Aglio e Scalogno

Aglio e Scalogno
Aglio e Scalogno: Garlic and Shallots at the Christmas Market in Florence

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Castello di Verrazzano, Greve in Chianti, Tuscany

Here is the Sassello Super Tuscan that we enjoyed the other night with our Italian meal.  It is a fabulous wine, aged 18 months in oak, made from Sangiovese grapes.  This wine is among many produced at the famous Verrazzano winery in Greve in Chianti, Tuscany.  Its website is  Once on the website, click on the little British flag to get the English version to appear.  

The vintner has this to say about the wine:  "Sassello represents the highest expression of the terroir-vine binomial, where Sangiovese creates a unique wine with a deep and impenetrable colour of an intense ruby red, enhanced by purple overtones. The fragrance is fine and intense, wide and persistent, and offers a variety of fruity notes including cherries, blackberries, raspberries underlined by hints of oak and vanilla. The taste is elegant and complex with closely woven tannins both smooth and pleasant joined to notes of fruit and spice, oak and vanilla, with an equally pleasant and long finish." 

No good wine tasting is complete without wild boar salame and bruschetta (above) !  We were made to feel very welcome, and the tastings were numerous and plentiful.

Simone, on the left, is the sommelier who led our wine tasting.  His personality is as vibrant as his smile!

I recommend a visit to this charming and refined establishment.  Visit their photogallery here: 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Italian dinner party

Why not host an Italian dinner party for your friends this week? I did last night! On our menu: Bistecca di Manzo con Rucola (steak with arugula), Creamy Orzo with fresh garden peas and asparagus, and Panzanella, served with a FABULOUS Super Tuscan that I got in December in Greve in Chianti, called Sassello. Amazing meal!  

The steak recipe is in the Rogers Gray Italian Country Cookbook, which I LOVE, and the Creamy Orzo is one of Giada DiLaurentis' incredible concoctions (not lowfat, but everyone goes nuts for this flavorful, creamy dish).  Her recipe calls for frozen peas, but I added just-picked snowpeas and tender asparagus from my garden.  And Panzanella, is of course, made most delicious by the freshest basil and the best-tasting olive oil.  This early in the season, it can be hard to find tasty tomatoes, but the little organic grape tomatoes are packed with sweet tomato flavor right now.  I toasted the ciabatta, rubbed it with garlic, salted it, and drizzled Viola olive oil aaaaallllll oooooover, before cubing it to add to the salad. 

Seriously, this was one of the best all-around meals that I've ever made.  And to top it all off, we savored the Super Tuscan.  After the first sip, everyone was wondering what it was and wanted to see the bottle.  We all thought it was fabulous!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My new favorite wine for summer

This is my new favorite wine for summer, Banfi's Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay blend called Fumaio.  You can read more about the wine on Banfi's link, here:  .  Lucky for me, this wine is on sale for the whole month of June here where I live - just 7.99 a bottle!  How crazy is that price?  For a wine that is easy to drink with such crisp and light fruitiness, this is an excellent price.  It pairs well with fish, and we've been enjoying it as an aperitif as well as with light pasta dishes (pasta with artichoke, pasta with asparagus, etc.).  When I was in Montalcino in December, we visited the Croce di Mezzo winery, whose vines are directly adjacent to the Banfi estate.  They share the same "terroir," or climate/soil/environment.  We didn't enter the Banfi estate, but one of these times, I'm going to have to stop there for a tour and tasting.  They make a lovely rose', too, in addition to their world-renowned Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino.  For now, I've got two cases of Fumaio in the house, and I plan to enjoy this lovely white wine all summer long!

Two Glorious Weeks in the Bel Paese!

It's official!  I've bought my airline tickets to Italy!  I'll be there two weeks in September with the ladies on tour.  The tour is 11 nights, but I arrive one day early and stay on two days at the end.  Having a trip like this to look forward to changes the way you experience every day, every moment....  It gives you an added zest, a hopefulness, a serene happiness that pervades everything you do...  It's one of my most favorite things about travel. 

Film Internship Photos

Giuliana and Steve are posting their photos from this month's ongoing film internship o their blog (  Here is the link directly to their photo slideshow:  They all appear to be having a fabulous time!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Giuliana and Steve's New Film Internship Blog

I am so excited to share the news that Giuliana and Steve, who are in Italy this whole month with University of Utah film students, have started a new blog!  Please visit to see wonderful photos of the gang hard at work doing lots of filming, and to read their heartwarming stories.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lucca's Buccellato

When I got to Lucca, I couldn't wait to try their famous Buccellato, and I knew I had to visit Taddeucci's to get the very best sampling. 

You can visit Taddeucci's website to learn more about the history of Buccellato:

Borrowing from, "Buccellato is a famous sweet-style bread from Lucca. As the old Lucchese saying goes: “Chi va a Lucca e non mangia il buccellato รจ come se non ci fosse stato” (Going to Lucca and not eating the Buccellato is like never being there). The Buccellato is a cake shaped like a doughnut or long loaf of bread and has an average weight of approximately 1 pound.  Its main ingredients are flour, sugar, anise seeds, yeast, raisins and egg white.  The Buccellato is a bread-like cake that stays fresh for several days, even if it eventually becomes very hard. When it hardens, it is usually consumed the Lucchese way, cut up into thick slices and dunked in wine (such as the sweet Vin Santo wine). It can also be toasted and served covered with sugar and strawberries."  Read more:

Believe me, your Buccellato will get as hard as a baseball bat after several days, and if you're traveling without a toaster, you'd better get yourself some sweet wine to dunk it in!  I recommend getting as small a loaf as they will sell you, or else plan to share it with several people while it is still fresh.  :-)  The anise flavor is quite pronounced and makes this a very distinctive treat.

Montalcino Wines

Do you know the difference between Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino wines?  They are both made from 100% Sangiovese grapes, but Rosso di Montalcino wines are aged only 1 to 1.5 years and never have to go in oak, whereas Brunellos must be aged for 5 years:  2 in steel, 2 in oak, and then the final year in the bottle.  Oh, and don't buy any 2002 Brunellos - it rained too much that year and the wine made from grapes harvested in 2002 isn't as good as wine made in other years.  Try to find a 2004 vintage - even though it is still "young" for a Brunello, 2004 was apparently a very good year for the grapes, and the wines have come out very nicely.    Here I am with Brenda at the Croce di Mezzo winery in Montalcino taking a tour of their cellars (Dec 2009). 

Want to share this blog about Umbria - you will love it!

If you are interested in an insider's view of Umbria, check out Gabriele and Federica's blog:  You will love it!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Italian Oceans and Hilltowns Tour update

Cute, centrally-located accommodations are being booked north to south, as are awesome exursions for wine and olive oil tastings and for cooking classes guaranteed to please!

We'll see major cities, teeny hilltop towns, and beaches along the Italian Riviera & along the Sorrentine Peninsula. We will climb bell towers, admire hand-painted ceramics, savor incredible traditional recipes, sip limoncello, and shop for our take-home treasures, but the very best souvenirs of all will come home with us in our hearts and minds, not in our luggage. They will be the memories we will have created on our adventure, the new appreciation for the Italian culture, the lasting mark that 12 days in Italy will inevitably leave on our souls.

We will be on vacation from America, opening ourselves to a different way of being in the world - the special "Italian" way of being, or perhaps rather the special way of being a guest of the Italian people. We will let Italy explain to us what she is all about, and we will not judge her according to our American standards.  We will expect the unexpected and rejoice in it! 

Canta che ti passa -

Don't Just Dream It - Do It ! Let us take you on a tour of a lifetime!

Don't Just Dream It - Do It !   Let us take you on a tour of a lifetime!
L to R: Marybeth, Giuliana (owner/founder) Steve (filmmaker)

Giuliana, owner of La Contadina Travels and Tours

Giuliana, owner of La Contadina Travels and Tours
Giuliana, on the right, leading a tour in Umbria

Steven Robert McCurdy, documentary filmmaker and my fellow tour guide

Steven Robert McCurdy, documentary filmmaker and my fellow tour guide
Steve taking a self-portrait in Italy

Another self-portrait of Steve, who is co-leading the tour with me

Another self-portrait of Steve, who is co-leading the tour with me

Italian Club of Salt Lake

If you're in Utah or coming for a visit and are interested in events related to Italian culture, music, or food, check the Italian Club of Salt Lake (ICSL) website for information: .

The ICSL also offers wonderful Italian language classes in a fun and comfortable setting at Raw Bean Cafe', at 611 South West Temple (great access off I-15). I'm the coordinator of the classes as well as a student, and believe me, the classes are great!