Once upon a time in Texas, there was a girl with an appetite and a dream...


Saturday Photo Scavenger Hunt: Lines

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I've joined the Saturday Photo Scavenger Hunt...click the links above if you want to join too. I love the idea and today's theme is lines, in my case, these are lines on a curved surface. I visited a winery and this is a picture of a steel fermentation tank. Those bands wrapping around it carry cooling liquid to maintain the temperature of the fermenting must in the tank and it's all controlled by a computer.

Now you know :)



I'm There

This is a menu taped to the door of a cheese store. Just look at what you could eat if you were here:


Neapolitan Specialties


Rustic Pizza (not a pizza as we know it, it's more like a covered savory pie stuffed with sauteed vegetables, the choices are the 2 below)

Escarole Pizza (Rustic pizza stuffed with escarole that's been sauteed with capers)

Rustic Pizza with sausage and frigiarelli (friarielli, see preceding post)HAY

Panuozzo (This is a sandwich made from pizza dough stuffed with your choice of the following ingredients then heated in a wood-burning oven 'til its all gooey and melty...it's a specialty of Gragnano, near the Amalfi Coast, and there's hardly anything better.)

Baked ham, provola, and eggplant

Baked ham, provola, and roasted bell peppers

Baked ham and provola

Sausage, friarielli, and provola UNGH!

Made In-house , we accept orders for Christmas

Don't you want to come to Napoli? You know where to find me. I'll be just outside that door warming my face lovingly next to a steaming, melty cheese sandwich.

"Shake yo' money mak-AH, shake yo' money mak-HA..."


What We Eat

I love friarielli (free-ah-ree-EH-lee). In fact, I've just learned (after 3 and a half years) that friarielli is the Neapolitan word for the Italian frigiarelli. I think that they deserve more than a mere post, but I have a feeling that you might abandon me if dedicated my entire blog to my affection for friarielli. (I would need another blog just for prosciutto, lest it be jealous.)

I've heard that they're grown, sold, and consumed only in Campania which is good news 'cause that means there's more for me. These greens have the unfortunate effect of making you question the need for the existence of spinach, because if spinach is the Michael Bolton of greens, a pan of friarielli is better than James Brown.


Anyway, I don't know of anything that is so damn inherently tasty. They're rich and have a spicy cinnamon/nutmeg kick. Just a quick saute in a pan with olive oil, garlic, and peperoncino will have you shoutin' for Maceo.

Are there any greens in America that compare? I'm afraid not. You'll just have to come to my house for dinner.

"UNGH! Jump back, wanna kiss m'self..."


The (Not-So) Weekly Wino: December 14th

As the cool has settled in and the summer's sweaty nights are long gone, my affection for wine has left white and turned as red as the leaves on the vines. My cravings for fish having been well-satisfied with the abundance of the sea on the table here in Southern Italy, I now have "voglia di carne" (lit trans: I have want of meat).

This is a seasonal adaptation for me as I am loyal to all colors in the wine spectrum. My first consideration when choosing a wine is what is on my plate, and sometimes what is on my plate may be determined by whether I have a mood for bianco or rosso.

But these winter months for me mean that my house is often filled the scent of a slow stew, and my bones need to be warmed by red wine. Being in Campania, I feel that it is my duty to talk about our wines that are all too often overlooked in the international market. In the past I've written about Greco di Tufo, a biancolella/fiano blend from Ischia, and even vino paesano. Now it's aglianico's turn.

Aglianico (ahl-YAN-eeko) is an ancient red grape that is believed to have been brought by the Phoenicians. It is also grown to great success in Basilicata under the Aglianico del Vulture D.O.C.

In northwestern Campania lies the Falerno del Massico D.O.C. There is a designation for rosso (60-80% aglianico, 20-40% piedirosso, max 20% primitivo or barbera) rosso primitivo (at least 85% primitivo, max 15% aglianico with piedirosso/barbera), and bianco (100% falanghina).

Villa Matilde is a Campanian producer credited with helping revive the Falerno region, and Vigna Camarato is their top rosso composed of 80% aglianico and 20% piedirosso. Its site is the oldest vineyard in their holding (Vigna, pronounced VEEN-ya, means vineyard, and this one's called Camarato) and it produces an age-worthy red to compete with the reds from the Taurasi D.O.C.G. (also aglianico-based, Campanian red with a little more finesse and a little less brawn, comparatively speaking).

Aglianico is typically a very tannic grape, blessing its wine with a great capacity for aging. Although Vigna Camarato could age for up to 15 years, I recently tried the 2001 bottling. The moment it hit my glass I knew it was going to be heavy. The color is a deep, loaded ruby-red and it moves in the glass like cream.

The scent is rich and deep, that of mature fruit and a hint of oak, which it could surely do better without. There is also a good bit of earth and black licorice. The tannins make their presence known, but they are fairly well-balanced by dark berry jam and licorice that wrap your mouth in fruit and leave you tasting the wine long after it's left your palate.

Vigna Camarato is not for the faint of heart. It's strong and burly in its youth and it won't let you forget that you should have left it alone for just a couple of years more. Placed next to a juicy beef braise or a rare steak though, you can put those tannins to work and make this youngster shine.

Finesse and delicacy will never be adjectives for this wine, but it'll keep you warm and maybe even give you a reason to be happy that Winter has just begun.

**Vigna Camarato retails in Italy for about 30 euro. Next week (but don't quote me on that) I'll introduce a budget aglianico.



This is the way we go work

(*sounds of birds chirping, flute playing*)
This is why I walk to work:

(*record scratch*)

Well...that and I don't have a car anymore.


A Little Bit of Sacrifice

Tuesday evening I went to a wine tastin'. Actually, it was a preview to Vitigno Italia (an industry fair in Naples, though open to the public) that will happen in May 2007. David informed me of this event as he did back in May (click here to see the post about it).

Let me just backtrack by telling you that I have signed up for a"sommelier" class. It is the first of 3 levels, and it is given by AIS (Association of Italian Sommeliers) in conjunction with the state organization, Agripromos. It was amazingly cheap, as it is state subsidized. We all received a bag with 3 glasses, 3 books, and a free membership to AIS.

Anyway, what I hope to do by taking this class (besides getting to try lotsa classy hooch that I couldn't normally afford), is to refine my ability to analyze the organoleptic properties of wine (scents and smells), learn more about the wine-making process, and have at least one sip of every single Italian varietal in existence. To do the first, our teachers have told us that "ci vuole allenamento." That means we must train! That means I have to practice, people! That means going to as many tastings as I can, and studying like a good girl at home.

And what's wrong with a little sacrifice?

That leads me back to Vitigno Italia. Like I've said before, it is difficult to try every wine, and the way these people pour is not conducive to end-of-the-night lucidity. An important thing that I've learned is to dump ANYTHING that is not extraordinary. If it's not worth a second sip, don't dedicate your body's oxidizing power to it.

There were a few standouts, some wines that were odd, and lots of obscure autochthonous grapes. In the standout category, I tried an organic Brunello di Montalcino. There were tables of Banfi and compnay, but I felt pulled by the little guy, the winemaker who was pushing his OWN wine (Poderi Salicutti) as opposed to the representative of an internationally recognized wine producer. I wanted to talk to the man who is progressing against the current to run an organic vineyard. He was soft-spoken but passionate about his work. He humored me by chatting away a good half-hour, and he let me try his Rosso di Montalcino, then his Brunello (both made with the local clone of sangiovese, brunello). Many tasters went straight for the Brunello, but I wanted to see the progression from the younger rosso (undergoes one year of barrel aging and 6 in the bottle) to the refined brunello (minimum 2 years in the barrel and 4 in the bottle). Having long ingnored Toscana in search of the less publicized regions, I have quite a bit of sensory learning to do. They were well-made and true to the tradition which are 2 things I am always searching for in this world of international varietals and market-driven techniques. In other words, I had a great time staining my teeth at his stand. That's him pouring his rosso, and here's his site, if you're interested.

One of the odd wines that I tried was a Friulian pinot grigio that had been macerated on its skins. I've only heard of this process, so it was quite exciting to try, so exciting that I don't remember the producer's name. It's unusual because white grapes are almost always pressed and separated from their juices right away, not allowing any influence from the skins into the final wine product. (Red grapes intended for red wine, however, are pressed then left on their skins, in most cases, for a couple of weeks to extract color, tannins, and some additional flavor components.)

The result was...strange. The wine had a coppery hue that's typical of the actual grape, and an odor that I had a hard time pinning down. It was slightly salty and vegetal, but I find it difficult to be any more specific. (MUST PRACTICE!) This pinot grigio didn't fit into my wine paradigm and for this, it was unforgettable. Has anyone else had one of these? Alfonso? David? They are built to age, as opposed to most whites, and I would like to see if it evolves into something more recognizable.

The autoctoni that I met were: ruche' (piemonte), foja tondo (veneto), tinitilia (molise), and maybe (surely) a couple of others that I don't remember.

Campania was represented mostly by a series of raspy, wily young aglianicos that needed to be put in their places by a little bit of age. In fact, many of the big-structured grapes (sagrantino, nebbiolo, and 'dem crazy aglianicos) were opened far before their time. After all of these tannins, I found the primitivos of Puglia just a little too raspberry-ish to enjoy.

The no-show regions were Basilicata, Calabria, Sardegna, Le Marche, Trentino, and Liguria. I wanted to get my hands on some Franciacorta too (bubbly, of course), but I couldn't find Lombardia. Next time!

By the way, is it offensive to tell someone that their Negroamaro has a slight smell of the old-school band-aids that came in the tin can? I know for SURE that the Friulian producers would not have appreciated my whispered comment about their white tasting like Pace picante sauce. But band-aids? That smell reminds me of my childhood. A time when band-aids...well...came in a tin can. Maybe I should keep my mouth shut.

I'm sure for some of you out there, all of this wine-talk could easily be replaced by a long string of "blablabla," so I'll finish here and let you all get on with your lives.

Besides, I have me some practicin' to do.