Monthly Archives: November 2010

Bergamo- Capitale della Gastronomia Italiana

According to what I have read, the title of this blog was an idea that Luigi Veronelli had for his native city of Bergamo. Today, November 29 is the sixth anniversary of Veronelli’s death. Both Franco Ziliani and Jeremy Parzen at Dobianchi wrote beautiful tributes to Veronelli on their respective blogs.

I decided to write instead about the beautiful city of Bergamo which Veronelli wanted to promote at the Capitale della Gastronomia Italiana.

I have numerous friends who live in Bergamo, some who cheer for Atalante – the local team others who are diehard Inter fans but all of whom love their city. I have spent a fair bit of time in Bergamo and I am always happy to go back for a meal, an exhibition of just a hike up and down the hills and beautiful streets.

My first dinner outside of Milan when I moved North in 1995 from Florence and Bologna was in Bergamo at a restaurant called Trattoria da Ornella. It was the first time I had Polenta Taragna , a typical dish from the Valtellina, another area of Lombardy. It was very picturesque with high ceilings and I ate more meat than I had ever seen in an Italian restaurant. That was my first experience in the lovely city of Bergamo.

On my second visit, I got a proper tour of that beautiful city with its gorgeous main Piazza del Duomo where the Catherdal di S. Alessandro in Bergamo is located.

I just love this complex of buildings and the way they work together to form a harmonious unit despite the differences in style and age of the monuments and churches.

In addition to my love of wine, food and all things Italian, there is almost nothing in the world that makes my heart sing as much as the architectural and artistic delights that abound throughout Italy. In fact, my initial move to Italy was to become a gold leaf restorer but that is a story for another day.

Back to Bergamo, a dear Bergamasco friend Silvia took me on a tour of Bergamo last year following Vinitaly. According to Silvia or Tata as we call her, no visit to Bergamo is complete without a stop at La Marianna

We walked around Bergamo Alta for a long time before stopping for a caffe at Caffe del Tasso in the main piazza. Our biggest decision was where to go for dinner and what wines to try.

Lombardy is becoming an ever more important wine region in the United States but Valcalepio, the area near the city of Bergamo is still quite unknown in the US but also in many parts of Italy. The Consorzio Tutela Valcalepio was founded in 1976 by 22 members. Today, the consortium has 85 members, or about 98% of the producers of Valcalepio. The area is in the province of Bergamo and has two main wines that are allowed to have the DOC denomination. The Valcalepio Rosso DOC made from Cabernet Sauvignon (25%-60%) and Merlot. The grapes are harvested and fermented separately. The wine is then blended and aged. If aged for three years, at least one in wood, it can be called a Riserva. Of the 400 hectares that go into making wines in the Valcalepio area, 70% are used for the Valcalepio Rosso.

The Valcalepio Bianco DOC is made from Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay (55% to 80%) and Pinot Grigio (20% to 45%). Additionally, there is a lovely dessert wine, the Valcalpeio DOC Moscato Passito. This wine made from the Moscato di Scanzo will get its’ own entry tomorrow. Suffice it to say it is a red grape and is very exciting.

In addition to the DOC wines, a line of IGT wines are also made including a traditional method sparkling wine. My friends and I went to a local restaurant to try some of these wines, La Cantina .

In addition to delicious polenta, I had a selection of cheese and charcuterie that paired perfectly with the Valcalepio Rosso. The area is famous for its Taleggio, salami Bergamasco, lardo and pancetta.

No post on Bergamo and the Valcalepio can be complete without mentioning the Cantina Sociale Bergamasca. This cooperative was founded in 1957 in San Paolo d’Argon. It has 150 members and 160 hectares of vines. The DOC was made possible through the collaboration of the Cantina Sociale Bergamasca and the Consorzio mentioned earlier. The coop produces some 800,000 bottles annually and exports currently 10% of its production.

I tried the Akros, a Valcalepio Rossi Riserva DOC which was very French in nature and round, according to my notes. I also tried the Linea Orologio Valcalepio Bianco which had nice acidity with some lees aging before bottling.

I wish I had a glass of these wines to toast Veronelli but I toasted him with another Lombard wine made with bollicine or bubbles. I’m sure many raised a glass to him tonight.

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Winter Ragu Alla Bolognese Paired with Sangiovese di Romagna

It finally feels like winter has arrived and I decided to ring in the season with a Ragu alla Bolognese. My friend Teresa from Rome and I had just had a conversation last weekend about Ragu and my Mom, the day after Thanksgiving, also declared a desire to make Ragu.

I jumped on the band wagon with a very simple recipe I got from the Silver Spoon or Il Cucchiaio D’Argento. My only missing ingredient was some celery for the soffritto but I think it came out rather nicely.

It seemed sort of like my own Sunday Sauce. I’ve noticed a number of Italian restaurants in New York City have a Sunday Sauce on their menu, including ‘Cesca on the Upper West Side. Another restaurant which elaborates on this concept is Table Tales at the South Street Seaport. Grace the owner was nice enough to give me an interview earlier this year and I will write it up tomorrow because I left my notes in the office.

What to drink with my Ragu? The book suggested a Gutturnio or a wine from the Colli Piacentini but I think I may stick with a nice Sangiovese, perhaps even one from Romagna. I’ve had a few that I enjoyed but they are few and far between. One that I did like was from San Patrignano. This is a community in Romagna that helps people with addiction issues. They have been hugely successful with their charges and also with a wine and food business. I like to support them for this reason as well but they do make a mean Sangiovese, somewhat more modern in style than those that I drink from Tuscany but none the less, quite interesting. The wines are widely available throughout the United States as well.

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Wine of the Week: Pinot Noir from St. Michael-Eppan in Alto Adige

This Thanksgiving I shared a number of Pinot Noirs with some members of my extended family, all 32 of them. One of the most memorable, although by no means the most dear, was from St. Michael-Eppan in Alto Adige. I actually bought it at the duty free shop on my way home from Rome for about 11 euro.

It doesn’t seem to be that widely available in the United States but I did find some in Massachusetts on Wine-Searcher.com. I thought it was a perfect match for the turkey, relish and sweet potato dishes that are staples at my thanksgiving table.

Cantina S. Michele Appiano as it is called in Italian, is a consortium with 350 members. It was founded in 1907. The growers who sell their grapes to the consortium of quite varied. Together they have 355 hectares and 2.5 million bottles sold each year. The enologist is Hans Terzer, a well known figure in European enology. He has been the enologist since 1977. He is considered one of the foremost experts in white wines. I’d say his reds aren’t too shabby either.

The Pinot Noir that I drank was from the Linea Classica while S. Michele also has a Linea Cru and the label Sanct Valentin, widely available on the U.S. Market.

I visited this area of the Alto Adige when I interviewed producer Elena Walch some years ago. Alto Adige is a beautiful part of Italy, quite different from everywhere else but fascinating.

I love the Merano wine festival, perhaps my favorite as well as the beautiful valleys. Bolzano and Trento are lovely cities and the whole area is exciting in both winter and summer. Definitely not an area to be missed, I highly recommend a trip next time you are looking for a vacation spot off the beaten track.

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Roman Work Holiday

I just had the pleasure of spending an amazing five days in Rome for my client the Balzan Foundation. The experience was exciting, uplifting and moving to be honest.

We had a long seminar at the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, the world’s oldest scientific academy founded in 1603, followed the next day by an elegant prize awarding ceremony at the Quirinale Palace with the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

It was very exciting and I had never had the pleasure of being in the Quirinale Palace in the Salone dei Corazzieri, a striking hall with incredible frescos from the 1600s.

As if all of this weren’t enough, I also had dinner at a fabulous restaurant in the heart of Trastevere called La Trattoria de “Gli Amici” run by the Community of Sant’Egidio. Sant’Egidio had won the Balzan Prize for Peace in 2004 so it was a perfect choice for the press office and journalists to have a dinner there.

The food is delicious and the staff creates a fabulous ambience where people with disabilities work beside their friends “amici” who volunteer to help them.

The wines on their list are all supporters of WINE FOR LIFE, a project created by DREAM, a program that Sant’Egidio started in 2002 to fight AIDS in Africa. As you can imagine, the wine and food were not the only attraction of this restaurant and not the only reason to support it but that said, I would go back there even if it were just for the food. My Cacio and Pepe were perfect, a great Roman “Work” Holiday.

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Rome – La Vita Quotidiana

I’m in Rome for a client, the International Balzan Foundation which gives out prizes in the sciences, the humanities, literature and a peace prize every few years. Before I began to work in food and wine more heavily, I was quite involved in public relations and journalism in economics, politics and other areas using a different company that I own called Gold Communications.

In my previous life I was obsessed with everything that had to do with Italian politics and economic life, European Integration and so forth. On my plane ride here I realized how much I enjoy all of those subjects and reading the Italian papers. For those who don’t read Italian, I advise looking at I-Italy, a great resource for Italophiles and Italianists. I sometimes write for them but about subjects having nothing to do with wine and food.

This is my wine and food blog so let’s get back to life’s simple pleasures in Italy such as morning succhi. I loved getting a caffe, perhaps a cornetto when in Rome and a succo di frutta in the morning.

I love the way the barista goes through a long list of flavors…pera, pesca, albiccoca, arancio, ACE, ananas….My favorite though is pera, thick and somewhat syrupy, it probably isn’t low on calories but as we all know, the air in the States is fatter than that in Italy so by some miracle, just landing in this country, you lose weight. I swear this is true. I’m not clear of the science behind that statement but I am sure you agree with me.

I have never found these delicious fruit juices in the States to give me that same pleasure although I am sure that getting one at Eataly in New York or from Jerry’s in New Jersey might give me a kick, I think tomorrow’s succo di frutta will taste especially fine. Somewhat like that bottle of wine that always tastes better when you have it in a beautiful location. Tomorrow on the Via Giulia sounds just right to me…As much as I love other cities in Italy and around the world, including my hometown, nothing compares to Rome in my opinion. I fori romani, the swallows, the light, the Teatro Marcello, I could go on and on. Perhaps I will tomorrow. Buona notte.

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On the road again…

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….

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Veterans Day- Thank You!

On my way to work today I noticed a large number of men and women in uniform. It took me a few minutes to remember that today is Veteran’s Day. I work near the start of the parade in New York and stood to watch for a bit. I hate war but boy I am proud of our veterans. It was very touching to see people, mostly men, of all strips, colors, ages and in all kinds of shape together.

I salut our veterans and their families. I can only begin to imagine what they go through. My family doesn’t have a long military tradition but all of my Mother’s cousins served in World War II. Her cousin Paul Brach used to tell us how he singlehandedly saved Picasso. Paul was a great artist and a wonderful storyteller.

My Father’s uncle Murray was also in World War II. In fact, he was one of the only survivors from Pearl Harbor. My Mother was telling me earlier today that when she was young, veterans of World War I would sell poppies and wear them in their lapel. I don’t know if any veterans from World War I are still alive or not. I think not. This morning I saw many, many survivors from World War II, Vietnam, Korea, and other wars. These men on these Harleys were vets from Vietnam. This blog is just a note of thanks for their sacrifices.

I will be drinking American wine today but mostly raising a glass to those who have fought and to those who are still overseas in distant lands.

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