4th of July in Tuscany with the USA Chef Timothy Magee

chef Timothy Magee
Imagine to be outside of the US on the 4th of July and instead of the usual BBQ party you are just trying to find out something similar on the west coast of Tuscany, Italy. Off course you will not ...because there is nothing like that here, with an exception, a US chef who is probably the best one you can try in Italy...his name "Timothy Magee". We meet him at restaurant "Il Sale" a high end gourmet location inside the Relais "Poggio al Santi" right on the hills over the small sea village of "S. Vincenzo" in the Livorno's province. It's a magic place you'll never forget, surrounded by the stunning Tuscan landscape rich of pines trees and cypresses and last but not least the beautiful view of the Tyrrhenian Sea. This geographical area is so called "Etruscan Coast" and is certainly well known also for its ancient history and traditions. It's right here that Giulio Neri, the co-owner together with his mom Giulia, welcome us just before a gourmet lunch session with Timothy Magee. Giulio explains us that there is more then a restaurant here, indeed there are a cocktails lounge and charme rooms located in the main building as well in the little villas all around the property. So we just decided to come back the next year to set a further article about these facilities and services. At this time we focus on the excellent gourmet restaurant and the personality of Timothy that is well narrated by himself during the conversation we had in the kitchen just before our meal.

Timothy Magee shows proudly a giant fresh fish of the specie "Dentex Gibbosus"

Timothy why you decided to leave US for Italy?

<< I came to Italy in 1999. I never planned on moving here full time, but in 2002 I decided that if I wanted to cook a certain type of food, I had to do it here. There just weren't the products available in the US at the time. >>

Tell me about your life in USA and then in Italy?

<< In the US I have to be honest, I had (still,have) a great time. I have a very large family, 8 brothers and sisters, and some great friends. I come from an active,  outdoorsy family, so that was always a big part of my life. When I go back home I spend most of the time snowboarding,  followed by big parties and dinners with the family. In Italy my life is more focused on work.  It's a huge part of my life. But as my own little family grows, I have a baby girl and a 3 year old boy, I'm trying to work a little less so I can give my kids the sort of childhood I had. I'm really lucky because I have a great time here in Italy, and in the US. >>

Which is your professional background and experiences?

<< I went to college in Nevada. I studied literature with the intention of becoming an attorney.  After I graduated I decided to take a year off before law school.  At a certain point I found myself in Pisa, where a friend of mine was working in a small restaurant (Cagliostro). With his help,I got hired in the kitchen as an apprentice. For me that was the start of a great adventure. I could hardly speak Italian, I was not a very good cook, I barely got paid. I was so excited I decided to stay.  What should have been a week long vacation turned into a one year stage in Pisa. That was when I decided without a doubt, I was going to be a chef. That first experience opened so many doors for me.  For example,my next job was working for Paul DeBondt. He is considered one of the best ciocolatiers in the world.  I stayed with him for a year.These were simply the experiences I could not have had at home. I knew how important it was to take advantage of the opportunities at that time. I never went to culinary school, but I clearly had a lot to learn. So I stayed in Italy and tried to learn as much as possible working for the best people. >>

from the left the owner "Giulio Neri", chef Timothy Magee and the local Sommelier

Which is your philosophy in the kitchen?

<< My philosophy in the kitchen is really simple. First and foremost I don't use products that are unsustainable. I don't use animals that have been raised industrialy. I don't use exotic plants or fresh products that have been imported. I work with local products.  I'm lucky because my restaurant has its own farm, so much of what I use is literally out the back door, but when I have to purchase, I'm really careful.This spring I made gelato out of young fig leaves. It tasted just like coconut. There are so many flavors here, we just need to have the patience to discover them. >>

What do you think about the “Girotonno 2014” and your experience at that event?

<< The girotonno was an interesting experience for me. As I said,I don't work with endangered products.  I've never served red tuna before and nothing depresses me more than to see a species like the tuna go extinct under our eyes. I participated because I knew that this would be the only chance I would ever have to see the mattanza, to see a little window into the past. It's perfectly clear that the tuna has been destroyed for commercial profits. Unfortunately,  I'm not convinced that the EU is making any progress at all in saving the tuna. I should also add that my colleagues seemed totally unconcerned with the situation. So, if the next generation of chefs doesn't care about the health of an entire ecosystem, I'm afraid we've lost this battle. The "Girotonno" organization needs to adress this problem. >>

How is the 4th of July for you here in Italy?

<< The 4th of July, in italy, has unfortunately turned into another day. Where I live (Maremma) there are no Americans, or very few. So If I had a party I think I would be the only one. I'll try next year and see what happens. >>

What do you think about the US team at the Brazil 2014 Soccer World Cup?

<< I can't think of anything cooler than the Americans winning the world cup. Sooner or later they will. But unfortunately not this year. >>

So it's time to rate the fish menu (list of names in Italian is under the pictures) made for us by Timothy and perfectly paired with fine wines by the local sommelier. We start by antipasto of "Seared mackerel with zucchine" followed by "Sea bream tartare with apricot" and "Raw scallops with walnuts and butter". As pasta dish we had "Spaghetti with burrata and sea urchin". As main dish (secondo) a "Red snapper with grilled lettuce and cucumbers" and finally a superb "Chocolate ganache with strawberry granita" that denotes all the great experience of Tim with the Dutch maitre chocolatier "Paul DeBondt". The wines, rated by the Italian colleague Andrea Massari (see at the end of the article) were "Derbusco Cives Franciacorta Brut",Soave Vigneti di Foscarino Inama (Veneto), Sauvignon  de la Tour di Villa Russiz (Friuli), Reisling 2011 di Heyman Loenstein (Mosel), Tesoro (dolce) Bulichella (Tuscany) and finally an aged "Martinique Rhum Reserve Arthur Dillon". The experience absolutely worths to come here from anywhere and bewitched by the magic of this chef and the place. A 20/20 is the final score. Next time we will rate the Relais "Poggio al Santi" staying a day/night for a full experience.

"Sgombro Scottato su Crema di Zucchine"

"Tartare di Orata con Albicocca"

"Capasante Cruda con Noce e Burro"

"Spaghetto con Burrata e Ricci di Mare"

"Dentice con Lattuga Grigliata e Cetriolo"

article and pics by Luca Centoni

Wine Tasting Evaluation by Andrea Massari sommelier (A.I.S.)

Paglierino brillante, perlage ricco fine e persistente. Ingresso morbido. Fresco. Fragrante.  Note e profumi di fiori bianchi freschi. Piacevole finale con nota minerale e una punta di fragranza di pane.
Soave classico
Colore giallo intenso. Profumi subito di grande ampiezza e intensità. Nell'ampia gamma dei sentori spiccano la pesca bianca e tracce di erba tagliata. Piacevole anche una sensazione agrumata.  Buona struttura,  freschezza e acidità. Persistente, buona mineralita' anche alla fine.
Bel colore giallo brillante. Ampi profumi con tipica nota primaria del vitigno. Bene equilibrato con buona spalla acida che ne esalta la freschezza. Finale interessante con piacevole sensazione amaricante che richiama i profumi primari.  
Giallo Paglierino carico, colore brillante, profumi intensi, nota minerale ed equilibrati sentori di idrocarburi perfettamente bilanciati dalla complessità' degli altri profumi. Ben strutturato, persistente, veramente piacevole.
Bellissimo colore ambrato intenso. Profumi subito potenti di confettura di bicocca e frutta a pasta gialla in sovrammaturazione.  lngresso esaltante con note di miele  di fiori di campo. Intenso, rotondo e piacevole. Lascia la bocca pulita con una sensazione diffusa di eterea dolcezza.