Thursday, April 30, 2015

Snapshot of the Day - Late Lunch 50 Kalo' (Na)

It has become one of my traditions.  A couple of times a month, when my schedule allows, I have a late lunch at 50 Kalo' in Naples. I arrive around 3:15 pm, when I'm able to find 'my parking spot', when the lunch crowd has died down but the oven is still hot.  The oven is hot and Ciro Salvo and his staff is far from done for the day.  This, for me, is the perfect time to wind down from a busy work week that is almost over, and prepare for the weekend. Usually I order my favs, my standbys - like a white calzone or a margherita with nduja di spilinga.  But  today?  Today was different. As I stared at the menu, Salvo pointed to an item and said, " Perche' non provi questa?"  Why don't you try this one?
I said yes subito, right away trusting Salvo who knows my tastes, my preferences.
It arrived - the 50 Kalo' with a twist.  A margherita pizzza with escarole, dozens of sliced cherry tomatoes, tons of tiny pitted black olives, and an endless amount of soft savory capers.
A new tradition?  We'll see next Thursday!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Wineries to Watch - Lunch with VITI in Cesinali (Av)

Wine maker Luigi Sarno, Cantina del Barone, asked me if I wished to join him for a quick lunch before heading back home.  It was around lunchtime, his mom had just prepared a risotto with porcini mushrooms, and so I thought -why not?  Lunch with the wine maker is a perfect opportunity to try their wines where they  perform at their best; At the table, paired with local specialties.  And this would be a perfect opportunity to see how Sarno's Fiano di Avellino Particella 928 would stand up at lunch.  But Sarno had other ideas.  Sure, he opened a bottle of his wine, but at the table, there were two other bottles from two other wineries as well.  You see, two years ago,  Cantina del Barone along with Cantine Dell'Angelo and Il Cancelliere decided to come together under one umbrella and form a small coalition... an alliance.  A union that would stand strong during the various wine fairs and wine tastings that can take a toll on small wineries in terms of costs and time.  A union that would focus on the strengths of each winery, therefore highlighting the strength of the territory. A union named VITI - which in English means vines.

Back to the table, back to Sarno, who decided to open up his latest Particella 928 Fiano di Avellino 928 IGP 2012.  Probably one of the most interesting Fianos that I have tried in a long time.  Fiano.  That's what does Cantina del Barone does. Punto e basta.
The meal continued, Sarno opened up another bottle of wine.  this time a Greco di Tufo from Cantine Dell'Angelo.  Sticking with vintage 2012, we went for the cru Torrefavale Greco di Tufo DOP 2012.  As I tasted, I was instantly brought back to a visit with the owner of the winery, Angelo Muto and Luigi Sarno (his enologist).  To reach the vineyard that produces this wine, we needed a jeep and a prayer.   An elegant expression of the cantina's Greco di Tufo  which is known for its sharp nose and palate.

The next wine was the only red of the VITI trio.  An Aglianico from Il Cancelliere.  Sarno tasted first, sharing with me that this wine; Campania Aglianico IGP 2012, an Aglianico that doesn't touch any wood whatsoever is, well,  a tasty bomba.  15 % alcohol content.  Wow...
I listened, I tasted.  I thought back to a visit to Montemarano where the winery is located back in, well, back in, well, back in 2012.

One lunch.  Three wines.  Three wineries.
I appreciated that. Not only because I had an opportunity to taste three reflections of Irpinia, but I had an occasion to see how a territory can work and grow together, from a small kitchen table in a small town to a large international wine fair.


Cantina del Barone
Cesinali (Av)

Cantina Dell'Angelo
Tufo (Av)

Il Cancelliere
Montemarano (Av)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Amazing Appetizers - Red Mullet with Asparagus and Creamy Ricotta Cheese, Il Bikini (Na)

 "I didn't eat a lot of fish as a kid," I shared with Giorgio Scarselli. " Unless you count fish sticks," I smiled.  That statement was more like a confession given to Scarselli, whose family owns the popular beach complex Il Bikini in Vico Equense, a short drive from Sorrento (Na).
I smiled as I reflected on an appetizer that I had just finished.  An appetizer with fresh simple ingredients prepared by Chef Domenico De Simone.  Sauteed red mullet with a sprinkle of sea salt to accompany, not cover.

Red mullet sharing the show with seasonal locally grown asparagus and creamy ricotta cheese.

That's all it needed.
That's all I needed.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Snapshot of the Day - Spring Part 2

This tribute to spring deserves a look from all angles.  Chef Nino Di Costanzo (2 Michelin Stars) prepared this appetizer last Monday at a fund raising event at Pepe in Grani in Caiazzo (Ce). A plateful of ambiance, of atmosphere, of character.  From a distance, bold simple colors.  Up close, delicate but at the same time it was all about flavor.
Red shrimp
Ricotta with lemon
Spring peas/sprouts
Bread with squid ink


Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Taste of Spring Times Three - Taverna del Capitano, Marina del Cantone (Na)

Taverna del Capitano's spring menu is packed with not only new and colorful dishes, but the  creativity and the passion of Michelin star Chef Alfonso Caputo as well. Here's a look at the appetizers that I tried last weekend.

A taste of spring - times three.
Antipasto number one - Fresh red shrimp served with seabream eggs and a splash of 25 year old balsamic vinegar.  A shot glass full of the flavors of the sea.

Here's a plate where the chef enjoyed himself not only in the preparation, but in the presentation as well.  A tasty fried mozzarella disguised as an unidentified sea creature on a bed of creamy potatoes, asparagus, and red bell peppers.

And since good things come in threes, I received the honor of being one of the first to taste Caputo's latest creation.  Something, he told me later, that has been knocking around in his head for quite sometime.  Totano squid served with dark chocolate.

A dish that made me walk back into the kitchen, not to take photographs.
But to say thanks...not once, but three times.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Benvenuto - Taverna Del Capitano, Marina del Cantone (Na)

A beautiful spring weekend called for a drive to Marina del Cantone, a spot that has become a favorite of mine since I first visited in 2013.  Marina del Cantone, a small fishing village in the Sorrento Peninsula which hosts the Michelin star Restaurant Taverna del Capitano.  I stopped in the kitchen to say hello to Chef Alfonso Caputo and try to get a sneak peek on what would be in store for lunch.  Yes, I was curious what was on the new spring menu, but also interested in what Caputo had in mind for my benvenuto.  The Benvenuto is an off menu item that is served at the beginning of the meal.  A bite, morsel, mini appetizer if you will, that  changes daily. A fusion of fresh seasonal products and the chef's creativity.  A glance around the kitchen with stainless steel countertops, I noticed a tray of brightly colored freshly washed zucchini flowers. My mind went immediately to memories Spaghetti with Zucchini alla Nerano, but Caputo told me that with these were the first zucchini of the season - for that dish it was better to wait.  He had other plans for those zucchini.  Those zucchini and their bright colorful flowers would be part of that day's benevenuto filled with a slice of mozzarella a drizzle of olive oil and gently steamed cooked.

Those zucchini would be placed on a platter alongside a meatball made with bluefish as well as a squid presented in the form soft, morbidissimo wafer and  a little squid ink drizzled around the sides of the plate...cosi'.

Those zucchini were the beginning of a colorful, flavorful springtime lunch.
Buon Appetito.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Snapshot of the Day - Spring Part 1

Fresh peas have become one of my favorite Spring vegetables.  Pasta with peas has become one of my favorite Spring dishes.  The colors and flavors of this dish by Chef Peppe Guida of Antica Osteria Nonna Rosa in Vico Equense (Na)is one of the reasons why.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Glass of Wine, A Place to Stay - Cantina Del Barone, Cesinali (Av)

Karen, I want to show you something...
Those were the words wine maker Luigi SarnoCantina del Barone, spoke to me the other day as we were walking down the narrow road that leads from his small wine cellar to his vineyards in Cesinali (Av).
A new wine? I thought.  Vinitaly was just the previous week.  It had been several months since I had seen Sarno, and a couple of years since I'd visited the vineyards.  We chatted a bit, stop a couple of times on the small path that divides his Fiano vineyards into two separate sections.

I'll be right back, Sarno said.
He left me alone for a minute or two, so I decided to wander over to one of my favorite spots on the property.  A majestic century old grapevine that seems to stretch its arms out wild as if to say welcome...
But something was different.  To get to my vine, I had to walk around a freshly painted casa.  Walk across a freshly cut lawn.
Sarno joined me.
This is what I wanted to show you, Sarno smiled as he held a set of keys.

And with that, he opened the door to his latest project.  A project that he hopes will not only bring wine lovers to his territory...but will also keep them there.
4 mini apartments that can sleep up to 7 were just about ready. 4 mini apartments that would allow travelers an experience and not just a place to stay.  An Irpinia full immersion provided by Sarno and his family which could expand to tours of other wineries in the area, visits to local artisans, farms, restaurants.  Even cooking courses provided by Sarno's mom in the not so distant future.
My eyes went from Sarno to the window as I imagined myself waking up here, having breakfast with a caffe' and fresh jams prepared by the Sarno family.

 I imagined myself enjoying that Cesinali evening  breeze that his vineyards love. I imagined having a glass of wine and a place to stay. Sarno continued to speak, sharing his project...sharing his dream.  I continued to listen, entranced by his enthusiasm.
There are just a few finishing touches before opening like bedding, toiletries, and...a name.
Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Neroameta' Campania Bianco IGT 2013, Mastroberardino Winery (Av)

The bottle sat there on the coffee table.
Piero Mastroberardino's coffee table in his private office in Atripalda.  A lone unopened bottle waiting alongside  three place settings - three empty wine glasses.  I was about to begin a wine tasting featuring some of Mastroberardino Winery's latest white wines in the company of Piero Mastroberadino and enologist Massimo Di Renzo. And I was ready.
The bottle sat there while we tasted and chatted about the latest crus, I took notes, in silent anticipation of the newest member of the Mastroberardino family; Neroameta' Campania Bianco IGT 2013.  A wine presented at Vinitaly last week and tasted by few. (The winery only took 15 bottles to Verona, so you could imagine how quickly that went)

Neroameta' - a white wine made with Irpinia's most popular red grape - Aglianico. A white wine, made with red grapes, but not a rose'.
Maybe I should have known what that meant, surely I've read about that vinification process in my studies over the past years, maybe I had tasted a similar wine - but I decided to speak up and pose a question to Di Renzo.
How is this vinification process different than producing a rose', especially since the color - I noticed- is not, well for lack of better words...rose'.

Di Renzo told me that the grapes are placed in the press whole and gently pressed halfway in a manner that the must does not come in contact with the skins as it would with a rose'.
That being said, I was still curious about what would emerge from the bottle as it was poured first in my glass, then Mastroberardino's, then Di Renzo's.  A very light straw color, and depending on the lighting, and how you examined the glass, what was that? Grey tones?
The tasting began, Once again, I was silent first enjoying/interpreting the bouquet in the glass while I listened to Mastroberardino and Di Renzo's converstaion. (I have  always found it interesting to listen to wine makers discuss their wines)

Then I  took a quick taste, not sure what to expect.   What I found was pleasantly unexpected.  Evident was the powerful arm of Aglianico lovingly embracing the freshness and acidity that one would find in a young yet elegant and distinguished Irpinia white.
I kept my thoughts to myself for the moment, instead wanting to discuss particulars like the wine label.  Knowing that Mastroberardino is a talented artist, I was curious as to why he chose this particular design from his large inventory.
Mastroberardino arose, went to the back corner of his office/personal art gallery , and brought back a large framed version. He pointed out the strong feminine yet muscular arms, shoulders, and back.  A play on contrasts.
And the name?  Neroameta'?
One of several names that made the final cut.  Nero - black - for the blackish color of the Aglianico grape, for example.
While listening, I brought my glass of  Neroameta' to my nose several times, noticing how floral aromas were emerging and evolving. Young fresh white floral aromas.  Aromas that reminded Di Renzo of flowers that grow in his mother's garden.
Mastroberardino then shared that the concept of producing a white wine with Aglianico was not new at all for Mastroberardino.  His father, the late Dr. Antonio Mastroberardino produced a similar  wine back in the mid 80s named Plinius.  It was a popular wine that enjoyed 4 glorious vintages.  It was then decided to stop production and focus the winery's energy into promoting Fiano, Greco and Lacryma Christi.

photo courtesy of Mastroberardino Winery

So a new wine that is not so new?
Yes and no.  Learning from Dr Mastroberardino's notes from the 80s, the winery experimented new techniques.  The 3000 bottles produced spent about 10 months sur lees, for example.
Our conversation then continued to possible pairings. I myself could picture myself on a terrace of one of the many Campania restaurants which have an amazing view of the sea.  Enjoying the view and seafood that pair so well with Irpinia white wines.

It was time to move on to the next wine, but we decided to hang on to our glass of Neroameta' if waiting to see what this wine had to share with us as the tasting continued.  As our conversations continued - from art, to literature (Mastroberardino's latest book), then back to wine.
That is the beauty of a degustazione.
Discovering what a wine has to say.
Neroameta' will be available later this month.  It will be interesting to discover what Neroameta' will continue to share over the next few months...or years for that matter.