Cooking in Italy
Villa Giona, a 16th-century villa near Verona refashioned with oversized guest quarters and plush gathering rooms, housed the guests and the classes. Its furnishings achieve the right balance of comfort and ambiance, and the kitchen is top-notch.
Each day began with a steamy cappuccino delivered to the sumptuous hotel room overlooking the grounds of a twelve-acre estate. Following breakfast the group headed off on field trips to discover gastronomic riches of the region - a rice mill, olive oil factory, cheese maker, culatello (meat curer) or open-air market.
Lunch taken with FOG (friends of Giuliano) were multi-hour repasts in a private home, winery or restaurant. Each of the three to eight courses representing the best in Italian cuisine, was accompanied by almost as many wine selections.
An afternoon siesta or stroll on the grounds was a welcome break before the five o'clock gathering in the villa kitchen for lessons with the master. Glass of wine in hand, the group set out to prepare a three course dinner -- a combination of roasted meats, grilled fish, handmade pasta, risotto, vegetables and dessert. Guests were encouraged to participate as much or as little as they want - but the more one participates, the more one learns! Mark and Tamara still use many of the tips learned in the class, including the proper techniques for peeling ripe tomatoes, peppers or pears and chopping vegetables.
Two amazing women were integral to the success of the program. Marilisa Allegrini, part of a prestigious family of winemakers whose vineyards are adjacent to the estate, lead tastings, taught classes on the various wine regions in Italy and hosted the group for visits to her winery. She also selected all the wines to complement dinner. Lael, Giuliano's not shy American wife kept things lively and coordinated the outings.
The good news is that you can benefit from Chef Hazan's knowledge without going all the way to Italy. His cookbooks are available at many bookstores and online from Amazon. Tamara has given Every Night Italian and How to Cook Italian, to friends and family members as gifts. Chef Hazan has a new book out called Thirty Minute Pasta - perfect for the busy cook! He is often featured on television shows, including The Today Show. Information about Chef Hazan and his programs and books can be found on his website www.giulianohazan.com.