Italy, a visit to Flavio's winery is a highlight of our Tuscan Women Cook week, and the ladies especially appreciate being in the presence of this handsome winemaker. It was great fun to be doing things in reverse. This time Patty and I were tour guides, introducing our Tuscan friends to the flavors and culture of the Wild West.




For Flavio, who had only visited New York and Washington, DC, it was a revelation. We love how he passionately recalls his version of the trip. Everyday Matis asked to try a different hamburger place and we loved hearing Flavio say "hamburrrger" - without pronouncing "h" in hamburger, and rolling every "r").


This is the America that we only saw in the movies, and then we discovered, it is REAL! So many different kinds of hamburger! We went to a village on the drive from Dallas to Fredricksburg, a little place where there was an old woman who makes the service-maybe from the days before Cristofo Colombo-and it had the booths like I'd never seen, and there I ate the best hamburger of my life! Then in walked a Cowboy! Another dinner I never forget, was at friends of Bill and Patty's in Dallas, where I had what you call The Barbeque-the best dinner of the trip, such a flavor I never experienced! And in Italy, we just have one kind of Coke, but in America, so many-the cherry, the vanilla-Matis loves this! Then we flew to California and went to Michael's on Naples restaurant in Long Beach, and he is making burrata, just like in Italy, even though it is thousands and thousands of miles away, it is a surprise-so fresh and very good.


But there are some things I find very strange in this America. For example, we had a big car to drive in Texas, a place more "enorrrmous" than I could ever imagine. We are in this big car, on this big highway, with nobody there. In Italy we would drive 100 miles or more an hour, but in Texas we can only go 70-we are not using the great possibility of this big car, this big empty highway! And then there are the American breakfasts. We stayed with some of Bill and Patty's friends at the Chuckwagon Inn Bed & Breakfast in Fredericksburg, Texas. My Lara, who lived in South Africa as a child, loved the pancakes, the biscuits, the gravy, the eggs, the bacon. But for me it is not in my blood to have so much food in the morning. I just take a little something and a little coffee. But in America, there is this Starbucks place, the coffee I don't like, in the big cups, and the Americans, they are happy carrying that big hot cup around, and drinking cappuccino at 5 o'clock. For Italians, this is very strange--we never, never drink the cappuccino after 10 in the morning. I know when I see Americans in Tuscany, because they are the ones who are fine drinking the cappuccino all day!


So I bought a black leather cowboy hat in Fredricksburg, Texas. I wear this and I remember such friendly people, and Cowboys, and the very BEST "hamburrrger"! It is not just a movie, that was Real America!

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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.


Bill & Patty Sutherland
Tuscan Women Cook, LLC

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