Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mastroberardino Winery's 'Sentieri di Vite' - 30 Seconds, 1000 Emotions

I received an invitation from the Mastroberardino Winery a few weeks ago.  An invitation for a tasting of the latest wines?  No.  I looked closer and saw that it was something different.  I circled the date - 27 March - and place - Museo Madre (Na).

The museum was packed  full of scholars, artists, writers, journalists, and wine enthusiasts like me patiently listening as  Piero Mastroberardino explained  his latest project.  A project to break away from the business as usual form of communicating wines.  A wine world that he comes in contact with daily as  he skims through international wine magazines and guides and travels around the world promoting his family's historical winery.   A project which takes  his passion for his territory and melds it with his love of the arts. So he, alongside talented director Nicolangelo Gelormini  shared with us their vision - a short  video  of life in the vineyard.

Piero Mastroberardino, journalist Rocco Moliterni, and Nicolangelo Gelormini

We were treated to this...

30 seconds.
1000 emotions.

Silence from the crowd as we reflected on what we had seen - then a roar of applause.  Applause that died down a bit only to watch the video again.  To absorb all that was happening.  To meditate, if you will, on the scenery which includes an Aglianico vineyard and a Chinese church altar.  To think about the  symbolism of wine as blood from the earth - sangue della terra.

The video continued to play throughout the rest of the evening.   Those of us who were treated to this world premiere screening enjoyed appetizers and a glass of wine or two as we discussed what we saw and what was to come ahead.

Yes, we were treated to this special screening, but there are big plans for Sentieri di Vite.  The video is  available by scanning the QR code on the back of the winery's bottles.  
Music and  striking images vs the usual technical data.

30 seconds.
1000 emotions.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Wine List, Please - Francesco&Salvatore Salvo, San Giorgio a Cremano (Na)

Saturday afternoon after a long long week.  And as I finished my last bit of weekend chores I decided that I needed a break. I needed a pizza.  I needed a glass of wine.
So I decided to head out to San Giorgio a Cremano to  Francesco&Salvatore Salvo - one of Campania's top pizzerias.
While greeting Francesco Salvo and the rest of the staff -Ciao, how have you been, it's been a while, etc etc - my eye was on the Enomatic wine dispenser machine that has a pole position near the front of the pizzeria. I was curious of the wine by the glass selection which changes often.
Bello - of the eight wines offered -three whites, four reds - three  were from Campania. Three heavy hitters; Terrantica Etichetta Bianca Greco di Tufo DOCG 2011 by I Favati, Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2011 from Rocca del Principe, and Fatica Contandina Taurasi DOCG 2008, Terredora. Wines that you'd expect to see on a top restaurant wine list were here, within my reach at anywhere from 4 to 6 Euro a glass.
My wine selection would have to wait until I decided on which pizza I wanted.   In the meantime, I wanted to try the famous Salvo fritture - fried goodies.  Particularly two new items; fried pasta and potatoes and batter fried cod. With a glass of wine? How about champagne???

Why not? I needed a break! And with the option of ordering by the glass I went for it.  Pommery Noir Brut paired perfectly.
Pizza chosen - though it wasn't easy.  I went for Nduja e Verzin - a white pizza with mozzarella di bufala campana DOP, nduja and verzin cheese.  I paired it with a glass of Terredora's Taurasi that I spied in the dispenser earlier.

While waiting, I decided to skim the wine list.  I mean, if the wine dispenser had some hot picks what would be featured in the carta dei vini? A wine list that included 105 reds, 73 whites, and 21 top champagnes, marsala, beer,
We're in a pizzeria, right?
A wine list jam packed with some of the top wineries in Campania.  A wine list whose prices are easy on the wallet. (la arge selection of wines around 15 euro a bottle)
I spoke with pizzamaker Salvatore Salvo for a bit before I left.  We talked about pizza.  We talked about the wine list.
A wine list which let's folks like me who need a break...
who need a pizza...
and who need a glass of wine enjoy it more often...

Francesco&Salvatore Salvo
Salvo pizzaioli da 3 generazioni srl
Largo Arso 10-16
80046 San Giorgio a Cremano (Napoli)
tel. 081 275306

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Sneak Peek at Spring - Taverna Estia, Brusciano (Na)

When is the best time to visit a restaurant for the first time?  At the beginning of the season to try the new items on the menu?  In the heart and heat of the summer?  At the end of the season to get an up close and personal taste of the classics?
My first visit to Taverna Estia - located in the small town of Brusciano on the outskirts of Napoli - falls into the none of the above category.
My first visit to Taverna Estia - located in the small town of Brusciano on the outskirts of Napoli was several months after I introduced myself to Maitre Sommelier Mario Sposito poolside during an event last summer.
My first visit to Taverna Estia - located in the small town of Brusciano on the outskirts of Napoli was a couple of months after I met Mario's brother, Chef Francesco Sposito at event last December.
My first visit to Taverna Estia - located in the small town of Brusciano on the outskirts of Napoli was a few months after this small taverna/ristorante was awarded their 2nd Michelin star.
I arrived at 1 pm ish on a Saturday afternoon - just in time for lunch.  And I was in luck.  Chef Sposito(Europe's youngest bistellato- 32 years old in August) had been working on a new dishes for the spring and asked me if I'd be willing to try it out before he finalizes the menu.  He didn't have to ask twice!  I immediately found my place at a small table next to the window. A table come piace a type of table, with a view of the terrace and a perfect view of the kitchen whose curtains were about to open.
Let the show begin.
Chef Francesco Sposito

It began subito when Maitre Mario Sposito alongside his wife Violetta Bobrova brought out the wine list, a plate of homemade pane and grissini, and what became my new guilty pleasure.  A small vase of algae chips.

 Taverna Estia's algae chips.  A salty savoury snack.  Ingredients are sea algae, rice, patience, and amore.

I wanted to concentrate on the meal, so I entrusted the wine choices to Sposito.  No problem for this highly recognized sommelier who placed down a feather light crystal wine calice and filled it with a glass of  NV Domaine de l'Ocre Rouge La Perle Noire, a French sparkling wine made with pinot noir. 

 It wasn't long after that the appetizers began to arrive, all under the watchful eye of Chef Sposito and his lively brigade.  

A colorful tray jam packed with numerous flavors and textures.  Like this soft green pea sponge with a sliver of pork cheek carefully laid on top.

Bread, butter and smoked anchovy.

A codfish bonbon.

A cannelino with caprino goat cheese and Bronte pistachio nuts.

It was time to change my glass of wine.  To my delight, a  Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio bianco 2011 by Sorrentino Vini.  

A Campania white which paired well with the next few dishes:

A beef emulsion with a foi gras granita, lemon and tarragon.

 With each plate, I was handed a little bit of background, of history, of preparation notes...of flavor.  I particularly rember being handed this plate.  Not sure where to begin.  A lot going on.  A squid ink bigne' filled with burrata cheese covered with a thin layer of squid.. Then, shrimp, mandarin orange slices, and a tarragon sauce.

Mario suggested that I swipe a little of the tarragon sauce as I eat the shrimp. To get that perfect balance of flavor.


Spinach in two versions:  fresh and spongy.  To accompany a lightly sauteed red mullet and a red turnip sauce.

New course, new wine...We went to Northern Italy for a 2011 vintage of pinot grigio..

Two pasta dishes.  Two pasta assaggini:  Beginning with a dish that whose aroma's brought back memories of my early days in Italia.  Mortadella.  Everyone's favorite sandwich meat.  Here, the staff made a pasta flavored with  pistachio nuts from Bronte.  On the side a smooth creamy mortedella mousse, powdered burnt leek, fresh pistachios and pistachio oil.

Sticking with pasta, Chef Sposito sent a dish out that the my camera loved as much as I did.

 Fettucce pasta cacio e ova - a cacio cheese and eggs sauce with slices of black truffles. And the cheese did not stand alone...A seabass tartar held its own on the side of the plate.

Spring had something to say in Sposito's second courses as well.  Beginning with sea bass with asparagus and a thin layer of pork cheek on a mussel sauce and an onion confit on the side.

Then, maybe the dish of the day... a scallop and fennel salad on a bed of creamy fennel al pastis.

Dessert?  I usually pass, but.  Ok.  Maybe a small tray of piccoli pastries.  And as usual, my eye and hand went straight for the chocolate.  Like this chocolte rosemary truffle  (which earned its own post! ) and a chocolatey macaroon. 

Meal over.  What is really 5:30 pm?  I guess so.  I enjoyed a  long and pleasurable conversation with Mario, his mother,  and wife Violetta, We talked about the upcoming season, lunch in the garden, jazz nights. I then headed into the kitchen to say goodbye to the kitchen brigade, salutare the chef.  A quick see you later/I enjoyed myself/grande/grande/ciao was basically all that escaped my lips, since the staff was in full swing getting ready for yet another sold out Saturday night.  
Chef Sposito shook my hand, a quick smile, then added - "On your next visit, I'll have you try some of our classics..."
Next visit?
When is the best time to visit a restaurant for the second time?  At the beginning of the season to try the new items on the menu?  In the heart and heat of the summer?  At the end of the season to get an up close and personal taste of the classics? 

Taverna Estia
Via G. De Ruggiero, 108
80031 Brusciano (Na)

081 519 9633

Saturday, March 14, 2015

#tastingTaurasi - Piano di Montevergine Taurasi 2009 - Feudi di San Gregorio

If you've ever been there - Taurasi (Av) - you've surely seen Feudi di San Gregorio's  Piano di Montevergine vineyard. it's on the right, less than a km before you enter the centro storico.

  I've driven that road often over the past 8 years or so, but it wasn't until last October that I finally decided to to stop.   I had spent a few hours in Irpinia with Pierpaolo Sirch last summer but not we didn't stop there.  But with his blessing, via an email, one Saturday morning  I decided to stop, park, and take a look around.
I  thought of that passeggiata when I  tasted this wine last week at Campania Stories. That visit one late afternoon when I  parked my  car on a small path that leads to the vineyard, not really sure if I'd be able to back out and turn around on your own.

 How the sun was beating down that moment after a quick rain. I also ate a few grapes off the vine to check out their maturity, their sweetness. 

I'll have to wait a few years to see how the grapes from the 2014 harvest will perform. It the meantime, I'll enjoy the 2009. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

#tastingTaurasi - Vigna Macchia dei Goti 2010 - Cantine Antonio Caggiano

I had the chance to try some of Irpinia's latest Taurasi wines recently during Campania Stories.  My tasting notes not only reflected the visual characteristics, perfume, and taste - they included memories.  Like when I tasted Cantine Antonio Caggiano's Vigna Macchia dei Goti 2010.
The first time i met Sig. Antonio Caggiano  and his son Pino was back in 2008 ish.I brought a group of American wine enthusiasts to his winery I was the 'translator'. It was my first 'tour' and it wasn't easy back then for me to translate all the 'wine words'.  It was easy, however, to translate Sig. Antonio's jokes (even the dirty ones!).  Sig. Antonio, besides being a top winemaker, is an amazing photographer who has traveled the world. He shared with our group tales about his travels and his experiences. The cantina is a wine tourist's dream, full ok little nooks and crannies, full of artwork and history. I remember how much we enjoyed that visit - not only for the wines - but for the hospitality as well.  An amazing Campania Story...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Snapshot of the Day - Campania Stories 2015

Last week was a  grande opportunity for the international press to come into my Campania to taste and see 'up close and persona'l the wines that I have been writing about for a few years ish,  The event? Campania Stories,  the brainchild of Miriade and Partners....a small group of professionals who I've known and followed for a few years.  They were able to pull off 5 days of wine tasting with 80 ish participating wineries from all over Campania without any public funds (like many of the premiere tastings held throughout Italy).
Five days of tastings open to the press and also to wine enthusiasts which focused on Campania champions such as Aglianico, Piedirosso, Pallagrello, Casavecchia, Falanghina, Greco, and Fiano just to name a few.  There were two base camps - Grand Hotel Parker's located in Naples and Hotel de La Ville in Avellino.  This year I was only able to make it to a couple of tastings, which I will share over the next few days.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Snapshot of the Day - Rosemary Chocolate Truffle, Taverna Estia, Brusciano (Na)

Lunch was over, I couldn't eat another bite.  I had just spent 4 1/2 hours ish at Taverna Estia, recently awarded their 2nd  Michelin star. ( It was quite a ride - details soon.)  I tried to resist the tray of piccoli pastries placed before me, but when I saw this one I couldn't resist.  Chocolate truffle with rosemay, I was told.  Chocolate I love...but with rosemary??  I was more than curious.  I picked up that chocolate truffle, which thanks to that touch of rosemary was awarded  with a fragrant woody aroma, given a light, earthy taste.

Chocolate + Rosemary forever :-)