Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vineyard Hopping - Lapio (Av) - Feudi di San Gregorio

Our appointment was on a Wednesday morning at 10 am.  And at 10 am sharp, Pierpaolo Sirch, agronomist and administrative delegate, Feudi di San Gregorio,   opened the door to the waiting room where I was...waiting. He shook my hand, led me to his car in the parking lot and we were on our way.  We were headed towards Taurasi, as I had a grande desire to  visit their Aglianico vineyards for a possible photo exhibit in the future.  Sirch shared with me quite a bit about Aglianico, Irpinia, and the problems and challenges that the winery has faced this year thanks to the unusually cool and wet July. And though the focus of the day was Aglianico, somehow the conversation led to Fiano.
Sirch, originally from Friuli in Northern Italy, has a deep love and respect for Irpinia.  He has been with Feudi di San Gregorio for around 10 years, and he shared with me a story which peaked my attention as well as my admiration for my tour guide.
When Sirch first arrived in Irpinia, he toured the territory getting to know the land.  Feudi di San Gregorio's Fiano di Avellino vineyards are in Sorbo Sepico and Santo Stefano, but on one particular day, Sirch found himself in Lapio, a county in Avellino known as the heritage of Fiano.

Sirch, new to the area, and his new jobm took some mental notes of a particular vineyard.  One that had a fig tree, a huge pine tree, an elderly woman who owned the land...and grapevines that were at least 100 years old.

Sirch continued with his story throughout the morning, sharing a tidbit at a time. Eventually we finished our tour of Taurasi, and decided to head towards Lapio.  On our way, he spoke about the difficulty he had to find the vineyard again. It wasn't on a main road, or any map.  He did remember, however the fig tree, the pine tree, and the elderly woman.

Over time he rediscovered this historical treasure, a little different due to a fire that changed the landscape, but luckily didn't touch the vines.  Unfortunately, the woman that Sirch met a few years earlier had passed away.  The vineyard was basically abandoned.  It didn't take Feudi long to decide to adopt this vineyard which not only contained a historical Fiano vine, but an Aglianico, Piedirosso, and Sciacinosso. as well

We arrived in Lapio, and after several minutes driving down narrow roads, we needed to park the car and continue the rest of our adventure by foot.  The width and condition of the path made it impossible to do otherwise.
Five minutes later I saw with my own eyes what Sirch had been sharing with me the entire morning.  A piece of territory that the winery has been caring for for the past five years.
I saw the pine tree, the fig tree, the elderly woman's home.

I, along with Sirch, admired this century old Fiano vine.  I listened carefully as explained how he and his staff would carefully prune the vine and replant the cuttings elsewhere in a loving attempt to preserve the vine...its history...its heritage.

After awhile we headed back to the car.  Sirch excused himself while he spoke on the phone, I instead reflected on the morning, this quick stop in Lapio to see a hidden piece of history.
I thought about the vines I had just seen, impressed  with the labor of love, time, and dedication needed to care for a vineyard such as this one.  I thought about how many other hidden treasures like this one and how many  caretakers of a territory there may be out there.  

Campania never ceases to amaze.

Fantastic Firsts - Vermicelloni with Shrimp -Cotto e Crudo - Chef Luciano Villani - La Locanda Del Borgo (Bn)

I'm a big fan of long pasta, my favorite being spaghetti.  But at times, a dish calls for something a little thicker to support the sauce and compliment the overall pasta experience.
Like vermicellone chosen by Chef Luciano Villani for his pasta with shrimp -cotto e crudo that I enjoyed during my visit to La Locanda del Borgo.
Cotto in Italian means cooked.  So this pasta nido/nest was swaddled in a savory sauce that the chef prepared using fresh shrimp.

Crudo means raw.  Villani decided to place his pasta nest on a bed of shrimp carpaccio.



Fantastic First

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Snapshot of the Day - Il Sannio in a Package - Chef Luciano Villani -La Locanda del Borgo Ristorante, Telese Terme (Bn)

I can't resist a plate of pasta, especially one done right.  Like this one placed in front of me last week during a relaxing lunch in the peaceful oasis known as Aquapetra Resort and Spa.  Three little packages arrived at my table prepared by Chef Luciano Villani of La Locanda del Borgo Ristorante.  

The pasta dough was  prepared  the old fashioned way using 30 egg yolks.. Wow.  And inside?  A filling made with Marchagiana beef (Sannio) and onions from Alifie.  A filling that practically melted in your mouth.  Drizzled around my little presents was a sauce made with pecorino di Laticauda Sannita cheese.

Il Sannio in a package...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Snapshot of the Day - A Summer Serenade - Gianfranco Iervolino (Na)

A cool summer evening in Vico Equense (Na).  Michelin star restaurant L'Accanto located in  5 star Grand Hotel Angiolieri.  My host?  Chef Vincenzo Guarino who   invited pizza maker Gianfranco Iervolino to  present several of his gourmet pizzas and serve them to an intimate crowd on the terrace and in the  garden with a breathtaking view of the coast.  Iervolino, recognized this year with Gambero Rosso's prestigious Tre Spicchi as well as one of his specialties voted Pizza of the Year, shared three specialties for an intimate pizza loving crowd.  His margherita, his pizza napoletano, and one that blew me away - his pizza with a velvety zucchini sauce, provola cheese from Agerola, shrimp, and Sfusato lemons from Amalfi.
I took my time with this slice, enjoying the blend of ingredients as well as the beer selected to go with it, Syrentum, Birrificio Sorrento.
Iervolino left the pizza oven and got out his chittara.  You see, Iervolino is also known for his love of Neapolitan music.
 Our dessert was paired with a beautiful serenade of classics performed by Iervolino and his amico da sempre, Paquale Panico.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Snapshot of the Day - Talento Sannio Aglianico DOC 2007, Az. Agricola Capolino Perlingieri , Solopaca (Bn)

Ciro, I don't know alot about wines form the Sannio, quindi sono nelle tue mani..I'm in your hands.
These are the words that I spoke to Ciro Sannino, Maitre D and Sommelier of Aquapetra Resort and Spa.  I was there to enjoy a long end of of summer lunch at La Locanda del Borgo, the spa's ristorante located in Telese Terme (Bn).  The heart of Il Sannio.
So I watched silenty as Sannino opened a bottle of Talento  Sannio Aglianico DOC 2007  from  Az. Agricola Capolino Perlingieri.
Aglianico, I thought as I watched him avvinare, season the glasses, as he placed it to his nose, then tasted. Then poured me a glass.
I decided to wait a bit, due to the variety-due to the vintage.  It needed time to relax, breathe, get comfortable.
I waited quite awhile over conversation as this red wine from an underrated  territory began to express itself.  The strong legs that clung to the side of the glass.  The intense deep aromas of mature cherries.  The slightly tannic feel on the palate perfect with my main course served that afternoon the terrace.
Ciro, I don't know alot about wines form the Sannio, quindi sono nelle tue mani.
Why don't we go and visit the winery?

Monday, August 25, 2014

L'Oro di Napoli - Chef Eduardo Estatico - J Kitchen, Capri (Na)

It was time for dessert at J Kitchen and he brought it to my table.
He, Chef Eduardo Estatico,  came out of the kitchen to see how I was doing and  gently placed down a colorful  narrow rectangular dish in front of me.
 L'Oro di Napoli, he said.  The Gold of Naples.

The Italian film from the 1950s of the same name instantly came to mind.  A classic which starred some of the top Neapolitan actors of the era such as  Toto', Sophia Loren, Eduardo De Fillipo, and Vittorio De Sica.  This dish in front of me had some  Neapolitan stars as well. Three to be exact and I took awhile to decide where I wanted to begin as Estatico and I made some small talk.
Decided. I reached for my fork and dove in.
Ah, you chose the baba' to begin with, Estatico noticed.

I smiled and  nodded, my mouth full of tiny fragoline strawberries..
Next up, I went for the small sweet zeppola di San Giuseppe or Saint Joseph fritter. Sure you can save a few calories if you have the baked version, but the fried version, like this one was so good!

The film is divided into short episodes- 6 in the original Italian version, 4 in the version released in the states.  Each part of the film has its own storyline, its own message, its own flavor.
Exactly like the chef's dessert.  And I was about finish it off.
The last episode so to speak was presented in a miniature mason jar.  The sfogliatella riccia. The delicious gorgeous cream of the Neapolitan star was not enclosed in the shell shaped curly filo pastry that it is famous for.  That was sprinkled on top.

No, for this dessert, all I needed was a spoon.  The chef added a strip of candied lemon peel.
The chef...the chef?  I looked up and he was on his way back to the kitchen.
In fact, thinking back, I remember a quick smile,  hearing him  say buon appetito at one point somewhere between my  zeppola and my sfogliatella.
Along with my view of Marina Grande.
Of a distant Mt Vesuvius.
And of The Gold of Naples

Sunday, August 24, 2014

An Appetizer 'Del Cuore' - Don Alfonso 1890, Sant'Agata Sui Due Golfi (Na)

This summer I decided to dedicate my time to reading something different than a math textbook.  I just recently finished reading La Cucina del Cuore by Chef Alfonso Iaccarino of Don Alfonso 1890.  Reading this book was like stepping into Iaccarino's world over and over and over again.  A world where he leads you by hand along with his wife Livia and sons Ernesto and Mario through the struggles, challenges, and successes that make Don Alfonso 1890 one of the best places on earth.
I loved reading the book and thinking back to my various  opportunities to visit the family in their restaurant as well as their agriturismo in Punta Campanella.
One particular excerpt on page, 118, caught my eye.  Here Chef Alfonso Iaccarino writes about when he put his son Ernesto's dishes on the menu for the first time...and more importantly, the numerous letters received regarding Chef Ernesto Iaccarino's appetizer:

"Tra queste c'era quella di un giapponese che diceva di essere venuto per tre sere di seguito a mangiare l'uovo con mousse di mozzarella e tatrtufo bianco e il piatto lo aveva emozionato e colpito talmente da lasciarlo senza parole, tanto che solo per iscritto aveva il coraggio di farci i complimenti.
(Iaccarino, p. 118)

Among them was that of a Japanese man who said he came   three nights in a row to eat the egg with mozzarella  mousse and white truffle and the dish had  impressed and excited him so much that it left him speechless,, so much so that   only by  writing did he have the courage to give us compliments.

I thought about the time I tried that dish, last spring. My first egg with truffles experience.   I remember talking to the chef about it asking him all kinds of questions...which truffles, how he prepared the egg, the mousse etc etc.
Not because I wanted to try to repeat it at home, but because I wanted to experience  a little piece of passion, of cuore, that went into this particular appetizer.

Last month I was back again. Quietly observing from the pass when I noticed the dish again.  Chef Iaccarino, along with his staff still experimenting with the mousse, still tweaking,  still evolving...

and that's what makes this dish, and all the dishes on the menu part of the Iaccarino philosophy...

la cucina con cuore...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Un Assaggio of Moccia's Campi Flegrei - Azienda Agricola Agnanum (Na)

Today I decided to stop  by and visit  Raffaele Moccia, Azienda Agricola Agnanum located in Agnano - in the heart of Campi Flegrei.  A visit with Moccia is always a learning experience,  whether we go up to the vineyards, dabble around in the cantina, or just hang out and chat about Falanghina, Piedirosso, or anything under the sun.  We hadn't seen each other in awhile, so I was curious about how this harvest year was going.
 Sure it's been rainy, but thevolcanic terrain dries quickly. Yeah,  the hailstorm back in June did some serious damage.  We'll have to wait and see what the next month or two has in store temperature wise, he shared. 
The conversation continued, eventually leading to an impromptu wine tasting of the latest vintage that he has just bottled but hasn't released yet.  His Falanghina dei Campi Flegrei DOC 2013 as well as his Piedirosso (Per' e Pallum) DOC 2013.

I opened a bottle while Moccia went to get the glasses  - correction, glass.  I would be tasting alone.  Moccia wantd to wait a week or so before he sees what his wines had to offer.
So I tasted, alone.  First the Falanghina, then the Piedirosso.  Two wines, two assaggi
A tasting that took awhile.
No need to rush. 

Each time I put my nose in the glass or took a slow sip, I couldn't help but think back to previous visits in vineyards... in the cantina.
During this tasting, I not only thought about how these wines were today...but how they could be tomorrow.
I mean, here we are in Campi Flegrei. The variety and  the territory - when handled properly in the vineyard then in the cantina needs the right amount of time.  And has been proven to itself beautifully over time. 
I thought back to my first tasting with Moccia and his wines, back in 2012.  Over a Sunday lunch of barbecued chicken and rabbit.  I thought back to various tastings like the one held a year ago ish when we tasted his Falanghina 2003.  
Would I have the patience to hang on to a bottle for 10 years?
I pre ordered a case of each...just to be sure.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Snapshot of the Day - Summer Reading - All'Origine Dei Sensi - Piero Mastroberardino

When Piero Mastroberardino handed me his latest book back in June during a wine tasting, I was honored and honestly a little intimidated.  I don't have a lot of time to read for pleasure, and this being a book of poems, in Italian,  well... But with school being out, I found the time to concentrate on what Mastroberardino, the poet, and not the wine producer, had to say.  After a month or so, my copy of the book is bent, with folded pages, full of notes in pencil taken when I came a cross a word or three that I didn't understand.  I have my favorites: page 20 - Come Nebbile Sottile, Like Thin Fog...or page 36 - Notte, Night.  One simple line:  Come tu solo sai donare luce.  
I like to think at the book  as an invitation, to see a side of an anima nad soul not only of the poet..but maybe a little of  ourselves as well.

 Come tu solo sai donare luce...

Devotion on a Dish - Ristorante Lo Stuzzichino, Massa Lubrense (Na)

Pesce bandiera grattinata al forno  con provola affumicata.  
That's what  Mimmo De Gregorio told me as he set the plate in front of me and poured me another glass of wine. Silver scabbard fish  'au gratin' stuffed with smoked provola cheese.  This was surely going to be a treat, I thought.  It sure looked delicious.

From my table, I could hear the voices of the kitchen staff, including Mimmo's dad, Chef Paolo De Gregorio, and his wife Mamma Filomena.  Voices that reminded me of home.
As I took my first bite, I thought about what into creating this simple dish.
I thought about how much time and dedication it took to carefully clean the fish removing the large quantity of tiny bones.

Then stuffed with just the right amount cheese,

sprinkled with bread crumbs,

a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil  (Massa Lubrense  has some of the best I've tasted ).

This is what makes a simple dish so special.
Time, dedication...
and devotion

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Snapshot of the Day - Feudi Di San Gregorio's 'Dal Re' Aglianico Vineyard - Taurasi (Av)

I had been in historical vineyards throughout Campania in the past.  Pre phylloxera  vineyards 100. 200, some even 300 plus years old.  Very few, however, gave me goose bumps like the one I visited today.  The 100 ish year old Aglianico vineyard belonging to Feudi Di San Gregorio.  Vigna Storica Del Re  Taurasi, Avellino.
Goose bumps...and butterflies

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Snapshot of the Day - La Scogliera - Chef Eduardo Estatico, JKitchen, Capri (Na)

The island of Capri has inspired many.  From writers, to poets, song writers and artists.  Recently it inspired  Chef Eduardo Estatico of JKitchen  to create this dish, La Scogliera.  Scogliera means, cliff or reef.  The 29 year old executive chef was inspired by the his view from the restaurant's terrace so he  included all types of sea food and summer vegetables in this dish.  Items such as shrimp, mussels, clams, and squid.  Zucchini, celery, sea asparagus, parsley pesto with anchovy sauce.  He even made a 'mussel shell' using squid ink.