Swirl Wine Bar & Market

Monday, June 29, 2009

Club Swirl June Selections from California

Part wine club, part discount program, "club swirl" offers a great way to try new and exciting wines from around the world. Benefits include our 2 wines of the month, discounts on all wine purchases and tastings, invitations to special members only tastings, advance email notices on special wines brought into the store and more for only $39.99/month! Memberships applications are available, call 504.304.0635 for more details.

June's Selections

2006 Chateau Bellevue Cotes de Castillon

Côtes de Castillon is a relatively new appellation which dates back to 1989 and it is noted for its quick rise through the ranks in terms of quality and popularity. It gives an excellent price/quality ratio with its Bordeaux Supérieur. It takes its name from the town of Castillon-la-Bataille, and the battle that was fought there which brought an end to the Hundred Years War. The area is known as the place where the English lost control of Bordeaux.

The vineyards of Côtes de Castillon cover 7,500 acres and lie east of St Emilion and south of Fronsac on the right bank of the river. Most of the domains are less than 25 acres.

Côtes de Castillon rolls down the steep slopes of hills and valleys created by the Garonne and Dordogne rivers that flow through the area. Often facing south or south east, the vines that grow on these slopes have excellent exposure to the sun.

The climate is slightly warmer and drier than most of Bordeaux. The soil is clay and limestone on the hilltops, sandy gravel at the base of the slopes and clay and silt in the valleys.

Merlot is the primary grape variety planted due to the clay limestone soils and the more continental weather, followed by Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.

Château Bellevue was founded in 1998, with its oldest origins dating to the 1960's. The project is aided by Château Cheval Blanc's former enologist, Gilles Paquet. The wine is 65% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in mostly new oak barrels, 90% French oak, and 10% American oak, and some Château Haut Brion 2nd Barrels. It has intense red fruit aroma with lots of vanilla and toasty oak. It is delicious now, but also able to age and improve with a few years in the bottle.

Retail Price: $20.99
Club Swirl Price: $19.99/bottle or $17.86 with club swirl case discount

Domaine des Varinelles Cremant de Loire Brut
The product of a long Loire tradition of sparkling winemaking, the Crémant de Loire AOC came into being when the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO), French organization charged with regulating controlled place names, drew up a very strict set of specifications to regulate the production of Crémant (slightly sparkling) wine nationally. Thanks to the traditional skills of the winegrowers and merchants and to ideal production conditions, Crémant de Loire has gradually been able to develop.

Cremant de Loire is made in the traditional Champagne method, but cannot be called Champagne because it is produced outside of the region. A neutral base wine of the permitted regional grapes is put into thick-glass bottles with a solution of sugar and yeast known as liqueur de tirage, which has a strong metal crown cap acting as a stopper, then left on its side for the components to do their work.

A second fermentation takes place within the bottle and as there is nowhere for the resulting carbon dioxide to escape to, the bubbles are absorbed into the wine. The bottles are left in the cellar after fermentation so that the yeasts can be tipped to the neck of the bottle so the dead yeasts can impart their rich, biscuity flavors to the wine. The necks of the bottles are then frozen to remove the yeasts and real cork is put in.

The Domaine des Varinelles, located in the town of Varrains, is an old family property, four generations old, and currently is run by Claude and Laurent Daheuiller. The vineyard today covers 42 hectares (or 100 acres), whose 32 ha in Saumur Champigny. The vineyard is planted with Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, including several well-known areas such as Les Petits Clos, Les Bonnezeaux, Le Clos Marconnet and Les Poyeux. The vines are 35 to 60 years old in average. The oldest were planted in 1900.

The blend on this wine is 60% Chardonnay, 25% Cabernet Franc, 15% Chenin Blanc and is complete finesse and elegance. Dry and crisp with a delightful mineral finish, the perfect summer sparkler!

Retail Price: $19.99
Club Swirl Price: $18.99/bottle or $16.99 with club swirl case discount

Or if you are receiving two red wines:

2007 Grand Veneur Champauvin Cotes du Rhone
In 1320 Pope Jean XXII planted the first vines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but it was only in 1360 that the wines of the region first gained fame. Oddly, the wine that gave Châteauneuf-du-Pape its original reputation was the Blanc and not the Rouge. The white wine was a favorite of Pope Innocent VI. The Domaine dates back to 1826, having been founded at that time by Mathieu Jaume. Since 1979, Alain Jaume has run the Domaine and now has the help of his two sons: Sébastien and Christophe.

The estate is located in the commune of Orange and consists of 50 hectares (123 acres). It covers four different appellations: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, Côtes-du-Rhône and Lirac.

Les Champauvins is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, with grapes coming from a single vineyard directly across the appellation boundary of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.Intense, brilliant garnet-red color. The aromas of woods and ripe red berries are typical of the terroir. The tannic structure is elegant and smooth. The finish is dominated by slight touches of spices and truffles. A complete wine, rich and fine.

"An outstanding sleeper of the vintage, the 2007 Cotes du Rhone-Villages Les Champauvins is an amazingly good effort displaying a dark ruby/purple hue as well as a big, sweet bouquet of black raspberries, kirsch, pepper, garrigue, and earth. Dense, full-bodied, and ripe, it is as good as many producers- Chateauneuf du Papes. It should drink well for 7-8 years or more."
- Wine Advocate ( Oct. 2008), 91 pts

Retail Price: $19.99
Club Swirl Price: $18.99/bottle or $16.99 with club swirl case discount

Wine of the Moment: Bodegas Val de Sil Montenovo Godello

Not familiar with Godello? Don't worry, it's not on most people's wine radar! It’s an ancient white varietal that has laid its claim in Valdeorras since the Roman occupation. The area juts out north of Portugal and east of Rias Baixas, in the Galicia region of north west Spain. The Romans were attracted to Valdeorras (Golden Valley) for its gold mining, but like other areas they conquered, vineyards followed.

Brought back from near exctinction 30 years ago, Godello (go-day-o) tends to get overshadowed by its cousin Albarino from Rias Baixas. It was only in the 1990s that certain mavericks, intent on preserving this ancient cultivar, were noticed by boutique American importers and the Spanish wine press. The grape has gained more popularity in the American market due to the effort of U.S. importers like Eric Solomon.

A great Godello combines the minerality of a Chablis with the acidic snap of a Sauvignon Blanc—it comes at you quietly, with elegance and persistence. With its delicate aromas of wild flowers and lemon, usually a graceful mid palate, it should have crisp seductive fruits and finish with a good length.

The problem is that Godello tends to be pricey, most I've seen start in the low $20's. So when Morgan Stroud from Purveyor brought me this little gem that retails for $11.99, I was floored by the quality for the price!

Fresh and uncorrupted by oak, the Val de Sil has bright, racy white peach and lemon aromas with nice minerality and a crisp acid finish. Perfect for light seafood, a Spanish sheep's milk cheese or summer quaffing, it is delicious and different.

Want to try it before you buy? Morgon will be in the shop Tuesday, June 30 from 6:30 to 8:00pm opening bottles of this as well as 5 other great wines from Spain, France and Argentina. Come check it out! $10.

Happenings This Week at Swirl!

Summertime Recession Busters, Tuesday, June 30th at 6:30pm
Morgon Stroud from Purveyor joins us this Tuesday for his picks on fun, recession proof, summer wines! We'll be popping corks from Spain, France and Argentina with retail prices from $8.99 to $14.99 there's sure to be something to fit your wallet. Here's what we'll be tasting:
Val de Sil Montenovo Godello, $11.99 Alto Almanzora Este, $8.99, RP 90 pts. Notro Sangiovese Bonarda, $8.99 Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois, $14.99 Domaine de Andezon Cotes du Rhone, $12.99

And since nothing says summertime in New Orleans like a cool refreshing glass of rose, we'll also be tasting the long awaited 2008 Chateau Donjon Minervois Rose, delicious at $14.50! For reservations call 504.304.0635. $10

Friday Free For All, July 3rd from 6-8pm
Sylvia Moncado of Avenue Wines joins us this Friday to kick off the holiday weekend with for 4 great picks from her portfolio! Delicious summer whites and light weight reds will be accompanied by tapas selections from one of our local chefs. The wine is free and the tapas plates range from $3 to $7. Friday 6-8pm, no reservations required.

Call 504.304.0365 for more information.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cool Summer Cocktails at Cure

I snapped a few quick pictures at the Slow Food New Orleans cocktail class at Cure. We learned the tricks of the trade for 3 summer cocktails that featured local, fresh ingredients including the Anejo Highball, Bramble and Peach Smash.

While all were delicious, I'd have to say my personal favorite was their take on the Anejo Highball (I'm not sure why the called it anejo when it was made with a blanco, but I guess it just sounds better...). Ingredients included fresh cucumber slices, lime juice, tequila and bitters, it was the first cocktail of the evening. It was followed by the Bramble, made with a fresh blueberry puree, gin and lemon juice and with the peach, bourbon and mint "smash" as the finale.

Lots of great information, techniques and fabulous cocktails were enjoyed by all. Here's the recipe for the light and refreshing Anejo Highball:

2 cucumber slices
2 lime wedges
1 part simple syrup
1 part fresh lime juice
2 parts blanco tequila
a little club soda
splash of Angostura Bitters

-Muddle the lime and the cucumber
-Add the the simple syrup, lime juice and tequila and stir
-Fill the glass with ice and top off with club soda
-Add the splash of bitters

Enjoy!!And if you have yet to visit Cure, put it high on your list if visiting an upscale, beautiful cocktail lounge with great drinks, nice small plates on the menu and a really comfy atmosphere, sounds like a good time to you! We need more of this in New Orleans!!

Pesto Trapanese

It all started with a beautiful bowl of heirloom cherry tomatoes....

Our friend Cynthia from New York (Farmhouse Table and our partner in crime for the Divine Sicily tour), was coming in to town with 3 incredible wines that she brought back from Sicily made by this unconventional and somewhat controversial producer that we will be visiting on our trip, Frank Cornelissen. I wanted to keep things simple to allow the wine to be the star of the show, and also wanted something that was utterly Sicilian.

Off to the Tuesday Crescent City Farmer's Market I went, in search of local ingredients I could use for this meal. I am a tomato fanatic so I went a little crazy at the heirloom tomato lady's stand and then again at the cute guy's stand and came home with bags of heirloom tomatoes in all different sizes, shapes and colors, plus a big bag of fresh basil.

So, I started digging through all of my cookbooks and found this classic Sicilian pesto made with fresh cherry tomatoes. I decided to use Lidia Bastianich's version as I have found all of her recipes to be tried and true. And she did not disappoint on this one! Delicious, light, fresh and very unique, this is the perfect summer pesto. Just add some of Chef Daniel Esses' homemade fettuccine, good friends and a few bottles of wine for an amazing meal!

Pesto Trapanese
From Lidia's Italy

Serves 4 to 6

¾ pound (about 2-1/2 cups) cherry tomatoes, very ripe and sweet
12 large fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup of whole almonds, lightly toasted
1 plump garlic clove, crushed and peeled
1/4 teaspoon peperoncino or to taste
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste, plus more for the pasta
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound spaghetti
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano

Recommended equipment:
A blender (my preference) or a food processor
A pot for cooking the spaghetti

Rinse the cherry tomatoes and pat them dry. Rinse the basil leaves and pat dry.

Drop the tomatoes into the blender jar or food processor bowl followed by the garlic clove, the almonds, basil leaves, peperoncino and ½ tsp salt. Blend for a minute or more to a fine purée; scrape down the bowl and blend again if any large bits or pieces have survived.

With the machine still running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream, emulsifying the purée into a thick pesto. Taste and adjust seasoning. (If you’re going dress the pasta within a couple of hours, leave the pesto at room temperature. Refrigerate if for longer storage, up to 2 days, but let it return to room temperature before cooking the pasta.

To cook the spaghetti, heat 6 quarts of water, with 1 tablespoon salt, to the boil in the large pot. Scrape all the pesto into a big warm bowl.

Cook the spaghetti al dente, lift it from the cooking pot, drain briefly, and drop onto the pesto. Toss quickly to coat the spaghetti, sprinkle the cheese all over, and toss again. Serve immediately in warm bowls.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Great Events This Week at Swirl!

A Swirl and Savor Event; Tapas Tuesday with Dante's Kitchen Chef Bryan Armour
Tapas Tuesday has become quite a popular term in New Orleans since we started our wine and food pairing nights a few years back! To clear up any confusion, Tapas Tuesdays at Swirl happen once a month and feature different talented chefs from the New Orleans restaurant scene. The event is the best ticket in town as your $20 gets you a tasting of 6 different wines paired with a tapas sampler plate of items designed for Swirl by some pretty creative people! This Tuesday will feature tapas by Dante's Kitchen Chef Bryan Armour.

The wines for Tuesday's event will feature native and international varietals from Chile and Argentina. Craig Newchurch will be pouring Torrontes, Bonarda, Carmenere, Cabernet and of course a big beautiful Malbec will close the show. But sign up quick because this is a popular event and we fill up fast! For reservations call 504.304.0635, or reply to this email.

A Visit from Paul Sowerby of Adelaida Cellars, Paso Robles
The synergy of unique “terroir”, sustainable agriculture and minimalist winemaking all come together in the ripe, well balanced wines made at Adelaida Cellars. Named after a 19th century settlement in the Santa Lucia Mountains, the winery lies on the Westside of Paso Robles, some 15 miles from the fog shrouded Pacific coast at elevations of 2000 feet. They make some killer, highly rated, Chards, Pinots, Rhone Blends and more, so please join Paul and Gabe Daigle from Select Wines for a tasting of 4 of their wines at our Friday Free For All this week. And as he is each Friday, Chef Daniel Esses will be in the house with his California inspired tapas! Friday 6-8pm, no reservations required.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Trust This Tip!

Looking for the best coffee in NYC, the freshest fish in New Orleans, a great little hotel in Paris or simply a romantic spot to watch the sunset in Florence? A new edition to swirl and savor, T3 offers a weekly travel, food or wine related tip that you need to know about! These are not paid endorsements but simply tried and true tips for inquisitive minds.

This Weeks Tip!
Freshly Foraged Pacific Northwest Porcini Mushrooms – Italians gave them their well-known name, porcini or "little pigs", for their plump round shapes. Known around the world for their subtle, distinctive flavor, these delectable mushrooms are among the most sought after of all fungi. Almost impossible to find fresh, we've discover a secret source for Pacific Northwest Porcini. Known only by local chefs, our source will take orders on Monday for delivery on Wednesday. They're $24/lb and worth every penny. Call me if you are interested, I'll be ordering some this week! 504.304.0635

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Swirl Unfiltered: A16 Food + Wine Review

Ok, so I think you've all figured out by now that I am crazy for anything Italian; the food, wine, people, history and culture are a never ending source of fascination and excitement for me. I love to discover new indigenous varietals (there are over 800 by the way...), great regional recipes and I could travel there every year of my life and still not get enough. Did I ever mention that I think I was Italian in another life? Well, that's a whole different post...anyway I've written a lot about my favorite Italian wine bible, Gambero Rosso (see my post Italian Wine, Love at First Sip), that I use when I’m looking for very specific information on a certain wine and its producer. And my other go to book has always been Vino Italiano by Joseph Bastianich & David Lynch that explores each region's predominant grapes, winemaking styles, major producers and the history and culture of the region. Great to curl up with on the sofa with a glass of Italian wine!

Currently I am totally captivated by a new book, introduced to me by another blogger, called A16 Food + Wine by Nate Appleman and Shelly Lindgren. That authors are the chef/owner (Nate) and wine director/owner (Shelly) of the acclaimed A16 restaurant in San Francisco named after the Italian motorway that runs from Naples to Puglia. The restaurant uses the food and the wine of southern Italy as its inspiration and the book beautifully expresses that focus. I can't get of this area, as I find the bold rustic flavors of the south a refreshing change from the more refined popular wines of central and northern Italy

Shelly Lindgren tells the first half of the story as she takes you on a journey through each of the regions south of Rome, including Sicily and Sardinia and talks of their history, key producers, predominant varietals and food pairings. My heart starts to pound faster as I read about the once nearly extinct varietals like Pallagrello Bianco and Coda di Volpe in the Campagnia section while the more familiar Primitivo and Negroamaro highlighted the Puglia chapter make my mouth water for their inky dark fruit.

Nate Appleman takes over in the second half of the book with an intro to the "must haves" of the the Italian pantry, the core ingredients that make these bold, rustic foods shine. And in case you don't have access to these carefully chosen items, he has a resource section in the back of the book. Ingredients like Calabrian Chiles, "00" flour, are discussed as well as recipes for preserved Meyer Lemons, homemade Ricotta Salatta, Brodo (a light broth)and more.

The heart of the book is the recipes made from fresh local ingredients that reflect the essential element of southern Italian cooking: simplicity. The opening page discusses the culinary heritage of the south having been much poorer than the north and that the "la cucina povera" or peasant cooking was born of necessity. "Just as southern Italian winemakers cherish their indigenous grapes, southern Italian cooks are rooted in the past, nearly to the point of obsession with preserving the old ways."

The food chapters are divided by type such as antipasta, pasta, vegetables, seafood, with a heavy emphasis on meat and poultry due to the route the A16 takes through the hilly inland regions. The chapter on Neapolitan pizza is fantastic with great instructions on making the perfect dough, grilling pizza (one of my favorite preparations!), and using sparse, traditional toppings. Recipes like Summer Vegetable Cianfotta (Campania summer stew), Braised Halibut with Pistachios, Preserved Meyer Lemon and Capers, Cavatelli with Ragu Bianco, Wild Mushrooms and Pecorino and Monday Meatballs (pictured above, photo by Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times) are all well written, with easy instructions and most have relatively shorts lists of ingredients. And every recipe comes with a wine pairing from southern Italy, beautifully done!

Gorgeous photography by Ed Anderson, easy to follow recipes, in depth information on wines and their regions and a great resource section for hard to find items, this book is a must have for any Italian food and wine nut! You can order a signed copy directly from their website: A16sf , or from Amazon by clicking here: Amazon.com

Also, if you're like me and still can't get enough, Saveur magazine just did a great piece on Basilicata in their May issue.

Having just poured my self a cool refreshing glass of Falanghina from Campania, chapter on Calabria awaits...

Deliciously Versatile Chermoula

Thanks to one of my favorite local chefs, Dan Esses, I've recently become infatuated with Chermoula, a very versatile spice paste used in Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian cooking. In its most basic form it is a combination of parsley, coriander, onion and garlic. It's deliciously fragrant and fresh tasting and is usually used as a compliment to fish, although I'm finding you can use it on just about anything! Chermoula can be used as a marinade, dressing, dip and use it on meats, fish, roasted veggies, salad....you get the idea!

Here's a basic Chermoula recipe:


* 1 bunch cilantro (coriander), finely chopped
* 4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
* 2 tablespoons paprika
* 1 tablespoon cumin
* 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
* 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
* 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
* 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
* juice of 1 lemon

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.

Most recently I roasted 2 lbs of eggplant, caramelized a sweet vidalia onion, boiled 2 potatoes and threw them in the food processor with the Chermoula to make a thick spread. I went to Nor-Joe's off of Metairie Road for a can of roasted piquillo (another new obsession thanks to Dan!) and stuffed the eggplant spread in the sweet little peppers. I also got some pine nuts there and toasted those, crushed them and used them as a garnish with fresh cilantro. This was my offering for our DC-10 dinner featuring "weird wines" where I paired it with a Negroamaro from Puglia, the Tormaresca Masseria Maime. Amazing wine, pretty decent pairing and the dish got rave reviews!

Next I'm thinking of using it as a marinade for a nice piece of fish, served over some red quinoa...you can make up a batch of the Chermoula and keep it in the refrigerator for about a week and put it on everything!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Trust This Tip!

Looking for the best coffee in NYC, the freshest fish in New Orleans, a great little hotel in Paris or simply a romantic spot to watch the sunset in Florence? A new edition to swirl and savor, T3 offers a weekly travel, food or wine related tip that you need to know about! These are not paid endorsements but simply tried and true tips for inquisitive minds.

This Weeks Tip!
Amazing Agriturismo in Sicily – Hugging Sicily's stunning southern coast near the Valley of the Temples, Azienda Agricola Mandranova is more than just a guesthouse with friendly owners. Regular cooking classes with ingredients picked from the surrounding gardens, a working Olive estate in a beautifully restored farmhouse, to stay here is to be thrust into the heart of Sicilian family life. Proprietors Guiseppe and Silvia di Vincenzo are fantastic hosts who have filled the estate with antiques and terra-cotta pottery from Caltagirone, the hub of Sicilian ceramics production for hundreds of years. It is a beautiful property set on 420 hilly acres, with stunning view of olive groves from any of the 11 rooms, and will be our home for the second leg of our Divine Sicily Cultural, Wine and Culinary Tour!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Wine of the Moment, 2006 COS Nero di Lupo

As we were researching wineries to visit on our upcoming wine and culinary tour of Sicily, I knew we could not miss a small, biodynamic producer making some of the most exciting and individual wines in Sicily in the province of Ragusa. C.O.S was created in 1980 by three founders, Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti and Giuseppina Strano, former school friends who shared a passion for the wines of their native territory. Starting in a garage as students, they’ve taken advice along the way from Giacomo Tachis, the creator of Super-Tuscan wines Solaia, Tignanello and Sassicaia. They named their new project COS, using the first letter of each of their surnames.

Owner and marketing director Giusto Occhipinti is one of the stars of the contemporary Sicilian wine scene. A trained architect, he is a traditionalist winemaker, but with modern aesthetic sensibilities. He makes great wine by keeping it simple, adding virtually nothing to his wines but patience and attention, showing the true identity of the region and the land with a sense of style and attention to detail.

All COS wines are made naturally, unfiltered and with very little sulfur added. One COS wine, Pithos, is even fermented in Greek-style terra cotta amphorae, which is about as traditional as winemaking gets. COS also makes a couple of excellent straight nero d'avolas, including our featured wine the Nero di Lupo. As rustic as these wines may sound, they're also some of the best made in Sicily, proving that respect for tradition and excellence can go hand in hand.

The COS Nero di Lupo is 100% Nero D'Avola, but very different from the fat, super ripe, fruit forward style being produced with the American market and high scores in mind. The Nero di Lupo is unfiltered 100% Nero d'Avola made from grapes grown at their local Bastonaca vineyard. Fermented in stainless steel and aged for a further 24 months in cask it has remarkable finesse with rich fruit flavors balanced by flinty notes, balance, and complexity. This has extremely supple tannins and is about as varietally pure a Nero d’Avola as you will ever find. Pure, dark red fruit balanced with fresh acidity. This is distinctive, delicious stuff from a classic Sicilian producer. $26.99

We also carry one of their whites, the Ramí is made from Inzolia and Grecanico farmed at C.O.S.’ Ramingallo vineyard at nearby Comiso. Pale green in appearance, this has a deliciously appealing nose of blossom, peach and apricot. The palate shows mouthfilling fruit, and indeed this is full bodied, soft and rounded. After the initial rush of peach, apricot and melon comes an unexpected but very welcome hint of thyme. The lingering bitter almond finish makes this hugely drinkable and seductive. $24.99

But, if you are interested in either of these wines, you need to visit Swirl because we are the only store in Louisiana that has them!

Fettuccine with Porcini Paired with COS Nero Di Lupo

Two things come to mind when pairing with Sicily's most popular red wine Nero D'Avola, either a meaty red sauce or something with mushrooms to complement the dark earthiness of the varietal. This is a deliciously simple recipe that was featured in the NYTimes years ago and is still one of my favorites; meaty porcini mushrooms meet smoky pancetta!

Fettuccine with Porcini
Adapted from The New York Times, 11/1/06

Takes about 1 hour | Serves 4

2 ounces dried porcini
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 ounces pancetta, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fresh fettuccine
4 eggs at room temperature, beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley leaves
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving.

1. Place porcini in a bowl, cover with about 1 cup warm water, and soak 30 minutes. Drain well, straining liquid into large measuring cup. Place porcini on several thicknesses of paper towel, cover with paper towel and press to remove moisture. Cut very large pieces in half.

2. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons oil in a skillet large enough to hold pasta for 4 servings. Add pancetta and sauté until barely beginning to brown. Add garlic and sauté another minute or so.

3. Add porcini and cook until heated through and beginning to brown. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper. Warm 4 plates.

4. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for pasta. Cook pasta about 3 minutes and drain well. Transfer to skillet, add remaining oil, and cook over low heat to incorporate and heat ingredients. Gradually add 3/4 cup porcini liquid. When some has been absorbed, remove pan from heat. Add eggs and fold together quickly, to warm eggs without scrambling them. Add a little more liquid if needed. Immediately divide among plates and garnish with parsley. Serve at once with cheese alongside.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Divine Sicily, The Itinerary!

The long awaited itinerary....along with Cynthia and Elisabeth, Kerry and I will be your guides for this incredible wine, culinary and cultural tour of Sicily!

Divine Sicily
Catania Sunday October 11--Palermo Thursday October 22

Sunday 11 October: Day 1 Arrive Catania airport and transport to Tenuta Scilio Di Valle Galfina. Located in Linguaglossa on the northeastern side of Mt. Etna, the farmhouse and cellars date back to 1815 and are surrounded by organically cultivated vineyards. This beautiful agriturismo will be our home for our first 4 days in one of the most diverse and picturesque regions of Sicily. Get settled in and relax before we have a tasting of the wines from the Scilio estate. Dinner at the Valle Galfina farmhouse.

Monday 12 October: Day 2 After breakfast we'll take an easy trip, about 20 minutes away, to the town of Randazzo. This medieval jewel has stayed untouched by the eruptions of Etna. Possibly visit a ceramic studio and stroll the narrow streets where the churches are built of blocks of lava. Light lunch and wine tasting at Tenuta delle Terre Nere Vineyards. We'll return to Valle Galfina for an afternoon cooking class. Sleep at farmhouse.

Tuesday 13 October: Day 3 Breakfast, then a day trip to the tiny town of Solicchiata, for a wine tasting/discussion with Frank Cornelissen. Frank uses local grape varietals from ancient ungrafted vines that express territorial identity. This opportunity promises to give you a completely different view of winemaking with this controversial master. For lunch, we'll go to the Agriturismo Borgo San Nicolao for a demonstration and tasting of traditional cheeses and salumi, all "fatta in casa", at the agriturismo. After lunch we’ll have an opportunity to taste another local wine at Passopisciaro vineyards. We'll have time to relax at the farmhouse for awhile before heading out to dinner either in Bronte or Taomina.

Wednesday 14 October: Day 4 Our last day in the DOC Dell'Etna will take us south to the town of Viagrande for a wine tasting and lunch at Azienda Agricola Benanti. Those who are interested may take an excursion to actually explore Mt. Etna after lunch or you may just want to have a relaxing afternoon back at the farmhouse. You choose! Dinner out or at Valle
Galfina before hitting the sack.

Thursday 15 October: Day 5 After breakfast, we say farewell to our hosts at Valle Galfina and make our way to the southeastern part of the island. Our first stop will be one of the most fascinating towns in Sicily, Ragusa Ibla, a UNESCO Heritage city. Essentially Baroque, the town, on first sight is a jumble of houses, churches, and civic palazzi, piled on top of each other, clinging to a steep gorge. It is simply breathtaking. After a sampling of the delicious Gelato for which this town is famous, we will travel to Locanda COS located near Vittoria. We will have a splendid lunch at the Locanda and a tasting of their biodynamic wines including 2 of their superb DOCG Cersuolo di Vittoria. We will then travel south, all the way to the coast to Palma di Montechiaro, where we'll be staying at the agriturismo Mandranova. Get settled, relax, and have dinner there at the farm.

Friday 16 October: Day 6 Breakfast, then we'll tour the Mandranova estate, and pick olives if you'd like, tour the olive mill, and a very special treat---taste freshly pressed olive oil. Guiseppe and Silvia di Vincenzo, the proprietors of Mandranova, produce fine mono-cultivar olive oil and other artisanal products from their farm. We'll then take a day trip to Butera for a wine tasting and lunch at Feudo Principi di Butera. Returning to Mandranova, we will join Silvia for a cooking class featuring Sicilian home cooking. We'll sup on what we've made in the cooking class and then off to bed.

Saturday 17 October: Day 7 Today we will take a drive in the beautiful Sicilian countryside to the town of Grotte for wine tasting at Morgante. On the way back, we can stop at the Valley of the Temples near Agrigento and have a picnic lunch if the weather cooperates with us. The Valley of the Temples is one of the most important archeological sites in the world, founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century BC. The afternoon will be spent relaxing at Mandranova or if the weather is nice, a walk on the beach at nearby Marina di Palma.

Sunday 18 October: Day 8 We'll have breakfast and then leave Mandranova heading west to
Sambuca di Sicilia to visit Planeta vineyards. The vineyard "Ulmo" is part of the original Planeta home; the 17th century farmhouse stands between an Arab castle, the Arancio Lake and a mountain range. Traveling north we'll drive through the countryside covered in vineyards and olive groves to the agriturismo Baglio Fontana located in Buseto Palizzolo. The Baglio produces olive oil, honey, wine, and organic fruits and vegetables. There is also a spa on the premises for those wanting a little pampering using the Baglio's almonds, honey and local sea salt in their treatments. After a day of traveling, we'll settle in and have dinner at the farmhouse with some of the local wines of the region.

Monday 19 October: Day 9 After breakfast, we’ll take a short drive to the hill town of Erice,
known throughout Sicily for its almond pastries and gorgeous views of the Egadi Islands. We’ll explore this ancient town at our leisure before going to some of the local wineries and tasting the Erice DOC wines. We will chose from nearby wineries such as Casa Vinicola Fazio, Barone di Serramarrocco, and Firriato near the town of Trapani. This part of Sicily is closer to Tunisia than to the mainland of Italy so the cuisine deeply reflects the Arab influence. This evening we’ll dine at a taverna enjoying one of the local specialties of the area, il cuscusu---couscous flavored with fresh rock fish stock and seafood.

Tuesday 20 October: Day 10 We’ll have breakfast at the farmhouse, then decide if anyone would like to drive into Palermo to do some city sight seeing and shopping….possibly stopping in the lovely seaside village of Scopello on our way back. If you prefer, you may choose to have a quiet day relaxing at the agriturismo indulging in a spa treatment or maybe a cooking class, or just sitting by the pool reading a book. Tonight we’ll have a special dinner out at a nearby trattoria.

Wednesday 21 October: Day 11 For our last day on the island, we’ll take an exciting day trip-
--a drive down the coast to visit the ancient salt flats first started by the Phoenicians and still operating today as it did thousands of years ago. Then on to the city of Marsala which takes its name from the Arabic Mars-al-Allah, meaning the harbor of God. The Marsala wine that you’ll taste today is nothing like the wine you cook with back home. We’ll also visit and have a light lunch and wine tasting at Donnafugata vineyard in their lovely “Sala della Botti” at their cantine in Marsala. Afterward we’ll travel back through the countryside to the agriturismo to have an extraordinary farewell dinner.

Thursday 22 October: Morning transfer to Palermo airport. Arrivederci to Sicilia!

For reservation, payment information and a copy of the itinerary click here:
PDFWine and Culinary Tour Registration

For more details on Cynthia and her travels, go to
The Farmhouse Table

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Intro to Divine Sicily: A Culinary, Wine and Cultural Tour

It was one of those moments where we happened to be at the right place at the right time and meet the right person. Kerry and I were speakers on a panel last year at the Women Chef's and Restaurateurs national conference where we discussed alternative careers for women in wine. There was a woman in the front row that asked a lot of great questions and stayed to speak with us after the presentation. It was one of those crazy instant connections that you make when in the first 5 minutes you feel as if you've known the person forever. We started talking and arranged to meet at the shop the next day. We discovered that we shared a passion for wine, food and travel and that our new friend had organized several culinary tours to Sicily and was looking to add a wine component to her trips. Were we interested in working with her?!? Well as you can imagine the response was a resounding YES and we've all been working on this since last July.

Our responsibility has been to determine what we feel were the top wineries to visit. We're talking quality here, top notch, Gambero Rosso awarding winning, highly touted, best of the best, cream of the crop, etc...you get the idea. And I can tell you that delving into the Sicilian wine world is unlike anything else in Italy. Active volcanoes, little known indigenous varietals, wacky winemakers and cultural influences that change dramatically from one end of the island to the other, Sicily is one exciting place for wine!

But through our relationships with importers, producers and of course a little guidance from our favorite Italian wine guy, Antonio Molesini, we have put together an incredible itinerary that takes you from the profound wines of Frank Cornelissen in Mount Etna, the extreme purity of COS in the southeast to the traditional powerhouses of Donnafugata and Planeta in the west. I get goosebumps when I read the itinerary!

Our other hosts, Cynthia Nicholson and her partner in crime, Elisabeth Zoria have organized several culinary and cultural tours of Sicily and know the ins and outs of the island from one end to the other. They'll take us from visiting a cheese and salumi producing family in the east to the beautifully Baroque city of Ragusa, picnicing at the Valley of the Temples on the shores of the Mediterranean, tasting freshly pressed olive oil at the Mandranova and farmhouse cooking classes featuring the foods of the region.

Wherever in the world she travels, Cynthia Nicholson loves seeking out individual food artisans, farmers, chefs, - people who care about food, how it was made or raised and the story behind it. She admires the history and tradition of peasant food-dishes and ingredients that have been prepared the same way for centuries. The food that springs directly from regional cultures and cuisine. She grew up on the Gulf coast of Alabama in a coastal farming region and was raised in a tradition of fresh, seasonal cooking. Her love of food has taken her on many adventures including cooking on yachts in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, serving as Food Editor of Country Living and Real Simple magazines, and teaching cooking classes around the country.

Elizabeth Zoria grew up in an apricot orchard in Northern California. The daughter of a fruit farmer in a family of Sicilian heritage, where life seemed to happen around the kitchen table. She fell in love with Sicily sixteen years ago when she visited family in Palermo and was excited that life happened around the table there too. After years of owning a bar in the Mission District of San Francisco, she realized it was time to follow her dream. While searching for a new place to call home, Elizabeth met Cynthia in a cooking class in a farmhouse in the Madonie Mountains. Today, she enjoys life in the sweet Sicilian seaside town of San Gregorio, where her days are filled with cooking, laughing, and life around the kitchen table.

Keep an eye out for my next post where I'll release the full itinerary and details of the trip!



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