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“Total Immersion Tuscan Cooking”
Review of The Spice Lab

The Spice Lab
Valrico, Florida
Level 3 Contributor
15 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“Total Immersion Tuscan Cooking”
Reviewed 9 July 2012

A really memorable experience. My wife and I travel quite a lot and enjoy cooking and eating as well. This is an experience you wont ever forget. You'll start by meeting Paolo at the Mercado Centrale where you'll pick out the the freshest produce and meats you will ever see. If there is something you want, Paolo will include it. Then you will either go up to the olive garden kitchen or stay in Tuscany (depending on the weather) for the cooking course.
Get ready for a lot of cooking, eating and drinking for the next 5 hours or so. The olive grove location is a bit rustic but it all works perfectly. As someone else said in their review, it is expensive but when you consider the ingredient cost (included in the course price) and the experience, it is worth every penny..

Visited June 2012
Helpful?
1 Thank Pres T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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83 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Seattle
Level 2 Contributor
6 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Fantastico!!!”
Reviewed 11 May 2012

Our day with Melanie and Paolo was a wonderful highlight of a great trip! Because TRUE Tuscan cooking is based on ingredients available locally at that moment I was very impressed when Melanie took our food dislikes and techniques we were interested in learning to heart. We did not know the final menu until we met Paolo at the market that morning, and then tweaked it further when we saw the produce. Several other schools we had looked at sent me the menu we would be cooking 5 months ahead, not the way Tuscans really cook! 4 experienced cooks learned a lot about Tuscan food quality and traditions, as well as learning some great dishes. We were very fortunate to be able to cook in the olive grove which is an experience you would never have in the US. Taking a cooking class in Italy is an expensive way to spend the day, but you will not regret your time with Melanie. You can see all the paintings and sculpture in Firenze but to have a truly Italian experience and something that gets inside you and you can take home as part of you, I think cooking with Spice Lab should be high on a list of priority things to do in Firenze.

Visited April 2012
Helpful?
1 Thank ZinfandelSeattle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Calgary, Canada
Level 2 Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Grazie Mille! (I would rate this class with 100 stars if I could!)”
Reviewed 19 April 2012

First of all I want to thank Melanie and her husband Paulo again for such a memorable day.

Our approximately 4.5-hour long 5-course Tuscan cooking class was the highlight of our recent two and a half week trip to Italy, and not at all due to the fact that it was on my 30th birthday, though that was a great way to celebrate (they even sang the “Happy Birthday” song to me in Italian – which sounded so much better than in English!) ☺

I have to say I was beyond impressed right from my initial email inquiring about The Spice Lab’s cooking class a couple of months before my sister and I had planned to arrive. Melanie was extremely timely in her response (less than 24 hours via email) and in her initial response back to me she provided more detailed information about her class, payment details (she required a 10% deposit made via PayPal then the balance of the cost to be paid by cash on the day of the class), and offered advice on things to do, places to eat, and places to stay in Florence as she wants everyone to fall in love with Florence as much as she has.

Upon arrival to her newly renovated studio in Florence (which was very close to the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) and within walking distance from anywhere in the heart of the city), Melanie greeted us with a glass of red wine to enjoy as we prepared the meal and surprised us by having her husband Paulo join us for our cooking class – his culinary skills and background were equally as impressive as Melanie’s. The studio was charming – they had recently had an entire wall of their kitchen painted in a Tuscan mural - this, along with the Italian music that they played in the background as we cooked, provided a lovely ambience.

Melanie and Paulo shared so much culinary knowledge (knowledge about the ingredients, Tuscan cuisine and cooking culture, knife skills, etc.) throughout the afternoon and evening, and, most-importantly, they let us do the majority of the prep-work and cooking (unlike many of the classes I had looked up that mostly provided demonstrations). Hands-on cooking allowed my sister and I to feel more confident when replicating the recipes once we got home and we were even able to recreate a couple of the dishes from memory before Melanie sent us her recipe “album” (which not only included all the recipes we made, but many others…around 20 or more in total!) a few weeks later.

The class was a bit more expensive than others we had looked up (for the two of us it cost a total of €290,00 without the market tour) but VERY much worth it as they are AMAZING people (who felt more like long-lost friends, graciously making us feel both welcome and special, and who are so personable that they would make fabulous hosts for cooking shows on T.V.) and due to the fact that it is a private class and that they spend so much individualized time with you.

(Note that your skill level won’t matter as they will tailor their class to your expertise…I screwed up a few times and they don’t make you feel bad at all.)

Finally (I saved the best for last!), every single one of the 5 dishes we made was exceptional/spectacular/delicious/delectable/(whatever-word-you-can-think-of-that-means-amazing!) and reflected the most seasonal ingredients for optimal flavor. We let Melanie surprise us with the menu, as we aren’t picky eaters, and were glad we did! We inhaled each of the courses with Melanie and Paulo in their elegant dining room while enjoying another glass of vino and bottled water. With over-stuffed bellies we somehow were also able to find room for dessert and a glass of delicious chilled dessert wine (which they served as a birthday treat)…the perfect finale to the most incredible afternoon and evening of cooking and great conversation!

Grazie mille! I highly recommend this class (I would rate this class with 100 stars if I could!) and advise you to book your class VERY QUICKLY before they fill up!

[By the way, I hesitated to submit this review as I want them to be available the next time I return to Italy ☺]

Visited March 2012
Helpful?
1 Thank TracyTravelGal
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Houston
Level 3 Contributor
9 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
“What A Blast”
Reviewed 14 January 2012

Our day with Paolo and Melanie included everything: we met Paolo at the market to pick up the meats and produce and cheeses we would later use to make a great meal. It was great to watch someone who clearly knows his craft as well as the vendors he was purchasing from and we learned a great deal about the market, the vendors and the products. We then walked to their studio in Oltrano where we met Melanie and began prepping for our cooking lesson and meal. What a treat! We drank wine and cooked under Melanie and Paolo's instructions and cooked appetizers, primi, secondo, side dishes, and dessert. We haveade a number of he recipes at home since we returned and were able to replicate them very well. You will have a blast with these charming and knowledgeable hosts. Don't forget to get their recommendations for restaurants as well.

Helpful?
Thank jeff1208
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
detroit
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Central Market Tour”
Reviewed 27 December 2011

As a Professional Chef and coming from an Italian family....I had a ball at the Central Market tour with Melanie...the experience was not only pleasing to my eyes...yes also to my palate.

Melanie's approach to sharing information makes you want to smile and just start cooking. She is very knowledgeable...and her animated way of sharing makes the event just that much more special.

Highly recommended.

Visited June 2011
Helpful?
1 Thank michelle b
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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