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Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

To read Part I of Gemma’s post, please click here.

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Alessandro of Valli Unite

Alessandro of Valli Unite

One of the most memorable tastings I had at VinItaly was with Valli Unite, a cooperative I visited in 2006, located in the hills outside of Tortona (essentially in the DOC Gavi growing area). Dreadlocked Alessandro, who now greets me on a first name basis, excitedly mentioned that in 2009 he made all of his wines without added sulfur. He recalled all of the questions and concerns that I have had over the years about sulfur usage. After some successful initial trials with Barbera and Dolcetto, he is confident enough to move forward with a more natural, minimalist approach in the cellar. This courage impressed me a great deal as did his desire to express as much terroir as possible in his wines. One of the questions that I like to ask growers is with regard to the future of their wines and their farming practices. Some producers express an ambition to sell more wine, expand into additional markets and find new exporters. Others talk about trying natural yeast fermentations, yield-reducing practices and no-sulfur cuvées. The latter type of grower is the one with whom I definitely want to establish a relationship. One can ascertain very quickly and easily who is thinking, trying, experimenting and who is merely responding to the market. (more…)

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Le bellissime colline di Verona

Le bellissime colline di Verona

During the second week of April, I had the opportunity to attend VinItaly – one of the largest and most well-attended trade shows for wine professionals – and two smaller, organic off-shoot shows: VinNatur and Vini Veri. These tastings brought growers, suppliers, sommeliers, and wine buyers together near picturesque Verona. It was a very special opportunity to taste wines alongside the growers, a process that is important in gaining a true understanding of the wines on our shelves and the farming behind them. Attending a show like VinItaly is the next best thing to actually visiting a producer. (more…)

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Guanciale = pork jowl

Guanciale done three ways...

I wish I could say that my first introduction to guanciale was in Rome, perhaps at one of those little family restaurants in a tiny alley just off the Campo dei Fiori…

The Pasta alla Carbonara was so amazing I just had to ask what
was in it. They explained to me that the secret ingredient
that makes carbonara better in Italy was guanciale.

Alas… no. (more…)

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Saladini knife: coltello da tavola curvo

Saladini knives were an accidental discovery for us – a happy case of being in the right place at the right time!

Ihsan and Valerie, owners of Formaggio Kitchen, were on a trip in Italy to find new cheeses. One night, they happened to be staying in Verona and ended up going to the restaurant 12 Apostoli. Ihsan decided to order a steak. Before the steak arrived, the waitstaff provided everybody at the table with the cutlery necessary to eat their main course. Ihsan was presented with a stunningly beautiful steak knife: it was stainless steel and the handle was made out of horn. This was our first introduction to Saladini knives. (more…)

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Eros Buratti, owner of La Casera

When two people from a small village in Piedmont came into our shop to buy some cheese, we quickly realized that they lived in the same town as one of our favorite stagionature: Eros Buratti. Talking with them brought back visions of my visit with Eros and reminded me how special our relationship with the Buratti family is.

Eros and his family run a shop even smaller than Formaggio Kitchen in Intra, a small town in the Piedmont region of northern Italy.  In the very, very beginning his father had a store front displaying freshly killed poultry.  Now, 50 years later, it remains an entirely family-run operation with a focus on collecting, aging and retailing regional cheeses.  On my last visit, I was introduced to their entire organization: Eros, his mom (Carla), his cousin Jair, Jair’s wife, and 3 other employees from the town. (more…)

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We just cracked a wheel of Monte Veronese DOP di Malga, a beautiful aged Italian cow’s milk cheese that is about 2½ years old now. Quite delicious. Meaty, pineappley, salty and piquant…

La Casara Monte Veronese Malga

Monte Veronese Malga

Monte Veronese di Malga is something special. The term “Malga” is the equivalent of “Alpage” and is given only to cheeses that are made in the summer months, from the milk of cows grazing on the lush pastures of the Lessini mountains (considered to be some of the best in Italy).  As a result, the cheese changes from year to year, based on what the different plants and grasses the cows are eating.

The stylized M indicates the Malga cheese

Malga brand on the rind

Monte Veronese DOP di Malga

Monte Veronese DOP

We get this cheese from a family-run operation that dates back to the 1920s when Ermenegildo Roncolato and his children, Romano and Angelo, began making cheese in the village of Brenton of the Ronca municipality (to the north-east of Verona). Now Romano’s children, Gildo, Giovanni, and Letizia run the operation. They are known for their cheese, but they also raise pigs and make typical cured meats of Verona.

This year’s Malga is amazing to me. Imagine a small production Piave Vecchio and multiply the character, complexity and flavors by 20. That is Monte Veronese Malga.

A look at the interior of a cut wheel of Monte Veronese di Malga

A cut piece of Malga

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In northern Italy, the olive harvest happens late in the growing year, usually during December and January. We’ve recently gotten in the first bottles of the new-harvest olive oil from our friends the Cottas, who live in the hills outside of Imperia in the Liguria region of Italy. Giuseppe and his twin daughters, Simona and Monica, live in an apartment above their frantoio, the traditional mill they use to press their oils.

Their “Inprimis” oil is pressed from Taggiasca olives that are harvested a little earlier in the season. The slightly underripe green olives produce an oil with a bit of a peppery finish, similar to oils from further south in Italy.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Cotta family in Liguria

Cotta Organic Olive Oil

A beautiful oil with balanced flavors at once ripe Taggiasca and green grass

Cotta Inprimis Olive Oil

The Cottas traditional organic olive oil comes from darker, riper olives. It is mildly sweet and fruity — more characteristic of oils from Liguria and the south of France. Both are organic, and both are great for finishing pasta or fish (staples of Ligurian cuisine), or a plate of fresh greens.

For more on our visit last year to the Cottas’ estate, visit our travelogue page.

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We cracked a gorgeous wheel of this cheese yesterday. Creamy with mild piquancy, this classic blue is lovely on its own or smeared on a slice of whole wheat bread.

That’s how I tasted it when I visited Eros, the Italian cheesemonger who supplies us with our Gorgonzola Dolce and several other of our favorite cheeses. Eros and his family have a small, beautiful shop on Lago Maggiore in the Piedmont region of Italy.

Just about one year ago, we spent an afternoon meeting Eros’ charming family, seeing his cheese caves and wine cellars, tasting cheese and wine, and walking around the lovely town of Verbania. It’s a taste of the sweet life I always think back on when I taste this cheese.

For more on our visits to Verbania, visit our travelogue page.

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