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Domaine de Vaccelli Cuvée Roger 2009 with Meadowood Farm Lamb Chops and Red Fire Farm Brussels Sprouts.

Domaine de Vaccelli Cuvée Roger 2009
with Meadowood Farm Lamb Chops and Red Fire Farm Brussels Sprouts.

France’s Île de Beauté (Island of Beauty) lies one hundred miles south of France’s Côte-d’Azur and just over fifty miles west of Tuscany. This wildly majestic island enjoys some of the hottest, driest conditions in all of France (it holds the record for the most annual sunshine), and is where the Greeks first cultivated vines back in the 6th Century BCE. Despite this long history of production, it was not until the 1960s, when a horde of skilled wine-makers fled Algeria (the so-called French pieds noirs) for Corsica, that it became known for wines of quality of distinction. One of these wine-makers was Roger Courrèges, who founded the Domaine de Vaccelli in 1962 outside of Corsica’s southern capitol, Ajaccio. In Ajaccio, one of Corsica’s two AOC’s (designations of protected origin), southeastern facing granitic slopes have provided an excellent environment for indigenous varietals like Sciaccarellu, a thick-skinned grape that is literally translated from the Corsican dialect as “crispy-crunchy between the teeth.” Corsicans are often viewed as fiercely nationalistic, refusing to identify as French or Italian, and the Courrèges family is no exception, focusing on native vines and traditional practices to make wines truly representative of Ajaccio–the island’s oldest wine region.

Roger’s son Alain took over Domaine de Vaccelli in 1974 after his father’s death, restructuring the 28 hectare vineyard around the three most noble of Corsican varietals: Sciaccarellu, Niellucciu, and Vermentinu. Today, Alain works with his son Gérard to produce a range of reds, a white, and a delightful rosé (Juste Ciel) aged in caves beneath the winery, where natural granite walls are covered with Alain’s carvings. One of our favorites from Vaccelli is the Cuvée Roger Courrèges, a blend of Sciacarellu (70%), Grenache (20%), and Niellucciu (10%), that is a nod to the domaine’s founder. Cuvée Roger is dark and brooding, with a deep ruby color that hints at something sinister yet seductive. Rich aromas of red berry and spice give way to a stunning textural experience that is reminiscent of eating a low-hanging, super-ripe strawberry just after a rain storm. The fruit is ripe and laden with earth, and the warm, spicy finish recalls the wild mountain herbs, or maquis, that pepper the Corsican hillsides. These herbs are so distinctive–and remarkably aromatic–that their scent is said to have made native Corsican Napoleon Bonaparte weep when he was in exile on Elba, an island 50 miles to the east!

This herbacious, full-bodied red makes an excellent pairing for rich, meaty fall feasts.  The most classic pairing would be wild boar, or sangliers, marinated with red wine, herbs, and garlic, but alas, I was unable to wrangle any wild boars in Cambridge!  The next best thing is lamb, however, and I managed to procure some lamb chops from one of our favorite cheesemakers, Veronica Pedraza, who raises lamb and beef in addition to making cheese at Meadowood Farms in Cazenovia, New York. I rubbed the chops with whole-grain dijon, salt, pepper, and plenty of thyme (a nod to the Corsican maquis), and seared them until golden brown and medium rare. Paired with some roasted Brussels sprouts from Red Fire Farm in Granby, Massachussetts this gut-warming, hearty, harvest meal brought me right back to the Île de Beauté. I could almost imagine the lambs grazing amongst the rugged vines and kicking off the smells of the maquis–it’s enough to make anyone weep!

 

Rory Stamp is a classroom instructor, Wine Buyer, and cheese monger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

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Milking the goats at Big Picture Farm

Milking the goats at Big Picture Farm

Big Picture Farm has caught the attention of many a candy-eater, gift-giver, artisanal-food junkie and Tumblr user, and the farm’s award-winning goat’s milk caramels are fully deserving of hype and high praise. We proudly stock their precious packages in the bakery window, and hold onto their idyllic postcards behind the bakery to cheer us up. Behind their stunning pictures and doodles of goats, dogs, and garden harvests, however, is a working farm and growing business driven by passionate people.

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Higher Ground Rooftop Farm

Higher Ground Rooftop Farm

We climb narrow metal steps from the top floor of the Boston Design Center, set out through a heavy, metal door, and over a final raised ledge at the bottom of the door that can only be intended to discourage entrance onto the roof. Even before my eyes adjust to the brilliant sunlight, with my first breath, I can feel the farm in my lungs. It is not exactly just the smell of things growing; more the feeling of being given pure, new oxygen, in even exchange for the CO2 I am offering. When, still squinting, I first see the careful rows of vibrant life, I have that feeling of gazing at a mirage – it seems a bit of that visible, liquidy heat shimmers up into the air just beyond the edge of the rooftop, slightly obscuring the Boston skyline, at eye-level, off in the distance.

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Daphnis and Chloe Herbs: Bay Leaf, Oregano Taygetus, Thyme Blossoms, Greek Mountain Tea

Daphnis and Chloe Herbs:
Bay Leaf, Oregano Taygetus, Thyme Blossoms, Greek Mountain Tea

When I first became the spice buyer at Formaggio Kitchen I was so excited to delve deeper into the incredible, international world of spices. However, the more I traveled, learned and sampled, the more I realized that the spice industry is primarily made up of large producers more concerned with the bottom line than the quality of their product. It became a personal mission of mine to find small scale producers that match the quality-driven philosophy we hold so dear at Formaggio Kitchen. While it was difficult at first, I soon found equally passionate folks dedicated to producing spices of the highest quality. Slowly but surely our selection has transformed, with each little package of herb or spice now representing a regional culinary history and, more often than not, the unique and inspiring story of a passionate producer.

One such story is that of Daphnis and Chloe. Aptly named after a second century Greek love story, this small company introduces customers to Greece’s culinary history through their rare and unique varieties of indigenous herbs and spices. The Greek Archipelago provides natural isolation, allowing for different, ancient varieties of herbs and spices to develop unique characteristics particular to one island alone. Evangelia, the founder of Daphnis and Chloe, first captured my attention with some of the most remarkable oregano that I have ever tried. She found them by combing through the many different isles, working with foragers and organic cultivators to source the most extraordinary varieties.

Evangelia tells the store of Daphnis and Chloe best herself:

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Mottura Vineyard

Porcupine’s eye view of the Mottura Vineyard

This past April the Formaggio Wine Team took a pleasant trip to visit Sergio Mottura’s estate on our way to VinItaly 2014. We flew into Rome’s Fiumicino airport early in the morning and drove north-east towards Umbria. We eventually split off from the crazy A1 autostrada onto small, one-lane roads. Just along the northern border of Lazio we reached the medieval hamlet of Civitella d’Agliano, and the home, hotel and cantina of the Mottura family.

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Big Orange Tomatoes - Red Fire Farm

Big Orange Tomatoes – Red Fire Farm

Spring has finally snuck back into town and I am getting excited about the local, organic produce that will soon be gracing our shelves! On one especially stunning Monday morning, I had the chance to chat with Max Jiusto, the Harvest Manager at Red Fire Farm‘s Montague, MA location (they also have land in Granby, MA).

So what about this winter? Max explained that the extension of winter that we have all been bemoaning set Red Fire back about two weeks in their planting schedule. Even when the top layer of soil started to thaw, the lower layers remained frozen, so water couldn’t drain down into the ground and would just pool in the fields, making planting impossible. They started the plants in the greenhouse at the normal time, however, so even though they will be going into the ground about two weeks late, Max is hopeful that with a little cooperation from the weather, the plants will be able to catch up in their growth and end up maturing right on schedule. (more…)

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Spoonwood Cabin Creamery

A big welcome to the newest cheesemaker on our wall – Spoonwood Cabin Creamery! Spoonwood is a teeny-tiny 1,000 square foot “nano-creamery” in the town of Jacksonville, Vermont, 25 minutes west of Brattleboro – it is owned by Nancy Bergman and Kyle Frey. The name “Spoonwood” refers to the common name for the Mountain Laurel, which is prevalent in the region. (more…)

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