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Posts from the ‘Italy’ Category

Slow Food…

There are a number of things we love about Italy. The food for one is delicious. It’s not just what they eat, but how they eat. They take their lunches and dinners seriously. Food is to be enjoyed. Everyone sits down, enjoys multiple courses of fresh, homemade cuisine and there is no microwave, television or work e-mail cram session. No one is rushing you to finish and get back to work. No one feels pressure to prove to the boss that lunch is not as important as business because he’s sitting right next to you. It’s beautiful, it’s relaxing and it’s the norm.

The Piedmont region is where the Slow Food revolution started. It’s the anti-venom for fast food and it is becoming a global movement. They encourage commitment to the environment, community and food heritage. They are the original ‘Farm to Table’ that has become increasingly popular in the States. Fabrizio’s mother Mariuca, up until last year when his father passed away, ran a tiny restaurant a few doors down from the winery. It was a Slow Food restaurant and she received multiple awards for her cooking. So when she offered to show us how she makes her homemade ravioli we answered with an enthusiastic, “Si, per favore!” Of course, our Italian being what it is, we weren’t 100% sure what we had said yes to.

Mariuca makes everything by hand. She grinds the meat for the filling, makes her own dough for the noodles and picks most of the veggies and herbs out of her own backyard for the sauce. She doesn’t hunt but she knows the hunters that she buys her meat from. I love the idea of knowing exactly where your food is coming from and what is in it. No mystery meat or additives you can’t pronounce, what a novel idea!

The machine she uses to roll the dough and fill/press the ravioli together is about 100 years old and just amazing. Hopefully the pictures I took will do it justice.  Of course this process takes longer than tossing frozen ravioli in the microwave but it is a million times tastier and healthier when it’s fresh.

Do yourself a favor if you aren’t used to enjoying a sit down meal and make something from scratch, cook with a glass of wine and friends or family, tell everyone to forget their diet and schedule for the evening and enjoy the good food and good company. You’ll be glad you did. Here is one of my favorite Italian soup recipes from The Barefoot Contessa and a good place to start. Buon Appetito!

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Our first real bottling

Bottling was relatively simple in our home winemaking days. Our friends saved their old bottles for us, we soaked them, scraped off the labels, cleaned, sanitized, filled, corked, and then slapped a computer-printed label them. It took a couple hours and we ended up with 10-12 cases of our very own moonshine wine.

When it comes to bottling on a commercial scale, even at a smaller production winery such as Iuli, it’s a whole ‘nuther ball game. The mobile bottling truck is scheduled, then boxes of tape, shrink-wrap, labels, foil, and corks are pre-ordered. Pallets and pallets of bottles stacked 7 high arrive, thousands of boxes are pre-made & marked according to expected production, and game faces are readied. After some test bottles, tweaking the machine, and roles are assigned, the madness begins with bottles flying through the truck as fast as (or faster than) we can keep up with them. At Iuli, this craziness lasted for three glorious days.

The machine itself is just plain fun to see in action with all its gears and belts and other thing-a-ma-jigs, but more than that, it was great to be a part of the process of taking the wines from their large tanks and put them into the bottles that will be opened at homes, restaurants, and gatherings around the world.

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Hunting the Elusive Funghi

Mushroom hunting is definitely my kind of hunting and here, in Piedmont, it is a competitive sport. No, I’m not kidding. Serious mushroom hunters wear camouflage, have special mushroom collecting baskets and wake up extra early in order to beat everyone else to the mushroom hot spots. We heard a number of stories from Summer, Fabrizio and their friends about their many mushroom hunting shenanigans and were dying to go. So on Saturday we woke up early, finished some crushing/destemming at the winery and headed to the forests of Alberola and Sassello to rustle up some funghi.

You have to purchase a license at a little sandwich shop in the town at the mouth of the forest in order to ‘hunt’ the mushroom. This is the place where you size up your competition over a focacia sandwich and an espresso, eavesdrop on people chatting about spots in the forest where their friend’s, uncle’s, daughter-in-law hit the funghi jackpot, and hope that no one notices the two American’s sitting in the corner because our kind is apparently prone to running excitedly when we find one mushroom, inadvertently crushing many others in our haste. This is also an amazing place for people watching. I wish I had pictures I could show you of some of the outfits but I didn’t think that would go over so well with the hunters. Just believe me when I say that some of these people are hardcore.

So after our sandwiches we were off to the forest. We were totally clueless and excited all at the same time. Within our first five minutes of searching, Fabrizio found a nice sized porcini mushroom. It was perfect, now we knew what we were looking for. Within 15 minutes I found 3 more porcini’s and my plan B in life, if my winemaking plan went bust. I quickly realized how this could become an addiction. Everything in the forest is the same color and the mushrooms aren’t easy to spot, so when you actually find one, you feel like you just hit the jackpot and are determined to find more.

We ended up with two baskets full of different varieties of mushrooms at the end of the day, which is apparently a pretty meager load (due to the lack of rain not our skill level, of course). We’ve heard stories of having so many mushrooms that you can’t fit the people back into the car. Matt and I only ended up finding 6 edible mushrooms between the two of us and Fabrizio found the rest. We were completely impressed by his 6th sense for finding mushrooms. That fact that he was able to spot some of these mushrooms was pretty unbelievable.

That evening we ended the day the way mushroom hunters should, by enjoyed two amazingly fresh mushroom salads with dinner and a magnum of Iuli Nino pinot noir. Perfecto!