Just a bit of nostalgia if you don’t mind

We own our house in Italy with our friend Kiki. Our favorite thing is when all three of us can go there at the same time. Second choice is either of us being there. And making the left behinds jealous. Which we got to do to Kiki in March. And now it is her turn. She just wrote saying she was in the garden, bathed in late afternoon sun, listening the swallows swooping and the tower bells ringing while having nibbles of pecorino cheese under a pergola of yellow Lady Banks roses.

It is the best time of year. I’ll be there in daydreams and in the meantime will be happy with memories and photos.

Here is a video of what Kiki is suffering thru there in the garden. From this exact moment last year.

And its not just all about our garden. The whole countryside is the Garden of Eden as we speak as evidenced by this video shot on May Day at Spannocchia last year. With thanks to our buddy Steve Callen of Panicale and Australia for his magical music and editing. Speaking of Spannocchia, they are the 1,000 acre agricultural tenuta outside Siena, but they are also sponsors of the Italian Life Expo coming up in Portland, Maine next month. See, if we can’t get ourselves to Italy in June, we’ll bring the whole county to US. If you are going to be near Portland’s harbor the 9th – the 11th, come get your daily requirement of Italy there.

ok, see you in Italy (or see you in Portland, June 9-11)

Stew Vreeland

Bringing Italy home with us

If you are like us, you get a taste of Italy and you don’t like letting go. We just got back from Italy but some part of us feels that we’re still there basking “Under The Tuscan Sun.”

But! Did we tell you we’re working on a way to stretch out that “being there” feeling? That’s why we’re helping start the first ever Italian Life Expo in Portland, Maine. June 9-11th at the Ocean Gateway right on the harbor, across from lead sponsor Auto Europe’s world headquarters.

madampresidenteDozens of exhibitors including generations-old, but undiscovered family vineyards from Lake Garda to artisans in copper from Montepulciano, prosciutto and cheese makers from Parma to tour operators from Siena, so many shiny objects to hold your attention.

Here’s Midge outside Spannocchia who, with Institute for Italian Studies, are lead presenters of the Expo. One day last week, after this picture was taken, Midge, Paul Turina of Turina Italian Wines, and other board members went into Siena for a festive dinner at Antica Osteria da Divo by Chef Pino di Cicco. Everyone came back raving about him and counting the minutes till they could see him again at the Expo.

Good times coming. If you are in New England this June, the Italian Life Expo may be your ticket to Italy. It’s never been closer.

Tickets go on sale this weekend. Check it out.

See you in Italy!

Stew Vreeland

Spring ahead. Thinking Italy, Cortona & Umbria

Looking at the deep snow parked outside our windows here in Maine. Hoping it keeps melting. It has about three feet left to go. I know, “piano, piano” this too will pass. Our neighbors in Panicale, Umbria don’t see snow on a regular basis so it has a certain novelty to them. And after a snow fall, you can depend on someone to be grumping about it and you can also depend on someone else to say brightly “ricordi, sotto le neve c’e pane.” The corollary and only sometimes used as the rhyming finale is the less romantic, darker “sotto l’aqua c’e fame.” Snow does melt and feeds the crops which feeds everyone and of course it is better than too much water. So. Snow, good thing. In moderation.

Snow has melted enough here in Maine, that even though it is still deep – so deep you can’t slog thru it with boots – you still can’t snow shoe on it. Funny time. Time for it to go. And speaking of going. . . we are. To Italy next Saturday. March 19th. We’ll be in Panicale, Cortona, Siena for a couple weeks. Yay! Non vedo l’ora!
araucanaEggsCortona2
Every where I look we see things that point us to Italy. At lunch at my sister Gin’s next door today, we saw her Araucana chicken eggs in ceramic egg cartons we brought her from Cortona one time. Love the soft cream color that seems to be The Color of Cortona in the ceramic dept. And aren’t the eggs great? Not dyed. Just how they are. Almost too pretty to poach. Yes, we are ready for Italy and even Easter it appears from these eggs.

OK, See you in Italy! And soon!

Stew Vreeland

Slow Food? Funny, it doesn’t last long on my plate.

This is where I was a couple days ago. And a world away. May Day Celebration of Spring and an Italian Slow food event at the 1,100 acre non-profit AgriCultural estate of Spannocchia. It is just outside Siena in Tuscany. And only an hour from our house in Panicale, so we find ourselves there often. There are several mini videos below of the festivities so you can enjoy the sights and the sounds of Springtime in Italy.

boragefarroradish1

“OH, WAITER, TABLE FOR SIXTY, PLEASE. AND COULD WE SIT OUTSIDE?”

Cavolfiori does these marvelous dinners all around Italy. Check their site to see where their next event is. Come hungry.

longtable

THE MENU FOR THE DAY WENT SOMETHING LIKE THIS

Farro, asparagi, fave e uova.
With Bianco Toscano 2008 vintage grown right there at Spannocchia. As were all the other ingredients for this course. Farro is an ancient type of grain grown here that has been rescued from obscurity in recent times. They told us there is something about this grain’s tassels that tickles their tusks or in some way bugs the wild boars and those cinghiale won’t eat farro any more than kids will eat broccoli. Big benefit / built in defense system for farro.
Isn’t it interesting how they sliced the asparagus long ways and made it look so different? At a glance it seems to be something else. It looked fantastic and with a hint or two of lemon it just took you away on this sunny day.

Crema di borragine, ricotta di pecora, with more white wine
Borage is basically a weed, harvested by a New Zealand lady staying at Spannocchia. We sat with her at the table and went on a plant identification walk she led after. Oh, the blue flower is the borage flower. And the green is the warm borage colored, potato-based soup you pour around the sheep ricotta. Sure. We eat like this at home, too. Pretty much. In our dreams

Coscia di Suino Cinto nel forno a legna insalata di campo.
Full leg of Spannocchia pig (The famous cinta senese. They are black with white belt like a Belted Galloway cow) slow cooked in a Spannocchia wood oven with Spannocchia wood, too. With a red 2007 Spannocchia wine

Brownie, yogurt e mele
and there were tiny flowers involved, tiny pale yellow flowers. If I knew what kind of flowers they were, I’ve forgotten now. Note number of wine courses. Forgive, forget.

2006 Vin Santo dessert wine from Spannocchia.
Very light, very drinkable. We did. See above.

The whole meal presentation was a thing of great beauty. Afterwards we went on a forage-for-borage walk-about with the lady from NZ who sat with us. She harvests whatever greens she needs from whatever woods she’s in. She was an inspiration. And a font of logic. Made it all sound so reasonable. Biggest tip on eating weeds? Shouldn’t have to actually say this but . . . tiny bites. And, remember “no mushrooms please.” Just don’t. We ate tons of what she had harvested at the meal. That crème of borage soup was wonderful and bright, bright green poured around fresh white ricotta and garnished with the ever helpful borage’s blue flowers. Startling colors of white blue and green on my plate. I was so surprised it was warm and served in glass pitcher. I’ve got to get out more. Really, I do.

The photo of the camera is mine. As are the clunky videos. The luscious food photos were by our buddy Paul Avis. He is a pro. I’m a pro too. But just at eating all the food they put in front of us. Slow Food group was doing this food fest two days in a row there. All sold out. We just barely got squeezed in. glad we did. What a day. Roses in bloom up to the top of the third story of the villa. Wisteria all about, lemons on the trees in pots, grass was green green. Fine, fine, memorable moment

cameratablewisteria
About the camera that sat on the table next to me. Its owner was Francesco, a Roman from Naples he said. His wife from Sardinia. Tan, with slicked back, pewter gray hair, black wrap around sun glasses, articulate, wry sense of humor, very sociable, laid back. I can see him contentedly filling his pipe from its leather tobacco pouch. I want to be him when I grow up. Just dying to be cool I think Mick Jagger might say. For contrast, I had my rats’ nest of iPhone, italian cell phone, Flip cam and old pocket camera. All of which are disposable at some level. He had this show piece. The word pristine does not do this 1957 Leica justice in any way. He bought it new. The case gets polished. The camera is more pristine than the case. And he had little accessory leather covered parts. Separate but right at hand. Right there. How does this happen?

Anyway, this is a case where the camera does tell a story.

The mid afternoon in seventy degree breeze and the sun and the food made for a day that was off the tracks good. I was like Where ARE we? I knew but it was a kind of out of body experience.

TABLE TALK VIDEO

TALK ABOUT SOME WHITE WINE! THE VIDEO

MAY DAY, MAY DAY, ITALY IS ON FLOWER!

And to go backwards, just in time. Let’s talk about the May day celebration at Spannocchia that happened just before the Slow Food lunch. Everyone in folk costumes, bandanas, woven hats with flowers in them, and even one with tomatoes. hopefully fake. There were flowers in baskets, flowers growing up the walls around us. No question it was spring and we were all glad to see it and celebrate it. Farm manager Riccio’s merry band started entertaining at ten in the morning. From Spannocchia they headed out and entertained in towns all over the region. Coming home at ten that night well fed and can you say well drunk? Not really but just happy, lubricated and probably ready for a long night’s well deserved sleep. The videos here are a snatch of folk singing and then a quick view of the chaos around the snack table right after the singing but pre lunching. The fun never quits at Spannocchia on May Day.

SINGING FOR YOUR SUPPER VIDEO

YOUR SUPPER VIDEO

Ok, party on,

Stew

“Follow us” to Italy? Daily, on Twitter.

follow2italy2Ciao, ciao amici!

Our long-overdue, much-postponed, trip to Italy is FINALLY coming right up. We’re looking forward to seeing friends and new real estate listings October 16th – Nov 7th. Come along with us? Following our 1960 Vespa will be counter-productive. What with the annoyance of the Atlantic Ocean and all. But you can easily follow us on Twitter. We’ve already started posting Italy-related tweets, daily. Check out our post on the fab Grape Harvest Festival gala weekend in Panicale that starts on the 17th of Sept. Here’s how: Go to Our Twitter Home Page and hit the “follow” button in the top left. You’ll be right there with us as we visit places like Panicale, Siena, Torino and who knows what other shiny objects Italy will dangle in front of us.

TWITTER + ITALY = TWITALY?

Call it what you will, we have broadband at our place in Panicale and our intent is to use it to post something “short and tweet” every day. We’ll include iPhone pictures, a couple of words and interesting links.

There’s a blue Twitter “T” logo on the top of every page on our site now – so you can get to our Twitter page that way, too. Isn’t technology grand?

See you in Italy! In October. And right now on Twitter.

A presto,

Stew Vreeland