Thursday, December 25, 2008

Post for my italian friends. Per i miei amici in Italia. Guarda!

25 dicembre
Guarda quest negozio in america grande come uno stadio o forse piu grande e pieno degli animali morti, pistole ecc.
Buon natale e Felice anno nuovo!!
(I was just pointing out that Bass Pro shop was bigger than a soccer stadium in Italy and full of stuffed animals and guns; all quite strange for Italy.

Buon Natale e Felice anno nuovo

25 Dicembre Christmas day!
Merry Christmas everyone and I hope you have a wonderful day with family and friends, taking time out from opening presents to remember what we are celebrating.
I had too much time here in Denver, trying to conquer this cold virus and not being able to ski as a result. I was able to really experience the crowds in the malls and our national shopping habit. I must admit, the numbers of people I encountered were much fewer than years past as the economic crunch has seriously affected consumption. The sales were very tempting, though.
I was able to read a couple of books, hang out at Starbucks and people watch and spend some time with my oldest niece who has found a great niche here in Denver. I went on a quixotic search for a fedora hat, searching all through Denver thrift shops and clothing stores without success. They are going to miss the next wave of fashion!
I felt like I was one of the extras in "The Big Night" on this trip, having eaten well at Jasper's restaurant with authentic ingredients and recipes and then being truly disappointed at an "ameritalian" restaurant in Denver with terrible olive oil, a sweet, peppery pasta sauce developed for the american palate, aii! it's almost too sad to comment! The good news is Jasper is not going out of business and is as busy as the imitation, unlike in the movie. I must admit, the only reason I went to this restaurant in Denver is because the french restaurant with great reviews was not open for lunch.
Gasoline is extremely cheap here and it was almost a pleasure to fill up the tank. It seems almost free! With oil now at 35 dollars a barrel, it may even go lower. The dollar has tanked lately, so by my calculations, a gallon of gas in Italy now costs $6.36 or exactly 4X as much as the $1.39 which i found in KC.
I hope everyone has a blessed holiday season! I really enjoyed seeing all my friends and family on my trek from east to west! Tocca a te! which means it's your turn to come visit me in Italy, now.
The pictures are of an elk herd in their winter home, which is the golf course in Estes, gas price in Denver, a view of the mountains and snow fence from near the Denver airport and the huge Bass Pro Shop which is near I-70 and 270 in Denver showing the crowd on Christmas Eve and mutual observers at the fish tank.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In Mezza al Nulla!

20 Dicembre
1000 km, 600 miles, from KC to Denver in a Penske moving truck across the emptiness of Kansas and Colorado makes for a long and stressful day. This part of my visit to the USA filled me with more fear than any other, although meeting my youngest neice proved more dangerous (She gave me a cold). I have never seen more semi-trailer trucks off the road and flipped over as I did yesterday. An ice storm had arrived 18 hours before me and made I-70 extremely treacherous. I was very lucky to find ice and snow remaining only on a small stretch near Colby, KS. 9 hours were needed to accomplish the drive in "the middle of nowhere" which is the translation of the title. It is a pretty nowhere in its way. I was lucky! for the most part with the road conditons having cleared considerably and having the gasoline prices ranging from 1.49 to 1.69 a gallon on the route. That is about 1/4 what it costs in Italy right now with the newly weakened dollar.
Here are some photos which many will recognize of the empty farmland and Flint Hills regions, which start out the voyage segueing to a lonely church, the 1st view of Pike's peak, 95 miles away and empty Colorado at the last.
I celebrated my arrival with a 99 Dunn Howell Mt. Cabernet,; making up for lost time with my wines, which have been exiled here away from their owner. My friend Leslie helped me, so don't fret for my liver. It was amazingly ready to drink for a 9 year old baby from Randall Dunn.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ice storms, snow storms and cold weather, oh my!

12-18 dicembre
Well, hello from the USA! After 20 hours of travel by car, train, 3 flights and car, I arrived in St. Louis a couple of days ago and was treated to a fine steak dinner by my brother and sis-in-law at his office party. Jim and I took a road trip on route 66 the next day to visit his farm and I pruned his grape vines for him. We stopped at the world’s largest rocking chair and bought some pecans and work gloves, the latter for me and then returned to the big city. Sunday, after church, the family met for early Chriistmas and thankfully, our olive oil and passito made the trip with me successfully and everyone got their own little cruet of olive oil and sampled the sweet wine. Kim and Jim went all out with dinner and I celebrated a bit of Thanksgiving with turkey and dressing and all the fixings.
Tomorrow, it is off to KC on Southwest Airlines, the last domestic airline which will permit 2 checked bags for no additional fees. I noticed it is -11 degrees in Denver today with a windchill of -25 and I brought a windbreaker to the states!
I am in the airport at St Louis looking at weather forecasts from hell. Snow all through missouri and nebraska with ice underneath. Freezing temperatures to boot.
Good news as my airline is on time and those 2 bags got checked for free. Thanks Southwest airlines!
Here I am in Kansas City, making the rounds, seeing new and old friends, trying to drive in weather unknown to the Marche and also trying to find wireless access to post.
I have travelled 7 hours to see my old partner Joe Roh in a nursing home in Omaha where he continues to try and rehab after a severe stroke almost 5 months ago. Please keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.
Surviving that snowy journey to the north, I returned to my friends Larry and Pam and immediately raided my wine stash in his basement, trying a neat 2001 Syrah from Ridge and a 93 Raymond Reserve Cab. Yesterday was full of travel, coffee and talk and I was happy to meet a few new friends, Elizabeth, Holly, and Cindy, have lunch with my aunt and uncle and then caught up with about 20 of my oldest friends at Jasper's restaurant for a wonderful dinner! (menu to follow) We were treated to a 1st class italian tasting menu and incorporated Raffaele's and my olive oil and passito. It was great to see everyone!!
Today, more coffee and return of the rental car, pickup of the rental truck with its loading and then tomorrow I will meet up with my old bible study group and then hightail it (haha) to denver. Wish me luck.
Pictures are from last night's dinner with our host Jasper Mirabile, my brother's christmas tree and turkey tail and the world's largest rocking chair on route 66
Thanks to Jasper, here is our menu
Jasper's Holiday Menu

Parmigiano Reggiano - Roasted Peppers - Sicilian Olives
- Riccota - Fra Mani Artisan Salumi

Wild Mushroom Cappuccino

Prosciutto & Fontina Filled Polenta

Pasta del Giorno
Pappardella & Tuscan Pork Ragu

Piatti del Giorno
Pesce San Pietro

Pollo alla Chiantigna

Pannetone Bread Pudding

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Coming to America

11 Dicembre
Well, it is off to the mother country today, starting in Rome tonight and leaving at the crack of dawn tomorrow. I will try to update the blog while I am visiting, with vacation photos such as these from last year.
Buone feste a tutti! Happy holidays to everyone!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christmas season in ascoli and roast chicken

9 dicembre
My luggage is packed and I am ready for the long, tedious flight to the states on Friday.  At least, I am flying BA and not an american airline, so the drinks are free.  I hope to arrive with olive oil and wines intact. Yesterday was the festival of the annunciation or something similar, so all of Italy was off work.  Raffaele and I cooked a meal for his sister and friends and their families (only 10, with us included).  Thinking of american appetites, I cooked 3 roast chickens and since there have been requests for the recipe I use, check out Emeril's finest here- We also had a primo of angel hair pasta with prosciutto, antipasti of cheeses and breads and desserts of sorbets and an apple tort.
After the cleanup, off we went to see the Ascoli chocolate festival with Bacco in tow. For its 1st year, it was ok, but I will hope for improvement in subsequent editions. Dropping Bacco back at Nascondiglio, we then headed to a "show" at the theater/opera house of ascoli piceno which consisted of Shel Shapiro, the 1st long-hair to arrive in Italy in 1963 and later a famous rock star here. He recounted his memories of the good old days from Bo Diddley to U2, the beatles to REM. The name of the show was 1968-the last time it was possible to change the world, (a loose, but accurate translation). It was sort of a "Summer of Love/Woodstock/everyone full of hope for good changes-Us vs Me type of story. 3 hours long, it reminded me a bit of our lectures at UNISG, which were all 3 hours long. This discourse included music from the 50's-90's at least. I must say, being a half generation behind old Shel, it seems my generation and those after me have always been about self and not the group, a shame, really.
Now, it is time to continue my work in the olive trees. As a friend once told me here, cutting is in my blood!
The pictures are from the Piazza del Popolo in Ascoli and are designed to show the similarities between our Christmas festivals and theirs and finally the "before" chicken foto. I forgot to take "after",sorry!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Dawn, December 5, 2008 and Pearadio and 75th anniversary of the 21st amendment

I was lucky today and got up at dawn, thanks to my amico, Bacco.  I saw some cool colors coming from outside my room, so hustled to get the camera and "capture" dawn in digital.
The colors are untouched, one is a bit impressionistic from camera movement and another I made into a vignette.  The vignette was taken at a different exposure, so the colors are not as they were in reality; the others are as I saw them  Enjoy!  I have to add a little publicity here for a free internet radio station called Pearadio.  You can find them at  The guy "Mr. Pear" has a playlist of 8500 or so songs and they are eclectic and wonderful.   Try it out!  Finally, lets all raise a glass to the 75th anniversary of the end of prohibition.. drink responsibly!


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

New youtube slide show of Nascondiglio di Bacco

Raffaele taught me how to do this. I hope you enjoy the photos which are all jumbled up and include everything from the mountains to the sea, various views of nascondiglio di bacco and of course, bacco himself, and our friends who have visited and helped out with everything from grape to olive picking and stomping and cooking.  Sorry, there is no music as I can't sing well and I am afraid of copyright infringement if I use someone else's song.  Any musicians out there who want to donate the theme song,  just send it along!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

And the winner is: Matteo Barolo!

Check this out-all in italian. Our friend Matteo who is sommelier in a starred restaurant in northern Italy and who was a fellow student at UNISG, has won the title of best sommelier for Barolo wines! How exciting for him and for us, his fellow classmates.
Bravissimo Matteo! Now, quit studying and get your butt down here to visit; oh, and bring a couple of well aged Barolos!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Wow, it's the 1st of December! 1049 visits - GRAZIE MILLE

Where do the months go? I am thinking about Christmas and my visit to the USA, while stranded inside during our "monsoon" season. It has been raining quite a bit here, although this morning it was fleeting and a beautiful rainbow was then visible over Ascoli.
I was able to start the pruning of the olive trees this afternoon and raced through the 1st 5 or so, before fading light became an issue. If you get a chance tonight, go outside and look at the crescent moon which is snuggling up next to Venus (brighter) and Jupiter.
I have helped out the cause of cyber commerce and have finished the christmas shopping for everyone back home. Everyone is getting personalized gifts from where I have designed various products with the nascondiglio di bacco logo or pictures of bacco. The gift I made for my brother was actually banned, so you can't see that one ( i guess that means it is perfect!)
Boredom is dangerous and I can see how the shopping channel does good business. There are some really good sites out there to find bargains like which guided me to some incredible buys on memory cards for cameras and other indispensable knickknacks and also wasted a ton of my time.
The pictures are from a little walk I made with bacco in the neighborhood yesterday, showing the local shepherd with his flock, our vistas and bacco making fiends with the local sheepdog. The bottom 2 also show Nascondiglio and our terrain with the vineyard.
Thanks to everyone following the blog! I had a record 1049 visits the month of November.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Voyage to the Northern Marche-Urbino, San Leo, San Marino

27 Novembre
Yesterday, after a year and a half in the Marche, I finally got up to visit the "most famous" city of the Marche-Urbino. It is renowned for a really nice palace with the 1st indoor courtyard in all of Italy, from which most others are modelled.
It is a bit of a drive from us at 2.5 hours which includes a combination of 18 euros worth of autostrada and a beginning and end on the curvy roads for which we are famous. I have to admit Urbino, a bustling little university town. is well worth visiting. The main attractions are the castle of Duke Frederico, which now doubles as a museum of mostly religious art (nside, one also finds incredibly beautiful inlaid wood panels in many of the doors and the Duke's study), the Duomo with a "Last Supper" by Bartocci and finally for the local vistas. Urbino is where the famous artist, Raffaelo was born, he of the angelic cherub calendars ubiquitous in the malls this time of year, but you would be hard pressed to find his work in his hometown. 3 in total, I think, with 2 in the museum. For ideal fotos, a little hike up to the Fort of Albornoz gives a great view of the whole city with the palace towers (even better 200 meters down the road).
On to San Leo, which served as model for purgatory for Dante when he wrote his masterpiece. It is more famous for being the final prison for a famous charlatan, heretic named Conte di Cagliostro. He is described as an alchemist, swindler, womanizer, necromancer and quack.. how times change, now we call those guys politicians. We ate a really nice lunch there at La Rocca San Leo trying out their famous prosciutto of Carpegna, a nice lamb dish with thyme and a sangiovese reduction sauce and a cheese course with many of the local pecorino cheeses aged in various different ways such as wrapped in the skins from montepulciano grapes, wrapped in chestnut tree leaves and wrapped in herbs. Finally a little dessert and the shock of a bill! 96 euros. I was going on about how much I liked the place until then. Still worth a splurge if you head that way. I should mention that Raffaele lost a bet and had to pay. He didn't think I could make it to the restaurant before they closed and I arrived in my Formula 1 Doblo' with 9 minutes to spare. The museum and castle in Urbino cost 4 euros to enter and are well worth the small expense, but 8 euros for the fortress of San Leo is excessive unless you are dying to see Cagliostro's cell, lines of old muskets, a tiny torture chamber and not much else. You can drive up to the fort and get the great pix you want and views of the surrounding countryside without paying.
Finally, it was on to San Marino, the oldest republic in Europe and a separate country, sort of like the vatican where you can buy things without the VAT of Italy. This was a visit for Raffaele, as he has been itching to buy a new expresso maker and he saved 30 euros on his new Nespresso machine.
Since we were above Ancona, one last visit was necessary on the way home at our nearest IKEA store in Ancona. The journey finished after 12.5 hours back at Nascondiglio di Bacco.
The northern Marche received a bit of snow the night before our visit and the hills were even more beautiful with their white blanket. Bacco had a great time playing in the stuff. OK, I can scratch off the # 1 place on my list of places to visit here in Italy and now the southern part rises to the top-as soon as the BMW is legal!
The pictures are of: Raffaele with the owner of La Rocca, San Leo fort 2x, a fireplace inside the palace in Urbino and a view of the whole city from the fort.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! My "Amazing Grace" post

26 Novembre
I hope despite all the economic and political turmoil we are experiencing now, you all take time to remember all the things we have to be thankful for, not just today, but every day!
Please check out this you tube post, with one of the best versions of Amazing Grace I have heard, by R. Carlos Nakai, a native american flutist.
Here are the words if you want to sing along.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
'tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be,
as long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
a life of joy and peace.

When we've been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun,
we've no less days to sing God's praise
than when we first begun.

Words by: John Newton; for more info on him, check out:
(stanza 6 anonymous, 19th century USA melody; harmony by Edwin O. Excell.

The pictures are just there to impart a bit of:
Peace and Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Offida art exhibit and sagra di olive tenere at Ascoli

23 Nov.
Happy birthday to my classmate Nina!
This weekend Barone Roberto hosted an open house with an artist from San Benedetto displaying his works with a modern, sometimes almost american style (one mixed media was of a 1960 Ford Fairlane convertible). The artist has the same last name as my friend Sabrina which is Gianno, he was born 3 days before me and owns a z4 as I do. The world is a funny small place. If I am not mistaken, his family comes from a zone in Sicily where Jasper's family is from as well.
After the open house we moved next door to Ophis, a restaurant well liked by our guestsa and had a nice meal there, finishing around late:30.
Today was the second day of the festival in Ascoli celebrating the famous Tenere olives which are famous from this zone and which are used to make the famouse olive ascolane. The olives are pitted and then stuffed with 3 or 4 kinds of meat, 2 cheeses, then battered and fried. A must try for anyone coming to the Marche! I pity the poor vegetarians who can't try them.
Then, it was on to Offida for the release of the guide covering the best wineries of the Marche, complete with a wine tasting of around 50 wines and a banquet of appetizers like prosciutto, lonzo, cheeses, etc. and all for free. The producers of the guide are actually staying with us tonight at Nascondiglio di Bacco. Hopefully we will be in a future edition.
Finally, I saw my friend Frederico at the tasting and he a partner at the winery Aurora, one of the 1st biological vineyards in Italy. We asked them to test our 2007 Passito for residual sugar content and they guessed by tasting 7-8% and I guessed 20%, which they said was impossible. That was yesterday and today Frederico told me it tested out at 20%! Heehee!
They were worried it might re-ferment, but after 14 months, I doubt it. At the tasting tonight, we tried a passito from a winery located near Urbino, which like ours is made from Trebbiano grapes and theirs measures in at 19%! I am bringing some home to try for those who are able to meet up with me.
The photos are of the Baron's wine shop in Offida showing he and the artist who is seated in the 2nd pic., and Raffaele's new look at olive tenere. ( I hope hats are back!). Raffaele is speaking with our buddy Moreno, who has an orchard with, among other things, the slow food Presidi fruit "mela rosa". As always, you can learn more about the good work done by Slow Food at