Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cake Decorating Italian Style with Pastry Chef Antonio Capuano

Antonio Capuano
You could of heard a pin drop.  The silence was sweet and totally contrasted with the traffic on the SS 265 that leads to the Dolce & Salato Cooking School in Maddaloni (Ce).  When I entered the classroom, Pastry Chef Antonio Capuano and his students were in deep concentration.  They were finishing up a two day lesson on cake decorating and it required concentration, skill...and silence.

He demonstrated frosting techniques that would could be used on wedding cakes, 1st communions, baptisms, or any formal event.






I was enthralled with their attention to detail. How each curl had to be perfect, each rose a masterpiece...





Cake decorating has become the next big thing...but it was refreshing to watch a maestro with over 30 years of experience produce works of art that were (almost) too good to eat.






Wednesday, May 30, 2012

At Home... Cantine Aperte with Casa di Baal (Sa)

Cantine Aperte...An event sponsored by MTV...no, not the music channel, but Movimento Turismo del Vino.  An open house, a day where wineries throughout Italy open their doors to the public.  A chance to visit the vineyards, taste wines, talk to the producers. I received several emails from friends asking for my advice on where to go...I told them to try a territory which was unfamiliar to them.with wines they had never tried.  I suggested that they look for a winery that had a program full of events such as guided wine tastings or lunches.  I stressed that they should arrive early to get more one on one time with the owners. So when it was time for me to decide where I would go, I decided to take my own advice... 

It was hot that Sunday in Montecorvino Rovella, in the province of Salerno.  But I didn't mind...I was the first to arrive for a stroll through the vineyards with Annibale Salerno of Casa di Baal.  I got to hear straight from the capo di famiglia, father of five, about the history of how his farm has developed since they bought the land back in 1978.  Back then about 80% of their property produced fruit such as peaches, apples, and cherries.  A small portion was devoted to growing olives for olive oil.  We walked past  apple, peach and cherry trees.  We paused next to olive trees as the story continued...
Times changed, and so did the market, so he made the decision to focus more of their land, time, and energy to olive oil production back in the mid 80s.
Annibale Salerno
Wine had always been a small part of the farm, but it wasn't until 2005 that they decided to bottle and sell their own wines on the open market. We walked through the vineyards. Soil that is a mixture of clayey soil and sandy soil.  Vineyards that feel the  gentle sea breeze from the Amalfi Coast on one side and protected by mountains on the other.





Aglianico grafted into a Sangiovese vine

We talked about their wines, but then it was time to taste.
I signed up for a master class on Aglianico conducted by Alberto Giannattasio, the  FISAR delegate from Salerno.  We tasted wines from  Casa di Baal, Az. Agricola Boccella, Cantine Taburno,  Azienda Mustocarmelitano , and Alfonso Rotolo.  Each red was a 2009 vintage, but from different territories in Campania and Basilicata.  The perfect opportunity to taste how terroir plays an important part in what goes in our glass.


Alberto Giannattasio

Afterwards, time for a break with prodotti tipici...prosciutto crudo, pecorino, bread, olives and extra virgin oil all produced by Casa di Baal.  A glass of Rosso di Baal and a pizza fritta? Two?  Ok...
A picnic lunch in the olive grove?  A frittata sandwich with asparagus, onions and cheese. Thanks!





In the afternoon, I had a chance to chat with Casa di Baal's Francesca Salerno and wine maker Gennaro Reale right before their guided wine tasting of the latest vintages.  Casa di Baal produces 4 wines...2 reds, 2 whites. Total production ranges from 20-23,000 bottles a year from their 5 hectares of land devoted to vineyards. Their wines are produced organically with serious plans to include biodynamic farming in the future.
Gennaro Reale and Francesca Salerno

We began with the whites: Bianco di Baal IGT 2011 (fiano, malvasia, moscato) and Fiano di Baal IGT 2010.  Both whites call for an early harvest...mid August due to the extreme heat and early maturation in this part of Campania.  Both wines are viinified in stainless steel. Reale pointed out the wines low alcohol content...12  %.  Not common for Campania whites.




Next, Casa di Baal's two reds;  Rosso di Baal IGT 2010 (aglianico, barbera, merlot, and sangiovese) and Aglianico di Baal IGT 2010.   Only Aglianico spends time in oak, just to soften out the tannins.  Not to impose on the final product.  Both were two wines with their own personality.  Rosso di Baal, an easy to drink red which could also be served fresh (as a Piedirosso).  Their Aglianico is also 'light', typical of the reds in the area due to...yes, territory.  A fresh alternative to Aglianicos from Irpinia, Sannio, or Vulture.



The tasting was over, and unfortunately, I had to skip out before the evening bonfire.  I thought back to the advice I gave some friends...try a territory which was unfamiliar to them.with wines they had never tried.  Check...


 look for a winery that had a program full of events such as guided wine tastings or lunches.... 
 Check...
arrive early to get more one on one time with the owners.
Check...
I had left something out, though.

Have a great time...
Check...

Casa di Baal
via Tiziano, 14 - 
84196 - Macchia di Montecorvino Rovella SA
Tel: 089 981143

Friday, May 25, 2012

East Meets West... Chef Keisuke Aramaki at the Dolce & Salato Cooking School, Maddaloni (Ce)



Chef Keisuke Aramaki

The first time I had sushi...real sushi was when I lived in Japan.  It was everywhere, neat little rows of colorful little packages of rice and seafood.  I learned how to eat it,chop sticks and all... but not how to prepare it. So when I noticed that the Dolce and Salato Cooking School in Maddaloni was hosting  Chef Keisuke Aramaki for a three day course on Japanese cuisine, I knew that I'd have to stop by for a few hours for a look  and a bite to eat.

I arrived after lunch on day two.  The chef was about to show his students how to prepare shake-maki with salmon.  Simple ingredients: nori (seaweed), cooked sushi rice, salmon, cucumber,  mayonnaise,  wasabi  paste, and sesame seeds.

He made it look easy as he went step by step preparing the inside out roll version...
You carefully spread out the rice on the sheet of nori. Then add sesame seeds.

Flip over and spread out a row of wasabi and a mayonnaise, if desired...


 Thinly sliced cucumbers...


 salmon..

 and roll....
now it's time for the sushi mat...carefully press and roll...

 and slice...


The afternoon wasn't over...the chef had time to show us how to prepare oshi-zushi ...pressed sushi  prepared using a mold. Ingredients: sushi rice, stewed fish: we used yellowtail, sifted scrambled egg, spinach,  and tobiko (flying fish eggs).

Each ingredient, layer by layer was place and pressed in a mold...

 Rice...
 fish...

 spinach...

tobiko...

 and eggs...



The mold was lifted, a slice or two of red bell pepper...and our oshi-zushi was ready...


A few short hours at in Maddaloni brought back memories of  another culture that I had the pleasure to immerse myself in many years ago.

Arigatou gozaimasu Chef Aramaki and Dolce and Salato Cooking School...




Thursday, May 24, 2012

Serendipity - Anonimo Aglianico Rosato 2009 - Pietracupa


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


Vinitaly...4 days full of rescheduled or missed appointments.  There was one, however, that I didn't want to miss.  An appointment with journalist Antonio Boco (Wine News, Gambero Rosso, Tipicamente ) for a mini tour through the Umbria Pavillion.  Let's meet at noon, at Sabino's stand, Boco suggested.    Sure...Sabino Loffredo, the owner of Pietracupa in Montefredane (Av) and a mutual friend.


I arrived at 1155...early.  I checked my phone...a message from Boco...Running 15 minutes late, scusa...
Scusa accepted, but in the meantime?  


In the meantime, sit down and try a few wines...I brought some of the older vintages, Sabino suggested.  In fact, behind the booth, Sabino had numerous bottles of Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino, Aglianico and Taurasi.  Bottles from his collection, ones that are difficult to find if not impossible. All tempting...but I had tried them a few weeks earlier at a dinner at Pietracupa.  Anything different? I wanted to ask...but Loffredo was busy with an importer.  So I looked closer...and I found a bottle that I hadn't seen before. A black labeled Anonimo Rosato 2009 surrounded by whites. A rose'? Really?  I wanted to ask...but Sabino was pouring wines.  


So I poured myself a glass and was instantly struck by the color...not pink...not light ruby red...a color all its own.  Aromas that were strong, forte, smokyseductive. I waited awhile before I tasted...A full flavor that I was trying to wrap my head around, beginning to appreciate.  I wanted to ask Sabino...and when I turned to do so, Antonio arrived.  Ready for Umbria? he asked.  Certo, sure... I wanted to say ciao to Sabino...but he was busy pouring wines...


ps.  I eventually called Sabino to talk about Anonimo Rosato.  I learned that I was one of the few that have tried it.  You can't find it online, in the stores, or even in his cantina.  We only made a limited number of bottles...we played around back in 2009...un gioco... a game...


A game that I had a chance to play one  morning in Verona, at Vinitaly. While  waiting to discover Umbria, I rediscovered Campania...


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







Monday, May 21, 2012

Diary of a Sommelier Student- The Reds with Mastroberardino Winery


It was nearly two years ago that I had my first verticale...a vertical wine tasting during Vitigno Italia in Naples, Italy.  I was invited by Mastroberardino Winery.  My blog was fairly new, I had just started my I level AIS Sommelier course...heck, I didn't even know what a vertical wine tasting was.  :-)  But I had the chance to taste a wide range of their Taurasi's dating as far back as 1968!
A lot has changed since then.  Over the past two years, I have had the chance to spend time with Mastroberadino on numerous occasions, walking the vineyards, tasting their wines, questioning, learning, and growing.  I have also completed my sommelier course.  So it seemed fitting that one of my first serious sit down tastings  as a sommelier would be spent with my Aglianico, my Piedirosso, and my Taurasi with Mastroberardino during Vinitaly last March.

My hosts were winemaker Massimo Di Renzo and agronomist Antonio Dente. The first glass...a colorful, profumatic rose' -Lacrimarosa Campania IGT Rosato 2011.



100 % Aglianico.  Rosa...pink ish ...just like we Americans like it, I was told by Di Renzo, with a smile.  A product of a light delicate pressing and then vinified white in stainless steel.


We continued...Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso DOC 2011. Here we have a wine which is 100% Piedirosso from the volcanic soils around Mt Vesuvius.  A  Lacryma with a promise...full...flavorful...young.  Young but already expressing the territory, the terrain...the minerality found in that part of Campania.

A new glass...a new wine.  The latest vintage of their base Aglianico Campania IGT 2010.  Produced from various vineyards...spends close to 10 months in barriques then 6 months in the bottle before release.  My nose to the glass noted that comforting familiar aroma of mature red fruit such as plums and cherries.  Taste...Lightly tannic which is fine by me...telling me that I can enjoy this wine now...but I can also let it age in my small cantina.


Ready to continue? I was asked, noting that Dente had changed my glass again and was ready to serve me a wine that I was waiting for; Redimore Irpinia Aglianico DOC 2010. He reminded me that this wine was made from vineyards that we had walked together several months earlier in Mirabella Eclano (Av).  Vineyards that shared space with Radici Resort Golf Course...Morabianca Restaurant.  I couldn't help but be reminded of the sunny days spent there as I placed my nose into the glass.  This was one of my Aglianicos, planted in Mirabella back in 2004...a cutting from a clone from an Aglianico vineyard which dates back at least 140 years! cuttings that were grafted into Piedirosso  vines that were on the property in 2007 and 2008.


Next it was time for a young Radici.  The black labeled Taurasi DOCG 2007 from vineyards in Montemarano and Mirabella.  Mastrobeardino waited an extra year before releasing this Tuarasi, in fact, I had tasted it a back in January during Anteprima Taurasi 2008.  2 years in oak...2 years in the bottle to produce a Taurasi that they felt their market would appreciate with its smoothness, its light tannins, its deep aromas.

The tasting continued...we were no longer in Verona...we were walking the vineyards, so to speak...tasting the territory, exploring the vintages...Taurasi Riseva DOCG 2005 brought me back to Mirabella Eclano, to a harvest year that called for an early harvest.



We stayed in Mirabella to taste Historia Taurasi DOCG 2005 and 2006.  A mini verticale to note the differences between the two harvest years...2006, Dente shared, was a difficult year. Much more rain which meant that the grapes matured later.  The result:  my glass of 2006 was fresher and fruitier than the 2005.  It was also less concentrated.  That is the beauty of a side by side tasting of different vintages.



New glasses to finish off the tasting:  Radici Taurasi Riserva DOCG 1999, 1998, and Taurasi 1997. A chance to observe how this wine changes with time.   How Taurasi is a wine that evolves...deepens...relaxes with age. Ruby red colors start to darken, change.  Fruit aromas began to concentrate...Tannins that were aggressive years earlier have calmed down.

This is what tasting the older vintages should teach you.

Teach you...because though two years have passed.  Though I have done countless tastings, vineyard visits, and verticals.  Though I am a sommelier, I am still a student who strongly believes that every glass is an opportunity to learn.

And who knows?  Who will evolve more two years from now...Historia 2005...or me?