Montone’s Festa del Bosco, 2008

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Last weekend was the 25th Festa del Bosco in Montone and what a festa we had!

By Wednesday afternoon, the chestnut man had barricaded our house, every year he sets up his elaborate stall directly in front of our house.  We don’t mind, he’s a good guy, and his wife Pina is probably the prettiest fruttovendolo (fruit and vegetable seller…isn’t that a great word….say it out loud a few times) in all of Umbria.  On Thursday, our block was a beehive of activity as all the stalls were being set up.  I spent Thursday night up at the Taverna getting everything ready for Friday. I went home lugging a ginormous pancetta, tons of tomato passito and olive oil so that I could make a huge vat of Amatriciana sauce for Friday’s taverna dinner.  I must have proved myself this summer because now I’m on the regular pasta sauce making crew and it’s an honor to be among the chosen.

On Friday, the long anticipated rains began.  No rain means no porcini and no truffles, too much rain and you have a very quiet Friday night at the festa.  Saturday’s weather was off and on rain, which kept the crowds down, but Sunday was gorgeous and I think that EVERYONE in Italy came to Montone.

Sunday morning there was a mushroom hunting hike organized by the town and we tramped around in the woods gathering up all sorts of goodies. There weren’t any porcini, but the mushroom experts seem to think that in the next few days we should see lots of those tasty funghi. You realize that mushroom hunting is a very competitive sport and that it could easily become an obsession. There is something marvelous about being out in the misty woods and finding these truly beautiful mushrooms. They come in so many sizes and colors! Fortunately we had some mycologists with us, and they gave us the yeah or nay on what we found. We kept some of the toxic, and ‘super toxic’ mushrooms back to the festa where a display table was set up. I wish I knew more about mushrooms, but that is one dangerous sport if you don’t really know your ‘shrooms.

All weekend long, every time someone went out, they would return with little bags of treats to eat. Sometime on Sunday, we declared a cheese moratorium, no eating cheese for at least 2 hours. Fortunately we still kept eating chestnuts and salumi; at least until the roast pork lunch was ready.  And it was so gorgeous that we sat up on the roof and enjoyed the sun on our faces.  Apparently the parking situation was so bad that some dude decided to attend via his ultralite plane. He kept circling over our heads as we shouted, waved and offered him glasses of wine. 

Sunday evening found us huddled in our house eating more cheese, even more salami, and with the windows closed to keep out the chestnut smoke and the roar of the crowds. Much as we all love the Festa, by Sunday night….it was time for everyone to go home!

This weekend is the large white truffle festival in Citta di Castello. I’m hoping that with all the wet weather this will be a good festival. More truffles, more cheese, more salami. I love this time of year!

Braised Roasted Chestnuts
Should you have an abundance of roasted chestnuts on hand… simmer them gently in a bit of chicken stock, finish with a generous knob of butter, and eat them with a smile.

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