© Jen Murphy
Apple tart at Castello di Vicarello
Earlier in the year I had a chance to spend a weekend cooking with the amazing Aurora Baccheschi Berti at her dreamy 12th-century castle-turned-hotel, Castello di Vicarello, in Maremma, Tuscany. Staying at Vicarello is like staying at fabulous friend’s home with nonstop food, wine and adventure (Aurora’s husband, Carlo, takes groups wild-boar hunting at his nearby lodge, Valle di Buriano. Aurora and Carlo spent years in the textile business and have quite an eye for design. The seven rooms and villas of Vicarello are outfitted with unique antiques, old issues of Art Forum, oversize bathtubs and quirky touches like a zebra-skin rug. But it’s the kitchen that’s truly the heart of the house, and that’s where guests gravitate. Carlo and Aurora, and often their three charming sons, are the perfect hosts, offering up glasses of Brunello and slices of wild-boar prosciutto. Aurora hosts impromptu cooking lessons, and dinners are a two-hour-plus affair. I got a taste of the Tuscan winter on my visit, but Aurora’s just-released cookbook, Tuscany My Way, gives me a chance to recreate recipes from all four seasons at Vicarello. Inspired by the castle’s gardens, the book has more than 100 recipes organized by season, like carbonara withfava beans and apple tart. It’s one of the most transporting cookbooks I’ve seen and the next best thing to a trip back to Tuscany.