Monday, October 29, 2012

Field Trips

While teaching in Cincinnati, I had some time on Friday to meet two friends that I adore, and we went on a field trip to Jungle Jim's---legendary, it is like an airplane hanger filled with foods, beverages, and just about anything else.

 It was like a culinary Disneyland; I knew we were in trouble when we went by the butter counter which was 10 feet long, and about 4 feet wide, and packed with butter from around the world.

There is something so wrong with this!

This is only one side of the olive bar--be still my heart!
And more cheese, there were at least 4 walls of cheese from all over the world---Polish cheese?  Who knew?

The wine and beer, and liquor departments were incredible---but this is just a wall of Sake!
Ah, pork snout....
And whole fresh hams....
Loving the meat department!
And then there is bacon...........

Beautiful fruits and vegetables....and this is Cincinnati!

Then there is tea.........
and more tea....
You want hot sauce? They have it categorized by region and heat.......and there are aisles of it!
In all the years I've been in the food industry, I've never seen bottles this big!

The original location located north of the city, has more ambiance, according to the locals ---there is a new Jungle Jim's located nearer to downtown Cincinnati, but if I lived here I'd been at the original everyday---it's that much fun.  
Anyone with a sense of humor like this gets my business!!  Behind the doors are actual restrooms!
 The best part of my job is the people that I meet when I teach, and then getting to spend time with them when I am off.  Thanks Lana and Cossette for a day that was more fun than should be legally possible!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Scenes from the Road

Having returned to the States from Italy a little over a week ago, I've been traveling and teaching in Pennsylvania and the mid-west and will return home riding my broom on Halloween.  These are a few of the highlights of my trips this week.

Touring the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum with Dr. C. outside of DC

Central Pennsylvania is in full fall foliage color!  This tree is at Pheasant Field B&B in Carlisle, PA; Innkeepers Dee and Chuck are superb hosts, I love this home away from home.

Pheasant Field Inn
Beautiful day in Carlisle, heading to The Kitchen Shoppe to teach. 

Shady Lane, Carlisle, PA
I am spending two days in Milwaukee with our son Ryan, helping him hang pictures in his new apartment, before flying back to the mid-west to teach for the next week. 

Enoteca Properzio

Our time in Spello is spent at Enoteca Properzio with Roberto Angelini and his family; brother Carlo, wife Daniela, daughter Irene, and son Luca.  Roberto and Carlo are a 7th generation wine merchant, with his children making it 8 generations.  

 The wines that Roberto serves and sells, are all from small production wineries, wines that you will not find in the US or any other country, due to the small production.  A typical degustatione (wine tasting) has 5 to 6 glasses set up, along with a table setting. 

The tastings begin with bruschetta; the first are olive oils, the nuovo or new olive oil was available while we were there.  Dark olive green in color, the flavor is intense, and luxurious all at once.  The second olive oil is from Doctore Cippoloni, this oil is more buttery in flavor, and is the only olive oil Alain Ducase the famous French chef will use in his kitchens.  These are paired with a crisp white wines from the area, either Tili Grechetto, or Tili Etrusco (blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay). 

The next bruschetta have what they describe as “pates” spread on them: white truffle, black truffle, arugula, fresh tomatoes tossed with oil,  and sun dried tomatoes.  These are paired with the first red, usually a rosso from the area, either the Sagrantino grape (which grows no where else) or a Sagrantino blend.  

Next up is a choice of pasta al tartufo or pasta al pomodoro perfectly paired with another rosso, maybe this time, a local Pinot Noir or a Super Tuscan.   Truffles are a local product, and truffle pasta is something to be experienced. With black truffle rolled into the pasta, then tossed with a bit of oil, and shaved truffle over the top.

La zuppa, a choice of ribolitta, farro, or legume soup.  Thick with vegetables, and pasta, or farro, it’s stick to your ribs fare paired with another red wine from Umbria. 

Salade Mediterraneo is a combination of lambs ears’ lettuce, fresh chopped tomatoes with capers, fresh buffalo mozzarella, and preserved tuna fish.  This is dressed with Dr. Cippoloni’s olive oil, and 25 year old traditionally made balsamic vinegar from Modena. 

Last course is a cheese platter with pecorino (sheeps’ milk cheeses) truffle, pepperoni (hot chile) aged Grand Riserva (similar to Parmigiano but a pecorino), another wrapped in walnut leaves, another wrapped in grape leaves and soused with Barolo (called umbriaco—drunk)  and the last aged in a limestone cave and packed in sand. These are served along with chestnut honey for pairing with Kurni 2010.  Kurni is the #1 wine in Italy this year, and was written up in The Wine Spectator magazine a few months ago.  Kurni is much like port in that it paints the glass, and lingers on the palate---paired with salty foods, it is an experience.  

Dessert wines are a new experience for many Americans.  Served with totsetti (small biscotti) to dip into the wine, the passito is a delightful ending to this 3 hour wine pairing. 

Reactions to this wine pairing vary; Americans are a suspicious lot---many ask, why does he keep pouring?  Why?  Because his passion is this wine, this region and its products—that you should sit at his table and enjoy it, as well as celebrate the rare opportunity you have been given.  Hospitality is in Roberto’s family’s DNA—this is what they do, naturally.  No agenda except to share his passion with you and hope that you will embrace the experience.  When we send people to Enoteca Properzio we tell them that this is an experience in Umbria they should not miss, and to us, it’s as important as seeing the Pinturrichio and Perugino frescoes in the churches next door. 

So on your next trip to Italy, put Spello on your itinerary, it is an unspoiled little hill town, tiny,  with one road in being the same one that goes out.  2 1/2 hours from Rome, a stop at Enoteca Properzio (one of the top 3 wine bars in Italy) should be at the top of the list, then go to Assisi, Montefalco, Perugia, and Gubbio.  Umbria is not as overrun with tourists as Tuscany, so it’s a slower experience, stop and let yourself become Italiano for the day or a week!  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Treasure of Italy

When friends ask us about Italy, Dr. C. and I inevitably say, the treasure of Italy is not the art, history, food, or wine which are all beyond description, the treasure of Italy is its people.  If you are stuck on a 40 person bus with a load of English speakers, and never have the experience of meeting any Italians, you miss the whole point.  Stuck in your comfort zone with 39 other people, you never experience the real treasures of Italy. 

We have been so blessed to have met my mothers’ cousins in Gubbio, their children, and their spouses. 

 We participated in the festa dei cieri in Gubbio, a celebration that has been going on for hundreds of years, and a race that my grandparents would have participated in while they were growing up in Gubbio.  
Part festival, part race, part mosh-pit

 The family also took us to the house where my grandmother was born, and the house she lived in as a young girl.  Picking wild fennel and poppies in the fields behind the house where she was born with our granddaughter Poppy and daughter Carrie were moments I will never forget.  

We also met our Famiglia Angelini who have become our adopted family in Spello, where we left our hearts yesterday. 

From the moment we met Roberto and his family, we have been invited in, welcomed as family, and we feel so at home in this small hill town in the shadow of St. Francis’ sacred mountain.

 Two years ago we participated in L’Infiorata di Spello, the celebration of flowers laid onto the streets into intricate designs.  In the evenings before l’infiorata  we were part of a team that removed petals from flowers into boxes according to color and then helped to lay the flowers into the intricate design developed by the team leader. 

Speaking poco Italiano, we were part of something that has occurred for hundreds of years on the feast of Corpus Domini (usually mid-May to Mid-June depending on the liturgical calendar) sorting flower petals, drinking wine, and eating cake (there is ALWAYS food!)

Our visits to Spello are spent sitting around the table, speaking our pidgin Italiano, eating and drinking amazing food and wine---but that’s not the draw—it’s our famiglia Angelini.  
Travel should broaden you, not duplicate your environment.  I view cruises as just one enormous house on the water, with people speaking the same language, and eating the same foods they would eat at home----you want fries with that?

Where’s the adventure, the taste and aroma of travel, or the  broadening of experience? If all you see and hear is the same thing you see and hear and eat at home, then you might as well stay home.

In the mornings we would go to the local bar and have cappuccino and cornetti (think croissant filled with nutella, chocolate, jam or pastry cream)  in the afternoons we would fare una passeagiatta (take a walk) and hang out with the Angelinis.  We don’t need non-stop entertainment when we are on vacation; we go to a place where we can relax, the pace is slow and we can just “be”.  This type vacation won’t appeal to those who want to play golf, or want to work their entire vacation seeing every church, famous monument, and recommended city.  There is a place for that, it just isn’t what we want to do on our vacations.  Being an introvert, a big cruise, huge tour bus, or group tour tends to scare me, and I enjoy the small moments that happen every day in a small hill town.