Monthly Archives: April 2014

Sofia – An Update

Sofia

Sofia

Just in case you were all chewing your nails wondering how Sofia is doing, she is now 6 months old and I am happy to report that she is doing great, growing up just fine both physically and mentally. She is sweet, sociable, smart and occasionally hyper as only a lab puppy can be 🙂 And of course, she is cute! 😀 Most importantly, we are all very happy.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!Just a quick note to wish you all a very happy Easter.

Spring break is here and I have decided to take a break myself from everything (including blogging), go on a trip and enjoy some quality time with Her Majesty and my parents who just got here from Italy.

Happy Easter!

Enjoy the sunshine! May the Easter Bunny be good to you and good luck for your jelly bean hunt!

Happy Easter!

Talk to you all soon!

Francesca Xx

Happy Easter!

Wine Review: Masciarelli, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo S. Martino Rosso "Marina Cvetic" DOC 2007

In a previous post we reviewed an excellent white wine made by Masciarelli (a quality producer based in the central Italy region of Abruzzo) the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo “Marina Cvetic”. Today we are going to review another great wine made by Masciarelli, this time a red, namely Masciarelli, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo S. Martino Rosso “Marina Cvetic” DOC 2007 ($22).

Masciarelli, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo S. Martino Rosso "Marina Cvetic" DOC

Masciarelli, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo S. Martino Rosso “Marina Cvetic” DOC

Not unlike the case of Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, even this wine is made from a grape variety that over time has had some pretty mixed reviews. Due to it being so widely grown a variety in central Italy, quality may vary dramatically from producer to producer, which in essence means that you need to be aware of who the best producers are in order not to be disappointed.

Masciarelli is definitely one of the great Montepulciano producers and hopefully this post will help readers become acquainted with quality Montepulciano wines and have an idea of what to expect from them.

The Bottom Line

Overall, the S. Martino Rosso was an excellent wine at a very attractive price point – provided, like I said, that before enjoying it, it is left aging enough to mellow its vibrant tannins. The bottle I had sported a great, complex nose, coupled with an awesome mouth feel showing great correspondence with its aromas. With seven years of aging under its belt, it had supple tannins, great structure, still good acidity and a long finish. For those who can wait, it can age for a few more years and continue improving.

Rating: Outstanding and definitely Recommended given its excellent QPR Outstanding – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape

Montepulciano is a black-berried grape variety that is indigenous to Italy (most likely, the Abruzzo region) and is widely planted across central Italy (about 30,000 HA), especially in the regions of Abruzzo, Marche and Molise. Beside Italy, it is also grown in California, Australia and New Zealand. It is a grape variety that results in deeply colored wines with robust tannins, that are often used in blends. On account of the wide diffusion of Montepulciano grapes, the quality levels of the wines made out of them varies considerably – hence, caveat emptor: you need to know which producers to trust and buy from.

(Information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012 – for more information about grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive)

About the Appellation

The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC appellation is one of the eight DOC appellations of Abruzzo (as at the date of this post). The appellation was created in 1968 and it encompasses a large area near the towns of Chieti, L’Aquila, Pescara and Teramo. Its regulations require that the wines produced in this appellation be made of at least 85% of Montepulciano grapes, to which up to 15% of other permitted black-berried grapes may be blended.

Our Detailed Review

The wine that we are going to review, Masciarelli, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo S. Martino Rosso “Marina Cvetic” DOC 2007, retails in the US for about $22.

As mentioned on a previous post, Marina Cvetic is both the name of the wife of the founder of the Masciarelli winery (Gianni Masciarelli) and the brand under which Masciarelli’s flagship line trades.

The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Marina Cvetic” that I had was 14.5% ABV and was made from 100% Montepulciano grapes grown in Masciarelli’s vineyards near the town of Chieti, at an altitude above sea level ranging from 655 ft (200 mt) to 1,310 ft (400 mt). The density in the vineyards ranges from 1,600 to 8,000 vines/HA.

The must was fermented in stainless steel vats for 15 to 20 days at 82-86 F (28-30 C). The wine underwent full malolactic fermentation and then aged for 12 to 18 months in 100% new oak barrique casks.

As mentioned in the About the Grape paragraph above, Montepulciano is a variety that makes wines with robust tannins: this means that, in order to really enjoy your bottle of Montepulciano, you need to give it some aging or you may be disappointed because its tannins may strike you as harsh and edgy. Much like in the case of Barolo’s and Brunello’s, drinking too young a bottle of Montepulciano is one of the main reasons why certain consumers are put off by this variety: let it age at least 6 to 8 years and you will see that your sensory experience will be entirely different, definitely for the better!

As usual, for my reviews I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine was ruby red and viscous.

On the nose, it was intensecomplex and fine with aromas of black cherry, blackcurrant, sweet tobacco, black pepper, dark chocolate and hints of licorice.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, with high ABV and smooth; it was acidictannictasty. It was full-bodiedbalanced, with intense and fine flavors of black cherry, blackcurrant, licorice, black pepper and dark chocolate. It had a long finish and its evolutionary state was ready.

Party season warm-up: pancetta and potato croquettes

Pancetta and potato croquettes

Pancetta and potato croquettes

About 18 croquettes

Are you getting ready for party season? Easter is around the corner and I’m sure some of you will host the legendary Easter lunch. Personally I’m starting working on the menu for Her Majesty’s First Communion party. 

Every time I work on a menu for an event, I always start from the appetizers. After all they are the “preview” of the quality of the food that will be served during the event. They are critical to help creating that magical atmosphere (along with champagne glasses and colorful cocktails, of course!) when everybody gets to be cheerful and relaxed and starts to have a good time.

Potato croquettes are pretty popular in my house and they are such a tasty appetizer. I usually dip the croquettes in some bread crumbs and fry them in olive oil. However, an idea has been fluctuating in my mind lately. With the same potato mixture, I wanted to make something a little more sophisticated from the presentation point of view and a little less messy from the cooking point of view. So I put the mixture in a mini muffin pan, added cheese and bacon on top of every muffin and baked them. The result was fantastic. The crunchiness of the top contrasted beautifully with the softness of the inside. After the first tasting of my little experiment, I had a few croquettes left, so I warmed them in the oven the next day. And they tasted just perfect! A total blessing when you have to cook for a party, since they can be made the day before.

This recipe is just my basic mashed potatoes to which I add a couple of yolks. I tend to keep food pretty simple because of Her Majesty’s taste. However, feel free to use your own mashed potato recipe instead or to adapt mine the way you like, by adding a few herbs for example. After all, recipes are just suggestions that every cook should change according to their taste. 🙂

Ingredients:

3 medium size potatoes
2 Tbsp, butter
1/2 cup, heavy cream or milk
6 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
2 egg yolks
3 oz, pancetta, finely chopped
1/2 cup Emmental cheese, shredded
Salt
Ground black pepper
Ground nutmeg

Pancetta and potato croquettes

Pancetta and potato croquettes

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F.

Peel the potatoes, cut them in half and rinse them under running water. Bring a pot of water to simmer and place the potatoes in the pot. Cook the potatoes for about 30 minutes or until they are cooked through. Check with a fork: if the fork easily slides into the potatoes with no resistance, the potatoes are done.

In a non-stick pot, melt the butter on a very low heat. Drain the potatoes and, when the butter is completely melted, place them into the pot. With the help of a potato masher, mash the potatoes very well. Add the Parmigiano and the heavy cream and mash again. Add some salt, pepper and nutmeg (to taste) and toss to coat. Turn the burner off and let the mashed potatoes cool down for about 10 minutes. Add the yolks and toss to coat.

Place the potato mixture into a pastry bag and fill the greased and floured molds of a mini muffin pan. Sprinkle the top of each muffin/croquette with some shredded cheese and some pancetta and bake for about 15 minutes.

Remove the muffin pan from the oven and let the croquettes cool for at least 10 minutes before taking them out of their mold – otherwise they will fall apart. 

Serve with a glass of what you like the most (in my case champagne! 😉 )

Bye for now!

Because spring is a state of mind: lemon tagliatelle

Lemon tagliatelle2 Servings

That’s it! I can’t take it anymore and I’m officially putting the word “end” to this long, freezing winter. I hate winters. I know… I should not say the “H” word but here I’m saying it loud and clear!

Five long months of total hibernation, of postponing projects, of being cold all the time, of stopping buying shoes because I didn’t feel like going anywhere (well, actually Stefano and our bank account were very happy about that! 🙂 ), of just wanting to spend time under the warmth of the covers hoping that the next day would bring along milder temperatures… That’s how I have been feeling during the past months and that’s why I’m saying: enough!

I consider this dish my personal propitiatory dance to spring.  Lemons need lots of sunshine and warm weather to ripen. They remind me of my childhood summers spent at my grandparents’ beachhouse in Sicily where the heat was so suffocating that we used to spend the entire day on the beach eating nothing else but lemon granite and gelato.

I’m offering this dish to the gods, hoping that they will answer my prayers and send us the spring goddess. 😉

After all, it’s just a matter of believing in it. 😉

Ingredients:

1 lemon
3 Tbsp, butter
3/4 cup, heavy cream
7/8 oz, tagliatelle (or linguine), preferably fresh
2/3 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
6/7 parsley leaves, chopped
white ground pepper
salt

Lemon tagliatelleDirections:

Put a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil.

While the water is warming up, wash the lemon under running water and dry it. Zest the lemon and place the zest into a non-stick medium pot.

Squeeze the lemon and put the juice aside.

Add the butter to the zest and cook on a very low heat until the butter is completely melted (make sure not to burn the butter 🙂 ).

Add the heavy cream and after a few minutes pour the lemon juice. Keep cooking on a very low heat, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, when the water comes to a boil, cook the tagliatelle stirring occasionally and drain them a couple of minutes before they are al dente. Put the tagliatelle into the pot where you have been warming the lemon sauce and toss to coat. Add 2 Tbsp of Parmigiano cheese and toss to coat. If the sauce is too thin, add more Parmigiano (not too much though otherwise the sauce will dry) and keep tossing, on a very low heat, until the sauce thickens.

Put the tagliatelle into the serving plates, dust the top of each plate with some Parmigiano cheese and white pepper and garnish the plate with some parsley.

May the spring be with you! 🙂