We stayed with friends of ours who live in Tuscany who had scoped out the ideal place to enjoy bisteca. For those of you who haven't tried the dish, it's a thick, marbled porterhouse served rare with olive oil on the side. A perfect dish when the ingredients are good and this one was the best I had ever had.
The restaurant is called IL FOCOLARE in the town of MONTESPERTOLI. The space is simple and pretty with lots of tables outdoors. The place is family owned and has a friendly vibe. We were well advised by our Tuscan guests not to order more than the bisteca as the meat is often very rich and the portion large. We weren't able to resist however a platter of perfectly fried vegetables and I'm glad we had them. They were salty and lightly fried with a delicate batter that really let the flavor of the vegetables come through. Delicious.
For those of you going to Tuscany who are interested in wine, I would recommend trying Brunello di Montalcino at some point during your trip. It is one of the great reds of the world and it's made Tuscany. We chose to have our bottle with the steak. I think the flavors of the wine are perfect with meat of this caliber. At its best, the wine has an almost smokey undertone that reminds me of perfectly grilled meat. I don't remember the producer or the year but the list was small and the owner had lots of information about each one.
The meat was perfect. It had a beefy taste that a lot of American beef lacks and the char on the outside was perfect. The bites with both the crispy outside and the rare meat inside were some of the best flavors we experienced the entire trip. I did try some with the olive oil which was grassy and full and the combination was delicious. If you're like me though, you might be so pleased and overwhelmed by the flavors of the meat by itself that you pass on the oil and extra salt. Either way, it's wonderful.
We also stopped by FALORNI ANTICA MACELLE in Greve in Chianti. This is one of the two famous butcher shops in the area (the other is the one featured in the book Heat with the Dante reciting butcher). This is a perfect place to buy charcuterie, pate, or some vacuum packed meats to take home. They also have some very good dried sausages that can last for a long time if you think you might want to picnic or eat in your room somewhere. Can't report on all the tastes as we haven't opened them yet but what we sampled there was wonderful and the shop has a reputation for making very good stuff.
Next will be Soave and then Venice.