Pepper whiskey: haunting spirits rise from the dead

Pepper whiskey: haunting spirits rise from the dead

We do love a good ghost story, especially when the spirit in question is an iconic brand of Kentucky whiskey. Long before Brooklyn hipsters began muttering about “peppery” notes in a sip of rye, “Pepper” was a huge name in the whiskey world. We got a couple of centuries of colorful tales on a tour of the James E. Pepper Distillery (1228 Manchester St. #100, Lexington, KY; 859-309-3230; jamesepepper.com). The ever-so-great grandpappy of the Pepper whiskey line was Elijah Pepper, who began making whiskey around 1780 in Virginia and built a distillery in Woodford County, Kentucky, in 1812. By 1865, the business had passed to his 15-year-old grandson, James E. Pepper. Now part of Brown & Forman, that limestone block National Historic Landmark is the...Read More
Toasting thoroughbreds and bourbon at Taylor Made

Toasting thoroughbreds and bourbon at Taylor Made

When we think of Kentucky's Bluegrass country, two things spring to mind: fast horses and smooth bourbon. So when we arrived for a VIP Stallion Experience at Taylor Made Farm (2765 Union Mill Rd., Nicholasville, KY; 859-885-3345, taylormadestallions.com) in the rolling hills just outside Lexington, we weren't surprised that the tour began in Daddy Joe's Bar & Grill. Bartender Kattie Breeden greeted us with the House Old Fashioned. The bar is named for family patriarch Joseph Taylor (1924-2003), who was once farm manager of the revered Gainesway Farm. Taylor Made, run by Joseph's four sons and one of their longtime friends, was established in 1976 to board mares that had come to Kentucky to be bred. As the farm grew from 20 acres to 1,100...Read More
Happy as a pig in … well, you know

Happy as a pig in … well, you know

The Pig: Tales and Recipes from the Kitchen Garden and Beyond is not, strictly speaking, a cookbook, although it does contain a lot of great recipes. It's more a lifestyle book (complete with decorating advice) touting a contemporary update of English country house living. It does, of course, obsess about food and the marvels that can be extracted from the kitchen garden. And the kitchen pigpen. And the kitchen barn. The book is distributed in Canada ($44) and the U.S. ($40) by Hachette Book Group. Here's a link to Amazon. Robin Hutson, wife Judy Hutson, and David Elton opened The Pig in New Forest, Hampshire, in 2011. That was the first of the country house hotels. Now a whole litter of them are sprinkled around...Read More
Dining (and drinking) through Encore Boston Harbor

Dining (and drinking) through Encore Boston Harbor

On this inaugural New Year's Eve at the Encore Boston Harbor (www.encorebostonharbor.com/), a good time will be had by many. That's one sure bet at the luxury casino and resort owned by Wynn Resorts. Open since late June, Encore features 15 places to eat and drink, which is more up our alley than games of chance. We recently attended a dine-around to get a taste of several of the venues. We were so engrossed with the food and cocktails that we forgot to lose any money at the tables or slots. But one thing was obvious: Encore Boston Harbor is hell-bent on showing its customers a good time. That starts when you walk in the main entrance to a fanciful carousel slowly spinning in the...Read More
Risotto and Giotto, Padua’s bitter and sweet

Risotto and Giotto, Padua’s bitter and sweet

The “sweet” spot of the Venetian city of Padua (or Padova, as the Italians have it) is the Scrovegni Chapel (cappelladegliscrovegni.it). Its walls and ceilings hold the masterpiece fresco cycle painted 1303–05 by Giotto di Bondone, the late medieval Florentine painter who invented the Renaissance almost single-handedly. Neither of us had ever seen the frescoes in person, and we built part of October's Italy trip around a couple of days in Padua and our reserved 15-minute time slot in the chapel. After more than 700 years and a couple of post-earthquake restorations, the paintings are in startlingly good condition. The strict limitations on visitation are designed to keep temperature and humidity stable. The image at the top of this post is the Last Judgment. Let's...Read More
Lunch with class and style on Trieste’s Piazza della Borsa

Lunch with class and style on Trieste’s Piazza della Borsa

Certain dishes taste their best in special surroundings—prosecco and potato chips on Venice's Piazza San Marco, for example. Our latest pairing of plate and place is pumpkin and sausage risotto on the glorious Piazza della Borsa in Trieste. In case you don't know the city, it's just barely in Italy, sitting on the Slovenian border a few kilometers from Croatia. In fact, it's only been Italian since 1919. For hundreds of years, it was the chief shipping port for the Austrian empire. Most significantly, it was the chief importer of coffee for all of Mitteleuropa. Without Trieste, there would be no such thing as “Vienna roast.” To this day, its citizens drink nearly twice as much coffee as the average Italian. But we digress. The...Read More
Honoring the past, Rocca di Montemassi aims for the future

Honoring the past, Rocca di Montemassi aims for the future

About 20 minutes southeast by car from the marvelous stone town of Massa Marittima with its 13th century Romanesque cathedral (above left), the Rocca di Montemassi estate celebrates the Maremma farming heritage all the way back to the Etruscans. It is only a short distance from Rocca di Frassinello (see previous post) but its style is lovingly retro. The Zonin family—famed for winemaking in the Veneto, Piedmont, Friuli, Tuscany, Lombardy, Sicily, and Puglia—purchased the land in 1999. Vines of Sangiovese, Vermentino, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, and Petit Verdot cover about 15 hectares (37 acres) of the 20 hectare (49 acre) farm. “Farm” is the operative word. Not only do the Zonins produce wine here, they also keep pigs and Maremma cattle, a...Read More
Rocca di Frassinello balances Bolgheri and Scansano

Rocca di Frassinello balances Bolgheri and Scansano

Draw a line on the map between Bolgheri and Scansano, and Gavorrano is right at the mid-point. Featuring soils comparable to those found in Chianti and Montalcino, the home of Rocca di Frassinello (Località Giuncarico Scalo, Gavorrano; +39.0566.88400; roccadifrassinello.it) has one significant difference. Ambient temperatures range 4–6°C warmer, allowing grapes to mature three to four weeks earlier. That climatic difference also suits Bordelais grapes better than other regions of Tuscany, making a Franco-Italian collaboration seem inevitable. The wines hint at Scansano's traditions with Bolgheri's innovations. Seeking to replicate his extraordinary success of Castellare di Castellina in Chianti in the 1970s, Paolo Panerai joined forces with Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) in a grand experiment to harness Panerai's expertise with Sangiovese with the Rothschild mastery of...Read More
Il Fiorino crafts wine-friendly pecorino cheeses

Il Fiorino crafts wine-friendly pecorino cheeses

Pecorino cheese production in the Maremma dates from at least the Middle Ages, but the modern story of Maremma Pecorino dates from the 1957 founding of Caseificio Il Fiorino (Loc. Paiolaio, Roccalbegna; +39 0564 989 059; caseificioilfiorino.it/english.htm#pascoli; open for sales Mon-Sat 9am-1pm and 3-7pm). Duilio Fiorini (usually referred to in hushed tones as Il Fondatore) started the operation, now run by his daughter Angela and her husband Simone with about two dozen staff. Maremma wines practically beg for a cheese plate of mellow, supple cheeses. Il Fiorino fills the bill with a range of sheep's milk cheeses that range from a quivering ricotta to nutty, long-aged wheels. The Pecorino Toscano cheeses are a world apart from the crumbly, sharp, and very salty Pecorino Romano commonly...Read More
Emerging winery points to Maremma’s future

Emerging winery points to Maremma’s future

You can't quite see the ocean from the winery at Fattoria di Magliano (Località Sterpeti 10, Magliano; +39 0564 593 040; fattoriadimagliano.it). But if you turn southwest and close your eyes, you can smell the salt air rising from the coast 10 miles away. That maritime influence combines with well-drained soils to produce intensely flavored grapes. Founded in 1997 by footwear magnate Agostino Lenci, the winery embodies the expanding possibilities of the Maremma. While the traditional varietals of the region, Sangiovese and Vermentino, represent 80 percent of the vineyards, the winery also has extensive plantings of Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as significant amounts of Petit Verdot and Merlot. From the outset, the winery embraced French grapes and technique as a complement...Read More