April 26, 2011

Happy cows make happy cheese in Friuli.

In Cormons, a small commune in Friuli-Venzia Gulia, I had stumbled on a small farm that is run by Giuseppe Zoff and his daughter Laura. It was there where I sampled his artisanal cheeses and returned a few days later to purchase cheese, fresh milk, and the most delightful and fragrant yogurt.

Giuseppe Zoff and his family have been breeding and raising Italian Simmental cows for three generations. In following his grandparent’s traditions, his cows are raised without chemicals and are never feed corn.

In fact when I walked up to his cows for their photo shoot, I was immediately struck with the most intoxicating smells of a sweet perfume in the air. The hay the cows were munching away on smelled of lavender and jasmine tea with honey.

They looked happy and they should because Giuseppe explained the importance of maintaining a stress- free environment for his over seventy cows. I even noticed that there were sprinklers and ceiling fans to keep the cows properly ventilated from the warm days.

He informed me that happy cows make happy milk, which makes high quality cheese and meat. If you would like to visit the agriturismo to meet the cows or to buy any of the fabulous products visit him at http://www.borgdaocjs.it/ They also a separate house where they rent out five bedrooms if you need a place to stay.

Happy cow (mucca contenta)

An assortment of cheeses of different ages and yogurt.

Azienda Agricola Zoff

April 23, 2011

White Asparagus in Alto Adige.

Way up high in the Dolomite Mountains in Trentino Alto Adige, I discovered a new appreciation for the great white asparagus! (asparagi) It is grown in covered soil called hilling to prevent photosynthesis. This prevents the asparagus from turning green and herbaceous. White asparagus is sweeter and much more tender which makes it more elegant in flavor.

While I was at Cantina Terlano, I took this video of a processing plant that they have inside the winery. They produce the best white asparagus in the region under the “Margarete” label. Harvests for this delicate and flavorful vegetable are from late April to early June.

April 18, 2011

Bolzano, Alto Adige

Alto Adige is in Italy but everyone speaks German which can be very confusing when you are trying to communicate. Here is a little music to add some sunshine to your day! We were in the town square yesterday and I just could not help myself.

Enjoy! (Geniesst)

April 12, 2011

I am so hungry I could eat a horse! Oh wait, I did!

On a sunny afternoon HD and I arrived to El Pendola, a charming agriturismo located in the heart of Valpolicella. We had just arrived from visiting Lake Garda and we were eager to fill our bellies with delicious food from this family-run restaurant. Grandma (Nonna) cooks in the kitchen while her daughter, Anna Maria runs the restaurant and the quaint gift shop that sells local wine, salumi, and cheese. The shop also features products that were made on the farm such as honey, soaps, and candles. They also have ten rooms available for rent if you choose to visit Valpoicella. http://www.elpendola.it

On the menu was a reoccurring theme of horse. Horse meat, salami, smoked, shredded, tossed in pasta, made into a sauce, and even on a green salad. Consuming horse meat is considered normal in Northern Italy. It is leaner and more flavorful than beef and has seen a rise in popularity especially since the European scare of mad cow’s disease.

I did have some hesitation before I ordered it. I have always had an adventurous spirit about trying new foods, yet I was nervous. I have a fondness for the majestic animal.I grew up with friends who had them as pets. I wouldn’t eat Fido or Fuffy. Or would I?

Yep, I was having me some horse for lunch.

We enjoyed a plate of shredded horse meat and two types of salumi. The shredded meat was smoked and served with slivers of parmigano reggiano cheese and drizzled with a local olive oil. On the plate were slices of bresaola, which is an air-dried and salted and aged for two to three months. It was sliced paper-thin and had a rich purple color and was intensely flavored, not gamey but rich in flavor and heavily scented. The other salumi had a distinct salty sweet flavor that melted in my mouth. I have never tasted salami quite like it before. It by far was my favorite part of the dish.

We washed it down with the vino delle casa (house wine), which is served by the carafe. With our stomachs full and with the high from the wine left to take our new tradition of napping just like the Italians do. Bella vita, no?

April 10, 2011

Soldera and Marco De Bartoli, Oh what a night!

Last night HD and I were guests of Gianfranco Soldera and his daughter Monica for an intimate dinner, which included Renato De Bartoli. We enjoyed an enchanted evening of great conversation and courses paired with the 2003 and 2004 Soldera, Brunello Riserva.

What a treat it was to sit with Monica and discuss the philosophy and the vineyard techniques that make the wines of Soldera special and important to drink. The 03 and 04 were both elegant with red berries, leather, and spice with hints of ash on the nose. They were also perfectly paired with our courses at dinner. I enjoyed them both tremendously.

After dinner we had a very special treat. Renato De Bartoli was kind of enough to share a bottle of Vecchio Samperi, Marsala (which he can't legally call Marsala because it is not fortified) that was originally bottle over 30 years ago and was about 20 years old at the time of bottling. (Which makes it over 50 years old) Next he shared a bottle that had Marsala as old as 1860 in the solera blend. With only 100 bottles existing of this particular Marsala, we felt very honored to be enjoying a glass with him. Sadly his father had passed away over a month ago so it was also very touching to be sharing a bottle by the great Marco De Bartoli.

The highlight of the night was to hear words of wisdom shared by Gianfranco Soldera. Besides making truly exceptional wines of the highest standards and quality, the Soldera family is deep-rooted with a foundation of family values and love among each other and their wines. It truly was a special to share the evening and get to know them better.

April 7, 2011

My Milan in photos.

Self portrait (for my Champagne friend)

Touring the mansion that was used in the film"I am Love"

Angel from the Duomo di Milano.

Street art, Jesus loves Italy.

Outside a bike shop. I want the red one.

I took this photo from a pharmacy in a very upscale part of Milan.
I am proud to capture this moment on my camera. A glimmer of hope and light for my future adventure.

I love this shot. I now understand why my nephew starts to cry when he is around his Uncle.

Where to stay, what to eat, what to drink in Milan.

The capital of Lombardy is Milan, which is a cosmopolitan city (città) located in the North of Italy. If I could compare Milan to any city in the U.S. I would say it is similar to New York. The cost of living is much higher than most parts of Italy. It generates wealth from the fashion industry, design, and financial institutions.

Where we are staying - Cocoon, a wonderful B&B in the Zona Tortona (a bohemian neighborhood where designers, architects, and artists reside.) www.cocoonbb.com
The owner, Mia is warm and extremely hospitable and manages to make us feel at home.

Where we are eating - at Anema E Cozze, I ordered a pizza with frutte di mare (fruit of the sea). Clams, mussels, octopus, and langoustine over a fresh tomato sauce and a perfectly cooked dough.

What we are drinking - We enjoyed a bottle of Sandro Fay, Valtellina Inferno, 2006 from Lombardy. Similar to Piedmont which prides itself on rich reds made from the Nebbiolo grape, Valtellina boasts reds crafted from the Chiavennasca grape (local name for Nebbiolo and from a dialect word meaning most suitable for wine) and exclusive to Valtellina. It smelled and tasted like strawberry jam, raspberries, earth, (fresh turned soil) and wildflowers.