January 28, 2010
Next week, numerous wine producers, importers and journalists will arrive in New York for a week of activities dedicated to the trade loosely called Italian wine week. This is the second annual Italian wine week. The four day event will be chock full of seminars, lunches and dinners where Italian wines will be discussed, dissected and thankfully tasted.
While these events are not open to the public, one event where consumers can participate is Luca Maroni’s Sensofwine at Cipriani 42nd Street. For tickets to the event, please go to the Alta Cucina Store.
Another event that will take place next week that is open to all New York is the SHOP & DINE VINO 2010. Wines from Apulia, Calabria, Tuscany, and the Veneto will be showcased at selected restaurants and wine shops. This promotion starts today, January 28 and goes to February 10. A number of wine shops will also be having educational seminars.
It promises to be an exciting and fun filled week with rivers of Italian wine. That sounds especially appealing on this snowy day in New York City.
January 26, 2010
Pasta is certainly a uniquely Italian dish but not all pastas are created equal. Those in the know say that the best pasta is that which comes from Campania. Even that isn’t specific enough for some. The real home of pasta they say are two small towns: Torre Annunziata and Gragnano. The latter even holds an annual pasta festival. Both of these areas are very well known for the pastas that they produce, a few of which are exported to the United States.
Some historians date the creation of the four pronged fork with which to twirl pasta to this area of the world as well. Apparently a certain Gennaro Spadaccini, one of King Ferdinand II’s Chamberlains, added an additional prong to the fork so that noblemen were able to perform the slight circular motion done when eating pasta more easily and to better wind pasta onto their forks without the risk of being covered in sauce. A noblemen covered in sauce would certainly go against the rules of the Galateo, a book on manners.
What it is that makes the pasta from these towns so special? Apparently it is the air and the water quality, the cooking and drying methods used as well. Pasta is only made from durum wheat here and graces the table at almost every meal excluding breakfast. Pasta can be dry or fresh and homemade. It is served with sauces, seafood or meat or vegetables.
January 21, 2010
Alta Cucina is holding an olive oil tasting today of products from Calabriadorata. Calabriadorata makes Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Carolea cultivar which is indigenous to Calabria. The firm also makes an organic olive oil. Calabriadorata is located in Nocera Terinese, in the province of Cosenza. The property has been in the Marquis de Luca di Lizzano family since the 1600s. They have over 200 acres of olive trees located on the coastline of Calabria. Many of the olive trees date back to the 19th century.
January 19, 2010
Luca Maroni’s SensofWine NYC will be held at Cipriani 42nd Street for the second year in a row this February 4. Maroni, a noted Italian wine expert, will showcase 100 wines from over 40 producers. Last year’s event was a huge success with more than 1200 attending.
The walk around tasting is divided into a special two hour session reserved for members of the wine trade and restaurant industry and the press which runs from 3:00pm to 5:00 pm. Consumers and the trade/press can all attend from 5:00pm to 9:00pm. The cost of the event for consumers is $35. Alta Cucina members pay $30. In order to sign up for the event, please go to Alta Cucina’s store to buy tickets.
Maroni has created his own tasting method which evaluates different sensory elements. He gives each wine a numerical vote and publishes a wine guide with his ratings on an annual basis. Maroni hosts a huge SensofWine event in Rome every November, often attended by 30,000 people.
Don’t miss out on this event if you are in town on February 4. Last year was a fabulous evening and this year will surely be one as well.
January 12, 2010
Italy, like most countries in the Mediterranean basin, is renowned for its olive oils. Olive oil came to the Mediterranean through what was known as Asia Minor or the modern day country of Turkey. The three main producers of olive oil are Spain, Italy and Greece. Greece has more varieties than any other country in the world. Italy also has numerous cultivars, the word for different types of olives.
Olive oil has many nutritional benefits including the fact that the mono-saturated fats present in olives/olive oil, when combined with the antioxidant protection offered by vitamin E, lower the risk of damage and inflammation. Olive/olive oil contains active phytonutrient compounds, including polyphenols and flavonoids, which have been found to have significant anti-inflammatory properties. Moreover, the vitamin E present in olives/olive oil has been known to offer cellular protection against free radicals present in the body and prevents the oxidation of cholesterol in the body and thus helps reduce the risk of having heart attack or stroke.
Olive oil has been slowly making its way into the United States market. At any local grocer, you can now find olive oil. Some of these oils are Italian, many are Spanish and many are a mixture. Those in the know can immediately tell the difference. One factor to look for, in addition to taste, is the color of the olive oil. Most good oils are quite green when they are first sold into the market. As they get older they become a bit more yellow.
Each cultivar produces different aromas and flavors when it is made into olive oil. Some oils are spicier than others while some are more delicate. There are also regional traditions in olive oil. For example, in Calabria, most olive oil is made from an indigenous cultivar called Carolea. Carolea can grow in Sicily as well but it is in Calabria that it finds its true home. For more information on olive oil from Calabraia, check out the website of Calabriadorata.
What matters most when choosing an olive oil are the flavors and the stability of the oil. Oils are judged and labelled with their level of acidity as well. In all, the world of olive oil is almost as complex as that of wine, tea or chocolate tastings. In fact, there are many classes and certifications to become an olive oil taster. At the huge Italian wine fair held in April every year, Vinitaly, there is always one entire building for the SOL event which is dedicated to olive oil. Visiting the fairs can be quite overwhelming but is without a doubt, an exquisitely pleasurable experience.
January 7, 2010
Italian cheeses are almost as numerous as indigenous grape varieties. Few of these cheeses, however, have received the prestigious denominazione d’origine protetta (DOP) designation. One of that has is the Canestrato Pugliese, a hard cheese from Apulia made with goat’s milk in the entire province of Foggia and parts of the province of Bari.
The cheese is usually aged for two to four months and can be enjoyed with fruit, vegetables or jams. One great pairing is with marmalade such as that of Moreno Cedroni offered at the Alta Cucina Store this month in a special promotion. Moreno Cedroni is an acclaimed Italian chef who has received two Michelin stars for his work. Cedroni has created a unique line of preserves to pair specifically with cheese. Young Canestrato pairs well with white wines or Rose’ as long as they are still dry wines.
After Canestrato is aged for two to four months, it is bathed in olive oil and can then be aged for a further eight to ten months. Aged Canestrato works very well with dishes from Apulia such as Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe. In this case, the dish could be paired with a heartier wine from Apulia such as a Salice Salentino.
The cheese gets it name from the baskets in which it is created. These reed baskets are known as Canestri. The cheese forms generally weigh anywhere between 7 to 15 kilos. On the palate, this cheese is quite aromatic when aged and a bit more delicate in its younger version.
January 5, 2010
January 6 is traditionally considered the end of the Christmas holiday. It is the twelfth night of Christmas and is often called the Epiphany or L’Epifania in Italian. According to tradition, this is the day when the three wise men or the Magi visit Jesus in the manger. It has also developed into a family holiday in Italy where children are given candy and treats if they are good and coal if they aren’t. These goods are delivered by an old woman on a broomstick known as La Befana.
La Befana is supposed to be an old woman whom the three Magi met on their way to the manger. Legend has it that they asked for shelter on their way to Bethlehem and that she refused to give it to them. The story is that she said she was too busy cleaning her house, hence the broomstick as part of her image. At some point though, she changed her mind and wanted to accompany them to Bethlehem. When she went to look for them, they had vanished. She has been wandering around looking for them ever since.
In addition to bringing treats for kids, La Befana usually brings traditional desserts to the table for adults. Jan 6 is a national holiday in Italy so many people take the opportunity to have a big, traditional family meal. In the Veneto region in the North East of the country, for example, the meal generally ends with a delicious piece of La Pinza Veneta. Made with cornmeal, it is a very dense cake with raisins and figs. Most people in Italy consider La Befana the end of the holiday season and the beginning of the new year. Auguri.