Christmas lasagna with Brolio Chianti Classico

Christmas lasagna with Brolio Chianti Classico

As readers of our last post know, we've been exploring Chianti with dishes for the Christmas season. Our last post highlighted a Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva with roast pork. But we're also fond of Brolio's basic Chianti Classico, which sells for about two-thirds the price of the riserva. The wine is intensely ruby red, with a more open nose than the riserva. Floral notes of iris and violet mix with red fruits and woodsy aromas. With less barrel aging, the wine is more loosely structured and the tannins are very soft. Typical of Brolio wines, though, it shows a slightly flinty minerality that we quite enjoy. With apologies to Italy, we decided that this wine would drink well with a French-influenced version of lasagna. Our...Read More
Chianti Classico for Christmas: Brolio 2015 Riserva

Chianti Classico for Christmas: Brolio 2015 Riserva

Long ago, we used to buy a well-made Chianti Classico from an anonymous cooperative for a price low enough to make Charles Shaw blush. When we wanted to treat ourselves to a better wine, we would step up to a Brolio Chianti. We didn't have a lot of money and we never went wrong trusting the Ricasoli family to make an excellent Chianti at a fair price. Chianti has come a long way since Baron Bettino Ricasoli came up with the original formulation in 1872. That recipe called for a minimum of 70 percent Sangiovese and allowed a couple of white grapes in the blend. The rules have been rewritten extensively and now even allow 100 percent Sangiovese as well as blends with Bordeaux grape...Read More
Chiles en nogada: the taste of independence

Chiles en nogada: the taste of independence

Hurrah for the red, white, and green! Despite several changes in form of government over the years, the colors of the Mexican flag have stood since Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1821. One of the most elaborate of Mexican dishes seems to date from the same year. Tradition says that the nuns of Puebla's Santa Monica convent created chiles en nogada to honor General Agustín de Iturbide when he visited the city after by signing the Treaty of Córdoba on August 28. (Puebla celebrates the Festival of Chile en Nogada on that day every year.) The dish echoes the colors of the flag in the green poblano chiles stuffed with picadillo, the white of the walnut cream sauce that enrobes it, and the...Read More
In Mexico, even the dead enjoy a feast

In Mexico, even the dead enjoy a feast

We recently returned from Mexico, where we joined the observations of the Day of the Dead in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán. Wherever we went, the air was filled with the vaguely pungent, slightly rank smell of marigolds. Farmers filled the beds of their pickup trucks to lug vast heaps of flowers to market. Native to central Mexico, "cempasuchitl" (the Nahuatl name for marigolds) are abundant in the late October rainy season. By tradition, their bright color represents the sun lighting the way for souls to return on the Day of the Dead. Their aroma also draws the deceased back to the world of the living. Marigolds abound in public spaces and private homes, where people use them to brighten the ofrendas so central to the celebration of...Read More
‘Feasts of Veg’ gives cause to celebrate

‘Feasts of Veg’ gives cause to celebrate

Some things are the same the world over. Sharing good food with friends and family is “one of the most enjoyable things to do in life,” says Nina Olsson, author of Feasts of Veg (© 2018 Kyle Books, photographs © Nina Olsson). That's as true in Olsson's native Sweden as it is in her current of residence in Amsterdam—or in our home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Olsson has drawn on world flavors to assemble a group of recipes for gatherings and celebrations. It's a book full of heart and the spirit of generosity that comes with cooking and sharing food. Someday we will host a bake-your-own pizza party or host a fancy sit-down dinner with Smoky Shiitake with Pea Farrotto and Chai Tea Sauce. But because...Read More
Planeta champions Nero d’Avola wines

Planeta champions Nero d’Avola wines

“Nero d'Avola is the most important grape in Sicilian wine-making,” announced Alessio Planeta at the outset of a two-hour seminar on the subject. Planeta has all the bona fides to make that claim. He's the nephew of Diego Planeta, who pioneered quality winemaking with the Settesoli cooperative in Menfi and co-founded Planeta winery (planeta.it/en/) in Sambuca. Alessio and his cousin Francesca now run Planeta, one of the biggest exporters of Sicilian table wine to the U.S. Nero d'Avola is the noblest of the many native Sicilian red grapes. With abundant warmth, sunlight, and dry conditions at harvest, it reaches peak ripeness in Sicily with rounded phenols and a sugar of about 22 brix. (It ferments dry to 13.5% alcohol.) Historically, Sicilian red wines were known...Read More
Blind Lion Speakeasy nods to Old West

Blind Lion Speakeasy nods to Old West

Tony DeMaro stood in front of an unassuming door marked “Employees Only.” I assumed that it's for the bartenders and waitstaff for the bustling Murphy's Pub (510 9th Street, murphyspubandgrill.com). A fixture in downtown Rapid City, South Dakota, the friendly place bristles with big-screen televisions tuned to sports. But DeMaro had a surprise in store. He led me through the door and down a short hallway to the Blind Lion speakeasy. I felt like one of the cool kids let in on a secret. Many of the folks watching football and sipping beer in Murphy's probably don't even know that this throwback to the Prohibition era lies beneath them. “The Blind Lion is as secretive as you can be and still be in business,” DeMaro...Read More
Blogger’s cookbook highlights tastes of Norway

Blogger’s cookbook highlights tastes of Norway

We're fascinated by Nevada Berg's cookbook, North Wild Kitchen (Prestel, $35). Originally from the United States, the author lives with her husband and son on a 17th century farm in a Norwegian mountain valley. She is far from the sophisticated food scene of Oslo. Berg also writes a food blog called North Wild Kitchen (northwildkitchen.com). She has embraced her new home and Norwegian foodways with the passion of a convert. With chapters entitled The Forage, The Waters, The Summer Mountain Farm, The Hunt, and The Campfire, Berg opens the door on a food culture attuned to the seasons. Dish after dish suggests how satisfying a life closely linked to the land can be. Now, we have to admit that we will probably never try making...Read More
What to buy in a New Mexico grocery store

What to buy in a New Mexico grocery store

Sometimes we get a little carried away. On one of our first visits to New Mexico, we became so enamored of the flavor of green chile that we filled a couple of big cardboard boxes with fresh chiles and checked them through as baggage on our flight back to Cambridge, Massachusetts. We soon discovered that it's a lot more trouble to roast the chiles ourselves on a Smoky Joe backyard grill than it is to buy them already roasted from one of the growers at a farmers market. Now we try to be a bit more restrained. Even in a standard grocery store, there are plenty of products that will pack a punch back home. And the good news is that the most essential don't...Read More
Abiquiu Inn serves tasty dishes (and serene casitas)

Abiquiu Inn serves tasty dishes (and serene casitas)

There aren't a whole lot of reasons to visit Abiquiu, New Mexico, 56 miles northwest of Santa Fe. Most of us come for Georgia O'Keeffe, who lived in this high-country village from 1949 until shortly before her death in 1986. O'Keeffe fans stream here to see her home and studio, visit her isolated studio at Ghost Ranch, and drink in the luminous, surreal landscapes. If they come to do all three, they likely stay overnight at the Abiquiu Inn (21120 U.S. 84, Abiquiu, N.M.; 505-685-4378; abiquiuinn.com). We did—and we were delighted. The rooms are essentially casitas. Several casitas back up on a shared courtyard, but we almost always had it to ourselves—unless you count the hummingbirds sipping nectar from the trumpet vine blossoms or having...Read More