Monthly Archives: April 2018

Le Morette Winery and Lugana DOC

Sometimes on a press trip I visit so many interesting wineries that I do not have enough time to write about all of them. In September I visited Lake Garda on a trip sponsored by Vignaioli Veneti,  a newly-formed organization of over fifty of the Veneto’s top small producers. One of the wineries I was very impressed with was the Le Morette-Azienda Agricola Valerio Zenato Winery.

The winery is based in San Benedetto di Lugana , in the thin belt that divides the southern bank of Lake Garda and Lake Frassino, which is an important naturalistic site and natural reserve. Gino Zenato founded the winery over 60 years ago and in 1981 the management of the farm was taken over by his son Valerio. His sons Fabio and Paolo today manage the winery.  Fabio greeted us at the winery and he took us on a tour of the vineyards.

Fabio Zenato

Fabio said that the area of production of the Lugana DOC wine reaches out towards the southern bank of Lake Garda, in the towns of Peschiera del Garda, Sirmione, Desenzano del Garda, Pozzolengo and Lonato.  There are 30 hectares of vineyards on three different estates, two in San Benedetto di Lugana, and one near Sirmione.  All the vineyards are on clayish soil. Everyone agrees that the best grapes come from the area close to the lake which has the most clay.

Fabio added that the company was first a farm for wine shoot production, intended for viniculture, and the nursery branch of the farm continues with the production of wine shoots. It was Valerio who began the production of high quality wines.

Fabio did a tasting of the wines.

Lugana DOC “Mandolara” 2016 made from 100% Turbiana grapes from the La Mandolara vineyard on a narrow strip of land on the shore of Lake Garda. The training system is guyot, double and short modified and there are 3,500 plants per hectare. Harvest is by hand in the second half of September. After a very soft crushing, vinification takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and the wine remains in the bottle for at least one month before release. This is a fresh fruity wine with hints of apple and peach and a touch of bitter almonds in the finish. The name of the wine comes from a particular protected species of wild ducks which nest in Lake Frassino.  The ducks are the symbol of the farm. We also tasted the 2012 and 2009.

Lugana DOC “Bendictus” 2015 100% Turbiana from the area of Lake Garda. Grapes are hand harvested and only the best grapes, the ones that get the most sunlight, are selected. Harvest takes place in the middle of October, later than the grapes used for Lugana Mandolara. After the harvest the grapes remain in contact with the must for 24 hours at a controlled temperature. Part of the must is fermented in tonneaux oak barrels and a portion of the wine is aged for 6 months in tonneaux oak barrels. This is a more intense wine with hints of exotic fruits and a touch of spice. We also tasted the 2007. Fabio said they are using less new oak in the 2015 than they did in the 2007.

Lugana DOC Riserva 2013 made from 100% Turbiana cultivated and selected from the estates vineyards with the highest clay content–over 40%. Vinification is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks after a brief maceration. There is a slow fermentation using natural yeasts and then aging on the lees for 12 months. A small portion of the wine is aged in tonneaux. This is a complex and elegant wine with a natural mineral quality.

There is much confusion over the Turbiana grape which was aka Trebbiano di Lugana.  Fabio always  referred to his wines as being made from the Turbiana grape.

All of the white wines can age.

We also tasted the Bardolino Classico Chiaretto 2016 made from 55% Corvina, 35% Molinara and 10% Molinara. The vines are cordon trained and there are 3,800 vines per hectare. Manual harvest takes place the last week of September. It is aged for a minimum of one month before release. Maceration on the skins lasts for 12 hours. The wine has hints of peaches and strawberries with a touch of violet.

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Pizza with Roberto Caporuscio: Tipo 1 and Tipo 00 Flour

On the evening of our planned tasting at Keste Pizza & Vino Bleecker Street comparing pizzas made with Tipo 1 flour to Tipo 00, I made sure to arrive early so that I could have an opportunity to discuss the differences in the flour with the master pizzaiolo, Roberto Caporuscio.

Roberto is now using Caputo Tipo 1 flour, which the company describes as follows. “It is an historic flour by aroma, color and flavor. It has a high protein index of 13 and is made from a perfect selection of the best variety of grains with all the richness of wheat germ. Type 1 is suited for direct and indirect dough making with a longer rising time.”

Roberto pointed out to me that the dough made from Tipo 1 is slightly beige in color because the flour contains specks of wheat germ, while Tipo 00 is completely white.

“Tipo” refers to the fineness of the milling.  Tipo 00 is the finest grade of flour milled in Italy and has a consistency and color similar to fine white powder. It is made from soft wheat with a 12.5% protein content. Since 00 has less protein it contains less gluten. And it makes dough that is easier to stretch.

Tipo 1 is less refined because it contains a greater amount of bran, the outer part of the grains of wheat, as well as the wheat germ. Tipo 1 is packed with fiber, mineral salts and vitamins. Roberto said it has a higher nutritional value and therefore it is better for you,  lighter and easier to digest. He also likes it because it can ferment and rise longer than Type 00.

He also said that Tipo I  has about 80% hydration ratio and Tipo 00 has about a 60% hydration ratio. The ratio is the amount of water to the amount flour in the dough. This effects how the pizza rises in the oven.

Roberto said that up until the 1960’s pizza in Naples was made with Tipo 1 flour because they did not have the milling techniques to produce 00. Once they did, they switched to 00. This may be the why Caputo calls Tipo 1 “historical flour”.

I asked Roberto if he would mix the flours to make the dough for his pizza. He said never, one or the other, no mixing.

When everyone arrived Roberto asked if we were ready for the pizza challenge and we all said we were. There were 6 of us, the perfect number for pizza. Roberto said he would make one pizza Margherita using Tipo 1 and one using Tipo 00. Our job was to guess which was which and decide which we liked better.

Tipo 00

We tasted the first one and had some discussion and then tasted the second one. Without much effort, we all guessed correctly which was which and we all liked the one made with the 00 flour better.

Tipo 1

The consensus was that the 00 pizzas had a lighter, puffier crust and better flavor. They conformed to our idea of what Neapolitan pizza is supposed to be and the dough complemented the toppings. The Tipo 1 pie was very good , but we all preferred the 00 pies.

Roberto also made some excellent pizza for us using Tipo 1 as follows: 

Fontina Valle d’Aosta, porcini mushrooms and prosciutto

 

Stracciatella (mozzarella), anchovies, fresh lemon and basil

Figs, stracciatella and caciocavallo

Padrino pizza made with mild soppressata, Ragusano cheese, Gaeta olives and a drizzle of chili oil

Napoletana pizza made with tomato, anchovy and oregano.

It was a very interesting and informative evening and thanks to Roberto for taking the time to speak to us and  make all of the pizza himself!

 

 

 

 

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Fennel Recipes from the Italian Vegetable Cookbook

Three Fennel Recipes

I keep forgetting what a versatile vegetable fennel is. I tend to think of it as raw spears nibbled to clean the palate between the main course and the cheese – a position it occupies admirably. But cooked fennel is also an excellent companion to many fish and meat dishes – a fact of which I was reminded recently when turning the pages of Michele Scicolone’s Italian Vegetable Cookbook.

There I found three recipes for fennel: one roasted, one braised, and one baked. I thought it would be interesting to make them all in a short time, to see how the differences would affect the results.

A bulb of fennel with its long feathery shoots can be a very pretty thing, but on the day I wanted to try the first recipe, the ones in local stores were looking fairly ratty. But fennel is a sturdy vegetable, which doesn’t seem to suffer much from age and handling. A useful characteristic!

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Roasted Fennel with Potatoes and Garlic

Michele’s headnote for this recipe begins “Every time I prepare this, I wish I had made more. Everybody loves it, and it disappears fast.” Now, that’s a lot for a simple dish to live up to, so I was slightly skeptical. We’d see about it.

My faithful knife man cut half of that big fennel bulb into ½-inch slices (I saved the rest for the next recipe), and he also cut a ½-pound Yukon gold potato into ¼-inch slices. I spread them all on an olive-oiled baking pan, brushed them with more oil, and added salt and pepper.
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The pan went into a 425° oven for 20 minutes, after which I took it out, turned over the vegetables, sprinkled on a minced garlic clove, and roasted for 10 more minutes, when the recipe said they’d be tender and browned. Tender they definitely were, but not even remotely as brown and handsome as the book’s photograph showed.
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I wonder if my oven is running too cool. Still, it was dinner time, so out they came. And you know what? They were scrumptious. We both loved them, they disappeared fast, and I wished I had made more.

Golden Braised Fennel

A few days later I made the second recipe, which as almost as effortless as the first. The second half of that big fennel bulb, also in ½-inch slices, went into a sauté pan with melted butter.
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I sauteed the pieces for four minutes on each side, until they were just beginning to brown, then poured on a little water, added salt and pepper, covered the pan, and cooked it very gently for 20 minutes. About half-way through, I checked and added a little more water to keep the fennel from frying. Then I sprinkled on two tablespoons of grated parmigiano, covered the pan again, and cooked for another minute, until the cheese melted in.
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This was also a good dish, simple and homey. It tasted mostly of pure fennel – vegetal and lightly liquoricey. It was meltingly soft from the moist cooking, with just a hint of richness from the cheese.

Creamy Fennel Gratin

This recipe’s headnote calls it one of Michele’s favorite ways to eat fennel. It’s more elaborate than the others but not at all difficult or time-consuming to make. I was able to get a better-looking bulb of fennel for it than I had for the other recipes. (Too bad I had no use for the attractive feathery fronds!)

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The fennel was to be cut in ½-inch thick wedges and parboiled until almost tender. My wedges came out rather thicker than that, so they took 10 minutes, not the suggested 5.
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Drained, sprayed with cold water, and patted dry, the wedges went into a buttered baking dish; were topped with butter bits, heavy cream, freshly ground black pepper, and grated parmigiano; and baked for 20 minutes at 400°.
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The fennel wedges absorbed almost all the cream, making them plump, lush, and velvety. The light crust of the butter-browned cheese was a good textural contrast. I think this would be an excellent dish to serve at a dinner party, alongside a broiled or roasted meat or chicken.

Three recipes, all tasting deliciously of fennel, but each sufficiently different to occupy separate flavor and utility niches: Nice!

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Pizza with Roberto Caporuscio and Tipo 1 Flour

About a month after returning from Naples, I went with some friends to Keste Wall Street for pizza.  Roberto Caporuscio, the owner and master pizzaiolo, wasn’t there when we arrived, but we ordered a few pizzas.  As I ate, I realized that something was different.  The pies did not taste the same as the last time we were here. Everyone agreed with me.  Had the ingredients changed or was it because the pizzamaker was different?

When Roberto arrived I told him that I thought the pizzas were different. He said he changed the type of flour. In the past he he used  Type Double Zero flour but now he uses  only Type 1 flour.  Roberto said he believed that Type 1 flour was healthier because it makes a lighter pizza that is more digestible. We made a date to come back again and Roberto said he would be sure to be there and would personally make all the pizza for us using Tipo 1 flour so that we could give him our opinion.

We went to Keste this week and Roberto was  already there.  I went to watch him make the pizza.

He showed me the dough and I noticed it was a very light beige and it had tiny specks in it. Robert said the specks were wheat  germ because Type 1 flour is less refined than the pure white Double Zero.  The wheat germ is what adds to its nutritional value.

Robert made the following pizzas for us using  Caputo Tipo 1 flour:


Bianca Romana focaccia filled with mortadella, pistachio cream and caciocavallo cheese

Pizza Pasquale (Pizza Fritta), named after Pasquale Torrente, master chef at Ristorante “il Convento” because of his skill in frying. The dough was deep fried using a special sunflower  oil containing rosemary. The fried crust is topped with homemade stracciatella cheese, anchovies and fresh lemon.

Rodi the topping is a spread made with anchovies, and white bread soaked in limoncello, with slices of lemon, basil and buffalo mozzarella

Regina Margarita made with buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce 

Pizza Noci and Zucchine, topped with a spread made with walnuts and  mascarpone with baby zucchini and smoked buffalo mozzarella

Padrino mild soppresata, cacciocavallo ragusano, chili oil and Gaeta olives.

Even though some of the combinations on the pizza did not look like they would work they were all excellent. The problem was with the margarita pizza.  After I explained this to Roberto he invited me back again this time to Keste and Vino on Bleecker St. He would make one Margarita using Type 1 flour and one using Type 00 and we would have to guess which was which and which one we liked better. He would also more thoroughly explain the difference between the two flours. I am always up for a pizza challenge.

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Celebrating the Art of Neapolitan Pizza in NYC

“Tu Vuò Fa’ il Napoletano- Facce de Pizza” comes to NYC to celebrate the art of the Neapolitan pizzaiuloi as UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The idea for the event came with the recognition by UNESCO of the art of Neapolitan pizza making and was developed with the Association Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN).

In the photo art expert  Francesca Silvestri, Antonio Pace, President of VPNA, Peppe Mele, the VPNA delegate to the US and Elizabetta Cantone journalist, Co-Founder and CEO of Dress and Dreams.

The event was organized by journalist Elizabetta Cantone of Dress in Dreams Movies and Culture with the support of MiBACT- Direct Cinema. The events took place on April 16th at Ribalta Pizzaria, April 17 at NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marinò center and April 19 at Song’e Napule Pizzeria.

Cantone said these events intend to show the art of the Neapolitan Pizzaioli through the many films that feature pizza.

Chef Pasquale Cozzolino of Ribalta

I attended the event at Ribalta, which has a large screen.  We saw clips from American and Italian movies with pizza in all its forms being made and eaten.  There were clips from” The Gold Of Naples” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” just to mention two very different movies.

Cantone said that pizza in the past was a dish of the poor but today it is considered a gourmet dish prepared with the best ingredients.

I spoke with Pasquale Cozzolino the Pizzaiolo and Chef of Ribalta about his style and in particular the flour that he uses for pizza, which is a subject of great interest to me.,

In Naples many pizza places will list the source of all the ingredients to show they are only using the best ones.

Along with Pasquale some of the pizza was made by Rosatio Granieri from Rossopomodoro in NYC.  I tasted the pizza margherita, pizza marinara and another with cheese and sausage.

 

 

 

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Old Vintages of Italian Wine and Pizza

Roberto Caporuscio, one of the best pizzaioli in New York and owner of Keste and several other restaurants, is now creating his pizzas with a new type of flour that he says yields better results.  He invited me and a group of friends who enjoy older Italian wines to come to his Keste Wall Street location for a tasting. A full report on the pizza will appear in another blog.
The notes on the wines were written by Jason De Salvo and I added a few notes of my own. I have a great respect for Jason’s palate and his attention to detail.
The wines
1971 Verrazzano Chianti Classico
4/11/18 — 90 points.  Now-2022.   Slightly cloudy brick-ruby color.  The nose is mocha-infused red cherry fruit, black raspberries, dried meat, potpourri, earth and underbrush.  On the palate this has vibrant acidity, a bit of a hole in the mid-palate and a relatively short finish.  That said, it’s a lovely drink!  Charles: Sangiovese can age as well as Nebbiolo as this wine proves.
1974 Produttori del Barbaresco
4/11/18 — 92 points.  Now-2027.   Medium ruby-garnet color, slightly cloudy.  The nose is candied black cherries, fennel blossoms, honey, smoked game and subtle notes of tar.  On the palate this is lovely.  Elegant, refined dusty tannins and a medium-long finish. Charles: This was my second favorite wine. Produttori del Barbaresco can age. Barbaresco can age as well as or even better than Barolo.
1974 Borgogno Barolo Riserva
4/11/18 — NR.  Drink Now.  Cloudy brick-ruby color.  The nose is stewed cherries, celery, wet leaves and tobacco.  On the palate this has sweet, stewed fruit notes and is clearly either past its
prime or a slightly off bottle.  Medium body.  The wine did work well with the pizza nonetheless.
Charles: We tasted the 1974  Barolo and 1974  Barbaresco side by side- it was no contest.
1947 Franco Fiorina Barbaresco
4/11/18 — NR.  Drink Now.    Slightly cloudy amber-golden color with just a faint hint of ruby.  The nose is like a hypothetical blend of a 30-40 year old Tawny Port and a Fino Sherry with oxidative notes of caramel, stewed cherries and licorice.  On the palate there remains a sweetness from what was obviously a hot, tremendously concentrated vintage, but alas, this wine bottle is solidly into its twilight. 
1998 Borgogno Barolo Riserva
4/11/18 — 92+ points.  Now-2040.   Medium ruby color.  The nose here is soaring with black cherries, minerals, licorice, rose blossom and cured meat.  On the palate this is vibrant, medium-full bodied with a complex, tactile finish. 
1979 Giovannin Moresco Barbaresco Poderi de Pajoré 
4/11/18 — 93 points.  Now-2030.    Medium ruby color.  The nose here is stunning with soaring notes of black cherries, black raspberries, crushed dried roses, freshly chopped garden herbs and baking spices.  On the palate this is supremely elegant and well integrated.  Gorgeous balance and a medium-long finished buttressed by refined, dusty tannins.
Charles:  for me this was the wine of the afternoon and it may be my favorite Barbaresco. It is made from the “Rose” subvariety of Nebbiolo. Unfortunately this was the last vintage and the vineyard was sold to Angelo Gaja.
1979 Cavallotto Riserva Vigna Colle Sud-Ovest
4/11/18 — 94+ points. Now-2028.    Medium brick-ruby color with a slightly watery rim.  The nose here is black cherries, black licorice, tobacco, a lovely stemmy note, coffee grinds, underbrush and smoked game.  On the palate this is velvety, nuanced and deep.  This is the best example of this wine I have had thus far. Charles: Jason liked this wine more than I  did.   I like their wines a lot but to me this bottle was not showing that well.

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Aglianico a Roma

After spending a wonderful week in Naples visiting wine producers and eating at some of the most famous pizzerias in the city and Campania, Michele and I went to Rome. There I received an e-mail from Ilaria Petito, the owner of Donnachiara winery in Campania, inviting me to an event called Aglianico a Roma (Aglianico in Rome).

Unfortunately I arrived too late to attend a seminar on Aglianico conducted by wine blogger and journalist Luciano Pignataro. However, I was able to taste some of the wines. ilaria introduced me to some of the producers that I did not know.

The Wines

Aglianico Sannio Santa’Agata dei Goti “Cesco di Nece” 2015 Mustilli made from 100% Aglianico from the 3 hectare organically planted “Cesco di Nece,” vineyard planted in 1994. Harvest is at the end of October. Grapes are destemmed and crushed. Fermentation lasts for about 15 days in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. Maturation is second passage French oak for 9 months. Lightly fined, unfiltered and a small SO2 is added before bottling. It is aged for 9 months in bottle before release. I have always liked the wines of Mustilli and visited the winery two years ago with Campania Stories.

Aglianico Sannio DOC  2016 Mustilli 100% Aglianico from vineyards at 800 feet with volcanic and clay soil and a southwest exposure. The vines are 30 years old. Fermented on indigenous yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in French second passage barriques for 9 months and in bottle for 3 months before release.

Taurasi “Opera Mia” 2012 Tenuta Cavalier Pepe made from 100% Aglianico. The grapes come from the Carazita vineyard. Harvest takes place the first week of November and a selection is made in the cellar. Parts of the grapes go through a cold pre–fermentation/maceration to extract color and aroma. The alcohol fermentation is followed by a long maceration on the skins. After the wine is racked it is put into French oak (Allier and Troncais barriques) for 12 months and another 12 months in bottle before release. The wine has ripe red fruit with hints of black cherry, prune and spice.

Taurasi Riserva 2012 “La Loggia del Cavaliere” Tenuta Cavalier Pepe. 100% Aglianco The vineyard is at 450/490 meters and the exposure is south/southeast. The soil is clay-like with calcareous and sandy layers. Harvest is by hand in mid-November. In the cellar, cold maceration is followed by alcoholic fermentation with prolonged maceration. The wine is aged in barrels for a minimum of 18 months with batonnage (stirring the lees). The wine has hints of blackberries, and black cherries with a touch of spice and vanilla.

Taurasi” Nero Né “il Cancelliere” 2012 100% Aglianico. The soil is clay and limestone. The vines are about 35 years old. The vineyard is at 550/600 meters and exposure is north and the formation is vertical trellised with spurred cordon pruning.

The grapes are destemmed and alcoholic fermentation and maceration take place for about 30 days at room temperature and a pneumatic press is used. Only wild yeast is used. Aging in steel for 6 months on the lees, depending on the vintage, then 24 months in Slavonian wood 35/50 hl and then 24 months in bottle. NO: filtration, clarification, stabilization or sulphites.

Gioviano-Irpinia Aglianico DOC “ il Cancelliere” 2015 100% Aglianico. The soil is limestone clay and the vineyard has a northern exposure and is at 450/550 meters. There is destemming of the grapes, alcoholic fermentation and maceration of about 20 days at room temperature. Aging is in steel for 6 months on the lees then aging in Slavonian wood of 35hl for 12 months and then in bottle for 10/12 months. This was the first time I tasted the wines from this producer and I was very impressed by them.

Vigna Cataratte Riserva “Aglianico Del Taburno” 2012 Fontanecchia made from 100% Aglianico. Selected grapes are harvested by hand. Vinification is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for about 20 days. The wine is aged for 2 years, of which 6/9 months are in French barriques.

Taurasi 2012 Cantine Macchie Santa Maria  100% Aglianico Macchie Santa Maria. This is a new winery with a production of only 3,000 bottles. It is located in the province of Avellino at Montemiletto. This is a wine with hints of sour cherry, plum and a touch of spice.

ilaria Petitto and her Taurasi 2012

Taurasi 2012 Donnachiara 100% Aglianico made from grapes from the 20-hectare Torre le Nocella vineyard. The soil is volcanic and clay, the vines are over 30 years old, the training system is guyot and there are 4,000 plants per hectare. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed prior to pressing and there is no filtration. The wine is aged for 12 months in used 225-liter French barriques, and 24 months in bottle before release. This is a big complex wine with berry aromas and flavors, hints of cherry and plum and a touch of cacao, coffee and vanilla. The wine will age. I know their wines very well and the 2012 Taurasi is one of my favorites.

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