Tag Archives: Italian

Friendship and shoes: is there a better combination?

This year Santa came a little bit earlier for me. A few weeks ago, I received a cute, gift-wrapped box with inside a gorgeous pair of shoes from Suede, one of my favorite stores in Milan.

I love these shoes! They are sleek, timeless, very versatile because you can wear them with literally anything and they are reasonably priced. And the colors? Beautiful and perfect for the season! So what’s not to love? If you happen to be in Milan, I suggest you don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of the Suede stores. You can find all the necessary info and take a look at their shoes collection at www.suede.it.

I want to dedicate this post to the gift sender: my dearest friend Paola. Not only because she is beautiful, smart, successful at her job and super funny. But, and above all, because she belongs to that teeny tiny magical circle of people who bring a breath of fresh air in every room they enter. It’s a good gift to have, and very few people have it. You just have to be smart enough to recognize it when you see it. I still remember the first time I met her. I was in one of those awkward (to me at least) mothers-toddlers gatherings, one of those that I could not avoid simply because I had miserably failed to come up with a plausible excuse. I was standing in a corner of a room, trying to camouflage myself with the wall and pondering about my momentarily miserable life, when a very sophisticated woman approached me asking if I was Her Majesty’s mom. Now, you know when you are standing on the shore with your legs a bit apart, your body facing the ocean and a huge wave hits and completely submerges you, enveloping you in water? That’s exactly how I felt when she started talking to me. It was impossible for me to resist her charm, positive energy and great sense of humor. It was simply overwhelming! We have been great friends ever since.

On a similar note, I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. On second thought, let me wish you all a great Friendsgiving. For me, family is not only made of blood-related people. Family is also made of those people that we meet during our journey and become part of our lives because we love them and they love us back, making our lives better one day at a time.

And that’s certainly something to be very thankful for!

Enjoy this coming holiday weekend!

Beyond boundaries: cat's tongue cookies

Lingue di gatto ("cats' tongues") cookies

Lingue di gatto (“cats’ tongues”) cookies

I dedicate this post to Her Majesty and not because she is my daughter but because she is that person in my life who pushes me to step out of my comfort zone and experience situations that otherwise I would never put myself in.

Hope you are ready for another chapter of my “awkward motherhood saga”! 😉 Oh well! Here we go.

Last year a mother from Her Majesty’s school approached me at dismissal. She is Japanese – Her Majesty and her daughters are very good friends and we ended up becoming friends too. She explained that she was putting together a group of mothers coming from different countries in order to be able to offer an international language program as an after-school activity. I knew immediately I was about to enter dangerous territory and then – of course – it hit me … inevitably and very hard: she asked me if I would be willing to join them and teach a class about Italian culture and language. Bam! Needless to say, the Evil Queen immediately showed her true self. I simply and firmly said … thank you, but no thank you!  Just the thought of me in a classroom teaching a bunch of kids from first grade to fifth grade made me hyperventilate. I knew it was for a good cause but I could clearly feel my temple veins start bulging and pulsing like crazy and my natural instincts telling me to get out of that situation and … get out fast. And so I did! Another mother would have gotten offended by my abrupt refusal but not my friend. I think it is because of the culture she was raised in. Haven’t you noticed that Japanese people are among the most gracious and kind human beings on earth? She sure is. She told me not to worry but gently invited me to think it over. She was going to ask me again the following year hoping I would change my mind. End of the story … or so I thought.

The new year started and there we were again at dismissal. Only this time I wasn’t by myself. Her Majesty was by my side talking with my friend’s daughters. When the fearful question was asked again, my brain was just in the process of looking for the right words of refusal but those few seconds of hesitation kind of stole my moment. The only thing that I could hear was Her Majesty’s voice saying that, yes, of course we were going to do it, that she would be my helper and we were so excited to be part in this program. Yay!!! My wonderfully social daughter! More mature than her mother in so many instances, always entusiastic of socializing and spending time with others!!! What was I supposed to say? There are moments in life when even the Evil Queen must recognize that she has been defeated and that was one of those moments!

Lingue di gatto ("cats' tongues") cookies

Lingue di gatto (“cats’ tongues”) cookies

I thought about how to teach that class for quite a while. I knew I wanted to cover all the Italian basics (history, art, food and language) but the most difficult thing for me was to come up with a plan to catch and keep the attention span of younger kids for
the whole duration of the class. As always, the solution came to me in my favorite place: lying in bed with a book in my hands. Kids love fairy tales and stories. I just had to connect any subject I wanted to talk about to a legend or an anecdote and only God knows if Italian
history and culture aren’t full of them. My next step was the public library. In my “office career” days, research and due diligence were an essential part of my job. Still today, whatever I’m doing, my first thing is research. It’s just my modus operandi and I wish I could do the same when it comes to human beings! 😉 Anyway, I made an outline of my talking points, I created handouts for the kids, I let Her Majesty pick the subjects she wanted to cover and prepped her and I asked Stefano to buy a few memorabilia during his latest trip to Italy to be given to the children at the end of class. I also considered some slides but – on second thought – I realized I would have gone a bit overboard.

Eventually, my teaching day came. I’m not new to meetings and presentations. Back in the old days, I used to spend countless hours in conference rooms talking with people that would have done pretty much anything just to close a deal. So what was all the fuss about? I don’t know but I sure was a nervous wreck. Thank goodness, Her Majesty was by my side giving me the talk and telling me that everything was going to be fine. Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

How did it go? Oh well, only time will tell! All I know is that Her Majesty did a great job, I survived and, most importantly, the children got out of that classroom unharmed and – hopefully – with a few notions about another culture! Sounds pretty good to me for a
first time, total amateur teacher! 😉

As a way to thank my daughter, I made one of her favorite treats: cat’s tongue cookies. These little tongues are pretty popular in Europe and Italians serve them either as cookies accompanying an afternoon tea or as a final touch for fruit salads, creamy desserts and
ice creams. Made with very few basic ingredients (powdered sugar, butter, flour and egg whites), they are super easy to make and you can unleash your creativity in terms of flavor combinations and/or dip them in chocolate ganache for a very decadent effect! The best thing about these babies? There is no magical recipe. You are just required to own a scale and follow a very simple rule: the weight of the egg whites must exactly match the weight of each of the other ingredients. In this case, I used 3 eggs whose whites weighed 98 grams.

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

Lingue di gatto ("cats' tongues") cookies

Lingue di gatto (“cats’ tongues”) cookies

Ingredients:

98 grams, powdered sugar
98 grams, softened butter (at room temperature)
98 grams, flour
98 grams, egg whites
half vanilla bean (optional)
powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven at 325 F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the sugar and the butter and mix until they are perfectly blended. Split the vanilla bean down its length using a knife. With the help of the same knife, scrape out the seed on both halves and add the scraped seeds to the butter mixture. Add the flour and beat until the flour is completely blended. Add the egg white and mix until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Stop and scrape the bowl.

Place some parchment paper on a baking sheet. Prepare a pastry bag with a medium start tip and fill it with the mixture. Create cookies long about 6/7 cm (they must be as thick as a pinkie). Make sure to leave some space between each cookie (they will grow). Cook for about 10 minutes or until the edges get lightly brown. Remove from the oven, let them cool completely on a wire rack and dust them with some powdered sugar before serving them.

I wish all of you who celebrate it a very Happy Easter!

Francesca xo

PS: I think everybody should have a person in their life that encourages them to be a little more adventurous and try out something different, maybe something they are a bit afraid of because it is new to them and out of their comfort zone. As a very wise woman once
said: if you do something, something good can happen or something bad can happen but if you don’t do anything, nothing is going to happen! 🙂

Because the scale never lies: Farro and Legumes Soup

Farro and legume soup

Farro and legume soup

4 Servings

Hello everyone!

The Holiday season is behind us but our Christmas tree is still up and some of Santa’s presents (unwrapped) are still laying under the tree – mostly because they are so ugly I’m not quite sure what to do with them! 😜

Anyway, this year Santa decided to surprise me with something totally unexpected. Something you cannot really unwrap but you can see, feel and touch, something that makes your clothes feel tighter and tighter as the day goes by.

A magical gift? Not really! I’m rather talking about 5 pounds of sneaky and vicious fat spread out all over my body!

With my parents over for Christmas, I wholeheartedly embraced the holiday spirit by practically eating non-stop and using any excuse that came to mind to ask Stefano to pop a bottle of bubbly. Considering that my body is not exactly in its twenties and my metabolism gets slower as we speak, it was only a question of time before I was called before my judgmental scale to answer for my culinary and drinking sins!

Facing the scale… what a painful experience! Are you familiar with the feeling? I wake up in the morning and lay in bed for a few minutes staring at the ceiling, without moving a muscle, realizing that I’ll have to face reality sooner or later. I know that I just have to find
the courage to step up on that unfriendly machine that I keep hidden in my closet hoping that that malefic hand – never sympathetic, let alone merciful – won’t confirm what my puffier face and my tight clothes have been whispering to me for days now.

Farro and legume soup

Farro and legume soup

Finally, after a couple of days of me being “food cautious”, that decisive day arrives: I step onto that thing with my eyes closed, I take a big breath, I open my eyes and my face involuntarily assumes a horrific expression! It’s even worse than I thought. My emotional
reaction? A bit of depression mixed up with a delusional determination that I’m going to lose those unwanted guests in a couple of weeks. After all, it took me only a month to gain my extra pounds. It’s going to take me much shorter to shed them! I wish, but deep inside I fear I’m totally delusional about that!

And then the “cutting out campaign” begins. It’s time to decide which kind of food is bound to remain on the shelf. I open my imaginary pantry and I start looking. First, the sweets department. No, nothing to cut out there. I don’t have a sweet tooth and I very rarely eat sweets. Relief. I then move my eyes towards the fruit and vegetable department: thank goodness, I don’t have anything to cut out there either. Even more relief. I know this is going to be my best bet and pretty much the only department I will allow myself to access for weeks to come! So I linger in there, pampering myself, with the only aim of procrastinating a painful decision. There won’t be any more relief coming my way. I can see my next department – the carbohydrate department – with the corner of my eye and all my favorite food calling my name for the last time. It is time for me to kiss bread, pizza and pasta goodbye – at least for a while. My heart is bleeding and my tastebuds are getting depressed already. 🙁

To make a long story short, I’m in the middle of soup season. Not those light, watery soups that you usually have as an appetizer and that – after an hour – you feel like they have never been in your tummy. I’m rather talking about those rich, thick and satisfying soups that make you feel full from the end of your dinner until the time you go to bed. I think the soup in this post fits the bill beautifully.

I love legumes for their well-known nutrition benefits and they are perfect for dinner on a freezing winter night. I made this soup for the first time about a year ago (actually the photos that you see here date back to that night 🙂 ) and I found myself making it again during that big snowstorm that hit the East Coast last weekend.

Will this soup do the magic helping me losing weight? Only time will tell! In the meantime, here is the recipe!

Farro and legume soup

Farro and legume soup

Ingredients:

1 Cup, chickpeas
1 Cup, white beans
1 Cup, lentils
1/2 Cup, farro
1 Tbsp, baking soda
1/4 Cup, chopped onions
1/4 Cup chopped celery
1/4 Cup chopped carrots
3 Tbsp, extravirgin olive oil
7/8 Cups, vegetable stock
Some leaves of sage
2 rosemary sprigs
Ground black pepper
Salt

Directions:

Farro and legume soup

Farro and legume soup

Put the white beans, the chickpeas and the baking soda into a bowl. Soak the beans and the chickpeas overnight in cold water.

The day after, in a non-stick medium/large pot, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil, add the carrots, the celery, the onion and 1/4 Cup of water and sauté on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the water has completely evaporated.

Drain the chickpeas and the beans and add them to the vegetables. Add the lentils, 5 Cups of stock, some salt and pepper (to taste) and toss to coat.

Cook on a medium/high heat for about 35/40 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding some of the remaining stock little by little.

Reduce the heat, add the farro and keep cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding the rest of the stock. Taste the soup to check if it is necessary to add some salt.

Wash the sage leaves and the rosemary sprigs under running water thoroughly and dry them with paper towel. Strip the needles off the rosemary sprigs and chop them roughly.

Place the soup into serving bowls or plates, pour a bit of olive oil on top and garnish the soup with some sage leaves and chopped rosemary needles.

I’ll look at my calendar to pick a date for my next hypothetical “encounter” with the scale. Let’s try to think positive. Maybe this time, my enemy will show me some mercy! 😉

Stay warm!

F. xo

Doing it my way: Strawberry and Pastry Cream Puffs

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

I have a set of rules I try to live by every day. One of them is never to judge others and stay away from judgmental people as much as I try to avoid contagious diseases.

I like to live my life the way I please without having my choices as a person, woman or mother judged by anyone. By the same token, I don’t judge anyone and I think that  anyone should be allowed to do or say whatever they want as long as everything happens in a polite and respectful way. I don’t think there is always one right way or answer when it comes to big themes of life such as marriage or parenthood: what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for others and vice versa, but that doesn’t mean that one way is better than the other one.

Today I’m once again sharing my experience and feelings with you about something that happened to me without any further agenda. Today it is just me being me.

As you know, I don’t have a sweet tooth but Her Majesty does. A big one! Since she was in kindergarten, she has been asking me to make cookies and cakes for school parties and home playdates. To be honest with you, I wasn’t that keen to do it, mainly because of the various food allergies that Her Majesty’s schoolmates and friends suffer from. God forbids any kid gets an allergic reaction to something I have made! Just the thought makes me hyperventilate! Anyway, one day I decided to put aside my anxiety and fears and make her happy. 

The cookies and cakes I make come from the most traditional Italian cuisine: they are made from very few basic ingredients and lots of fruit or jam. I’m not against the general concept of kids eating a treat. I just believe that some treats are healthier than others and I try not to let Her Majesty eat super-sugary and super-rich sweets. Less is more doesn’t work only in fashion!

False modesty aside, my food usually gets some pretty enthusiastic reactions and I had no reason to believe that it would be any different this time. To my huge disappointment, most of the kids simply ignored my treats and went for the more colorful, sprinkled, super-sweet and most of the times store-bought cakes and cookies.

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

What did I do as a result? Oh well, another mother – a better mother – would probably have found some sort of common ground by both changing the recipes of her treats to make them more appealing to the toddlers and trying to educate them to a healthier taste at the same time. The point is that I’m not that kind of mother. I’m the kind of mother that, on the night of the school open house, reading the letter that her daughter left for her mommy on her school desk noticed that her nine-year old daughter misspelled one word and wrote her back saying that she made a mistake, while her father watched the whole thing in disbelief, thinking about how many therapy sessions his daughter would need to go through in order to cope with a mother like that and overcome the trauma… 😉

So back to what I did. I quit! I decided I didn’t need the aggravation (and yes, my pride had been hurt!) and I stopped cooking for school parties and playdates altogether. Every time Her Majesty had a playdate, I made sure I had plenty of fruit so I could offer fruit shakes and fruit salads as a snack. And the Evil Queen kept dismissing the never ending requests of Her Majesty for her to change her mind and lived happily ever after! Or at least she thought so!

Recently things have started changing, mainly for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, Her Majesty and her girlfriends have been paying more attention to what they eat lately. They are reaching that age when they get more body-conscious because they see their body changing and they start realizing that the lucky time when they can eat whatever they want to without gaining an ounce of weight is unfortunately coming to an end. Mothers play a big role too. Her Majesty’s best friend is the only kid I know that doesn’t eat burgers. Her mother is a very well-educated woman and she had the intelligence to teach her daughter over the years how to eat healthy and how to eat everything (except burgers, that is!) in moderation.

Secondly, some of Her Majesty’s girlfriends have Italian ancestors and are fascinated by Italian lifestyle and customs. When they come over, they ask me if this or that is authentic Italian food and they are eager to taste the real thing.

Soooo, making a long story short, I’m still not volunteering for any school event, but I’m willing to make treats for playdates when Her Majesty begs me to!

For our last playdate, the begging had been going on and on for over two weeks and, taken by exhaustion, I yielded!

Her Majesty adores pastry cream, so I decided to make these very simple and yet delicious puffs: puff pastry, vanilla pastry cream, fresh strawberries, some powder sugar, a bit of your time and… voila’! Les jeux sont faits! Can’t get any better than this! 😉

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

Ingredients:

2 sheets, frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 lb box of strawberries
3 Cups, whole milk
3 Tbsp, sugar
2 yolks
4 Tbsp, flour
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 vanilla bean
Powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:

Wash the strawberries under running water and let them dry completely. Slice the strawberries and put them aside.

Lay the sheets of pastry on a floured surface. If there is any crack in the pastry, press together to seal and roll over the sealed part so that you have a smooth sheet.

Cut each pastry sheet into rectangles of the same size. Put some parchment paper on a baking sheet, place the pastry rectangles on the parchment paper and bake them according to the directions on the puff pastry box. When ready, remove the pastry rectangles from the oven and let them cool completely.

In the meanwhile, in a small pot, pour the milk and add the lemon zest. Cut the quarter vanilla bean in half lengthwise. With the help of a knife, gently scrape the seeds out of the bean and add the seeds to the milk.

Start warming the milk on a very low heat. In a bowl, whisk the egg and the sugar. Add the flour and whisk until you obtain a smooth mixture.

When the milk is hot, remove it from the stove and, with the help of a colander, filter the milk in order to eliminate the lemon zest. Put the milk back on the stove on a very low heat, add the egg mixture to the milk and keep whisking for 10/15 minutes or until you obtain a smooth cream.

Take one pastry rectangle, place some pastry cream on top of it and add the strawberry slices on top of the pastry cream, placing them into two adjacent rows. Take another pastry rectangle and put it on top of the strawberries. Dust with some powdered sugar. Repeat the same process for the rest of the pastry rectangles.

As I said: easy peasy lemon squeezy! 😉

Have a wonderful week!

F. Xx

When the kitchen calls your name: Ricotta and Edamame Flan

Edamame and ricotta flan

Edamame and ricotta flan

4 Servings

Hello there!

Hope you had a great summer. We had a lovely time in Italy and Corsica (France).

This year I decided it was time for Her Majesty (who is 9) to start getting to know my hometown like a true Roman. It does not happen to every child to get to spend part of their summers in Italy and I want her to understand and appreciate how privileged she is. So I decided to prolong our stay in the eternal city a little longer than usual before going to my parents’ beach house in Sardinia.

Rome offered Her Majesty its well known treasures as well as lots and lots of hidden ones – those only known to people who live there. The weather was simply gorgeous and our cultural tours were interrupted by lunches and aperitifs at my favorite restaurants and bars.

During our cultural sessions, we were lucky enough to catch a Chagall exhibition held not just at any place but at the Bramante Cloister: Raffaello’s and Chagall’s artwork coming together under the same roof, in a magical embrace between one of the most brilliant architects of the Renaissance and one of the most influential European painters of the XX century. Can it get more fascinating than that?

We dined out every night with family members and friends and Her Majesty got to know some of my closest friends and spend time with my best friend’s children. She was excited and eager to try and see anything new and I was very proud of her accentless Italian pronunciation.

Edamame and ricotta flan

Edamame and ricotta flan

Since she has recently started moving her first steps in the fashion world, I thought it was time to spend a few hours downtown Rome and visit some Italian and French designers’ stores to show her what fashion really means, teach her some basic rules and explain her the basics of how to build a timeless closet. Of course, we couldn’t resist spoiling ourselves by buying a few items, but better not go into too much detail there because I like Stefano to remain in the dark when it comes to my purchases. 😉

Sardinia and Corsica were gorgeous as always. Countless hours on the beach sun-bathing, swimming, eating, relaxing and reading. As amazing as it can sound, this year I even managed to make a few new lovely acquaintances… thanks – of course – to that 9-year old social butterfly of mine. She definitely didn’t take after me! 😉

And the food? Oh well! I’m proud to admit that I haven’t really cooked for the past two months!!! 😉 I have spent my days outdoors, enjoying gorgeous weather, people and places and devoted many hours at night to reading thousands of pages. I think I can start working as an editor! 😉 That doesn’t mean however that I starved myself for two months. Actually, I was lucky enough to be able to enjoy and appreciate the creations of other chefs and cooks who introduced me to new ingredient combinations and new dishes that I will be sharing with you in the upcoming fall and winter months.

This is my first attempt to get back to some kind of kitchen routine. Her Majesty is back in school and Stefano longs for his meals the way they used to be before my rebellious summer. Can you believe the nerve? 😉

A flan that I had in Italy contained fava beans. I thought edamame would be a great variant. I love edamame: they are low in calories and high in proteins, fibers and vitamins, and they pair beautifully both with proteins and carbohydrates.

The real key to this flan is the quality of the ricotta cheese. There is a lot a bad ricotta around. A lot! And I know that by experience. Fresh ricotta is such a delicate and yet distinctively flavorful cheese that must melt in your mouth. You should pick a ricotta that tastes delicious by itself to the point that it delights your tastebuds even without adding any seasoning to it. A poor-quality ricotta will make a mediocre flan and the flavors of the other ingredients are not going to be able to compensate that of a “faulty” ricotta.

This is a very delicate dish which can be served both as an appetizer or as a light lunch, if you do lunch – I simply don’t! Maybe because mid-day is when my brain really starts functioning! 😉 It is very easy to make and it requires very little time. So, what’s not to love?

Edamame and ricotta flan

Edamame and ricotta flan

Ingredients:

1/2 lb, fresh Ricotta
3 eggs
4 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
1/2 Cup, boiled and peeled Edamame
Salt
Ground black pepper

Edamame and ricotta flan

Edamame and ricotta flan

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a blender or food processor place the ricotta, the Parmigiano cheese, the yolks, some salt and pepper (to taste). Blend until you obtain a smooth mixture. Taste it to check whether you need to add more salt and blend again.

In a bowl, beat the egg whites until they get fluffy. With the help of a spatula, incorporate the beaten egg whites into the ricotta mixture and, then, incorporate the edamame with the help of the same spatula.

Coat the ramekins with butter and fill them with the mixture. Place the ramekins inside a large, shallow pan. Add warm water to the large pan such that the lower half of the height of the ramekins is under water.

Bake for about 40 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let them cool.

Invert onto a serving plate, add a salad of your choice on the side and serve right away.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

F. Xx

When celebrations are in order: an epochal ruling and a tomato and provolone risotto

Tomato and provolone risotto

Tomato and provolone risotto

The saying goes that everyone is entitled to their opinion. I do not completely agree. I think that everyone is entitled to their opinion as long as it is respectful and mindful of the fact that other people’s opinion may be different and – still – totally worthy to be expressed and listened to. Of course, the following opinion is on a subject that has been controversial for more that half century and it is mine (and Stefano’s) only. Feel free to agree or disagree and express your opinion in the comment section, but please do it respectfully.

This post is dedicated to those five revolutionary and extraordinary judges sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court that last week didn’t simply made same-sex marriage legal, they upheld its constitutionality. Their ruling which is now the law of the land is an epic point of no return and, at the same time, a dream-come-true for millions of people.

From now on no State will be able not to recognize to two people of the same sex their right to get married. It may seem natural and maybe even obvious to heterosexuals, but the Supreme Court’s ruling constitutes the dawn of a new era where homosexuals and heterosexuals have exactly the same right to marriage.

Tomato and provolone risotto

Tomato and provolone risotto

But that ruling is also the final coronation of a dream that has moved the heart of millions of people for several decades. People who have suffered and fought only to be granted the right to be considered equal to others.

For different reasons, today is considered the birthday of the United States. We think it is so special that the Supreme Court’s decision came out only a week before Independence Day.

A day of celebration of freedom in a country that has shown to be capable of listening to the voice of gay couples that have fought so long and so hard for their basic rights. A day of celebration of freedom in a country whose President has greeted this judicial decision by declaring that “love is love” and “this ruling is a victory for America”. A day of celebration of freedom in a country that has built its traditions and grandiosity on the basic yet fundamental concept that “all men are created equal” with certain unalienable rights such as “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness”.

I know that the Catholic raising of those who write this post should prevent us from feeling joyful for this epochal change, but we believe that respect for any human being and their basic civil rights is more important than any religious belief. We live supporting the simple concept that we are all created equal, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation and that’s the main teaching according to which we are raising Her Majesty.

Today we applaud those five courageous judges and this great country that we are proud to have been calling our home for the last ten years, hoping that other countries (including – shamefully – the one we were born and raised in) will follow suit.

Now, since today is a day of celebration and there cannot be a proper celebration without good food, let’s talk about it.

I served this delicious risotto for the first time three weeks ago to a couple that Stefano and I barely knew, despite their being the parents of Her Majesty’s best friend. I was a little bit nervous because the “She” of this couple is vegetarian and tries to avoid to eat gluten as much as she can, although on that special occasion she was willing to make a “gluten exception” because she thought that my cooking was worth it! 😏

Since I didn’t want her exception to be too big, I decided to make a risotto. 😝
I was lucky enough to put my greedy hands on some super juicy and super good-smelling tomatoes and I knew that I had to make a gorgeous sauce out of them.
The sauce pairs beautifully with the rice and the melted provolone, while parmigiano makes the risotto creamy and even more flavorful.

Tomato and provolone risotto

Tomato and provolone risotto

Ingredients for the tomato sauce:
20 oz, fresh tomatoes
1/2 Cup, chopped red onion
5/6 leaves, fresh basil
2/3 Tbsp, extravirgin olive oil
Salt

Ingredients for the risotto:
1/4 cup, chopped white onions
1 Tbsp, butter
7 oz, Arborio rice
1/3 Cup, dry white wine
4 Cups, vegetable stock
2 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
1/2 Cup, shredded Provolone cheese
1 Tsp, dry oregano (optional)
salt

Directions for the tomato sauce:
Wash the tomatoes under running water. Remove the stem ends, cut them in halves and cut each half in 4 quarters.

In a medium non-stick pot, put the tomatoes, the onions, the basil leaves and some salt (to taste) and cook on a low heat for a couple of hours, stirring often, or until you obtain a sort of tomato mixture (the water from the tomatoes must almost completely evaporate).

Run the tomato mixture into a foodmill, place the tomato sauce back on the low heat and simmer for about 10/15 minutes. Turn off the heat and pour the olive oil on the sauce.

Directions for the risotto:
In a medium-size non-stick pot, put the butter and the chopped onion and cook until the onion softens.

Add the rice and toss to coat for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the wine in and keep stirring until the wine evaporates completely.

Add two ladles of stock and cook, constantly stirring, until the stock is absorbed. When the stock has been absorbed, add another ladle of stock and keep cooking until absorbed, and then repeat the process adding more stock.

About 10 minutes after the first addition of stock, add the tomato sauce.

Keep cooking, constantly stirring, and add the rest of the stock little by little until the rice is creamy and cooked al dente. This will take about 18/20 minutes from the time the first ladle of stock is added. Taste the rice to check if it is necessary to add some salt.

Remove the pot from the heat, add three quarters of the Provolone cheese and the Parmigiano cheese and stir until the cheese is completely melted and you obtain a creamy risotto.

Put the risotto into the serving plates and dust the top of each plate with the rest of the Provolone cheese and, if you like so, some oregano.

We wish you all a glorious 4th of July weekend! 🙂

Francesca Xx

P.S. “She” didn’t say a word about the risotto during the dinner but I must have done something right that night because a few days later – to celebrate an exciting event that is happening right now in my life – she left a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the bench in front of our house. 🙂

Unexpected acts of kindness do not happen to me very often and I think they should be treasured, rewarded and immortalized somehow. That’s why I asked Stefano to make those flowers last forever. Curious enough – or maybe not – the colors of the flowers are those of the Star Spangled Banner – the American flag! 😍

Red, Blue and White flowers

Red, Blue and White flowers

 

Going against the "season trend": Cremini Mushroom Soup for TDPC

Mushroom soup

Mushroom soup

The Dinner Party Collective’s Winter Menu is finally out and it looks amazing!

At the beginning of this social roller-coaster, I asked our lovely Chief Editor Margot to be given a chance to play my first food round in the opposite hemisphere. Margot and Sandra graciously allowed me to join them and I “won” the appetizer.

After a few email consultations with my co-conspirators, a mushroom soup got two thumbs up. So I did what I usually do when cooking time comes: I took out my magic wand and… bibbidi bobbidi boo… I had a lovely mushroom soup!

No, not really! 😉 You see, this time my magic wand had to work a little bit harder because… ok, here is the ugly truth: I do not like mushrooms! Oops!

But, don’t you love a challenge? I do! Especially when it calls for ingredients that I don’t like (but let’s no go there because the list is quite long!) I love the way this soup turned out: it’s well-balanced, creamy and full of flavors. It is a great appetizer and I ended up making it for Stefano already a few times.

If I could do it, you… yes you… I’m sure you love mushrooms… you can do it too and your dinner party will be off to a perfect start. If you feel inspired, you can find the recipe on The Dinner Party Collective’s blog.

Stay tuned for a wonderful first course by Sandra and a delicious and gorgeous dessert by Margot – plus Stefano’s wine pairing suggestions of course! 😉

Have a great week!

Francesca Xx

Mushroom soup

Mushroom soup

#OperaWine 2015: My Wine Tasting Notes for Central Italy

With some delay, here is part 3 in my series about my tasting experience at the OperaWine 2015 event in Verona last month. On this post we will focus on my tasting notes for the wines from Central Italy. As you will see, lots of winners here.

For my general notes about the event and my tasting notes for the wines from Italy’s northwestern region, please refer to the first post in this series. For my tasting notes for the wines from Italy’s northeastern region, go to the second post in this series.

1. Emilia Romagna

Ermete Medici, Gran Concerto Rosso Brut 2011Ermete Medici, “Gran Concerto” Rosso Brut 2011 ($N/A/€12): an extremely interesting Classic Method sparkling Lambrusco Salamino which matured for 30 months on its lees and was disgorged in 2014. The nose is immediately catchy with aromas of wild strawberries, raspberries, violets and fresh toast. The mouthfeel is refreshing and pleasant, smooth with good acidity and sapidity, just slightly astringent tannins and flavors of wild red berries (strawberries and raspberries), yeasty notes and mineral hints. A great choice to surprise your guests at a Spring or Summer party out on the patio. Very Good Very Good

 

Drei Donà, Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore “Pruno” Riserva 2010 ($35/€23): a very good single vineyard Sangiovese with an intense nose of black cherry, black currant, violet, licorice and a mineral note preluding to a medium-bodied, smooth mouthfeel with already supple tannins and flavors of black cherry, dark chocolate, coffee and licorice. Very enjoyable. Very Good Very Good

2. Toscana

Le Macchiole, Messorio 2004 ($190/€150): an excellent varietal Merlot which shows in my view the potential of this too often undeservedly bashed variety. A great nose reminiscent of violets, black cherry, blackberry, wet soil, Mediterranean brush, aromatic herbs, cocoa and graphite notes precedes a luscious, full-bodied mouthfeel with high ABV, intense sapidity and firm, just slightly astringent tannins together with flavors that precisely follow the aromatic profile. Long finish. Spectacular, perfectly ready now but fit for cellaring for another few years  Spectacular

Le Macchiole, Messorio 2004

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia 2005 ($150/€160): wow. Perfectly aged, with ten years of maturation behind it, the Ornellaia 2005 performs and enchants like a Berliner Philharmoniker symphony: captivating aromas of wild berries, licorice, herbs, Mediterranean brush, pinecone and sweet tobacco on the nose leave way to a structured, spellbinding sip whose perfectly contained power and silky smoothness are masterfully counterbalanced by gentle and refined tannins and juicy sapidity supporting delicious flavors of wild black berries, aromatic herbs and licorice lingering in your mouth in a very long finish. Spectacular  Spectacular

Tenuta dell'Ornella, Ornellaia 2005

Felsina, Fontalloro 2011 ($46/€38): a young but already very enjoyable varietal Sangiovese with a delicious nose of plum, black cherry, aromatic herbs, soil, potpourri and a balsamic note. In the mouth it is a big, full-bodied red, with substantial but already fine tannins, good acidity and all-around smoothness accompanying flavors that nicely match the wine’s aromas. It will perform even better after a few years of judicious cellaring. Very Good Very Good

Felsina, Fontalloro 2011

Testamatta, Colore 2005 ($550/€600): I am a bit puzzled by this wine, I have to admit. I mean, by all means it is a good, even very good red blend (it has Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Colorino in pretty much equal parts) but… 600 euros for a 0.75 lt bottle? Seriously? I don’t know, as much as I like it I could think of several different combinations of absolutely outstanding reds (plural) that I could invest those 600 euros into instead of coming back with just one bottle in my hands… But then again, who am I to judge their pricing policies. Anyway, the nose was very pleasant with aromas of black cherry, plum, licorice, tobacco and aromatic herbs and the mouthfeel was equally enticing, full-bodied, big, gently tannic and smooth, with nice correlation between flavors and aromas. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

Testamatta, Colore 2005

Carpineto, Cabernet Sauvignon “Farnito” 1997 ($30/€19): This varietal Cab that the producer made available for tasting with the benefit of 18 years of aging and maturing was a real treat. Its intense nose was appealing with aromas of black cherry, plum, green peppers and a minty note. Its mouth lent itself to some interesting considerations, particularly in terms of how age-worthy this wine is: despite 18 years in the barrel first and in bottle later, the wine was still incredibly freshly acidic and still had muscular tannins, all of which suggests that the wine will continue to benefit from additional cellaring: my sense is that in five more years it will be even better than it is today. The wine was moderately smooth and tasty, with flavors that closely followed its aromatic profile and a medium finish. Great value for money. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

Carpineto, Cabernet Sauvignon Farnito 1997

3. Marche

Umani Ronchi, Cumaro 2007 ($40/€20): a very good varietal Montepulciano with an appealing nose of red berries, tart cherries, aromatic herbs, leather, cocoa and licorice followed by a full-bodied sip that is smooth and gently tannic and provides flavors of raspberries, wild strawberries, dark chocolate and aromatic herbs. Very Good and appropriately aged Very Good

Umani Ronchi, Cumaro 2007

4. Umbria

Lungarotti, Rubesco Torgiano “Vigna Monticchio” Riserva 2005 ($45/€28): a delicious single vineyard Sangiovese/Canaiolo blend with a great nose of cherry, red flowers, sweet tobacco, chocolate, aromatic herbs, mushrooms and a mineral note of graphite. Its mouthfeel is perfectly round and smooth, with silky tannins and flavors of cherries and chocolate. Perfectly aged to its full maturity. Outstanding Outstanding

Tabarrini, Sagrantino di Montefalco “Colle Grimaldesco” 2009 ($50/€32): Tabarrini is a producer who has succeeded in showing the different terroir of their vineyards in their single vineyard wines. This one has a captivating, intense nose of black cherry, licorice, dried roses, aromatic herbs and a mineral note. In the mouth it is big, full-bodied, with high alcohol and muscular but gentle tannins; it is smooth and tasty, with flavors of spirited black cherries, licorice and rosemary notes. Very Good Very Good

Caprai, Sagrantino di Montefalco “25 Anni” 2010 ($80/€55): in my view 2010 is still way too young a vintage to adequately showcase the qualities of this great Sagrantino and unfortunately it ends up penalizing its performance a bit. The nose was pretty closed and shy, with notes of ripe plums, violets and quinine as well as a toasty note; in the mouth it is big, with abundant structure and alcohol but still a bit edgy, with muscular and astringent tannins and flavors matching its aromatic profile. It needs more time resting and maturing in the cellar, until it develops into the great, coherent wine that we all know and have repeatedly enjoyed. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

5. Lazio

Falesco, Montiano 2007 ($40/€30): Falesco is one of the producers who have been at the forefront of Lazio’s wine renaissance, thanks also to the ability of owner-winemaker Renzo Cotarella, one of the best in Italy. Their Montiano is an outstanding varietal Merlot with an intense, elegant nose of roses, black cherry, black currant, aromatic herbs, licorice, cocoa and black pepper. In the mouth it is structured and silky smooth, with supple tannins and matching flavors of black cherry, black currant and licorice that linger in your mouth in the wine‘s long finish. In my view, 2007 is at or near its top now. Outstanding and very good value Outstanding

Masciarelli, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo "Villa Gemma" Riserva 20046. Abruzzo

Masciarelli, Montepupulciano d’Abruzzo “Villa Gemma” Riserva 2004 ($77/€55): a nice nose reminiscent of forest floor, mushrooms, potpourri, black cherry, black currant, tobacco, licorice and a barnyard note goes hand in hand with a great, structured and smooth sip with gentle albeit slightly astringent tannins and flavors of black cherry, licorice, dark chocolate and aromatic herbs. Long finish. Outstanding and perfectly agedOutstanding

Portrait of a lady: Marella Agnelli – The Last Swan

Marella Agnelli - The Last Swan

Lately Stefano has been traveling a lot for work and, as a result, I have been cooking much less. No complaint there because I have had more time to dedicate to one of my passions: books. Right now, I’m devouring the four books of “The Brilliant Friend” series written by the extraordinary Italian author Elena Ferrante (this is a pen name – we don’t even know whether the writer is a woman or a man). The series is about the lives and the beautiful and yet very complicated 60-year long friendship of two women who were born and raised in a poor neighborhood in the Neapolitan suburbs. These books are one of the best things I have laid my hands and eyes on in the last couple of years and I loved every hour spent reading them. However, lately I have also been spending a lot of time in the company of another very special Italian woman: Marella Agnelli.

The Agnellis are for Italians by and large what the Kennedys are for Americans. One of the richest and most powerful Italian families living a life that not even celebrities will ever experience because – let’s be honest here – there is a huge difference between making money and be born and raised in a family that made and still makes history. Unfortunately, as was the case for the Kennedys, the Agnelli’s fairy tale has been spoiled and its members have been scarred by gossip, scandals and tragic and painful events. Doesn’t that invariably happen?

Gianni Agnelli was the head of the family. Known as the “Avvocato” (which means “the Lawyer”, although the nickname was largely inaccurate as he had graduated out of law school but had never taken the bar exam), he was a tycoon and the largest shareholder of the worldwide known car maker FIAT. Marella was his wife and now his widow (he died of cancer in 2003).

Born Princess Marella Caracciolo di Castagneto, she was the daughter of the Neapolitan Prince and diplomat Filippo Caracciolo and the American cosmopolitan Margaret Clarke. Before becoming an Agnelli, she was an art student in Paris, a model in New York working with the famous photographer Erwin Blumenfeld, a photographer herself and a Condé Nast contributor. She has been immortalized by the most celebrated photographers of the last decades – Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and Robert Doisneau, who was sent by Vogue to take the photos of her wedding. – She was an icon of style and elegance and all the designers wanted her to wear their creations: her wedding dress was a Balenciaga, just to name one.

Marella Agnelli - The Last SwanThe book “Marella Agnelli: Ho coltivato il mio giardino” is the latest accomplishment of Marella and her niece Marella Caracciolo Chia. The English title of the book “Marella Agnelli: The Last Swan” makes reference to Marella’s neck as captured in her iconic portrait by Richard Avedon. Funny enough, also Truman Capote, once one of her best friends, used to include her in his famous circles of “swans”, stylish and wealthy women he loved so much to hang out with.

The book is so much more than a beautiful collection of photographs of Marella’s residences and gardens in Italy (Turin, Milan and Rome), France, Switzerland, New York and Morocco. It is so much more than a glimpse at a lifestyle which is simply unattainable by mere mortals. Marella, with her simple and yet elegant prose, takes the reader by the hand and brings her into her own life, rooms and memories, from her childhood in Florence to the marriage with Gianni, from her friendships with legendary characters (John and Jacqueline Kennedy and Truman Capote, just to name a few) to her interactions with some of the most famous architects, interior decorators and landscapers of the century (Stephane Boudin, Russel Page, Gae Aulenti, Renzo Mongiardino, Peter Marino and Madison Cox, just to name a few) who helped her realize her vision.

That’s right! Her vision! Marella and Gianni were avid and eclectic art collectors of the greatest masters and every room of their residences has been furnished and decorated having a masterpiece and its distinctive colors in mind as a starting and focal point of the whole room, thus achieving the result of making that particular work of art stand out even more, if at all possible. She even designed some unbelievably beautiful fabrics and wallpapers to surround and enhance their amazing artwork. And she is the only one in my book who has decorated all her residences with some wicker furniture and succeeded in making it look effortless and elegant at the same time.

Her gardens are enchanted to say the least, but not in any artificial way. She has always respected the natural beauty of the places and worked with those plants and flowers that would be more congenial to the local landscapes. Some of her green creations are “manicured” in an extraordinary way so as to look totally natural. She even managed to build a swimming pool whose colors are those of the surrounding trees: a dream come true!

Marella Agnelli - The Last Swan

Although the book starts from her childhood and ends with the photographs of her beloved Marrakesh home, where she has been spending most of her time now that she is in her eighties and where her beloved granddaughter Ginevra got married, the book is not a biography – at least not in the strict meaning of the term. Sure, her life is the subtle common thread to all the chapters (which are divided by decades), but she does not reveal anything about her most intimate self. Her disappointments and sufferings are just briefly touched upon, without going into any detail. Her gardens and homes along with the interactions with those who collaborated with her to create those beauties are the central theme of the book and every room, garden, vision and project is described simply and concisely without any triviality or show off to impress the reader. She doesn’t want that. She doesn’t need that. She is a princess – a real one, and she knows that. Everybody with taste knows that.

This book is a little treasure and I enjoyed it immensely. If you have a special person in your life, someone who is chic and sophisticated, who is in love with beauty, art, elegance and understatement and who has the sensibility to appreciate a book like this one, The Last Swan is the perfect gift and a great way to say “I think you are special” to that person!

I wish you all a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

Francesca Xx

PS: Of course, The Last Swan was a gift from the most elegant woman I have ever met… my mother! 😋

#OperaWine 2015: My Wine Tasting Notes for Italy’s Northeast

Here is part 2 in my series about my tasting experience at the OperaWine 2015 event in Verona last month. On this post we will focus on my tasting notes for the wines from Italy’s northeastern region.

For my general notes about the event and my tasting notes for the wines from Italy’s northwestern region, please refer to the first post in this series.

1. Trentino Alto Adige

Ferrari, Trento “Perlé” Brut 2006 ($34/€30): an outstanding Classic Method Blanc de Blancs from the Trento DOC appellation expressing the delicate aromatic complexity that it developed in the five years that it spent maturing on its lees: fresh toast, roasted hazelnut, apple, white peach, honey and white blossoms. Then a creamy smooth sip that is perfectly supported by fresh acidity and tasty sapidity with matching flavors of apple, toast, roasted hazelnut and mineral notes. Outstanding Outstanding

Ferrari, Trento Perlé Brut 2006

Ferrari, Trento Perlé Brut 2006

Elena Walch, AA “Beyond the Clouds” 2012 ($52/€34): I have said it many times, this producer from Tramin, in the Alto Adige region, is one of my absolute favorites. This time around, I was particularly excited because at the event I got to meet in person the owner herself, Elena Walch. She was there with one of her daughters, Karoline, who is in charge of the foreign markets. But let’s talk about the Beyond the Clouds 2012: this Chardonnay blend really takes you to cloud 9 and beyond. A captivating nose of ripe pear, golden delicious apple, pineapple, white flowers and fresh toast is the prelude to a sip that combines fresh acidity and distinct sapidity with a smooth body of medium structure and flavors of apple, butter, fresh toast and a tingly mineral note. Outstanding Outstanding

Elena and Karoline Walch with their Beyond the Clouds 2012

Elena and Karoline Walch with their Beyond the Clouds 2012

Hofstätter, AA Gewürztraminer “Kolbenhof” 2012 ($44/€21): a wow nose with a broad aromatic palette of passion fruit, lychee, pink grapefruit, face powder, wisteria, white rose and aromatic herbs (sage?) precedes a full-bodied mouthfeel dominated by zippy acidity and marked sapidity, which perfectly counterbalances the wine’s imposing ABV (14.5%!), making it very pleasant to drink and nicely balanced. Long finish. Outstanding Outstanding

Hofstätter, AA Gewürztraminer Kolbenhof 2012

Hofstätter, AA Gewürztraminer Kolbenhof 2012

Foradori, “Granato” 2010 ($60/€45): a very good Teroldego from 60 to 80 year old vines with a flowery and fruity nose of cassis, black cherry, roses, violets and licorice that introduces a silky smooth sip with gentle tannins and flavors of blackberries and aromatic herbs. Very Good Very Good

Cantina Terlano, AA Terlano Pinot Bianco “Vorberg” Riserva 2011 ($30/€19): a pleasant nose of herbs, citrus, tangerine and briny notes nicely complements a balanced mouthfeel that is smooth with moderate acidity but marked sapidity and delivers fruity flavors of citrus and tangerine. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

2. Friuli Venezia Giulia

Jermann, “Vintage Tunina” 2012 ($60/€36): as always, Jermann’s fabulous blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Picolit, Malvasia Istriana and Ribolla Gialla does not disappoint. A wonderfully intense and complex nose of Granny Smith apple, citrus, kumquat, lemon tree blossoms, mineral hints and slight toasty, smoky notes opens the door to a structured and smooth mouthfeel with tasty sapidity and flavors of apple, citrus, toast as well as mineral and briny notes. As an interesting aside, since the 2011 vintage Jermann have converted to the use of screwcaps for their top of the line wine: even in Old World Italy, times are a-changin’… Spectacular  Spectacular

Jermann, Vintage Tunina 2012

Jermann, Vintage Tunina 2012

Russiz Superiore, Collio Bianco “Col Disôre” 2011 ($N/A/€25): this blend of Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Friulano and Ribolla Gialla offers an enticing nose of gooseberry, Mirabelle plum, candied citrus, aromatic herbs, vanilla and sugar candy, which is a pleasing introduction to a smooth and tasty full-bodied sip with citrusy and herbal flavors, ending in a long, mineral note. Very Good Very Good

Livio Felluga, Rosazzo “Terre Alte” 2011 ($70/€40): this Friulano/Pinot Bianco/Sauvignon Blanc blend offers a slightly faint nose of apple, pear, apricot, white flowers and face powder as well as a structured mouthfeel with noticeable mineral notes and flavors that match the wine’s aromatic profile. Good Good

3. Veneto

Masi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico “Costasera” Riserva 2009 ($60/€50): an excellent Amarone with a wonderfully complex nose of black cherry, blackberry, roots, sage, aromatic herbs, cocoa, quinine, wet soil and forest floor that complements a luscious, full-bodied sip with matching flavors. The wine’s acidity and noticeable but supple tannins are counterbalanced by its smoothness and perfectly well integrated alcohol. Long finish. Spectacular Spectacular

Masi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Costasera Riserva 2009

Masi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Costasera Riserva 2009

Tedeschi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico “Capitel Monte Olmi” 2004 ($80/€50): an outstanding Amarone with a great nose of cherry, mushrooms, roots, dried roses, herbs, leather, vanilla and soil that combines with a powerful and tasty sip. The substantial alcohol and supple tannins are perfectly integrated into the wine’s structure and delicious flavors of raspberry, strawberry, ripe cherry, chocolate and vanilla. Long finish. Outstanding Outstanding

Tedeschi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Capitel Monte Olmi 2004

Tedeschi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Capitel Monte Olmi 2004

Allegrini, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2006 ($60/€55): a big and bold Amarone with a complex nose of aromatic herbs (thyme?), roots, wet soil, iron, violets, cocoa, tobacco and black currant which is the prelude to a powerful sip exhibiting plenty of structure and high alcohol in the context of a smooth wine with muscular but non-aggressive tannins and flavors of spirited berries, tobacco, dark chocolate, herbs and a mineral note. Long. Very Good Very Good

Allegrini, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2006

Allegrini, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2006

Tommasi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2002 ($50/€40): a very good Amarone with a nose of tart cherry, violets, cocoa, tobacco, herbs and vanilla as well as a full-bodied, super smooth mouthfeel where the substantial ABV is perfectly well integrated and balanced by the wine’s tasty sapidity. Flavors of tart cherry, licorice, chocolate and a mineral note of graphite. Long finish. Very Good Very Good

Tommasi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2002

Tommasi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2002

Pieropan, Soave Classico “La Rocca” 2012 ($32/€33): a distinctly mineral nose of citrus, nectarine, slate, herbs and briny notes precedes an equally mineral, smooth mouthfeel with flavors of nectarines, citrus and mineral notes. Very Good Very Good

Suavia, Soave Classico “Monte Carbonare” 2012 ($23/€15): a captivating nose of peach, medlar, citrus, lemon zest, gooseberry and mineral notes as well as a freshly acidic and tasty mouthfeel with flavors that closely match the wine’s aromatic profile. Very Good Very Good

Cesari, “Jèma” 2010 ($35/€18): an unusual (and therefore interesting!) varietal Corvina with a nose of red currant, forest floor, moss, soil, coffee and a slight barnyard note serves as an introduction to a smooth and tasty mouthfeel with flavors of red currant, tart cherry, licorice and herbs. Good Good

Nino Franco, Brut “Grave di Stecca” 2008 ($45/€20): a nice, Spring-y Prosecco with a fairly immediate, fruity nose of citrus, peach and white flowers complementing a freshly acidic mouthfeel with fruity flavors reminiscent of pear intertwined with a zippy mineral note. Just one minor observation: perhaps I would have brought a younger vintage? Good Good