Spring Tour USA 2016 - Events Schedule

Seattle Events February 5-12

Feb 5 - Delaurenti - Trampetti Olive Oil Tasting, from 1:00 - 6:00
Feb 6 - The Shop Agora - Terre Margaritelli wine & Trampetti Olive Oil Tasting, from 2:00 - 6:00
Feb 9 - PoggiBonsi (Renton) - cooking class with me, wine & olive oil tasting 6:00 - 8:00
Feb 10 - PoggiBonsi (Renton) - cooking class with me, wine & olive oil tasting 6:00 - 8:00
Feb 11 - Barnacle - Terre Margaritelli & Trampetti wine & olive oil tastings 3:00 - 6:00

Nashville Events Feb 15-17
TBA

Washington DC Events Feb 19-28 at Via Umbria in Georgetown:

Feb 19 - Cooking Class with me & Terre Margaritelli tasting
Feb 20 - Terre Margaritelli winemaker dinner
Feb 24 - Trampetti Olive Oil tasting
Feb 25 - Terre Margaritelli winemaker dinner
Feb 26 - Cooking Class with me & Terre Margaritelli tasting
Feb 27 - Terre Margaritelli winemaker dinner
Feb 28 - Terre Margaritelli winemaker dinner

Grand Cayman Feb 29-March 11
(ok, this is vacation, but if you are there and want to organize something or just hang out, let me know!)

Philadelphia & NYC Events March 13-23

March 15 - Boffi Soho showroom (NYC) cooking demo & Terre Margaritelli wine tasting
March 16 - Boffi Soho showroom (NYC) cooking demo & Terre Margaritelli wine tasting
TBA - Urbani Truffles (NYC) cooking demo & Terre Margaritelli wine tasting

rest of dates TBA


Spring Tour USA 2016!

As some of you already know we are planning our big US Tour!  In each city we will be holding private dinners, Terre Margaritelli wine tastings, Trampetti olive oil tastings, cooking classes and much more!  Below you will find the dates for each city, if you would like to organize a private wine dinner (minimum 8 people), send me an email and we will do our best to accommodate you.  Follow along on my social media for our upcoming event calendar!

Seattle: February 5-12

Nashville: February 15-17

Washington DC: February 19-28

Grand Cayman: March 1-11

Philadelphia/NYC area: March 13-23


The Birds & the Bees of Zucchini Flowers... or... Everything you always wanted to know about Zucchini Flowers (but were afraid to ask)

It's that time year when zucchini blossoms are everywhere here in Italy... and they happen to show up frequently in my cooking classes and private dinners... ;-)  But there is more to the humble zucchini blossom that meets the eye! For instance, did you know that there are both male and female flowers on each zucchini plant, and that each serves a different purpose in the culinary world?

  Fxll84P-IgBpJ-E97sk8_BrWDy_leYrPBrarruVLlbXDBlSY6U95L9N5uoT8bTMvsgQ5WaOwkiIn984cyYWMU-JojdkN73s27i0H-3plnXnNRUgytq_lre6JWsM4bJhzTOiA8r2VTqbfqRBpWbfRlNAnUYKXMi_FfJZw4Q7UPPRPsEj7nzZgQwmJHdPGh8jOuu5KoZ_12pLt0scn9-ybkX8gOHLQXK YS20LkSjQwKQE-4jxbMaUSsc7qdhq0LN-9n3Eoq9-LEBhn9n2n3lQajnteW0T4aQUH5Iv6eajCmdlzbmwJA6JGx8NfQzbTBXcUHoHy6KIzvMGdjfFzGzw4reqbBfQBrW0p6RpFSCd9vLEWxqE3_a-7Ps4iXhcablEYEy-8oRuaj4VuNqEYAjvRJ3T3OsjfoSwbahn507wydywcSnuZmjYRMkwLVaF6
 
Let's begin with the female - she is easy to recognize as she can be found on a short stem close to the center of the plant literally 'birthing' the zucchini.  In fact, they are frequently sold with their little zucchini offspring attached.  The flower is bulbous near to the stem and the stigma inside is composed of tiny 'fingers' to catch pollen from the males.  The females tend to be softer and wither rather quickly after harvest, so I use them to toss in pasta dishes and frittatas. 

YlzSO0PO-BXgE2YzpI_PAUjpTQvN5s-tbarRSv5MS3MOfxh_r_g-v08ZFS5ZHy6MhzcTv-jscpWAI6eKaOI9FDQU9ymU7Rn7q18vOD-Tg7ADSJSwuY217SpKk5RBkGnRz7oEL69eM1GuYOeF30Ty6ieqYkNUw3UTo5Ede39UInRWJmMDlOxozcTzOLTa4s5n596kLBxLyW7--Jbeelg3rvKMbVvKSN CPJRkKtEor7ShQYokhfi-g23b7B8A3CbOShimTaeieZ4F9orKER1hHrSpkN6s_O0FGyR4BJrfgzADrHCrdbYDU7OYGTZh8O6TQVhBbEeqRnGca0voS7ps2INRILsiycDUlLMcLF9dYfdX-fSTcrU7xBvHj55gDSZBaJ3SW5hpunqO3We5GF93nG19t1Dq7q6PerZYce-4xhTCwahvoSJJegR2w54ki

Our friend the male zucchini blossom, on the other hand, stands at attention (hee hee) on a long slender stem.  Inside you will find a single stamen, which one could correlate with a part of the human anatomy (ahem).  The male flowers tend to remain, umm, firmer (insert joke here)... so I use them for stuffing and deep frying as they can better take the heat.

Here is my recipe for Fiori di Zucca Fritti (Fried Zucchini Blossoms)

I0U1BKtbpFnx-VCg5dNZuPWTWUZpeR1uoFeztgQxhVcTNFqYJPKiY5FEZvh4Ro79j0miVJYR9DNAItFC1MzdHL06afs-tBj-zv4P1uKq8PW5LPZRe3hsOJmg8A973F93H1b1-tQzHBk7dgMXFlRtj-DElzIFqq4cfrdx3PFwgnExr1C3gmmqbpPbMZklw4omGfZr91Fm9PsH2LWuca8KEgP76qiPJjMale zucchini blossoms
Mozzarella (a type made for pizza – drier than traditional buffalo mozzarella)
Salted anchovies (de-spined, rinsed and cut into small pieces)
All-pupose flour
1 ice cold beer (I use a mild tasting beer like Peroni)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (sometimes I cut the oil with organic sunflower seed oil to cut down on the cost)
 
CzirVDO2i0Hud8g3Ld0dFkamMA30iM-Qh9MXtDq1s0_BCu78UtQuk3x57iuOsWfo14-FSARpIdqA2TQnf7tmxIgmAy3eIjB18Oo-MkU8QdsS9TqHxENOYREugORYmicuM4RWT-hYrkh79A2LAly1lBopopNK7W2sutGN1cRZWYzdlv1DvD2z2s72pNRaU_dQtVXTMDrouwVa7WQRq-99l5uwqsq4hKCarefully remove the stamens from the zucchini flowers. 
Then stuff each flower with a piece of mozzarella and a piece of anchovy and twist to close.  
Whisk the beer into the flour, should be like pancake batter.
Pass each flower in the batter.
Drop into hot oil to fry, will be done after 2-3 minutes, when the bubbles start to slow down.
Drain on paper towels and salt while hot.


Chickpea Flour Torta

IMG_5736Monday night dinners usually mean a 'clean-out-the-fridge-frittata' in my house, however, my son was recently diagnosed with a (hopefully temporary) egg allergy.... so the frittata is out.  Perusing the (gulp) vegan blogs I found a lot of recipes for chickpea flour 'eggs.'  Umbria is legume country, especially from the area known as Colfiorito, meaning we have no shortage of chickpea, or ceci, flour.... so I thought I'd give it a try... and what do you know? It was great!  Mind you, it has nothing to do with eggs now matter what the vegans and vegetarians will have you believe, but it is delicious all the same (and I know that because my 2 year old devoured it). It is reminiscent of a baked version of Sicilan panelle, which are basically fried chickpea flour patties.  Here is my version:

  • 165g chickpea flour (about 1.5 cups)
  • 2 cups water
  • chopped spring garlic
  • 1 med zucchini, small diced
  • 1 cup cooked swiss chard, chopped
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • heat oven to 400F/200C

In a cast iron pan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. 
Add garlic, zucchini, chard and cook until zucchini starts to turn golden brown.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, slowly whisk together the water and chickpea flour until smooth.
Pour the chickpea mixture into the pan and cook over medium high heat for a few minutes, season well with salt.
Then, put in oven to set, about 15 minutes.
Let cool slightly before cutting.

 


100th Rave Reviews on TripAdvisor!

I'm proud to announce that we have just received our 100th outstanding review on TripAdvisor!  Thanks to my partners and travellers to Umbria for making each experience unique and fun! Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 16.02.26

 


Farmers' Markets in Umbria: Back to the Future!

Bruschettina-1One of the biggest culture shocks I experienced when I moved to Umbria from Seattle was something completely unexpected  - there were no farmers' markets!  Now, whilst living in Seattle, I was a central part of the booming farmers' market industry there - I had a very popular stand called Bruschettina, lines down the block, I even had an employee - the farmers' markets were my life.... So imagine my shock (and dismay and horror) when I moved to a place where, honestly, in America we think we are modelling our markets after, that is barren, so to speak. 

Understand that other than bananas and citrus, I had not bought a piece of produce in a supermarket in years.  I was dying on the inside...  The 'markets' here were what I oh-so- lovingly deemed Socks and Underwear Markets.  Basically a bunch of stalls selling knock off clothing and plastic crap.  Deep within the rows of socks and underwear, there might be a fruit/veg stand, but you know if they are selling bananas (and they always are) that most likely nothing is local and forget about organic.

When I moved from Foligno to Cannara I had the absolute fortune of discovering Ada.  Ada is mentioned frequently on my blog as she was my 'savior.'  She and her family have a small farm here and she sells her produce 2 days a week in our town.  So that solved my produce predicament, but I was still driving all over the hinterlands to buy meat, cheese, grains etc...

Now, I always joke that Italy follows in the footsteps of the United States (right or wrong), only 20 years later.  When the American style big box stores and supermarkets came in, small farmers in the area went out, as did the markets.  Slowly but surely, Italy is again following the fashion (better late than never) and catching on to the Farmers' Market trend.  What really kills me is when I see Farmers' Market written in English - I just want to scream - don't you know this is your lost tradition?!?!  Anyway....

In the past few years, a national group called Campagna Amica has been introducing markets showcasing local products all over Italy... and I am so happy!  The first time I went to one I felt all the memories of the Seattle markets rush back because many of the producers in these Campagna Amica markets are already my friends/ trusted producers - now finally all together!

If you are visiting Umbria, please take the time to visit and support one of these local markets, granted they are not the immense banquets of Provence, but it's a start in getting back to our future.

Weekly (not socks & underwear) Markets in Umbria

  • Santa Maria degli Angeli (Assisi) - Monday
  • Todi - Monday
  • Spoleto - Tuesday 
  • Città di Castello - Tuesday
  • Perugia (Pian di Massiano) - Thursday
  • Foligno - Friday
  • Gubbio - Saturday
  • Umbertide - Saturday

Most of the markets run from 8:00 - 12:00/13:00.  Perugia also holds an organic market once a month and of course, Ada is in Cannara on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

IMG_3890 IMG_4056 IMG_4303


 


My New Food & Wine Tours in Umbria for 2015!

See Umbria through the eyes of a Chef with
Jennifer from Life Italian Style!


A professional chef since 1998 by way of Philadelphia and Seattle, Jennifer is now a private chef and leader of active Food & Wine tours in the heart of Umbria. She works closely with the local, artisan producers she has met over the years and keeps her ears open at the markets, always ready to learn a new traditional recipe from an Italian Nonna to share with you!


Custom Food & Wine Tours
Single or multiple day tours available for guided exploration of the best local artisan producers in Umbria!


Private Chef in Umbria
A classic Umbrian dinner prepared directly in guest villa, using only the best local and seasonal ingredients. Umbrian DOC wines included. “Pizza Night” available for those staying in villas with a pizza oven. Please enquire for Cooking Classes as well!


Cycling Tour of the Umbrian Valley
Tour along country roads with a professional Italian guide through the beautiful vineyard and olive grove covered hills of the Umbrian Valley, stopping in small villages along the way. A full Umbrian Picnic lunch in the countryside completes the day!
Hiking and Walking Tours also available.


Horseback Riding & Winery Lunch
A 45 minute tour on horseback (no experience necessary) through the vineyards of the Terre Margaritelli winery in the countryside of Torgiano (just outside of Perugia), followed by a tour of the winery, wine tasting and lunch.

Nature Abounds in the Valnerina
We begin our day with a visit to a local pecorino cheese maker to see the production of various sheep’s milk cheeses.  This is followed by a visit to a local family which specializes in saffron production. We will then take a walk through the forest with them to forage for edible and medicinal herbs. Afterwards we enjoy a lunch with a guided tasting of local sheep & goat cheeses as well as delicacies prepared with foraged greens.

Farm to Table Tour
Our first stop is at a unique stone flour mill and wood-fired oven bakery. We learn about breadmaking beginning with grain!  We then move up to a local farm where a local family raises animals for salumi making, meat and cheese production. We will make cheese and pasta with Nonna Rita before indulging in a traditional farm lunch.
*Wild Asparagus hunting in the Spring
*Truffle hunting available in June and July

The Artisans of Perugia
We begin at the base of the historic town with a visit to the weekly farmers’ market. Then we will move up into the center to discover the lost art of weaving jaquard and silks on 17th century looms. We then stroll through the city stopping in artisanal bottegas along the ways before enjoying lunch in an enoteca known for its exclusive use of Umbrian products.

Meat Lover’s Tour
A tour of a local farm which raises prize-winning Chianina (native white cow of Italy), Cinta Senese pigs, sheep, birds, and crops. Included is a brief demonstration of butchery & salumi making. We then move on to the Terre Margaritelli for a lunch of grilled meats from the farm accompanied by a wine tasting & tour.

Wine and Chocolate Tour
We will first visit an artisanal chocolate producer to see how some of their specialties are produced.  From there we will move on to the Terre Margaritelli winery for a tour of the winery and full wine tasting lunch.

Umbrian Cooking Class & Lunch
Cooking classes are held in the rural village of Cannara, located in the heart of Umbria between Asissi and Spello or directly in guest villa. They are based around the best local ingredients in season, and includes making antipasto, primo, secondo and dolce followed by a lunch (eating what we just made, of course!)


Please contact Jennifer directly
at lifeitalianstyle@gmail.com
for booking and information!

 


 


Ciao Thyme Umbrian Food & Wine Tour!

IMG_4125

We are welcoming back our good friends Matiao and Jessica from Ciao Thyme in Bellingham, WA, for our 4th annual culinary tour of Umbria!

As always, I have a lot of great experiences planned for the group, including rustic cooking classes, saffron picking, the olive harvest & pressing of the new oil, farm tours, winery visits and tasting, cheesemaking and more!

 

Follow along with our adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+, hashtag  #CTumbria.  

Then, come join us in 2015 for our May and October tours - A presto!

6a00d83498575969e20191032c2740970c-pi


The Infiorata of Cannara - Flower Power!

IMG_0517For anyone in Umbria on June 21-22, there is a wonderful festival called L'Infiorata going on.  Some of you may have heard of the more well-known version held in nieghboring Spello, but in my opinion, the Cannara version is a must!

The Infiorata is a 17th century Baroque celebration of the religious feast of Corpus Christi (known as Corpus Domini here in Italy).  It is one of those "moving holy days" so every year it falls on a different Sunday.  What happens is that local townspeople get together to line the streets with beautiful carpets of flowers, intricately laid to create stunning works of art, mostly with religious and cultural themes.

While in Spello the Inforata is created mostly by professionals, in our village of Cannara it is a local affair... which means a party!  For weeks before the event, flowers are harvested from the area.  Then on Saturday, which this year will be June 21st, all of the flowers are "prepared", meaning that they are all de-petalled, de-stemmed, and put through grinders to make sure that they are uniform.  After sunset, all of the townsfolk begin to lay the flowers down onto their respective designs along the streets to create their masterpieces.  The process continues throughout the night (until dawn) with a break around midnight for the Spaghettata, when some of the local women bring out pasta in the piazza for everyone to enjoy - then it's back to work!

The next morning, there is a Mass to celebrate Corpus Domini followed by a procession, during which the priest walks over the the flower carpets.  Don't worry, he usually treads lightly!  The carpets are left on display for the entire day and then are washed away until next year...

IMG_7966 IMG_7996 IMG_7994 IMG_0511 IMG_2501 IMG_0505

The Infiorata has an extra special meaning for me because the very first Infiorata that I participated in was back in 2008, when I was still living in Foligno and no intentions of moving to this sleepy onion town... but when I looked back at the photos, I realized that I did the infiorata in front the house that we eventually bought!  It was kismet to say the least!

IMG_4303 IMG_4326
That's me unknowingly "infiorat-ing" in front of my future home back in '08.

I will be live tweeting, instagramming and facebooking the Infiorata of Cannara June 21-22, with the hashtag #CannaraFlowerPower - follow along virtually if you can't be here!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Checking out the Competition in Pienza

IMG_0031
So... yesterday I went to the forbidden land... you know that neighbor to the north of ours that begins with a T.... and yes, if you are wondering, my husband (good Umbrian that he is) did threaten to change the locks on the doors. 

That's right.  I went to Tuscany (gasp!).  The lovely town of Pienza to be exact (double gasp!).  I had been hearing a lot about Pienza from passing tourists and since some friends of mine wanted to check it out, I thought I would tag-along. 

Now, it really bothers me when journalists treat Umbria as a sort of lowly step-sister to Tuscany, but I have to admit, after my visit yesterday, I kind of get their mentality.  I could compare Pienza to my favorite Umbrian town, Bevagna.  Both are medieval towns set in the idyllic Tuscan/Umbrian countryside.  They are similar in size, as well as aritistic and historic offerings.  But, there was one big difference:  Pienza was OPEN FOR BUSINESS.  Enotecas and restaurants started tastings at 11:30.  Shops were alive and inviting, not to mention open all day (a shock for someone like me who lives in the land of the never-ending pausa).  The sun was shining, the wine was flowing, it was a perfect Tuscan afternoon... but yet, something was amiss...

IMG_0012 IMG_0008 IMG_0010 IMG_0004_2 IMG_0002 IMG_0013 IMG_0016_2 IMG_0014

Where were the Italians?  Ok, obviously the shopkeepers were Italian (all of whom, right down to the gas station attendent, spoke perfect English (and probably German as well)), but where were all of the old people sitting around on their plastic chairs, where were the men arguing about local politics in the piazza?  Where was the real Italian life?  Where was the bric-a-brac hardware store, and the alimentari?  Everything was just a little too slick and polished and the town seemed to be created for tourists.  This feeling was confirmed when, getting a coffee, I asked the barista where she liked to eat.  She couldn't tell me one place (as she neither lives in, nor frequents Pienza) and so referred me to the owner, who gave me a glazed over 'all of the restaurants are good' answer.  Hmmmmmm.

It seems to me that both regions have to work on their toursim a little bit.  Tuscany has certainly paved the way to greatness, but has gone off the rails and now seems to have a Disneyland type mania going on.  Tuscany is a brand.  I engaged in a conversation with a tourist from New York, and, when I told her that I lived in Umbria, the next region over, she said to me (as do many tourists) "Oh yes, I just love all of Tuscany!"  That kind of thing breaks my heart, while at the same time makes me happy that Umbria is not saturated with these hapless "UnderTheTuscanSunTourists".  Umbria, on the other hand, could learn some things about marketing and attracting tourists:  swinging wide open those doors and shaking off that closed 'member's only' feeling... and maybe cutting down the hours of the mid-afternoon pausa - we can't eat four hour lunches every day.  Time to throw your hat into the ring, Umbria!

IMG_0029

On to the important stuff, here's where I ate:

La Bottega di Pienza:  we stopped in here for a tasting of local cheeses and Ercolani wines produced by this family.  At €5.50 for a jumbo size glass of wine and tons of cheese, this was a bargain - the wines, however, were unexceptional in my opinion.

La Buca di Enea:  Lunch.  Cute little trattoria with good local food - we had a Fonduta of Pecorino with porcini mushrooms and lardo di Colonnata, Pici (the local Tuscan pasta) with duck ragù, and Ribollita (Tuscan bread soup).  The food was decent, but rushed - I still had my pasta in front of me when the owner slammed down 3 bottles of digestivi on our table - nice touch, but we had been thinking about trying one of the meat courses, let alone dessert - I guess not!  That is something that will never happen in Umbria - they don't even think about turning tables, in fact they seem to get really annoyed if they have to reset a table during service!

La Bandita:  Not satisfied with the wines we had consumed so far, we decided to try one more place.  La Bandita is a modern restaurant/wine bar in a boutique hotel of the same name (owned by Americans).  It is worth the trip alone just to sit outside on their patio, sip wine, and watch the chef pick fresh herbs for your cheese plate.