Thursday, 15 December 2011

DRINK WINE, NOT LABELS – GOURMET LIGURIA JOINS LIGUVINARIO’S CAMPAIGN FOR SAVVY ENO-EXPERIENCES

Gourmet Liguria Joins the "Vini, non etichette" (Wine, not labels) campaign launched by Liguvinario.

Here is the English translation of the article posted by Umberto Curti a few days ago.

The post was originally "dedicated" to Italian readers (hence the reference to Italian wines), but all it takes is a bit of contestualisation...


Which is the importance of the label in the wine – buying process?
“Quality has a price” is a statement I usually tend to agree with as long as it does not come with the (usual) hackneyed phrase “the more you spend, the more you get”. Should we put the (whole) blame on marketing for this? For better or for worse it is marketing that determines the weight of the label, yet several purchases derive at the same time from both snobbish impulses and inadequate competence. Let’s face it, consumers aren’t always that versed in wine knowledge, Furthermore, wine guides’ ratings and passing trends celebrate products that often have little in common with our enological history and wisdom. Always remember that Italy is one the motherlands of wine (or, maybe, “the” motherland of wine), so try to drink wine, not labels. Discover the pleasure of an enriching research. Don’t get obsessed with Bordeaux blockbusters unless you have already searched Nebbiolo or Aglianico. Look for indigenous varieties, as well as for wineries that have been working with passion for decades. Explore the terroirs, talk to producers, match the right bottles and the best “Made in Italy” dishes.



Dear reader, do yourself – and your loved ones, not to forget your country’s enogastronomy - a favour, and circulate the “drink wine, not labels” philosophy!






Luisa Puppo



Gourmet Liguria & Ligucibario

DRINK WINE, NOT LABELS – GOURMET LIGURIA JOINS LIGUVINARIO’S CAMPAIGN FOR SAVVY ENO-EXPERIENCES

Which is the importance of the label in the wine – buying process?
“Quality has a price” is a statement I usually tend to agree with as long as it does not come with the (usual) hackneyed phrase “the more you spend, the more you get”. Should we put the (whole) blame on marketing for this? For better or for worse it is marketing that determines the weight of the label, yet several purchases derive at the same time from both snobbish impulses and inadequate competence. Let’s face it, consumers aren’t always that versed in wine knowledge, Furthermore, wine guides’ ratings and passing trends celebrate products that often have little in common with our enological history and wisdom. Always remember that Italy is one the motherlands of wine (or, maybe, “the” motherland of wine), so try to drink wine, not labels. Discover the pleasure of an enriching research. Don’t get obsessed with Bordeaux blockbusters unless you have already searched Nebbiolo or Aglianico. Look for indigenous varieties, as well as for wineries that have been working with passion for decades. Explore the terroirs, talk to producers, match the right bottles and the best “Made in Italy” dishes.

Dear reader, do yourself – and your loved ones, not to forget your country’s enogastronomy - a favour, and circulate the “drink wine, not labels” philosophy!


Luisa Puppo

Gourmet Liguria & Ligucibario

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Liguria and citrus fruits. History, recipes, scents, itineraries - La Liguria degli agrumi - Storie ricette profumi itinerari




Citrus fruits have already featured in Gourmet Liguria in a post dedicated to the adventurous journey of the Washington Navel orange (arancia pernambucco). The gourmet glory of this perfumed treat is on show Saturday 3rd December (h 15.30) in Genoa on occasion of "PanealPane - Un Mare di Bontà” Mediterranean Food and Design, 1st- 4th December (Sala del Munizioniere Palazzo Ducale). The event has been planned by food historian Umberto Curti (Ligucibario and Liguvinario) in collaboration with Coop Liguria and Agriturismo " Le Giaire "of Calizzano (i.e. the rural heart of the province of Savona). Especially designed for the 2011 edition of the festival dedicated to Mediterranean food and sustainability, the seminar features an innovative “lecture – tasting” formula that will provide attendants with hints and first hand information about the Ligurian declinations of citrus fruits.
Attendance fee: soci Coop euro 20,00/non soci euro 30,00
Further information info[at]ligucibario.com


Luisa Puppo
Ligucibario & Gourmet Liguria

When wine meets chocolate - Quando il vino incontra il cioccolato




Spend a gourmet week end on the Italian Riviera and attend this lecture about the best wine - chocolate pairings, putting your taste buds to the test during the tastings guided by enogastronomy expert Umberto Curti (Ligucibario & Liguvinario). The event, planned in collaboration with Coop Liguria and "Poldo", is a feature of "PanealPane - Un Mare di Bontà” Mediterranean Food and Design, Genoa 1st- 4th December (Sala del Munizioniere Palazzo Ducale). Save the date: Saturday 3rd December, 18.30. Soci Coop euro 20,00/non soci euro 30,00.

Further information info[at]ligucibario.com.


Luisa Puppo
Ligucibario & Gourmet Liguria

Friday, 21 October 2011

EUROPEAN WINE BLOGGERS’ CONFERENCE 2011, DIARY OF AN ATTENDEE




3 days of workshops, round tables and presentations, 216 participants from 34 different countries, and – last but not least - hundreds of wines to taste: these are the figures of the 4th edition of the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference (EWBC), which took place in Brescia (heart of the Franciacorta region), Italy, 14th-16th October. I attended the conference both as the editor of Gourmet Liguria and the “reporter” of Liguvinario (http://liguvinario.blogpsot.com/ is Ligucibario’s Italian blog about wine). The numbers I quoted confirm the significance of the wine & web phenomenon, definitely a lively and innovative liaison in which the conviviality of enogastronomy meets the potential of the Internet in terms of cross-cultural communication and sharing.
Wine lovers of the digital age, in fact, do live the EWBC as an opportunity of getting together and exchanging experiences – i.e., to live the “social” dimension in a not virtual mode, too. Yes, blogging is beautiful. But tasting, visiting wineries, commenting on wine&food pairings together with someone who shares your passion and presents you with a “new” perspective (because he/she comes from a different professional field, or belongs to another culture, or is older/younger than you, or doesn’t like the wines you like…) is even more beautiful, and fosters our desire to tell stories.
Most appropriately, storytelling was EWBC 2011’s main theme. Guided by the organizers – Ryan Opaz, Gabriella Opaz and Robert McIntosh, the volcanic trio from Vrazon.com – and by the speakers (George Taber, Evan Dawson, Jeremy Parzen, Emily Troutman, Paolo Casalis, Elisabetta Tosi, Catherine Liao, Damien Wilson) we discussed the different contexts of storytelling (oral, written, photo, video) and the wine stories yet to be told. Works progressed outside the conference hall: the wines we tasted, the producers we met, the surprise dinner in the wineries of Franciacorta, the chats in the cloisters of Santa Giulia, the participants’ Tweets shown live on the maxi screen during the gala dinner at Palazzo della Loggia – all these things meant (and mean) professional and personal development.
And this is no small feat – on the contrary, it is a major achievement, because the future should reflect the memory of the past, as well as heath means nature, an evergreen lesson also for winegrowers and enologists.
Ryan, Gabriella, Robert: this is my story about the EWBC, hope you'll like the beginning, the middle, the end and the details (this one is for George Taber). Thank you all, salute!
Luisa Puppo
Gourmet Liguria & Liguvinario & Ligucibario

Thursday, 20 October 2011

GENOVA SOUL FOOD: THE ART OF FOCACCIA MAKING (AND TASTING)

The gourmet magic of Liguria’s street food also shows in the name “sciamadda”, the eating joint where this heavenly fare has been prepared (and gulped) for centuries: not only does “sciamadda” evoke the scent of cuculli (deep-fried chick pea polenta quenelles), frisceu (fritters mainly based on vegetables or fish – locals go for baccalà - salted cod - frisceu) and mouthwatering chick-pea farinata, but it also reminds us of the pivotal role of fire (sciamaa is the Genoese for flame) in the history of cooking. This also applies – appropriately - to the queen of regional soul food, the one and only Focaccia Genovese, whose etymology clearly hints to Latin “focus” (hearth). This gastronomic masterpiece is in fact baked in the oven with the most fundamental Mediterranean ingredients: flour, extra virgin olive oil, salt and water (not to forget active yeast and malt extract). It takes all the artistry and patience of local bakers to produce excellent focaccia, crisp and supple at the same time, skillfully puckered by finger indentations, adequately leavened and processed, its perfume addictive. As for smell, just one sniff and any Ligurian can detect the tiniest trace of execrated “strutto” (reduced pork fat), used by the unorthodox to preserve softness (at the expenses of digestibility…) for several hours. But the Genoese know their way through the “caruggi” (alleys) of the historical centre, and plan rewarding focaccia safaris amidst hole-in-the-wall “panetterie” (bakers’) that prepare this gourmet treat (and its variants – sage, onions, olives…) all day long. Focaccia is in fact an all purpose aliment, fit to accompany meals (remember, breakfast is the time for cappuccino and focaccia con le cipolle, onion focaccia), snacks and happy hour cocktails. As for night owls, they do enjoy the pleasure of eating their slab of piping hot focaccia in the small hours of the morning before going home.
Focaccia is the protagonist of “Genova Soul Food”: designed by Ligucibario (in collaboration with Ascom Genova and Iscot Liguria), “Genova Soul Food” provides travellers with an array of tourist resources (accommodation, services, shopping tours…) and hands on experiences focusing on the art of focaccia making, tasting and pairing.
Contact Ligucibario info@ligucibario.com for further information.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Ligucibario's events, 2011-2012

Mercoledì 5 ottobre dalle ore 19
Umberto Curti - Focaccia genovese, cibo di bordo
Scuola di Panificazione ISCOT Liguria, sopra il mercato di Piazza Romagnosi, Genova
Ingresso libero su prenotazione, riservato agli espositori del Salone Nautico

Giovedì 20 ottobre dalle ore 17
“Alle radici della dieta mediterranea” (Soprintendenza Beni Archeologici Liguria per il 150° anniversario dell’Unità d’Italia)
Umberto Curti - Antichità rural-gastronomiche del savonese. Estinzioni e sopravvivenze
Con degustazione di prodotti dell’agriturismo “Le Giaire” di Calizzano
Civico Museo di Sant’Agostino in Genova, piazza Sarzano 21
Ingresso libero

Giovedì 3 novembre dalle ore 17
“Alle radici della dieta mediterranea” (Soprintendenza Beni Archeologici Liguria per il 150° anniversario dell’Unità d’Italia)
Umberto Curti - Focaccia, farinata e finger food. I cibi di strada liguri fra passato e presente
Con degustazione guidata di focaccia genovese
Civico Museo di Sant’Agostino in Genova, piazza Sarzano 21
Ingresso libero

Sabato 3 dicembre ore 15.30
Umberto Curti - La Liguria degli agrumi - con degustazioni
In collaborazione con Coop Liguria e l’agriturismo “Le Giaire” di Calizzano
Palazzo Ducale in Genova, Sala del Munizioniere
Soci Coop euro 20,00/non soci euro 30,00

Sabato 3 dicembre ore 18.30
Umberto Curti - Quando il vino incontra il cioccolato - con degustazioni
In collaborazione con Coop Liguria e la pasticceria “Poldo” di Genova Pontedecimo
Palazzo Ducale in Genova, Sala del Munizioniere
Soci Coop euro 20,00/non soci euro 30,00

Martedì 13 dicembre ore 18.00
Umberto Curti - Bollicine: il mondo dello spumante – con degustazioni
In collaborazione con Coop Liguria
Ipercoop Genova-Bolzaneto, via Romairone 10
Soci Coop euro 30,00/non soci euro 40,00

Lunedì 30 gennaio ore 18.00
Umberto Curti - Vino e pasticceria secca – laboratorio di cucina 1^ lezione
In collaborazione con Coop Liguria e la pasticceria “Poldo” di Genova Pontedecimo
Coop Genova-Sestri Ponente, via Merano 20
Corso completo (2 lezioni) soci Coop euro 80,00/non soci euro 90,00

Giovedì 2 febbraio ore 17.00
Umberto Curti - Grandi corsi – Viaggio nelle antiche salse al mortaio
In collaborazione con Coop Liguria e lo chef Giancarlo Marabotti
Coop Genova-Sestri Ponente, via Merano 20
Soci Coop euro 40,00/non soci euro 50,00

Lunedì 6 febbraio ore 18.00
Umberto Curti - Vino e pasticceria lievitata – laboratorio di cucina 2^ lezione
In collaborazione con Coop Liguria e la pasticceria “Poldo” di Genova Pontedecimo
Coop Genova-Sestri Ponente, via Merano 20
Corso completo (2 lezioni) soci Coop euro 80,00/non soci euro 90,00

Venerdì 17 febbraio ore 17.00
“Focaccia, farinata e finger food” – presentazione dell’omonimo libro di Umberto Curti e degustazione guidata di focaccia genovese
Libreria Coop Genova-Sestri Ponente, via Sestri 46
Ingresso libero

Giovedì 22 marzo ore 16.00
Umberto Curti - Buona Pasqua da Artusi e Ratto – rivisitazione di antichi piatti e ricettari
In collaborazione con Coop Liguria, lo chef Nadia Gherardi e alcuni allievi dell’istituto “N. Bergese”
Coop Genova-Sestri Ponente, via Merano 20 (sala Punto d’incontro)
Incontro pubblico a ingresso libero

Novità 2011
Umberto Curti - Il mondo del vino. Percorso di avvicinamento alla degustazione e all’abbinamento col cibo.
15 incontri di 2 ore ciascuno (lun e merc ore 17.30-19.30), per gruppi di 30 allievi € 320,00 cad.
Scuola di Panificazione ISCOT Liguria, sopra il mercato di Piazza Romagnosi, Genova
In collaborazione con Università Popolare Don Orione Genova (010 510555) e ISCOT Liguria

Thursday, 15 September 2011

RECIPES FROM LIGURIA: FUNGHI (OVOLI) E PATATE IN PADELLA – OVOLI MUSHROOMS AND POTATOES PAN

We love you, Amanita Cesarea!




This mouthwatering recipe is an Autumn must in Liguria (needless to say, seasonality accounts for a drop in prices, a real kick off for the cost sensitive!). Mushroom hunting (porcini porcini porcini!) is practiced throughout the region, which has always been celebrated for its exquisite “funzi” (the Genoese for funghi), treasures of the forest happily enhanced by the magic touch of Mediterranean sea breezes (scent and taste show). Treat yourself to the best: funghi rossi (red ovoli, which owe their name to “uovo” because of their egg-like shape, are the connoisseur choice), Primura Bologna DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin) potatoes, Vessalico garlic (delicateness and digestibility are well worth the search). Mushrooms are the protagonists of several regional recipes and are at their best fried, baked and sautéed – not to forget “tuccu de funzi”, the porcini mushrooms sauce that accompanies fresh pasta. Dried, they foster the cook’s ingenuity all year round.

Serves 4 people
400 g. ovoli (amanita cesarea) mushrooms
400 g potatoes
1 bunch parsley
1 clove garlic (peeled)
1 small glass extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
Time: 45 min.
Gently clean the mushrooms, brushing off impurities and dirt. If you want to rinse them (opposite parties have been debating on the subject for ages), be extremely delicate and rapid (cool water only). Chop the stems, the parsley and the garlic into a well blended mix. Peel the potatoes, cut them into slices (neither too thick, nor thin) and place a layer into a pan (well oiled). Salt and put in half of the mix (mushrooms, parsley, garlic). Set the caps, add salt to taste, oil moderately and finish with the second half of the mix. Cover with a lid and cook for 30 minutes on a low flame.
Wine pairing: nothing else but white wine (try DOC Colline di Levanto or DOC Riviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato), served at 10-11° in high stem wine glasses.






Buon appetito!












Monday, 12 September 2011

FROM TABARKA TO CARLOFORTE: A MEDITERRANEAN FOOD HISTORY AMONG GENOA, TUNISIA AND SARDINIA – PART 3

CARLOFORTE E CALASETTA. THE WINE LIST, PLEASE!

Is Solus (Doc Carignano del Sulcis) - Cantine Sardus Pater (Sant'Antioco) feature the rarity of own rooted (a piede franco) grape vines



The wines produced in Carloforte and Calasetta do deserve specific attention. Local ampelography reveals a fully Mediterranean setting – linked to Sardinia and Corse – where thanks to soil (volcanic-sandy), climate and human work it is possible to enjoy remarkable whites and reds, the fruit of vines resistant both to phylospora and saltiness.
The vineyards of San Pietro are beautiful, harmoniously sheltered from the impetuous northwest and southeast winds and dotted with some ancient white dwellings inhabited by the carlofortini in Summer and Autumn at harvest time. The indigenous grape variety is the ramungiò, which in the areas of Giunco and Sabino provides a dry white (13° average), the ideal match for local catch of the day fish, to be drunk cool and young in order to appreciate its perfumes. Other better known grape varieties are grown, though: carignano (accounting for wines rich in red fruits and spices) the monica (an excellent black variety, probably Spanish, responsible for dry, medium-sweet and fortified wines),the bovale (a.k.a. muristellu, bovaleddu…, it provides a red full of character, fruity, tannic, fit for ageing), the granaccia (or cannonau, a Mediterranean emblem of likely Aragonese origins, it boasts numberless synonyms and produces a scenting, elegant, dry and pleasantly bitter red), the moscato bianco (an aromatic variety already known in ancient Greece, it produces complex wines, with citrus or honey notes), the nuragus (the word dates back to the an era preceding both Phoenician and Greek, and defines a resistant white grape providing a sapid white, resinous, with good acidity and pleasantness), vermentino (what else?), trebbiano (Italy’s most common white grape, it provides discreetly fragrant wines, yet sapid and fruity) and – last but not least – some fortified free-run musts are the protagonists of ratafià (18°/22°), pale ruby, musky and mellow, the best choice for unleavened desserts and very tangy cheeses.
In Sant’Antioco the main variety is the above mentioned carignano, black fruit, Catalan origin (cariñena), grown also in France and Corse. It accounts for dark, hearty, dry, valid alcohol content; the palate reveals red fruits, spices, leather and toasted notes. The island also provides the so called Calasetta rosé (cerasuolo vinification, i.e. with a minimal contact between skin and must), and Vermentino.





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Thursday, 8 September 2011

FROM TABARKA TO CARLOFORTE: A MEDITERRANEAN FOOD HISTORY AMONG GENOA, TUNISIA AND SARDINIA – PART 2





Nowadays, Carloforte is a lively Sardinian port. Red tuna fishing thrives, and 15th May – 15th June is the time for the communal setting of the nets and for the “girotonno” festival. “Carlofortina” is the name of a sailing boat specially equipped for lobster fishing (please note that admiral Horace Nelson reputed the carlofortini to be the best boat builders of the Mediterranean). Saltpans stand south of the centre, whereas vegetable gardens and vineyards – lovely sheltered from impetuous winds – are a token of rural traditions. The indigenous vine variety (but also carignano, monica, granaccia, moscato bianco, nuragus and trebbiano are grown) is the ramungiò, the protagonist of a pleasant dry white (13° average) to be enjoyed cool and young with fish. History, commerce and culture are obviously reflected in the local cuisine, displaying a variety of influences form Sardinia and Liguria. Numberless recipes are based on tuna (no parts are left out apart from head and tail), the carlofortini do love scabeccio (the fish is fried, then marinated) and tonnina (cooked flesh undergoes at least 1-month salting), figatellu (the male gonads are boiled, pickled with oil and then eaten in salads or other preparations) and belu (the lyophilized stomach is boiled and pan stirred with potatoes, onions and tomatoes), gurezi (esophagus) and spinella (flesh that is not completely boned), bottarga (tuna eggs, pressed, salted and dried) and mosciamme (dried tuna fillets); the facussa is a sort of cucumber (tasty, sweet and refreshing) of Maghrebin origins participating with sea biscuits to the place’s adaptation of the caponadda salad; several declinations of chick pea farinata echo the memory of Pegli, and an in ancient local preparation farinata is the stuffing of a savoury tart. Gourmet highlights also include ceci in zimino (chick pea soup), focaccia, casòlla (a fish and mussels soup), basil pesto (enriched by tomato sauce), ravioli (usually filled with ricotta cheese) dressed with tomato sauce, bobba (a roasted polentina made of ground dry fava beans), stuffed onions (fried and topped with a light tomato sauce), cascà (a meatless version of couscous, vegetables cooked separately, feasted by an April fair), fried fish with aggiadda (garlic mortar sauce), stoccafisso (dry cod) and baccalà (salted cod), whence yummy frisceu fritters, panetti coi fichi secchi (made with dry figs and almonds), prepared on All Saints’ Day or on November 4th (San Carlo), Christmas or Easter canestrelli cookies (short pastry rules)…

















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Wednesday, 7 September 2011

FROM TABARKA TO CARLOFORTE: A MEDITERRANEAN FOOD HISTORY AMONG GENOA, TUNISIA AND SARDINIA – PART 1

Located in Northern Tunisia, Tabarka is a port standing west of ancient Carthage and a few kilometers from the Algerian border. Its international airport and the presence of hotel chains account for its repute as a tour operating destination. Sheltered by a rocky islet, Thabraca (whence Tabarka by effect of metathesis) was a Carthaginian - and then Roman - landing place, archaeological remains still witnessing the vicissitudes of those agitated times. During the Middle Ages, the islet of Tabarka gradually entered the Genoese sphere of influence because of the profitable trade of coral. Sea waters (as well as in the rest of the Mediterranean basin) were troubled by the assaults of Turkish Dragut, who was captured in 1540 by Giannettino Doria, a member of the Genoese family acting in accordance with the Spanish crown. In 1544 the king of Spain endowed the noble Lomellini with rights and privileges in Tabarka, which through time was peopled by 300 families of intrepid fishermen from Pegli, a coastal village near Genoa. The constant target of raids and attacks, Tabarka nevertheless became a thriving free port and a point of contact between the Christian and the Berber/Islamic universes, in a time when Jewish merchants too reached Tunisia. But decline doomed: the hostility of the local governors, the growing scarcity of coral and the overcrowded conditions of the islet caused a little diaspora and explorations towards the island of San Pietro. In 1740 the bey of Tunis enslaved 900something dwellers of pegliese origins: they were redeemed by Carlo Emanuele 3rd of Savoy and moved to San Pietro. The island is situated off the coast of south western Sardinia in front of the Phoenician Punic Sulcis peninsula: there, in its flattest spot rose Carloforte (the toponym celebrating the rescuer – i.e. Charles the strong), “u pàize” (home), the heart of an area where the Genoese dialect is still spoken (and traces from other languages feature as well, e.g. bulanjé – from the French Boulanger – stands for baker). The choice fell on San Pietro – an ancient land of volcanic origins boasting outstanding natural beauties - because of a number of reasons: its geographical position, wealth of coral and red tuna (the tonnare of Portoscuso, Portopaglia and Isola Piana, where the tuna canning process (with olive oil) first appeared in the 1860’s, being at a stone’s throw), not to forget business prospects linked to saltpans. A total 470 people settled – 100 families of refugees and 30 families from Liguria. Though the beginnings were not easy (also because of frequent epidemics), the first mayor was appointed in 1738, a parish church devoted to San Carlo Borromeo was built and other families (under the aegis of the order of the Saints Maurizio and Lazzaro colonized Calasetta, on the opposite island of Sant’Antioco (a wonder of whitewash houses and Mediterranean maquis). Those who remained in Tabarka grouped in a “millet”, a community enjoying a set of rights, which managed to keep up economic relationships with Genoa and whose last descendants now live in France. The Savoy expansion saw the occupation of the island of la Maddalena in 1767, at the same time when Carloforte started to grow (settlement, framing, fishing, channels…) despite the never ending number of invasions and raids that at last urged the building of town walls (complete with wide Porta Leone, the door of the lion, a recurrent feature in local proverbs) and sighting towers. Safety and peace brought along eagerly awaited well being and a economic alacrity, up to the point that Carloforte began trading lobsters (astonishing to say, in the first decades of the 19th century they were the cheapest fish of the local market!) with the main European powers.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

DISCOVER THE ITALIAN RIVIERA WITH LIGUCIBARIO: THE JOURNEY OF THE ARANCIA PERNAMBUCCO /WASHINGTON NAVEL ORANGE



Umberto Curti's speech on the Pernambucco orange


during the 2011 edition of the


Salone dell'Agroalimentare Ligure in Finalborgo (SV)




The caruggi of the historical centre of Genoa offer travellers the amazing sight of the window shops of expert confiseurs, the contemporary masters of the arts of confectionery and candying that were developed by the Superba in a bygone past through its contacts with the Arab world. The glowing colours of candied citrus fruits stand out, and oranges present the explorer with the soul of the region and a special focus on the western coast from Finale Ligure to Sanremo.
Up to end of the 18th century Liguria was in fact one of the best growers of oranges, lemon, etc., their scents and hues enchanting visitors and architects regardless of the reason of their journeys. During the 19th century orange farming in the Riviera gradually gave way to more profitable flower growing, and today orange trees dot the coastal gardens of noble and important palazzi.
One of the characters of this citrus-perfumed history is the arancia Pernambucco (Washington navel orange variety), a remarkable example of the excellence of local produce on the savonese coast. Blond, easily digestible and fragrant, it travelled to and fro Asia, the Mediterranean and the New World -its Italian name clearly refers to the Brazilian State of Pernambuco (Recife) – and reached Liguria, too. From the orangeries of the Riviera the adventure went on throughout Europe, the precious citrus fruits fostering the export of the Republic of Genoa to the North of the continent. Oranges played the lead role in marmalades, sorbets, perfumes and medicines, and in the 18th century also began to be lusciously candied.
Nowadays the area of the Finale (SV) is working at the valorization of this set of know hows and skills that cover the whole process from cultivation to marketing via manufacturing. The arancia Pernambucco, also thanks to the commitment of AIE (Italian Ethnogastronomers’ Association), is again the protagonist of marmalades, liqueurs, mostarde and in the next future of chocolates and perfumes, not to forget tours and edutainment events. Make sure to be in Genoa on Saturday 3rd December (h 15.30) and hop to the Munizionere area of Palazzo Ducale for the "Le arance Pernambucco" seminar, organized on occasion of the “Pane al Pane” festival dedicated to Mediterranean food and sustainability.
A fil rouge – or better still, deep orange! – fit to explore the terroir, its traditions ands its ethnogastronomy. Unique connoisseur experiences designed by Ligucibario in an array of tasting conferences, dedicated itineraries and seminars with farmers and artisans.

Luisa Puppo


Monday, 1 August 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: ZEMBI CON L’ARZILLO



Zembi con l'arzillo, an epitome of the Mediterranean way of life...

Exquisite fish (white flesh) ravioli, served with a tomato seafood sauce. “Zembi” derives from the Arabic zembil (baskets made with palm leaves, uised for the transportation of fish). “Arzillo” is the pungent, saltry scent smelt by the seashore.
Luisa Puppo
Ligucibario

Thursday, 7 April 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: VERDURE RIPIENE - stuffed vegetables




Vegetables – mostly zucchini, but also peppers, aubergines, onions, potatoes and chards – are blanched for five minutes, stuffed (a scenting mix featuring minced meat, eggs, herbs and the vegetables’ pulp) and baked. Zucchini flowers are delicately filled with vegetables such as zucchini, green beans and potatoes. Wine matching: white, IGT Colline Savonesi Lumassina (try the spumante version, too).



Monday, 4 April 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: TRIPPE - tripes


Soziglia: the very heart of Genoa's medieval district was the seat of the city's first abattoir




From necessity to ingenuity. In the Middle Ages, the lack of conservation techniques (i.e. cold chain) fostered the creativity of both butchers (the first Genoese abattoir was established in Soziglia in 1152) and housewives. Thus, offal and organs became the protagonists of several dishes and fillings (from ravioli to cima alla Genovese). Tripes are still a local hit (often eaten on December 26th), prepared throughout the region in a myriad ways, from accommodate (potatoes, broad beans and tomatoes) to “alla sbira” (potatoes, stock and sea biscuits). Tripes’ stock was served in ancient tripperie (the forerunners of fast food joints), where the Genoese sat around huge marble tables. Wine matching: go for DOC Colli di Luni rosso to accompany trippe accomodate (tripes stewed with tomato sauce).






Friday, 1 April 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: TORTA PASQUALINA




The queen of Ligurian savoury pies boasts a glorious history, celebrated in the 1930’s by journalist Giovanni Ansaldo: the article “Le 24 bellezze della torta pasqualina” was dedicated to “a Scià Carlotta”, the owner of a friggitoria in Sottoripa (a medieval porticoed area by the port of Genoa). 16th century cookbooksalready mentioned “gattafure”, irresistible savoury pies whose name evoked the image of gluttonous cats stealing gourmet treats…). A must throughout the region – variations abound from Genoa to Mignanego (GE), Toirano (SV) etc… - it features golden dough layers (tradition accounted for 33 sheets, symbolizing the age of Christ, modernity opts for a less demanding 6), brushed with oil and filled with artichokes ot beet greens (in this case the pie is called torta cappuccino). Hollows over the vegetable filling contain eggs, which represent the solar circle. Wine matching: white, DOC Val Polcevera Vermentino.



Monday, 28 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: TORTA DI PINOLI



Dried fruit is a common feature of Mediterranean cuisines. Pine nuts still enrich this short pastry cake filled with crema pasticcera (custard), also called “torta della nonna” (Grandmother’s cake). A similar recipe is found in Tuscany, too. Go and read an interesting recipe on Liguricettario, under the item "pinolata". Whatever your choice, always opt for white passito as the enological match...


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: TOMAXELLE - veal rolls




Whether the etimology of tomaxelle derives from tomaculum = little sausage or tomex = string, this is one of the most ancient glories of Genoese and Ligurian cuisine (as you approach Lunigiana the name changes into valiset or fasciatéla). Its fame is related to the 1800 Anglo-Austrian siege, when Austrian prisoners were served a hearty portion of tomaxelle in order to prove Genoa’s strength and resistance (on the contrary, the town was already ravaged by the harsh government of French General Massena, called Massazena – kill Genoa). Once made with leftovers, these exquisite veal rolls are stuffed, secured with a cord and a toothpick and braised: a small gourmet masterpiece and a successful match of tastiness and delicacy. Wine matching: red, DOC Dolceacqua or DOC Val Polcevera Rosso if you cook the rolls into tomato sauce.


Luisa Puppo

Ligucibario

Monday, 21 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: STRACCETTI DI VITELLA

Laurel leaves provide plenty of aroma to this exquisite traditional dish

The name of this simple recipe echoes the fact that veal meat is finger-shredded. Oddly enough for a Ligurian recipe, the condiment is butter, which creates a soft blending base. Laurel accounts for aroma and taste. Cooking is to be rapid in order to exhalt tenderness. Straccetti di vitella are a.k.a. "vitella all'uccelletto" (little bird). “Groppetti” (small knots) are tied veal stripes cooked in the same way. Wine matching: red, DOC Dolceacqua (Superiore, too).

Friday, 18 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: STOCCAFISSO ACCOMODATO - stockfish stew


Hearty stoccafisso accommodato, top-class comfort food!

The word stockfish (dried cod) derives from the Dutch stocvisch = stick fish, whereas in Norwegian the meaning is rock fish. After 1492, the intensification of maritime explorations throughout the northern seas and the Lofoten islands brought about a gastronomic (re)discovery of exceptional proportions: in a few years, fishermen sailed by the hundred from Marseille towards Newfoundland. The Genoese – the most mercantile of races… - joined the race (in the age of Counter Reformation, the Council of Trento set precise rules about meat eating and “giorni di magro”). Stockfish was ann immediate blockbuster in Genoa, a huge success due to the quality, organolectic values and versatility. The “ragno” variety ows its name from the deformation of “Ragnar”, the Norwegian firm responsible for the selection of the best pieces. Stockfish is to be bought after it has been properly soaked and softened in water for two weeks (some buy it dry and opt for home processing). According to local food lore, though born in water, it is to… die in oil. “Stoccafisso accomodato” is an ancient recipe, despite the fact that potatoes are a fairly recent innovation, dating back to end of the 18th century (odd as it may seem, strong opposition and diffidence towards the tubers lasted for ages). Cooking takes 1-2 hours, the right time for all the ingredients (go easy with the anchovy fillets, they might add a bitter note to the final result) to blend harmoniously. Polenta is a delightful companion (and the choice of the entroterra areas bordering Piedmont). Stockfish budelline (tripes) are a “nowhere to be found” Ligurian treat. Wine matching: red, DOC Riviera ligure di ponente Rossese (tomato rules!).





Luisa Puppo


Ligucibario

Thursday, 17 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: SEPPIE COI CARCIOFI - cuttlefish and artichokes stew


Gorgeous carciofi di Albenga

Cuttlefish – named even by Plinius the Elder – were the protagonists of Nobel poet Eugenio Montale’s first collection (Ossi di Seppia, cuttlefish bones). Lerici (SP) is probably the regional homeland of cuttlefish recipes. Seppie with artichokes – olive oil, garlic and a sprinkle of parsley – they are a classic, but alternative casseroles abound: beet greens - the renowned zimino stew, Ameglia (SP) – beans, mushrooms… Wine matching: white, Riviera ligure di ponente Pigato, but go for rosé if you add tomato sauces



Tuesday, 15 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: S-CIUMETTE - little sponges


A Carnival dessert – a close relative of French îles flottantes – made with beaten egg whites, sugar and hot milk. S-ciumette (little sponges) can be topped with zabaglione, cinnamon powder or melted dark chocolate. Wine matching: passito, DOC Riviera di Ponente Pigato.

Monday, 14 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: SALAME DI SANT’OLCESE (GE)



Salumificio Parodi, the history of salame di Sant'Olcese since the 1880's

Italy is the homeland of a variety of excellent salumi, usually based on pork meat. The salame di Sant’Olcese (GE) is the star – a primacy since the 19th century - of the Val Polcevera (ancient val purcifera, pigs’ valley), even though the meat mostly arrives from Piedmont. It features a 50% – 50% proportion of ground pork and beef (and a bit of salt, pepper, garlic etc.) hand tied, it is dried for a few days at the heat of a vigourous wood fire (whence the pleasant smoked taste). Prepared in december, after 3 months it is ready for its Spring triumphant ouverture together with fresh fava beans and young, soft Pecorino Sardo. The Sant’Olcese should be served at room temperature, cut into thick slices. Mostardella is a “poor” coarser version, eaten fresh – anciently cooked over wood stoves, nowadays it is usually sautéed. The area is known for the manufacture of sausages, bresaole and coppe, too. Wine matching: go local and opt for red, Doc Val Polcevera rosso.



Luisa Puppo

Ligucibario

Friday, 11 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: RAVIOLI DI CARNE (O DI MAGRO) COL TOCCO - RAVIOLI WITH GENOESE MEAT SAUCE

The magic of hand-made ravioli alla genovese

Genoese ravioli have a story of their own. Their filling differs from the meatier versions found elsewhere in Italy and includes veal and offal, while the sfoglia (pasta sheet) features few eggs. “Tocco” is the piece of meat used for the sauce, which gently simmers for more than 3 hours. Philological recipes call for dry mushrooms, and do not forget about the wine (white for veal, red for beef). The stuffing should contain at least 30% vegetables (what a difference from Piedmont), and should rest for at least half a day. Gastronome writer Ratto used it to fill funghi rossi, baked with tocco and Parmigiano. Massimino (SV), probably the tiniest Comune in Liguria, lays claim as the mother country of ravioli di magro thanks to the castellane (vegetable ravioli) tradition. Genial violinist Niccolò Paganini wrote an autograph recipe for ravioli in 1840. Wine matching: red, DOC Riviera ligure di ponente Rossese.



Thursday, 10 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: PESTO - BASIL PESTO


"Savore d'aglio", "garlic flavour, or the greatest symbol of Ligurian cuisine. Born around 1830 (when it was prepared with Gouda cheese), it clearly echoes "moretum", an ancient Roman sauce. Healthy, scenting and versatile, it boasts a perfect balance of ingredients that represent the glory of local rurality (basil, oil, garlic…), and a flying visit to nearby Emilia and Sardinia as regards cheese (24-month Parmigiano and Pecorino). Originally, it was served as a condiment for bollito. The Riviera di Ponente goes for a slightly punget pesto, whereas the Riviera di Levante opts for creamier versions (often inclusive of prescinseua). "Pesto corto" features a tomato brunoise and less garlic. In 2004 "Crespi & Figli" from Ceriana (IM), established in 1925, was the first Italian business to achieve the UNI 10939 certification for the traceability of the whole system. The best matches for pesto are lasagne (dialect mandilli, i.e. handkerchiefs), trenette, trofie (pasta twists probably invented inn the Golfo Paradiso) and gnocchi. A pine nuts-free version usually features as the final touch of minestrone alla genovese (see above). The 7 elements of this artful recipe are pound with a hard wood pestle into a marble mortar (Carrara and the Apuan Alps are a short distance away). Pesto purists would shriek at the mere thought of a blender, which could "burn" the precious olfactory qualities of the basil, so remember to keep the blades' speed very low. Fred Plotkin precise remark "Ligurians have basil instinct" successfully describes the locals' knack for the precious herb, grown at its best (small, round leaves) in the hills of Prà (outskirts of Genoa), an area blessed by a unique sun - sea breeze combination. Vessalico, a tiny village of the Valle Arroscia between the provinces of Imperia and Savona, provides the garlic (a Slow Food presidium). Storing pesto is a matter of airtight jars, clean and dry, and thin olive oil layers to protect the sauce from oxidation.


Recipe (4 people)
4 bunches of Genova-Prà basil, 2 tablespoons pine nuts (ask for Pisa pinoli), 50 gr grated Parmigiano, 30 gr grated Pecorino Sardo, 2 cloves Vessalico garlic, 4 tablespoons Ligurian extravirgin oil, 1 pinch coarse salt.

Put the basil leaves (washed and dry), the pine nuts, the garlic (remove the green heart) and the salt into the mortar. Pound the ingredients and gradually add the two cheeses. Slowly blend the mix with the olive oil. Regional gourmets add a spoonful of the boiling water to the pesto before dressing the pasta. Please note that the mortar should be washed with water and vinegar.



GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: PANSOTI - POT BELLIED RAVIOLI



This typical preparation of the Golfo Paradiso (Bogliasco, Pieve Ligure, Sori, Recco), a stone's throw from Genoa, is traditionally served with walnut sauce, a mortar delicacy made with garlic, marjoram, pine nuts, walnuts, bread (soaked into milk), Parmigiano, salt and oil. These excellent pot bellied square ravioli (a.k.a. ravioli del Levante) are stuffed with greens, ricotta (prescinseua in the past) and fresh herbs - the Portofino promontory is right around the corner… - called preboggiòn mixed with grated Parmigiano. The La Spezia version asks for rice, leeks and raisins, whereas the cappellasci (featuring preboggiòn, too) are round. Cooking is very rapid (3 min.). Wine matching: white, DOC Riviera di Ponente Pigato or Vermentino (from any of the 4 DOCs Riviera di Ponente, Val Polcevera, Golfo del Tigullio, Colli di Luni).

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE LIGURIAN RIVIERA: PANISSA - CHICK PEA POLENTA


Innovative - yet traditionally mouthwatering - panissa salad beignets...


Sottoripa, the medieval porticoed area by the port of Genoa, is the cradle of this exquisite treat, once prepared during the Lent period. This chick-pea flour polenta (recipes and proportions abound, but remember that water bath is the best technique) is set out in oil-veiled soup plates. Cut into slices, it is fried or served into a salad with onions or stewed beet greens. Old cookbooks boast a gourmet gratin version, inclusive of mushroom sauce and Parmigiano. In the entroterra the panissa is firmer, and sometimes is made with different sorts of legume flours: the Valle Arroscia (IM) opts for pea-flour, and the panissa is eaten with curd cheese or with a dressing of oil, vinegar, onions and garlic. Panissa is often mistaken with paniccia, a Piedmontese risotto prepared with beans and black cabbage. Both panissa and paniccia derive their names from panicum, a cereal used during the most ancient of times. Wine matching: white, DOC Golfo del Tigullio Bianchetta (though some go for sparkling wines).






Monday, 7 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: PANDOLCE - GENOA CAKE


Pandolce basso according to pasticceria Panarello

Known all over the world as “Genoa cake”, the spendid emblem of Genoese Christmas pasticceria inherited a 16th century wealth of ingredients (raisins, pine nuts, candied fruit…) from ancient Eastern traditions. The origins of this demanding preparation (a cook’s pièce de résistance) are said to date back to Andrea Doria, who announced a competition dedicated to the master pastry chefs of the Superba. Pandolce is must throughout Liguria, from Sanremo (IM), where it is called the “pan du bambin”, to Alassio (SV), where it is lavishly prepared by pasticceria Cacciamani.
Ingredients include flour, yeasts (leavening takes up to 6 hours), butter, pine nuts, sugar, fennel seeds, candied citron cubes, raisins, orange flower water, an optional dash of Marsala wine (once, they also featured acacia honey). 24 hours after baking, the time has come for the ritual laurel bough decoration and for consumption. The first piece is still to be cut by the youngest member of the family. One slice was reserved for the first beggar who knocked at the doorand a special portion (wrapped) was set aside for February 3rd, when San Biagio, the throat’s patron saint, was feasted. The pandolce basso (a relatively recent recipe): a low cake, asking for a shorter preparation, richer in eggs and poorer in yeast. Ancient Ligurian lore accounts for the habit of bringing the rough bun to the baker for a bit of professional cooking... Wine matching: moscato, DOC Golfo del Tigullio (pandolce alto); passito, DOC Riviera di Ponente or DOC Val Polcevera (pandolce basso).

Luisa Puppo
Ligucibario

Friday, 4 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: OLIO - EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

Its name deriving from the Greek elaion, olive oil reached Italy during the 4th century B.C., but for a long time it remained an exclusive treat of the well-to-do, the other strata of society sticking to strutto (clarified pork fat), nut oil, and a little butter. The 17th and 18th centuries saw the diffusion of oil (both as a condiment and a preservative), popularity being fostered by new technological innovations (i.e. hydraulic presses). Italy boasts a 700,000-ton yearly production and 38 DOPS, confirming remarkable variety and quality. Different acidity and peroxide levels account for the standard classification: extra virgin, virgin, corrente (to be blended with less acidic oils) and lampante (not fit for alimentary use).
In Liguria, oil has never followed monothematic leit motifs: surprises abound in a land where good (in more way than one) food has always represented one of the facet of historical popular wisdom (the hamlet of Varignano, near La Spezia, treasures the remains of a 2,000-year old oil mill…). The healthy qualities of oil (emollient, laxative, protective…).
Aurigo, Borgomaro, Diano San Pietro, Imperia, Lucinasco, Perinaldo, Ranzo, Villa Faraldi, Andora, Arnasco, Nasino, Toirano, Leivi, Moneglia, Pieve Ligure, Sestri Levante, Castelnuovo Magra…, from the ponente to the levante, have I forgotten any of the capitals of Ligurian oil? These few lines fail in containing the production of the whole regional arch. Oil boasts a millenary history and a brilliant future as the emblem of the Mediterranean diet (recent EU regulations call for stricter rules against forgery). Ligurian oil (a DOP since 1997) is the star of a myriad fairs: Apricale (IM) in March, Moneglia (GE) on Easter Monday, Baiardo (IM) in May, Leivi (GE) at the end of July, Toirano (SV) at the beginning of August, Rocchetta Nervina (IM) in November …
The Riviera di Ponente supplies the best Ligurian oil, straw yellow in colour and delicate – its flavor reminiscent of wild flowers, pine nuts and walnuts, sometimes slightly pungent. The darker the oil, the more intense the olive. A niche production (the triumph of quality over quantity), yield suffering the odds of boith frost and drought. Harvesting takes place within the first months of the year. Olives are often processed the old way in ancient oil mills endowed with granite presses.
The best companion for vegetable, pasta and fish dishes, Ligurian oil is the final expression of patiently tilled terraces, the trademark of the Rivere since the Early Middle Ages. The Benedictine monks applied their agricultural skills to the taggiasca variety, which is today’s champion all over the region; yet, do not miss remarkable lavagnina and arnasca - the protagonist of a touching museo Civiltà Contadina ad Arnasco (SV), Piazza IV novembre 8, tel. 0182 761178). Off the beaten gourmet tracks include the Frantoio-museo in Cervo (IM), Via Matteotti 31, tel. 0183 408149, the Museo delle Erbe in Cosio d’Arroscia (IM), Piazzetta Mazzini, tel. 0183 36278, the Museo del Pastore e della Civiltà delle Malghe in Mendatica (IM), tel. 0183 328713, the Museo Etnografico della Civiltà Contadina in Toirano (SV), Via Polla 12, tel. 0182 989968 (phone for checking opening hours in advance).




Luisa Puppo


Ligucibario

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: MUSCOLI (MUSSELS)

Mussels, the bliss of the gulf of La Spezia


Mussels, their same name testifying their strong... opposition to opening when raw, are one of Liguria's gastronomic cults - several festivals celebrate them throughout the region, do not miss the July fair in Olivetta San Michele (IM). the protagonists of a hundred recipes (from pasta dishes to frittate), they are at their best when stuffed , a typical preparation of the La Spezia area boasting a glorious history of mussel farming. The filling, a lavish mix of mortadella, prosciutto cotto, grated Parmigiano and eggs (make it one for each diner), pays tribute to the neighbouring Emilia region. Tied, the mussels are baked with tomato sauce (20 min.). Their shell shell removed, in Recco mussel balls are piked with stecchi (twigs). Wine matching: rosé, DOC Pornassio Sciac-trà.

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: MINESTRONE ALLA GENOVESE

Minestrone alla genovese, the king of vegetable soups

“The milestone of Ligurian patriarchal cuisine…a secret scenting of basil and pound garlic, bathed in strong cheese…”. The words of drama critic Enrico Bassano are the best introduction to the magic of menestrun, a typical Spring or Autumn dish that – according to tradition – should be served with 4 selected kinds of pasta only: brichetti (matches), scucussùn (small, round grains), maccheroncini (short pasta tubes), ridged or smooth (mostaccioli) and tagliatelle. Minestrone was the number one fare provided by catrai (floating “trattoria” barges), once siding ships entering the port of Genoa: they supplied the bliss of fresh vegetables to sailors returning from sea voyages. Vegetable variety, time (preparation and cooking may take some hours) and cooling (30 minutes) are the main steps to successful results, not to forget a final dollop of the afore mentioned pesto (in this case, frugal Ligurian home cooks omit pine nuts). Wine matching: white, Vermentino (from any of the 4 DOCs Riviera di Ponente, Val Polcevera, Golfo del Tigullio, Colli di Luni) – but the Ponente goes for red, DOC Pornassio.



Luisa Puppo

Ligucibario

Monday, 28 February 2011

Liguria and its wines – an introduction (part 2)


DOC Golfo del Tigullio was established in 1997 and covers 36 communi. Production include Bianchetta, Bianco, Vermentino, Rosato, Rosso, Ciliegiolo, Moscato and Passito. The Bianchetta of the Tigullio being richer in body than the Val Polcevera one, it is at its best when paired with typical Ligurian minestroni, the apex of vegetable soups. As for Ciliegiolo, this cherry-coloured wine derives its name from "cerasuolo", i.e. a wine making technique that processes red grape musts with no contact on marcs. Ciliegiolo is a Mediterranean must, in fact it arrived in Liguria from Spain via Tuscany, where it brings the roughness of ever-present Sangiovese under control. In Liguria it goes varietal (85% at least), shows modest alcohol contents (around 11%), a brilliant colouring — claret to purple — , pleasant scents (fruity and herbaceous, with a mineral hint), and graceful, dry flavours, well-balanced and full. Serve at 15°, young (1-2 years' aging ) and enjoy with tomato-sauce pasta dishes, e.g. tasty "taggiaen a o tocco" (taglierini with Genoese meat sauce), risotti, soups, ripieni (stuffed vegetables) and tomaxelle (veal rolls), but also with fish stews, "buridde", and genial stoccafisso accomodato (yes, drinking red wine with fish is no longer a capital sin!). Rarity hunters are advised to enroll for the discovery of Val Fontanabuona’s Ximixà (serious explorers should also aim at the passito version), a rare white recently saved from oblivion that ideally suits fish soups.

Doc Colline di Levanto was established in 1995 and covers 4 communi at the gate of the Cinque Terre It features both Bianco (known for its almond notes) and Rosso.

DOC Cinque Terre DOC was established in 1973 and includes Bianco, Rosso, and Sciacchetrà passito, the glory of oenological Liguria. The area’s wines have always enjoyed widespread repute, Francesco Petrarca and Giovanni Boccaccio featuring among fans. Vineyards are literally grown on the rock and on the aforesaid vertical terraces.

DOC Colli di Luni DOC was established in 1989. Tuscany is a few metres away: you can feel it in your glass of Bianco, Vermentino and Rosso.

Among the 3 regional IGTs (a label guaranteeing geographical provenance and tipicity), the most stimulating one is the IGT Colline Savonesi (the other two are the IGT Colline Genovesi and IGT Golfo dei Poeti). The IGT Colline Savonesi treasures Lumassina, a distinctive dry white (a.k.a. Buzzetto, Mataossu, Garella, Uga Matta…, a hundred names for the same vine variety) and remarkable red Granaccia. Lumassina almost certainly takes its name from snails (lumasse in the Ligurian dialect), a local delicacy, while Buzzetto derives from "buzzo" (i.e. unripe) and Mataossu from "matti" (the vernacular for children and “early” things). They all suit fried fish, seafood, stuffed vegetables and vegetable frittate (omelettes). Granaccia is the local declination of Grenache, Alicante, Cannonau, red Tokaj, Gamay and Tinto. The best matching of this elegant wine are beef, game, and palatable cheeses.

The IGT Colline Genovesi (or del Genovesato) offers an array of whites, rosés, and reds, each of them also in sparkling versions. The IGT Golfo dei Poeti (province of La Spezia) provides (also sparkling), red (sparkling and nouveau, too), rosé, and passito.

Let me end this introductory outline of Ligurian oenology with the simplest of recommendations: go for field testing – and tasting. Four out of eight regional DOCs featuring Vermentino, plan your own horizontal tasting (i.e. wines that come from the same vintage) and discover the wonders of microclimate and terroir. Take our advice and start the examination of the “fab four” with western Liguria wines, then move eastward. Enjoy the differences and make sure to live a rewarding (and responsible) experience.


GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: LATTUGHE RIPIENE - STUFFED LETTUCE LEAVES


Stuffed lettuce leaves are an exquisite 18th century Easter dish. Boiled leaves are stuffed, rolled, cooked in broth or baked. The ripieno is a classical one and includes the lettuce core (fundu de tusciu in the local dialect); alternatives range from sausage to herbs, greens or peas. Wine matching: rosé, DOC Pornassio Sciac-trà or light red, DOC Riviera ligure di ponente Rossese.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Liguria and its wines – an introduction (part 1)




Luigi Veronelli (1926 – 2004), the father of Italian wine journalism, used to define Ligurian wines as unique, rich in personality, always recognizable yet never predictable. The reason of his admiration for the oenology of the Italian Riviera stands in the proximity of coastal and mountain environments, a combination accounting for the unmatched character of the region’s wines. For centuries this has been the laboratory of heroic winemakers, who still commit to hard work and sacrifice in order to culltivate 2,400 hectares of rugged, vertical terrain (think of the vineyards grown on steep dry stone terraces in the Cinque Terre!). Furthermore, wine estates are small and family run, yields are low and production rarely exceeds a scant 100,000 bottles for each winery. Nevertheless, Liguria boasts eight DOCs (Denominazione di Origine Controllata quality label), and three IGTs (Indicazione Geografica Tipica quality label), a parterre de rois featuring glories such as Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà passito wine, sea-scenting dry whites (e.g. Pigato and Vermentino) and unexpected reds (e.g. Rossese di Dolceacqua and Granaccia).
The following is but a primer introducing Ligurian wines, an outline of local oenology from the French border to Tuscany. Moving eastwards along the slender regional arch, here are our notes on the eight Ligurian DOCs. (DOC = Denominazione di Origine Controllata, controlled origin denomination, a legally defined and protected quality label).

DOC Rossese di Dolceacqua was established in 1972 and derives its name from the dreamlike entroterra village of Dolceacqua (Claude Monet’s choice, too) . This vine variety - cited for the first time in the 16th century - almost certainly draws its name from “Rocense”, a word suggesting the rocky quality of the soil. This notable red is the “Frenchest” of Ligurian wines, especially in its Rossese Superiore version, which features longer aging (one year). Connoisseurs yearn for white Rossese, a rare beauty of very limited yield.

DOC Riviera Ligure di Ponente was established in 1988 and boasts the bounty of Vermentino, Pigato and Rossese. It extends from the province of Imperia on past Albenga and Finale Ligure in the savonese to Cogoleto and Arenzano (the westernmost tip of the province of Genoa). Pigato is an indigenous variety named for the first time in the first half of the 17th century. Its name comes from “piga” (little speck), the minuscule, rusty-coloured dot covering ripe grapes. Vermentino is a classic all over the Mediterranean: it is grown also in Sardinia, Tuscany, and Corse, not to forget Piedmont and the Pyrenees. “Vermentino” probably derives from “ver”, an ancient word root, hinting at its red shots.

DOC Ormeasco Pornassio was established in 2003, but the cultivation of this “variation on the theme” of the Piedmontese Dolcetto variety dates well back in time – it was made compulsory by the Clavesana household in the course of the 14th century. The DOC covers a border territory between Liguria (i.e. a section of the provinces of Imperia and Savona) and Piedmont (Ormea and the Val Tanaro are at a stone’s throw). It features all the declinations of Ormeasco: Pornassio Rosso (red), Rosso Superiore, Sciac-trà (rosé), Passito, and Passito liquoroso.

DOC Val Polcevera was established in 1999 in an area of the first Genoese entroterra - the rural communi of Campomorone, Ceranesi, Mignanego, Serra Riccò and Sant'Olcese (home of the famous salame) - just around the corner form the city’s industrial outskirts. The DOC features Bianchetta (white), Bianco (white), Vermentino, Rosato (rosè), and Rosso (red). Bianchetta is the best companion of vegetable savoury pies and polpettoni, chick pea flour farinata and panissa, baked anchovies… Last but not least, after decades of neglect, Coronata white wine is a rare, simple gem to enjoy.

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: LASAGNE/PICAGGE


When the going gets tough... the tough can do with a bit of help!

Lasagne (from losanga, i.e. lozenge) are a very ancient Italian tradition, mentioned in a 1282 notary act kept in Bologna. Broad and long (10-15 cm), they differ from piccagge, which are a larger (1-2-3 cm) version of fettuccine. Both lasagna and piccagge can be verdi (green, because of their marjoram-flavoured dough), matte (mad, made with chestnut flour) or avvantaggiate (literally… helped by wholemeal flour), too. Dressings are almost numberless, but go classic and choose basil pesto. Mandilli de saea (silk handkerchiefs) are the thinnest of lasagna, their dough more resistent thanks to a spoonful of durum wheat flour. the word mandilli derives from the Arabic mindil, a reminder of the ancient, tight relationships that linked the shores of the Mediterranean basin. Try them also with delicate fish sauces (scallops, baby octopus…). Wine matching: white, DOC Riviera ligure di ponente Pigato

Thursday, 24 February 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: FUNGHI E PATATE - BAKED MUSHROOMS AND POTATOES


Only water (up to 80/90% ) and nitrogen, cholesterol-free (0%), 50 calories per 100 grams, scantily nourishing, a bit toxic. This is the portrait of wild mushrooms, which count by the thousands (but only a hundred are edible). Each rural area boasts its own varieties as well as a plethora of local names. Ligurian mushrooms have been prized for centuries. Gourmet musician Gioacchino Rossini had dried mushrooms (from a convent in Varese Ligure) been sent to his Paris residence on a regular basis. Once widespread and economical, nowadays they are a rather expensive treat - but expert control does deserve the price. Baked with potatoes, porcini are an exquisite dish - an Autumn must! - alternating layers of thick potato slices and scenting mushrooms (red ovuli - amanita cesarean - make a deluxe alternative…). Wine matching: white, DOC Riviera ligure di ponente Pigato

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: FRUTTA CANDITA - CANDIED FRUIT


The epicurean version of the horn of plenty


The premiata ditta Romanengo was established in 1780. A few decades later, in 1838, 34 confectioners operated in Genoa. Candied fruit is a long-standing Genoese hit, the process – repeated boilings in a sugary solution, more and more concentrated) being successfully applied also to vegetables, seeds and flowers. Put your skill to the test with orange zests and chestnuts (the home confectioner classics). Candied fruit is the welcome co-star of several desserts and cakes such as panettoni and cassate. Wine matching: DOC Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: FRITTO MISTO ALLA GENOVESE


Olive oil is one of the keys for a succesfull fritto misto

Fritto misto is a stronghold of traditional Ligurian cuisine. Vegetables and meat (beef, veal, poultry…) chunks, offals, fruit slices, amaretti and latte dolce (custard) cubes are fried (separately) in first quality olive oil and set up in a sumptuous heap. The abundance of simple but delicious vegetables such as scorzonera (black goat's beard salsify) and cabbages is witnesses for the rural origin of this golden artwork – fritto di pesce (mixed fried fish) is in fact a recent innovation of coastal restaurateurs. Wine pairings: go for white sparkling IGT Colline Savonesi Lumassina.

Monday, 21 February 2011

CINQUE TERRE SCIACCHETRA’: A TASTING CONVERSATION BETWEEN UMBERTO CURTI AND WALTER DE BATTE’



The Santuario di Montenero overlooks Riomaggiore



Regretfully to say, Liguria often features an unaccomplished expression of its food and wine bounty. But good things come to those who wait – or, shall we say, to those who make things happen?
Thursday 17th 2011 was in fact a great day for Genoese wine lovers. The 9th meeting of the “eVINings” wine festival proved to be a superb evening dedicated to the king of Ligurian wines (i.e. Sciacchetrà) and the hard work of heroic Cinque Terre’s winemakers.
Wine writer and ethnogastronomer Umberto Curti, the author of the http://www.ligucibario.com/ website, planned the “eVINings” cycle as a celebration of Ligurian oenology. The organization of the seminars has been carried out by LiguriaStyle.it, an arts and crafts exhibition centre (set in Palazzo Imperiale, an astounding 16th century palace of the historical centre) dedicated to the promotion of regional artisanal manufactures.
The Sciacchetrà eVINing was a feast of the senses… as well as of the mind. The presence of Walter de Battè, Cinque Terre’s winemaker par excellence, provided plenty of opportunities for lively Q &A and audience participation. First, Umberto Curti gave full details about the role of Sciacchetrà in the regional oenological panorama (the name itself hints to the ancient history of this passito wine – shekar was the Hebrew – Aramaic for inebriating wine). Then, the interview developed with an outline of both the Cinque Terre’s vine growing techniques (a story of hard work and sacrifice, vineyards being lovingly cultivated on steep dry stone walls terraces) and Sciacchetrà making. De Battè took time to explain the whole process – harvesting by hand–to-fermentation, explaining his personal point of view on the subject. As regards Sciacchetrà De Batté opts for fermentation on the grape’s skins (a process similar to the one followed in making red wines), the same white grape varieties - Bosco, Albarola, Vermentino – used in the local dry white according to the DOC rules. This 21st century wine philosopher (also a consultant winemaker for important Italian estates) reminds us that the skins are the mirror of the terroir, and speaking of the Cinque Terre they also reflect the effects of sea, sun and wind.

Finally, the time came for serious Sciacchetrà tasting: De Battè 2006, Forlini Cappellini 2005, Terre di Bargòn 2004, these were the “magnificent three” that satisfied the thirst for knowledge (and the epicurean quest) of the participants. Each wine was a protagonist in itself: Umberto Curti and Walter de Battè discussed the different hues (a symphony of amber and ancient orange gold), scents (dehydrated yellow fleshed-fruit, spices…) and flavours (with a remarkable mineral note) of the three Sciacchetrà, conveniently paired with two important Ligurian cheeses and slices of lavish pandolce Genovese.
The night ended with a toast to the “heroic viticulture” (a definition we owe to journalist and wine lover Mario Soldati) of the Cinque Terre and with an arrivederci to Thursday 3rd March, when the eVINings will celebrate the DOC Rossese di Dolceacqua.
Luisa Puppo

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: FRISCEU – SAVOURY FRITTERS


Baccalà, one of the stars of Ligurian frisceu fritters

Frisceu fritters definitely call for flash frying… and eating. Their foamy batter (a mix of flour, yeast and water) ideally matches either vegetables or baccalà (salt cod). Please note that Ligurian people have always had a knack for proverbs: one of their favourite is "Bocce, frisceu e vermentin, e da vitt-a battitene u belin" (a game of bocce, a dish of piping hot frisceu and a glass of refreshing Vermentino white wine), a clear anticipation of Baloo’s bare necessities… Wine pairings: Vermentino, of course, or DOC Val Polcevera Bianchetta).

Thursday, 17 February 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: FOCACCIA GENOVESE

a typical baking pan


Together with pesto, Genoese focaccia is the gourmet symbol of Liguria. Its renown is a long-standing one: the first mention of focaccia dates back to 1312, and its very name probably derives from Latin focus (hearth). In the late 16th century the forerunner of street food was banned from churches by bishop Matteo Gambaro, horrified at the sight of munching worshippers. This scenting flatbread also comes in variants: sage, onions, olives (skin or pulp) and the less orthodox rosemary, oregano, thyme and zucchini flowers. The art of focaccia making relies on three milestones: first quality extra virgin olive oil, dexterity (the surface is to show skilfull finger indentations) and… lots of time for the rising of the dough. So… have a slice of oven hot focaccia and do not forget to eat it…upside down, letting salt crystals pleasantly tick your tongue. Wine pairings: go local and have a glass of Vermentino, featuring in 4 regional DOCs: Riviera Ligure di Ponente, Val Polcevera, Golfo del Tigullio, Colli di Luni.

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: FOCACCIA COL FORMAGGIO DI RECCO (CHEESE FOCACCIA).

Recco



Once upon a time, when Saracen raids forced the dwellers of the Ligurian coast (not yet branded as the Italian Riviera) to run away from their homes and hamlets up to the mountains of the entroterra, feeding was definitely a tough task. But when the going gets tough… the tough get going, so to say, and cunning Ligurians from the Tigullio area found the way of turning a handful of flour and the only dairy products at hand (i.e. goat or sheep cheese) into what is nowadays known as one of the world’s gourmet wonders: focaccia col formaggio. Centuries later, Fred Plotkin thus defined this mouthwatering delight: "Probably the most addictive food on the planet". Tradition called for focaccia col formaggio to be eaten on November 2nd ,All Souls’ Day. It is made with the thinnest of dough, the crispy sheets filled with the tangy flavour of fresh "mollana vaccina" cheese from Sori or with Crescenza. Wine pairings call for white DOC Golfo del Tigullio Bianchetta or DOC Cinque Terre bianco. Red wine fans can have their pick from the region’s enological supply and opt for DOC DOC Riviera Ligure di Ponente Rossese d'Albenga.