Sunday, November 21, 2021

Falling in Love with Barolo and Barbera di Alba

 The north of Italy is filled with heart-stopping vistas, amazing foods, and spectacular wines.  Traveling north from Umbria, my friends and I settled in Canelli in the Asti region at an exceptional Airbnb property situated at the top of Moscato di Asti vineyards. 

We knew we wanted to sample Barolo, Barbera, Barbaresco, and Moscato, and arranged tastings/tours for just that.  Our first stop was at a large producer, Ceretto, to see their operation, but not to taste.  

This is kind of the back to the future wine making, aging it in amphora the way the Egyptians and Romans made their wines.  

From there, we headed to Sordo, a local producer near Alba.  Driving up the hill to the winery, we were again, stunned by the surrounding beauty on every hill covered with vineyards.  Italian wineries are quite different from any in the US: they are usually much older, passed from generation to generation, with the younger generation taking the helm and expanding production and marketing to all corners of the globe.  Proud histories fill the hallways, with photos of past generations, and the next generation.  
In Sordo we tasted, Barolo, Barbera,  and Sauvignon Blanc.  

As with any tour, lunchtime approached and we headed off to Castiglione Falletto and the amazing  Cantina della Cantina Comunale.    

This is the view from the terrace.  There are many places in this world where the view is better than the food, but here, the food was exceptional.  We tried the local specialty pasta, Plin, and a brassato of beef simmered for 36 hours in Barolo.  


Guinea fowl

When you are in the land of hazelnuts, you order a hazelnut panna cotta with chocolate sauce, and salted caramel hazelnuts, am I right?
After lunch, it's on to our last tasting at Massolino, another family-owned winery located here for over 100 years.  Again, Barolo and Barbera are the stars here.  The Nebbiolo grape grows well here, in this region and the Italian word for fog is is foggy here, and that helps the grapes as they mature.  

While we visited each winery, they were still busy crushing the red grapes.  The whites had been picked (all by hand) and processed in August.  Fall had come to the Langhe region and it was cooling off considerably.  Several mornings were in the 30's when we woke up and it was foggy.  Having explored the Alba region it was time to head back to Canelli and explore the Asti region.  Ciao for now.

Adventures in Umbria

 Dr. C. and I spent 6 weeks in Spello this fall, and had some lovely adventures.  On my birthday we went to one of my favorite restaurants in Montefalco, and then had the privilege of going to visit the Tili Vineyard for a wine tasting and chat with Anna Laura and Maria Palma Tili.  I can't think of a better way to have spent the day.  Our family at Enoteca Properzio arranged the wine tasting, which took place at the top of the hill outside of Spello.  Known for its beautifully crafted organic wines, Tili also presses its olives for olive oil, which was delicious.  Over 20 years ago, we first tasted their Sacreterre, and fell in love with its complexity and flavor.  

L-R: Anna Laura, Maria Palma, Marco, Pietro

Situated halfway up Mount Subasio, the sacred mountain of St. Francis, the views over the valley are spectacular.   

A new tasting room has opened with beautiful view of the valley

When we arrived, they were crushing the Sangiovese grapes for their famous Tili Rosso, one of my favorites

All of my favorite wines are in one place; what could be better?  If you haven't tasted Grecchetto, an indigenous white grape to Umbria, you need to try this one.  It is superb.  
We tasted wines, along with cheese, salumi and bread from the region.  Pairing the products of the region with the wines is the ultimate marriage.  The Italians consider wine to be food, and so it should complement whatever you are serving.  We ended our day with this beautiful sunset over the valley and promises to return next year.  

Grazie Tili Vini, and Enoteca Properzio for the invitation.  It was a magical day.  

Friday, September 17, 2021

When in Rome


Rome is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited.  Each time we come, I am grateful that we are able to travel and to enjoy this beautiful, chaotic, delicious and noisy place.  We are here with our son and his girlfriend and they are touring the "must-sees" like the Colosseum and the Vatican, while Dr. C. and I are nursing jet lag.  We leave tomorrow for Spello, and can't wait to reunite with friends, and friends who are family there.  
Eating our way through Rome is my favorite pastime, going to old favorites and taking a chance on new restaurants we've not been to.  Breakfast is coffee and cornetto at the local bar.  We have been the only non-Italians in this place the entire week.  

                      We call this the breakfast of champions!  It will get you started for the day. 

After walking for a few hours it's time for lunch.  On Wednesday after a long walk through the Borghese gardens, we decided to come back to the apartment which is located in the Prati area near the Vatican museums, regroup and find a place for lunch.  
Ryan and Madelyn had found a place on google near the Vatican museums and we set out.  We were welcomed with open arms by the owner Giulio and his sister Maria.  By the end of the day, we'd met everyone and came back the next day for lunch again.  This time it was a four hour lunch, with non-stop talk, wine, prosecco and digestivi.  Giulio, Maria, our waiter Mario and the entire crew became family in 4 hours.  
Lasagne made in house

Pasta Amatriciana


Before all this came to the table, there were huge chunks of Parmigiano, Calabrian salami, Prosciutto, and a small portion of pasta all' arabiatta.  Add to this a liter of white wine, and a few gallons of water, and we were happy campers, but the food kept on coming!  And the conversation with Giulio and his sister Maria.  Maria makes an amazing tiramisu, the photo doesn't do it justice, but I hope to replicate it in San Diego when I get home at the end of October (and that's another story for another time!)
Maria makes the custard with amaretto and uses amaretti cookies instead of ladyfingers, then sprinkles in toasted hazelnuts and chopped chocolate---this is heaven on a plate.  

After this came the digestives, Limoncello, Amaro and Strega (saffron liquor)  I passed on the saffron and Amaro, but a nice chilled glass of Limoncello is always welcome.  

Giulio pouring the prosecco

Espresso, and then more conversation, and prosecco, and more wine, and they rolled us out of there 4 hours later.  Since we were so close to St. Peter's we took a stroll over there, it's best to go later in the afternoon, when the tour bus crowds are gone.  
Grazie Giulio, Maria, and Mario for making our day in Rome so much fun.  Delicious food and great conversation made Ristorante dei Musei an amazing experience.  
If you are in the area of the Vatican museums or St. Peter's we highly recommend this place, it's awesome.  
                  At the end of the day, it's the people of Italy who are its treasure.  Grazie Mille!

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Big Island Adventure

 A few weeks ago, my brother said that he and his family had an extra bedroom at their condo on the Big Island, and invited Dr. C. and I to join him.  Dr. C. was working that week, so I got to have one-on-one with my bro, his wife, and daughter.  What a gift!  Come along for the ride, food and scenery.

To go to Hawaii, you will need a vaccination card or a negative Pre-Travel Covid test.  You are then given a wristband indicating you are safe to fly.  Best to get it at your point of embarkation, lines in the islands to get a wrist band were 4 hours long.  

This was a comfort dog, he had his own first class seat---looked more like a small pony

This doesn't happen to me very often, but I was upgraded to a lay-flat seat.  Thanks United!

Flying out of Honolulu to Kona

Once I landed in Kona, brother Bob whisked me away to the Four Seasons Hualalai resort and my spot for the next 5 days.  Let me just say, this is a magical place, once you enter the gates, there really isn't a need to leave, but the Big Island holds lots of beautiful surprises.  One of those surprises is the food...given that this is a tourist destination, I sometimes think that the restaurants are just waiting to serve you expensive, mediocre food, because, frankly, you are stuck there.  Not so, here, the restaurants all have that spirit of aloha and one dinner was at my family's favorite Italian restaurant, Pueo's Osteria.
in Waikoloa Village.
The drive up the mountain

Cheesy Garlic Bread

House Made Radiatore with Vodka sauce

Three of us had the Veal Parmigiano with housemade Fettucine

Chocolate torte with caramel

Lemon Panna Cotta with fresh berries

This restaurant has a lovely wine list, and I love a good Vermentino

If you do go to the Big Island, this is a great choice for dinner, great service and food.  But, the Big Island isn't all great food, the scenery, and the aloha spirit is alive and well here after 18 months of the pandemic.  

Beach Tree Terrace, Four Seasons

Quiet pool

Beautiful skies every day

Almost like a botanical garden here

Malasadas -- Hawaiian donuts --- they are the 💣

Sunset nighttime manta ray snorkel with Ocean Encounters

Curious Monk Seal

It was a great 5 days, and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to travel once again.  Mahalo to my family and to the beautiful people on the Big Island.