Risotto, Running and REM

Wake me up because I’m tired of dreaming. It’s Week 9 of the stay-at-home order, although some of you may have started quarantine either later or earlier than me. I typically never recall my dreams, but for the past few weeks, I’ve been able to vividly retell what took place during REM before I’ve had my morning espresso. Some nights I’m being screamed at by someone because I forgot my mask, or I’m lost in a supermarket, or living back in Canada (I’ll get to that next week.)

Lockdown Dreams

I wondered if I was the only one who was having weird dreams, so after doing some searching, I discovered that scientists have documented why and how the coronavirus is affecting our dreams. There’s even a website called Lockdown Dreams and you can share your experiences with others. I’m sure that’s therapeutic for some people, but frankly, I’m tired of remembering. Why would I want to read about other people’s life-like nightmares?

Running

I began running around five years ago, but really started taking it more seriously and working on a mind-body regimen about a year ago. Where getting in a car to go basically nowhere hardly gives me pleasure, running now gives me a sense of freedom and purpose to weekends with nowhere to go. Running is my superpower. What’s yours?

Vineyard in Piemonte © Shutterstock

Daydreams Are Different

For a week I daydreamed about making Risotto with Sausage, drinking Barbaresco (see below,) and most importantly, taking a virtual trip to Italy. Thanks to Wine by the Bay in Miami, a Saturday tour of Pier Paolo Grasso’s Azienda Vitivinicola Pier (located in Treiso, Piemonte) gave me a chance to forget those stressful trips to the supermarket and an inbox filled with work requests mixed with a barrage of breaking news headlines.

The Zoom event was perfectly orchestrated by Wine by the Bay’s owner, Stefano Campanini. After signing up, a small group of “travelers” received a bottle of Barbaresco and video link to a pre-recorded demo by Sara, Pier Paolo Grasso’s wife who explained step-by-step how to prepare the dish. While we had lunch in our kitchens, the Grasso’s enjoyed dinner overlooking their vineyard! The video tour was divided into three parts starting with a 360° look of the estate; followed by the cellars; and concluding with the bottling and packaging areas. In between, we chatted, ate lunch and drank the wine pensively, but filled with excitement because we could hear insights from the winemaker himself!

Possibly it was the 14% ABV, but by glass number two, I felt like I was sitting in the same room with everyone. Imagine, guests from Washington, Texas, Florida, Quebec, and Piemonte enjoying this great experience together!

Azienda Pier by Pier Paolo Grasso – Barbaresco Riserva Piccola Emma 2007 © Lisa Morales

The Wine: Azienda Pier by Pier Paolo Grasso – Barbaresco Riserva Piccola Emma 2007

The Nebbiolo grapes used for this Riserva come from La Fenice vineyards. After vinification in steel, Piccola Emma 2007 was matured for ten years in 50hl oak barrels. Bottling took place in December 2018.

The wine sports a charming garnet color, a rich and elegant olfactory emerges, initially dominated by notes of red currant and morello cherry jams which, in a short time, reveal hints of dried violet and undergrowth as well as a slight blood tinge; a vertical balsamic vein runs through the bouquet giving it an intriguing olfactory three-dimensionality.

Note: I didn’t write this description. You can read the full review here and run it through Google translator if you don’t speak Italian. You can find some more history of the winery and a nice photo of Pier Paolo and Sara here.

Risotto with Sausage Ingredients © Lisa Morales

Risotto Recipe

If you hadn’t read this far, you would have missed out on the best part, or maybe the second best part, or equal parts. Alright, the wine and recipe tie for first place!

While it was not the first time that I’ve made risotto, it was the first time that I’ve made it with a newly opened bottle of Riserva red wine. Trust me, those tears shed from losing a half cup of Pier Paolo’s Barbaresco to this dish will quickly dry up when you taste your perfect pairing!

  • 1 c arborio rice
  • 4 – 6 cups of hot chicken stock
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tsp of Thyme
  • ¾ c of chopped Baby Portobello mushrooms
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/2 c of Piccola Emma (or quality red wine)
  • 4 sausages each cut into thirds (I simmered the sausage in a bit of water until almost cooked and had acquired a little bit of color.)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 c of grated Parmesan cheese (save some for topping the dish or shred some more and reserve until the end)
  • 1 tbsp chopped Parsley

Using a wooden spoon, gently sauté the onions in olive oil and a dash of salt until translucent.

Add the mushrooms and Thyme and stir until soft adding more olive oil if needed.

Stir in the Arborio rice and coat with oil and lightly toast.

Add the wine, stir and simmer until it evaporates.

Add the first 3 or 4 ladles of stock until the rice is just covered with broth. Let the rice gently simmer, stirring frequently.

Repeat this step a few more times until the rice is “al dente.” When you run your spoon down the bottom of the pot, the rice will separate and you see a clear line.

Remove from heat and stir in first the butter until it is melted and combined, followed by the Parmesan cheese.

Cover for a 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note: Since I had prepared this ahead of time because I had a work commitment before the trip, I left the rice warming over another pot filled with some steamy, hot water. If your rice dries up, you can add a splash of broth (or cream) to make it creamier.

Risotto with Sausage © Lisa Morales

The End Is A Beginning

This pandemic has thwarted our sense of purpose and to work without the reward of time off or a vacation is extremely hard. However, dreams help us prepare for adversity. So when you wake up, keep remembering that where the bad dream ends, there’s still a day filled with possibilities, plus a daydream or two to keep us going — This too shall pass.

“I have had dreams, and I’ve had nightmares. I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams.” – Jonas Salk

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Note: Dr. Jonas Salk first tested his vaccine against the polio virus in 1952 before announcing to the world in 1955 that a viable vaccine against the feared virus was now a reality.  Albert Sabin followed Dr. Salk a few short years later by licensing an oral version of the polio vaccine in 1962.

Resource: Talking about your dreams may be a good idea if you are feeling anxious. Read more here.

You too can take a trip with Wine by the Bay! Visit www.winebtb.com/events.

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Why I Miss Spain Less

Because of my mother, I suffer from an extreme case of the travel bug. Long before the internet, my mom learned how to travel on a budget. She’d check out Fodors Travel Guides from the local library and before committing to a reservation, spent plenty of time on the phone or telex with potential hotels, airlines and tour operators. “Telex,” you ask? You’ll need to consult an encyclopedia for the answer!

I was six years old when my fearless, single mother took my brother and I on our first trip to Europe. My fondest memories include a boat ride down the Rhine, exploring the Swiss Alps by cable car, and riding a tricycle around the Eiffel Tower. (The latter was probably a reward for making us climb the stairs up the Eiffel Tower. At each level, she’d give us a candy because I am guessing we complained all of the way up!)

We had many travel adventures together until I could afford to take my own and because of her, I learned to travel on a budget and discover what fun you can have too when venturing off the beaten path.

Fast Forward

I’m now into Week 6 of the voluntary, stay-at-home order (although some people started later than me.) Never mind that I miss taking a plane–I’d give anything to go more than 10 miles in a car! Whether in the recent past or the very soon future, we will always rely on the internet to continue travelling and do so both easily and affordably.

Why I Went To Spain

There’s a few reasons why I went to Spain last year: 1) the Alhambra was on my Bucket List because I fell in love with its history after taking a Spanish Art and Architecture course at the University of Toronto; 2) a non-stop British Airways flight deal was an offer too good to pass up; and 3) Spain Revealed – James Blick.

YouTube

When it comes to travel, I do like and find TripAdvisor very useful. However, when I’m tired of reading, there’s no better place to investigate places to go than YouTube. There’s a lot of people who make travel videos and we have that one “no names mentioned,” older guy who’s been making travel video for years. However, if you are a food lover wanting to visit Spain, I suggest that you subscribe to James’ channel. Besides the knowledge that you’ll gain, it’s great fun!

I can credit his videos for discovering places to eat in Madrid and clues to live like a local, plus tips to understanding Spanish culture. Living like a local is key for me and the first thing I typically do when arriving in a new city is visit a local market.

James is the co-founder of Devour Tours that began offering food and wine-focused walking tours in 2012. Their mission (found on the Devour Tours website) is to connect curious travelers with local food and communities in a way that helps culture thrive. What began in just Madrid has expanded to include other cities in Spain, Paris, Rome and London.

James’ wife Yoly runs Flamenco Guide for anyone interested in the best place to experience flamenco.

Madrid Lockdown

Because I subscribe to Spain Revealed, I received a notification that James had posted a new video. Since returning from Spain, I had not watched any recent videos. However, this one caught my eye because there wasn’t a thumbnail, but just a still shot of unshaven James waving from, what I later learned, is their apartment’s patio.

I was so moved by his uncut announcement. “An Update from Madrid” was posted when we, in South Florida, were at the, “how bad can it really get” stage. Fear would quickly intensify as life as we knew it, changed by the minute.

Just watch the video. From both a business and personal level, James’ plea was telling and for all of us very relatable.

A New Message

As a communications and marketing professional, I’ve been fortunately swamped with work. Many businesses have had to change their marketing plan and, for example, switch in-person events to virtual ones and foot traffic to online sales and delivery.

It’s as if the sand is running faster through the hourglass as our livelihood is at stake. Since James posted the video on March 14th, I’ve kept up with his Instagram and have been so impressed how quickly they have provided a new experience for their audience. Although probably not enough, they have found a way to raise some money to help out the business and employees.

Zoomed Out

By now a lot of us might be tired of Zoom after spending a work or school day online. Devour Tours now offers some entertaining alternatives: cooking classes live demos; cool merch to add some fun to the stay-at-home wardrobe; and my favorite one, a downloadable cooking book, “Recipes from the Devour Tours Kitchen.”

I’ve already made a couple of the dishes and although my past blog posts have included recipes, I’m encouraging you to buy the cookbook to help support a Devour Tours experience that you may have taken in the past or one that you’ll take in the future.

A Different Kind of Back-to-Business

This week, Spain has begun easing some of its restrictions and many non-essential workers can return to work. However, it will take quite a bit of time before tourism returns to where it had been.

Remember that the travel industry needs our help. While you might not be ready to travel, continue to engage and support the restaurants, stores and businesses that you’ve come to know while on holiday. A like, share and review can go a long way.

If you’ve made it to the bottom of this article, here are some of my favorite Spanish spots to eat and drink or buy wine. It is these memories and new connections why I miss Spain less.

Licores Cabello (Madrid’s oldest wine shop) @licorescabello

Donde Sánchez Cosas Ricas at Mercado de Antón Martín @dondesanchez @mercadoantonmartin
Mariscos Morris in Mercado de San Miguel @mariscosmorris @mercadosanmiguel
La Cabaña Argentina @la_cabana_argentina
Lateral Santa Ana @rest_lateral
Atlantik Corner @atlantikcorner

Restaurante Ruta del Azafrán (Granada) @rutadelazafrangranada

Follow @jamesblickspain @devour_tours @flamencoguide

“Aquel que pierde riqueza pierde mucho, aquel que pierde amigos pierde aún más. Aquel que pierde el coraje, lo pierde todo.” ~ Miguel de Cervantes.

“He who loses wealth loses much; he who loses a friend loses more, but he who loses his courage loses all.”

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

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Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five $: Easy and Vegan-Friendly, Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

It’s a sunny and warm day in South Florida and the streets are empty. I ran 4.11 miles and I saw about six people and a few cars. (Please cars, watch out for pedestrians and runners – red light still means stop.)

Beaches are closed in South Florida.

Many people are struggling to live with the new norm, “working from home.” Plus, homeschooling the kids too?

Although I’ve worked remotely for years, it’s still strange to think that I won’t be driving south to Miami for meetings any time soon. I’m starting to regret all of the times that I complained about traffic.  Seriously, who misses traffic? I do.

Work Day Breakfast: One or two oatmeal bars, fresh fruit and a homemade Tumeric Shot.

Everyone needs a fast breakfast even when working from home, because no one wants to start the day with a full inbox and a sink full of dirty dishes. Because we’re experiencing a shortage of certain food items, I’ve created a Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five $ blog series designed to give ideas on how to make food on a budget and with what is (hopefully) available in both your pantry and the grocery store.

Today’s recipe is Oatmeal Breakfast Bars. One bar along with fresh fruit and yogurt make a complete and nutritious breakfast. It’s also vegan-friendly. I adapted a chocolate oatmeal cookie recipe as follows:

Use an egg substitute and gluten-free flour if desired.

Preheat oven to 350°

  • 1 c Crisco
  • ½ c brown sugar
  • ½ c cane sugar
  • 2 tbsp of egg substitute dissolved in 3 tbsp of water
  • 1 ½ tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ c all-purpose flour; ¼ c whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 c of old fashioned rolled oats
  • ¼ c of Chia seeds
  • 1 ¼ cup of raisins or dried fruit or combo (I used just raisins the first time and then raisins and chopped dates the second time. Craisins would be good too.)
You can mix this by hand if you don’t have an electric mixer.
  • With a mixer, combine the Crisco and sugars.
  • Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Combine the oats and Chia seeds.
  • Dissolve the egg substitute in the water and whisk until smooth.
  • Combine the sugar/Crisco mix with the egg mix and Vanilla.
  • Once combined, slowly add the dry ingredients into the Crisco/sugar/egg/vanilla mix.
  • Stop the mixer and stir in the oats and dried fruit until combined.
  • Lightly grease a 9×13 non-stick pan or line a pan with parchment paper.
  • Press the mix into the pan so even on all sides.
  • Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes or until golden.

Notes:

Someone asked me on Twitter if this recipe is gluten free. Since flour is used more like a binder, I think any gluten free flour would do. I’ll give it a try sometime.

Oatmeal breakfast bar(s) with fresh fruit and a tumeric shot mixed with seltzer.

If your bars crumble, save the crumbs to add to yogurt as a topping or eat them on the spot!

From someone who works from home, I know that finding free time is just as hard as when you work from an office. I put in more hours per day than I should and take the laptop from room to room thinking that I’ll just use it to read or watch videos at night. However, I end up answering emails. If you’re like me, try to leave the laptop “at the office” and spend time reading an actual book, rather than the tablet.

Find time for this recipe knowing that you’ll have a quick and nutritious breakfast for at least the next few days. Good luck and stay strong!

“Hope makes a good breakfast. Eat plenty of it.” ~ Ian Fleming

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The “Not Another Art Basel Listicle” Guide to Miami Art Week

Top Art Fairs: The A-Z of Where #MyArtEscape Will Be.

It’s my favorite time of the year! I have all of my press credentials in place, am reading voraciously about art, art installations, events and VIP soirees. The trickle of incoming press releases has become a flood, and I’ll soon be swimming through miles of art. Hooray, Art Basel aka Miami Art Week is (almost) here!

Without delay, below is the A-Z of where I’ll be. Read all the way to the end because I’ll recall a couple of the past VIP events that I’ve had the good fortune to attend. You may also wish to follow my daily, Art Basel Instagram stories for highlights of each fair and a couple of special events.

Note: I’ve scaled down my art fair trekking from last year’s 10 fairs. As much as I’d like to see it all, I was art oversaturated and no shoes or running prep could condition me for that much walking.

Art Basel

I really don’t understand people who say that they won’t go to Art Basel like it’s some kind of art fair boycott against the 1%. Sorry, but Art Basel is the OG of international art fairs. Maybe you can’t afford to buy anything, but why would you pass on an opportunity to see a new work by huge artists like Anish Kapoor, Yayoi Kusama or my favorite American artist, Nick Cave?

  • Dates: December 5-8 at the Miami Beach Convention Center
  • Global focus: 269 leading galleries from across the world to exhibit, with 20 galleries joining the fair for the first time
  • 18th edition and 500,000 square feet of exhibition space
  • Meridians: A new sector located in the Grand Ballroom of the Miami Beach Convention Center. Curated by Magalí Arriola will bring together around 30 projects that push the boundaries of a traditional art fair layout.
  • Day Ticket: $65.00; Students and Seniors $45.00

Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Drive, Miami Beach, FL 33139 | www.artbasel.com/miami-beach

Art Miami

I said it last year and I’ll remind you again, Art Miami came first! It’s a sophisticated and intellectually stimulating art fair. You’ll find just about all of the highly collectible and blue chip artists’ work sought by wealthy collectors that you would find at Art Basel. Art Miami also makes great efforts to spotlight Miami galleries, museums and artists. Support local!

  • Dates: December 3-8 at the Art Miami pavilion in Downtown Miami
  • Milestones: Returning for its 30th edition, Art Miami is recognized as one of the preeminent international modern and contemporary art fairs, Art Miami will showcase an array of iconic and important art works, dynamic projects and special installations from more than 170 international galleries from nearly 22 countries representing 69 cities.
  • The Platinum VIP Preview on December 3rd will benefit the Perez Art Museum Miami.
  • Adult Admission $55.00; Seniors $35.00; Students (12-18) $35.00

The Art Miami Pavilion, One Herald Plaza @ NE 14th Street, Downtown Miami. On Biscayne Bay between the Venetian & MacArthur Causeways | www.artmiami.com

Aqua

Sister to Art Miami, here’s the perfect example of supporting local and emerging artists. I love this fair and most of the art is affordable for people like you and me. They offer some great programming too and I’ve enjoyed in the past, sitting down and listening to one of their talks. Looks like this year guests can enjoy visual performance art.

  • Dates: December 5-8
  • Held at the Aqua Hotel in South Beach, the unique setting (open courtyard and rooms transformed into art exhibition spaces) has become a favorite gathering spot for collectors, curators and art lovers to discover fresh talent and acquire new works while exchanging cultural ideas and forming meaningful connections.
  • Milestones: Presenting its 15th year and last year recorded the strongest sales and attendance to date.
  • Adult Admission $25.00; Seniors and Students $20.00

Aqua Art Miami at the Aqua Hotel, 1530 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, FL 33139 | www.aquaartmiami.com

Bathtub art piece seen at Design Miami 2017

Design Miami

If I’m not staring at new works by Porky Hefer at Southern Guild, you’ll find me swooning over very expensive ceramics or an Armani Casa living room. A girl can dream right? Since I love sculpture, functional art (and I know artists and designers hate that term) makes so much sense. I want to fill my house with objects that I can touch and maybe use now and then.

  • Dates: December 4-8
  • Updates: Design Miami will take place for the first time in the newly completed Pride Park with its entrance directly facing Art Basel at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The reconfigured fair tent will have a glass façade at the entrance to house the new Design Forum presented by SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design.) Occurring alongside Art Basel in Miami and Switzerland, Design Miami/ has become the premier venue for collecting, exhibiting, discussing, and creating collectible design.
  • Now in its 15th edition, Design Miami 33 galleries and 14 Curio presentations from 13 countries, including three galleries exhibiting for the first time.

Convention Center Drive; Between 18th and 19th Streets, Miami Beach | https://miami2019.designmiami.com/

NADA

I really love NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance) too. Maybe’s it’s the Ice Palace’s interior black walls and curated gallery spaces that make me feel like I’m walking through Soho on an autumn day. These curated spaces appeal to the intellect, but don’t feel shy to ask questions. There are millions of artists and you can’t know them all.

  • Dates: December 5-8
  • Presenting its 17th edition, NADA will showcase a diverse selection of local, national, and international galleries with 136 exhibitors representing 56 cities from 25 countries. The fair continues to grow in the 17th edition, welcoming 28 first-time exhibitors and 71 NADA Member galleries.
  • Adult Admission $20.00; Seniors and Students $10.00

Ice Palace Studios, 1400 North Miami Avenue, Miami, FL 33136 | www.newartdealers.org

PULSE Art Fair

Last year was my first year at PULSE. I must admit, it’s a little out of the way and parking is not easy. Yes, you can do valet at the Eden Roc if you’re okay with the fee. However, don’t let that stop you. You have options: shuttles run between the main fairs and you can park further south and take a rideshare. The galleries are worth any little inconvenience.

  • Dates: December 5-8
  • Milestones: Celebrating its 15th anniversary and announced its new fair director, Cristina Salmastrelli. Visit over 60 globally-renowned galleries and artists. New this year is PULSE Perspectives, a dual language programming series presenting talks and tours in English and Spanish. Find a variety of programming and also a wellness lounge and restaurant in partnership with Eden Roc/NOBU Hotel Group.
  • Adult Admission $35.00

Indian Beach Park, 4601 Collins Ave., Miami Beach 33140 | https://www.pulseartfair.com/

SCOPE Miami Beach

Here’s a great fair for young collectors and who can resist the location right on the South Beach sand? You’ll find works that are bold and gutsy, rich in statements about society and the many complications that we face today.

  • Dates: December 4-8
  • Returning to Miami Beach for its 19th edition, SCOPE will welcome 134 diverse contemporary exhibitors featuring The New Contemporary, a genre that stands as a critical contribution to both global politics and local community engagement. New to the pavilion this year is OASIS, an experiential multidisciplinary program located in our expanded Atrium. OASIS will present daily programming featuring large scale installations, music performances, and panel discussions while continuing our long-standing commitment to wellness.
  • Adult Admission: $40.00

801 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33139 | https://scope-art.com

UNTITLED, ART Miami Beach

If I had to choose a favorite art fair, UNTITLED, ART would be it. I really enjoy visiting galleries that focus on curation. The Untitled team is made up of curators, designers and architects providing not only an overall cohesiveness in the quality of galleries it selects, but in the fair design itself. It’s a pleasant and stimulating place to be. The natural light flows in through the skylights. I just love how each gallery is set back differently and the concept is open – not boxy like other fairs.

  • Dates: December 4-8
  • Find a collection of 126 international galleries and nonprofit spaces from 28 countries and 57 cities make up the 2019 roster, carefully selected by Artistic Director and Curator Omar López-Chahoud.
  • Adult Admission: $40.00

Ocean Drive and 12th Street, Miami Beach | https://untitledartfairs.com/miami-beach

Flashback

Here’s a look back at some of the events I’ve attended in past years.

Albedo by Tomas Saraceno for Aerocene Opening Brunch | Art Miami 2018
Pharrell Williams Private Concert at 1 Hotel South Beach 2019
Perrier Jouet Champagne Dinner at Leynia, Delano Hotel (South Beach)
Jeff Koons Unveils Ballerina and Pluto and Proserpina at Oceana Bal Harbour

Put on your comfy and stylish shoes and I’ll see you there!

Read my past and future published articles here and follow @AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape for daily Art Basel, Miami Art Week updates.

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Eating for the Gram at Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid

It’s Foodie Friday and unlike last week, I’ve eased back into routine ready to tackle deadlines and a long ‘To Do’ list. Although the memory is far from my taste buds, through the joy of social media I can savor and share with you another yummy experience.

Speaking of social media, I have a love/hate relationship with it. While for years I’ve valued its marketing potential, affordability and used it long before many others did (and nah nah to all of those people who thought I had nothing else to do with my time), I feel it imposes on private me.

Our decision making in so many ways, is formed by social media, whether you’re a: ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ user like me who likes, comments, follows and unfollows every day: or those silent stalkers (what I like to call them), who claim they don’t have time or like social media, but have an active account and silently watch what everyone is doing all of the time. Which one are you?

While preparing for the trip to Spain, I turned to YouTube rather than reading travel blogs because after spending a whole day reading and writing, it was nice to just let pictures and sound fill me with information. Plus, how great is it to know that there’s so much more to watch about travel than Rick Steve’s Europe? A lot of my travel decisions were influenced by Devour Tours co-founder James Blick and wife Yoly. The two of them are so cute, so if you are not familiar with their YouTube channel, Spain Revealed, check them out!

Because of all the hype, I was debating whether or not to visit tourist infiltrated, Mercado de San Miguel. If you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I greatly enjoyed visiting the humble, Mercado Anton Martin. However, since I planned to visit the Royal Palace of Madrid and Plaza Mayor anyway, I figured that a good lunch stop would be nearby, Mercado de San Miguel.

Note: For me, Google Maps did not work in Madrid. Whether, it was tech ignorant me or because everything in Madrid is an abundance of circles (or maybe squares,) using my phone for directions seemed to get me where I needed to be, four times longer than it should have. After two days of trying, I just parked the phone and relied on remembering landmarks and talking to people. Besides, the old fashioned way is so much nicer. Get your face away from the phone and enjoy getting a little lost because asking for help in Madrid, seems to always turn into a nice, five minute conversation.

Like I said in my last blog post, it’s good to enjoy getting comfortable with standing room only and that’s all you’ll get when you visit Mercado de San Miguel. However, that is a large part of the experience. Food and social gatherings are synonymous in Madrid. And while millions of us share our food experiences on social media to connect with others, here is the ultimate, in person, communal opportunity. The energy is impressive and contagious. Although they must answer the same questions every few minutes, the vendors treat each customer courteously and share their joy of food with speed and efficiency.

And when eating in Madrid, as the travel experts also claim, you can find great quality food and better prices elsewhere. Unless it’s something you really can’t do without, I suggest you avoid those 15 Euro tapas. However, to not go would be a shame.  Plus, here’s a place where it’s totally okay to pull out your camera and capture every moment — just be courteous of others who want to get up to the counter just as much as you because they’re hungry. Things move very quickly and I greatly enjoyed this rhythm and pace. Don’t miss it!

Amaiketako

Tip: You can buy a glass of wine (or another libation) and walk around with it to as many stops as you like. Just don’t linger and eat at a stand where you didn’t buy any food. The outer perimeter of the market is lined with a glass counter with enough space for your small plate and glass. Again, elbow room only makes for a great social experience and ‘yum’ is the international language!

Here’s some of the highlights:

La Hora del Vermut

La Hora del Vermút: If you know me, you know that I don’t really drink. Ha, you may exclaim after checking out my Instagram. Me and alcohol don’t really get a long, so I limit even the amount of wine I drink and it’s consumed almost always with a meal.

I must thank James Blick for having me try something new. Spanish Vermouth is a must-try when in Spain and I had a dry option with some delectable olive tapas at La Hora del Vermut. Make it your first stop.

Read more about Spanish Vermouth here.

La Casa del Bacalao

La Casa del Bacalao: Unless you hate fish, you must visit La Casa del Bacalao. Aesthetically pleasing and flavorful, try a variety and you’ll be satisfied with a nice selection of tapas for about 10 euros total.

Morris

Mariscos Morris: I know the next time that I return to Spain, I’ll be visiting Galicia. If for some reason, you can’t make it there either at least you can get a little taste of what can be expected of Green Spain’s culinary landscape at Mariscos Morris. The plates shown above (which are more like a meal portion, rather than a tapa) are 12-15 Euros each.

El 19 de San Miguel

El 19 de San Miguel: Speaking about Galicia, my glass of Vermut is long gone and it’s time for wine! Less than elbow room only, it amazed me how the nice folks at El 19 de San Miguel were able to still keep a lively conversation going on, while serving up glasses of wine and Cava. I loved the Albariño from Rias Baixas (Galicia.) It was a bit more than the other whites at 4.50 Euro, but worth the extra (and wine is still much cheaper by the glass than it is in the US.)

Tip: Buy a bottle for no more than 40 Euro (and most offered are much less) and split it with your friends or make new ones! Remember that you can carry the bottle and your glass around with you.

Amaiketako

Amaiketako: Yes, there is much more at Mercado de San Miguel than seafood, but that day I was indulging my pescatarian doppelgänger. Amaiketako began three years ago as an online store specializing in artisanal products from the Basque country. Try the Gazpacho with Ahi Tuna bits and garnished with watercress. I’ve forgotten the prices of each tapa, but I’d say about $3.50 average.

Horno de San Onofre

Horno de San Onofre: For just 2.50 Euro you can end (or begin) your San Miguel experience with a rich and creamy meringue. You’ll never go back to those crunchy and messy blobs of egg whites again. Or for 1 Euro more, find happiness on a plate with one of their Milhojas.

Café Negro: Your last stop should be a coffee to get you through the next part of your uphill and downhill day in Madrid. You’ll enjoy and value the choices at Café Negro because it’s no secret: it’s hard to find a good cup of coffee in Spain.

Tip: Save one of your receipts to get you into the restroom, otherwise you’ll have to pay.

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” ― Orson Welles

Until next time, know that it’s okay to eat ‘for the gram’ because you’re part of a worldwide community united in one of life’s greatest past times. However, find balance and opt more to enjoy the day’s unrecorded and flavorful moments with friends, family or even strangers – standing room only.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

About Mercado de San Miguel: More than 100 years have gone by since the Mercado de San Miguel opened its doors as a wholesale food market. Today, this historical building stands out as one of the world’s main gastronomic markets. It allows visitors to experience the essence and most significant flavors of every corner of Spain.

  • Monday – Thursday and Sunday
  • 10:00 am – Midnight
  • Plaza de San Miguel, Madrid 28005
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Dame un Beso on #GarnachaDay!

TGIF and Happy #GarnachaDay! Following a hurricane postponement of the Miami Home Show and rushing to get all of my work done and in place before flying to Spain, I began ignoring emails and was too busy to send what looked like junk to trash.

A quick glance at one particular email made me think it was a press pitch or sales offer. I was in fact, ignoring a politely written message offering me wine from Cariñena. A few days later and on the same day that I’m flying to Madrid, a follow-up email came through. I responded with an apology and passed up on the opportunity, quickly noting that I was on my way to Spain in pursuit of interesting wine stories.

After declining an invitation to have it sent to my hotel in Spain, to my delight the sender insisted that the wine be sent to my home so that it arrived in time for Garnacha Day, September 20th.

So, here I am on September 20th writing a little tribute. Due to the time crunch, I’m not going to be very original here, so if you need to find the source of the facts below, I heartily ask you to visit my gracious host, Vinos Cariñena (DOP) here: https://wineregiontowatch.com/

You can also follow them on Instagram and Twitter @vinoscarinena

Since it will take me a while to do some further research, here are some important facts:

  • The Aragon region of Spain is the land where Garnacha cultivation began in Roman times.
Courtesy Photos Vinos Cariñena
  • The vineyards of Cariñena lie in northwest Spain, rooted in the dry rocky soils that cover a 32-square-mile plain on the south side of the Ebro River valley, halfway between coastal Barcelona and dry, inland Madrid, in the autonomous community of Aragon which was once a medieval kingdom.
  • In Aragon, there are 5 Denominación de Origens (DO) of which Cariñena is one. Can you name the other 4?
Courtesy Photo Vinos Cariñena
  • DO members had to resist the temptation to uproot their gnarled heritage vines ranging in age from 40 to over 100 years that each yielded, on average, a measly two pounds of grapes.
  • DYK? In 1932, Cariñena is the second wine region in Spain named an official “Denomination of Origin.”
  • While older vines yield less fruit, their grapes yield more complexity and more concentrated flavors than those grown on young vines.
Courtesy Photo Vinos Cariñena
  • During the ripening season, temperatures drop 30°F (15°C)  helping grapes hold their acidity levels high as they build sugars and phenolic ripeness in daytime. This results in flavor intensity and structure particularly in the appellation’s Garnacha and Cariñena/Mazuelo vines.
  • Single-varietal Garnacha wines are common throughout D.O.P. Cariñena. Old, bush-trained Garnacha vines abound here, some more than 100 years old.
  • Characteristics of Garnacha from Cariñena are: cherry, mandarin, red currant, white pepper and licorice

Need the basics? Check out this video:

The Wines

Bodegas Paniza @panizawines

Founded in 1953, Bodegas Paniza is named for the village where the winery is located, and where growers have cared for their vineyards for generations. The winery is situated in the highest elevation area of D.O.P. Cariñena to the south, at the rise of the Sistema Ibérico Mountain range, which brings cooling influences even in the peak of summer.

The flagship of the winery is almost 200 acres of old vines, ranging from 50 years in age to a vineyard first planted in 1906 with Garnacha, Cariñena, Tempranillo and Moristel varieties. These singular plots produce very low yield, highly complex fruit and are entirely hand-harvested to preserve them for future generations.

Fábula Garnacha from Bodegas Paniza | 100% Garnacha

Black cherry colour with violet bues. Intense aroma of forest fruit, especially blackberries and black cherries. On tasting it is smooth, open, fleshy and well-structured.

Grandes Vinos @grandesvinos_ca

Grandes Vinos has the distinction of working with vineyards in each of the 14 growing areas of D.O.P. Cariñena.

About one third of the company’s total production is dedicated to Garnacha, although the company is also well known for the local Cariñena variety and many others. The range of vineyard plantings allows the winemaking team to isolate a tremendous specificity of styles and to parcel-select wines for young, value seekers such as Beso de Vino, or cellar-worthy selections, including Anayón.

Beso de Vino Garnacha Viñas Viejas 2017 from Grandes Vinos | 100% Garnacha

A lively purple color with fresh and fruity aromas of blackberries, strawberries and cocoa powder. It’s easy drinking with flavors of crushed berries, cherries and a touch of toast.

Bodegas San Valero @bodegasanvalero

A leading winery since 1944, Bodegas San Valero (Grupo BSV) has the longest history in Cariñena and has benefitted from access to some of the most prominent vineyards in the region for over 70 years.

San Valero focuses on indigenous varieties which account for 70% of plantings, including 25% dedicated to Garnacha. A long history in the region brings key advantages – some 20% of their Garnacha is classified as “old vines”, ranging from 30 to 100 years of age and situated at extreme altitudes in very rocky soils. These low-yield plots are cultivated with meticulous care to produce complex wines with rich flavors and a signature minerality drawn from ancient layers of stone.

Sierra de Viento 2018 from Bodegas San Valero | 100% Garnacha

Attractive cherry red color with blue sparkles. Elegant and fine aromas with a touch of ripe red fruits over a flowery background. Fresh and tasty in the mouth with an ample and elegant finish.

I’m not sure which wine I should try first and I will also need to find a suitable pairing. To be continued…

There are some days when I think I’m going to die from an overdose of satisfaction. ~ Salvador Dali

Until next time, keep your glass empty and your inbox full. You never know what tasty surprises may arise before you click delete.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

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On the Route of Sultans and Saffron: Lunch, Cava and Culture with a View

I’m back from Spain and what better way to celebrate Wine Wednesday than with an authentic Spanish food and wine pairing?

Unlike Madrid, it was a challenge to find a good selection of wine by the glass in Granada. Possibly, it’s a cost consideration or because many restaurants cater to tourists who even without knowing Spanish, were able to say, “Tinto, Ribera or Rioja.” (Note that Ribera del Duero is a mouthful, so saying Ribera is good enough.) While a glass is a bargain at about 3.50 Eu, you can get a glass of Granada wine for 2.50. Even the cheapest wine is good wine, but expect only simple and pleasant juice.

Luckily, if you want a better choice, buying a bottle of wine is very affordable and if you want good food, it’s best to stray from the tourist path. In the case of Granada, that means wandering the hilly streets, turning sharp corners and getting lost. I found the best way to find a good restaurant was not to look at the menu, but see which ones were inhabited by locals.

The lower end of El Albaicín (Albayzin in Arabic) is filled with tea houses and Moroccan restaurants. While I’m sure many are great, the streets are crowded with tourists and peddlers. Head up to Paseo de los Tristes where the street opens up to a stunning view of the Alhambra. On Saturday, there is an artisan market and whether you are sipping on Cava like me or just soaking in the views, you’ll enjoy being serenaded by gypsy musicians or even more so, gentle breezes that flow between the River Darro and Alhambra set high above on one side and the hills of El Albaicín on the other. This district is worthy of its own blog post, but if you need to know more, here’s a good start. One very important thing not mentioned in this article is that in 1994, El Albaicín was declared an UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Culinary Journey: Restaurante Ruta del Azafrán

Typically, I find the dish to match the wine, but since I’m not the one cooking, the star of this post is the food. I am reluctant to say fusion because today, that seems to denote trendy experiments. Perhaps, the synonym “blending” would be more accurate. Southern Spanish/Mediterranean cuisine with international flare, while uniquely paying homage to Azafrán/Saffron – the world’s most prized and expensive spice. DYK that saffron was once used as currency? Read more here.

In a recent interview with Ruta del Azafran’s Head Chef, Antonio Martínez, he says: “The gastronomic panorama of Granada is difficult, but full of possibilities.” Martínez elaborates that gastrotourism is minimal in Granada and the majority of tourists are seeking Tapas and drinks. Read the full interview here.

Here’s what I ate for lunch on two separate occasions. (If my stomach and time allowed, I would have tried the whole menu!)

  • Milhojas de manzana y queso de cabra con reducción de Pedro Ximénez
  • Crema del verduras
  • Cous-cous de pollo
  • Tataki de atún con pickles de piña
  • Salmón a la plancha con salsa de azafrán

The Wine: Dominio de la Vega, Idilicum Cava Brut NV

On this trip and in pursuit of wine education, I was determined to discover wine beyond Tempranillo and regions other than Rioja and Ribera del Duero, as well as focus on modern Spanish winemaking. As mentioned above, I was disappointed not to find much selection in Granada, but fortunately as time went on, variety found me and most times by accident.

While you may not pair sparkling wine with steak, it’s a suitable pairing for starters, seafood and lighter dishes and of course, enjoyed just by itself. Dominio de la Vega, Idilicum Cava Brut is made from 100% Macabeo (an indigenous Spanish grape called Viura in Rioja.) Dominio de la Vega is a family winery located in the Valencian region of Utiel-Requena, within the Denomination of Origin of the same name.

Background Info on the Winery: “A high plateau of destitute clay and limestone soil, with an altitude that varies from 600 to 900 meters. The climate is continental with a great Mediterranean influence: very cold winters and very dry and hot summers with scarce rainfall. The altitude and the sea’s influence give our cava and wine their features, like their freshness and great maturity.” Read more about the harvest here.

As you may know Cava is made in the traditional method just like Champagne (le méthode champenoise.) If not, it would be labeled as sparkling wine. If you are unfamiliar with this process, a Cava specific introduction can be found here. As noted in this article, the main types of grapes used in the production of Cava are the Macabeo, the Parellada and the Xarel·lo – all of which bring their own unique characteristics to the sparkling wine.

If you are more familiar with wine, you may find this article written by Jancis Robinson quite interesting: Macabeo/Viura – the Cinderella grape? After reading it, I realized how fortunate I was to drink a wine made from 100% Macabeo and hope that in order to inspire the demand for it, you try Idilicum too.

El poema, la canción, la imagen, son solo agua extraída del pozo de la gente, y se les debe devolver en una copa de belleza para que puedan beber, y comprendan ellos mismos. ~ Federico García Lorca

The poem, the song, the picture, is only water drawn from the well of the people, and it should be given back to them in a cup of beauty so that they may drink – and in drinking understand themselves.

Federico García Lorca was born in Granada. His works were banned during Franco’s dictatorship and he was executed by the Nationalists during the Civil War. While visiting Cuevas del Sacromonte, I was fortunate to hear an actress from Extremadura recite one of his poems .

Granada is magical. Google Maps won’t take you where you should be. The magic begins once you resign to getting lost.

Until next time, keep your glass empty and let it be filled with spontaneity. Pair it with a dish of curiosity and may it lead you to deeper understanding of both yourself and the world.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

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Memories, Movies and La Meseta

If you’ve been following my Blog or are connected with me on social (@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape,) you’ll know that I’m slowly making my way through the Society of Wine Educators (SWE) Certified Specialist of Wine Guide. I’m on Chapter 11. Don’t ask me when I’ll be done, because I don’t know. I spend my whole professional life a slave to deadlines so, I’m in no hurry and enjoy getting lost in the process.

It’s been a long time since I’ve applied myself to studying and I’m not sure even when in University, if I ever studied correctly. However, at this stage of life it just doesn’t seem good enough to memorize facts and strategize on how to pass a test.  I want to really learn wine, so going beyond the textbook is a satisfying journey. There’s so much out there: YouTube, podcasts, the internet at large, and of course, “applied” studies – Cheers!

Photo | Creative Commons

I’m fascinated by soil and climate conditions and, in the case of Spain, time spent studying Spanish film and art has become so much more meaningful. For example, in the films of Carlos Saura or Victor Erice, the use of metaphor was a means to project ideas about life under the Franco dictatorship without being censored. A desolate landscape (La Meseta,) the countryside and the forest, are symbols of Spain’s isolation from the rest of the world and a sociological emotional state. Now, there’s really no connection to Spanish wine here, but to me every time I read about a region, a scene from a movie pops into my head!

2017 Bodega Javier Sanz Verdejo
Photo Credit | Author

The Wine: 2017 Bodega Javier Sanz Verdejo

This delicious white wine is made from 100% Verdejo grapes from the Rueda DO ( Denominación de Origen.) Rueda was formed on a former riverbed of El Ebro river. As part of Castille y Léon encompasses the northern part of La Meseta Central. Whereas, Ribera del Duero is known to produce some of the best Tempranillo wines in the country, Rueda produces the region’s best white wines. Many of the Javier Sanz’s vines are 40 years old.

The Rueda region is characterized by extreme weather conditions — hot in the day and cold at night. The vines grow like bushes, close to the ground allowing the grapes to ripen at night in soil that has retained heat, but are protected by extreme heat during the day.

Isn’t nature grand?

Tasting Notes: Javier Sanz Verdejo is the best expression of Rueda and its terroir: Youthful and bright, with light shades of green. In the nose, its shows fresh and lively varietal notes of sweet grapefruit and pineapple, combined with anise and fennel as well as floral aromas. Bone-dry in the palate, its medium body is coupled with a crisp, refreshing acidity that make it perfect to drink at all times. Read more here.

The Javier Sanz Viticultor “philosophy is based on the conservation of pre-phylloxera vineyards, local grape varieties, and the recovery of varieties that have almost become extinct.”

Baked Red Snapper with tomatoes, olives, pine nuts, red pepper, asparagus and potatoes.
Photo | Author

The Dish: Baked Red Snapper

I paired the Verdejo with baked Red Snapper with pine nuts, garlic, slices of fresh tomatoes, lime zest and olive oil. On the side were roast baby potatoes and sautéed asparagus. A little bit of research, spontaneity and cooking instincts was my recipe. Oh yummy!

Some Thoughts on Modern Spanish Winemaking

In Spain, modern winemaking is focusing more on its origins such as cultivating indigenous grapes, revitalizing varieties beyond Tempranillo and showcasing regions other than Jerez and Rioja. There is a growing confidence among winemakers to produce wines that have a unique Spanish character, but moving away from traditions of being fermented for long periods in oak. Balance, freshness and quality…read more here.

During my stay in Spain, I hope to discover more modern wines and taste some that are made specifically by indigenous Spanish grapes whether that be a varietal or blend.

Just as it is important to preserve culture and traditions, I think these new ideas of creating a truly Spanish wine characteristic is exciting!

The Metaphor

It is common knowledge that grapes do well in the poorest soil conditions where they have worked hard to find water and nutrients. The growers cultivate the plants, making sure that the right type of pruning and vine training systems correspond to the climate and conditions.

Some of the most outstanding people have come from dire conditions. If things come too easy, we can take life’s opportunities for granted. It’s cliché I know, but we should give it some deeper thought every now and then.

Man takes root at his feet, and at best he is no more than a potted plant in his house or carriage till he has established communication with the soil by the loving and magnetic touch of his soles to it.

― John Burroughs

Until next time, keep your feet on the ground and glass full of wine. There’s a tradition to keep and a life lesson to be told.

#MyArtEscape @AllegoryPR

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Miami Wine Expert Receives Prestigious Vinitaly International Academy, Pin and Certification.

Stefano Campanini is one of twelve people to receive the Italian Wine Ambassador pin of the thirty-nine people who wrote the exam in New York this past Sunday.

Miami, FL…July 2, 2019…On Sunday, June 30th, Miami-based wine educator and Wine by the Bay owner, Stefano Campanini received the prestigious, Italian Wine Ambassador pin and certification, at the New York City presentation of the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) Ambassador Course.

With the support of the ICE – Italian Trade Agency, VIA staged the Italian Wine Ambassador course at the 3 West Club from June 26th to 30th, concluding with a four-part vigorous examination: multiple choice test; a video presentation describing an assigned native grape’s history and territory; a blind tasting; and a two essay, written portion. Students are encouraged to prepare for the course with text book and tasting studies, at least two months ahead of the actual course and during the course receive theory classes, as well as taste approximately 250 wines.

“It’s an honor to be among 200 people from all over the world sharing the mission to instill passion and education to new and seasoned wine lovers,” says Campanini.

Campanini is one of twelve people to receive the Italian Wine Ambassador pin of the thirty-nine people who wrote the exam in New York this past Sunday. Not including the most recent recipients, VIA has trained 204 Wine Ambassadors from 33 countries, making Campanini one of only three educators to have received this prestigious title in South Florida.

A native of Parma, Italy, Campanini began his career in the United States as an art dealer in New York. Foreseeing the demand for collectible, contemporary and Latin American art in South Florida with the emergence of Art Basel (Miami), he would become one of the first gallerists to open a space in the Miami Design District in 2004, followed by two moves: Wynwood and now in its current location, Little Haiti.

In 2011, he decided to merge his passion for wine, food and art by opening a boutique, retail wine store in Downtown Miami. He envisioned an intimate space where both wine enthusiasts and experts could meet socially while exploring both the lesser known and most commonly known wine regions of the world, plus learn food and wine pairings and tips on cellar management. Today, he continues classes and services from his gallery, Etra Fine Art and at other locations offering both private and public events.

With his most recent title (he also holds the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, WSET Level 2), Campanini hopes to be South Florida’s first voice in Italian wine knowledge.

“Many people don’t know that there are 590 indigenous Italian grape varieties! I strive to represent wines that are lesser known, but much higher in quality than what most people get to experience based on the limited selection available in big-box stores,” concludes Campanini. “With each bottle that you open, there’s a story to be told. I’d like to introduce people to this narrative and help them learn more about the territory, history, cultivation and culture that adds to the uniqueness of Italian wines.”

About Wine by the Bay

Established in 2011, Wine by the Bay is an award-winning wine retail store specializing in rare and collectible wines and Champagne. Named Best Wine Store in New Times (2015); One of the Five Best New Wine Stores in the Nation by Details Magazine (2012) and most recently recipient of the Wine-Searcher Gold Awards for best European, French and Overall Lists in Miami (2018.) Wine by the Bay prides itself on presenting educational events for both the wine connoisseur and neophyte. Other services offered are: staff training or strategic wine list design for restaurants; cellar curatorship and management; private cellar selection purchasing; private and corporate events.

  • Wine by the Bay
  • 6942 NE 4th Avenue
  • Miami, FL 33138
  • www.winebtb.com
  • (305) 455-9791
  • info@winebtb.com
  • @WinebytheBay #WinebytheBay

About Vinitaly

The grand Vinitaly 2019 was held from April 7th to the 10th. Every year, Vinitaly counts more than 4,000 exhibitors on a 100,000+ square meter area and 130,000 visitors from over 140 different countries with more than 30,000 top international buyers. The premier event to Vinitaly, OperaWine “Finest Italian Wines: 100 Great Producers,” which will be held on the 6th of April, one day prior to Vinitaly will unite international wine professionals in the heart of Verona, offering them the unique opportunity to discover and taste the wines of the 100 Best Italian Producers, as selected by Wine Spectator. Since 1998 Vinitaly International travels to several countries such as Russia, China, USA and Hong Kong thanks to its strategic arm abroad, Vinitaly International. In February 2014, Vinitaly International launched an educational project, the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) with the aim of divulging and broadcasting the excellence and diversity of Italian wine around the globe. VIA this year launched the fourteenth edition of its Certification Course and today counts 204 Italian Wine Ambassadors and 14 Italian Wine Experts. For more information, visit www.vinitalyinternational.com.

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Grape Expectations: Metaphors and Correlations

It’s 81°f (27.22°c) in South Florida. With heat on the rise, my palate is definitely springing forward – grilling and chilling with a glass of rosé in my hand and swapping out carbs for arugula (my favorite leafy green), avocado and roasted or sautéed vegetables.

However, today it’s Sunday and after two consecutive, long runs, I’m ready to fall in the pot. It’s hot out though and having the oven on for three or four hours will kill the a/c bill. TG for YouTube that gives me a quick lesson on how to braise on a grill. My Weber has good temperature control and cast iron pot is the perfect size.

I’m now ankle deep into the CSW textbook (chapter 6 to be exact), testing myself each day using Quizlet lessons and flashcards and feeling a little more confident about the content. It’s not easy though and although I read and write every day for work, self-study at this level has been a struggle.

The Dish: Braised Beef Ragu with Pappardelle Pasta

Pappardelle is a word nerd/foodie plaything. Derived from the Tuscan dialect word ‘pappare’ which means to gobble up food, it’s like Italian onomatopoeia.  Just slurp up those tasty, wide egg noodles straight from the pot, p,p,p, pappare! Read more here.

There are many recipes for beef ragu to be found and most are similar. I chose this one. There’s something very relaxing about a slow cooked, Sunday meal.  During the week, the long prep time alone is unmanageable. However, I love taking the time to wash and chop knowing that the holy trinity of cooking, (also called mirepoix in French and soffritto in Italian) onions, carrots and celery 2:1:1, is the foundation of all things yummy. The greatest thing is that once everything is in the pot, you have at least three hours to read a book, watch a movie or take a nap!

The Wine: Gaja Sito Moresco Rosso Langhe 2014

Nebbiolo of Barbaresco — Creative Commons

Google Gaja (the family and winery name) and you’ll quickly find out that the wine I chose is on the cheaper side of the Gaja skew. And, if you’re a wine collecting aficionado, you may be turning your fine-tuned nose up at my choice. However, wine newbie me says this wine is great value wow! It’s a blend as opposed to a varietal (single named grape variety) and composed of Nebbiolo (the prized grape of the region, Piemonte), Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Other years or vintages when referring to wine, seem to have a small percentage of one of the region’s other indigenous grapes, Barbera.

So, let’s discuss what’s up with the Nebbiolo fascination and what goes into the name?

There’s a plethora of information about the Nebbiolo grape and the most sought after wines of the Piemonte (aka Piedmont: the region), Barolo (an appellation) aka the king of wines and Barbaresco (another appellation). There’s scholarly articles, heated debates and even a movie: Barolo Boys.

Langhe

In my pursuit of wine knowledge, here’s what I found most interesting about this thin-skinned grape. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon (red) or Chardonnay (white) that can be planted almost anywhere in the world and acquire new characteristics depending on where it has been planted, the Nebbiolo grape does best in not just its country of origin, but its specific area which is Northwest Italy. This gem loves its own soil and doesn’t develop anywhere near to as good, elsewhere.

I could go on and on, but it’s best that I leave Nebbiolo history and the wine facts to the experts. An enjoyable start can be seen in this video. Dig deeper and you’ll be amused by all of the old school and new school banter.

Creative Commons

As for the name, I’m learning that the winery is much more than a brand. Gaja has a long history and world-renowned reputation. Angelo Gaja was a bold, risk taker who broke away from the old traditions and tried seemingly blasphemous new approaches to winemaking. Angelo along with his wife and grown children manage everything together. I enjoyed reading this Wine Spectator article where he and his daughter Gaia discuss climate change and its impact on wine production.

I’m more of a #YOLO, drink-now and budget conscious wine newbie. However, if you have the means and patience to wait, certainly start your collection with one of their wines. Read more about the Sito Moresco here.

The Metaphor

Oh Canada!

My parents were immigrants. My mother at eighteen was ready to jump solo on a ship from England to Canada as part of a migration incentive program. Her Mom wasn’t so anxious and followed her, dragging two unwilling siblings on the long, Atlantic crossing. Mom never looked back. My Dad on the other hand, left his birthplace to find work opportunities in Canada. He spent his whole life wanting to return. On one of his annual visits back to his country, he died suddenly. Doing what he loved most, gardening, I have to believe that he passed happily.

I like many of you are transplants. We get cut from the vine of our birthplace and are grafted somewhere else. We thrive and survive as a different version of ourselves. Whereas we think we might not belong anywhere else, it is almost always possible.

The trilogy of grapes or vegetables in today’s dish demonstrates the beauty of blends. Each component brings color and character to the medley. We, like those components, do not lose our distinct flavor, but contribute to something richer.

Photo Credit

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” ― Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg

Until next time, swirl and breathe deeply into your glass. As the aroma rises, think fondly about the dirt to which the grape came from and where it will go.

#MyArtEscape @AllegoryPR

NOTE: This Blog post was inspired by Chapters 3 and 4 of the Certified Specialist of Wine Guide. Both wines mentioned are from the Langhe wine region in Piemonte. The wine I cooked the beef with was (Dolcetto) Domenico Clerico Langhe Dolcetto Visadi 2013. A very reasonable price for a good wine that I will definitely drink rather than cook with next time!

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