The Hunter, 2016 White Wine

Mastro Scheidt releases The Hunter, 2016 White Wine

Hunter_2016_mastro_scheidt

While technically not a drought year, 2016 offered abundant sunshine and warmth through the growing season. Yields were up over 2015 and about on par with 2014. Setting pick dates, we saw no complications. Several vineyards were used in the creation of this wine throughoutSonoma County.

The 2016 Hunter is a classic Bordeaux inspired white blend. The backbone is all Sauvignon Blanc adding acidity and notes of lemon cream and melon to the blend, without any unripe flavors. I'm personally not a fan of grassy Sav Blanc. The addition of Semillon and barrel fermentation in neutral French oak adds complexity and roundness to the finished wine.

I hope you enjoy this wine all Summer long. I will.

For those that want the technical specs, find them HERE.

Rose of Sangiovese 2016

Rose of Sangiovese 2016 aka The First Rose I've Ever Made!

rose_mastro_scheidt_2016

Rosé of Sangiovese is a wine I’ve always wanted to create, as I’ve produced various Sangiovese red wines over the last several years. The wine was created using the saignée method, a technique whereby I drain off juice from the main body of the Sangiovese crop, which has had skin contact for a 24 hour period. The resulting juice for this Rose is light pink in color.

The juice was placed in last year’s Sangiovese barrels for primary fermentation for 14 days and stirred twice on the gross lees. The wine was then racked off the gross lees and returned to barrel, where it was stirred again twice, or bâtonnage, adding texture to the wine. The wine was not allowed to go through secondary fermentation.

The result is pale pink in color, with a bit more depth on the palate. The wine was fermented dry, without residual sugar.

For those that want all the technical specs you can find it HERE.

Pescheria, Lecce, Puglia

Pescheria

For my Fresno readers, if “Bulldog Grill and Pismo’s” had a love child in Italy they would have named it Pescheria. Pescheria is a restaurant where you order at the counter and have food delivered to the table; in this case, the counter is an open fish counter full of fresh fish. More Pismo's prices than Bulldog Grill prices.

rosato_lecce_wine_puglia_scheidt

The ‘order at the counter’ model might work for apertivo, gelato, and panini. This concept is probably a stretch for many Italians, as prices are that of a sit down restaurant. My gut says the concept was created to cut costs on staff, so higher level of product, fresh seafood, can be served.

Squid “noodles” tossed with celery, hazelnuts and olive oil, crudo style. Raw squid body, sliced into ribbons, just like a pasta and tossed with raw celery of similar thickness along with some salt and olive oil. Garnished with some crushed hazelnuts and presto, squid crudo. Unlike Pismo’s, this calamari was not deep fried, breaded, or sautéed, it was raw. This might be a stretch for some people. I happened to enjoy it.

squid_noodles_lecce_scheidt

Pachierri (oversized rigatoni) stuffed with bacala (salt cod) in a red sauce. Straight up, classic Pugliese style cuisine. A couple ingredients, some red sauce, salted fish; it doesn’t get any more traditional. Plenty of ways to cook salt cod in Italy and it seems popular in the winter. Several restaurants incorporate some form of bacala on the menu, I’ve already forgotten how many times I’ve had it.

stuffed_pasta_lecce_scheidt

I thought the food quality was high and the execution solid. Most Italian restaurants I’ve been to generally don’t have lots of staff to begin with, one person can generally work the entire front of house even in a busy restaurant, so I didn’t feel like I had a lack of attention, but I’m not a native Italian either, just a traveler making an observation.

Mamma Elvira Double Down, Lecce, Puglia

I enjoyed both Mamma Elvira Cucina and Enoteca. The Cucina provides a more classic sit-down restaurant experience and full menu of Puglian specialties. The Enoteca also has an indoor area to eat, but the real action is on the patio (even in Winter). And when I say 'patio' I mean to say the dozen or so tables that are positioned on an active street in Lecce. Let me reiterate, an active street in Lecce. Several other adjacent restaurants and wine bars do exactly the same thing, perfectly Italian and wonderfully busy.

Mamma Elvira Cucina

Mamma Elvira Cucina is a full service restaurant, a newer place in Lecce, spun off from their wine bar (which I dined at on night one) in the center of town. They helped me find some of the Cantine Imperatore I liked so much.

I was offered an amuse of fried blooming onion without the heavy breading. A local tiny onion that was not harsh, however a hint bitter, similar to the braised onion I had at Elvira Cantina. The onion was well fried, not heavy on the seasoning; likely this dish is for an apertivo to be eaten with Aperol or Campari based cocktails. Not the best pairing with my wine, so I drank sparkling water.

Elvira_lecce_onion

Baccala fritters. Solid. This is basically the Puglian version of fish and chips, without the chips. If you're hungry, need protein and gluten in your life and some deep fat fryer grease, this is Nirvana. It's filling and I probably shouldn't have ordered it at 9pm, but I did, because I haven't had this version on my trip and it sat like a brick with me through my night terrors 5 hours later. And yes, I would order it again.

sald_cod_elvira_lecce

Pasta was straight forward Puglian frutta di mare. Octopus was tender and the sauce was a simple pan sauce, fresh. Notice the seeds and connections were removed from the tomato; I love that attention to detail down here. Pasta was buckwheat, traditional for the area. This pasta to me is a Wednesday night, home cooked meal. It's served without pretense but beautiful. 

elvira_lecce_seafood_pasta

Dessert was a tiramisu type of dessert, but richer in flavor. Could have been a yogurt base or some type of thicker cream. Dried fruit is a staple in Puglia and provides some texture to the dessert experience.

dessert_elvira_lecce

Mamma Elvira Enoteca

On my first night in Lecce, Marco showed me around town and suggested Mamma Elvira as one of his spots to eat. So I did.

Meatball 1: Bombette di Martina Franca, pork meatball filled w scamorzza cheese and sautéed more like a pork involtini as it's a pork cutlet rolled up and sautéed. It did not seemed like a braised piece of pork. The only sauce was a quick deglaze of the sauté pan with caramelized onions and probably a splash of wine.

pork_meatball_elvira_lecce

Meatball 2: A flattened meatball, quickly sautéed and finished with a red wine reduction and braised little local pearl onion. The beef didn’t seem to have the heavy seasoning of a sausage patty, more as billed, a flat meatball. The onion is a hint bitter, like bitter greens. Dark flavors here, braised meat flavors that actually make wine #2 a lot better.

I'd go back to both restaurants upon my return to Lecce, great wine lists at both.

beef_meatball_elvira_lecce

00 Doppiozero, Lecce, Puglia

00 Doppiozero

Another restaurant recommended by Marco, 00 Doppiozero was another favorite in Lecce. Easy to pop in for an espresso, pastry, amaro, or light lunch. Here's the highlights.

Lunch of some of the best selection of breads I've had to date, followed up by an oversized bruschetta of a light, creamy blue cheese with bitter greens, tomato and anchovies with olive oil and some red wine of local flavor. Easy and tasty.

lecce_00_puglia_scheidt

My Jedi Restaurant senses tell me this is a new model for Italian bar/restaurant/cantina in Puglia. It's open all day starting at about 730am, they do not close until midnight or 1am. You can buy a bottle of wine to take home at a discount to the dine-in cost. You can grab a espresso. You can buy bread. You can buy cured meats to take home. You can order at the counter or order at the table. You can have a full, sit down lunch or dinner (at 12 noon or 6pm), or you can do the Italian thing and have apertivo and sip Spritz and nosh on goodies.

pastry_00_lecce_puglia

I've popped in for an Amaro, a coffee, a pastry on different days at different times. I like the access and the quality. I was even greeted by a regular after the third visit. The breakfast croissant filled with pastry cream is outstanding. I could have eaten one each day.

When nearly everything is closed at 3pm, "00" in Lecce is open. They are open on Sunday. I want them to be open when I return here. They do close at about 3pm on Monday though, otherwise open.

doppiozer0_lecce_puglia_mastro_scheidt

Introduction to Lecce, Puglia

Lecce in southern Italy has long been called the Florence of the South. It's a trek to get down this far from Tuscany (Puglia is the heel of the boot), I won't lie about that. From Bologna by train, it's about an 8-10  hour trip depending upon the train you take and the delay factor. The nearest airport is Brindisi, about 30 minutes away by car. 

I hadn't been to Puglia since my 2009 trip. I only spent a few hours in Lecce back in 09 before moving further south to the town of Ugento. I promised myself back then to return to Lecce and give the town its due. I'm very happy that I returned for Tour d'Italia 2017.

Plenty of dining options in Lecce, from fast casual to full-blown multi-course formal. I'll detail my dining experiences in the next several posts, this post represents the overview.

Art on the streets of Lecce, Puglia

Art on the streets of Lecce, Puglia

Lots of pizza and good bread (00 Doppiozero) being consumed in this town. The pizza places aren't large dining establishments for sitting down, street dining is the thing around here, so an entire family will be huddled around a small table eating pizza together outside. Pizza is social, it's family, it's friends, it's take-away. It's also creative. Everyday I walked by Il Pizzicotto, Pizza al Taglio (my preferred place, thanks Marco), there was another version of pizza being displayed. I love the variety. Sure, I'm a sucker for pepperoni and cheese in the States, but it's hard to beat a truffle cheese pizza with mushrooms on a Sunday night. A word of note, Il Pizzicotto charges for its pizza by weight, as each individual piece is cut for the customer.

Il Pizzicotto, Pizza al Taglio , Lecce

Il Pizzicotto, Pizza al Taglio , Lecce

00 Doppiozero bread selection, the BEST

00 Doppiozero bread selection, the BEST

The town of Lecce is easy to navigate within the old city. Plenty of landmarks and churches to explore. Train station is a 5 minute walk to the center of town.

lecce_dome_puglia

Sunday's are busy in Lecce, unlike some towns in Tuscany which can be nearly shut down except for the most touristy towns. Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Lecce the streets are packed with people and nearly every bar and restaurant open. The main restaurants don't open until about 730pm, sometimes 830pm. Pizza is served in some places as early as 6pm.

Lecce_scooter_puglia

Monday’s in Lecce might lead you to believe that zombies attacked the town right after you walked safely back to your apartment on Sunday night. The streets are empty. Businesses are closed and you wonder where everyone is. I've never seen anything like it in a major town in Italy, there's always someone out. Not here. So remember to stock up on food for the day, because your options are limited.

This is one of two main squares in Lecce on a Monday morning.

This is one of two main squares in Lecce on a Monday morning.

I look forward to returning to Puglia. I would base my journey in Lecce but would rent a car to re-explore the towns around the region. 

Osteria dal Manzo, Lucca

Osteria dal Manzo in Lucca, Italy

I missed this restaurant on my 2016 trip to Lucca, they may have been closed for part of the winter. I’m pleased to say they were open for Tour D'Italia 2017.

Manzo Night 1

To start, artichoke confit and finished in bacon fat, additionally there were bacon crumbles and a small piece of bacon as garnish. A Parmigiano fonduta was at the bottom of the plate as an anchor and provided a textural contrast to the al dente nature of the artichoke. While looking back on the entire trip and the number of artichoke dishes I consumed, this rates highly on the list.

Artichoke_manzo_lucca_scheidt

Pappardelle anatra, was a simple dish of ground duck, long cooked in broth (something I've recreated at home). While I couldn't detect any pieces of onion, carrot or celery, there was a whole bay leaf as garnish. This is no nonsense Italian food, part of the reason I love pasta so much, minimal and traditional. Pasta was silky and a bit more thin than the previous two days. A shout out to my friend Hillary in Vincenza, her dish was better. Pasta was thicker and al dente.

anatra_manzo_lucca_scheidt

The tordolli in meat sauce was outstanding and I think, better than any other I'd tasted in Lucca by a wide margin. There was substance to the pasta, real depth. The noodle was al dente and a hint thicker than most American style stuffed pasta. Tordolli is a round ravioli to translate into easy to use American. Of the generic, ubiquitous tordolli in meat sauce, I found the pasta at Manzo to be a highlight.

tordolli_manzo_lucca_scheidt

As a second course, the classic grilled steak over greens with some lightly marinated artichoke pieces. The artichoke wasn't dressed heavily, if anything a bit more acid than oil, which was purposeful as you want acid with the steak. No off artichoke flavors when consumed with the wine. Steak was a spot on mid-rare, tender and simply seasoned. No mistakes, just wonderfully complete.

steak_manzo_lucca_scheidt

Brownie with cream. As billed by the server, dessert was an American style brownie not made from a box you picked up at Costco. Moist and chocolatey.

As an addition, Antonio, the proprietor came to the table to talk. Great guy. We spoke about all things wine, politics, food, tourism and agriculture. 

Manzo Night 2

To start, Fegatini over creamed spinach with Mandarin orange. This could be one of the finest examples of wonderfully cooked chicken livers I’ve experienced. These chickens were raised right, I didn’t get a single piece of connective tissue or fiberous material in a single bite. Texture and flavor were the best in memory. The play to use a creamed spinach (I’m a sucker for creamed spinach) paired well. The addition of citrus brought the whole dish together. Great preparation on a classic dish.

fegatini_manzo_lucca_scheidt

Ravioli with bacon and peanuts in a light cheese fonduta. I don’t recall ever having peanuts with Italian food. Usually it’s hazelnuts or pistachio nuts with the Italians. The peanuts weren’t a focus of the dish, but rather a texture element. The ravioli were of a size and texture similar to what I grew up on, small and densely packed with filling. The bacon added both crunchy texture and salt to the dish. Overall, wonderful and I would like to recreate this dish at home.

ravioli_manzo_lucca_scheidt

Grilled pork with crispy potato (the potatoes were best I’ve had this trip, they were actually crispy, not sitting in a steamer tray). I’m leading off with the potatoes because I’ve had roasted potatoes several times and each time they seemed to be pre-cooked and holding somewhere in a steam tray. Manzo was making these potatoes fresh, as there was only crispy golden goodness and not an once of moisture on any potato.

pork_manzo_lucca_scheidt

Manzo Night 3

Beef Tartare. Yes, I know, I’m pushing my luck like I did last year. Italian beef tartare can be boring. Light in flavor and salt and no egg yolk. Manzo’s preparation was with balsamic vinegar, which helps bring out flavor. Add the base of artichokes and a little horseradish cream on the side and this dish is a good play on tartare.

tartare_manzo_lucca_scheidt

Spaghetti with a creamed spinach and nuts, not a pesto sauce, there was also some anchovy in the base of the sauce. Using what seemed to be the creamed spinach base from my chicken liver dish, it coated the pasta completely and beautifully. I was preparing something close to this spinach style sauce with arugula, walnuts and cheese back in Mammoth last year. Using the anchovy changes the sauce into something more mouth-coating and full palate than using greens alone. Also, I didn’t taste any heavy or even moderate garlic flavors as you would in pesto. It's powerful flavor would work with bretty wines, acidic white wines, and fruity reds.

spaghetti_manzo_lucca_scheidt

Duo of fried rabbit and chicken. Each breading was different, the rabbit used rosemary and the chicken used garlic. The chicken was fried a bit longer. I liked the rabbit best. Tender, juicy white meat and the hint of rosemary. I could have eaten three more pieces. I’m not complaining about the chicken, it was just an easy second place for me, albeit, well fried and well salted. 

rabbit_manzo_lucca_scheidt

Dessert was a no cook cheesecake, with what tasted like a mix of creme fraiche and cream cheese, maybe some mascarpone. Great crust and I think an easy dish to recreate and serve for people at a dinner party.

cheesecake_manzo_lucca_scheidt

Wine was Bordocheo house wine, which was a bit high in acid for me this season. Certainly, the best pairing was with the duo of fried food.

amaro_manzo_lucca_scheidt

Finished with Amaro with pine nuts in it.

I'm incredibly happy to have eaten at Manzo three times and look forward to my return. Thanks to Antonio and the whole crew that took care of me each night.

Eat, Drink, Repeat 

I revisited three restaurants from my Tour d'Italia 2016 trip, Zeb in Florence, Zingaro in Parma, and Punto in Lucca.

Zeb in Florence

A repeat from last year's Florence trip and only because Cousin Vince and I talk about it whenever we hear anyone is going to Florence, Zeb Gastronomia is run by a mother and her son at the base of Piazza Michealangelo on the other side of the Arno.

First up, pasta. Spaghetti with shaved truffles is all about simplicity.  It's all about fragrance and depth of flavors. Pasta noodles are al dente and you’ll be smelling like truffle for the next couple hours.

truffles_zeb_florence

Tortellini with pumpkin and ricotta in a fonduta of French cheese and garnished with poppy seed. Big stuffed pasta! Flavors were good, with the tang of a stinky French cheese to round out the dish. The dish makes an impact on the plate.. It’s big and contrasting colors of yellow, white and black get people looking and since it tastes great, it’s a winner.

pasta_zucca_zeb_florence

Rabbit stuffed with a GRIP of fennel seed, cheese and herbs (an outstanding dish of rabbit). No bones to mess with, just moist rabbit and stuffings. The outer skin was crisp texture. Flavors were deep and complimentary to the wine. I remember having rabbit in Siena back in 2009 that rivals this dish. Great flavor and I could probably do it with chicken breast, since people think eating Thumper (or Bambi for that matter) are creepy.

rabbit_zeb_florence

Dessert was tiramisu, not overpowering with coffee, liquor or sweetness. I don't know if this would sell well in American restaurants as it lacked the over the top nature of an American style tiramisu (you know, the "welcome to flavor town” American style). That said, I liked it. As the pasta and rabbit were incredibly savory, even a touch of sweetness is welcome at the end of the meal.

tiramisu_zeb_florence

I haven't a clue what wines were served, as I knew better from last year that if I asked to take a picture of anything, I'd be scolded. Suffice it to say, the wines paired with each course and white and red were served.

Zeb still gets top marks for great food in a casual environment. Remember, Italians tend to eat at about 1:30, so get to Zeb when it opens as they don’t take reservations.

Zingaro, Parma

A return to the first restaurant I ate in Parma in 2016, Osteria dello Zingaro, and a repeat of what I ate last year, a plate of cured meat, pasta and a trio of horse meat (so I won't take up space with pictures). The meal was wonderful and the owner and his son were just as they were last year, proud of their food and their restaurant.

I could simply re-post the exact same blog post from last year. Everything was exactly the same and I still think the cavallo tartare with picante is a delicious version of steak tartare. However there is one addition, a sausage risotto that was lovely.

Zingaro_risotto_parma

Punto, Lucca

I'll say, it was pretty cool to be greeted with a smile, handshake and "welcome back" when I walked into Punto Officina del Gusto after almost one year to the day of my first visit. 

I was so impressed with the food and wine program at Punto last season, I was really looking forward to coming back. Since last year, Punto has opened their apertivo bar next door, however, this dinner was in the main restaurant.

Amuse of radicchio with tartar sauce. I didn't know what to think about this combination as in all my travels, it had never come up before. Perhaps a play on a veggie bowl with a ranch dip or onion dip. Tack it up to whimsy.

Amuse_punto_lucca

Artichoke with quinoa and coffee infused mayonnaise. Last year, I also ordered an artichoke for my first course and loved the result, this year in no different. Wonderful presentation, well prepared and fun. The quinoa add dimension and texture.

artichoke_punto_lucca

Risotto with tangerine, olive oil, Parmigiano and ponzu. Again, I repeated my risotto order from last year with the latest incarnation, tangerine risotto. The innovation here is the use of ponzu, not a typical Italian ingredient. The tangerine is not dominant, like the celery last year, I found the risotto balanced, delicate, and flavorful and a good pairing with the Pinot. Stronger flavors, bacon, beef, even poached fish would overpower the risotto. This risotto is a solo act IF you want subtle flavors, If you'd rather have this risotto in the background, I think it would pair with fish, game, or beef rather well.

risotto_punto_lucca

Spaghetti with squid ragu and chili. Well constructed, good heat from the chili and the pasta. had good tooth on it. This dish almost seems tame for Punto. I have no complaints and would happily order it again, but perhaps I expected a 'spin' on the dish, an innovation that Punto does so well; taking tradition and offering an update.

dessert_lemon_punto

Desserts were a lemon cream and meringue on sweet cracker and the cake of the day, beet juiced soaked with cream and chocolate. Both were welcome sweet treats after a savory meal.

I was pleased to return to Zeb, Zingaro and Punto and would happily return to all three again.

Sale Grosso, Bologna

Sale Grosso in Bologna is a Southern Italian styled restaurant in the heart of Bologna and it was one of my favorite places to eat in Bologna.

Cream di Fave with cooked chicory and breadcrumbs with olive oil. Could this be just a big bowl of hummus? Yes. So you better like hummus. I’d say a little less dense than a typical hummus, this creamy bowl of beans is about as filling as it gets. This dish is Puglian and came up on several Lecce menus. If you like hummus, with less garlic and some wilted greens on top, this is your dish.

Orecchiette with broccoli and shrimp. One of the pasta highlights of the trip. Very Puglian in design, not Bolognian. Shrimp was cooked exactly right, plump and fresh. Hints of chili pepper flakes dotted the sauce, not overpowering. No butter, just olive oil and garlic. Post Script: As I'm in Lecce, I’m sticking with my assessment in Bologna that this dish was one of the highlights of the trip. A wonderfully fresh pasta, when most people think to do orecchiette with red sauce or rapini.

Salad with smoked Buffalo Mozzarella and anchovy with paprika. I ordered pasta, but received a salad. While my Italian is horrible, I did order a spaghetti dish, not something I'm going to pronounce poorly. Maybe the waiter sensed I needed more fiber in my Italian diet. What was presented was a welcome surprise. The smell of smoke is what I first noticed coming from the cheese, a smoked mozzarella. Each piece of Mozzarella was topped with anchovies, a combination I've never had. Normally, that many anchovies would be unwelcome; however, when combined with the smoked Mozzarella, they tasted great and didn't repeat on me an hour later. Genius.

For dessert, fresh ricotta with a generous portion of mixed berry coulis. Albeit this is a simple dish, I loved it. Plus, it was pretty on the plate.

I’d say for a fast lunch by Italian standards, less than an hour, the meal was one of the tops of the trip; eating Puglian food in Bologna. Go figure.

5 Things to know in Italy

Click bait time with a 5 Things headline on Italy. I posted last year about little things many guidebooks don't mention when traveling in Italy. It's not some insiders guide nonsense, just practical stuff one has to deal with while traveling.

Video sign in Italian and the warning in English

Video sign in Italian and the warning in English

1. Recycle Containers when renting an apartment. How many recycle containers does one country need? Plenty. I think the most is 6 containers in Bologna? Or you just dump everything in a street container marked Indifferinziata. If you’re going to get a place on AirBnB, you’re gonna have to deal with waste containers.

recycle_italy

2. Smoking is alive and well in Italy my friends. A new generation of smokers is coming. People can’t smoke in restaurants or on trains, but they can smoke right outside the door of the restaurant or the train while the door is open.

smoking_italy

3. Graffiti is also alive and well. Regional Trains and buildings, get tagged a lot, the fast trains, not so much. Some of it is actually art, most of it isn’t.

street_art_bologna

4. Dog Poo. No change. Still plenty of poo on the streets. Lecce does a nice job of street cleaning. Minimal dog poo in Lecce and no less dogs than other Italian towns. Bologna, new to the dog poo rating scale has an issue with the portico system as poo needs to be cleaned by shop owners and rain can’t simply wash things away under a portico. Poo in Bologna is a problem.

disaster_italy_bike

5. Restaurant bathrooms (even Michelin rated Restaurants) don't always have toilet seats. But they do have very expensive hand air systems (think Dyson) instead of paper. And one toilet for an entire 30 seat restaurant, so keep an eye on the bathroom if you need to make a go.