Travel is a wonderful gift that curiosity has given the world. Sometimes, I sit back in awe that we have the ability to reach far distances in ever shorter amounts of time. Humans have curiosity, and this curiosity leads to innovation. It is so fascinating to see how the world has evolved and how we play our parts on earth. Continue Reading →
Hello readers and friends!
This is an update to let you know where you can find me eating and drinking around for the next several days. For years I have been wanting to visit and finally the stars aligned for me to impulsively buy a ticket and book a room to just…go! Continue Reading →
I live in Florence and summer has indeed arrived. Except for today. Which is why I am not a sweaty mess and why I can even stand to be near my computer. It’s so funny to see my friends in Seattle through the social media webs wearing light spring jackets and here I am pushing the envelope basically trying to see how much I can get away with not wearing and pondering how sheer I can really get away with because I feel like I am going to die if I wear anything other than a gel pack of ice. I am exaggerating, after all I could be in Cairo where it’s like 110 degrees. Anyways, I digress as usual.
I am very weary of red wine in the warmer months in Florence, not only because to me red wine says cozy sweater and fireplace recounting the days I spent backpacking through Europe saving baby kittens from olive trees, but because most shop keepers are infuriatingly aloof about how they store their wine on the shelves. A wine shelf near the door is a horrible idea. And unless it is a super market, or a very smartly designed shop (that is not ever in direct sunlight) or has the luxury to invest in air-conditioning I don’t trust poorly stored red wine to be anything but vinegar or acidic grape juice at best.
Apart from that, I honestly can’t fathom consuming something that isn’t cold. I recently had a dilemma where I wanted to make an eggplant parmigiana but didn’t want a red wine. In normal weather circumstances, I would usually go for like a Negroamaro from Puglia or a Barbera from Piedmont for a baked cheese, vegetable and tomato dish like an eggplant parmigiana (or even for like a cheesy lasagna too) but I wanted to figure out how I could pair with some white wines. So I went to the wine shop at Eataly on a Sunday to stare at all the bottles hoping my food and wine pairing classes would flood my memory. Here is what I managed to pick out after many minutes scratching my head and having a lot of “oh yeah!” moments:
I wanted to stick to a white wine from Southern Italy because I am obsessed with gastronomic identity, meaning to pair local wines with the local cuisine. In theory, an elegant white wine from the Langhe (in the Northern, Slow Food capital region Piedmont) such as Marin by Fontanafredda could have sufficed just as easily as a rich, aromatic yet balanced Sauvignon by Bastianich from Friuli. But I wanted to go down south where the dish originates. You should still try these with something cheesy or creamy like risotto, the traditional Piemontese vitello tonnato (which is boiled veal in tuna mayonnaise) or anything with seafood, of course.
In the end, this is what I found and which I suggest for a baked cheese and tomato dish like Eggplant Parmigiana:
COS Rami Sicilian White (as early as 2012) This is a very unconventional winery which specializes in local, indigenous grape varieties and abides by biodynamic production methods. The particular grapes showcased in COS’s Rami are Inzolia and Grecanico.
A Greco di Tufo from the famous Feudi di San Gregorio in Campania.
But what I ended up choosing was a Sicilian Viognier by Calatrasi & Miccichè. This would be good also with a chicken dish in a cream sauce or a creamy mushroom risotto- perhaps not exactly Sicilian foods but just to give you an idea what Viognier could also match well with.
I picked this because Viognier tends to be a richer white wine, what I like to call a greasy wine which give a nice full mouth watering start and long finish but not too fruity or aromatic, with just a tinge of petrol on the nose which for me is also why I call it greasy. This was a great wine pair for a saucy, creamy ricotta filled Eggplant Parmigiana which I proudly made, by grilling (not frying) the eggplant, and whipping up the tomato sauce from scratch with heirloom umami rich tomatoes, garlic, herby olive oil from the most recent fall’s pressing and fresh basil.
In my posts regarding food and wine pairing, I don’t go into the tasting notes too much because I just want readers to know what’s good in my opinion and to find out for themselves. Wine is all about opinion. And these are my suggestions that you can take or leave. This is my blog and this is what I think.
In my humble opinion,
If I ever had a bad day in Seattle, the grey skies, weird overly awkward people, cold, splattery rain and stop and go traffic or a parking ticket would make a bad day even more excruciating. Italy, however, is a kinder friend to you on such an occasion. Over the past nearly 2 years, I have broadcasted my love hate relationship with living in Italy.
I imagine it like an “I Love Lucy” episode where Italy does something so despicable like make money disappear in a bad gambling bet with Ethel that I want to chase her around, shaking my fists while yelling “why I oughttaaaaaa!!!”
I also imagine us as 2 teenagers picking on each other, putting glue in my hair and me crying, swearing off this godforsaken place forever. But when push comes to shove, all jokes are put aside and she sits by me and takes care to soothe my woes and shows me all her practical jokes of lost in translation mind games, mean petty vandals and bureaucratic hoops are just done in jest and that deep down- she is really there for me to shower me with sunshine, flowers, beautiful art and above all- pizza and gelato.
Florence is especially a great place for a pizza pick-me-up because there is O’Vesuvio. It is basically a Neapolitan style pizza pie joint in the city center which was also the same pizza hut that The Jersey Shore worked at when they filmed their “Florence” season. It’s an instant reminder that life can’t be that bad- you are not one of the members of the Jersey shore and you aren’t one of the chumps that had to work with them. Life is good again. And the pizza is semi-edible.
Not only that, Italy will snuggle you with coccoli (fried, salty foccacia-like bread balls) spread with stracchino cheese for just a euro. Not to mention cheap, delicious wine. Artistic nooks laden with history and beauty (i.e. the Accademia gallery which hosts the David statue) And the nice, smiley plump jolly cheese monger who throws in some fava beans to go with that farmstead organic fresh, creamy pecorino (sheeps’ milk cheese) that cost less than the 2 euro gelato you had just 6 minutes prior.
Italy may test your nerves, try your patience, chew you up and spit you back out. But when you need it- she will be there. For 6 euros or less. Having the kind of bad day where you don’t even have chump change? She’ll take care of that with beautiful sunsets, warm afternoons and fragrant spring flowers to lift your spirits.
Just be aware, just as soon as you’re nursed back to strength after a few pizzas, countless gelatos, romantic walks, sunny bike rides with the wind caressing your hair (or bald head)- she’ll be back tormenting you with some random backdated overpriced gas bill, a law change that requires you to submit 12 thousand new applications that will take 16 years to register, the local crazy will throw a box at your head, the tax rate will increase by another 8 points and the pharmacist will prescribe you cat tranquilizers or butt plugs instead of enteric-coated ibuprofen. Until then, enjoy your rose and white chocolate gelato among the backdrop of the most wonderful, beautiful country that is: Italia.
My life revolves around 3 things: Italy, food and hooch. Food being my first love, Italy second and Hooch the last but not least! I knew one day I would move to Italy but I didn’t have any clue I would have been this lucky. In a country as paradoxical as Italy, I somehow managed to make a way for myself without knowing anyone. In exactly what I wanted to be doing. Believe me, I took odd jobs, had my patience tested and I did whatever I needed to do to. So now that I’ve bored you all to tears with my Dr. Phil Opera book club ego stroke fest, I will tell you that I do plan on writing a book about this experience, it will include of course the token romantic scandal. Stay tuned!
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