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Carnival in Europe – Five great Carnival Vacation ideas for wine lovers in 2014

Although most of us when mentioning the world carnival might instantly think of Sydney, Rio or New Orleans, Europe can still lay claim to the oldest and proudest Mardi Gras tradition. The historical importance of the religious celebrations preceding the start of Lent is marked by the diverse and colorful local festivals celebrated throughout European cities each year. From the famous masked balls in Venice, to the riotous and vibrant carnival in Tenerife, these occasions are a must see for wine lovers who enjoy glamor, excitement and the decadence of lavish celebrations.

veniceThe following five cities represent the best of Europe’s carnival tradition and welcome the spring season in impeccable style:

Venice Carnival 2014

Venice Carnival or Carnevale is the very epitome of extravagance, a masked ball that traditionally ended on Shrove Tuesday and began on December 26th, which is celebrated as St Stephen’s Day in Venice, as in Ireland. Today, however, the festivities continue into the middle of February, as visitors flock from far and wide to enjoy the most decadent fancy-dress party on earth. The carnival has a history that dates back many hundreds of years; Venetians have been celebrating Carnevale since the 15th century. The popularity of masked balls and carnivals rocketed during this period in Europe and became an integral part of any cultural event in Venice. The mask, as well as serving a decorative function could nicely conceal the identity of the wearer, which became highly popular in political circles, as well as for celebrations.

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Other European cities started to copy the Venice formula and order their own masks from the Venetian workshops. In Venice, private clubs would organize masked balls and street entertainment – the elite simply had to be seen at these events! Carnevale reached its heyday in the 18th century, as the Venetian Republic collapsed and social conventions and rules were relaxed. The event became increasingly hedonistic, with lavish displays of wealth, processions and festivals held in St Marks Square. Sadly, after Napoleon invaded in 1797 the carnival tradition fell into decline, the Italian ruler Mussolini subsequently banned the wearing of masks and so carnival was no more. That was until 1979, when the first event in several decades exploded into the Venetian scene and the city has not looked back since. Today, the undisputed highlight is the Gran Ballo delle Maschere or Doge’s Ball, which takes place in different locations across Venice, usually in a grand palace or residence.

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The costumes, masks and general extravagance on display is unrivaled. Prior the the Grand Masked Ball, the celebration begins with a masked procession through Piazza San Marco and around. The following weekend sees a multitude of wonderful musical and theatre performances in San Marco and other locations, with Sunday reserved for a stunning procession of gondolas carrying masked passengers down the Grand Canal. Of course, plenty of other events take place and are open to anyone who is prepared to pay. This year, visitors can enjoy the masked “Enchanted Palace” Ball, which takes place in an ancient palace on the Grand Canal. Expect cocktails, lavish costume, fine dining and partying aplenty. There is also the “Feast of the Gods Event”, which takes place in a sixteenth century palace under frescoes painted by Giovanni Bellini. Join in the celebrations as Bacchus, the god of wine and Mercury invite you to join their feasting, drinking and merry making. For more information on these and other events, go to www.venicecarnival-italy.com   Finally, don’t forget to secure your mask well in advance of the party! Book an appointment to have a mask made.

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Venice Wine Country- While in Venice, why not go exploring the Prosecco wine roads, the delicious sparkling wine made in the gentle hills around Conegliano Valdobbiadene. Great Prosecco houses include Bisol and Bortolomiol, two faves.

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Tenerife Carnaval 2014

Each year Tenerife holds one of Europe’s largest and most riotous carnivals, a three week extravaganza that attracts hundreds of thousand of visitors and culminates in a 24 hour party on Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. It has been celebrated on the island for centuries and visitors to Tenerife such as Lope Antonio de la Guerra Pena in the 18th century spoke of dancing and conga music in the capital Santa Cruz. However, when Franco came to power he banned the festivities, which got back into their full swing after his death in 1975 upon his death. The carnival was subsequently a vehicle with which to lambast the Catholic Church and its relationship with the Fascists – today people often dress up to lampoon religious figures, naughty nuns being a popular costume!

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Tenerife is now twinned with Rio de Janeiro, and shares some of the vigor and debauchery of that world famous carnival in Brazil. Next year it runs from 26th February to 9th March, carnival season is officially opened with a gala for the election of the Carnival Queen and ends with the ceremonial burning of the sardine festival, an event totally unique to the island of Tenerife.The ‘sardine’ is in fact a collection of rags and cloths, paraded around Santa Cruz de Tenerife followed by hysterical mourners! It is quite a sight to behold! But the main attraction is most definitely the gala parade, a spectacular affair with stunning examples of fancy dress on display, elaborate floats, fireworks and much drinking and parting centered around the beautiful Plaza de España in Santa Cruz.

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That said, the carnival involves far more than just one central parade and loads of stalls and events are set up in areas across the city. There are also competitions galore: murgas, rondallas, comparsas, all essentially dance competitions and a fancy dress competition for good measure. Make sure you don’t miss the grand gala for the election of 2014′s Carnival Queen, the day after there is a delightful musical concert in the Guimera theater. And don’t think that the fun ends on Ash Wednesday, as the weekend of La Piñata Chica follows shortly after with more partying in the Plaza de Principe. So head out on 9th of March for what will undoubtedly be the best street festival of your life. More info on Tenerife´s Carnival events this year.

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Tenerife for Wine Lovers- While on this beautiful island, don´t miss tasting spectacular local wines from the  Crater bodega. Enjoy stellar food and wine in one of the most beautiful settings on earth at Terrazas del Sauzal, and El Burgado is also unmissable.

Terrazas-del-Sauzal-Nice Carnival 2014

Capital of the Cote d’Azur, Nice holds a suitably glamorous and elaborate carnival celebration each year across its splendid squares, parks and the famous Promenade des Anglais. Its temperate winter climate and fantastic setting makes it the perfect location for a carnival to remember. The celebration starts on 14th February in 2014 and ends on 4th March, over two weeks of non-stop partying. Nice Carnival has had a long and distinguished reign: history records that the event was established in the 13th century, by Charles Anjou, the Count of Provence. In 1294, the Count made references to “the joyous days of carnival” suggesting that Nice Carnival is in fact the original and oldest carnival celebration in existence. Each year the carnival’s organizers choose a different theme for the celebrations, 2014 is the year of the “King of Gastronomy” so expect cuisine to dominate the parade and events that entertain revellers who flock to the Promenade de Anglais each year.

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However, Nice Carnival is most famous for the Bataille de Fleurs (Battle of Flowers) which takes place on various dates throughout the Carnival season (in 2014 the 15 19, 22, 26 February and 2 March) Members of the parade fiercely battle to outdo each other with spectacular floral displays on floats that line the Promende de Anglais. As the procession moves through Nice, flowers are thrown into the crowds, stalls selling delicious local delicacies fill the air with enticing smells and the city seems to literally buzz with excitement. The festivities officially start with the Carnival Procession, heralding the arrival of the Carnival King in the beautiful Place Massena. Local residents spend months designing over 20 elaborate floats, which will take the theme of the year.

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But perhaps the most eye-catching sight is the giant puppets marching through Nice, called Grosses Tetes, accompanied by hundreds of musicians, street artists and dancers that come from all over the world. The chosen King then takes the key to the city and declares a brief reign of excess! Highlights in 2014 include the unmissable Zuma party on February 16th and the awe-inspiring closing firework display over the Baie de Anges, officially ending the proceeding on 4 March. For more information on this unmissable carnival event, check out info on Nice Carnival here.

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Nice for wine lovers- Nice is the gateway to Provence. You are less than an hour away from dreamy hilltop villages where you can stay in gorgeous country properties tasting stellar rosé wines in situ. In Nice itself you have some fab little wine bars, we love La Part des Anges, La Cave de l’Origine and Cave de la Tour.

Cadiz Carnival 2014

Second only to Tenerife in the sheer scope and originality of its carnival tradition, Cadiz carnival is a riotous, ten day celebration that literally turn the city into one big party. It is the highlights of any self-respecting Gaditanos calender, indeed, preparations for the carnival begin almost as soon as one carnival finishes. Historically, Cadiz has laid on a boisterous carnival since the 16th century, when the city thrived as a major trading port for the Americas. Looking across to their Italian neighbors in Venice, the citizens of Cadiz decided to copy their tradition of marking the start of lent and started to organize what would become the liveliest and most elaborate carnival in mainland Spain. It was the one celebration that the Fascist dictator could not ban, due to the overwhelming protest and resistance for the local Gaditanos!

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Beginning on February 27 and ending on March 9 in 2014, Cadiz’s carnival is essentially one massive street party, with eleven days of elaborate costumes, theatre, processions, concerts and above all else, singing! The originality of Cadiz’s lent celebration is impressive, the driving force of the party is an emphasis on music and on the famously witty local inhabitants of Cadiz, whose love of comedy comes shining through in their imaginative displays of satire. These performers are known as Chirigotas: their music and satirical songs provide the central focus each year. In fact, the celebration really starts a month before the official opening day, as various musical groups compete in the “official contest” held at the beautiful Gran Teatro Falla. Over 200 groups will take part in this musical feast, with various categories of performers: Chirigotas, Choirs, Comparsas, Quarters and Romanceros. The Choirs will often also entertain people in the streets, as will the single act Romanceros. The Comparas tend to take the competition more seriously and sing classical songs with deep, romantic leanings. The competition is held 20 days before carnival and in four stages: preliminaries, quarter-finals, semi-finals, and the grand final. Listening to the various performers is a big highlight of the festival, the songs tend to be aimed at ‘debunking’ the cult of celebrity, politicians and the church are also fair game!

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The finale is another main attraction of the carnival, held on the first Friday of the celebrations. Performers roam the streets singing their compositions and on the following Monday perform on a central stage for all the city to enjoy. The other key attraction during carnival time is the procession and street parties, as thousands upon thousand of people in elaborate costume party the night away in Cadiz’s old town. In addition, there are gastronomic stalls, various musical concerts and plenty of things to keep the little ones happy; including puppet shows, and the incredible closing fireworks display. Key dates for your Carnival calendar in 2014 are Friday 27, which is the Grand Finale of the singing contest, the main procession on the following Sunday (29) and the awe-inspiring fireworks display in La Caleta. Truly, this is a carnival you won’t want to miss.

Cadiz for wine lovers- you are in the Sherry heartland here and this is a supremely interesting spot for wine aficionados. Don´t miss the terrific bodegas of Jerez de la Frontera like Lustau, Fernando de Castilla, González Byass and Domecq. And Angle Leon´s Michelin starred seafood eatery Aponiente is a glamorous place to taste terrific local Sherries paired with unusual and magical fish pairings.

SHERRY pxSitges Carnival 2014

Spain’s delightfully avant-garde, unconventional seaside resort is merely a half-hour away from Barcelona by train, so there’s no excuse for not visiting the next time you set foot in the Catalan capital. Sitges has been a fashionable place for jet-setters and night-owls since the 1960s, and puts on one of Spain’s most outrageous carnivals. It’s a week long riot of the extrovert, the colorful and the exhibitionist, capped by a gay parade along the sea-front promenade. Sitges has been holding carnival celebrations for over a century, although the installation of Franco as Spain’s Fascist dictator in 1939 put a temporary stop to the fun. Today, it is regarded as Spain’s wildest party event and over 200,000 visitors, both Spanish and international, turn out for the carnival. A normally quiet village (in winter at least!) explodes into life with parades, endless parties, local gastronomy, numerous folk dances and outrageous displays – a feast for all the senses.

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The party starts on 27 February in 2014 and ends March 5. The inaugural event is the opening Jueves Lardero (Fat Thursday) celebrations, with stalls offering a massive selection of local dishes; Sitges’ citizens seriously pig-out into the evening. It heralds the arrival of King Carnestoltes – the King of the Carnival – who arrives in a great flurry of color and activity. Let the mayhem begin! Sunday 2nd March sees the famous Rua de la Disbauxa, or the Debauchery Parade, an anything goes display of debauchery and outrageous costume, over forty floats usually participate in the fun, carrying up to 2,000 people at a time. However, even this spectacular event is outdone by the Rua de l’Extermini, or Extermination Parade, on the following Tuesday night. This parade marks the end of the festivities, although there is nothing mournful about the celebrations with more riotous displays of dress and kitsch.

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Carnival truly ends with the Burial of the Sardine on Ash Wednesday, the large effigy of a sardine buried in Sitges’s sandy beach. Around the same time as carnival, a more sedate but equally unmissable event is taking place – the Corpus Cristi celebrations. They are marked by the creation of floral ‘carpets’ in the streets of central Sites. These can be of incredible complexity and generally consist of geometric designs or religious depictions. They are simply stunningly beautiful so make sure to catch them before they are trampled over when the religious process passes through this delightful city.

Sitges for wine lovers- you are on the doorstep of the Mediterranean Penedes wine country. This is where Spain´s famed Cava, bubbly, is produced and great wines to seek out include Agusti Torello and Pares Balta. Don´t miss a meal at winemaker´s haunt Cal Xim where charming host Santi will take excellent care of you, and while in Sitges itself we love the easy going paella at beach front La Fragata.

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Insiders Guide to Truffles in Italy

Posted by gen On November - 27 - 2013

Insiders Guide to Truffles in Italy- By Simona Piccinelli, Italy Specialist

Truffles are a gourmet delicacy, one of the most expensive and desired in the world. Foodies  swoon over them, international top chefs search them out and bid for them at auction, and truffles are without a doubt one of the priciest and most precious food stuffs on the planet.

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Although truffles are in such high demand and so appreciated, they are still shrouded in mystery for many and so we decided to chat with some of the professional truffle hunters and producers we work with in different regions of Italy, to ask them the numerous questions we get regularly asked by our tartufi loving guests. We spoke to Natale and Giorgio Romagnolo in Piedmont, Cristiano Savini in Tuscany and Saverio and Gabriella Bianconi in Umbria .

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Herewith, our FAQ and TRUFFLES 101>

CELLAR TOURS- What are truffles?

Truffles are an underground Ascomycete fungi. They grow symbiotically with specific tree roots, called in Italian  “simbionti” and require unique microclimatic conditions. They have an external part, called the “peridio”, which may have different textures and colors depending on the kind of truffle, and an inner, pulpy part, called the “gleba”.

 

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The word “truffle” has a Latin origin. It comes from the word “tuber” which means “lump”. Over the centuries, it evolved to became “tufer” and all the European terms derive from that: tartufi (Italy), trufa (Spain), truffe (France),  Trüffel (Germany), trufa (Portugal), trufel (Poland), tryffle (Sweden), only to name a few.

CELLAR TOURS- How are truffles created and how do they grow?

We need to dust off those biology books we studied at school! Like all fungi, truffles come from spores. In spring, the spores in the soil germinate and produce very thin filaments around the roots of specific trees. At the end of spring/summer, these filaments colonize the plant’s roots and grow special “organs”, called mycorrhiza, which provides the fungus with a relatively constant and direct access to carbohydrates, such as glucose and sucrose, from the plant. In return, the plant gains the benefits of higher absorptive capacity for water and mineral nutrients. In fall/winter, mycorrhizas push the vegetative part the fungus, called mycelium, to grow and this  will become the fruiting body of the fungus, namely the truffle.

As truffles are underground, they cannot spread spores in the air; that’s why they have a distinctive and strong scent. Some animals (pigs, dogs, squirrels, rats, foxes, moles, etc) are attracted by this aroma, they eat the truffle and spore dispersal is guaranteed.

Trees species that “produce” white truffles include poplar, oak, linden, sometimes also hazel. Truffles prefer argillaceous or calcareous soils which are well drained. They require a chilly, humid microclimate, with average temperatures of 6°C/42.8 F.

CELLAR TOURS- Where do you find truffles?

White truffle, the precious Tuber Magnatum Pico,  is not common nor easy to find; the only places in the world where you can find it are: Northern Italy (Piedmont),  Central Italy (Tuscany, Marche, Umbria) and in small areas of Istria and Slovenia. The best, most coveted white truffles are the ones from Alba, Acqualagna and San Miniato.

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You can find Black truffles in Europe (Italy,  Spain, France, Greece, Turkey), in Northern Africa, in New Zealand, in Asia and in America.

CELLAR TOURS- How many kinds of truffles are there? At what times during the year can you find truffles?

All over the world, you have several kind of truffles, 63 are the ones classified as Tuber. In Italy, you have about 25 different truffles, but only 9 of them are cataloged as  edible. Each kind of truffle has its own season.

The truffles you can usually find in the market are the following 6, for each one you can see its season (it can change depending on specific region):

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Tuber magnatum Pico – precious white truffle – from the middle of September to end of January

Tuber melanosporum Vitt. – precious  black truffle or Norcia black truffle – from the middle of November to the middle of March

Tuber aestivum Vitt.  – Summer black truffle – from the middle of June to the end of August; from beginning of October to the end of November

Tuber borchii Vitt. – “whitish” truffle – from the middle of January to the end of April

Tuber brumale Vitt. – winter black truffle – from middle of December to the end of March

Tuber macrosporum Vitt. – black truffle- from October to December

Usually, you are not allowed to hunt truffles from the end of August to the middle of September.

CELLAR TOURS- What are the differences between the black and white truffle?

The main difference you can see is, of course, how they look. White truffles have a smooth layer, from white to ochre color outside and white- hazelnut color inside. Black truffles have a rough , black or dark brown rind. Inside it is white – hazelnut if it is summer black truffle, black or dark grey if winter black truffle.

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But the most important difference is their aroma.  White truffles have a stronger aroma, a wider range of perfumes and a “symphony” of scents: garlic, honey, spices, hay, just to name a few. Black truffles have a less powerful smell and are less complex, more reminiscent of  mushroom, soil, underbrush.

Do not forget that white truffles are less common than black ones and can be found in a very limited area in the world, because they need an extremely specific microclimate and tree roots to grow. That’s why the price is also very different. White truffle can cost up to 7 or 10 times more than the black one.

CELLAR TOURS- Do you use pigs to truffle hunt?

In previous centuries, pigs were used to go truffle hunting, especially female swines, which are particularity attracted to the truffle´s heady scent. They were hard to control though, as being pigs, it was difficult to stop them from gobbling up the precious truffles.

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Truffle pigs have now generally been replaced by truffle dogs, as dogs are easier to manage and to train and much more disciplined.

CELLAR TOURS- Which dog breeds are the best ones for truffle hunting?

You don’t really have truffle hunting dog breeds as such, but some feature qualities particularly  suitable for this activity. Pointing breeds -  such as pointer, Italian bracco, Italian spinone, Setter, Cocker Spaniel -  are very good, even moreso if the dog comes from  a crossbreed. Recently, the Lagotto breed and the labrador breed have also proven very popular in Italy.

To be a good truffle hunter, a dog needs an excellent sense of smell, endurance, intelligence, learning ability and adaptability.

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CELLAR TOURS-  What do you need to know before buying truffles, especially precious white ones?

The best way to be sure to buy a good truffle is to know the truffle hunter or the truffle trader and to trust his honesty and accuracy, as we can do now, after many years of cooperation with our “truffle partners”! This, of course, is not always possible, so here some guidelines: first of all, try to buy fresh truffles at well known, certified markets, fair and auctions and check the average price on the market for that specific year and kind of truffle you want to buy; then check the truffle with your sight, touch and smell.

Visual examination:

Truffle has to be clean and intact. It is not whole, it could have hangers -on or be ruined by the dog during the hunt. If it has dark spots, it might be rotten. Be sure that holes are not filled with soil and that the color is not altered with corn flour or anything similar.

Physical examination:

If you gently press the truffle, it has to have a good level of consistency. If it is gummy or elastic, it is not fresh.

Nasal examination:

Precious white truffle has a pleasant, agreeable, well balanced aroma. If you smell ammonia, methane or fermented notes, this suggests it is not fresh.

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At a restaurant, always ask to see the truffles before they slice them on the food and check them as described above. If price is per gram, ask to check the weight. An average portion is usually 10 grams and costs about 40 euros.

CELLAR TOURS- How do you store truffles? How long can you keep them?

Fresh truffles have to be eaten as soon as possible, especially white ones. You can store them for a limited length of time, wrapping them individually in a humid cloth, putting in a glass jar with airtight closure, at 3-6°C (37.4/42.8 F), like the fridge. If you change the cloth every day you can keep white truffle for about a week and black ones for about 2 weeks.

Generally speaking, the white truffles found in November and December usually last longer than the ones of the beginning of the season (September and October).

Black truffles (usually not the precious Norcia black truffle, but the summer black ones) can be frozen, once sliced, but never  do this with white truffles!

You can also process truffles to preserve them.

You can grind black truffle or slice white truffle and mix it carefully with butter and a pinch of salt. You can use this butter to add a truffle flavor to all your recipes and food and it will last for about a month.

With black truffles (summer and winter ones), you can cut them and whirl them in a blender with extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt, to get a thick sauce, that you can put i glass jar. It lasts about 40 days or you can even freeze it.

You can do pretty much the same with the whitish truffle (Bianchetto, NOT with the Magnum Pico): you slice it, scald in extra virgin olive oil and then put in glass jar, to be sterilized in hot water for about 15 minutes.

The easiest alternative is to buying fresh truffle is to buying preserved truffle or truffled food, but only from professional and trustworthy merchants and transformers and always check the percentage of truffle in each product. Excellent producers are Savini, Bianconi, Boscovivo, Tartuflanghe, which proposes a couple of new and innovative ways to conserve truffles.

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CELLAR TOURS- What are the best ways to eat truffles?

The best way to eat the precious white truffle Magnum Pico (and also Bianchetto) is without any doubt to have it fresh – as fresh as possible – and sliced. You can use it on hot dishes, like risotto, hand made egg pasta, fried egg, fondue – or on cold dishes, like tartare or salad of raw Caesar’s mushrooms.

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Norcia black truffle can be used raw (but ground and not sliced) on food or cooked.

Other black truffles express their best if heated, so you should briefly cook them. A great match is with anchovies, in sauce.

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CELLAR TOURS- How much do truffles cost?

Truffles are seasonal products, so their availability, quality and therefore price can vary from year to year, depending on rainfall, temperature and climatic aspects. Also shape and size effect price.

The precious white truffle, the Tuber Pico Magnum, is the most expensive one; this 2013 season, you can find it from 1000 to 3000 euros per kilo (2.2 pounds), depending on the size and region of origin.

Here you can check the average price of the precious white truffle of Alba.

Is there anything else you want to know about truffles? Have we peaked your curiosity? Don´t hesitate to drop us a line!

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Photo credits: http://www.tuber.it – Tartufotto Milano -  http://www.tartufibianconi.it – http://www.savinitartufi.it/ – http://www.lacasadeltrifulau.it/ – http://www.tartuflanghe.it

Tuscany in the Fall

Posted by gen On November - 8 - 2013

Tuscany in the Fall- By Simona Piccinelli, Italy Specialist

Tuscany is the ideal destination for a gourmet wine tasting getaway in the autumn! Imagine freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil on bruschetta; exquisite white truffles  shaved over handmade pasta; aromatic porcini mushrooms and roast chestnuts; pumpkin and sage stuffed pasta; ripe figs wrapped in prosciutto;  manicured olive groves and vineyards with flaming red and orange leaves; velvety red wines on a chilly, sunny afternoon, medieval castles and stone villas …. this is Tuscany in the Fall.

There are few places on earth so idyllic and beautiful which tantalize all the senses like La Toscana

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We were lucky to attend Buy Tuscany a few weeks ago and visit some of our favorite suppliers to touch base and check the state of the wear and tear. Things were looking great! We are happy to recommend the following hand selected hotels for your next vacation in Tuscany, ones that have worked very well this last season and where you are sure to have a fabulous time- buon viaggio!

Relais Borgo San Felice

Immersed in the sublime Chianti wine country, surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, this Relais & Chateaux is actually an entire small hamlet. It´s got movie set narrow streets, a Romanesque church and medieval buildings which house 46 elegant rooms and suites. Being a historic structure there is no elevator but there are 5 rooms on the ground floor for those who can´t do stairs. After a late breakfast, the perfect relaxed day can start with a visit to the winery onsite, followed by an excellent Tuscan lunch at Poggio Rosso, where 2 Michelin starred chef Francesco Bracali prepares dishes based on local culinary traditions with his hint of personal creativity. Next season they will be offering exciting new cooking classes.

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Castello di Casole

Recently opened after a long and careful restoration by Timbers Resorts, this wonderful huge estate welcomes you with a cypress-lined lane that leads to the elegant main courtyard of the castle that dates back to the year 998. In the main area and building the hotel offers 41 suites, mixing Tuscan and contemporary styles. There are also some villas and farmhouses scattered throughout the extensive estate (available also for sale).
Not far from the hotel, in cooperation with winemaker Paolo Caciorgna, Castello di Casole produces 2 wines: Dodici and ‘C’, both private-label signature wines, which are available only to owners and guests. Very exclusive.

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Castel Monastero

Located in one of the most beautiful areas of the Chianti Classico wine region, the hotel is a respectfully restored medieval village. The buildings, distributed in different areas of the estate, are divided into “contrade” and house 74 luxury rooms and suites. While the village is in classic Tuscan style, the rooms have a chic, modern design which retains a warm and intimate atmosphere.  The Gourmet Highlight is celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay´s restaurant, Contrada.

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Villa Armena

A stunning late Renaissance villa made with red brick, surrounded by gentle hills (this is quintessential Tuscan countryside), dotted with oak trees, wheat fields and cypresses: this is Villa Armena. Very intimate and cozy, it is owned and run by Edoardo and Elena (together with newborn Leo and bulldog Franco), a sweet and professional couple that really make you feel at home, as if you were old friends. After a day of  tasting Brunello di Montalcino or a visit to the white truffle fair in nearby San Giovanni d’Asso village, this is a great place to relax and enjoy the peace of Tuscan countryside. Dine in at restaurant Sorbo Allegro, where you will be be pampered by chef Carlo Valeri, who recently won the  prestigious Gualtiero Marchesi award. Recommended!!

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Borgo Scopeto

Feel like you are a galaxy away from the trials and tribulations of modern life, yet in reality you are onlya short distance from Siena-  Borgo Scopeto is a classic Tuscan “borgo”.  Once home to the famous Sozzini dynasty, it is now a beautifully restored and elegant hotel- a tasteful blend of traditional and contemporary styles. Borgo Scopeto is also an agricultural  estate, producing wine and extra virgin olive oil, that you can sample at their fancy La Tinaia restaurant or directly at the winery, not far from the relais. Dreamy!

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Il Borgo Castello Banfi

If you’ve always dreamed about being a prince or princess  then this is the right place for you! Owned by world famous Banfi winery, it is housed in a real castle in the ethereal Montalcino countryside and offers 14 fantastic rooms and suites furnished and decorated by Federico Forquet, with exclusive accessories. You can dine in the classic Tuscan restaurant in the medieval castle, sampling traditional dishes like pinci (which is called “pici” in the rest of the region of Siena). This is a thick, hand-rolled pasta, that you can learn to make during a fun and interesting cooking class on site.

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Il Falconiere

The ultimate Under the Tuscan Sun experience. Experience true Tuscan living at this welcoming resort, with  touch of bohemia. The warm, affectionate  Baracchi family are great characters. Silvia will spoil your palate at the restaurant and during her enlightening and amusing cooking classes (you can even learn how to make your own cheese!), Riccardo will charm you with tails about falconry and, together with his son Benedetto, will introduce you to his wines. Add a small but complete spa (with wine therapy and olive oil treatments), not to mention the opportunity to meet falcon Lilla … what else could you look for?

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We get so many requests for romantic trips, from honeymoons to anniversaries, babymoons to Valentine’s Day trips, so we composed some fun ideas in Italy (is there anywhere more romantic?) for our special guests:
1. For lovers of the romanticism  period and particularly of Lord Byron, what could be better than his suite at Punta Chiappa in Camogli with a private dinner from the tower where he wrote his poems? Sublime views from the special Byron´table…

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2. For Shakespeare romantics, a plush room in gorgeous Verona facing Juliet’s balcony is all you’ve ever asked for…

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3. For astronomers and star crossed lovers,  the cabriolet suite in the lovely Franciacorta winemaking countryside is a dream

ITA_ALBE_PG_Honeyroom
4. Want to cross paths with movie stars and rock stars, but avoid the paparazzi – we suggest an off the beaten track location like Basilicata where Francis Ford Coppola has opened a fab little palazzo hotel…

palazzo-margherita3

5. If Classic is your style, then Venice is your destination and a terrace on the Grand Canal is THE luxury touch to make the experience special and memory making…

venice punta dogana

6. For the lucky ones who have already found their prince charming, stay in a real castle in Tuscany!

banfi
7. For  lovers of the Dolce Vita,  the jet set atmosphere in Capri with its amazing food and nightlife extravaganza calls…

Ristorante-Il-Riccio_2

8. … and finally, for those who are down to earth, but still dreamers  at heart, a private candelit dinner overlooking the sea, in stunning Taormina, Sicily is our suggestion…

san pietro taormina lg

 

Let us plan the romantic vacation of a lifetime for you, drop us a line!

Jewish Heritage in Italy and Italian Kosher Wine

Posted by gen On October - 25 - 2012

Italy has a unique place amongst European nations in Jewish history. The legacy of Jewish culture in Italy spans over two thousand years – from the early recorded Roman period to today. The country contains some of the oldest communities of Jewish citizens in Europe – over the centuries, Jewish communities in Italy have absorbed and welcomed Jewish groups expelled from Spain and Portugal, Eastern Europe, France and Germany.

Their presence has contributed significantly to Italy’s development throughout the ages, with Jewish culture playing an important social and economic role throughout Italy’s turbulent history, from the Dark-ages to fascism in the 20th century.

History records that the first Jewish settlers arrived in southern-Italy from Judea (part of modern day Israel) long before Christianity was established as the official religion of the Roman empire. In the early years of the Roman Republic a thriving Jewish community lived in Rome with at least 10 synagogues to worship. Then, in 160 B.C. the Jewish leader Simon Maccabeus sent an embassy to Rome to strengthen the alliance with the Romans against the Syrians. The ambassadors received a warm welcome from the Roman Senate and from the existing Jewish community in Rome at the time. Although, the treatment of the Jews in Rome did fluctuate, they were allowed to live and worship, relatively free from harassment until Christianity was established as the official religion of the Roman empire by Constantine I in 313 AD.

After that historic moment the position of Jews in Italy and throughout the empire declined rapidly. They were oppressed considerably until after the fall of the Roman empire, after which the dark ages yielded some respite for Rome’s, and indeed Italy’s Jewish communities. During the Dark Ages they were pockets of Jews in Rome, Milan, Genoa, Palermo and Messina in Sicily. When Milan came under the control of the Lombards, Jews were left to live in peace in the territories under their rule. Although the Lombard families embraced Catholicism, Jews were not persecuted and Pope Gregory I showed them respect and consideration. Although anti-Semitism began increasing throughout Europe from the 8th century, leading to great migrations of Jews from other European nations to Italy, Italian Jews enjoyed  comparably high standards of living.

In the Middle Ages, Rome’s Jews started to prosper as permission to trade and run businesses was given them. The majority of Rome’s Jews lived in the Trastevere neighborhood during this period, a district found on the west bank of the river Tiber, south of Vatican City. Despite the increasing anti-Semitism from the Church at this time,  towns such as Venice, Florence, and Genoa realized that their commercial interests were of more importance than politics of the Church and accordingly the Jews found their condition better than ever before.

Sadly this prosperity for Italy’s Jewish population would not last, by the early 16th century the Catholic church was fighting rising Protestantism and turned its attention to anything deemed a “heresy” or simply not contrary to the Catholic faith, including Judaism. In 1516,  the first ghetto was established in Venice and Jews were forced to live there, under harsh conditions. Poverty was rife and the resident Jewish community was striped of most of their rights and privileges.

Then, in 1555, Pope Paul IV established a ghetto in Trastevere,  forcibly moving all of Rome’s Jews into a cramped space on a few acres of land. They could not own property or run businesses and conditions were dire, many died of disease and starvation. Similar ghettos were erected around Italy and conditions didn’t improve dramatically until the 19th century. In 1848, after Napoleon had successfully taken and occupied Rome, the ghetto walls were torn down and the inhabits were allowed to move freely in the city.

After the Italian unification in 1870, Jews across Italy were granted full rights as Italian citizens. However in the 20th century, the rise of fascism in western Europe spelled dark times for Italy’s Jewish population, although they did not suffer as much as the German and Polish Jews. The Italian leader Mussolini instituted many anti-semitic laws as he allied himself to Hitler. The situation worsened after Mussolini was deposed, as the Nazis occupied southern Italy late in the second world war, and began instigating measures to deport the countries population to concentration camps. However, they met with resistance in many cities – in the Umbrian town of Assisi, Father Rufino Niccacci, sheltered 300 Jews during the war and gave them new identities and lives. Overall over 7,000 Jews became victims of the Holocaust.

Today, the Jewish population in Italy has recovered from the darkness of the mid 20th century and have left an incredible cultural mark on Italy’s towns and cities. Although the current community is relatively small, an estimate of around 45,000 – they are most definitely an important part of the Italian social landscape. The ghettos of Rome and Venice, the Jewish museum and synagogues all attract many visitors each year.

We start our tour with the birthplace of the Jewish arrival in Italy – Rome. The eternal city has over 22 centuries of Jewish heritage, which in addition to the classic sites of Rome – the Vatican, the colosseum, add up to an incredibly varied and almost overwhelming cultural experience. Although after the fall of the Roman Empire, Rome became the center of the Christian world, the Jewish community played an important role in Rome’s history. The oldest synagogue in Rome and possibly Italy, can still be visited. Then there is the ghetto, the largest in Italy and the Ponte Fabricio, not to mention the wealth of Jewish shops, kosher restaurants and guest-houses.

I’d suggest starting your Roman tour on on the east bank of the rive Tiber, near the Isola Tiberina (Island in the Tiber). This district, known as Trastevere houses the majority of Rome’s Jewish cultural attractions, including the synagogue and of course, the ghetto, constructed in the 16th century by Pope Paul IV. Although when Italy was unified in 1870 the ghetto was largely demolished, some of the streets remain as they were and make for a fascinating viewing, a leisurely stroll is the best way to sample Rome’s Jewish ghetto. Take a walk down Via del Portico d’Ottavia, the main through ware of the ghetto and notice kosher restaurants proudly serving carciofi (artichokes, a Jewish Roman specialism) and shops of fine, locally produced Judaica.  On Via San Ambrogio, there is also a small art gallery, promoting the works of young Israeli artists, well worth a detour. If you get peckish then check out the Jewish bakery on Piazza delle Cinque Scole.

You have already seen many wonders of the Jewish legacy, but before you leave make sure to visit the “Synagogue of Emancipation”, built after the ghetto was dismantled and completed in 1904. It is beautiful! Highlights include the impressive dome, painted with the colours of the rainbow and the museum. It contains historically significant artifacts, many of which were created by some of the finest artists at the time, as Jews were not allowed to be craftsman during the 16th-17th century.

A tour of Jewish Italy could continue with Venice, beautiful in its own right, Venice can lay claim to having the oldest Jewish ghetto in Europe and a wealth of Jewish historical legacies. By the 12th century, Venice was an independent city-state, and through its control of the spice and silk trade from the East, became one of he riches trading nations in Europe, wealth that the Jewish business community helped to generated. Step back in time as you visit the ‘Scole’ or Synagogues of the Venetian ghetto that were constructed in the mid 17th century, each representing a different ethnic group that settled there. Today, the Ghetto is still the focal point for Venice’s Jewish community and contains several welcoming guest houses and kosher restaurants. Another highlight is the Renato Maestro Library, founded in 1981 it contains a wealth of resources on Judaism and it a must see for any Jewish visitor. Not to mention The Jewish Museum of Venice, founded in 1953 which gives visitors a fantastic insight into the Jewish communities in Venice over the centuries; how they have evolved and contributed to the great renown of this magical city.

Copyright Mario Camerini www.mariocamerini.it

The eager visitor, after marveling at the wonders of Venice should head to the small town of Ferrara, one of Emilia-Romagna’s greatest walled towns. It has a special significance in the region, as there has been a continuous Jewish presence from the Middle Ages to today. Jews were welcomed in the 15th century by the Duke of Ercole I d’Este and have left an impressive cultural legacy. There are three synagogues, contained within Ferrara’s ghetto, which were constructed in 1627 and was the obvious focal point of Jewish life in the town. There is also a wonderful Jewish museum, which although fairly small, houses many artifacts and exhibitions on Jewish culture through the ages. Access to the synagogue cannot be gained from the museum.

After Ferrara head for Bologna, capital of Emilia-Romagna and one of Italy’s most prosperous cities. Bologna has an impressive cultural heritage that includes a rich Jewish legacy that dates back to the Middle Ages. In the mid 14th century the Jewish population was enclosed in a ghetto by the authorities, but by the end of the 14th century they owned houses in all parts of Bologna and ran thriving businesses. Another example of how the importance of Jewish community to the commercial success of a city superseded the religious dogma of the time.

Well worth a look is the restored ghetto, containing craft shops with Jewish prints and other hints of new life in the old Jewish neighborhood. Restaurants and cafes abound, if you need a well earned pitstop! The only synagogue in the Bologna ghetto is another big draw for visitors, as is the recently opened (1999) Jewish Museum. It celebrates with colourful art and displays the history of Jewish community in Bologna and Italy, there is also a well stocked book and kosher store.

Of course no visit to Italy is complete without a tour of Tuscany. Our next port of call is Florence, a monument to the Renaissance, the artistic and cultural reawakening of the 15th century. During this time Florence was the cultural and intellectual heart of Europe, its cosmopolitan atmosphere and wealthy patrons, such as the Medici, providing the impetus for a period of unparallelled cultural and artistic growth. The early Medici families were good friends of the Jewish community, so there are plenty of fascinating monuments and areas to explore in Florence after you have seen the Uffizi Museum and the Duomo.

A Jewish tour of Florence must start with the imposing Emancipation-era temple and the Jewish ghetto. Built in 1571 by the Cosimo de Medici, most, but not all of Florence’s Jewish population were moved into the ghetto in the 16th century. However, Jews in the ghetto had some freedoms and could build synagogues, schools and other public buildings as they saw fit. The spectacular, Moorish style synagogue in Florence is considered to be one of the finest in Europe. It was opened in 1882, the Moorish facade was based on the designs of the Byzantine cathedral in Constantinople. Jewish presence in Florence over the ages can also be witnessed first-hand in the two Jewish cemeteries (only open the first Sunday of every month) and an excellent Jewish museum and library.

The above is merely a snapshot of some of the main attractions of the Jewish legacy in Italy. However, there is another important aspect to this Italian discussion, which must not be omitted and that is kosher wine. This can be produced from any grape or Italian wine region, but crucially the wine must of course be produced according to Jewish dietary law, know as Kashrut.

For a wine to be certified kosher, a Sabbath-observant Jew must have been involved in the entire wine making process and any ingredient used, must be kosher. Although this was not formerly the case, today many famous Italian appellations and winemakers are making kosher wines, much of it exported as Italy has such a small Jewish population. Some to look out for include: Terra Di Seta Chianti, Chianti Classico, Tuscany; Rosh Aglianico, Campania; Batasiolo Barolo, Piedmont; Araldica Pinot Grigio, Piedmont; Fattoria Scopone Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscany.

Nitra’e bekarov!

Sunday at the Farmers Market in Padernello castle

Posted by gen On July - 19 - 2012

Italy´s Gourmet Hamlets…..

By Simona Piccinelli, Italy Wine Tours Specialist

Italy is always full of surprises. You are driving through a relaxing bucolic agricultural corner of the country with only cornfields and cows to be seen, when suddenly in the middle of nowhere, you discover a “village gourmand”.

You are in Padernello: 76 residents, 1 crossroads lined with solid, thick-walled 17th and 18th century buildings, 1 church, a perfectly restored castle with its moat and drawbridge (and a ghost, of course!) and 5 restaurants (you are spoilt for choice)!

The lords of Brescia, the Martinengo family, built the castle in 1450 and lived in it until the 1800′s. There are many legends of the époque of the Martinengos, but the most famous is the legend of “la Dama Bianca”, who is now the ghost of the castle. Born in the late 1400´s, Bianca Maria was the daughter of Count Martinengo of Brescia. She was very beautiful, but delicate, thin and pale (“white as jasmine flowers” they wrote) and she had a sensitive soul, far removed from her family´s schemes and violent plots. She loved to spend her time praying and meditating; she had no interest in the material aspects of life. As day by day she was ever more fragile and sickly, her father sent her to her uncle Bernardino’s castle in the countryside in Padernello, to recuperate. It was November 1479 and Biancamaria was 13; she didn’t survive the summer and she passed away on the 20th of July, 1480, falling in the moat and drowning. Every July since then, Bianca Maria has appeared to the Padernello residents, dressed in a white gown, with a golden book in her hand.

After many years of neglect, the Nymphe foundation brought the castle to its ancient splendour and today it is a pristine, magical place, which offers many interesting activities throughout the year, from guided visits to theatre, from cinema to exhibitions, to medieval fairs and festivals and and of course food and wine tastings.

As soon as we walk in the castle, another surprise: the monthly farmers market is taking place!  It is part of Slow Food´s worldwide network of farmers’ markets, offering access to good, organic and fair food from local area.

 

Before we sat down to lunch, we visited the different stalls, chatting with the farmers and sampling delicious local foods. I particularly loved the traditional cured meats (coppa with honey, yumm) from Capriolo village, bread with taggiasche olives from Panificio Grazioli from Legnano, buffalo cheese from Manerbio and  sprouts from Marone. And of course casoncelli, I even got the recipe from the grannies making them!

Recipe for Casoncelli alla Bresciana (Casonsèi):

serves 6

for the pasta dough (recipe here) :

300 g white flour type 0
3 eggs
salt and pepper
100 gr butter

for the filling
200 gr of beef
100 gr of fresh pork sausage
1 carrot
1 celery stock,
1/2 onion
clove, nutmeg, bay
50 gr Grana or Parmigiano cheese (grated)
50 gr breadcrumbs
salt, pepper
1 egg
50 gr butter
2 spoons extra virgin olive oil

for the sauce
100 gr butter
sage

Instructions:

Thinly chop the vegetables, veal and sausages; in a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 50 gr butter, add the vegetables, sauté and cook until brown on all sides. Add the copped meat and let drain. Add the wine, let it evaporate and then add the herbs, salt and pepper. Add some warm water ad let cook for about 1 hr, keeping it well drained. Transfer to a food processor and mince. Transfer to a bowl, add the grated cheese, breadcrumbs, 1 egg, a pinch of salt and pepper and mix by hand.

Prepare the pasta dough; roll out the basic pasta dough and cut it into squares (about 4-5 cm each side). Place teaspoonfuls of the filling in the middle of the squares. Moisten the edges of the dough with a little water, and fold into triangle. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Set aside, cover with a clean cloth, and let rest for 1 hour.
Bring a large pot of water to a low boil. Add salt and the casoncelli, and cook for about 3/4 minutes. Drain well and toss with a sauce of butter and sage, sprinkle with cheese and serve. Enjoy!

Interview with Angelo Di Costanzo – Head Sommelier of the prestigious Capri Palace Hotel & Spa

Cellar Tours meet one of Italy´s brightest sommelier stars in beautiful Capri…


We had the pleasure recently to meet Angelo Di Costanzo in Anacapri on the roof terrace of the gorgeous 5* Capri Palace Hotel & Spa, where he has been the head sommelier since 2009. The hotel hosts also the 2 Michelin starred restaurant L’Olivo.

The youngest of 7 brothers, Angelo was born in Pozzuoli in 1975, he attended hotel school and, after working in several local restaurants, he became a certified AIS sommelier in 2001.

In 2008 he was awarded “Best Sommelier in Campania” and “Silver Pin – Charme Sommelier of Italy”. From 2002 to 2009, he run a great wine shop in Pozzuoli, L’Arcante, which is also the name of his fantastic food and wine blog, L´Arcante.

Sipping a glass of Falanghina dei Campi Flegrei Cruna DeLago, we began our chat:

1) CT- What made you choose wine as your passion? How did you become a sommelier? Why did you choose to stay and work in Campania? What excited you?

ANGELO- After some years of my work, I had the need to grow professionally and wine made me felt immediately so many emotions I decided to improve my knowledge and go deeper in that field. So everything started, studying, visiting wineries, walking in the vineyards. And I still cannot stop! Why did I choose to live and work in Campania? Well, what better experience is there than the opportunity to show your gorgeous region to guests coming from all over the world, staying home?

2) CT- What is unique about Campania in terms of food, wine and scenery? What can you find there that you can’t find in other places?

ANGELO- Campania is a very rich and generous region, still far from being over exploited or discovered. It is unique, with fabulous landscapes, terrific historic sites, welcoming people, amazing wines and gourmet products and a gastronomic tradition with such a huge variety it is very hard to find anywhere else.

3) CT- Which appellations, or general wine producing areas of Campania are your personal favorites and which of the local grape varietals do you enjoy most? Any particular wine you felt in love with?

ANGELO- Campania is the land of “100 local grapes”, an ampelographic treasure you cannot find anywhere else in the world. There are many wines you shouldn’t miss, each micro wine region, from Caserta to Naples, on Amalfi Coast to Irpinia, in Cilento or Sannio, offers its best, fine wines which are becoming more and more requested on the export markets, too.

Think of Falerno del Massico, but also  Amalfi Coast wines or Taurasi, the most important red wine of Southern Italy, made with aglianico, the most widely grown grape in the region. But you can find many other peculiar grapes: ginestra and palagrello for white grapes, piedirosso, casavecchia, marsigliese, tintore to name a few red ones. Unusual names, sometimes difficult to remember, producing very good wines, loved by guests who come to Capri from all over the world

4) CT-  Can you offer our readers any tips for enjoying Campania in terms of wines to look out for, favorite restaurants, etc?

ANGELO- Of course, nobody should miss Capri (!) , where I live and work , and Campi Flegrei, where I come from, plenty of interesting wineries to visit. I would suggest an excursion to Vesuvius, in Terzigno, to visit and have brunch at Villa Dora.Then, a visit to Caserta area, at Terre del Principe, an amazing winery, where you can also enjoy a traditional meal prepared by chef Maurizio Piancastelli.  In Irpinia, a drop in to Mastroberardino is a must, as well as to their wine resort and Morabianca restaurant with chef Francesco Spagnuolo.

Going south, you have to visit Cilento and its enchanting sea, stopping at a family run organic winery Casebianche, where you can also spend the night, Betty e Pasquale Mitrano will take good care of you. Last but not least, the Amalfi and Sorrento coast, where I particularly love Monte di Grazia wine estate in Tramonti, Marisa Cuomo in Furore and Vigne di Raito in Raito, close to Vietri sul Mare.

5) CT- What do you think the pros and cons of visiting Campania are and would you suggest it as a destination for wine lovers?

ANGELO- Pros are so many they are hard to list, Campania is absolutely a destination a wine lover cannot miss, to get and breath over 2000 of grape growing and wine making history. You can easily say that grape and wine were born here, thanks to the Greeks. I cannot see any cons, but I would like to give a true advice, especially to guests arriving from far away for the first time: put yourselves in good hands, as Cellar Tours, to organize the trip, the winery visits, the restaurants, sightseeing. This region offers a lot, but you need to know well the people, the wineries, the locations, not to waste your time.

6) CT- If you had to pick one favorite place in Campania, it would be…..

ANGELO- …. a very hard question! Every area has something special: in Campi Flegrei and Ager Falernus you find smoking soils and thousands years old wine anecdotes, in Irpinia amazing wineries, in Amalfi Coast and on the islands one of a kind landscapes, with vineyards suspended between sky and sea, in Cilento it is simply heaven … every one can find his own cup of tea.

7) CT- Your dream dinner paired with wines would be …

ANGELO- I am very proud to work here at Capri Palace and I would definitely recommend it for a gourmet highlight. Apart from Capri, I had several dinner extravaganzas: in Vico Equense at Torre del Saracino with Gennaro Esposito, but also at Taverna del Capitano in Marina del Cantone, to name just a couple. Should I pick one only, anyway, I would choose Don Alfonso 1890 and the lovely Jaccarino family, in Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi, for its outstanding cuisine, the impeccable service, great sommelier Maurizio Cerio: a real dream!

Interested in a luxurious, gourmet food and wine vacation in Capri and the south of Italy? We organize wine tastings with Angelo in Capri and he can  also show our guests intimate small vineyards on the island, contact us for more info.

Ten Best Pasta Dishes Ever

Posted by gen On December - 18 - 2011

Ten Best Pasta Dishes

by Nancy O’Neill

Just the thought of pasta makes the mouth water! There are so many sizes, varieties and sauces that it truly is difficult to choose just 10. It would seem that the widely held belief that Marco Polo brought pasta back to Italy from China is more myth than fact as there was a mention of pasta in a document in 1250 forty-five years before Polo returned from his adventures.

It would seem the dry variety of pasta as we know it today, originated in the Middle East and was imported into Sicily during the Arab invasions. In fact there are references to pasta in Muslim texts as far back as 1,000ad. On the other hand fresh pasta has been linked to Greece and was probably imported into Italy in a similar fashion. One of the most popular dry pastas is from Gragnano near Naples. During the 1500s this town was considered to be the home of durum wheat pasta and in the 1750s the city’s administration reorganized the urban layout benefit the drying of maccheroni!

So what is the difference between dry pasta “pasta secca” and fresh pasta “pasta all’uovo”? Well the ingredients for a start. Most dry pastas come from the south of Italy and do not usually contain egg which would perish quite easily in such a hot climate; it’s basic ingredients are ground semolina flour and water which is mix into a paste and pushed through molds of different shapes. It is then left to dry at low temperatures over a few days until all the moisture has evaporated.

Fresh pasta which was traditionally more common in the north and central regions, can be made with different types of flour although the most common is the “00” high gluten flour. Eggs are added to the mixture to create a more malleable, bread-like dough which suits more delicate sauces.

One is not better than the other, although locals who are loyal to their regional variety might disagree, it just depends on the sauces you are going to use or the textures you would like to experience. So, let’s have a look at some of the most popular pasta dishes and how they were developed.

1. Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma is a typical dish from the Sicilian city of Catania incorporating traditional Mediterranean produce namely eggplant/aubergine. The name was inspired by Nino Martoglio, a Sicilian poet and writer who compared it to Bellini’s masterpiece “Norma” upon tasting the sumptuous dish for the first time.

As with most of the Italian pasta greats, there are very few ingredients, however what makes every Italian pasta dish so tasty is the quality of the produce and the marriage with the right variety of pasta resulting in taste bud-tingling flavors. For this recipe you will need eggplant, ripe flavorsome tomatoes, salted ricotta, garlic, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. Remember to add salt to the eggplant and allow it to “drain” before cooking to release some of the bitter juices.  Cheap, tasty, easy to make and perfect for vegetarians this delicious but simple dish is a winning crowd pleaser every time.

Best Pasta Dishes

2. Bucatini all’Amatriciana

This most famous of Roman dishes was so named after originating in the town of Amatrice in the Lazio region. The original recipe was called Gricia (which is still prepared in central Italy) was not tomato based as tomatoes had not been introduced into Italy at that stage.  The recipe as we know it today became very popular in Rome during the 19th century as economic contacts between Rome and Amatrice became stronger.

Ingredients of the classic version vary slightly as the recipes developed depending on the availability of local produce. Guanciale (cheek bacon) is usually used as are tomatoes. Onions have always been included any time I have eaten Amatriciana but do not seem to be favoured in the surrounds of Amatrice. Lashings of black pepper or chilli pepper and pecorino Romano (from Amatrice if you can get it!) are standard also. The pasta choice is usually spaghetti or bucatini (slightly thicker spaghetti). Fresh pasta is not advised for this dish.

This peppery pasta will warm you through after an exhausting day of sight-seeing in the capital and to my mind is the perfect introduction to Roman cuisine.

Best Pasta

3. Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese/Lasagna

Spaghetti Bolognaise is probably the most popular pasta dish outside Italy. However in Bologna, Ragù alla Bolognese is always served with egg tagliatelle which are better for holding the heavy meat sauce. Dating back to at least the 1400s, Bolognaise was originally tomato-less and even today should taste more of meat than tomato sauce. There have been so many variations on this beloved dish that in 1982 the Bolognese delegation of Accademia Italiana della Cucina deemed it necessary to issue the “correct” classic Ragù recipe.

Ingredients: 300 g beef (thin beef skirt is preferable), 150 g pancetta, 50 g celery, 50 g carrot, 50 g onion (notice no garlic), 5 spoons tomato sauce or 20 g triple tomato puree, Half cup of dry white or red wine, 1 cup (250 mL) whole milk, Salt and pepper to taste (notice no herbs). However even the Bolognesi will add sausage, rabbit, chicken or porcini mushrooms to add another dimension. The key to a good Ragù is to cook it slowly for quite a long time; seven or eight hours cooking time is common to bring all the flavors together.

Ragù alla Bolognese is also the basis for Lasagna another well-known and well-loved dish worldwide. In Bologna it is usually made with green lasagne sheets a pasta which incorporates cooked spinach.  There are many theories as to the origins of the dish although the most likely seems to be that a similar dish existed in ancient Greece which was later transferred to the Romans. The ancient Greek word “Lasagnum” refers to a dish or bowl hence the name as we know it today.  The wonderful thing about Lasagna is its versatility. It is delicious with a Ragù as mentioned above but for the veggies amongst us, it is equally tasty with roasted vegetables, wild mushroom or cheese sauce. Recently I had the fortune to taste an artichoke version cooked by my Neopolitan friend’s mother which I have to say has been my favourite so far. I dream of that Lasagna! If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend it.

Best Pasta

4. Spaghetti/Rigatoni alla Carbonara

There are many hypotheses for the origins of this well-loved dish. The simplicity of the ingredients could mean that it was an easy dish to make for the charcoal makers “Carbonari” who spent long periods of time in the woods during the year. However the fact that we do not see reference to this dish in Italian cookbooks until after the second World War could demonstrate that it was invented by Roman trattorias to keep the American troops happy using ingredients (eggs and bacon) which was standard issue for the US soldiers.

Even culinary experts cannot agree on the origins so we will probably never know for sure. This not the only debate attached to this most delicious dish! What type of bacon should be used? Should you use the whole egg or just the yokes? Do you add cream? What cheese do you put on top? Most chefs would agree that you must not allow the eggs to overcook as the consistency should be creamy and not scrambled. Classic ingredients would be pancetta or guanciale (cheek) bacon, eggs, black pepper and cheese (pecorino Romano or parmesan). Onions or garlic is usually used too. Add the spaghetti or rigatoni to the bacon which has been cooked in a pan. Turn off the heat and mix in the raw egg allowing the heat to cook the eggs slightly. At the last moment grind a generous helping of black pepper on top and sprinkle with an abundance of cheese. Simply delicious!

Best Pasta Dishes

5. Ragù Napoletano

Most Italian pasta sauces are ingenious in their simplicity however this cannot be said for Ragù Napoletano. This rich, meaty sauce takes hours to cook and many Neopolitan women cook it overnight getting up regularly to stir it if they want to achieve the desired result. The meat for the sauce is pig ribs/pig roast, guanciale, prosciutto and bacon (in large chunks). Triple tomato concentrate, red wine, onions, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper are also included. It would take more than one paragraph to explain the complete recipe (and probably some type of degree!). However it is extremely important to brown the meat well, cook it ultra-slowly and add the tomato concentrate a little at a time to achieve a rich burgundy red sauce.

Pasta types could be Paccheri (shorter rigatoni tubes) or Strozzapreti, a twisted type of gnocchi whose name literally translates as “Priest-stranglers” after a greedy 18th century priest almost choked to death on them! Top the final dish with a cheese like a mature Caciocavallo Sorrentino to cope with the rich depth of flavor.

Main differences between this Ragù and the Bolognese version are the type of meat used, the size of the chunks and the type of pasta used. Moreover there is no milk in the Neapolitan recipe and an abundance of tomato compared to its northern cousin. Finally the whole pieces of stewed meat from the Neapolitan Ragù are often used as a main course to follow the pasta starter. Two dishes for the price of one (with a lot more work than two dishes involved!). A lot of sweat and dedication is needed but the end result is well worth it! Better still, go to Naples and have one of the experts make it for you!

Best Pasta

6. Orecchiette ai Cime di Rapa

Orechiette (little ears) are a home-made pasta most commonly found in Puglia, a region in Southern Italy. The name indicates the shape of the pasta, small, domed, white disks with one smooth side and one rough to hold the sauce. Unlike other fresh pastas, eggs are not usually included in its preparation.  If you drive though Puglia during springtime it is not uncommon to see groups of women, young and old, sitting outside around tables diligently pressing each individual piece of dough into an Orecchietta with their right thumbs and gossiping about the latest happenings in the neighborhood.

This type of pasta probably originated in Provence where a similar pasta is made and then introduced into southern Italy by the Anjous, a French dynasty which dominated Puglia during the 1200s. Nowadays the typical sauce to accompany these delicious “little ears” is made with “Cime di Rapa” a bitter leafy green known as Rapini in English. If you can’t find Rapini, broccoli is a good substitute. Ingredients are rapini (or broccoli), garlic, anchovies, olive oil, Pecorino and toasted breadcrumbs.

Best Pasta Ever

7. Pesto alla Genovese

There are many types of pesto in Italy depending on the region you visit and the produce available locally. However the pesto we all know and love is alla Genovese (from Genoa). The prime ingredient for this type of pesto is of course basil which seems to grow very favourably in the Ligurian climate. The name originates from the verb Pestare which means to grind (as in pestle and mortar).

As with most pasta sauces in Italy variations on the same theme differ from family to family. The most common classic recipe is now basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic and cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano). Some recipes include other types of nuts. There are two types of pasta associated with Pesto alla Genovese; the fresh Trofie which are a twisted type of gnocchi made with white flour or Trenette which is slightly thinner than Linguine. Nowadays it is quite common to add potatoes and French beans to the recipe especially when using  Trenette which I have to say I find particularly delicious!

Pasta Sauces Best Ever

8. Vermicelli alla Puttanesca

Due to the name, Puttanesca, many believe this sauce has some type of connection to prostitutes as “Puttana” means just that in Italian. However the name came about one evening in the early 1950s on the island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples. Architect Sandro Petti was entertaining a group of friends when they asked him to rustle up something to eat as they were absolutely starving. However he told them he didn’t have much left in the kitchen and they would have to go somewhere else to get something to eat. It was very late in the evening and almost impossible to find anywhere open at that time. One of his friends exclaimed ‘Don’t worry Sandro, just make us a “puttanata qualsiasi”’, which roughly translated means a slightly more vulgar version of “any old thing”. Sandro duly threw together a sauce consisting of the very limited ingredients in his larder i.e.  a few tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic, olive oil and some oregano. The recipe today usually includes some anchovies, chilli and parsley.

After the success of the dish that evening, Petti added it to the list of starters on his menu calling it Puttanesca as Puttanata seemed a bit vulgar. The key to this dish is to make a basic Marinara sauce and then add the other ingredients. Tomato should only colour but not dominate the sauce allowing all the other flavours to come through. As is true for Italian cuisine in general, less is more.

Best pasta dishes

9. Ravioli di Ricotta e Spinaci al Burro e Salvia

Merchants in Venice and Tuscany are credited with the earliest mentions of ravioli as far back as the 14th century. Ravioli were even known to the 14th century English population, appearing in an Anglo-Norman vellum manuscript.
There is a multitude of ravioli options on offer (cheese, mushroom, meat) without including their cousins, tortelloni, tortellini etc… One of my absolute favourites is Ravioli di Ricotta e Spinaci al Burro e Salvia. The key to this dish in my opinion is the consistency of the fresh pasta, neither too firm or too sloppy and a generous amount of Parmigiano Reggiano heaped on top just before serving.

The ravioli are stuffed with ricotta, spinach, some Parmigiano Reggiano, an egg, salt and pepper. While the sauce is made by melting about 40g of unsalted butter in a pan taking care not to burn or split. Add 8-12 sage leaves and allow to infuse for a few minutes on a very low heat. The perfect result is if the sage crisps slightly adding texture to the overall dish. Toss the ravioli in the sauce and grind some black pepper on top. Take off the heat, serve and spoon on lots of Parmigiano. Delicate, subtle and mouth-wateringly good!

Best Pasta

10. Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

Considered to traditionally come from the Abruzzo region, this cheap and cheerful dish is now popular the length and breadth of the boot. As there are very few ingredients (garlic, olive oil, chilli, parsley and spaghetti) it is usually the first dish young Italians learn to make. It is also the dish that will most often be offered to you “facciamo due spaghetti” if you end up back at an Italian friend’s house after a night on the beer!

The sauce is made by sautéing minced or pressed garlic in olive oil (about 5 tbsp) on a low heat to avoid burning. Add dry or fresh chilli to give it a good kick and add the cooked spaghetti to the pan once the oil has absorbed all the flavours and toss well. Mix in chopped flat leaf parsley, serve and grate  Pecorino or parmesan cheese over the top or some toasted breadcrumbs which is common in the southern regions. Simply scrumptious!

Best Pasta

CASA ARTUSI- Trip Report, Emilia Romagna Food and Wine Site Inspection

by Nancy O’Neill

Casa Artusi was set up to celebrate the life and work of the man considered to be The Father of Italian Cuisine, Pellegrino Artusi, born in 1820 to a relatively wealthy family in Forlimpopli. Seeing as the Artusi family were merchants and grocers, they fled to Florence (the heart of trade at that time) in 1851 to escape the terror and violence inflicted upon them by a notorious bandit of the area. In Florence he continued to develop his career in trade however his attentions were more and more focused on his true passions; writing and gastronomy. Living in such a cosmopolitan city, Artusi was exposed to cultures and cuisines from all over Italy and indeed all over Europe.

Casa Artusi

He started to collect recipes from Northern and Central regions while travelling for work all of which were tested by his own cooks Francesco Ruffilli and Maria (Marietta) Sabatini and in 1891 he published “Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well” a collection of recipes and a cookery handbook. The book was a great success and became a traditional wedding present for the bride of Italian families. Subsequently,  women from all over the country started to send Artusi recipes which their families had been using for generations resulting in the 14 updated versions being published until he died in 1911.

Casa Artusi Culinary Tours in Emilia Romagna Italy
Marietta worked alongside him throughout his later life and to honour her dedication there is now an organisation called The Mariette Association in Italy which was set up to research, collect and log all types of information about Italian cuisine especially that of the Emilia Romagna region. You can even contact them with your own family’s heritage of Italian recipes. At the cookery school Mariettas are called in to help during the pasta and bread making classes only.

However, Casa Artusi is not only a cookery school. This modern, state of the art building located in what was once an old convent, also houses a library, a museum, a restaurant and a wine cellar/shop the latter run by Jamila Khaled, the resident sommelier. On show in the museum there is a beautiful collection of gastronomy based literature both modern and old plus a vast range of Artusi’s writings shown off in glass display cases.

Casa Artusi Culinary Tours in Emilia Romagna Italy

The cookery school offers a variety of different private and group courses for all levels from beginners to professionals. The light, airy kitchen is decked out with 20 individual cooking stations with plenty of room to move about. While I was there I had the opportunity to part-take in a Piadina making class. Piadina is a delicious flat bread traditionally found and eaten in Romagna. With my “Marietta” Adele at my side talking me through each step I was able to make my very own Piadine in less than 15 minutes. The recipe is a simple, white flour dough which unlike most other Italian breads is not left to rise but cooked straight away on a flat non-stick pan like a pancake. Traditionally specially designed terracotta dishes were used to make Piadine which we also tried during the demonstration however I have it on good authority (from “Marietta” Adele) that the Piadina tastes better from the non-stick pan as it doesn’t dry out so much.

Casa Artusi

After our hands-on class we tucked into our own fare along with some delicious cold-cuts, preserved vegetables, cheeses and conserves. Of particular interest were two types of “Savor”, conserves/jams one made with Autumn forest fruits the other with pumpkin and both wonderfully tasty combined on top of the Piadina with Lo Squaquarone, a local fresh cheese similar to Ricotta but more like yoghurt in consistency.  Also on the menu were Pesche Nettarine di Romagna IGP; a local variety nectarine which is this particular recipe was picked while still extremely unripe and green (think slightly larger than an olive) then cooked and preserved in water, vinegar and sugar. Unusual and a little bit strange but exquisite on the palate. All this sumptuous food washed down with light, fruity Sangiovese red wine made for a very satisfactory pay-off after all our hard work slaving over the stove!

An interesting addition to our gourmet culinary tours in Italy.

Contact details:
Casa Artusi
Susy Patrito Silva (Director)
Tel: 0039 (0)543 743 138
Cell: 0039 347 789 2462
[email protected]

Piadina recipe: (makes 4 or 5)

piadina recipe

500g white flour
20g salt
70/80g soft lard
8/10g baking powder
Tepid water and kneed well until it forms into a soft, pliable dough.
Roll out 4 or 5 portions to the size a small dinner plate, cook on a non-stick pan (prick dough with a fork) until slightly brown on either side.

piadina recipe

More info on our offerings in Emilia Romagna-

Bologna Wine Tours

Balsamic Vinegar Tours

Grand Gourmet Tour

Interview with Alessandro Fenino, Pievalta Winemaker and Tre Bicchieri Winner

Pievalta winemaker
By Simona Piccinelli, Italy Specialist

It’s a little weird when the guy you consider to be like a little brother after being roommates for years wins one of Italy’s most important and prestigious wine awards. So I was amazed and delighted to congratulate my “little bro” Alessandro Fenino when he won the coveted  Three Glasses (Tre Bicchieri) Award from Gambero Rosso with his Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi wine he produces at the Pievalta estate in the beautiful Castelli di Jesi wine appellation, in the Marche region.

Pievalta

So an interview with the guy you made fun of for the way he did the dishes, whose father saw you tipsy, whose wedding moved you almost to tears cannot be formal. We had this chat after a ginormous lunch of frog legs, paired with too much vino.

1. Alessandro, tell us about how you came to be a winemaker?

I am from Milan, which might be famous for its Duomo, panettone and fashion week, but not for sure for its wine production! I chose oenology at college, because I was interested in a job allowing me to live in beautiful, pleasant and quite location and … because I’ve always loved to drink wine! During college with an internship and after graduation, I’ve worked in some wineries, until I was offered to start a new project and to create a new winery in the Marche region. That’s how Pievalta was born and how I became winemaker, agronomist, vine-dresser, cellarman, tractor driver, general manager …

Pievalta winery Marche Tre Bicchieri winner

2. How do organic and natural wines taste compared to non organic wines?

In my opinion there are two big differences. First one is that wines made from organic grapes have a fuller and richer taste and you can taste in their texture the minerality of their terroir, compared to non organic wines of the same appellation. Secondly, they have less sulfites and this makes them more pleasant to drink and more digestible (no headache the next morning!). Both things let organic wines be drunk in an easier way and be paired better with food. They are not wines which try to be the main and leading character at the table, but rather to accompany and enhance the meal.

Pievalta winery Marche Tre Bicchieri winner

3. What kind of traditional winemaking methods do you use?

What do you mean by “traditional”? I think organic agriculture and winemaking consistent with it are more innovative than anything else in the modern wine making scene! I produce wine, using wild yeasts, but I also use select yeasts which don’t produce sulfites. We make harvest by hand and press grapes immediately, then we let the must decant for an entire night and the day after we take away lees and we move the must to vinification tanks. We use stainless steel tanks to guarantee max hygiene and not to ruin our work in the vineyards with faults given by a dirty cellar (who some call typical aromas!) I’ve been trying vinification in amphoras for many years, but I haven’t got satisfying results for my standards yet.

4. Do you find that organic wines have had a bad reputation, or not been seen as “serious wines” by critics in the past, and is this changing?

This is changing for sure, thanks to many big and well known wineries which turned to organic production, persuaded that organic is a synonymous with good wines expressing their terroir at their best. There are still people saying they don’t believe in organic wine production, but in my opinion this is due only to prejudices and ideology. Anyway I am convinced that the bad reputation organic wines had 10 years ago doesn’t exist anymore and it is credit of all winemakers who are committed to improving their wines .

5. What are the benefits of organic wines to our health and the environment?

Organic wines have many health benefits. As organic wines have less sulfites, they are more digestible and don’t cause headache. Furthermore, they don’t any pesticides residuals, not even those allowed by law, so organic wines don’t contribute to chemicals build-up in our bodies. It has been scientifically proved that organic fruits contain more anti-oxiders than non organic fruits and that is true also for grape and so for wine. From an environmental point of view, organic wines can be seen as a real revolution! Soil is no more poisoned with weed killers and  chemical fertilizers, which pollute water bearing stratum and rivers and kill soil micro fauna. Soil is richer in humus, so it better holds back rainwater and this helps to prevent hydrological instability.

Pievalta winery Marche

6. What is your favorite wine to sip slowly and enjoy on these chilly early spring nights?

Among the wines I produce I enjoy is San Paolo, a Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi Riserva. It has intense and complex aromas, it is mineral, fruity with hints of citron and candied fruit, you can smell spices and saffron. On the palate,  it is very well balanced, soft but with very good acidity.

Pievalta7. What made you choose the Marche wine region, what excited you?

I could spend hours talking about what struck me about Marche and still couldn’t exhaust the subject, as every day I find new reasons to love this region: the beauty of the landscape, the sea, the sudden changes of weather, the unique light, the infinite gentle hills, a place where Nature and Man’s work are still well balanced.

Marche wine region

8. What is unique about the Marche, what can you find there in terms of terroir, winemaking techniques and methods that you can´t find in other places??

I think that the most interesting characteristic of Castelli di Jesi wine region is the ancient local grape, Verdicchio. It is perfectly acclimated to a terroir which is very different in terms of soils, altitudes and exposures. One grape for thousands different performances.

Marche wine region

9. Which appellations, or general wine producing areas of Marche are your personal favorites and which of the local grape varietals do you enjoy most?

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is the most important appellation in the whole region and in my opinion also the most interesting one, producing one of the best white wines of Italy. Among red wines, I love Rosso Conero and Montepulciano grape.

10. What do you think the pros and cons of visiting Marche are and would you suggest it as a destination for wine lovers?

Marche is a great Italian wine region to discover, it is still authentic and not packed with tourists and you will find plenty of very hospitable people. It offers picturesque villages, medieval towns, evocative countryside, harmonious landscape, fabulous local cuisine (from sea and land, home made and rustic or high end and refined) not to mention wines and gourmet products you will fall in love with. Last but not least, it is far less expensive than other wine regions, like Tuscany. The cons are that there are very few luxury and big hotels with many facilities, rather than simple and cozy ones. And I gained 7 kilos since I live here, because the food is too good and too abundant :)

Marche wine region

Eating responsibly and deliciously at Trattoria La Madia in Northern Italy

By Simona Piccinelli, Italy Specialist

Eating responsibly and deliciously in Italy

Imagine a tiny village set amid the Italian hills, 650 meters above sea level, hidden off the beaten track, but only minutes from Lake Iseo and the Franciacorta wine region.

Eating responsibly and deliciously in Italy

Imagine a cozy place, where hosts Michele and Silvia warmly welcome you like a long lost friend, taking the time to explain to you their food, cuisine and general philosophy about life. Here you are not rushed, and you completely understand the true meaning of conviviality.

Eating responsibly and deliciously in Italy

Imagine a wine list with a wide choice of local wines, carefully selected by Silvia from small wine producers. The wines are mostly only found in Italy and are offered at amazing prices.

Eating responsibly and deliciously in ItalyEating responsibly and deliciously in Italy

Imagine an impressive cheese selection, from the area, but also from the rest of Italy and France. Michele knows each producer personally (you will find all their details on the menu). He tastes and picks each cheese as he knows well that each one is different and standardization has nothing to do with farmers production.

Eating responsibly and deliciously in Italy

Eating responsibly and deliciously in Italy

Imagine a delicious, never banal, local and traditional cuisine, from lakes, mountains and the planes, which have rescued lost and forgotten flavours. A cuisine where you can really taste the terroir, its peculiarities and singularities with a hint of modernization and personalitation.

Malfatti with Bagoss Cheese

Malfatti with Bagoss Cheese

Grilled Pigeon with Polenta

Grilled Pigeon with Polenta

Freshwater Fish Fritto Misto

Freshwater Fish Fritto Misto

Imagine a restaurant where the industrialization of food (homogeneous, un-seasonal, repeatable) is blessedly absent here and all ingredients come from small farmers, where ZeroMiles food is a reality, where you have producers details of all ingredients on the menu if you want to go and buy directly, or simply know what you are eating. A restaurant which serves only meat from free ranged animals, who had a decent life.

Stop imaging as this place exists! Trattoria La Madia, near Brescia in Northern Italy, is a haven for foodies with a conscience.

La Madia

And you, do you think eating is an agricultural act?

Do you think your food choices impact on agriculture, on how it is sustainable and ecological?

Do you eat responsibly?

Do you think at yourself as a consumer or a co-producer?

Check out this interesting piece on Eco Literacy by Wendell Berry and we would love to hear your opinion on this topic.

Memorable Dishes of 2010in France, Spain, Italy, and Ireland

It’s become an annual tradition: we look back at the last year and consider what the best meals of the year were.  Last year we focused on Italy, and this year we are doing it across the board.

As we travel throughout the five countries where we offer our gourmet tours (France, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and France) throughout the year, between the whole team we get to try literally hundreds of restaurants throughout the year. These range from hole- in- the wall – family restaurants to gastro pubs to Michelin starred high end eateries.

We have selected some of our favorite dishes (as you can see we tended to favor simple preparations and top quality ingredients over complicated dishes)  this past year with links to where we were lucky enough to taste them.

May 2011 be a terrific year for all our readers, may you eat and drink very well!

1. Seafood platter, with delicious lobster and oysters, at Aherne’s in Youghal – county Cork, Ireland

Memorable Dishes 2010

2. Frog legs at Maison Lameloise in Burgundy

Memorable Dishes 2010

3. Pizzoccheri at Locanda Altavilla in Valtellina

Memorable Dishes 2010

4. Amazing Irish breakfast with wild smoked salmon and carragheen pudding at The Mill in Dunfanaghy – county Donegal

Memorable Dishes

5. Scallops at Le Coquillage of Chateau Richeaux and informal tasting of oysters (creuses and plates) in Cancale


Memorable Eating 2010

 

6. Pan fried eel and salad with shallot vinaigrette at 2 Michelin starred restaurant at Domaine des Hauts de Loire in the Loire Valley


Memorable Dishes 2010

7. Spring specialty with wild asparagus at La Subida in Friuli

Memorable Dishes 2010

8. Strawberry millefeuille at Venissa (owned by top Prosecco producer Bisol) in Venice

 

www.PassioneGourmet.it

 

9. Grilled Rodaballo (Turbot ) at Elkano in Getaria, Spanish Basque Country

Memorable Dishes 2010

10.  Sole with Fennel, Bergamot and Med Flavors at Celler de Can Roca in Catalunya, Spain

Memorable Dishes 2010