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You can find other posts on our recent trip to Tuscany/Umbria below:

Eating Our Way Through Italy: Part 1

Villa Life: A Week in Umbria

Wine Tasting in Tuscany: Avignonesi Winery

When you think Italy, of course food and wine are top of mind, and we did plenty of eating during our trip.

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It was gloriously hot and sunny every single day, and we opted to eat almost every meal outside. When visiting Cortona after a spectacular wine tasting at Baracchi Winery (more to come on that), we were ravenous and tired and happy to find Baracchi’s Cortona restaurant, Bottega Baracchi, was serving a cold lunch and pizza even late in the afternoon when many places close. We shared cheese and meat plates and more wine from Baracchi on their charming patio, but I of course had to take a peek inside and was glad I did.

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While the patio of Bottega Baracchi is beautiful and overlooks bustling Cortona, the interior of the restaurant is spectacular! It just keeps going, and there’s wine and food and art everywhere. I loved the displays of fresh veggies and this rack of rosé. I’ll take it all, please!

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No meal in Italy is really complete without gelato, and we stopped for a dish or cone every chance we got. A scoop of hazelnut and a scoop of chocolate for me!

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Vecchio Molino in the town we were staying in, Tuoro Sul Trasimeno, was a favorite for a late dinner al fresco, complete with fried zucchini blossom heaven.

I’m well aware of the amount of oil that goes into these, which is part of what makes them so delicious.

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Truffles were a regional staple where we were staying, and these raviolis in cream sauce were covered in fragrant truffle. It was amazing.

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And then of course there was the wedding! The whole reason we all gathered for a week in Italy was for my husband’s sister’s wedding, and we ate all night long.

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Course after course of incredible food came out all night and included indulgences like this Umbrian bread salad topped with lobster and prosciutto and cheese crepes with black truffle.

These were just the appetizers. There was a pasta with shrimp and a gnocchi in a rich montalcino wine sauce, followed by a fliet of beef, and the most decadent, cream topped, Nutella filled wedding cake.

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And then after some dancing, there was pizza!

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Our last night in Italy turned into a massive party at the villa, with all of the guests who weren’t staying there over to swim, and everyone brought food or wine to the table for a delicious meal. We had a professional chef in the group, which was amazing, and with his grilling and other cooking, along with everyone else’s culinary talents, we feasted on salads, grilled burgers and spicy sausage, salads, pasta, and so much more. It was the perfect way to end the trip.

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Tags: cheese, Cortona, gelato, Italy, Travel, travel blog, Tuscany, wine, wine tasting, winery

It’s wine snack Wednesday, and this is a simple, must-share little treat that went perfectly with our dry Riesling tasting. I know it’s fall and all, but heirloom tomatoes might be around a tiny bit longer; if you find some good ones, you will want to make this compote.

heirloom tomatoes

hungarian paprika

apple cider vinegar

It’s an incredibly easy “recipe” that starts by roasting tomatoes until wrinkly and fragrant. You’ll know when they are done, just by looking at them. Once your tomatoes are ready, use a food mill or even scissors to really pulverize them into a puree. Take your tomato blend and put it in a sauce pan on low, and while stirring, add in a couple of teaspoons of sugar. This recipe is not exact; it’s all about your taste. A lot of the recipes I perused prior to cooking called for SO much sugar, which I just didn’t want to use. Instead, I stirred in about three teaspoons while the tomato puree was slowly simmering on the stove. To that, I added a teaspoon of Hungarian paprika, a pinch of cinnamon and about 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar. I stirred it all together and let it simmer until it cooked down a bit.

roasted heirloom tomatoes

Once cool, I put in little jars to store. I didn’t jar these for long-term storage, but that is definitely something I would like to learn.

spiced tomato compote

This spicy sweet, and savory compote was nice with a little Saint Andre triple crème cheese and a couple of pours of Riesling. The spice of the compote was delightful with the fruit flavors in the wine, and the creaminess of the cheese went well with the acidity of the wine; the fat was cut a little by some of those zippy Riesling flavors.

Saint Andre cheese

I love cooking for wine pairing, and I especially love when I find something super simple that we can enjoy on a weeknight. We’re learning more and more to savor each and every day of our lives, and mid-week mini celebrations are a great way to do it.

How do you savor the everyday moments, especially those draining weekdays?

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Tags: cheese, heirloom tomatoes, recipe, tomatoes, wine, wine and food, wine and food pairing

What a weekend full of great food and wine! Saturday night we dined with friends at Barbara Lynch’s Menton, and Sunday we made the journey to Mohegan Sun for Sun Winefest. We were fortunate enough to receive trade passes as well as passes to a beer and cheese pairing with Smuttynose, and we thought the event was fantastic.

I hadn’t been to Mohegan Sun since an Aerosmith concert in college, so we were pretty excited about all of the stores, restaurants, and attractions all under one roof. It was definitely the place to be on a freezing cold Sunday afternoon!

First up was the Sun Winefest Grand Tasting. Trade hour is always the best as it’s not crowded and people pouring the wine have a real chance to talk with tasters. I was incredibly impressed at how organized Sun Winefest was as well as the amount of space between booths. Even when the masses arrived, it didn’t feel too crowded.

Mohegan Sun, Sun Winefest

One of my favorite things about events like this wine festival is discovering new wines and re-tasting old favorites. After Sun Winefest, I definitely have a list of must-adds to our wine collection.

J. Lohr Riesling

J. Lohr Riesling – beautiful, bright and citrusy with a mouth feel that reminded me of a Viognier. Despite the weather, I am loving white wine right now, and this one was a treat.

Anna Codorniu Lois Gruner Veltliner

Anna Codorniu Brut and Rose Cavas – I had my first taste of Anna Codorniu at Post 390’s Farm to Post dinner; I didn’t need to taste it again to know that I love it. It was fun to also taste the Brut and to learn that these delicious sparkling wines retail for around $12.00. There’s not excuse to save bubbly for special occasions!

Another wine I revisited was a Gruner Veltliner from Fred Loimer. I have loved his Lois for a long time; you really can not go wrong with Gruner.

Cannonball Merlot

We spent quite a bit of time at the Cannonball table. First drawn in by the label, which is adorable, as well as the fact that these wines are from my favorite place on earth, Healdsburg, we ended up falling in love with the wines as well. The Cannonball Merlot is heaven; lots of spice and dark berry flavors. People need to start drinking Merlot again, and Cannonball is a great place to start.

California Chardonnay

California definitely represented with some gorgeous Chardonnays like the above from Robledo and Sparrow Hawk. I love a hint of vanilla and butterscotch in Chardonnays, and both of these had the acidity to balance it all out.

In addition to the above, we tasted a few Italian wines we loved, including a bubbly, fun pink wine called Rosa Regale. I could picture myself sitting in the sun on a comfy lounge chair sipping a flute of it. We really enjoyed all of the wines at the Banfi Vintners table because they were great, but also because the representative pouring was so knowledgeable.

One of the highlights of the festival for me was meeting one of the winemakers from Gloria Ferrer, another favorite place of mine.

Gloria Ferrer

The Sun Winefest also features an extensive beer tasting on a separate floor from the wine. I loved the way the wine and beer were divided; I think it helped to thin out the crowds. I can’t say enough about this great event. One of our favorites was  a Kona Brewing Company coconut beer; it was rich, smooth and offered some delicious tropical flavors.

Longboard Beer

The real reason we were at Mohegan Sun was for a Smuttynose beer and cheese pairing at Todd English’s Tuscany.

Todd English Tuscany

cheese and beer pairing

Heading up the event were a dynamic duo with a great knowledge and passion for beer and beer pairings.  Ken from Pete & Gerry’s Organic Eggs is someone I met at a pizza and beer event last year, and he was joined by Smuttynose executive brewer, David Yarrington. The cheese pairings were brought to us by iGourmet.com, and they were absolutely amazing. We consumed a LOT of cheese at this event.

cheese and beer pairing

We went through each of the beers and paired them with a recommended cheese, but David also suggested we try all of the cheeses with each beer to decide on what worked and what didn’t. My thoughts? All of the cheeses went really well with all of the beers.

Here’s what we tasted:

Smuttynose Beer Cheese Pairing
ParadoX Pierre Robert Triple Crème Brie
IPA Quebec 7 year Vintage Cheddar
OBD Red Dragon Cheddar (with Welsh Brown Ale & Mustard Seed)
Gravitation Beemster X.O. Extra Double Aged Gouda
Zinneke Rogue River Blue by Rogue Creamery

Smuttynose brewer

ParadoX was a beer brewed especially for Sun Winefest. Since it was an IPA, I wasn’t sure I would like it, but rather than being too hoppy, it was fresh, aromatic, and balanced.

From Boston.com:

Yarrington brewed ParadoX, an aromatic, session IPA, with experimental hop 02120. He travels to Washington state yearly to hand-select his hops, and he chose this one because of it’s lemony qualities. With Citra hops being all the rage, brewers are constantly looking for something similar, and experimental hop 02120 — called the lemon drop hop — comes pretty close.

Overall, though, I have to say my favorite beer was the Zinneke, a nice dark beer that paired perfectly with Rogue River Blue. Old Brown Dog was another favorite, and true to suggestion, it went well with the Red Dragon Cheddar, which had a nice kick from mustard seeds. The most indulgent-tasting cheese of the afternoon, the Pierre Robert, was absolutely heavenly, soft, gooey, and amazing and truly tasted great with all of the Smuttynose beers, the beers cutting through some of the delectable butter fat, just as Champagne or sparkling wine would. The pairing actually reminded me a lot of pairing Champagne with food; beer is a pretty great beverage for pairing with food and I hope to pay a little more attention to this in the future.

smuttynose ipa

I have always enjoyed Smuttynose beers, and I can’t believe I have not visited their brewery for a tour and tasting. We’ve been wanting to spend a weekend in Portsmouth, and this might have given us the kick we needed!

Overall I would definitely recommend Sun Winefest’s Grand Tasting and the available seminars. When you go this route, you get the best of both worlds, a big, busy tasting, followed by a more educational, slower-paced tasting event.

Do you have a favorite wine/beer tasting event? As you likely know, mine is the Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival, but the Sun Winefest is definitely close!

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Tags: beer, cheese, cocktails, events, Travel, wine, wine tasting

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