Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Out Like a Lamb

6:45AM - March 31, 2009 - Angel Island from Sausalito

OK, so maybe I have to be content with having to take only the second most beautiful ferry ride to work in the morning, but I think I must have the most beautiful walk to and from the ferry of anyone -- especially now that it is light both on the way down the hill in the morning, and on the way back up (pant, pant!) in the evening.

6:40PM - March 31, 2009 - Richardson Bay and Angel Island from Sausalito

March has gone out in very mild fashion here in Northern California. We have enjoyed a number of absolutely beautiful days. Last night Nancy, Pat and I met up at our favorite Sausalito wine bar, Wellington's, where our friend Cornelia (formerly of our former favorite Sausalito wine bar, Cork) is now working on Monday's and has somehow managed to make the already friendly atmosphere even friendlier....

A very pleasant hour at the bar looking out on the Sausalito yacht harbor and sipping some Spring-like Cremant d’Alsace Sparkling Rosé from Allimant Laugner - the same producer of the excellent Muscat we enjoyed at our Alpine Cheese and Alsatian Wine class last week.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Got (Alpine) Cheese? Pairings with Alsatian Wines

After as many classes as we have taken at The Cheese School of San Francisco (now over 20), we have covered many of the best known cheeses and cheese types and have become a bit more selective about the classes we attend. However, in January when we saw the offering of “Alpine Cheese & Alsace Wine” on the School’s calendar of Spring classes, we realized that there were still new pastures to explore. Last Thursday evening Alex, Cass and I were back at the School for that program:
“Yodel-ay-hee-hoo! You’ll want to shout from the mountaintops after
indulging in this deep dive into the best alpine cheeses from Switzerland,
France, Italy and Germany – known for their creamy, nutty, sweet goodness – paired with Alsace wines from along the banks of the Rhine, which originates high in the Alps and flows throughout the valleys in which Alpine cheesemakers have traditionally brought their wheels to market.”

Mark Todd had been scheduled to teach the class, but at the last minute had a conflict, so a team comprised of veteran School instructors Wil Edwards – who had taught our “Pecorino Perfection” class in January and who we had just seen at the Artisan Cheese Festival the previous weekend - and Melissa Schilling, stepped in to fill Mark’s shoes.....

Although I like to think that I have a fairly good sense of geography, I realized when we signed up for the class that I was not sure where Alsace was, over what area the Alps extended, or where they were in relationship to each other. The following map answers all of those questions (the numbers on the map correspond to the ten cheeses listed below and show the general areas where each cheese is produced):

It is always a pleasure to attend a class at the Cheese School at any time of the year. However, on Thursday evening was the first class we had attended in some time where we arrived when it was still light out, and the classroom on Thursday evening with all the cheeses set out and lit by the natural evening light struck me as particularly beautiful:

At the beginning of the program, Sara Vivenzio, the founder and Director of the School, introduced Wil and Melissa.

Then we were off. The following ten cheeses from the general area of the Alps – all cow milk, six Swiss, three French and one Italian - had been selected for the evening:

1. Emmentaler Switzerland – “Höhlengereift” (cave-aged)
2. Le Maréchal – Switzerland
3. Appenzeller – Switzerland
4. Le Chartreux – France
5. Comté – France
6. L’Etivaz Gruyére - Switzerland
7. Bettlemat – Italy
8. Vacherin Fribourgeois – Switzerland
9. Grès des Vosges – France
10. Forsterkase – Switzerland

They were paired with the following five Alsatian wines:

1. NV Cremat d’Alsace - Jean-Philippe et François Becker
2. 2006 Pinot Blanc Reserve – Pierre Sparr
3. 2006 Riesling – Trimbach
4. 2007 Muscat – Allimant Laugner
5. 2005 Pinot Noir – Charles Baur

Here are a couple of maps of the Alsace region showing both the wine producing area and the topography – the Vosges Mountains to the west (with the vineyards on their eastern slopes), and the Rhine river, the border with Germany, to the east.

The wines were all very good and well worth trying again. There is much more to explore on the Alsatian wine front, and there are some helpful online resources here, here and here.

There were a full range of accompaniments presented with our wine and cheese, bread, dried and fresh fruit, chutney, and nuts. In addition, for the first time we were served Hibiscus flowers (on the left in the following picture - who knew they were edible!) – which hade been dried and then reconstituted in white wine. They were quite good - crisp and not overly sweet.

It was an entertaining (and filling!) evening, although given the large number of both cheeses and wines and the amount of information that they wanted to present, it seemed that both Wil and Melissa – who are both high energy people - were in many places rushed to get through the program, and it was frankly not the best coordinated class we have attended at the School. This seems to me to have been one class where less would have been more.

As far as the cheeses go, there were three – the Appenzeller, Comté, L’Etivaz Gruyére – that we had sampled at earlier classes at the School. However, looking back at those earlier notes it was interesting to see that at least my reaction to the cheeses this time was quite different for the Appenzeller (which I liked much better this time) and the L’Etivaz Gruyére (the reverse) – no doubt the pairings are a contributing factor (the earlier class was Sheana Davis’ “Belgian Beer & Cheeses” class!). The one unwavering cheesy beacon was the Comté which we have had a number of times (just last week again at the Cheese Festival and which is perhaps my favorite cheese of all (as long as it is Daphne Zephos selection!). This time, just a step below the Comté on my “Mike Likes” scorecard, were the Appenzeller, Le Maréchal and Vacherin Fribourgeois.

A couple of interesting things to note regarding the cheeses:

~ The name “Emmentaler” is not a protected name, such that much cheese called “Emmentaler” comes from other areas. For the traditional and best Emmentaler, look for “Emmentaler Switzerland” (which is a protected name). Höhlengereift” (cave-aged) indicates a further step up in quality.

~ Traditional fondue is made with a combination of three of the Swiss cheeses: Emmentaler, Appenzeller and Vacherin Fribourgeois.

~ The Grès des Vosges – the only one of the ten cheeses that was from Alsace - is named after a orange sandstone found in the Vosges Mountains given the orange color of its washed rind. The famous Chateau de Haut-Koenigsbourg, which is on the heights above the vineyards on the eastern slopes of the Vosges, is made from the same stone.

~ The Forsterkase is wrapped in fir bark, which you can just make out in the photo of the cheeses.

That was our second to the last class at the School for the current term. We are looking forward to "La Dolce Vita: Italian Cheese & Dessert Wine" on April 7!

Alex and Cass (far right) with Cheese Elves, Abby and Rebecca
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Thursday, March 26, 2009

11 Species/ 15 Organs and Counting – Incanto’s 2009 Head to Tail Dinner

I will always harbor a special fondness for Incanto. I came across the Noe Valley restaurant not long after I had begun my study of Italian and was happy, apart from their food, to find their Dante Room with its huge mural depicting the return of Dante and Virgil following their descent to the Inferno – “E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle/ Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars.”

Here is a video, including comments from both Incanto’s owner, Mark Pastrore, and its chef, Chris Cosentino – more about both of them below – which provides a good overview of the restaurant.

Incanto was also where I began my exploration of Italian wines on six consecutive Saturday afternoons under the guidance of
Edward Ruiz, Incanto’s Wine Director. However, not long after I had discovered Incanto I learned about the event which really captured my imagination – their tradition of an annual dinner to celebrate sustainable consumption and to illustrate the many which less commonly used portions of animals could be put to very tasty use – their Head to Tail Dinner.

My first Head to Tail was in 2006 – Incanto’s 3rd such annual dinner - and I have not missed one since. Hence, when I received a few weeks back the announcement of the 6th Annual Head to Tail Dinner, I was pretty excited....

Chris Cosentino has been the chef at Incanto since I started going there, and his fame has grown over the years (in addition, he and Mark Pastore have now opened Boccalone, the salume company with a store in the Ferry Building Marketplace). For any who have not met Chris, I think it is fair to say that he pushes the envelope in several different directions. Perhaps one need do no more than visit Chris’ website – Offal Good – to capture some of that flavor. Here is also a good video interview of Chris in which I believe his philosophy and passion comes through.

Although I love offal (”frattaglie” was one of the first words I learned in Italian), it can be a challenge dinner companions to join me at the Head to Tail. I have long ago learned not to count on any family members, and it can be a difficult sell even for many wide-spectrum foodies. My friend Antonio from Salerno was always my ace-in-the-hole for such events, but I had a touch of panic when I learned Antonio was going to be in Italy on March 23. What to do???

To the rescue came a new friend, Vanessa, who I have gotten to know through her excellent Italian food blog
Italy in SF - "the directory to everything Italian in the Bay Area." I had mentioned to Vanessa my dilemma of not being able to find a dinner companion for the evening, and, although not without a slight bit of trepidation, she kindly offered to go with me.

So on Monday night Vanessa and I showed up at Incanto full of high expectations. We had a chance to say hello to Mark, Chris and Edward, and then turned to study the menu for the work ahead.

Venison heart tartare, foie gas & ciccioli brioche

Leading off was one my favorite dishes of the evening, and it had just the right balance of fattiness and meatiness. Vanessa and I paired it with the slightly frizzante Oltrepò Pavese Bonarda Viti di Luna from
Francesco Montagna in Pavia which cut the fat a bit. The brioche with bits of ciccioli was also a good match. I came across the following good definition of ciccioli (although that is a bit different from the ciccioli they sell at Boccalone which is more of a head cheese):

"Ciccioli are prepared by pressing and aging what is left of the pork after most of the other preparations have been carried to effect. Because of this,
the spectacle of the making of the ciccioli is not for the weak of stomach (but if you don't think about it, you'll find the taste is more than agreeable). The last (aging) stage in the traditional preparation involves a special press, where the meat (wrapped in sack cloth) is gradually squeezed, over a period of several weeks, to remove excess fat. A practical demonstration of the peasant saying "Del maiale non si butta via nulla" (“Nothing of the pig goes to waste”). Ciccioli come in two varieties: the regular, unattributed one - which are eaten sliced - and "ciccioli frolli" (sometimes called greppole) which have been subjected to further drying, which turns them into a crunchy snack."
Here is a picture of a stack of ciccioli which Nancy and I came across in the market in Bologna on one of our trips – as noted, a crunchy snack:

Goose intestines, fava beans & artichokes

This dish was interesting primarily because of the consistency of the goose intestines – a bit rough in texture - think cat tongue - and chewy. It had a rather mild flavor, although a very tasty broth. It was served with pasta rings – “anelli” in Italian (which Chris mentioned he had been hoping, given the nature of the dish, to identify as “analli” on the menu until he had been overruled by some adult supervisor).

Big brain, small brain with asparagus

This dish had given rise to all sorts of speculation when it appeared on the announcement. Would this be a parent and offspring combination? Perhaps a cross-species adventure (horse/quail? cow/fish?). As it turned out it was neither. The “big” brain was the real thing – veal in nature – which was apparently intended to represent woman. The “small brain” – the male contribution – was also taken from a bovine, but from the aft end – think “men think with their b----s” or “mountain oysters” (which we had in a slightly different presentation at the 2004 H2T). A bit of Incanto humor.

The “small brains” were lightly fried and very nicely done. The real brain was also well prepared - perhaps broiled - and with a nice creamy texture. It reminded me of a firm custard. Chris also added a splash of Japanese
sudachi juice to the preparation which was a nice touch. I had a glass of the Massolino Dolcetto d’ Alba from the Serralunga d'Alba area in Piemonte with the dish which was somewhat sharp and tannic but a nice counterpoint to the meat.

Cordedda with peas, mint & sheep’s milk polenta

This dish also caused some speculation when it was announced. Googling “cordedda” led to very few clear results as to what it might be, until I stumbled across the website of the Hotel Ispinigoli, located in Dorgali in the mountainous Nuoro region of eastern Sardinia. There they described and provided a photo of one of their specialties – “Cordedda in Salsa”.

My rough translation of the Hotel’s description of the dish: “A braid of baby sheep intestines, cooked in a sauce with fresh tomatoes, spices and local herbs. It is very flavorful appetizer or main course characteristic of barbaricina cuisine [the cuisine of the Barbagia region].”

Now this was exciting. I could imagine Chris hunched over a prep table braiding sheep intestines late into the night prior to our dinner using some ancient Sardinian patterns handed down by grandmothers in the Nuoro area.

However, the dish turned out to be a bit different – a mix of grilled lamb kidney, liver and spleen wrapped in lamb
caul fat (aka the greater omentum) and braised. A bit hard to describe, but the following photo that Chris Tweeted on Monday evening ("First cordedda of the evening") gives a better idea of the dish’s construction.

Chris said that unfortunately there were some health code restrictions on the use of lamb intestines, and hence he had some up with this dish as a substitute, although it does not appear that the Sardinian cordedda described above contains any stuffing. He indicated that his dish also had some Sicilian influence, which led me to the following description of stigghiola, a grilled street food staple from the Palermo area:

Stigghiola is defined by Antonino Traina, a noted nineteenth-century Sicilian lexographer, as "a dainty of intestines entwisted around kid, lamb or even chicken omenta." The omerta, also called caul fat, is a net-like membrane which covers the small intestine. The Sicilian cookbook author Tommaso d'Alba relates that in the outskirts of Palermo, streets are filled with the smell and smoke of u stigghiularu, the stigghiola-vendors, who sell them for a pittance. Variations on stigghiole are found throughout the Mediterranean. In Sardinia it goes by the name cordula. In Apulia it is called carramarra or gniummeriddi. In Calabria it is formed with Provola cheese, pancetta, garlic, parsley and lemon juice and called gliommarieddri.”

I had a glass of the Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia from Toscana with the dish. It was an excellent wine – by far the best of the evening and definitely one to try again.

Coffee & doughnut: blood & espresso – pork liver & chocolate

Our journey ended with dessert – espresso mixed with a bit of pork blood, and a doughnut stuffed with a mixture of chocolate and minced pork liver. Both excellent. The ingredients may sound a bit unusual, but if one were to try then without knowing what was in them I doubt one would know they included any pork products. The coffee was thick and a bit grainy, a bit like a warm milk shake. The doughnut was a perfect match, and Zane, who patiently waited on us and answered our questions during the evening, encouraged us to dip it into the coffee. Yummy.

On the way out we said good by to the Incanto crew, and Vanessa checked the ladies’ room to answer a question I have wondered about for some time – whether the same wonderful “Vinferno” map of the twelve circles of hell from Da Vino Commedia by Al Dente Allegory (c/o the
genius of Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard) that is in the men’s room is also in the ladies’ room. The answer is no – score one for the small brains!

I am already looking forward to the 2010 installment. So far in four years the H2T dinners I have attended have explored 15 different organs and body parts (tongues hold the lead) contributed by 11 different species (bovines ahead by a nose) — although strangely no tails! Hopefully that oversight will soon be corrected.

Part of the Incanto Brain Trust – Possible Captions: "Big Brain, Small Brain?" -- "Do Two Small Brains Equal a Big One?" -- "You Put WHAT in the Coffee!!??"

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me! – 3rd Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival

This past December my birthday present from Patrick and Alex was a ticket to the full-day Saturday seminar program at the 3rd Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma. Even better, they were coming with me.

The Festival was held this past Saturday with the Opening General Session starting at 9:00AM. So bright and early the three of us got up, made a quick pit stop at Starbucks, and headed north.

This was the first time we had attended the Festival and we were not sure quite what to expect. In particular, we were not sure how much cheese we would have the chance to sample during the course of the day – as it turned out we had nothing at all to fear!!

Through our many (20 and counting) classes at
The Cheese School of San Francisco over the last couple of years, we have had the chance to sample many cheeses and to meet many individuals active in the cheese world in Northern California. The Festival gave us the opportunity to see many of them again, including Sara Vivenzio and Ariel Clute from the Cheese School, Sheana Davis, Lynne Devereux (who helped to coordinate the Festival), Wil Edwards, and Laura Werlin.

Cheese Heads with Festival Swag

Opening Session: Preserving and Advancing the Artisan Foods Movement

The Opening Session featured a panel discussing “how producers and consumers work in concert to grow the artisan food landscape.” It was led by a food consultant
Clark Wolf and featured three panelists:

~ Nathan Boone –
First Light Farm
~ Sue Conley – Cowgirl Creamery
~ Duskie Estes –
Zazu/ Bovolo

I had never seen Sue Conley before and it was especially interesting to hear her presentation given her experience as well as the prominence Cowgirl Creamery has achieved both with its own products and as a supporter of other cheese producers in the area.

I also enjoyed the presentation by Duskie Estes – a former vegetarian who spoke about her return to the meat world after a transcendent encounter with a well-prepared piece of pork a few years back - and the following extract from her bio:

“Restaurant visionary Duskie Estes was once a contestant on Food Network Challenge where she wowed the judges with her Laura Chenel Goat Cheese Macaroni and Cheese Stuffed in a Roasted Artichoke. Her husband, John Stewart, a rock star salumist, is known for producing their Black Pig salami and bacon.”

Goat Cheese Macaroni and, not to digress from the cheese topic, bacon!!? How soon can we plan a trip to Zazu!! I also found very appealing the following photo of Duskie and John from the Zazu website (hmm, that reminds me of the upcoming Head to Tail Dinner at Incanto!).

At the end of the session, we were served a small plate of raddiccio and radishes from Nathan’s First Light Farm, asparagus wrapped with some Black Pig bacon, and Cowgirl Creamery’s Clabbered Cottage Cheese. A very nice start to the day.

Seminar One: Pairing Beyond Beverages – “Pair artisan cheese with irresistible combinations of sweet and savory delights”

Following the Opening Session the group broke up for a series of individual seminars for the balance of the day. This was the tough part since we had had to decide in advance which ones we would go to, and obviously in many cases there was more than one which appealed!

The first seminar we picked was presented by Juliana Uruburu, the Cheese Director at the Market Hall Pasta Shop in Oakland who had taught the Cheeses of Spain class we took in February 2008 at the Cheese School.

Juliana had arranged five cheeses and five foods to pair for the seminar:

The Cheeses:

Redwood Hill Farm - fresh chevre (goat)
Cowgirl Creamery - Red Hawk (cow)
Bellweather Farms – San Andreas (sheep)
Vella Cheese Co. – Dry Monterey Jack Reserve (cow)
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. – Original Blue (cow)

The Pairings:

~ Fresh strawberries
Freddy Guys - roasted hazelnuts
Fra’Mani Sopressata
McEvoy Ranch – mixture of Tuscan olive varieties
Katz & Co. – varietal honey

We sampled each cheese with each pairing in turn (25 combinations – a tough job but....). Juliana recommended that at the beginning of a meal it is best to serve cheeses which are higher in acidity with foods that are fresh and less complex, and later in the meal to reverse that – more aged/complex food with lower acid/more aged cheeses. I think our favorite pairing was the Cowgirl Red Hawk with the honey – as Juliana succinctly put it, “mold loves sugar”! In my view Fra’Mani’s Salame Gentile and some Castelvetrano olives would have made for better pairings on the salumi and olive fronts.

Seminar Two - Go Local-Global with the Cowgirls – “Join our favorite cheese cowgirls - Peggy Smith and Sue Conley - for a taste of what’s happening in cheese making regions of the U.S. and around the globe”

The second seminar of the day featured
Peggy Smith and Sue Conley, who founded Cowgirl Creamery in Pt. Reyes Station in 1997, with a presentation of eight cheeses, mostly from the US but including a couple from France:

Cowgirl Creamery Fromage Blanc (cow)
~ Cowgirl Creamery – Mt. Tam (cow)
Marcel PetiteComtè des Granges (cow)
La Clarine Farm – Sierra Mountain Tomme (goat)
~ Jean d’Alos
Tome de Bordeaux/ Herbillette (goat)
Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Coop – Dante (sheep)
Cabot Creamery – Cabot Clothbound Cheddar (cow)
Bohemian CreameryCapriago (goat)

Removing a Plug from the Comtè

The cheeses were paired with two very nice wines - 2004 Chardonnay and a 2005 Pinot Noir - from Copeland Creek, a winery in the Petaluma Gap area not far from the seminar location. The winemaker, Don Baumhefner, was also there and described the qualities of the wines that are related to the cooler growing conditions in that area, most notably a lower alcohol level. I thought that the Pinot was exceptional with very good balance and went well with several of the cheeses.


Lunch was in a tent in the hotel parking lot. Nothing too special there. We then retired to the bar to catch a bit of March Madness and to take advantage of some other fermentation technology to do some cleansing of our systems between seminars.

Seminar Three: Traveling the Oregon Cheese Trail – “Taste the distinctive flavors and award-winning cheeses that define this burgeoning region to the north.”

This seminar was presented by three panelists, Tami Parr, a writer and President of the
Oregon Cheese Guild, David Gremmels, the co-owner of Rogue Creamery and current President of the American Cheese Society, and Flavio DeCastilhos, the owner of Tumalo Farms.

Flavio, David and Tami

We were served the following cheeses:

Rivers’s Edge/ Three Ring Farm – Sunset Bay (goat)
Tumalo Farms Classico (goat)
Willamette Valley Cheese Co. - Brindisi Fontina (cow)
Oregon Gourmet Cheeses – Sublimity (cow)
Rogue Creamery – Rogue River Blue (cow)

And the following beverages:

~ Wandering Aengus Ciderworks – Dry Cider
Kokomo – 2008 Sauvignon Blanc
Paul Mathews – 2007 Russian River Pinot Noir

It may just have been the fact that it was the last seminar of the day and a bit of cheese stupor was setting in (the cleansing effort at the bar did not seem to have had much positive effect), but this seemed to be the lowest energy program of the day. We did think that the Tumalo Farms “Classico” was a great cheese, and I particularly enjoyed the Kokomo wine. I also appreciated the chance to try the cider, and have now had a chance to go back and read “
The Song of the Wandering Aengus” by William Butler Yeats which I learned is the basis for the Ciderworks’ name.

It was a great day and a wonderful Christmas present. The only disappointment is that we were so full by the end of the day that we had to abort our plans to try Cucina Paradiso in Petaluma for dinner, a place we have heard quite a bit about. The full program included a “Artisan Gala Dinner” that evening – “A special dinner prepared by award-winning and cheese-loving chefs, creating an elegant five-course dinner including appetizer, seafood, meat and dessert courses, with each course carefully paired with select boutique wines and cheese.”

I can only admire those who would have been able to go to that dinner after the day we had!

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reunion of our Museo Cooking Class!

One of the best courses I ever took was a course on Italian cuisine given in Italian at the Museo ItaloAmericano in San Francisco during the Spring of 2006. Our class met once a week for 8 weeks – one week we would meet at the Museo to talk about some culinary topic, and the following week we would meet at the home of Paola Bagnatori, the Museo’s Managing Director, to cook! Apart from having a lot of fun, our class became very close and since the class ended we have met periodically to reconnect and explore our favorite topic further.

Last week a number of us from the class got together for dinner at the home of Dawn (aka “Alba” in our class) and Michael Isaacs for a pot luck dinner. It was great to see each other and catch up, and needless to say there was a good deal of excellent food and wine....

For our antipasti, we enjoyed:

~ Bruschetta with an eggplant caponata from Karlena and John;

~ A couple of salumi from Fra’Mani that Nancy and I brought along -- our two favorites, their Salame Gentile and Salame Rosa – per the Fra’Mani website:

Salame Gentile: A traditional salame whose origins date back to the 18th century in the province of Parma, Italy. Coarsely ground and encased in the budello gentile, with a pronounced pork aroma.

Salame Rosa: A salame cotto (cooked salame) with origins in the city of Bologna, Italy. Made from prime cuts from the shoulder, coarsely chopped to create a distinctive mosaic face and speckled with small cubes of plate fat cut from high on the hog. Dry roasted with a hint of natural fruitwood smoke. Mildly seasoned with coriander, white pepper and mace, and studded with pistachio nuts.

~ Our favorite Castelvetrano olives; and

~ Mozzarella from
Bubalus Bubalis, Inc., as far as I know the only maker of mozzarella in California that is using water buffalo milk.

I had picked up the Bubalus Bubalis mozzarella at Cowgirl Creamery in the Ferry Building earlier that day. The company is named after the Latin name of the Asian water buffalo which was long ago introduced to Southern Italy where its milk is used for the production of real mozzarella cheese. I was skeptical about the quality of the product, given the need to consume mozzarella as fresh as possible (Antonio, my friend and Italian tutor from Salerno in Campania, claims it must be within hours of production) and the fact that the Bubalus Bubalis buffalo herd is near Oroville in Northern California while their production facility is in Gardena, in Southern California. However, it was very good and there were no complaints by our dinner companions, who certainly are a discriminating group when it comes to Italian food!

Reidun and Angela had brought along a beautiful mixed beet salad with blood oranges for the evening, inspired by the cooking lessons from Giovanni della Renta at the now-sadly-closed Ristorante Mezzo Mezzo in San Rafael that Reidun and I had both taken.

We also enjoyed some wonderful asparagus that Barbara had prepared.

Our salad course was followed by a very tasty Zuppa di Vino that Alba had prepared, a Northern Italian soup using beef broth, white wine, cream, cheese and croutons

We then moved along to our main course, again care of Alba, a tender chicken marsala served with polenta and mixed vegetables.

Finally we capped off the meal with two torte care of Melva and Veronica, served with a ricotta sauce, and some tangerines.

Wine flowed throughout the evening, including some Sorella Bronca prosecco at the start, followed by Cantina Valle Isarco’s Kerner, Ca’ di Pian Barbera d’Asti from La Spinetta, and Valle dell'Acate’s Cerasuolo di Vittoria during the course of the meal, and a touch of Moscato d'Asti to end.

A wonderful evening, and we are already plotting our next outing!

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