Off to Cooking School
05.23.2015 - 05.24.2015 75 °F
Day 1 was a long, long travel day. Flew Air France Airbus 380 from SFO to Paris...largest commercial airline in history...two decks...516 passengers. We were in Premium Economy seats which were okay. No sleep for me. The flight was uneventful and I watched American Sniper and Whiplash. We left SFO at 3:45pm on Saturday and landed in Paris at 11:30am on Sunday. After a 2 1/2 hour layover we flew to Rome and landed at 4:20 after an aborted landing because our runway was taken. We were greeted at the Rome airport by a driver who took us the 1 1/2 hours to Casa Gregorio where our cooking adventure was to take place. Casa Gregorio is located in the town of Castro dei Volsci in the province of Ciociaria. Castro dei Volsci is a municipality of about 5,000 inhabitants in the Province of Frosinone in the Italian region Lazio, located about 90 kilometers (56 mi) southeast of Rome and about 14 kilometers (9 mi) southeast of Frosinone. The territory of Castro has been inhabited since ancient times, as evidenced by the establishment of Montenero, now abandoned but dating back to ancient times. It is surrounded by wide walls made of very large stone blocks which are overlapped with the well-known widespread technique utilized in ancient times without the use of mortar. The presence of this city gave birth to the legend, passed down from generation to generation, of the presence of a population of giants.
Casa Gregorio is a 17th century villa that was purchased in 2007 by an American, Gregory Aulensi. He has put more than $3M to restore and add on to the villa and the cooking school was born in 2010. I first came upon it as a Groupon and asked Steve Brewer if he and Jan would be interested in going. By the time we got around to making the decision, the Groupon had expired. However, I went on the website and found that there was even a better deal being offered for select times in 2015. So here we are. It is an all-inclusive experience for seven days and six nights.
The villa consists of seven bedrooms and a newly built (March 2015) 2 bedroom cottage which is where the four of us are staying. While the façade matches the exterior of the old villa, the interior is quite modern, with a small living room and a separate small kitchen area. The villa sits on top of the town, approximately 3000 feet above sea level, with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
There are 22 participants in the cooking class, all from the US and Canada, ranging in age from a honeymoon couple in their early 20s to a woman in her 80s who is here with her daughter, daughter in law and two grandchildren. The villa is magnificent, with several kitchens...the main kitchen accommodates all 25 of the potential cookers and has amazing modern facilities.
After we got settled in, we were taken to the first night's event, dinner at Borgo Antico, a trattoria in the town of Popi, about half hour drive from CG. Everyone piled into three Mercedes vans driven by Patricio, Sebastian and Giacomo. The dinner was incredible. First, there were several plates of antipasti served, including focaccia, cheeses, bruschetta, eggplant, zucchini frittata and others. Carafes of red and white wine were poured along with a local beer. Then we were served SEVEN different pizzas...best pizza I have ever had. They included Pumpkin & Sausage, Pepperoni, Vegetable, Margherita, Prosciutto and melon, carbonara (egg and pancetta) and a couple others...very thin crust. Then, for dessert, they brought out several pear and chocolate pizzas...yum. This was all included in the cost of the school for the week. We were then transported back to CG where we headed immediately for bed. I had not slept in 48 hours.
Oh...and I am not even going to talk about SJB's (Steve Brewer's) pants...you'll have to ask him!
After a long day, we retired early. Have not watched TV since we have been here. While there are flat screen TVs in every room, they purposely only get local Italian channels.