Finding a sprightly pairing for Boizel Brut Réserve

Finding a sprightly pairing for Boizel Brut Réserve

Champagne is the acknowledged queen of sparkling wines, but every regal house has its signature. Boizel champagnes from Épernay show an elegance and finesse that stems from using hand-harvested grapes from the top crus and blending the still wines of each year with wines reserved from the previous two harvests. This produces a year-to-year consistency that makes the non-vintage bottles best representative of the house style. Three years of bottle aging on the lees adds additional complexity. So when we acquired a Brut Réserve that had been disgorged at the end of 2016, we weren't quite sure what to pair with it. This particular champagne gains its floral bouquet from 30 percent Chardonnay, its lean structure from 55 percent Pinot Noir, and a delicious fruitiness...Read More

Hearty Trentino dishes complement the wines

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...Read More

Remembering Italy #3 — asparagus & prosciutto risotto

San Daniele del Friuli is a beautiful little community about 20 kilometers southwest of the big industrial city of Udine, located in the hill country where dry-aged hams are a tradition. Making prosciutto is the principal business of the town – perhaps followed by eating it. Even some of the flower planters in town are in the shape of pigs. Although the Friulani love their asparagus (see my posts from May 2009), the only time I've ever eaten asparagus risotto in Friuli, it was made with white asparagus. The Friulani version was silken and smooth and very pale. Oddly enough, I had often been served cold steamed asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, and Pat and I wondered why we'd never seen a risotto that combined the...Read More

Bites worth standing for

It's easy to get a good, quick lunch in Rome. Usually we opt for a couple of slices of pizza in whatever pizzeria is closest when we're hungry. But for even more variety, we sometimes head to a tavola calda—an amazing array of hot and cold dishes ordered at a counter, served up quickly and almost always eaten standing up. One of the best in Rome is found at Franchi (Via Cola di Rienzo 200, tel. 06-68-74-651, www.franchi.it.), which is also one of the city's most extravagant alimentari (local food stores). Outside of meal time, this is the spot in the Prati neighborhood to buy sliced cold cuts, cheese, and cooked dishes to take home for dinner. But at lunchtime, the shop is swarmed with...Read More

What to buy in an Italian grocery store

Since so many of the regional Italian cuisines are based on food that is fresh, fresh, fresh, we're limited in what we can bring back home. But there are some dry goods and conserves that turn out to be very useful in cooking Italian dishes. We've learned not to bother with colored pastas, which cook up to a gray mess anyway, because we can buy good imported dry pasta for about the same price we'd pay for it in Italy. Here's our Italian grocery list: Anchovies. Many Americans think they don't like anchovies because they have never tasted good ones used with the restraint characteristic of Italian recipes. We look for anchovies packed in glass jars so we can make sure they are firm and...Read More

Making grilled asparagus risotto

[caption id="attachment_327" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Grilled asparagus risotto"][/caption] Before we bought a pressure cooker, asparagus risotto was one of the few risottos we would bother to make because it’s smoky, luscious, and deeply satisfying. It also pairs nicely with a crisp white wine like a Vermentino from Sardinia. It had become one of our go-to quick dishes, in part because every time we light up the backyard grill, we grill some asparagus, making sure we have enough for dinner and enough left over to chop into salads and to make grilled asparagus risotto. This 2-serving recipe evolved rather radically from the version of non-roasted, non-pressure-cooked asparagus risotto made by Fanny Singer that we found in a 2003 issue of Food & Wine. Cooking time is about...Read More

Pressure cooker artichoke risotto

[caption id="attachment_276" align="alignleft" width="224" caption="Castraure, or baby artichokes"][/caption] We’d always thought of making risotto as a laborious process that required standing at the stove and stirring for nearly half an hour, sometimes with disappointing results. Not for Anna Maria Andreola, the pressure cooker queen of Venice. Earlier in the day, we’d gone together to the Rialto market and bought gorgeous baby artichokes, which we trimmed as Anna Maria talked us through the risotto she was going to make. She sauteed the trimmed artichokes for three minutes in the open pressure cooker with a clove of minced garlic and a splash of olive oil. Then she added a teacup (about a half cup or 110 grams) of arborio rice per serving, and dumped in a half...Read More

Cucina Italiana moderna

[caption id="attachment_268" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Anna Maria cooks rombo in her Venice kitchen."][/caption] Anna Maria Andreola's kitchen at Le Mansarde B&B in Venice was not what we expected, especially in a lovingly maintained but traditional old stone palazzo that wore its two centuries proudly. The aroma of fresh bread greeted us at the door. She had dumped all the ingredients into a high tech bread machine that morning and set the timer so bread would be ready for dinner. Right next to the breadmaker stood her universal kitchen machine that weighs, processes and slow-cooks food. (It also serves as a mixer and a blender.) The counter also held a juicer and an electric ice cream freezer. Silly us. We'd been expecting a big stove and nothing...Read More

Cooking in Venice changed our lives

[caption id="attachment_172" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Crossing the Grand Canal on a traghetto"][/caption] Venice changed our lives. Really. More exactly, it changed the way we eat. After a week of cruising the Venetian lagoon on a rental houseboat, we spent several days in the city, staying with Anna Maria Andreola at the B&B in her family's 18th century Cannaregio palazzo. (It's called Le Mansarde, but has no web site. Contact Anna Maria Andreola at 011-39-041-718-826 or [mobile] 011-39-338-868-8935. Her email is cazzar.ola@libero.it.) One day she took us shopping and showed us how to make a Venetian meal. From the B&B on Rio Tera San Leonardo, we headed straight to the Grand Canal and boarded a "traghetto," a bare-bones gondola that crisscrosses the canal and saves walking long...Read More