Good Things To Do

The Petraia Sessions sounds like a high-speed action thriller or a jazz veteran’s comeback cd but it’s actually something much more exciting. La Petraia, as well-read food lovers must know, is the 900-year-old property in Tuscany brought back to life by Susan McKenna Grant, author of Piano, Piano, Pieno, and her husband, Michael Grant. The Sessions are a seriously tempting idea they have dreamed up recently… But let Grant tell you in his own words:

“This year in Tuscany at La Petraia ( Susan and I are hosting a series of weeks called The Petraia Sessions in which 4 couples or 8 people can join a well known chef or author for 5 days of fine dining, the best Tuscan wines, cooking classes, unique excursions and thought provoking discussions.

“The first guest of this series will be the award winning author Michael Pollan, (In Defense of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire). Michael will be with us from July 13 to July 18th. ( It would not be an exaggeration to call Michael one of the most inventive and influential food writers that we have seen in many years. His books and numerous articles have lead us first to a new consciousness about what we eat and now to the importance of food and agricultural policies in the U.S. and a growing awareness of the difficulties we face in feeding ourselves in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.

“In the eight years we have taken to bring this 900-year-old property back to agricultural life, we have constantly considered ways in which we might enrich not only the 175 acres of fields and forests that Petraia encompasses but also all those who are fortunate enough to be touched by her magic. The vines, olive trees and vast vegetable gardens we have planted and the dozen or so courtyard animals we raise are organic. We’re continually developing biodynamic practices. Our heirloom and traditional varieties of fruit trees were planted in concert with a recovery program of the Province of Siena. We have restored ancient buildings with local artisans of the highest caliber. Susan has shared her experiences and knowledge of northern Italian cuisine in the field to table apprenticeship program for culinary students at Petraia, in the cooking and foraging classes she conducts on the property and of course in Piano Piano Pieno; Authentic Food from a Tuscan Farm, published in the U.S. this year by The Rookery Press, (

“All of these things Susan and I consider to be spokes of a wheel, the hub of which is the same magical property that the Etruscans chose to inhabit some 2700 years ago. The Petraia Sessions are another.”

“The Petraia Sessions are being organized in cooperation with Trufflepig Travel Inc. ( To reserve or to receive further information, please contact Jack Dancy at or +1 416 628 1272. “

Sounds like an excellent adventure. Closer to home, fans of righteous nose-to-tail butchery may wish to join chef-owner of Cowbell restaurant, Mark Cutrara, and head butcher Ryan Donovan for a highly educational introductory class. With ten participants, they will be breaking down an entire heritage pig at the restaurant on March 9 from 7:00 to 10:00 pm. Everyone is invited to stay after the class to chat with Donovan and Cutrara, and to enjoy some of Cowbell’s house-made charcuterie and a pint. Plus, each participant goes home with a pound of the pork. The price is $100. To enroll, call (416) 849-1095.

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