Grigoletti makes superb wines a family affair

Grigoletti vineyards in Nomi, Italy
Slender and willowy, Bruno Grigoletti reaches his big hands into the canopy of a grape pergola and starts ripping out the extra foliage. In his late 70s, he works at a pace that would exhaust a man a third his age. Bruno manages a dozen family vineyards. They total about 15 acres (6 ha) in and around the commune of Nomi on the west bank of the Adige river, 9 miles (15 km) south of Trento. Some of the heat-loving varieties grow at the edge of the village in the alluvial soils of the Adige. But the most striking wines come from steep vineyard plots on the limestone hills behind the village.

Grigoletti brunoBruno prunes the white grapes—mostly pinot grigio, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc—three times across the summer. He then cuts out foliage a few weeks before harvest to improve air circulation and maximize sun exposure. Some special plots of white grapes and all the red grapes—merlot, marzemino, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and schiava—get an extra pruning across the summer to keep their yields in check.

Although this end of the Adige valley lies far north in Italy, the southern end is strongly influenced by Lake Garda. The lake effect makes it warm enough to raise lemons and olives. A warm wind siphons up the valley, extending the growing season around Nomi and providing warmth and moisture to go with the intense summer sunlight. Vineyard managers work hard to keep yields down and acids and sugar up.

Vineyard management is just the beginning. Azienda Agricola Grigoletti is a true family affair. Bruno commands the vineyards, and his son Carmelo makes the wine and runs the cellars. Marica, Carmelo’s wife, runs the tasting room and sales. They produce about 50,000 bottles per year of a dozen wines. Ten are table wines and two are sweet wines they call their “Meditation” series.

Grigoletti winery signI can heartily recommend them all. But I confess a special affection for Marzemino and for the four “selection” wines. Marzemino is a native grape, probably an offspring of Teroldego. It’s best known outside the region through a reference in the opera Don Giovanni. The rake calls for a glass just before he is cast into hell. (The librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, probably drank Marzemino when he grew up a few miles away.)

Most of Marzemino Trentino D.O.C. that I tasted at the big Trentino tasting in May (Mostra Vini) were an almost opaque dark plum color with a gentle warmth and very little tannin or acid. Grigoletti’s version is a cut above. It shows pronounced red fruit on the nose and a dried fruit aftertaste that’s very pleasant with food.

At the moment, North Americans must visit Italy to try these wines. But if Grigoletti breaks into distribution on this side of the Atlantic, the four “selection” wines will lead the way. They stand on their own with anything similar in the world.

L’OPERA

L’Opera chardonnay (9€ at the winery) comes from a mountainside vineyard where the vines are all at least 25 years old. Most of the soil is dolomitic limestone with a thin covering of topsoil, but part of the vineyard overlays a band of gravel. The grapes are soft-pressed and the juice is fermented in stainless tanks. The wine rests on the lees (with regular stirring) for six months. L’Opera is never touched by oak, but the influence of the lees and and high mineral content of the soil gives it an intensity and backbone usually associated with barrel aging. This is a chardonnay with pronounced fruit (golden apples more than pineapple or banana), a honey-like viscosity. and a well-defined structure. It mates well with ocean fish and mild young cheeses.

RETIKO

Retiko (11€) is Grigoletti’s complexly flavored white blend—70% chardonnay, 30% sauvignon blanc. Sauvignon blanc is very aromatic in this part of Trentino, almost mimicking riesling and gewürztraminer in its intensity, though the flavor is much more like lychee. Carmelo ferments the wine directly in large barrels made of French acacia (black locust). That gives the developing wine access to oxygen without picking up the vanilla and other flavors from oak. He leaves it on the lees for another five months (with regular battonage) and then rests the wine in bottles six months before release. It’s clearly a sister wine to L’Opera, but with a more sprightly personality and a prickly acidity that makes it a good complement to veal carpaccio.

MERLOT ANTICA VIGNA

Grigoletti makes Merlot Antico Vigna (13€) from vines that are 60 or more years old. During the harsh economic times after World War II, merlot was “the family bread.” In those years, the Grigolettis overcropped the grape. But they have narrowed the historic pergolas and have retrained many old vines to wire. That drastically reduces yields and concentrates flavor and sugar. Carmelo makes a simpler merlot for ready drinking. But the grapes from the old vines are fermented in wood, then spend six months in French oak barrique, and two years in the bottle. The resulting wine tastes of cherries and bramble fruits with a pronounced spiciness. It is merlot in a very Trentino style—warm and round and slippery in the mouth due to soft tannins. Drink with a country salami, grilled lamb, or aged cheese.

GONZALIER

Carmelo Grigoletti with a magnum of Gonzalier Gonzalier (16€) is Grigoletti’s meritage. It contains 50% merlot, 25% each cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. They harvest most of the grapes a month later than the rest of the family vineyards. That is always tricky here, since they run the risk of rain. Gonzalier is fermented in oak and aged in a mix of oak and cherry barrels. Vineyard management is key, and the wine displays none of the green pepper aromas common in unripe Trentino cabernet. Carmelo has elected to make Gonzalier velvety and fruity with just a hint of vanilla and spice, and has kept the alcohol level to 14 percent. Every few years, he will blend three vintages to create magnums, available only at the winery for 65€.

Grigoletti welcomes visitors to the tasting room and store at Via Garibaldi, 12 in Nomi Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Call them at (011-34) 0464 834 215 or visit the website at www.grigoletti.com.

18

06 2016

Grill 23 bar menu demonstrates steakhouse evolution

Grill 23 launch party for summer 2016 bar menu
Grill 23 in Boston’s historic Salada Tea building launched 30 years ago to make sure that the business guys in Back Bay had a proper steakhouse where they could seal new ventures over a big, juicy slabs of beef. It’s still under the same ownership, but left the old steak-and-martini steakhouse formula behind years ago. With its succession of smart and inventive chefs, Grill 23 keeps refining what a steakhouse should be. These days the kitchen operates under corporate culinary director Eric Brennan, and just last week he launched an ambitious new bar menu with a party (above).

Grill 23 Six Shooters Since Grill 23 has only had a discreet bar area since 2014, the restaurant isn’t locked into tradition. The new menu is a smart cross between steakhouse classics and contemporary bites. It’s been years since we’ve seen deviled ham on chive biscuits on anyone’s menu north of the Mason-Dixon line—or dared to order a crab and artichoke dip with slices of grilled baguette. At the same time, Brennan has introduced a thoroughly decadent foie gras slider on a cinnamon-sugar-dusted apple cider doughnut with a dab of jalapeno jelly. (It’s great with a classic Manhattan, by the way.) The bar also serves a tasty Grill 23 Six Shooter—six shot glasses, each containing a Cotuit oyster marinating in a spicy blend of beer and lime juice with a spice and salt rim.

The charcuterie and cheese choices are almost a requirement of a contemporary bar, and the flatiron steak and steak tips are definitive steakhouse bar plates. But Brennan exercises some imagination with the burgers, serving the beef burger with truffle cheddar, black garlic, and “oven cured” (read: partially dried and extra sweet) tomato. The lamb burger comes with a small round of fried eggplant, some chevre, and a saffron tomato jam. Brennan was kind enough to share the recipe. Grill 23 is at 161 Berkeley St., Boston; 617-542-2255; www.grill23.com.

Grill 23 lamb burgers at launch party for 2016 summer bar menu

LAMB BURGER WITH SAFFRON TOMATO JAM

Makes four 8 oz. burgers

Ingredients

For the burger
2 lbs ground lamb
3 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp rosemary, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

For the jam
2 1/2 lbs tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 tsp saffron, bloomed in 1/4 cup sherry
2 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

To make the burgers, slowly roast the garlic cloves in the olive oil on the stovetop until soft and light golden.

Puree the garlic mixture with mustard and rosemary and thoroughly combine with ground lamb.

Make a small patty and taste for salt and pepper; adjust seasoning if necessary.

To make the jam, stew the all ingredients over low heat. Once the tomatoes have completely broken down and liquid has become fully incorporated, set aside and allow to cool.

Divide the lamb mixture into four equal patties and grill.

Assemble the burgers by topping the patties with a slice of fried, breaded eggplant, fresh goat cheese, arugula, and a spoonful of the saffron tomato jam on a griddled brioche bun.

12

06 2016

Hearty Trentino dishes complement the wines

chef in Trento at Mostra Vini
If you’re going to spend all morning tasting 128 wines, you really need some hearty food to follow up. The Trento cuisine is a fascinating blend of Italian and Germanic foodways, and it’s well suited to the regional wines. After we sampled our way through the wines, most of us had absorbed enough alcohol, even without swallowing, that we really needed a good meal. The Trentino wine consortium made sure we got it!

We started with a glass of light white wine made from the Incrocio Manzoni Bianco grape. It’s part of a group named for professor Luigi Manzoni (1888-1968), who experimented with crossing a number of grapes during the 1920s and 1930s at Italy’s oldest school of oenology in Conegliano, north of Venice. The bianco cross of riesling and pinot bianco (pinot blanc to French speakers) does quite well in cold climate, high altitude vineyards like Trentino’s. In fact, it’s often too vigorous and has to be aggressively pruned to keep from overcropping. A fairly delicate wine, it has just enough astringency to clear the palate before a meal.

Mostra Vini del Trentino lunch of braised veal cheeksThe meal was a humble feast of straightforward dishes typical of the region. We started with a red wine risotto—a treat when it’s made with the local Teroldego red and the local grating cheese—before moving on to braised veal cheeks with roasted potatoes (right) and, for dessert, a beautiful apple strudel.

The local grating cheese, Trentingrana DOP, is made in a part of the province that falls within the delimited region for Grana Padano DOP cheese, but it has the name “Trentino” prominently stamped in the form that makes the big wheels. Since it’s hard to find in the U.S., substitute a 24-month Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for the same effect.

Note that the chef stirred the risotto vigorously (see photo at top of post), almost folding the mixture as it cooked. The recipe below follows the traditional way to make risotto—about a half hour of stirring—though you could also use our pressure cooker method (see this post: http://hungrytravelers.com/learning-under-pressure/) by reducing the volume of liquid to about twice the volume of rice. Note that the alcohol and the tannins in red wine affect the cooking time, making it about 25 percent longer than using mostly broth and a white wine. But the extra time is worth it for the perfect melding of red wine and aged cheese with the creamy mouth feel of the dish.

Mostralunch red wine risotto

RED WINE RISOTTO

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 cups beef broth
2 1/2 cups red wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 1/2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
4 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Trentingrana (see above)

Directions

Place broth in a medium saucepan and add 2 cups of the red wine, reserving the remainder.. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat so wine-broth is hot but not simmering.

Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottom pot (a Dutch oven works well) over medium-low heat. Add shallots and and cook, stirring occasionally until shallots are soft and translucent. Add rice and 2 tablespoons butter and stir to coat.

Stir in the reserved half cup of wine and cook over medium heat, stirring until wine is absorbed. Stir in a half cup of the hot wine broth and adjust heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has been absorbed. Add more wine broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until most of the liquid has been absorbed. It will take 25-30 minutes for nearly all the liquid to be absorbed. At this point, the rice should be creamy and glistening with a starch coating but still be al dente when sampled.
Adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and remove from heat.

Remove pot from heat and cover to let rest about two minutes before serving in shallow bowls. Pass extra grated cheese.

10

06 2016

Trentino shows off its superb wines at Mostra Vini

Tasting at Mostra Vini del Trentino
The wine district of Trentino is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets—at least from Americans. That translates into real bargains on some outstanding wines from unfamiliar producers. Trentino is the southern half of the region of Trentino-Alto Adige east of Lombardy and west of the Veneto. To help you place it, the wine district more or less corresponds to the Trento province in the map below.

Trentino Alto Adige map With high-altitude vineyards on a mix of dolomitic limestone and volcanic porphyry, the area produces startlingly good sparkling wines in the style of Champagne, highly aromatic white wines similar to the style of Alsace, and some fascinating local reds that many Americans have never heard of. Napoleon rolled through in the early 19th century, and many chardonnay, merlot, cabernet, and pinot noir vineyards date from that era. While the two big cooperatives of Cavit and Mezzacorona also produce daunting quantities of bargain-priced pinot grigio for the North American market, some Trentino wineries also make very sophisticated and delicious wines from the same grape.

Mostra logo I had the pleasure of attending the 79th edition of the Mostra Vini del Trentino, which translates loosely as Trentino Wine Tasting. Some 10,000 people showed up over the four days to file through one of the great late medieval palaces in central Trento to sample a selection of 128 excellent wines from the region. The general public paid 5 euros for three glasses of the “basic” wines, 10 euros for three glasses of the reserve wines. As always, there were a slew of other events, from wine-themed movies to lectures to workshops to special dinners. Before the event opened to the public, the Trentino wine consortium (www.vinideltrentino.com/ITA/32/Consorzio.html) turned a dozen of us wine journalists loose to sample and take notes. Trentino is better known in Europe than in the U.S., so I was the only American present. With few exceptions, we all worked our way through the complete selection—although I declined some of the dessert wines because my palate was exhausted.

In the next several posts, I’ll be writing about some of those wines, including some made from the unusual grapes native to the region and several where I had a chance to visit the wineries. The Trentino district is actually fairly small, and has an active program that encourages winery visits. In most of Italy, you need to make advance reservations. Along Trentino’s Strade del Vino, you can simply stop by to taste and purchase.

Trento is a perfect base for touring and is a truly beautiful city that’s easy to walk. It has shuttled back and forth between Italy and Austria over the centuries, so the architecture is as much Germanic as Italian. The Dolomite Alps hover in the background just outside the city, making the region a favorite for mountain bikers. It was the site of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) that led to the Counter Reformation. Indeed, it’s been a center of humanistic learning ever since. Here’s a shot of the main square.

Trento center square

02

06 2016

Eating like George Martin on Montserrat

George Martin porch on Montserrat
I don’t know what Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Sting, or Eric Clapton liked to eat when they came to relax and record on Montserrat. But George Martin was particularly fond of a good pork tenderloin with creamy mushroom sauce.

In the late 1970s, Martin was seduced by the unspoiled beauty and tranquil pace of life on the tiny Caribbean island. He opened AIR Studio in 1979, and for about a decade a steady stream of the top names in the music business came here to record with the producer extraordinaire. Almost 80 albums were created on Montserrat before AIR closed in 1989 after the destruction of Hurricane Hugo.

But Olveston House, Martin’s breezy and unpretentious island retreat, remains. Martin and his family would enjoy the property for several months a year. Although Martin died back in early March, the walls covered with silver, gold, and platinum records and framed photos by Linda McCartney seem to conjure his presence at every turn. When the Martins are not in residence, Olveston House operates as a six-bedroom guest house and restaurant. The menu features homey British style dishes such as the pork tenderloin alongside somewhat spicier island fare including garlic shrimp, another Martin favorite.

George Martin pork tenderlin When I asked Margaret Wilson, who was overseeing the dining room, for the recipe for the pork tenderloin she told me that Martin’s grandson, also named George, likes it so much that he had the cook show him how to make it so that he could prepare it at home.

“It’s really very simple,” she said—and she’s right. Here is the recipe exactly as she gave it to me:

“Slice the pork tenderloin into 3/4 inch to 1 inch slices, press them into a mixture of flour, paprika, salt, and black pepper. We always make a pot of garlic, herbs, and butter which we use to fry everything in. So we sear the meat on both sides in the garlic butter and add some sliced mushrooms. When the mushrooms look cooked, add a good slosh of white wine. When the flames die down add some heavy cream and simmer till the sauce thickens. This does not take long, be careful not to overcook the pork.
Serve immediately.”

And be sure to listen to the Beatles while you cook and enjoy the dish.

17

05 2016

Montserrat rum cake is a deep, dark mystery

Montserrat rum cake
I felt pretty certain that most of the folks on Montserrat would have given me the shirt off their backs if I had needed it. But even during the high-spirited days of the week-long St. Patrick’s Day festivities, that generosity only extended so far. No baker, it seems, is willing to part with her recipe for rum cake, the Montserrat version of the dark West Indian cake that is so different from the paler, less robust spirit-soaked fruitcakes that Europeans and Americans make.

I had my first taste of the dense, almost fudge-like treat in my hometown of Cambridge, Mass., supplied by Bernadine Greenaway, one of the many Montserratians who live at least part of the year in Boston. Bernadine makes cakes for family and community celebrations and was kind enough to bake a cake for me and my husband, David, before my first trip to Montserrat. A far cry from an English fruitcake, it was dark, sweet, fruity and filled with aromatic spices I could only guess at. One thing I knew for sure—her cake had been soaked in her family’s version of bush rum, which is a homemade rum almost as dark as molasses and redolent of such sweet Caribbean spices as allspice and clove. When I asked Bernadine for the recipe, she just smiled.

That was the typical response on Montserrat as well, where rum cakes were for sale as part of the St. Patrick’s celebration. Finally, someone gave me a hint that the cake is very similar to a cake made at Christmas and I was able to adapt a recipe to approximate—but not equal—Bernadine’s version.

MONTSERRAT RUM CAKE


Bush rum is hard to lay your hands on without a connection. A good, dark Angostura rum will do for the recipe. For dark treacle, substitute blackstrap molasses.

Ingredients

12 ounces plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice (nutmeg, allspice, cloves)
4 ounces candied peel
2 pounds dried fruit—preferably one pound currants, 8 ounces sultanas, and 8 ounces raisins
4 ounces blanched almonds, chopped finely
grated rind of one lemon
4 eggs
4 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup bush rum
8 ounces margarine or butter
8 ounces Demerara sugar
1 tablespoon black treacle (blackstrap molasses may be substituted)
1 cup bush rum for finishing

Directions

Line a 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pan with double thickness of greased paper around the sides of the interior and greased waxed paper or parchment at the bottom. Tie a double band of brown paper around the outside of tin, standing well above the top of it.

Set oven at 325°F.

Sieve together flour, cinnamon, salt, and mixed spice. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix peel, fruit, chopped almonds, and lemon rind. Whisk in eggs, milk, and 1/2 cup bush rum.

In a third bowl, cream margarine or butter, then beat in sugar and black treacle.

Add flour and egg mixtures alternately to the creamed butter and sugar. Do not over beat when mixing.

Place mixture into prepared cake pan (see above). Put in middle of 325°F oven. Bake 1 1/2 hours, then turn down to 300°F and continue baking another 1 3/4 to 2 hours until firm.

Remove from oven and cool on rack. When cool, prick top all over with fork and pour on 1 cup bush rum. When cake has drained, wrap in plastic wrap or rum-soaked linen towel.

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13

05 2016

Goat water hits the spot on Montserrat

Goat water eaters on Montserrat
Montserrat’s St. Patrick’s Day parade—a whirl of colorful costumes and steel drums—doesn’t kick off until 3 in the afternoon. That leaves plenty of time for checking out the entertainment and crafts booths at the Heritage Village in Salem—and for eating. The aroma of jerk chicken cooking on outdoor grills fills the fairgrounds, but the most popular dish is “Goat Water.” Montserrat’s national dish, it’s a spicy Caribbean take on Irish stew.

Virginia Allen with goat water on  Montserrat I gravitated to the stall of Virginia Allen, who managed to tend her big pot of goat water without spilling a drop on her beautiful traditional outfit made with a signature Madras fabric of green, orange, and white. In addition to serving goat water at festivals, Virginia makes the dish every Friday and offers it for sale across the street from the bread shop in Brades. “Just look for the goat water sign,” she told me.

Goat water may sound like a thin broth, but it’s a hearty, meaty stew. When I settled in at a communal table to try my small bowl, a local woman advised me to use my bread to soak up every bit of the rich broth redolent of spicy cloves. Goat water is often made in a big metal pot and cooked over a wood fire to add a slight touch of smoke. While it seems to be a festival—rather than everyday—dish, most cooks have at least a rudimentary family recipe. “Wash the goat meat and cut it in bits,” Virginia had told me. “Then put in the seasoning—sea salt, onion, garlic, clove, big sweet seasoning peppers, and flour.” Pressed further, she also admitted that she adds a touch of Accent to intensify the flavors. Some cooks also add a bit of rum or Scotch.

Like all good traditional stews, there are as many recipes as there are cooks. The version below is typical.

GOAT WATER

Makes 12 servings bowl of goat water on Montserrat

Ingredients

2 quarters goat
4 onions, cut up
scallions and thyme
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 hot green pepper, whole
salt and pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon whole cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon mace or a whole nutmeg, grated
3/4 cup cooking oil
3 ounces fresh marjoram
2 cups flour
Kitchen Bouquet or Cross & Blackwell Gravy Browning
optional Scotch or rum to taste

Directions

Cut the meat in 2-inch cubes, being sure to leave the bones in. Wash in salt water and place in a large stewpot. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Skim off the foam, and continue simmering, covered, adding remaining ingredients through marjoram. Add boiling water as needed to keep ingredients covered.

When the meat is nearly tender—about 2 hours—combine 2 cups flour with enough cold water to make a smooth paste. Stir enough of this mixture into stew to give desired thickness, and add some browning (Kitchen Bouquet or Cross & Blackwell) for deeper color. Half-cover the pot and continue simmering until meat is done. Add Scotch or rum as desired. Serve very hot with bones in cups or bowls.

07

05 2016

Montserrat celebrates St. Patrick with Caribbean verve

St. Patrick's Day on Montserrat
I never found anyone serving green beer during the St. Patrick’s Day Festival on the island of Montserrat. But local ginger beer, I quickly discovered, is a perfectly good substitute. One of 14 United Kingdom Overseas Territories, Montserrat is the only island nation (besides the Emerald Isle) where St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. And I have to say that Caribbean style adds real flair to the celebration of Ireland’s patron saint.

St, Patrick's Day on Montserrat The 5,000 or so Montserratians who inhabit this island in the British West Indies take their Irish roots seriously. Just ask any of the Allens, Sweeneys, Buntins, Farrells, O’Garrs and O’Briens who trace their roots back to the 17th century Irish indentured servants who made a new life here after putting in time on other, less welcoming, islands. Over the generations, they married descendants of the slaves brought to Montserrat to work on the sugar plantations, and created a vibrant Afro-Irish population that definitely knows how to have a good time.

The island’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival, which also marks an unsuccessful slave revolt in 1768, actually lasts a full week. By March 16, everybody is dressed in green and ready to stay up until the wee hours of the morning cheering for their favorites in a competition among artists who perform the island’s signature soca—a musical genre that combines elements of calypso, cadence, funk, and swirling East Indian percussive repetitions.

To get revelers off to a good start on March 17, vendors begin serving a traditional Caribbean breakfast at 7 a.m. at the Heritage Village in Salem, the epicenter of the day’s activities. The hearty meal includes saltfish (salt cod), lots of greens, breadfruit, and several local specialties. “Bakes” are dumpling-like pieces of fried dough, while the more unusual “dukna” is a mixture of sweet potato, coconut, ginger, and other spices wrapped in leaves of the elephant ear plant and boiled. My favorite was the crisp and light pumpkin fritter. Since a similar hard-rinded pumpkin is native where where I live in greater Boston, it’s a perfect dish for New England, where many Montserratians resettled after the 1995-2000 eruptions of the island’s volcano.

PUMPKIN FRITTERS

St. Patrick's Day breakfast on Montserrat

Ingredients
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 thick slices of pumpkin, peeled
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups lard (coconut oil may be substituted)
sugar mixed with cinnamon
limes

Directions

Mix flour and baking powder with a sieve or whisk.

Grate the raw pumpkin into a large bowl. Stir in egg, milk, and nutmeg. Add flour mixture a little at a time until the batter is thick. (Depending on the moisture content of the pumpkin, not all the flour may be needed.)

In a deep pan, melt the lard and heat until a few drops of water flicked into the fat immediately sizzle and evaporate. Add batter a tablespoon at a time and deep-fry until golden. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Squeeze lime juice over fritters as desired.

Frescobaldi celebrates its Tuscan estates

Lamberto Frescobaldi
There’s poetry in the Frescobaldi soul, and I don’t just write that because I like so many of the family’s wines. Back in the 13th century, poet Dino Frescobaldi helped his exiled friend Dante Alighieri recover the first seven books of the Divine Comedy, enabling him to complete one of the great masterpieces of world literature. About that same time, the Frescobaldi family also started to focus on making wine in the Tuscan countryside. A couple of years ago, Lamberto Frescobaldi took over the leadership of the family business, and since he has a son at college in Rhode Island, the chief often passes through Boston. When he was here in March, we had a chance to sit down and taste some current releases and talk about new directions he’s taking the company.

Lamberto is a businessman with the soul of a poet and the skills of a winemaker. Since he took the helm, the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi has quietly pivoted from emphasizing the 700 years of winemaking experience behind the entire portfolio to playing up the character of the six individual Tuscan estates that are part of the Frescobaldi Toscano branch of the family company. (They also produce Super Tuscans called Masseto and Ornallaia in Bolghieri, as well as Attems pinot grigios and sauvignon blancs in the sandy eastern hills of Friuli.)
Pomino Benefizio Riserva Frescobaldi The newest bottlings from the Tuscan vineyards play up the vineyard name over the Frescobaldi moniker.

Since we were conversing as well as tasting, we kept to just four bottles. The first was my favorite Italian chardonnay, Pomino Benefizio Riserva 2013. The Pomino estate in the northeast corner of Tuscany is high in the hills. The family has been growing chardonnay here since 1855, first winning a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition in 1878. Since 1973, the estate has been making this barrel-fermented white from a single vineyard at 700 meters. For an Italian wine, it’s very Burgundian—rich and luscious with very gentle French oak. It is a truly voluptuous white that makes a perfect pairing with intensely flavored fish, strong aged cheese, and light veal dishes. It retails around $43.

Frescobaldi Montesodi Although Castelo di Nipozzano is well within the Chianti district, the Montesodi 2012 wine is technically a Tuscan IGT because it is made from nothing but Sangiovese grown in the limestone and clay soil of the Montesodi vineyard at 400 meters. Starting with the 2012 vintage, the wine spends 18 months aging in large (30hl) French and Austrian oak casks. This bottle had been opened about two hours before we sat down, so the aeration had taken the edge off its young tannins without taking anything away from the complex nose. This is possibly the purest example of northern Tuscan sangiovese on the market. It displays strong notes of tart cherries, brick, and a bit of oregano and thyme. Although usually drunk at a meal with red meats, Montesodi would be spectacular with roast chicken–or even better, roast duck or pheasant. Retail is about $43.

Frescobaldi Giramonte 2012 Tenuta de Castiglioni is the oldest of the Frescobaldi estates, but the impressive Giramonte cru—a merlot wine with some sangiovese—has only been made since 1999. It’s a synthesis of flavors that the Frescobaldi winemakers pioneered when they started planting Bordeaux varietals in Tuscany in the 1850s. When I drink Giramonte, I feel like I’m getting both the full lushness of a ripe merlot (a hint of mint and mushroom) with the spice and leather of good sangiovese. We drank an old-style Giramonte 2009, which had an 88 percent merlot content. Lamberto explained that they pick the merlot in three stages, starting when it has only 10-10.5 degrees of sugar. The remaining grapes are allowed to mature more slowly. It’s a silky, complicated red that drinks nicely with red meats—or after-dinner philosophy. The 2009 is still in the market at around $108-$120, though the 2012 is available at about the same price.

Frescobaldi Mormoreto 2012 We finally capped off our tasting with Mormoreto, a Bordeaux-style blend from the Nipozzano estate. The Mormoreto vineyard was planted in 1976 with Frescobaldi vines of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot first established here in the 1850s. The vineyard is showing great maturity, and the 2012 is truly opulent—with a strong hint of black cherries, blackberries, and respberries. The scorching heat of the 2012 summer was clearly well-balanced by cool nights, as the wine has intense aromatics. The wine spent two years in small oak casks before bottling, and vanilla notes are still pronounced until it’s well-aerated. A large, full wine with all the chest-beating power of a Bordeaux blend, Mormoreto has a lot more finesse than many of Super Tuscans. I know by experience that the elegance becomes more pronounced after a few extra years of cellaring. Retail is around $65.

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04 2016

Savoring Sara Moulton’s spring pea soup

Sara  Moulton and Tyler Kinnett at Harvest
Ever the prodigal daughter, chef Sara Moulton returned to her roots at Harvest Restaurant in Cambridge, Mass., for the launch of her latest cookbook, Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better.

Sara Moulton's Home Cooking 101 For readers who only know Moulton from her television work—a pioneer host for nearly 10 years on the Food Network and more recently the host of “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” on public television, the woman has serious chops. She worked for seven years as a restaurant chef, cooked with Julia Child in her home for dinner parties, spent four years testing and developing recipes for the late, lamented Gourmet magazine, and ran Gourmet‘s dining room for more than two decades.

But she started at Harvest in Cambridge—a brainchild of Modernist architect Ben Thompson and his equally avant garde wife Jane. Harvest opened in 1975, and some of the biggest names in Boston-area cooking worked in the kitchen, including Lydia Shire, Chris Schlesinger, Frank McClelland, Barbara Lynch, Jimmy Burke…. Above, that’s Sara Moulton with Harvest’s current executive chef Tyler Kinnett, who interpreted some recipes for Moulton’s new book at the launch luncheon.

Since the weather was still chilly, Kinnett did a tasty turn on Moulton’s “Pea Vichyssoise with Smoked Salmon” by serving it as a warm soup with a swirl of crème fraiche instead of garnishing with crumbled chevre. He also added crisp roasted diced potatoes instead of the crunchy wasabi peas that Moulton calls for to add zing to the cold version. Kinnett cold-smoked the salmon himself to keep the flavor very mild and delicate as a perfect counterpoint to the sweet peas.

Moulton was good enough to let us pass along the original recipe, though we suggest you buy the book so you’re not stuck with a one-course meal. Here’s the link on Amazon.

The photo below is Tyler Kinnett’s version as he served it at Harvest. The recipe is for Sara’s cold pea soup, which looks very similar. One caveat on technique: Don’t over-blend the soup or the potatoes will give it the texture of wallpaper paste.

PEA VICHYSSOISE WITH SMOKED SALMON

Serves 4 (7-8 cups)

Ingredients Sara Moulton pea soup at Harvest

2 cups medium chopped leeks, white parts only
1 cup medium-chopped peeled russet (baking) potatoes
1 cup medium-chopped peeled boiling potatoes
2 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups fresh or defrosted frozen peas
2 1/2 cups lowfat buttermilk
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 ounces smoked salmon, medium chopped
4 ounces fresh goat cheese (or feta), crumbled
1/2 cup wasabi peas

Directions

Combine the leeks, potatoes, and garlic in a medium saucepan. Add 2 cups of water and the stock, bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes. Add the green peas, bring the liquid back to a boil, and simmer until the peas are tender, about 2 minutes.

Fill a blender about one-third full with some of the soup mixture, add some of the buttermilk, and puree until smooth. Repeat the procedure until completely pureed, transferring each batch to a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper and chill well.

Ladle the soup into four bowls. Top each portion with one-fourth of the salmon, goat cheese, and wasabi peas.

Reprinted with permission from
Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better (Oxmoor House, 2016)

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04 2016