Saturday, March 31, 2012

Un Millennio di Fiano -At Vinitaly, Fiano di Avellino Takes a Trip Through Time...

When I arrived at Sala Fiano in the Campania pavilion, I noticed that every seat was taken.  I wasn’t worried, though.  I had reserved for this wine tasting several days earlier.  Un Millennio di Fiano…a trip through ten different vintages of Irpinia's Fiano di Avellino.  A journey in a glass to bust the myth.  You know, the one that has us to believe that Southern whites are to be drunk young. But this Fiano di Avellino, DOCG since 2003, was ready to prove otherwise.
Antonio Paolini
 Our trip through Irpinia was led by journalist Antonio Paolini who shared with us a brief background on the particular vintage year, gave us pertinent information on each winery’s winemaking processes, as well as their different territories. We were then treated to a guided tasting by sommelier Alessandro Scorsone.
Alessandro Scorsone
 When we taste a wine, we are tasting a philosophy, Scorsone shared.

So let’s taste. Ten different vintages, ten different wineries, ten different stories to discover and discuss…
Cantina del Barone 2000, Cesinali (Av)
Vadiaperte 2002, Montefredane
Colle di Lapio 2003 , Lapio (Av)
Ciro Piccariello 2004, Summonte (Av)
Azienda Vitivinicola I Favati 2005, Cesinal (Av)
Ferrara Benita 2006, Tufo (Av)
Joaquin 2007, Montefalcione (Av)
Rocca del Principe 2008, Lapio (Av)
Az. Agr. Villa Diamonte 2009, Montefredane (Av)
Tenuta Sarno 1860 2010, Avellino (Av)

Every wine expresses its character.  Every producer expresses their wine, their territory, Scorsone told the ‘sold out’ audience. Fianos whose color was almost golden.  Some with a strong grassy aromas, some floral, toasted walnut.  Some smoother than others, more elegant, deeper…

But it wasn’t a contest to see who was the best.  At least I didn’t view it that way.   Instead, it was a trip through time that we each spent observing, breathing in, and experiencing  a wide range of Fianos. Fianos who could stand the test of time.  And that was exactly the intention of this tasting.  Wineries?  Share your stories…build up a warehouse of your older vintages.  Let the public taste them whenever possible.  Journalists?  Spread the word…Campania’s Fiano di Avellino is a wine that could stand side by side with some of the best French whites.  Restauranteers? Sommeliers?  Add some of the older vintages to your wine list.  Suggest them to your clients.

It would be a message well worth hearing…and observing and tasting, and experiencing.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dinner and a Movie - Ceneforum at Veritas Restaurant (Na)

 How about dinner, drinks and a movie?  That's what Veritas had in mind when they invited Marco Lombardi for a series of  cinegustologia.  Cinegustolgia is a way to immerge into a movie and see it in a different light.  To describe the movie as if you were describing a wine or something you would eat.  Using words such as hard, soft, acidic, smooth, bitter, sweet, coarse or fragrant.
On this particular evening, the films chosen were by director Tim Burton.  The plan?  We'd watch a few clips of the film...discuss...pair that particular film with a dish prepared by Chef Gianluca D'Agostino and pair that dish to an artisan beer by Karma Birra Artiginale.

First film:  Edward Scissor Hands or Edward mani di forbici
One of my favorite all time films.  This fairy tale like film starring Johnny Depp. We have a certain sympathy for Edward, our antihero...feel a sweetness, smoothness.  The film has a dramatic ending...crunchy even.

So why not pair it with an antipasta which is a curly octopus salad with creamy smooth potatoes?  Several slices of crunch artichokes...a beet popsicle placed on top reminded us of a particular scene where Edward is carving an ice sculpture seems as though snow is falling...
Our beer, Cubulteria, a beer with intense spices such as cinammon and orange peel.  Though deep and light. Fitting...  

Time for our first course and Sleepy Hollow, Il misterio di Sleepy hollow.
Once again Depp.

Once again a dark film which needed a dark beer, Carminia, brewed with 5 different types of hops.  A profound film, dark, intriguing.  The movie is full of scenes in the woods, dark...mysterious, a smokey grey atmosphere.  The perfect inspiration for the next dish, a lasagnetta with speck, mushrooms, and smoked provola. The smokiness of the speck and the provola...the woodiness of the mushrooms...I think you're getting the picture...

Second course, Mars Attacks. Science fiction with a political twist. We watched the nice little martians murder those on the screen...definitely acidity...

The martians, physically, had a smooth soft the cod we were served next with a surprising pumpkin unsuspecting twig or two of chicory to constrast with the sweetness in the pumpkin sauce...To take us by surprise.

Dessert. Big Fish. La storie di una vita incredibile.
We watched the ending of this fantasy film as we came to the end of our meal.  The end of our time together.  Silence in the room.  Silence and a certain sweetness as we watched Will carry his father to the river, saying goodbye to his friends, turning into a big fish.

A deep sweetness that would be expressed in the chef's dessert. A creamy chocolate sauce with a cookie flavored with orange blossoms.  Karma's Na Tazzulella 'e cafe' beer was chosen for contrast..its dark capuccino color, its aromas of arabic coffee beans...

At this point I was hooked on cinegustologia. I was curious what would be the perfect match for other Burton films like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Beetlejuice, or Batman.  But our evening was over...over with a desire for more.

An evening of reflection,  of discussion.

An evening of dinner, drinks and a movie...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saturday in Pizzeria - Lady Pizza Marano (Na)

It's not as fancy as some of the places you usually go to, Gianni said casually.  Gianni - first name basis here - pizza maker and owner of Lady Pizza in Marano.   But who wanted fancy?  It was Saturday night, and after an evening in a nearby shopping mall and and that famous traffic in the suburbs, I wanted to relax. .  I wanted to feel comfortable.  And I wanted a pizza.  A lady pizza.

But which one?  Around 50 or so to choose well as sandwiches...and crostini......and kebabs.  I needed a little was on its way.

 A plate of spicy meatballs would help me make my decision...

....along with a plate of
crocche di patate, mozzarellina in carrozza, arancino di riso, and bigne di pasta cresciuta

But I came for pizza. So let's try...

 a pizza margherita...or...
 a fried stuffed pizza  stuffed with ricotta dei monti, cicioli, provola, tomatoes, and pepper...

 Or the parmiggiana with eggplant, tomato sauce, parmiggiano and provola ...

 or a 4 formaggio special with 4 different cheeses as well as prosciutto crudo, rucola and shavings of parmiggiano cheese...

Still space?  I didn't think so until a plate of stracceti with nutella arrived......

Warm, soft and sweet. A sweet, soft warm ending to a relaxing staurday in pizzeria

Stuffed and more than satisfied, I drove away thinking of Gianni's words It's not as fancy as some of the places you usually go to...and let's hope it stays that way...

Lady Pizza 
Via Adda, 64/66
Marano di Napoli (Na)
39 081 742 3424

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dinner with Luisa Cuozzo...Napoli's Master Chef

Luisa Cuozzo
It was hard not to root for her. Luisa Cuozzo, 23 years young, Neapolitan DOC.
Luisa made it all the way to the finals of Italy's first Master Chef Italia.  I watched nearly episode. The judges were tough...but so was Luisa.  In the end she came in second, but never stopped smiling.  Never lost her composure.  Never lost her determination to continue with her dream to share Naples and Campania on a plate. 

Journalist Laura Gambacorta,  Cuozzo, and Francesca Adelaide
 So when the opportunity came to meet Cuozzo last weekend at Quartum Store, I couldn't pass it up.  Nervous excitement was what I saw in Luisa's eyes.  Sure, she prepared dishes for the scrutiny of top chefs like Bruno Barberi, Carlo Cracco, and restaraunteer Joe Bastianich  week after week after week.  But this evening was her evening.  A chance to prepare her dinner menu, lead her team, and present herself to a sold out cellar.  Cantine Di Criscio was the host along with Casa Barone and Azienda Agricola Gentilcore Claudia.   Proud hostess Francesca Adelaide poured her familiy's wines in their new ish spectacular wine space Quartum Store.

 I only had time to try her appetizers...

Crepes filled with shriimp

Octopus on a bed of creamy potatoes

"Cuoppo" of fried anchovies

and a glass or two of Asprinio D'Aversa Spumante Brut (Metedo Martinotti)...but as sure as the smile on Cuozzo's face...I'll snatch up the opportunity to try her other dishes as well as Di Criscio's wines in the near future.

Quartum Store
via Giorgio De Falco 5/A 
Quarto (Na)
335 5479716  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Vineyard Hopping - Caiazzo (Ce) - Az. Agricola Alepa

Wear a hat, was the message from Paola Riccio that morning.  It’s windy in Caiazzo
I didn’t have a hat…but I had a coat with a hood.

I was heading to Caiazzo, a small town near Caserta, about 45 minutes from Naples. I was heading towards Azienda Agricola Alepa to taste Riccio’s wines and walk her vineyards.  A windy version of Vineyard Hopping.

Azienda Agricola Alepa is located smack in the middle of Terre del Volturno IGT country  An area where Paola’s father, Eugenio Riccio bought land back in 1986 and planted vineyards and olive trees.  An area in the hills of Caserta that has become famous for its native Pallagrello white and red grapes. An area where Alepa has been bottling their wines since 2003.  

Upon arrival Riccio, along with her winemaker Maurizio De Simone, took me on a stroll through the vineyards so I could take a few photos before the wind picked up.  Our first stop was to take a look at something, well, interesting.  Interesting because?  Because here Pallagrello has been grafted into 20 year old Aglianico grape vines. And since the winter of 2010, they have been molding together creating what Alepa hopes will produce something special…something unique.  A closer look at these vines and the rest in the vineyards  I couldn’t help but notice the trellises.  Vines were attached to trellises with salice, willow twigs. Tying these twigs looks easy, but I knew it wasn’t.  Angelo D’Agostino, who has been working with the family for years showed me how.  And as I tried a few times in the Caiazzo wind, I could only imagine and appreciate how labor intensive this phase of life in the vineyard must be.  A lot goes on year round…not just at harvest time.

De Simone, Riccio, D'Agostino

Eventually the wind brought us to the winery, to warmth, and to our wine tasting.  We had talked about Pallagrello most of the morning, but De Simone wanted to have me see and taste what else has been going on in this young winery’s life.

Santojanni, a blend of Falanghina and Greco grapes.  Two vintages, 2010 and 2009, were on the table and eventually made it into our glasses so we could discuss this fresh, fruity wine.  De Simone shared Alepa’s philosophy.  Their wines are not rushed.  The 2010 vintage was placed in the bottle back in September of 2011. Almost a year after the harvest.  We discussed the subtle differences in the 2009 offering.  A drier summer, De Simone mentioned, so our wine was warmer.  It behaved like a red wine in our glass, continuing to evolve the longer it sat…opening up, continuing to share diverse aromas.

Continuing with our white wines, we moved on to Riccio Bianco, Pallagrello bianco IGT. Once again 2010, then the 2009 vintage.  Each a beautiful golden yellow color thanks to a short period of maceration with healthy grape skins.  A wine that enjoyed a long, slow fermentation period.  A wine that treasured slowly rotating in the glass.  Vinified in stainless steel vats only. But Maria Carolina?  That is another story.  This version of Alepa’s Pallagrello bianco, named after the Bourbon queen, spends time in untoasted oak  barrels.  We tried the 2010 – a sort of world premiere – since it is not on the market yet.  De Simone called this the ‘baby’ while the 2009 was the ‘teenager’.  Vibrant color, deep floral, fruit, and herbaceous aromas.

Reds?  Why not.  De Simone poured me a glass of Palenio 2007, a blend of Aglianico and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Fifty-fifty.  2007 was a difficult year in the vineyard, no rain from May to November. I studied the color in my glass as De Simone discussed the 7 day maceration with the grape skins, 18-20 months in oak barrels before it spends another year in stainless steel. I tried this deep red, with tannins that carefully dried my mouth, and I could imagine this wine with a nice juicy steak.

Then it was time for Riccio Nero 2008, Paola’s Pallagrello Nero. Vinification process almost a carbon copy of Palenio, but Pallagrello is an intense grape…therefore producing an intense wine…

A wine as intense as the wind that blew in Caiazzo that day…

Azienda Agricola Ale.P.A.
Caiazzo (Ce)
39 0823 862755

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pizzeria-Salvo-Pizzaioli da 3 Generazioni- A Taste of the New Menu

A few months back, I had a conversation with pizzaiolo Salvatore Salvo.  He and his brother Francesco were excited about something new...or something new ish.  They wanted to enrich their menu with a wide range of choices from the Campania region.   So a couple of months after Pizzeria Salvo put their new menu out, I decided to stop by one Monday evening for a taste...

I discovered that next to their famous frittura, you can choose an artisan beer from several Campania breweries.  Wines from Vesuvius, Ischia, Sorrento, and Campi Flegrei share space on the new wine list.

On their margherita?  Ingredients such as Campania's San Marzano DOP tomatoes, fior di latte, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil  DOP  from the hills of Salerno. Or maybe Piennolo tomatoes from Vesuvius  DOP, mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Vesuvius.

 Marinara? Anchovies from Cetara and Extra Virgin Olive Oil DOP from Salerno.

It was hard to resist a slice of pizza with the flavorful conciato romano cheese from Caserta and Neapolitan peppers.

It's too bad I only had room for a taste...

Largo Arso 10/16
San Giorgio A Cremano (Na)
39 081 275306
Closed on Sundays

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Little Bread, a Little Wine, and Prosciutto San Daniele DOP

Prosciutto di San Daniele DOP is one of Italy's prized possesions.  And though it is not from Campania, but Northern Central Italy, it found its way to bella Napoli last weekend for a tasting to celebrate 50 years of the Prosciutto di San Danielle Consortuim.  Città del Gusto Napoli was the host of a prosciutto and pane pairing. Which Campania bread would bring out the particular flavors of this particular ham.  Particular because for a ham to become Prosciutto di San Daniele DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin), it must meet three criterea:

One: The thighs must come exclusively from pigs bred in ten regions of Northern Central Italy (Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Lazio, Abruzzo, Marche, Umbria).
Two:Production of fresh meat mst be held in the town of Fruili where sea salt is used to preserve the meat, no chemical aditives or preservatives.

And three: Ageing must be in the town of San Daniele di Fruili, where the climatic conditions are perfect to, develop this unique ham known the world over

 Rose colored which contrasts beautifully with the white flavorful  fat of the ham.  A delicate persistent aroma, as delicate as its flavor.

So I tried three opened faced sandwhiches to see how san daniele's flavors would contrast with the crunchy lightly sapid Pane di San Sebastiano, the flavorful Pane a Canestrella, or downtown Napoli's own aromatic Pane  Cafone.  Each bread high lighted the proscutto's flavor and a quick survey at my table shown that everyone had their own favorite.  A question of taste, so to speak.  

It wouldn't be a tasting, though, without wines.  And we tried two. a fresh rose from Tenuta San Francesco and a Lacrima Christi di Vesuvio from Sorrentino Vinarium.

For more information about Prosciutto San Daniele DOP and some nice recipes, go to the Consortuim's  site