Time to pick our favorite Italian wines for Christmastime entertaining. Experts agree there is no better wine for the holidays
than Cabernet Sauvignon, that spicy, dark-fruited lingering red we all love to pair with meat. After all grand cuts of meat are what the holiday table is all about. We want that intense garnet color and incensual aroma in our glass reflecting the glistening lights and complementing the sugar and spice that are symbolic of our holiday meals. I could find a formidable match with an Amarone, Barolo, Barbaresco or Brunello from Montalcino. A Vino Nobile or Rosso from Montepulciano, a Chianti Classico, or a complex Sicilian but sometimes a robust red can weigh you down so we’re looking for a lighter version of a traditional Italian red.
I’m choosing a Lagrein (pronounced la-GRINE) from Italy’s Alto Adige (Sudtirol) just because I happen to love the region and well it’s the most Christmasy part of Italy. Surrounded by the Alps and the Dolomites there is a fairytale-like atmosphere that makes the days of Advent very special. Lagrein wine is dense and dark purple/ruby in color with aromas of black raspberries and plums, cinnamon and nutmeg with flavors of cranberries and some leathery notes. Sounds like Christmas to me. It’s a relative of Trentino’s Teroldego (which I like) so I think I’ll invite it to join us at the holiday table. Who would you like to invite?
Depending on your generation, Veteran’s Day in the US often focuses on a wall with a mirror-like surface that winds its way through Constitution Gardens in Washington DC. It honors US soldiers who served, fought, died or were missing in action during the Vietnam War. Having lived through those times I always experience a sobering nostalgia on Veteran’s Day about the casualties of war and the diverse reasons why wars are fought.
There is a similar wall known as the Monumento alla Resistenza in Sesto San Giovanni, a suburb of Milan, designed by Piero Bottoni and Polish artist Anna Praxmayer. Scratched on its surface are scenes that trace in 13 stages the anti-Fascist struggle of the Italians during World War II. Located in the Piazza della Resistenza, the wall gradually rises higher toward the sky with the sculptured form of Victory freeing a flight of bronze doves.
We visited this monument several years ago with our Milanese cousin Lidia who lived in Sesto. She like many other Italians of her generation have memories of bombings and hidings as children and families that lived through war, resistance and liberation. Although active memories fade as people pass away, generational memories linger as families and friends remember those who served while the collective memory of our country honors all veterans here and aboard.
Italian cookbook authors like Hazan, Bastianich and Batali have given us great insight into the ingredients and techniques that make Italian cooking one of the world’s most favorite cuisines. So when I see a post about a recipe that uses one of Italy’s most iconic ingredients, pasta, and labels it “just about the most revolting dish ever devised” I’m compelled to take a second look. According to an article published in The Guardian, the revered and infamous English food writer Elizabeth David who strongly influenced post WWII British cooking through a series of articles and a subsequent book on pleasures of Mediterranean food, found a recipe for an Italian salad in the book Ulster Fare, published in 1945 by the Belfast Women’s Institute Club that made her cringe.
Known for her candid comments (the mid-century equivalent of Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain) David labeled the recipe “just about the most revolting dish ever devised”. Also known as the “world’s worst pasta salad” it is a hodgepodge of misplaced ingredients and missteps (did they mean peas instead of pears?) that make it a culinary malfunction. The Guardian writes about it under the title “Do not try this at home”. Some might disagree as to the labeling of the dish as the worst ever blaming the proofreader for the ingredient error. But if Italian sensibility and taste were taken into account it still is a painful misuse of pasta.
1 pint cold cooked macaroni
½ pint cooked or tinned pears
½ pint grated raw carrot
French dressing to moisten
2 heaped tablespoons minced onion
½ pint cooked or minced string beans
Mix the chopped macaroni and vegetables; moisten with French dressing, ﬂavouring with garlic if liked. Serve on a dish lined with lettuce leaves. Decorate with mayonnaise and minced pimento or chives.
With the vacation season in full swing I wanted to spend some time talking about travel, in particular European travel, subset Italy. Of the 308 million-plus citizens in the United States, only 30% have passports versus 41% of Canadians and 71% of Brits. Europeans travel much more than Americans. It seems the art, architecture, food and wine of their neighbors is too good to pass up. And of course it’s convenient, you ca ride a train for a few hours and enter a new country.
I’ll admit it took me a while to travel beyond the beltway. We all have our reasons to postpone travel; work, family, time, money and an emotional commitment to travel outside the box. Time Magazine once published an article
that has stuck in my mind, a study by Cornell University that cited how we should spend our money to gain the greatest satisfaction and happiness.
“If you’re conflicted about whether to spend money on a material good or personal experience (say, a vacation), the research says you’ll get much more satisfaction,and for longer,if you choose the experience“.
It may be time to re-think your goals and invest in a travel experience. Italy is Europe’s everyman with something for everyone. Apply Now.
According to the market research firm InfoTrends, global consumers will take more than one trillion digital photos this year with a large part taken on vacations and trips. So what do you do with the over the top number of pictures taken on your trip to Italy. Of course there’s your Facebook wall album and the obligatory photo book. Your annual Vista Print calendar and family Christmas card. Perhaps a Vimeo video. But like many Italian travelers the street art and iconic landscapes and architecture of Italy create such great photo opps that they want to bring Italy home with photos framed for wall art that deserve to be properly displayed.
According to pro designers the proper way to display your framed photos as art and make them look good on your wall is to follow a standard used in many galleries and museums. Always hang your artwork at 57″ on center meaning that the middle of the artwork is always at 57″. The 57″ standard represents the average human eye-height known to be most pleasing for viewing. Click here to learn how Maxwell Ryan from Apartment Therapy applies this standard when hanging artwork and enjoy your fotos of Italy!
Techniques to help Americans change their eating habits and lead a healthier lifestyle are always in the news. The most recent being the concept of mindfulness, using a common meditation technique as a nutritional tool that you can use to manage portions, pay attention to choices and just slow down a bit. Mindful eating or the concept of sitting down at the table in a relaxed and convivial manner to enjoy the unfolding sequence of a meal has always been part of the Italian lifestyle. For most of us this style of eating is a lost art. Finding it again has the potential to improve the quality of our lives and a greater appreciation for what we eat.
We believe that “mindful eating” really is an extension of the traditional Italian concept of eating in courses and by its nature fosters portion control starting with the antipasto or pinzimonio of fresh vegetables dipped in extra virgin olive oil – a little something before the meal to control your appetite. Next, the primo piatto or first course with a small portion of pasta or risotto followed by the secondo piatto, a protein (beef, pork, fish, chicken, rabbit) once again generally a right-sized portion served with a contorno, vegetable side. A small green salad simply dressed with a vinaigrette is often served at the end of the meal to improve digestion.
Food placement or how we eat our meals is heavily based on cultural habits and the Italian style of eating in a certain sequence tends to make you pay more attention to your food as each course is an event. The “Italian model” is a mindful approach to how you eat your meals and following it may surprise you how your portion sizes and choices change when you simply become more aware of what you’re eating.
Sirius XM satellite radio launched the Beatles Channel (channel 18) this past week and other Sirius stations joined in the celebration. One in particular was XM Channel 88 NFL Radio who asked listeners to call in and name their Fab Four of Football. This got me thinking what would my choice be for Italy’s Fab Four. The top 4 most fabulous experiences you could have it Italy. It almost seems impossible to choose 4 distinctive touchstones that define the “fatal charm of Italy that can be found nowhere else” but here are mine.
Driving through the iconic landscape of the Tuscany’s Crete Senesi and Val d’Orcia
Florence, Rome and Venice
Assisi and the Franciscan Santuario of La Verna
The mosaics of Ravenna
An amazing list to be sure but here are a few more things in Italy I think are over the top, the star of the group, the best travel investment you can make, the cherry on the sundae, the most dominant person, place or thing you can see in Italy.