Sunday, March 1, 2015

Snapshot of the Day -Otto Uve, Grotta Del Sole (Na)

When I pour a glass of Gragnano, I immediately think of the Martusciello family.    They were the ones who introduced me to this wine several years ago during a visit to their winery, Grotta del Sole.  Gragnano has always been  known as an easy sparkling wine.  Its vibrant purple color with that distinctive dark pinkish sizzling schuma (foam) on top is its trademark.   Colorful, light, fragrant, the perfect pair for pizza.
I was curious, then, when I learned that the winery had decided to tweak this wine that the family has been producing since the 90s and release it under new name.
After a recent visit to their winery and a few glasses later, It was clear.
Sometimes to move ahead you have to take a step back.
Otto Uve, translated as eight grapes.  A homage, Salvatore Martusciello informed me, to the eight grapes that were used in the past to produce the wine.  Red grapes from vineyards in Gragnano and  Pimonte on the Sorrento Peninsula.  Three I was already familiar with...Aglianico, Piedirosso, and Sciascinoso. But there are others...Olivella, Supprezza, Castagnara, Sauca, and Surbegna. That unforgettable foam is still there, but a deeper purple/almost ruby color stares at you from the glass. So a meatier Gragnano complete with a pleasantly light amount of sediment at the bottom of the bottle reminding one that the wine's flavor has not been filtered out. Still the perfect pair for pizza? Sure. Today's pizzas need a light but flavorful wine to stand up to the gourmet wave that has swept not only Campania, but Italy as well. But why limit it to pizza? I paired Otto Uve with a baked pasta dish with a meaty tomato sauce. I paired it with a hearty bowl of chili con carne in front of the fireplace one chilly evening last week.
Sometimes to move ahead you have to take a step back...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lasagna Pizza Step-by-Step - 50 Kalo', (Na)

A few months back, I had a chance to try a few pizzas that were about to make their way on 50 Kalo's winter menu.  One of the new items that caught my eye - and taste buds - was pizza maker Ciro Salvo's lasagna pizza. It seemed to me to be an exciting/interesting mix combining two of my favorite foods.
Fast forward to last evening, when the desire for pizza and a craving for lasagna hit hard. So, while Neapolitans rushed to their favorite grocery stores/markets/butchers/pasta makers to pick up ingredients to prepare their version of lasagna, a traditional  Fat Tuesday-Carnivale must, I decided to make my way to 50 Kalo', cozy up next to a wood burning pizza oven and watch Salvo in action.
So here it is...
Lasagna Pizza step-by-step...

Step 1 - Salvo extends his pizza dough on his marble work station

Step 2 -  He then begins to add the classic lasagna ingredients such as generous amount of ricotta cheese

Tomato sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes 

ground marchigiana beef

Fior di latte from Agerola, a sprinking of Grana Padano DOP cheese (aged 24 months), and fresh basil...

Step 3- 1-2 minutes in a wood burning oven and eat!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Migliaccio Memories, La Bifora , Bacoli (Na)

Chef Michele Grande's eyes lit up when I saw him a couple of weeks ago and asked him about traditional Carnevale recipes that he enjoyed as a child. Those same eyes even seemed to dance  a bit when he the conversation turned to migliaccio, a Neapolitan carnivale custard that he would devour when prepared by his mom, Sigrnora Maria Cristina.
The classic Neapolitan recipe calls for semolina and ricotta cheese, but in Bacoli - Chef Grande's hometown - they prepare it a little differently.  I was curious, so the chef suggested I swing by La Bifora and get a sneak peak at his childhood migliaccio memories.

Chef Michele Grande and Signora Maria Cristina

So, there I was, a couple of weeks later, back in the kitchen, ready to watch, take notes and of course...taste.  Chef Grande had already put the water on to cook the pasta.  In Bacoli, he told me, they use very thin spaghetti, not semolina.

Cooked spaghetti was added to a bowl with sugna - lard.  Grande stirred while his mom beat eggs to add to the mixture just as it cooled down.

Then?  Eggs, a bit of sugar,  anise liqueur, limoncello, and vanilla were added.

Amazing aromas wafted up as Grande continued to stir and stir and stir. Until finally he and his mom were satisfied.  It was ready to be cooked.  Signora Maria Cristina told me that some cook their migliaccio in the oven, but she prefers to fry it.

The procedure is similar to that of making a frittata.  The mixture is poured into an oiled non stick pan.

This is where experience comes into play.  Grande and his mom took turns checking to make sure they weren't cooking too quickly or  that they weren't sticking to the pan,

Then, when they were satisfied, Chef Grande flipped the migliaccio over with the help of a large plate so that they could continue to cook on the other side.

Finally the migliaccio cakes were ready.  As soon as they cooled down a bit, Grande added a bit of powdered sugar, cut me a slice, and  handed me a fork.

As he did, I was sure I saw his eyes light up as they had done a couple of weeks earlier...
No wait...
They were dancing.
And after a bite or two, I understood why.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pit Stop - Hot Chocolate and Chiacchiere Le Colonne Style

Last Sunday afternoon I had lunch in Caserta . On  my way back home, I decided to make a pit stop.  A pit stop which included a steaming mug of hot chocolate, you know...made with real chocolate.  A pit stop which included serving or two of chiacchiere; strips of fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar. A pit stop at Le Colonne Restaurant, located a stone's throw from the amazing Caserta palace dating back to the 18th century.
There I met Michelin star chef Rosanna Marziale who came up with the cool idea of setting up a food trailer in the small piazzetta right in front of the family's restaurant.  And with a  super chic trailer on loan from a friend, Valeria Fusco, she decided to go for it.  Why not? It would be the perfect opportunity for Sunday strollers like me to stop by and pick up some of the restaurant's famous dolci, in particular Carnevale specialties such as castagnole (sweet dough balls)  or the chiacchiere that caught my eye.

The future?
The sky's the limit for Marziale.
In the meantime, Sunday pit stops at Le Colonne Restaurant are highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Snapshot of the Day - Il Sole nel Piatto, Pepe in Grani, Caiazzo (Ce)

It had been raining for a week.  A cold winter rain, that honestly, began to get quite old for those of us who are used to that Napoli sunshine.  It was coming down quite hard with strong gusts of wind on that  Saturday afternoon as I confirmed my Sunday lunch reservation at Pepe in Grani in Caserta.  I hadn't seen Pizza maker Franco Pepe since last summer, and quite honestly I was looking forward to going back to visit a friendly pizzeria that serves some of THE best pizza in the country.
Caiazzo is about an hour's drive from my home  and as my son and I hit the road that rainy cloudy morning,we were already thinking about which pizza we wanted.  My son loves the classics, so he wanted a Margherita.  I, instead, was still a little undecided.
Undecided until the sun came out...and that strong wind that was blowing managed to push the grey clouds away.  As we parked our car and headed towards the pizzeria in the tiny centro storico I had made up my mind.
Il Sole nel Piatto, I said enthusiastically when Pepe asked me what I wanted for lunch.  Sunshine on a plate! 
A pizza topped with tomatoes from Mt Vesuvius, oregano from nearby Matese, black olives from Caiazzo, anchovies from Cetara (where else :-) ), and fresh basil.
Top ingredients gathered together on Franco's famous pizza dough.
What a day of Sole...nel mio piatto!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Serendipity - Comfort Food in the Cuore of a Cantina, Fattoria Alois (Ce)

Wikipedia: Serendipity means  a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it. 

After a full morning's winter pruning lesson at Fattoria Alois in Pontelatone (Ce) it was time for a glass or six of wine and something to eat. 
And there was plenty to eat like this dish prepared by Talita De RosaTotal comfort food starring potatoes, sausage, and broccoli greens. First De Rosa boils peeled potatoes, then drains the water and waits for them to cool down.  Once cool, she mashes them and mixes them up with  a bit of salt and pepper. Then she places the potatoes in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day, she sautes broccoli greens with extra-virgin olive oil and garlic in a pan.  She does the same with sausage. Afterwards, she mixes the cooked sausage with the greens.  
In a baking pan (previously greased with extra-virgin olive oil) she alternates three layers of comfort- f potato mixture,  sausage/green mixture, potato mixture.  It all goes into a preheated 180 degree Celsius oven for 30 minutes.

We paired it with a fresh, young Caulino  Falanghina 2013.
Can you think of anything more comfortable?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Andiamotrips Auld Lang Syne - My Top Eno-gastronamic Adventures in 2014 - Part 1

January has always been a month for many to not only think of new resolutions for the upcoming year, but to look back on the last 12 months.
I decided to do both - beginning with a look back on some awesome memories from 2014. Where do I begin?  There was quite a bit going on...
Like my Snapshot series which is basically a fusion of my photography, wine tastings, and dinners.  In 2014, I managed to put together 4 different photo exhibits throughout Campania.
Here's a look back:

January 2014 -  Snapshot of a Territory with Cantina Di Meo and Chef Gianluca D'Agostino at Veritas Restaurant.

My first snapshot of the year focused on Fiano di Avellino.  The photos from this exhibit focused on two memorable visits with winemaker Roberto di Meo during the 2013 harvest period in Salza Irpina (Av).  I thought it would be pretty neat to team up his wines with Chef D'Agostino's menu.  A chef who though lives in Naples, has strong ties with Irpinia.  Memorable moments? The chef's squid with creamy cauliflower and the 'world premiere' of Di Meo's Selezione Erminia Di Meo Fiano di Avellino DOC 2000.

June 2014 - Snapshot of a Territory with Mastroberardino Winery and Chef Roberta Alloca at Relais Blu.

  My next snapshot was a look back at nearly 4 years of vineyard hopping.  I pulled together photos of my visit to the various Fiano, Falanghina  and Greco vineyards belonging to the Mastrobeardino Winery.  I thought it would be neat to taste their wines alongside Piero Mastrobeardino at Relais Blu - a restaurant with one of the most spectacular sunsets in Campania.  I also knew that Chef Roberto Allocca dishes would match up perfectly.  Memorable moments? A glass of Morabianca Falanghina 2013 alongside amazing appetizers. Seeing my photos displayed throughout Relais Blu wasn't so shabby, either. :-)

June 2014 - Snapshot of a Territory - Falerno Del Massico with Villa Matilde, Az. Agricola Gennaro Papa, Masseria Felicia, and Viticoltori Migliozzi.

This was a exhibit put together with photos taken during March of 2014.  An exhibit that took me to a territory outside of my comfort zone. Outside of my zone primarily because I visited wineries that I had never been to before in my vineyard hopping adventures.  These wineries are located in the Caserta province.  I visited Aglianico and Primitivo vineyards and tasted wines that deserve to be discussed at length.  And thanks to Villa Matilde and the Confraternita del Falerno, on June 20th I was able to display my black and white snapshots at a dinner with about 80 guests.  Memorable moments?  Sharing the spotlight with four different wineries while tasting some amazing reds.

August 2014 - Snapshot of a Territory - Il Fiano di Montefredane with Villa Diamante, Pietracupa, and Vadieaperti/Traerte. 

 Back to what many believe is my first love - in version bianco.  Fiano di Avellino.  When I was asked to participate in WIne Fredane, Third Edition in some capacity or another, I believed the best way would be to put together another photo exhibit focusing on the three wineries that are located in the small community of Montefredane in Avellino.  Memorable moments?  My snapshots displayed on the lawn of Tenuta Ippocrate.  A wine tasting featuring older vintages of Fiano di Avellino going back as far as 1993.

As I look back on Snapshot, I can't help to get excited about what's ahead...
Stay tuned...