July 22, 2016 § Leave a comment
July 22, 2016 § Leave a comment
July 22, 2016 § Leave a comment
July 18, 2016 § Leave a comment
A car, a train, a bus, a plane, a bus, a plane, a bus, a plane, a car and twenty-three hours of travel: I am not going to lie…it is worth it!
This is not an easy journey, and when the plane arriving at Mykonos had to make a second go to try to land because the wind was too much, I thought I might just lose it. I held it together, and at last, we arrived at our hotel, Grace Mykonos is just as beautiful as our own Vanderbilt Grace Hotel, though with a different historical sensibility, of course.
And, finally, after a series of lackluster airport meals, about which I will not elaborate, we ate, and it was precisely the fresh, satisfying food that Greece is known for, food that satisfies because it is salty and sweet, filling but healthy, beautifully colorful and just kissed with lemon juice and bright fruity olive oil.
The simplest salad, yes, I know, but each piece is the very best ingredient. Flavorful and fresh, crisp, and delicious. I felt rejuvenated and healthy. And, I tried my first wine of the trip, Assyrtiko, which drinks a bit like a lean chardonnay, fruity and fresh, refreshing and flavorful. It was fabulous…perhaps it was the salt air, the sunshine, the girl friends, I don’t know, but it all seemed perfect.
July 17, 2016 § Leave a comment
Once again, I begin a blog post with guilt for not having found the time to write, but this time I combat that feeling with a powerful sense of self awareness that assuages that criticism: I have been insanely busy. In the last year, I have opened and closed a café (fun, but never again), moved my entire operation to a space 3+ times the space, moved in with a man (whom I love dearly, but it is kind of a lot), and got a puppy. I am going to forgive myself for the lapse in writing and move on to just doing it. There is no better occasion for that than a trip to a fabulous land full of food and wine and cultural experience about which I have dreamt for a long time: I am gong to Greece!
This trip was prompted by a good friend, who is from Athens and who happened to be traveling home for personal and professional reasons. She encouraged me to join, and naturally, I said “no, thank you” followed by, ” I couldn’t possibly,” knowing full well it is in the midst of the busy season of Newport retail in a new location, with new staff. (You see where this is going…) After roughly, thirty seven days in a row of cooking, ordering, and just generally running two retail shops, I walked over to my computer, and after 3 or 4 simple clicks of my mouse, I had a ticket to Athens–grossly irresponsible, but it felt so good. Running these shops is my life, and I love it. I love finding a new wine, making something delicious to share with my customers, who are more like family and friends than customers, and finding great staff to make things more efficient, more abundant, just more…I want to do this without error or flaw, though I fail on occasion. I love it, but sometimes I hit the wall: just bushed, and I need to reset, find inspiration, and come back to share it with everyone.
What better place than what I see as the source of all of our cultural beauty–aesthetic, gastronomic, literary, and philosophical. I am excited to see the landscape, to taste the wine, to eat fresh octopus, to swim in the azure waters, to hike the rocky coasts, and to sleep on the plane! I promise I will write daily and share with you the delights I find…please follow along and let me know where you think I should go while I am here!
time to board!!!
March 19, 2015 § 1 Comment
I have been busy running the shops, and I have neglected my writing, but it is time to write again. This first post is about something very simple, but it reminds me of why and how I cook. I am making roasted potatoes.
Having expanded to breakfasts now in The Café, I want to offer potatoes and eggs, but I want the potatoes to be amazing. The question is, how do I do that? I believe food should be simple, but it also must be delicious and beautiful, satisfying all the senses. All too often, breakfast potatoes are a filler, I want potatoes that are the centerpiece of the plate deliciously dressed with the sauce of the runny yolk, not just a vehicle for the egg.
Naturally, the notion of these perfect potatoes has a source, as my vision is not the same as another cook’s vision. My mom made delicious roasted potatoes, creamy inside with the texture of a twiced baked potato on the outside, salty, and herbed to perfection with oregano (dried, though she started using fresh later in life), and coated with fruity olive oil. There are so many dishes that I paid attention to, but somehow, I missed the potato class in Judy’s kitchen, so I have to figure this out on my own.
This is my first go…I have some russet potatoes, I washed them, roughly cut them into big bite pieces, and boiled them for a few minutes. Then drained them well. Louise recommended that they be dry when I began prpepping for roasting, and I trust her in this one, for sure. I liberally added olive oil and salt, tossed them well, and put them into a 400 degree oven.
While they roast, I am having a little snack to tide me over until my potatoes are done. No sense in suffering whie I cook. It is spring, though someone forgot to mention that to Old Man Winter (who by the way has been a real bastard this year), so I am enjoying one of the first of this season’s rosés despite the temperature outside.
That lovely fruity rosé is great with a baguette and some warm smoked salmon. This is one of my favorite meals. I enjoy it often.
I am stirring often because I want them to brown on all sides and not to stick to the pan. the are getting mashed while I do that and they look yummy. I added about a tablespoon of dry oregano.
….and now, I wait…
It took longer than I thought, nearly an hour in the oven at 400 degrees, with the last 10 minutes cranked to 500. The potatoes cook to the consistency of a french fry, the have absorded the oil, and browned without sticking. I added an over easy egg and a dollop of fresh basil pesto, but I finished the smoked salmon already!
Thanks, Mom, something sank in;)
May 20, 2014 § 2 Comments
As I drove into Umbria, I was stuck by the stark difference in the color palate of the landscape, from bright greens that surround Etna I had shifted to a darker more lush landscape, less arid though equally sun-filled and emanating a warmth both literally and figuratively. There is more moisture in the air, it seemed to me, and perhaps that is the inland position of Umbria, right in the center of the country. The air has a pleasant fertile smell, a little like a greenhouse.
I arrived at the vineyard, set just a few kilometers south of the city center, on a warm, sun-filled morning, having stayed in Montefalco the night before. If you have the opportunity to stay in this tiny hilltop village, I highly recommend that you do. It is heaven. The small stone square that is the town center is always a little busy with locals moving through and saying hello to one another. There is a warmth here and a friendliness. The people are smiling, they embrace one another, they say hello to the travelers and to each other. They take the time to linger and just talk and connect with one another. There is a slower pace, and it is very appealing.
When I arrived at the vineyard, I was greeted by Mr. Bea himself, and he was charming and kind, though I only understood a word or two of the many that he said, but what I gathered was that Mercedes, his assistant was on her way and I should wait. I took the opportunity to piece together a couple questions in my terrible Italian, and I had to giggle as he answered them with long answers in Italian. I have no idea the secrets he may have shared with me, but I can tell you this, this man loves his work, his vineyards, and his family. He is happy. I asked if I could take a “selfie” with him and he laughed, “si, si.”
Theses are the moments that I live for, making a connection with someone that you have only known by way of the product they make. I have been drinking Paolo Bea wines now for a number of years, these are wines for special occasions, so I have already had a sense of his presence at my table, but now we are friends and when I drink his wine with friends around the table with friends and family, I will welcome him and his family to the table, too.
I will also remember the vineyard and beautiful tasting room. Paolo’s sons now run the vineyard, though he is still involved in the wine making.
And, passing the work on to the next generation is a big part of this family’s history. The Bea family has family records in this lovely hillside town dating back to 1500, and Giampiero thinks it goes even further back. When I asked a few questions about how one knows oneself within such a long and rich history of family and place, he went and retrieved copies of the town papers to show me what they looked like, and I was immediately struck by the way that the document had so clearly influenced his sense of style in terms of the labels for the bottles that he designs. Giampiero is a trained architect but now runs the vineyard and he has been designing the family labels since they began bottling for commercial sales. We sat and looked through the old labels (all of which he had painstakingly drawn by hand) as we tasted the wine, and it also became clear that this style that I see in his labels translates into the wine. It is not modern, and yet it is of this moment and this place, full of a sense of its own historicity, just like the man who I was talking to.
Giampiero also designed their new winery. It totally blends into the landscape, a modern building that is a natural extension of the land. The stone walls are 2-3 feet thick and designed to naturally keep the cellar cool and constant in temperature…it is both brilliant and beautiful, naturally and man made, balanced. And, like everything in it, including the wine, it was thoughtfully produced with an eye for aesthetic quality as well as function.
Even the mats on which they dry the grapes for there delicious passito are designed to look beautiful when they are stacked before and after their use…
and it is with this same care, thought, and precision that the wine is made, and it is so delicious. The whites are interesting, complex, full flavored, and compelling. They want food…these big whites are rugged, but not rustic, by which I mean they are like the hills from which they come. The reds, similarly, are powerful and strong, but also refined and structured. These are serious wines but also wines that bespeak a warmth and friendliness; they are compelling. Changing with each sip, they evade simple classification or description; but, they taste so good.
I am honored to have these wines in my shop and to have made these friends on my journey.
The stats, from the importer’s website, http://www.madrose.com: “The entire property encompasses 15 hectares: 5 of which are dedicated to the vineyards, 2 to olives, and the remainder to the fruits, vegetables and grains that are grown. Sagrantino is the predominant grape, covering 60% of the vineyard surface. The remaining 40% is planted to Sangiovese and Montepulciano, with a small parcel planted to several white varieties. The vineyards are cultivated organically, all grapes are harvested manually and all wines are bottled without fining or filtration. “