In May 2013, my husband and I took a cooking class at Palazzo Brandano that, along with recommendations from Ousmane, was the highlight of our Italian vacation. We are avid cooks (and diners) and plan our vacation around gastronomic experiences :-) After much research I decided to take the class at Palazzo Brandano. I opted for this, instead of other more popular classes, because of Palazzo Brandano's (relatively) remote location - I reasoned that we should get more 'authentic' Italian cuisine and not the Americanized menus I read about for other cooking schools. Boy, am I happy we chose this place!
Ousmane was the epitome of service and attentiveness, starting from our email interactions all the way up to our class. We arrived early and were given a glass of Prosecco (score!) before been taken on a tour of a nearby olive oil farm. Upon our return to the hotel, we had a chance to sit on the patio and just soak in the view of the most quintessential Tuscan countryside. After that it was down into the kitchen for a hands on cooking class. This was the most fantastic cooking class we've ever had - and this from a couple who've taken classes at Sur La Table and other highly touted places in California. The ladies talked us through making fennel flan, gnocchi, pici, stuffed rabbit and panna cotta. It was a flurry of activities for which we were quite happy.
We took the class on our fourth day in Italy and had had some rather underwhelming meals before going to Palazzo Brandano. Because of this, we had resigned ourselves to the possibility of having a rather lackluster experience. I am thrilled to say we were soooo wrong. It was just everything I had hoped - learning to cook authentic Italian, from rolling of the pici to learning the secret to making gnocchi as light as air. All this, while being entertained by Ousmane's interaction with the cooks and drinking a even more wine generously provided by Ousmane.
Everything tasted sublime. Of course our enjoyment was heightened even more by the excellent wine served with dinner! We just loved our time at Palazzo Brandano and the attention we got from Ousmane and the staff. We didn't stay at the hotel, but look forward to doing just that on our next trip to Italy. Ousmane gave us a tour after dinner, and it was understated elegance at it's best.
If you ever make it there make sure you ask Ousmane for recommendations of restaurants off the beaten path. Thanks to him, our other meals in Tuscany were awesome!
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