Chag Pesach Sameach! Wishing everyone a good Passover!

I dunno why but there’s nothing quite like the flavor of Premium Gold Gefilte Fish in Jellied Broth by Manischewitz paired with fiery horseradish. Seriously… I’m not kidding. It’s just one of the memories from childhood whose deliciousness can never be replaced.

Serve with a fresh California rosé (that’s what we’ll be doing).

Chag Pesach sameach, everyone! Happy Passover!

Happy Easter, too!

Enjoy the holidays. See you next week!

cognà (cugnà) my latest obsession, Piedmont’s cheese friend

One of the perks of teaching at a gastronomic sciences university in the heart of Piedmont wine country is that the food and wine aren’t bad.

Add to that mix the fact the town(ship) where the school is located is also home to the Slow Food movement and an acute interest in wholesome and traditional foodways. It’s a recipe for a whole lotta deliciousness.

After returning from a winery visit in La Morra (Barololand) yesterday following class, one professor settled into his favorite local dining spot, Ristorante Battaglino in Bra (the toponym Bra comes from the late Latin/Longobard braida meaning farm or countryside btw). Following a repast of tajarin with sausage ragù and a glass of Ferdinando Principiano 2014 Barolo, he leisurely nibbled at a selection of cheeses accompanied by crusty bread and cognà or cugnà in the local patois.

It’s a cheese friend that falls somewhere between jam and relish.

Made from freshly crushed grape must (the main ingredient) with the addition of other fruits like apple, pear, and quince (depending on the recipe), hazelnuts and walnuts, and figs (dried or fresh), it’s one of those if it grows with it it goes with it dancing partners for cheese and Nebbiolo (or Dolcetto as the case may be).

Said instructor is no stranger to the wonders of the triptych cheese-Nebbiolo-cognà. Unsurprisingly, he had enjoyed a similar confluence the prior evening, save for the fact that the enoic component was Dolcetto.

Wise and informed humans also report that cognà marries superbly with Piedmontese-style bollito misto as well.

Corte Giacobbe Soave, a wonderful discovery at this year’s Vinitaly

You spend so much time schmoozing and taking tasting notes at Vinitaly that sometimes you forget to look out for new discoveries.

Every year, I try to take time out each day of my fair to taste as much “undiscovered” wine as humanly possible.

Yesterday, thanks to my friend Marco Tinello, one of the best sommeliers and tasters I know in Veneto, I was introduced to the fantastic wines of Corte Giacobbe by the lovely Dal Cero family.

Their old-school-vinified, single-vineyard-designate Soave wines were mineral and savory in character (sapidi, as they like to say in Italian), with rich nuanced fruit and the nervy acidity they’ll need to evolve as they age.

Great wines across the board and a wonderful personal discovery for me.

Empson is bringing them to the U.S, I was told. I can’t wait for them to reach me in Texas. I know that Tracie P. is going to love them, too. They’re “our kinda wines.”

If you’ve ever attended Vinitaly, you know that it can often be compared to a Dantean “circle of Hell,” as one of my colleagues put it yesterday. It’s always a jumble of information and sensation. It can make your “brain hurt like a warehouse,” to borrow a line from Bowie. But every once in a while, the magic happens: thanks to a friend and colleague like Marco, you stumble across a wine you’ll love for a lifetime.

Wish me luck, wish me speed. Tonight after the fair, I head to the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont where I’ll be teaching this week and next. Thanks for being here.

Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you…

Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you
Tomorrow I’ll miss you
Remember I’ll always be true
And then while I’m away
I’ll write home every day
And I’ll send all my loving to you

I’ll pretend that I’m kissing
the lips I am missing
And hope that my dreams will come true
And then while I’m away
I’ll write home every day
And I’ll send all my loving to you

All my loving I will send to you
All my loving, darling I’ll be true

I miss them already. Wish me luck, wish me speed. See you at Vinitaly…

Heading to Vinitaly in Verona, capital of Italy’s culture wars.

This week, thousands of American wine professionals will travel to Verona, Italy for Vinitaly — the Italian wine trade’s annual fair.

They will represent the U.S. citizenry in all of its walks of life and gradations: from the fat-cat CEOs and managers of behemoth importers and distributors to average punters who hit the streets each day with a wine caddy in tow.

Between the long days of tastings and meetings on the fairgrounds and the bacchanal parties and dinners hosted by wineries throughout the city every evening, few of them will take time out to experience Verona’s cultural riches.

And even fewer of them will have any inkling that Verona is now the bona fide capital of Italy’s fascist resurgence and the backdrop for Italy’s pitched culture wars.

On Thursday of last week, Jason Horowitz, the Rome bureau chief for the New York Times, published this excellent piece about Italy’s current political climate and Verona’s status as the epicenter for regressive policy and institutional racism and sexism: “Italy’s Right Links Low Birthrate to Fight Against Abortion and Migration.”

(Anyone headed to the fair this year should read it. And I also highly recommend following his feed.)

In his article, he offers an overview of Verona’s openly fascist local government (a eye-popping primer on who’s in charge of the city and what they stand for). And he obliquely references a recent and frightening episode that took place at a Verona city council meeting last year.
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