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Santa Barbara, CA, United States
I enjoy creating original wine-pairing recipes that are healthful and delicious. I work for Touring & Tasting a Santa Barbara based wine club and national magazine as Food Editor. However, I am not paid for this blog and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own. I received my Personal Chef Skills Competency Award from the SBCC's School Of Culinary Arts. In 2012, I started Inside Wine - Santa Barbara with pal Lila Brown which features wine tastings with winery owners and winemakers. I also serve on the Board of the Santa Barbara Culinary Arts group, which had Julia Child as one of the founding members and funds scholarships for SBCC culinary students in her name.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

At Home In Northern Italy: An Italian's Homecooking

Touring & Tasting blogItalians really know how to eat! It's not just the food--though it starts there, beginning with excellent produce: ripe red tomatoes dripping with sweet juice, perfect basil, asparagus, wheat, broad beans and other wholesome vegetables raised in the mineral-rich soil. (Much of Italy was watery some 100 million years ago, being under the ocean floor receiving layers of calcium carbonate deposits before the land was lifted and crunched up against the European continental plate.) Parmesan cheese, prosciutto, Parma ham, balsamic vinegar, and Italy's extra virgin olive oil are known the world over for their quality. Give these to a great cook, add extended family, friends, some local wines, a classic setting--say a long table under a string of lights outside on a warm, fragrant evening--plus conversation in abundant servings and you have yourself a real Italian meal.

Touring & Tasting blog postMy Italian friend Luciana is a terrific cook. Out of her kitchen emerge delicious foods. In fact, it was after a superb meal at her place near Lago Maggiore five years ago that I started blogging about food and travel. (See her recipe for Tuna Mousse from my first visit) I had the chance to visit with her again last month on Italy's Labor Day and she prepared a lovely meal to be shared with her family--including "il più' bello zio nel mondo", as he introduced himself ("the best looking uncle in the world"). Family dinners in Italy last for hours because Italians take the time to converse and enjoy the food and wine. (The longest meal I experienced in Italy was 5 1/2 hours long--but that's a subject for another blog post).

Touring & Tasting's blog"Frittura di paranza" is mix of small fishes washed but left whole, dusted with flour, deep-fried, then sprinkled with lemon, salt and pepper. Luciana had bought baby fish from the Mediterranean: triglia di scoglio which is a reef mullet and gamberetti--tiny shrimp. Clams and mussels were stirred into a sauce for pasta; raw artichokes were trimmed, soaked in water and lemon juice, very thinly sliced and dressed for a raw salad (Tuna Mousse recipe); bread was rubbed with garlic and topped with tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic; and a cheese plate prepared with a quartet of artisanal cheese, including tallegio, mozzarella, and Parmesan. On this beautiful day, we enjoyed a leisurely meal, lingering with a dessert of an ice cream cake covered with meringue and little cups of aromatic Vin Santo served with biscotti.

Gianfranco Caporali wood carFamilies are close in Italy, often living under one roof. Luciana's parents live in the house next door, on a property that includes her father's workshop. Gianfranco Caporali and Luciana's partner Uli, who is learning from the master, create fabulous works in wood: custom cabinetry and "paintings" with intricate wood inlay. Her father has also made three one-of-a-kind cars of wood. These miraculous creations are fully functional. The chassis and engine are the original metal components, but all the accessories like the sunshades, mirror holders, sunroof frame, hubcaps and steering wheel are all crafted from wood. If you are traveling to the lake district of Italy, stop by the little town of Cittiglio to see his creations. His shop is open every day.

Visit (website in Italian, but email inquiries answered in English)
See Luciana's Tuna Mousse recipe.
See Luciana's Artichoke Salad recipe.
Uli in Caporali wood car

Cruising the Mediterranean with Thacher Winery, Vinteux Vineyards and Touring & Tasting

Touring & Tasting wine cruiseOur fabulous cruise to Italy, Greece and Turkey is off to a roaring start! Scott and Bobbi Stelzle of Venteux Vineyards and Sherman and Michelle Thacher of Thacher Winery poured their delicious Paso Robles wines at the welcome aboard reception for our group. The first Wine Festival at Sea in 2013 debarked from Civitavecchia, the port for Rome. This cruise sold out, so we had nearly 90 people at the wine tasting, held in the SkyLounge on the magnificent Celebrity Reflection. Floor to ceiling windows provided panoramic vistas of the blue Mediterranean.
Scott and Bobbi on Touring & Tasting cruiseScott and Bobbi poured the Venteux 2009 Grenache, 2010 "Raucous" (25% Cabernet, 25% Estate Syrah, 25% Grenache, 15% Zinfandel, 10% Carignan), and 2010 Estate Cuveé (50% Estate Syrah, 50% Estate Petit Sirah). Sherman and Michelle poured the Thacher 2011 Grenache Blanc, 2010 "Controlled Chaos" (47% Mourvédra, 41% Zinfandel, 11% Grenache), and 2010 Vin Rouge (71% Syrah, 29% Grenache) as we mingled and met some of our fellow cruise passengers. Lovely appetizers were passed out, included spring rolls and wontons.
gift bags Touring & Tasting wine cruiseThe welcome reception and wine tasting was delightful, and if that wasn't enough, we had lovely gift bags embroidered with the Thacher, Venteux and Touring & Tasting logos, thanks to the wineries. They were filled with goodies, like visors, t-shirts, information on the wineries and the latest copy of Touring & Tasting Magazine. Plenty of room for all the souvenirs we'll find on our port excursions to Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, Ephesus, Istanbul, Naples and Rome! Wine cruises
Bobbi and Scott StelzleThacher Winery and Vineyard's award winning winery and tasting room are situated next to a 90 year old barn with spectacular and ever changing vistas of vineyards, hay fields and oak trees. They have been hand-crafting wines from superb dry farmed and head trained vineyards found on the Westside of Paso Robles and in Southern Monterey County since 2004.
Michelle Thacher wine cruiseVenteux Vineyards' ten-acre estate is nestled in the renowned "windy" Templeton Gap in the heart of Paso Robles Wine Country. Known for hot dry days and cool damp nights this growing region is ideal for dry-farmed, head-trained vines, which produce our intensely bold and flavorful Rhone varietals. You can enjoy a stay at their Paso Robles Bed & Breakfast inn, perfectly located for wine country exploration.
Sherman Thacher at wine cruiseAt our Syrah Vertical Seminar, Venteux and Thacher Syrah went head-to-head for us to compare the effect aging has on the wine as well as sense the difference created from diverse vineyards and winemaker style. Thacher poured their 2010 Syrah Monterey (pre-release) from the Coast View Vineyard, and the 2009, 2008, and 2004 vintages of the same. Venteux their 2010 Tache Le Verre (pre-release) 2009 and 2008 Tache Le Verre and 2004 "Starr Ranch" Syrah. The 2010 were ready to drink, but one could see how the wine developed with time, with the 2004 vintages having a deep bouquet and smooth texture. The Syrah Vertical Seminar was in the Tuscan Grille, which will be the venue for the wine pairing luncheon later in the cruise. Though the photos could not capture the view, through the glass walls of the Celebrity ship, we had a moving "wallpaper" of blue ocean, blue sky and a thin blue line in the center marking the horizon. Enjoying great wine and interesting people is even better at sea!
wine cruise Touring & Tastingwine tasting at sea Touring & Tasting