I have been missing Italy a lot these past few days. It’s the holiday season, Sant’Ambrogio, the beginning of le citta’ adorned with Christmas lights and of course missing my friends. What I always miss is the ease of eating a good meal at lunch without paying a fortune. When I worked in Italy, you could go out for a relatively quick bite to eat and have something healthy as well as enjoyable while sitting down and chatting with a friend.
I am happy to report that the same is now true near my office in New York City. Alta Cucina is open for lunch from 12:00 – 2:30 pm, Monday through Friday. This lovely little Italian outpost is in an interesting area with a dearth of good lunch options, East 38th Street right off of Madison Avenue.
Alta Cucina, which is also open for breakfast Italian style – coffee and pastries – from 700am on, has been a resource for me in many ways since I moved back to New York and they opened their doors. Alta Cucina sells Italian specialty products and also holds cooking classes. I started my Italian indigenous grape variety series for their website and then moved it to this blog.
I don’t like to eat a heavy meal at lunch nor to spend a lot of money midday unless I am doing something festive. Alta Cucina has salads, soups, pasta and pannini at very reasonable prices which is also a joy. I ate there today and had lentil soup and a salad for a modest sum and felt like I had spent lunchtime in an Italian local. While nothing beats going to Italy, I am happy when I can find a touch of il Bel’ Paese here in New York City.
My lastest wine of the week is Luna Mater 2009 from Fontana Candida. This wine is a Frascati Superiore from the Lazio region. I had this wine last week as part of a delicious meal at the new Cafe Des Artistes.
I have had many wines from Frascati and the Castelli Romani throughout the years but seldom have I had one that was so delicious. This was full bodied with tropical fruit aromas and flavors as well as great minerality and acidity which paired well with the seafood dishes that graced our table.
Fontana Candida has been around for decades but many of its wines have been continually under valued and overlooked. This wine, imported by Banfi Vintners, certainly breaks the mold.
Tom Hyland, a wine friend, also expressed his delight with this wine earlier this year, I was pleased to read.
Tom Maresca also wrote a great piece on Frascati which you can read here as did Charles Scicolone.
I’m happy to see I’m in such esteemed company in my admiration for this wine from Fontana Candida.
This wine is made with a combination of white grapes including Malvasia di Candida, Trebbiano, Greco and Bombino. I would highly recommended it. It paired perfectly with both seafood and pasta.
Wines from the region of Lazio have been a huge interest of mine for a number of years. Here is an article that I wrote for Alta Cucina on this very subject. Buona lettura.
I’ve just been in the mood for Tuscany lately, what can I say. I was there just two short weeks ago having dinner with friends I have known for 20 years. I miss those carefree Tuscan days and my friends but lucky I can get good Tuscan fair right here in New York thanks to Iacopo Falai who made his name as a pasty chef in New York and is certainly remaking himself into a serial entrepreneur in the food industry. His latest venture, Bottega Falai, is doing just as well as all of his other locations.
The Bottega operates from 7 A.M. – 10 P.M. and sells a number of items to take out. There are a few tables to sit and have a coffee and a pastry but the main thrust of the place is that of a caffe. In the Bottega, one can buy all the fresh ingredients used to make delicious dinners at the restaurant next-door, Caffe Falai. The location on Lafayette was just recently expanded. Of course, using the same ingredients doesn’t guarantee that you food will be as good as Falai’s but one can always hope.
One can find prestigious Italian olive oils, teas, pastas, mineral waters, seasoning, and some prepared foods as well as a host of breads and pastry made daily.
To read more about the bottega, check out my article on Alta Cucina Society’s website.
I have decided to expand the blog to include reviews of Italian restaurants. Here’s one that I wrote for the Alta Cucina Society website on Michael White’s Ai Fiori in the Setai on 5th Avenue and 37th Street.
White has created a mini empire in New York restaurants as the owner of Osteria Morini, Ai Fiori, Marea, Convivio and Alto with other partners. I have only been to two of the five and look forward to trying his other venues.
White’s creativity is exciting although some of his combinations are a bit much for my particular palate. People say they see the influence of his Italian mentor from San Domenico in Imola but I see none of that in his food. My memories from when I lived in Emilia, in Bologna specifically were of simpler fare but as I said, I think that’s just my palate.
Ai Fiori is a real destination spot and I look forward to going to have a drink at the lovely bar while I try more things on the menu.
I’m off to Italy for a client for a few days and I expect it to be lovely. I hope to just enjoy lots of good food and wine in my spare time and see old and new friends in and around Rome. I’m very excited. I’ve been a busy bee though although you wouldn’t necessarily know it from my blog. Check out this article I wrote on Casa Italia Atletica on the Alta Cucina Society website
and the Italy Export Guide from GDO Week to which I contributed articles on cheese and wine some months ago.
I’m staying away from the Thanksgiving wine shindig but I tried a wine yesterday from Spain, a Garnacha, that got me thinking about different kinds of pairings.
See you all soon, at least virtually….
Organic Italian wines, an umbrella category which include sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines are coming to New York thanks to Italian marketing agency Wine Dreamers Communications.
Berebio, the New York stop, is part of a larger roadshow for these wineries and will be held at Alta Cucina’s Epicurean Center on May 24 from 3pm to 8pm.
An organic wine show is somewhat rare when speaking about Italian wines. Italy tends to be behind its’ French counterparts in terms of certified organic wines. Italian producers say that the difficulty of obtaining official certification is one the reasons that it is not more common. Another is the perception of consumers that organic wines are not as good or as well made as non organic wines. Nothing of course could be further from the truth. Organic wines are very well made and producers who make them tend to be even more attentive to how the wines are created.
Luckily, organic wines are becoming an evermore important part of the US wine market and therefore perceptions are changing. One reason for the confusion about organic wines is that there are many definitions floating around about what makes an organic wine.
Organic wine in Italian is usually called biologico. This is the umbrella term in Italy, just as natural or organic wines would be in the US.
To read more, click here.
Vinitaly is a wonderful occasion to try many new Italian indigenous varieties. Yesterday I spent the morning trying wines from Campania. I had numerous Greco, Fiano and Falanghina that impressed me as well as a couple of well made wines from the Coda di Volpe grape. I also tried a wine made from an indigenous variety I had never heard of, Agostinella. The wine was from Vigna Sanniti in the Sannio DOC and the city of Benevento.
The wine was a rich white wine that was full bodied with minerality, tropical white fruits and fabulous acidity. Apparently it came from 100 year old vines which of course produce little fruit. The wine was so out of character for a wine from Campania and truly reminded me of a wine from Friuli, almost like a wine you would find from Gravner or Lis Neris. It was delicious and I highly recommend everyone and anyone at Vinitaly to go taste it.
I also tried an Albana Passito from Tre Monti that I really enjoyed. Indigenous varieties is a big interest of mine and I had written a series of articles for Alta Cucina Society on Italian indigenous varieties. I keep finding new ones. The Albana was rich with nice acidity and fresh fruit flavors. Quite a surprise.
This morning I will be attending a panel on Social Media and plan on spending the afternoon in the Southern Italian regions of Basilicata, Calabria, Puglia, and Sicily. Of course, you can only visit a few wineries in each of these areas but I would like to spend a week in all. In some ways, Vinitaly is too long and in many others, just too short. Not enough time to get to try all the wines you would like.
On another note, I lost my blackberry in the press room yesterday and thanks to Facebook will be getting it back. The world is a small lovely place sometimes.