Thursday, July 30, 2009

Visitors from Belton, MO bearing gifts, english is spoken here

30 Luglio
I was excited to host the Bradleys the last couple of days as they took a little Marche break in the midst of their mad dash through Italy. They started in Rome, then from here to Umbria, Tuscany and then finishing in Venice. Charlotte brought me some powdered brown sugar, which is hard to find here and Doug brought me a Research Belton Hospital shirt (see photo), which I will wear proudly and a wonderful little book in which the nurses and Dr.s from Belton wrote very nice notes to me. That was very special! We toured a bit, seeing the lace makers in Offida, a bit of Ascoli Piceno and Civetella del Tronto. I even let them sit at the pool for a couple of hours. We had a bbq one night with KC Masterpiece and Gates rubs (gifts from the Simmons) which I used on the chicken breasts, sausage, pork chops and spiedini with cherry tomatoes and our onions and finally our zucchini. We washed all that down with a couple of wines from our friends Roberto and Jasmine who joined us for dinner.
Nascondiglio di Bacco has been blessed with a bunch of folks from the low countries, Finland and England as guests, so I have been speaking english for 3 weeks. It has been great to have new markets open up for us, but I was confused about how all the Dutch and Belgians and Danish were finding us. Evidently, in those 3 countries, they have a reality show wherein 3 couples move to Italy and restructure an agriturismo, learn the language, build a pool and try and make the thing work. The people in the local town vote on the winner (loser?) and that couple is given the keys to the place for a year and then have the chance to buy the property after the year. We are getting the overflow from them I imagine; many thanks to Cristiano for making our website so beautiful which attracts our clients!
The family from Belgium have 2 little girls and after going up to Sirolo beach yesterday, the older one made me a present which I have pictured. Very cute!
This is festival season with Ascoli's medieval festival on Sunday, food festivals for everything from maccheroni to wine and concerts almost every night within 20 km of us. Friday, I am off to Colli del tronto for a jazz concert combined with a food and wine festival.
The lentils are in bloom in the Castelluccio plateau, so I need to get up there as well.
We have been full for a couple of weeks, but will have a few rooms available from now until August 7-17, which is a sold out period for their big summer vacation Feragosto.
We are now 2.5 weeks into a dry period, so the vineyard is healed from the perinospera infection. I am cutting the vines back still and feel about half done.
The workers are finishing up the poles and wires in the new part of the vineyard as well.
After 2 years, I am finally meeting some americans and english, although they are concentrated 30km north of here. It is still nice to have someone to meet up with and share our mother tongue.
dds PS, finally got the right photo of Doug, Charlotte, Roberto and Jasmine on here. Blindness stinks!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Abruzzese BBQ vs KC, vineyard haircut, and plum cakes; also Yeats??

23 Luglio
Sorry about my lazy blog posts. At least my friend Dr. Khan provided a set of bellisime photos of Nascondiglio di Bacco by day and night to fill the gap. It is time to give the vineyard a haircut as we turn the hippy part into conservative clean cut vines. This is to take the hormonal stimulus from the top of the plant away and prevent the vines from becoming too woody and thus harder to train and curve this winter. It is slow work, but nothing backbreaking.
The crew is here to put in the poles for the newest piece of vineyard and then we will be completely finished with the "construction" of the vineyard, notwithstanding the repairs I must make to all the cables I have broken with the tractor.
I have picked the plums from our trees and as those who follow my facebook page can recall, the mirabella plums were used to make sorbet and a filling for a crostata and then yesterday I took the red italian plums to make two plum cakes with diverse recipes.
Today and tomorrow we have a heat front from Africa visiting and then return to normal again Sunday. Raffaele closed the pool yesterday to make a repair of another leak, having tired of the useless attempts by the pool guys. Everyone cross their fingers!
Last night, I was invited by Gina from Georgia (our Georgia) and her english husband Tim, to a reading of Yeats in english and italian with a celtic music group playing background music. Poetry in Carrollton, MO in my era was definitely a sissy thing, kind of like soccer or piano lessons were at the time, so unfortunately, I have missed out on a whole genre of literature, to my loss. Yeats was not so bad! I may even have to buy the book! It made me chuckle to listen to Tim perform the proper english reading, perfect cadence, perfect diction and as I would have read it, if I had his talent. Then it was read in an italian translation by Annalisa with a quiet passion and emotion which maybe we lack in our language and culture (I say "our" as i am a bastardino with at least 50% ancestry from the british isle countries). The poetry was actually made more interesting and effective by the combination of the two. The spettacolo was performed at one of the prettiest villas in the Marche, opened by the owner just once a year for a performance. All in all, it was surprisingly enjoyable for this ignorant small town boy. The director, Cesare, was extremely well versed in literature and european history and gave us all a little biography of Yeats, his country and his times and this too added much to my enjoyment and understanding of the author's prose.
Coming up this time of year are all the festivals in small towns around us for various types of foods (polenta with baccala-yuck), wine tastings, music festivals, etc. You can visit a different one every night in July and August.
That's is about all for now. I will try to stay on the ball and get more posts written.
The pix go along with the text and then there are a couple of photos from the BBQ with a special type of grill these guys made just for their spiedini which were made from castrato lamb meat, marinated and spiced. They were excellent. You might see someone has put the worlds best hamburger and a full chicken breast nearby for a little bbq american style.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thanks Caymus, Buon compleanno KR, mushroom hunting in the Sibillini mts

14 Luglio
Here I am listening to Grand Funk Railroad's "Black Licorice" and felt I had to write this post just to thank Caymus vineyards for the 1994 Cabernet I just drank. What a nice wine with the lamb shoulder I cooked. I remember when I bought it, I purchased 6 bottles which was extremely unusual for me. This one survived the division of wines in my split and 15 years of age and is still wonderful. Unfortunately, this one is the last of the 6.
I also am showing our little mushroom hunt in the Sibillini mts where we harvested 15 kg of wild and huge mt. mushrooms. I am learning which are good to eat and which are puff balls. Haven't found any of the hallucinogenic type just yet :)
We have had a couple from Pennsylvania, another from Holland and a third from Denmark with an italian couple to finish, so english has been the preferred language here at Nascondiglio di Bacco.
Also, we have arrived at day 4 of proper swimming pool function. At one week, I think we have to open the champagne.
The "Pool guy" had the nerve to tell me he had just spent 800 euros to reline the little pool which has leaked off and on the past year. Did I feel sad?
PS, Happy birthday Kevin, YOF.... and to all who have our life experience from 1957 to now, what can we say, we are still young.

Monday, July 13, 2009

13 Luglio
I am waiting for the sprayer to fill up with water after adding the copper and sulfur. We are experiencing a near record year of rain and have developed a mold in the vineyard called perinospera. We will end up losing leaves if we don't get it under control which means now spraying all the rows instead of every other. If we were also growing grapes this year, we could lose those as well.
While I wait, I will recount my last week which included a quick run up north to Switzerland and France, then Lago d'Orta and Milano for the U2 concert.
I started in Mantova where we had a sort of reunion of many of the master's teachers, students and administration, all together for the wedding of Corrado and Amy. Amy was one of my roommates in Parma for a short time and came to Italy from Hong Kong to attend the Slow Food master's program in english. There, she met Corrado, who was one of the tutors. It was love at first sight as they say and now the two hope to start a B&B together in Emilia Romagna. I will keep you posted.
From Mantova, I whipped through Switzerland on the A2 autostrada and it is really fantastic. If I believed in reincarnation, I would have to say, I must have been there in a previous life and got my affection for the mountains. This trip was designed, howver, to get me to Colmar, France. This is one of the key cities on the wine road of Alsace and is a little twin to Strasbourg. I met my old friend Laurence from KC and had two great dinners at her sister's houses, private tours of wineries with tastings and met the proprietor of one of the best food shops in Europe. I was touring Colmar solo and ran across Sezanne, where the husband and wife team have scoured the world for the best food products. Imagine my surprise when I found the culatello di Zibello from my old friend Spigaroli, who I think makes the best cured meat in the world. Next to it if you want to test the best is grand riserve jamon iberico. Nearby is the rare parmigiano reggiano made from the native red cows which are almost extinct and part of a program to save the race.
I was shocked to see his prices for olive oils at 13 euros for 50 ml. Ours costs 10 euros a liter, but these are aromatized.
He also carries coffee he roasts himself, special madagascar wild black pepper, the world's best saffron and a nice, representative wine cellar. It's worth a visit, if you are up that way.
Alsace is full of vineyards in the valley and on the hills and lots of scenic towns with architecture remaining true to their traditions. The vines are 1.30 -1.80 meters apart and the little tractors are half as wide as ours.
I took a different route back through Switzerland, passing Basel, Montreux and then climbing a mountain pass to re-enter Italy. I had another appointment, this time with my friend Matteo at a wine tasting of the sparkling wines of Franciacorta. They don't rival champagne for the most part, but some of the elite, aged varieties can be excellent and give the Bruts of France a run for their money. The next day, we took a hike in the mountains of northern Italy, before having a great lunch with his grandmother.
Finally, I met my friend Jem Khan in Milan and he treated me and his 3 sons to the 360 degree tour of U2. The spettacolo, as the italians call them was truly magnificent with a 100 million euro stage which has to be seen to be believed and appreciated. Get a ticket when they bring it to the US!
The Khan family then favored me with a visit to Nascondiglio di Bacco, which was a sacrifice as they drove 11 hours round trip to and from Milan before flying back to the states.
Now I am back to the vineyard which needs a bit of medicine. I am doctoring it the best I know how.
Buon compleanno to my old friend KR 14 July, exactly one month older than me!
The pictures show Colmar, France readying for the Tour di France, their little Venice section, my friends at Sezanne, the house where Bartholdio, who designed the statue of liberty, was born and then northern Italy, near Verbania and our mountain hike with pix of Lago d'Orta from high and low.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Happy Independence Day! Time for a little vacation incl. U2 with the Khans

3 July
Happy Holiday to everyone! I am off for a bit of a lightning vacation myself tomorrow. I start near Mantova for Corrado and Amy's wedding. They are one of those perfect matches you read about and if you go wayyyyyy back on my blog you can find when Amy was temporarily my roommate in Parma during the master program.
Early the day after, I am off to Colmar, France to meet up with some winery owners, INAO, and family of an old friend from KC. I hope to learn some tips on how to market our future wine in the US and our surrounding countries. Just 2 days after, I look forward to meeting up with Matteo and try out some great Piemonte wine at a wine tasting with the winner of the best young sommelier in the Piedmont. The next day, I am off to Milano to meet up with another old roommate, this time from med school. Jemshed is bringing his boys over and 2 of them sneakily bought U2 tickets and then told dad. He responded by buying 3 more tickets (one for me and one for the other son), so I will be fortunate enough to see Bono etal at San Sirio where I also saw the Boss.
Then we are coming back to Nascondigli di Bacco, but unfortunately, they will only have one day left on their trip.
Here, we are being pounded periodically by thunderstorms which has caused an outbreak of fungus in the vineyard. I was about 90% finished with a preventive/curative treatment yesterday when the rain arrived again. Hopefully, I can finish the other bit today or early tomorrow before leaving.
We have hosted a nice couple from Udine in Friuli the past week and that is one of my favorite parts of this job. I get to talk to people from all over Italy and the world and learn about their culture.
I did take a quick trip to one of the gems of Umbria-Spello, and can highly recommend a restaurant for those of you who want to make the 10 minute trip from Assisi. The restaurant is called "Il Molino" (yes, there is one in every town here). Ask for Luca and try the appetizer "L'orto d'Obama' or the garden of Obama. I asked jokingly if it was poisonous and why they didn't have the garden of McCain, but it was really quite good.
I hope to get some nice pictures of the beautiful town of Colmar, Lagomaggiore and maybe even U2 to post when I get back next week.
Meanwhile, enjoy our 233rd birthday!
The pictures are of the plateau of Castelluccio where the flowers are not yet in full bloom and the town is Norcia from above.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Cheap airfares to Italy

2 July
Thanks to Dave Weigel for this information regarding super cheap airfares roundtrip from NYC to Rome.

Copy and paste the whole thing to find deals from August to October for Past October, they don't yet offer flights for sale.