In my “new dining experiences” post I mentioned a third dining experience that deserves its own post. After having researched it further, I’m excited to tell you about it. The concept is farm to table dining while traveling. Guests are prepared a meal using the freshest produce by the farmers themselves, on their estate.
Italy was one of the first to realize their farmers could use a little extra income to sustain their business. The website Agriturismo was born as a platform to sync travelers up with meals and lodging on farms. Farmers who have extra buildings or rooms that are unused can rent them out and provide meals – BNB style. The accommodations can vary from luxury to almost camping-style but generally you get a lot of value for the price. Each farm’s approach is different. You don’t always have to stay at the farms to enjoy a mind-blowing meal (and yes, they are mind blowing).
Chris and I were staying in an adorable hilltop village in Motovun, Croatia (Istraian peninsula) when we noticed that there was an Agriturismo the next town over in Zrenj. Being the foodie detectives that we are, we headed over sans reservation. After ascending 8 kilometers of hairpin turns we pulled up to what looked like a nearly abandoned hilltop village. Our first instinct was to question our information but once we got out of the car (and shut up for a moment) we heard the muffled clamor of fun people. We followed the noise to an old tavern where a large group of animated Italians just finished eating. The husband and wife owners greeted us (in Italian) and allowed us to join the party. It turns out we were extremely lucky as they’re only open on the weekends and only take reservations for larger groups.
To start off the meal, the husband, Paolo, brought us out a melty sheep cheese with fresh grated truffles, charcuterie that he made from his pigs and fresh bread. I forgot to mention we were in one the most acclaimed truffle capitals in Europe. Paolo has trained dogs who hunt down the prized gems. It is currently black truffle season (the expensive white come in September/October). This was all paired with their organic red wine from the farm. Next Chris and I shared a plate of creamy polenta, perfectly seasoned and also presented with freshly grated truffles. As we casually shared our polenta, Paolo, also an award winning accordion player, proceeded to play a few songs for the lively group.
Shortly after the entertainment portion finished, the Italian group left Chris and I to enjoy our next course- Hungarian Goulash served over gnocchi. The beef chunks shredded at the touch of a fork, the gnocchi were pillowy and light and the sauce was the perfect consistency.
Later the hosts sat with us to chat as we ate cake and finished the meal with a coffee. We learned about their farm, how they met and a few useful Italian words. At the end they charged us 50 Euros total for everything. We knew we were on to something.
Since this experience we’ve tried two other locations and plan on finding as many was we can when we go back to Italy in August. Here are some photos of our stays:
A few things to keep in mind:
- Each farm varies but most of the dinners are served on the weekends. If you stay on the farm breakfasts are usually included.
- It is necessary to call or email to get a reservation.
- Note that the locations are usually in the remote country where you’ll need a car to get around.
- These meals are casual and rustic. You must come in with an open palate as you are served their farm specialties. Normally, there isn’t a menu. If you’re looking for a romantic date night or a Michelin star place-setting this might not be the experience to seek out.
- Many of the owners don’t speak English but we had no trouble communicating with hand movements and the little Italian we know (admittingly we threw some Spanish in there when we were desperate).
There is a French site that is similar called Bienvienue à la ferme (welcome to the farm) who have a similar concept. We have reservations to try it later this month.