Feedback for Lemoncello Tour



<<Today is the day that Wendy and I travel to the beautiful village of Minori, known for its limoncello. We are going to a tour at a limoncello maker’s laboratory, sample his wares, and buy an armload for a killer party back home. Adults only; the girls will sleep through most of our adventure and it will be fun to get out on our own. Our transfer meets us at the bottom of the Strang 150 and we’re off to Minori. minoriThe heat wave is really starting to take hold and his car is mercifully air conditioned. And for a cool 50 euros, he will take us the staggering 7 or so kilometers to Minori. I want this guy’s job. I’m not sure how to feel about all these transfers. They’re absolutely essential and trust me when I tell you that you do not want to try to drive this with your text and call, automatic transmission, sit back and steer American style. But they cost a bloody fortune. If ever it were rational, though, today would be the day, since we are, after all, traveling to a place to consume a fair amount of alcohol. Drunk driving is against the law back home, but here it will get you some serious jail time and it’s immediately apparent why: there is no margin for herror here and the slightest tipsiness will most assuredly cause you to kill a fair number of people and bottle up an entire highway for a lot longer than it takes a wrecker to drag a chassis off the interstate. I’ll pay the rent happily today.>>

We are greeted by our Girl Friday and incomparable hostess, Serafina, at a gorgeous cafe/bar/restaurant that features coffee, liquors and pastries.limoncello_blog

 <<The cafe is owned by the family that makes the limoncello in a laboratory down the street. Incidentally, when I say hostess, I mean hostess. Italy is a modern and progressive as anywhere in the world, but when it comes to language, you can take your gender neutrality and shove it up your ass. This is Italy, where men are men and women are women, and modern equality -while absolutely essential on its own terms- does not, repeat does not mean that you will debase someone’s clear and alluring femininity with terms that are gender-interchangeable. A striking, independent, intelligent woman scarcely needs you to treat her as though there is no difference between her and your run-of-the-mill dude. Show some respect.

Serafina has arranged for us the tour to the laboratory, followed by lunch at a local restaurant. The owner comes out from behind the counter and we walk a couple of blocks down a beautiful street that -at least for now- is less overrun by tourists then the throng of Amalfi. We turn into a small storefront and are in the laboratory. It is a good sized room but, like so many things here, is carefully laid out to economize on precious square meters. Serafina will interpret as the owner describes his craft and teaches us how he makes his savory liquors. The process seems simply enough or at least he makes it sound that way. The beautiful lemons of the region are unusually large and have a bright, yellow skin. To our surprise, no lemon juice is used to make limoncello. He carefully peels off the skin with as little of the white rind that lies between the skin and fruit attached as possible. The skin is then placed in a vat of pure grain alcohol and kept at about 95 degrees for 4-5 days (we’ll never replicate this, though we are encouraged to try to make our own; we can’t tell if they mean Celsius or Fahrenheit and -either way- the vat clearly doesn’t have a heating source beneath it (though it could probably reach 95 F on days like today), and we can’t really be sure how many lemons go with how much alcohol). CatturaThey give us a written recipe, though, and the world can now await the first batch from the Madtown Moonshiners. Once this process is complete, the resulting solution has a bright yellow color and is ready for mixing with a water and sugar solution. The mixture is filtered repeatedly, stored and ready to consume about a month later. At this point, the owner brings out several bottles of liquor to shows us the variety of liquors and cordials he is able to make with this same, basic method. There are other citrus flavors, coffee, licorice, and a number of flavors made with milk to provide a creamy liquor.>>

 We taste several and they’re all great, though we are particularly partial to the coffee, the cream-based, and the original limoncello that brought us here.

<<As with any tour, we reach the moment of truth:  will the Americans buy anything and how much will they buy?  We have a choice.  We can smuggle up to one bottle per person in our luggage or we can have some shipped, but the shipping minimum is 12 bottles and you pay another bloody fortune in shipping fees. We have to choose between what we see as a major hassle with the bags and having more liquor shipped than we can drink in a few years. We go with the shipping option and the monster party yet to take place back home. You really want to be invited to this party. We also get some pastries and some lemon-infused pasta, which is reportedly outstanding with seafood. And then it is time for us to journey back up the street to lunch. Serafina planned this day as a package, so the lunch and tour were paid before we got here. The restaurant is extremely nice; a great place where the indoor area just rolls into an outdoor area, shielded from the sun by a trellis and vines above. Our first course is a salad with salmon and anchovies (Yes!), the second is pasta with shrimp, the third is a very sweet, poached fish, and the dessert is I-don’t-know-what-it-is, but it is some sort of pastry with lemon curd inside and a cream sauce on top.>>Seafood spaghetti

It might be the best restaurant meal we’ve had yet.

<<While we dine, a family of three sits down at the table next to us and I can’t help but overhear the gentleman trying to discern whether the beer that the server is recommending would be right for him. He speaks English, American style (they have been seated right next to us in what I take to be the American section, as the restaurant is basically empty and the Italians will not be coming in for luch until 2:00 or so). I gesture to my beer -a Moretti- and give him a thumbs up of approval. I volunteer that he’ll like it and we connect. Fellow Americans in the heart of the Roman Empire. So we start talking. They are actually from Hawaii and their son has been studying abroad, and has a new gig coming up. They are a great visit and we share details about our families and trips, and give one another advice on our respective quests. They give us tips on how to find a place to buy bread in Minori. We tell them about our trip to Capri and our lemoncello tour, and give them contact information for the amazing Serafina so that they can get inside the limoncello factory too and get a shot at the equally incomparable Giancarlo, Man of the Sea and object of desire for women around the world. We exchange contact information and add one another to our buddy network.

Now we have to get back. But first, we have problems to solve: we didn’t remember to tell Serafina that we need bread, which the girls eat by the handful, we have to call our transfer service -which presumes that our phones will work- and we need more cash. We strike out on the bed. Our Hawaiian friends gave us perfect instructions to find the bakery, but all of the storefronts have closed up by the time we get there. It is early afternoon and everybody -except the restaurants- closes or will close from about 12:30 or 1:00 until 4:00, at which point they will reopen until about 7:00. The Spaniards call it a siesta and I’m going to insert the right Italian name for it here just as soon as I find it.  For the moment, though, the punch line is the same:  no bread. We text Serafina and hope that she actually can get the text from what has become our own, personal cell hell, and can get it to the neighbors who pick up the food for our villa. Cash is critical. The locals want cash to escape the VAT tax, DSC_0457but we can drop half of a withdrawal just taking a cab. We’ve worked out a strategy for getting enough cash from cash machines: by drawing from two separate accounts, we can beat the security limit that our bank places on us. We don’t want to use the credit card, which charges rates for a foreign cash advance that would make an Amalfian cabbie blush. Wendy, sensibly, takes an amount that has proven successful, while I repeatedly go for more to save on a future transaction fee, having had one instance on Capri where the machine gave me more than what should be the limit. I test the limit at two, separate machines and, as Wendy’s patience with my game of chance grows thin, opt for the safe amount. We’ve got money. But our phone won’t work, even down by the beach where reception should be better. So we have the restaurateur call our transfer service for us and he is there in 20 minutes. At this point, we are boiling in the 95 degree heat that seemingly intensifies as it bounces off the cobblestones and are unnerved by what might be the most vocal husband and wife brawl I’ve ever heard, cascading down from an apartment above. There’s lots of screaming and slamming and all of a sudden it just stops. We need to get out of here now. Our transfer arrives and we dive into the air conditioning. Another 50 Euros. Another 150 steps. We walk directly to the pool and jump in. After an afternoon of swimming and getting even more sunburned, it’s time to have dinner at one of the local joints in Conca dei Marini. We hike our 150 and then walk further down into the town, a beautiful hillside hamlet with shops and restaurants and children playing. The girls have pizza. I go for pasta frutti de mare and a plate of shrimp and flying squid. Good food. The proprietor and her daughter (an adorable little girl in a dress with a bow in her hair) bring out the glassware. We thank the little girl and she responds “prego.” Sarah follows up with a quieter “grazie” and the girl whispers a second “prego” back to her. The girl then joins a friend on the side of the road to practice their dancing. They are pretty good. The restaurants have a table area along the restraining wall that overlooks the sea. It is obviously a community gathering place, as all the men are seated there, talking and smoking and playing some sort of game, which we can’t see from our vantage point. A few hours after we finish our meal and head back, the nocturnal Italians will arrive for dinner. We’re full, happy, and tired. The heat has taken its toll and tonight may be the first where the evening’s cooling breeze off the sea isn’t enough to keep us from using the air conditioning. We get back and Wendy figures out how to get it working in our bedrooms, and we crank those suckers up. We enjoy a cool evening’s sleep, apparently more than I would have imagined. Usually, I’ve been out of bed by 5:30 or so, but I notice that it’s 8:30 or so on Day Six when I awaken.>>

Leave a Reply