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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The Accidental Wine Tasting: Donde Sánchez Cosas Ricas

It’s #FoodieFriday and what better way to recover from the post-vacay blues than to indulge in a tasty flashback?

I intentionally planned a late morning arrival time in Madrid, so I could throw in a load of laundry and go out for lunch aka tapas/early happy hour. “Que viva España!” — after spending five days in Madrid, I have concluded that it may be “five o’clock somewhere,” but in Madrid it’s five o’clock, 24 hours a day! (No joke. Go experience it for yourself.)

Like many of you, a lot of planning goes into a vacation. Some people fill each minute with an itinerary so hectic that by the time the vacation is over they’re exhausted. Me? I have a few criteria: (1) try to stay somewhere where I can experience life as a local; (2) there has to be art nearby; (3) I’m near a local and authentic food market; (4) it’s totally possible to walk to just about anywhere I’d like to be; and (5) there’s a window or terrace with a view if I want to read or must do some work.

I may talk about the Airbnb apartment in Barrio de las Letras some other time, but if you need a great place and can afford a little more than what people expect to pay for a vacation home through this popular site, visit this link.  Shout-out to Teresa who had made my first Airbnb experience a perfect one.

Mercado Antón Martín

While travel sites and YouTube place much more emphasis on the popular Mercado San Miguel (I may write about it later,) Mercado Antón Martín is a great place to experience day-to-day life in the center of Madrid. Support local and avoid the convenience and grocery stores.

Note: There’s another market called Mercado de San Antón in the Chueca neighborhood. I popped in quickly, so I can’t give any first-hand information. It seems more chic and gourmet than Mercado Antón Martín, but not as Instagram moment-touristy as Mercado San Miguel.

At Mercado Antón Martín, you’ll find a traditional market and the early morning rush of Señoras planning that evening’s meal and grocery shopping European style that is – no Costco versions of stocking up here. And then when the butcher and seafood stalls are being washed up before closing, the market transforms into a lunchtime eatery and as the afternoon progresses, you guessed it…Happy Hour!

While circling around figuring out where to stop, one unassuming stall stood out to me as looking authentically Spanish, Donde Sánchez Cosas Rica. Owner Paz Sánchez is unpretentious and very passionate about wine and food. She prefers to say,“cosas ricas” rather than gourmet, just adding to the homey atmosphere. Quality though is not compromised and she did not hesitate to open a bottle, just so I could try something on my “regions to discover” note saved on my phone.

Tip: Enjoy the social scene and be like a local who doesn’t care for a seat or table. Stand and get comfortable with elbow room only.

Then she quickly pours the wine with a little introduction, darts off to attend another customer and then disappears (if it’s even possible to disappear in a small space) to her prep counter and returns with a plate of something yummy (cosas ricas.) “Try this,” she says in Spanish. “I just made it today” and she sets down a generous serving of bacalao (salt cod) pate. Paz is so cheerful and warm that you feel like you’re sitting in her kitchen at home. She explains that she used to have a career which had her traveling a lot, but wine is her passion and she is much happier with this business. In between glasses of wine and anecdotes, she disappears again and comes back with Escabeche of Iberia Secreto. When I saw Iberia Secreto on a menu in Granada, I just presumed it was just a cute name. However, Paz explained that Secreto is a special cut of pork. Read more here.

I asked her what dish would best be paired with the Mencia and she laughed teasingly as if to say, you can’t handle bold Spanish wine like a Spaniard? However, after a pause to think, she disappears again and comes out and says, “try this” while setting down a small plate and then introduces me to aged chorizo and cheese from the same area of Northwestern Spain. To me, the partnership made perfect sense and I was anxious to wash the bites down with the wine and ask for a refill.

Note: When I return to Spain, it will be to Galicia.

Here’s what I tasted:

2015 Ignacio Marin Elements Tierra Earth

  • Grapes: Garnacha and Carinena
  • Region: Carinena
  • @bodegasignaciomarin

2015 Vina Costeira Mencia

  • Grape: Mencia
  • Region: Valdeorras
  • @costeira.es

2018 Honoro Vera

  • Grape: Monastrell
  • Region: Jumilla
  • #bodegasjuangil

Four glasses of wine later and stomach full, I felt like a true Madrileña! When I left Paz said, “Come back when I’m less busy and I’ll sit down and teach you a lot more.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t return until the day before I had to leave and that day Donde Sánchez was packed. I waved, but I don’t think she saw me because she was too busy pouring wine with a smile and preparing  “muchas cosas ricas.”

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” ~ Julia Child

Until next time, let accidents happen and lick your plate clean.

@AllegoryPR #MyArt Escape

Donde Sánchez Cosas Rica is a retail store and bar specializing in wines, craft beers, sparkling wines, vermouth, cold meats, cheeses, pate, preserves, chocolates, jams.

  • Find it on the lower floor of Market Antón Martín
  • Santa Isabel, 5 28012 Madrid
  • Tue – Fri 12:00 – 9:00 p.m.
  • Sat 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Postscript: It doesn’t cost to drink or eat well in Spain. Paz’ store is not only a great experience, but great value. She’ll introduce you to wines that don’t break the bank, but are unique and from all areas of Spain. Her homemade tapas are delicious. Eat there and/or takeaway. Check her schedule for special guests and entertainment.

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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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If You’re Looking for Me, You Can Find Me In Andalucia. Olé!

If you’ve read my last post, you’ll know that I’m still working on Chapter 11, Spain.

Studying has been quite the “journey.” Yes, I can read, but am I reading with understanding and more importantly, mastering the content? Almost every night after a long of day work, I find myself reading and then re-reading, taking notes, using the flashcard and testing applications on Quizlet, watching video tutorials and completing the workbook. It’s not easy and it has been a journey.

Studying wine also means tasting and that’s where the romantic journey begins! My finger traces over wine region maps, stopping at the places where I have yet to taste their wines. I begin by searching for indigenous grapes and try to find a single varietal and then a blend to taste and compare. I imagine what the soil feels like and the various climate conditions. It’s limitless and I’ve only just scratched the surface.

I have to admit that once I reached the Sherry section of Chapter 11, I closed the book and said to myself: let’s skip that part and just learn the facts enough to pass the test. Why? Because images of my mother and her British family popped into mind. Sherry was sipped after a Sunday dinner with family or poured into Trifle. I despised both. The drink smelled jammy and a sherry and custard soaked dessert was far from appealing!

As I tried to move on to Chapter 12, guilt set in. Why study enough to get by? This journey was to improve my knowledge and therefore I shouldn’t be taking a short cut. So I backtracked, beginning with this video which changed my outlook and commanded me to keep learning.

There’s more to Jerez (Sherry) than your grandmother’s (or in my case mother’s) drink. I’ve had a taste and now I’m on a plane looking for the perfect pairing. I’ll start with Manzanilla and Fino and move on to Oloroso, sticking to young and dry selections.

The Wine: Manzanilla (Chamomile) La Gitana – Bodegas La Gitana

Sherry (the English name for Jerez) is a fortified wine. I need to learn more before I even attempt to start writing about the aging process. However, if you’re curious I suggest you start here to learn about Fino Sherry and for more general information, here. You’ll be fascinated by Solera, Criadera and Flor.

Manzanilla La Gitana is made from Palomino Fino grapes. It has 15% alcohol and can be paired with seafood and tapas.

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana was founded in 1792.  They offer a variety of tours where you can taste five wines directly from the barrels! Find more information here.

Cada paso que damos en la tierra nos lleva a un mundo nuevo. (Every step we take on earth brings us to a new world.) ~ Federico Garcia Lorca

Until next time, go for a long walk with a glass of Sherry in hand and let it lead you to some place new.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Special thanks to @WinebytheBay for the wine and education. You can purchase Manzanilla La Gitana at this link.

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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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Garnacha and Another Quixotic Wine Pairing Adventure

Once again, I’m taking #MyArtEscape overseas! What better way to prepare for a trip to Spain than to dive into the pot and uncork some knowledge? Ole!

I’m not sure which came first: the dish or the wine idea, but I was determined to find a wine made up of 100% Garnacha (known as Grenache in France and Cannonau in Sardinia.) As you know, I love rosé and Grenache is used in many of these wines from Southern France. It is usually blended with other grapes such as Cinsault, Mourvedre and Syrah. Now, Grenache is a red grape and I’ve explained how pink juice comes about in a previous blog (or you can Google it to learn more too.) This grape is also used for Châteauneuf-du-Pape and I’ve talked about it before as well.

Some grapes like the Nebbiolo, for example, haven’t found much success outside of their indigenous territory. However, Garnacha has easily adapted in other parts of the world with great success and after Tempranillo, it is the second most planted red grape variety in Spain. Do a little research and you’ll see that it has survived disease and drought, making resilience a large part of its popularity.

The Wine: Alto Moncayo 2016

I know very little about Spanish wine and wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try something new.  Today’s choice far exceeded my expectations!

Founded in 2002, Bodegas Alto Moncayo is a winery located in the Campo de Borja D.O (short for denominación de origen, a classification system used primarily for Spanish wines) located northwest of the province of Zaragoza. Check out this video produced by Bodegas Alto Moncayo that will put the location into perspective. The vineyard is 500 metres above sea level in the highest part of the town of Borja and to the south its namesake El Moncayo, which is the highest point in the Iberian Mountain Range. You can find out more about this area here.

DYK that after Switzerland, Spain is the most mountainous country in Europe and after Italy and France, produces the largest amount of wine? The three countries together produce almost half of the wine made in the world!

Alto Moncayo is the winery’s flagship and it has received lots of acclamation. Although the winery itself is very young, the vines are between 40 and 70 years old and the wine is aged in new barrels for 20 months. As described on their website: “It has a remarkable complex nose, with balsamic aromas, redolent of black fruit, roasted notes and a very good structure in the mouth” and you can read more here.  I’m getting a little better at aroma and flavor profiles, so I would add that dark cherries, chocolate and tobacco were also present, but remember a lot of this is subjective so I don’t want to impose on your own interpretations.

Wine snobbery aside, I can conclude that it’s just yummy and I’ll be dreaming about it for days!

Photo Credit: Author

The Dish: Spanish Rice, Chicken and Chorizo

Living in South Florida means that there are many versions of Arroz con Pollo (rice with chicken), but today I wanted something typically Spanish. I think what sets this dish apart from others are the dry rub mix and fresh ingredients. Don’t compromise and use prepackaged seasonings or tomatoes from a can or jar, ugh.

Here’s another secret: rinse the short or medium grained rice (in this case 1.5 cups) and then soak it in a bowl filled with cool water for about 20 minutes and then drain and rinse again.

  • Rub the dry spice mix on four chicken legs each cut to separate the thigh from the drumstick. Be sure to get the spice under the skin too.
  • Chop one large tomato, a medium sized red onion, 4 garlic cloves and a green pepper.
  • Warm a Dutch oven and coat it with about a tablespoon of olive oil and brown the chicken legs until slightly crispy; remove from pan.
  • Add the equivalent of two large chorizo sausages removed from their casing, and brown the sausage.
  • Add the onion and green pepper and sauté with a pinch of salt followed by the tomatoes, tomato paste and garlic. Add 3 cups of (low or no salt) chicken stock. Cover and bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken and bring the liquid back up to a boil before stirring in the (drained) rice. Gently place the chicken back into the pot, cover and reduce the temperature to low to allow enough time for the rice to cook through – about 20 minutes. Remove the Dutch oven from the stove and let the Arroz con Pollo stand covered for at least another 10 minutes. ** This last step is key to get that soft, but not mushy texture.
  • Finish the dish with a squeeze of lime and fresh, chopped cilantro. I found the recipe here.

Note: The Alto Moncayo is a bold wine and may not have been the perfect match for this dish. I’m now thinking that a Garnacha blend may have been more suitable. While I wouldn’t pair it with a steak or a tomato based beef stew, I think roast pork with seasoned, roast potatoes may be a better fit. (I have an amazing recipe for bacon wrapped pork tenderloin that I think would be perfect.)

Buen Viaje!

If you’re anything like me, a lot of planning goes into every vacation. I’m not just talking about booking a plane ticket and hotel. When I go somewhere, I go deep into research. I’ll be visiting one of the places on my “Bucket List,” the Alhambra in Granada and I’ve already booked an apartment in Madrid in Barrio de las Letras near The Art Triangle. The first being the place where Cervantes lived when in Madrid and the second, home to La Reina Sofia, the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums. There’s a farmer’s market nearby and, since Spain holds the record of the most bars per inhabitant, I’ll be drinking vino and Cava for days!

It’s so me, I know: #MyArtEscape.

Adios!

If anyone out there in Google land is reading my blog (okay I know some of you are because I read Google Analytics), you’ll know that I end each post with a quote. Although, I have not read Don Quixote, (but may try to read at least Spark Notes before going to Spain) I have no idea in what context this quote is placed. We could read it literally and say that if you’re hungry anything tastes good, which sounds like something my British mother would have said when putting a plate of liver and boiled potatoes in front of me. No lie and probably there was some boiled carrots too. Triple ugh!

Or, knowing that Don Quixote was a dreamer, we could see life as a Quixotic journey and the experiences and knowledge we acquire along the way, are the best seasoning in the dish. Who knows?

La mejor salsa del mundo es el hambre, y como ésta no falta a los pobres, siempre comen con gusto. (The best sauce in the world is hunger and since it doesn’t leave out the poor, they always eat with pleasure.) ~ Miguel de Cervantes

Until next time, inhale curiosity, swirl spontaneity and taste the joy of travel whether that be through a book, a painting, a trip or a glass of wine. Salud!

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

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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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It’s All Greek to Me: Greco, Genetics, Gratitude

Just when I thought I knew something about grapes, I realized that I was wrong. I’ll be forever a wine newbie, but I’m happy about that. Today, I’ll tell you why.

I’m now working on Chapter 4 of the SWE textbook, I’ve begun reading another textbook that focuses on Italian grapes, plus any other wine literature that captures my attention.  I’ve discovered that the root (pardon the pun) of my growing interest in wine is vested in viticulture (or wine growing.) However, the more I read, the more I’m stumped. Pardon the second pun.

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

G is for…

Grapes: Did you ever wonder why wine comes from grapes and not apples or cherries? For one reason, no other fruit has so many varieties that are grown commercially. And, within the varieties, grapes develop different characteristics based on factors such as soil, climate and the way they are cultivated and harvested aka “viticulture.” Then, you have to examine all of the factors involved with fermentation, aging etc. There are so many variables in the evolution of that little bundle of juice!

Image by Marissa Todd from Pixabay

Gargantuan: In Italy, there are 590 indigenous grapes for wine and more than one million vineyards. Yes, just in Italy. You can get the global picture here. It’s gargantuan.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Genetics: As you dive into the sea of wine knowledge, you may find yourself like me drowning in terminology: clone, hybrid, grafting, mutation, cross, etc. Now, the wine scholars may not appreciate my oversimplification of wine, but when it comes to genetics, I’ve broken it down to three major branches of understanding:

(a) Science: If a wine grower wants to attempt to keep producing a successful wine-making grape, reproduction can’t be left to the “birds and the bees.” Among other factors, he/she may rely on cloning or what I like to think of as the single parent, vine child. Read more about clones here.

(b) History: I’ll get more into today’s wine shortly, but genetic studies of grape varieties have disrupted some popular assumptions. For example, Italian grapes thought to have originated in Greece may in fact, not have. It could have been a marketing tactic during a time when Greek wine was thought of as superior to Roman wine. I’m not making this up. Jancis Robinson, one of the world’s most respected wine critics and journalists has presented this DNA focused argument found here.

(3) Research: Climate change and an ongoing need to manage diseases with the least amount of chemicals possible, depends upon grape genetics research while avoiding GMOs. In March, Wine Spectator wrote that the federal government is allocating 68.9 million to build a grape-genetics research lab.

Photo Credit: Author

The Wine: Fonzone, Greco di Tufo 2017

Now here’s when things get really interesting (or confusing.) Greco is a grape variety or type and Greco di Tufo is the name of the denomination in Campania. There’s a bunch of other grapes (not another pun?) that sound like Greco, but are not related, genetically speaking. Straying from the letter ‘g,’ Malavia di Lipari is apparently the exact same as Greco Bianco that’s not related to the Greco. Greco Bianco is a grape.  Greco di Bianco a denomination. And neither has anything to do with today’s wine. Got it?

The Greco grape of Greco di Tufo, is the oldest grape variety of the province of Avellino in the Campania region of southern Italy. If you ignore the Jancis Robinson article referenced above, Google’s highest ranking articles say that it was imported from the Greek region of Thessaly by the Pelasgian peoples.

FACT: Foreigner didn’t sing it first! A fresco at Pompeii that traces back to the 1st century B.C. has an inscription that says: “You are truly cold, Bytis, made of ice, if last night not even Greco wine could warm you up.”

When learning about a new wine, here’s the part I love the most: how the technical data paints a sensorial picture.

The Fonzone Greco di Tufo is made of 100% Greco from Santa Paolina and harvested in early October. SOIL: sandy clay with veins sulphurous underlying; ALTITUDE: 500 m above sea level; EXPOSURE: south-west; YEAR OF PLANTATION: 1994; PLANTING DENSITY: 2600 stumps per hectare; VINE TRAINING SYSTEM: espalier; PRUNING: Guyot

A brief understanding connects your glass to its territory. Do some more research and you’ll find out how all of these conditions affect the final product.

Image by Janos Perian from Pixabay

Since we’re playing with the letter ‘g,’ I’ll go briefly into the term “Guyot.” Vines as you know when left to their own devices will run amuck. High quality grape production is the direct result of proper pruning. Guyot also called cane pruning, is named after Dr Jules Guyot, a 19th century French scientist. Simply put, all old growth is cut back to leave either one cane (single Guyot) or two (double Guyot.) Canes are shoots that have reached about one year. This process is labor intensive and can only been done by hand. This technique is used by some of the world’s most prestigious wine growing regions. Read more about pruning techniques here.

I really liked the Fonzone, Greco di Tufo. To me, it was like biting into a luscious piece of pineapple, although the wine is not sweet. Its golden hue is like a perfect summer day.

Photo Credit: Author

The Dish: Scallops in a White Wine Sauce

I wanted to make steamed clams in wine, but couldn’t find fresh clams. I felt the recipe needed to be as simple as possible:

Photo Credit: Author

Sear the scallops in olive oil and then add ½ cup of wine (I used the Greco di Tufo);

Photo Credit: Author

Remove the scallops and make the sauce from 1 ½ cups of wine, 1 tbsp of lemon juice and minced garlic; reduce the liquid by half and them add 1 tbsp of butter and chopped parsley.

Image by annca from Pixabay

G is for Gratitude

When it comes to wine, there’s an infinite amount of information out there shared through wine critics, journalists, scientists and the ever so popular, Instagram influencer. While I respect all of these positions (except maybe the latter), my study goal is not to become one of them.

I’m not interested in ratings or tasting notes other than guides to help me associate and classify my knowledge. Take some time to read an argument on this point written by my wine hero, Eric Asimov.

I am grateful for the ability to learn and totally comfortable in my place as student rather than expert. I can make mistakes and that’s okay, rely on just good judgment or instincts and process facts, but not be absorbed by them. Or, I can say that wine is yummy and leave it there.

It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child. ~ Pablo Picasso

Until next time, swirl your glass with gratitude. A story from the earth will rise to your nose. It’s there to discover: forever a wine newbie.

NOTE: If you can’t make it to Calabria, you can find the Fonzone Greco di Tufo at Wine by the Bay.

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500 Days of Rosé (by the Bay)

There’s no connection really between the rom-com and wine. Just word nerd, wine newbie (hopeless romantic) me playing. I suppose we could make up some far-fetched, metaphorical association like, look beyond the superficial…but still, there’s no connection.

Just when I thought I knew something about rosé, I realized I wasn’t even close after attending Winebow’s #RosebytheBay held at Smith & Wollensky, South Pointe Park. Members of the wine trade were invited to discover over 100 rosé wines from Europe, South America, North America, Australia and South Africa.

Credit: Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

How does a wine newbie like me choose what to taste with over 100, various shades of pink? With such sleek branding, it’s very tempting to be drawn to beautiful labels and bottle design. However, that’s like choosing a car for its color. So, I tried to select between old world and new world; a region or grape variety that I may have read about, but had not tried; and what was easiest to reach because at times, there wasn’t much elbow room. In fact, I totally missed seeing the wines from Australia and South Africa.

Some Wine Highlights

The fun part was that evening when I took a chance to learn more about what I drank and search for a good story. (If only I had each wine in front of me while reading and taking notes!)

France

As I had mentioned before, Côtes de Provence is France’s oldest wine region and rosé, although different from what we know it as today, was the first type of wine produced there by Greeks who had brought the vines to the area. At the Winebow event, there were rosé wines from at least eight other regions of France.

2017 Domaine de Fontsainte Corbières Gris de Gris: I chose this wine because I was attracted to its golden color and knew nothing about “Gris de Gris.” Corbières is an important appellation of the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France. It is made up of five grape varieties: 50% Grenache Gris; 40% Grenache Noir and Carignan; 10% Cinsault and Mourvèdre. Yves Laboucarié established Fontsainte in its current incarnation in 1971 and is one among the first to use “carbonic maceration” which simply put, is when whole grapes are gently placed in an enclosed fermentation vessel and blanketed with carbon dioxide (Ch 5 of the CSW.)  If you’re curious about Grenache Gris or Noir, see this article. Read more about Domaine de Fontsainte here.

2017 Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Rosé Jeunes Vigne: While still only ankle deep into the CSW textbook, I’ve learned that Sancerre is not a grape (and I can now avoid a future soirée faux pas), but an appellation (see the link above) located in the Loire Valley. The grape BTW is Pinot Noir — indigenous to France, but grown elsewhere too. You can read all about the wine at this link.

2018 Raffault Chinon Rosé: When the Wine Therapist (see note at the end) tells you, “drink this one,” you do. Chinon like Sancerre is an appellation and Domaine Olga Raffault is stated as being, “one of the long-time reference points for top-quality, traditional Chinon wines.” Left widowed when her children were very young, Olga would operate the wine estate with a German WWII prisoner who would eventually become the winemaker. If you enjoy a good story like me, click here. 100% Cabernet Franc. If you’re new to wine like me, you may also wish to review, Saignée (“bled”) rosé and the two other methods: maceration and blending.

Spain

2018 Viña Real Rosado: I am not very familiar with Spanish wines, so I chose to try one from Rioja and another from Ribera del Duero. The Viña Real is made from Viura: 75%, Tempranillo: 15%, and 10% Garnacha (Grenache in French.) Viura is the most important grape from Rioja. In Catalonia it is called Macabeo and in Southern France, Macabeu. Read more about this grape here and the winery here.

2018 Cepa 21 Hito Rosado: Made from 100% Tempranillo, Cepa 21 (Ribera del Duero) aims to get the most out of the grape’s characteristics and of the unique environment where they are created. They use traditional methods, but customize them to modern trends. You can find out more about this young winery led by brothers José and Javier Moro at this link.

(Side Note: Future Spanish Wine and Blog posts to come, as I’ve just booked myself a trip to Spain!)

USA

2018 Wölffer Estate Rosé: Long Island (Sagaponack) is the appellation and it is made up of: 52% Merlot, 20% Chardonnay, 13% Cabernet Franc, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Sauvignon Blanc, 1% Riesling and 1% Pinot Noir. Read more about the estate here. This was the first time I’ve tried a wine from New York and I really liked it!

Italy

2018 Argiolas Serra Lori Rosato: Founded in 1938 by Antonio Argiolas, Argiolas is the foremost wine estate on the island of Sardinia producing archetypal wines from native varietals. Serra Lori is a dry rosato blended from Cannonau, Monica, Carignano, and Bovale Sardo. Read more here.

2019 Pico Maccario Rosé Lavignone Rosato Piemonte: The rose (flower) on the bottle symbolizes the estate where there are 4,500 rosebushes all from the same clone and there’s one planted at the end of each vine row. Read the full story and details about this 100% Barbera wine here.

2011 Contratto For England Brut Rosé: Who can resist pink bubbles and surely, this wine must have been one of the best ones there! I think this says it all: old vine, 100% Pinot Noir, Metodo Classico aka Traditional Method, Méthode Champenoise, etc. Read more here. Someone spoil me: I’ll take ten!

2018 GD Vajra Rosabella: “Tasting the wine is like seeing a star. If you only see a star, you’ve lost the beauty of the universe,” says Aldo Vaira who made his first vintage when only 19 years old. From there, I encourage you to explore the rest. Here is the video and website at this link. Nebbiolo 85%, Barbera 5%, Dolcetto 10%

Winebow had someone making cocktails too, showcasing some of their liqueurs and spirits. Delicious!

On that delightful note, it’s best to wine-down this post.

Now two months into the CSW textbook, I’m finding that learning about wine gives me the same sensation as understanding a work of art. It begins with a visceral response, but then the true beauty reveals itself when an investigation begins. The pursuit of knowledge is infinite, or in the great words of Albert Einstein:

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.

Until next time, raise your glass and listen to what it tells you and know that at least when it comes to rosé, Summer is with you for as long as you want! (Oops, strike out paragraph 1!!)

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

My wine journey would never have begun or continue without The Wine Therapist’s (aka Stefano at Wine by the Bay) guidance. No wine passes from his hand to mine (or any of his loyal clients and friends) without an anecdote and a smile. Follow him at @WinebytheBay

Rosé from Argentina

Postscript: There’s no such thing as Rosé Season apart from marketing! Grapes (like any other fruit or vegetable) follow a growth and harvest season as it relates to its region’s climate timeline. What differentiates wines are all of the other winemaking variables like fermentation. As you can see by the release years, most probably spent more time getting from their place of origin to your table, than in a bottle!  What makes Summer a Rosé season is comparable to why you’d choose an iced latté over a hot one. It’s poolside chill that pairs well with typical summer weather dishes.

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Giddy in Pink: Provence & Primavera

Hashtag ‘Rosé All Day’ #RoseAllDay! Yes, I’m one of those gals who can’t wait to see the shelves stocked up with slim, frosty bottles with triangular punts (that’s the technical name for the pushed up center of the bottle’s base.) There’s some serious glam marketing going into the production of this hot seller (pardon the pun) and its sexy, bottle design.

Mockingbird in my backyard calling for a mate.

This easy to drink, chilled glass of pink also means Spring is in the air. Birds and bees do it, but did you know that vines do it too? Grapes are hermaphrodites, meaning they contain both male and female organs and can self-fertilize. However, dust in the wind, there was some serious vine fornication taking place long before it became the fermented juice in your glass. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon (indigenous to Bordeaux) is a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. ‘Cross’ is the offspring of sexual reproduction between different subspecies within the same species. Give that some thought the next time you witness or suffer from pollen blowing around.

Wikipedia Commons

If you wish to read a more scientific and serious explanation of the anatomy of the grapevine, click here.

The Wine: Chateau Maupague, Sainte-Victoire Côtes de Provence Rosé 2016

I’m “delayed” in the South of France (darn), but I’ve left the lavender fields and Châteauneuf-du-Pape behind for Côtes de Provence and more specifically Sainte Victoire, a favorite landscape of Cezanne and Picasso. The area is more sheltered from the Mistral winds than other wine producing areas of Provence and high limestone soil makes for fewer yields but high quality fruit. 80% of Sainte Victoire wine is rosé.

For wine newbies like me, you may wish to know that rosé is pink because the skins of the red grapes touch the wine for a few hours whereas in making red wine, the skins are left as part of the fermentation process for a few weeks. There are three primary methods of making rosé wine: Maceration, Saignée and Blending. Read more here.

Côtes de Provence is home to France’s oldest vineyards and oldest wine producing region. When the Greeks arrived in what is now called Marseille, they planted the first vines and the wine at that time, was a rosé. Not the pale and delicate wine that we are familiar with today, but more rustic, says Annabelle Sumeire of Famille Sumeire | Vignerons en Provence in this video. Annabelle Sumeire’s family own Chateau Maupague and other vineyards in Provence.

Wine Facts: Chateau Maupague, Sainte-Victoire Côtes de Provence Rosé 2016

  • Grenache 80%, Cinsault 10% Syrah 10%
  • Silver medal at the Concours Bettane et Desseauve Prix Plaisir 2017
  • 88 at the Wine Enthusiast 2017
  • Gold medal – 89 Gilbert et Gaillard 2017
  • Bronze medal at the IWSC 2017

Learn more about the different grapes at this link. You can find some Provence tour information here and learn more about the vineyard here.

The Pairing

Bonci, Rome

On a trip to Rome, I was introduced to a variety of pizza toppings (check out Bonci pizza if you do go to Rome – future #TBT blog post in the queue.) I know we’re now exposed to higher quality pizza rather than the soggy versions that arrive in a box, but American pizza doesn’t compare to the quality in Italy.

If you’ve been following my Blog, you know that I try to stick as close as possible to the origins of a particular dish. I did make the traditional prosciutto and arugula version and you can find a recipe here. However, today’s pizza is a fusion of French and Italian ingredients. I did not follow this exact recipe, but used the key ingredients that I thought would pair well with the wine: crab, artichokes, goat cheese and basil.

“Breads of La Brea Bakery” by Nancy Silverton

My fascination for dough and bread making was inspired by Nancy Silverton and I’ve been gradually reading her book, “Breads from the La Brea Bakery.” Since I’m not yet ready to make homemade yeast like Nancy does, my favorite thin crust pizza dough recipe is this one. Before adding the toppings I brushed the dough lightly with olive oil and crushed tomatoes infused with a garlic clove. I prefer to use a gas grill and pizza stone rather than my oven. With a 500 degree, consistent heat, you almost achieve the wood fired pizza taste.

An Artichoke Anecdote

Appropriately for Spring, I’ll end today’s post with a carnal spin on a vegetable story:

The wife of King Henry II of France, Catherine de Medici introduced a wide variety of Italian foods to French cooking including ice cream, sweetbreads, truffles, artichokes, broccoli, and spinach. Catherine, who was known throughout France as La Florentine loved spinach so much that any French dish which incorporated spinach was called ‘a la Florentine.’                     

“Education of Cupid” by Antonio da Correggio from Catherine de Medici’s Room
Château de Chenonceau, Catherine de’ Medici’s room | Wikipedia Commons

Catherine scandalized French society with her addiction to artichokes which had the reputation of being an aphrodisiac. She also encouraged her entourage to eat artichokes, particularly the L’ escadron volant (the flying squadron), a bevy of beautiful girls who were coached as “spies of the couch,” bedding down with the influential nobles. The L’escadron volant traveled everywhere with Catherine, a sort of whorehouse on wheels. By the end Catherine’s reign, artichokes had become one of the most popular French vegetable.

 [Source: Medadvocates]

So today, let’s raise a glass to Catherine! If it wasn’t for her, we’d still be in Victorian era fashion, boiling green beans!

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf

Until next time, throw caution to the wind and embrace your cravings!

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Note: Today’s Blog post was inspired by Chapter 3, “Grape Varieties” of the Certified Specialist of Wine Guide.

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