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Enjoy Sinfully Good Doughnuts For Fat Tuesday Image

Two hundred and one years ago today, Europe’s glitterati were assembled in Vienna to dance, eat doughnuts and decide the fate of the world, not necessarily in that order.

The Congress of Vienna, as it was known, would make Davos seem like a convention of disheveled accountants. The 1815 Congress was attended by two matched sets of emperors and empresses, four kings, one queen, two crown princes, three princesses and armies of hangers-on.

Celebration of excess

Technically, the conference was political, meant to reestablish the Old World order, but most of the gossip was about who danced with whom, and who threw the swankiest Mardi Gras do. And during Carnival, no party was a party without great piles of jelly doughnuts or Faschingkrapfen, as the locals still call them. According to news reports,  8 to 10 million of Vienna’s beloved doughnuts were eaten during the 1815 carnival season.

Fried dough is traditional in many Catholic countries during the topsy-turvy period of Carnival, when men dressed as women and sweet doughnuts replaced plain bread. There used to be at least some practical dimension to cooking your yeast dough in fat, since the lard used in most frying was to be off limits for the duration of Lent. It’s one reason Shrove Tuesday is known is as Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday.”

The sin of gluttony

But there is also a theological dimension to indulging in the sin of gluttony. One of the undeniable charms of the Catholic faith is the ability to sin Friday night and repent the following day. With Carnival, that idea is writ large: There’s no point in having six weeks of Lenten penitence if there’s nothing to be penitent about — which is why the whole point of the Mardi Gras is excess, transgression or, to give it a theological dimension, sin.

And what could be more indulgent and sinful than a giant platter of fried, sugary dough balls? If you can include a little booze, as in the recipe that follows, so much the better.

Today’s Austrians are still at it, celebrating the prelude to Lent by consuming vast amounts of fried dough, typically filled with jam, chocolate custard — or my favorite, a boozy custard variation flavored with an eggnog-like tipple called Eierlikör. Elsewhere in Europe, Carnival fritters take on myriad shapes and flavors, whether it’s a twisted pastry, as they are in Lyons, France, or a boozy and fruit-filled fritter in Venice.

The habit was even imported to America. In Pennsylvania Dutch country, they make a doughnut called a fastnacht, the name deriving from a German word for Shrove Tuesday.

But few are as obsessed with the tradition as the Austrians. Viennese records attest to professional doughnut bakers existing in the 15th century. By the 1700s, we hear of Carnival doughnut shooting competitions, where the dough balls were catapulted into sky like clay pigeons. Apparently, the winner got to go home with a set of silver pistols.

(For more on doughnuts, see my book The Donut: History, Recipes, and Lore from Boston to Berlin.)

When jam was a luxury item

It’s hard to imagine today, but the likes of Smucker’s used to be a luxury food — sugar-sweetened jam was the province of fancy confectioners. Accordingly, many “jelly” doughnuts were plain, or filled with some apple-sweetened concoction (fish guts was one favorite during the Middle Ages). In the decade before the famed doughnut congress, a really fine jelly-filled doughnut could cost as much as a multi-course dinner in a restaurant.

These days, the fried, jam-filled dough cushions are cheap and ubiquitous throughout Central Europe. Across Germany the recipe tends to be the same, but the names vary. In Bavaria, you will probably hear Krapfen (as in Austria), in Berlin Pfannkuchen is more common (elsewhere this might refer to a pancake) whereas to the west (though not in Berlin) they use the word Berliner.

President Doughnut?

The naming confusion led to the delightfully off-base urban legend about how in 1963, at the height of the cold war, John F. Kennedy stood before an adulatory crowd of 150,000 West Berliners and declared himself “ein Berliner.” Or a jelly doughnut, according self-declared German grammar experts in the United States, who claimed that by including the article “ein” the President identified himself as a thing rather than a person.

Oddly, the story only first seems to crop up almost two decades after the fact, and would be repeated with ever more embellishment. As a quick troll through youtube.com will confirm, the president did, in fact, declare “Ich bin ein Berliner.” But, as noted German linguist, Jürgen Eichhoff, points out, the speech was vetted by the president’s German hosts, and it is perfectly fine German to declare your self in solidarity with the citizens of Berlin by declaring yourself, “ein Berliner.”

It’s a pity the speech took place in June. If the president had visited Southern Germany or Austria during Carnival and tasted even a tiny percentage of the cream and jelly doughnuts on offer, he may well have begun to resemble a jelly doughnut.

Carnival doughnuts with boozy cream filling (Eierlikör Krapfen)

You can fill these doughnuts with jam, chocolate custard, prune butter or even Nutella, all of which are commonplace in Austria. Lemon curd is delicious too, if not exactly traditional. Like all doughnuts, these are best served as fresh as possible.

Prep time: 40 minutes including custard

Rising time: About 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: About 2 dozen doughnuts

Ingredients

2 envelopes active dry yeast

1 ¾ ounce (about 3 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon) (divided) sugar

2 cups and 2 tablespoons (divided) lukewarm milk (about 105° F)

2 pounds 3 ounces (about 8 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour

6 large egg yolks

3 ½ ounces (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Large pinch of salt

Flour for the work surface

About 1 1/2 cup Eierlikör cream (see following recipe)

Oil or shortening for frying

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

The ingredients for the boozy cream filling for the Carnival Doughnuts are remarkably simple. Credit: Copyright 2016 Michael Krondl

The ingredients for the boozy cream filling for the Carnival Doughnuts are remarkably simple. Credit: Copyright 2016 Michael Krondl

 

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 cup milk. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) flour. Cover this “sponge” with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 20 minutes.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the yolks until frothy. Gradually, whisk in the melted butter. Stir in the zest.
  3. Transfer the risen sponge to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. On medium-low speed, beat in the egg mixture, the remainder of the milk and sugar then about half the flour. Switch to a dough hook attachment, gradually add the remaining flour and finally salt. Beat on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth, shiny and elastic. About 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl and set on a floured surface. Knead very briefly to turn it into a ball. Set in a buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.
  5. On a floured surface roll the dough about 3/8 inch thick and using a 2 1/2-inch diameter cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out as many circles as you can. Gather up the scraps and roll out the dough one more time cutting out more circles. This is easier if you let gathered up scraps rest for 5 minutes before rerolling.
  6. Brush the edge of each round with water and mound a scant tablespoon of the cream in the middle of every other circle. Top each with the plain circle making sure the moistened edges touch. Press down on the edges spreading each doughnut slightly. Using the same 2 1/2-inch cookie or biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut out each doughnut discarding the trimmings.
Top half of the circles with filling. Credit: Copyright 2016 Michael Krondl

Top half of the circles with filling. Credit: Copyright 2016 Michael Krondl

 

7. Brush doughnuts lightly with melted butter on each side. Set on a baking sheet lined with parchment and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise until they are about fifty percent larger, any more than that and they will expand too much during frying.

8. Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a deep pan to 350° F. Slide the doughnuts in one by one making sure not to crowd the pan. Fry until the underside is light brown, about 1 ½ minutes. Turn the doughnut and cook until the other side is brown, about 1 minute. There should be a pale “collar” around the middle of the doughnut where it floated above the fat. With a slotted spoon, lift out the cooked doughnuts and drain on a cooling rack set above a baking pan or on paper towels.

A light circle around their belly indicates the doughnuts were light enough to float. Credit: Copyright 2016 Michael Krondl

A light circle around their belly indicates the doughnuts were light enough to float. Credit: Copyright 2016 Michael Krondl

 

9. Dust with confectioner’s sugar just before serving.

Dust the doughnuts with sugar and serve! Credit: Copyright 2016 Michael Krondl

Dust the doughnuts with sugar and serve! Credit: Copyright 2016 Michael Krondl

 

Eierlikör cream

Eierlikör is a liqueur somewhat similar to bottled eggnog, though boozier and noticeably absent of nutmeg. If you have some, omit the rum. Combine ¼ cup of the liqueur with 1 cup of milk and proceed with the recipe as written. Since the liqueur is sometimes hard to find, I have used rum instead though brandy or even a nice bourbon would work. If using rum, make sure it’s aged and of a quality that’s referred to as sipping rum, in other words complex enough to drink neat.

Yield: About 1 1/2 cup

Ingredients

1 cup whole milk

3 large egg yolks

4 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons good-quality rum

2 tablespoons corn starch

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a small, non-reactive saucepan, bring the milk to a bare simmer.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, rum, corn starch and vanilla until very smooth. Pour the milk into the egg yolks whisking continually.
  3. Pour the milk mixture into a small saucepan over low-ish heat. Stir continually until it just begins to bubble. Remove from heat and whisk until smooth. If necessary, press through a fine sieve. Transfer to a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard and refrigerate until firm. If the custard is too thick, whisk in a tablespoon or two of milk. At room temperature, it should be the consistency of pudding.
The doughnut filling should have a pudding-like consistency. Credit: Copyright 2016 Michael Krondl

The doughnut filling should have a pudding-like consistency. Credit: Copyright 2016 Michael Krondl

Main photo: These carnival doughnuts with boozy cream filling are dusted with confectioners’ sugar and ready to eat. Credit: Copyright 2016 Michael Krondl

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Belfast’s Best Bites Are A Walk On The Wild Side Image

The wee city of Belfast, Northern Ireland, as its feisty residents describe their capital city, punches above its size. The Titanic was built here; Van Morrison was born here; “Game of Thrones” is filmed here. Wow. The litany of “firsts,” as recounted by the inimitable Billy Scott, cabdriver and tour guide, during a word-packed, whistle-stop zip around the muscular mercantile city, ranges from the invention of air conditioning and tonic water to the Massey Ferguson tractor. The city’s history is charted in the exuberant and vivid wall murals found on every spare gable end.

There is no lack of business acumen and ambition in the province of Ulster. Belfast’s 19th-century City Hall, awash with Italian marble, is still a striking monument to aspirational can-do spirit, and the superb Titanic museum is a tribute to epic shipbuilding skills and a tragedy that still grips the world. Add to that a hugely hospitable city that is vigorously redefining itself after the Troubles and a flourishing food-and-drink scene that boasts a wealth of native talent and artisan producers. Alongside the traditional breads and Ulster Fry gargantuan breakfasts, there’s now top-class game, beef aged in Himalayan salt, handmade butter, heritage potatoes, Armagh apple juice, watermelon pickle preserves, organic smoked salmon and the most delicious yogurt made by an aristocratic Marchioness.

Throughout 2016 Belfast and the rest of Ulster will celebrate the best from the lush countryside, wild hills and clear waters of Northern Ireland. Let’s raise a glass. With enough Dark and Stormies down the hatch you’ll soon be talking the talk, even if you’re too banjaxed to walk the walk.

Eating in Belfast

Cod, fennel, black olives, mussels and sprouting broccoli at Ox in Belfast. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clarissa Hyman

Cod, fennel, black olives, mussels and sprouting broccoli at Ox in Belfast. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clarissa Hyman

Ox: The Michelin star gained last year by Belfast-born Stephen Toman and Brittany, France, native Alain Kerloc’h typifies the new-look city. A spare Scandinavian look informs the interior, and the exciting, seasonal dishes indicate the influence of Parisian superstar chef Alain Passard, who has autographed the kitchen wall in approval.

Deane: Restaurateur Michael Deane dominates the local scene with his collection of restaurants that range from the sophisticated Michelin-starred Eipic to the relaxed vibe of Deanes at Queens, near Queen’s University, where the vegetables may be served in outsized money-box ceramic pigs and the fries are triple-cooked.

The Bar and Grill: This is an informal grill-room offspring of fine-dining James Street South. Don’t miss Hannan’s Himalayan salt-aged steaks cooked on the Josper grill, plus baked Alaska for dessert!

Wolf and Devour Street Kitchen: The brand-new pitch for the funky mobile canteen on the riverside already has lines for its signature Wolf Burger made with Hannan’s heritage beef, grilled halloumi wraps and sweet potato fries.  The breeze may be a tad Baltic, as they say, but it sharpens the appetite for the impeccably sourced produce and spot-on dishes served in biodegradable packaging.

Drinking in Belfast

A cocktail made from ShortCross Gin. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clarissa Hyman

A cocktail made from ShortCross Gin. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clarissa Hyman

The Merchant HotelGinnaissance has hit Belfast big time, and one of the best is locally distilled ShortCross Gin, made with botanicals and spring water from their own estate. When it’s gin o’ clock, head for the cocktail bar of the five-star Merchant hotel, housed in the grandiose former headquarters of the Ulster Bank.

Duke of York: One of Belfast’s most famous pubs crammed with a museum-worthy collection of memorabilia, the place can get so packed you may end up supping your “bevvy” on the cobbled street strung with fairy lights outside. The old advertising signs and mirrors, great Guinness and Irish whiskeys, plus live music (Snow Patrol first played here) and brilliant atmosphere sum up the Belfast zest for the good life.

Harp Bar: In the sister bar to the Duke of York, also in the Cathedral Quarter, there is probably the world’s most extensive collection of Irish whiskeys on display, including rare bottles by distilleries long forgotten. Live music also pulls in the crowds.

The John Hewitt: Run by the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre, this fine public house, named after the late poet and socialist, offers artisan craft brews, good food and free, live music. It has an unbeatable cultured and artsy atmosphere — plus a not-for-profit glow from the open coal fire.

The Crown Liquor Saloon: Probably the most famous pub in Belfast, this fabulously ornate Victorian gem is actually owned by the National Trust. The period gas lighting, enclosed “snugs,” or private booths, and ornate tiles, carvings and etched glass are wonderfully preserved, as are the original gunmetal plates for striking matches and the antique bell system. This is an unmissable pit stop.

The Spaniard: Famous for its wide range of rums, this tiny, packed bar is an iconoclastic home to Hispanic curiosities and a candlelit shrine of religious kitsch.

Shopping in Belfast

St. George’s Market: Producers and street food vendors come every Thursday through Sunday to the huge historic covered market. Among the best buys: fruit and vegetables, flowers, fish and great locally made fudge.

Sawers: Northern Ireland’s oldest deli is crammed with virtually every product known to man, and then some. Belfast’s rival to F&M stocks hibiscus flower syrup and Sicilian almonds along with Loch Neagh eel, innovative Suki teas, Ditty’s oatcakes and fabulous Fermanagh black bacon. They also sell sandwiches the size of doorstops.

Avoca: The Belfast branch of this gorgeous Irish lifestyle emporium does not disappoint with its range of household objects, kitchen wares, fresh and specialty foods, and excellent cafe and restaurant.

Main image: Harp Bar in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clarissa Hyman

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8 Dinner-Movie Combos Worth A Special Date Image

In the spirit of Oscar season, I asked friends in the wine, food and film businesses a novel question: If you could design the perfect meal around any film and match it with a wine, what would it look like?

Ordinarily I’m no fan of TV trays — nothing can so spoil supper like a flickering rectangle. A carefully crafted meal and your dinner companions deserve your full attention, not a screen on the wall, in the next room or in your pocket. But as a filmmaker and something of a cinema nerd, I’m not entirely opposed to the idea of fine dining in front of a feature film, as long as it’s done with some deliberation.

So, here are eight culinary cinema combinations — give them a try, or let them spark your own concepts for pairing dinner and wine with a movie.

‘Amélie’

Wine: Sparkling Vouvray

Food: Strawberry tart (tarte aux fraises) and a side of chocolate-covered espresso beans

I thought it best to kick off the exercise with this ridiculously sweet and effervescent French comedy featuring a charming, feisty heroine, an energetic camera style and vibrant colors, all of which require flavors to match.

‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’

Wine: Hill of Grace Shiraz

Food: Slow cooked confit of lamb shoulder with thinly sliced, oven baked, Mediterranean-style potatoes with garlic, rosemary and olive oil

Courtesy of director and winemaker Warwick Ross, this combination combines three Australian originals. Known for his “Red Obsession,” a film that picked up the AACTA prize (Aussie Oscar) for best documentary, Ross is also proprietor of Portsea Estate in Victoria, Australia.

‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’

Wine: Pinot Gris or Riesling

Food: Dubbed Creature from the Black Legume, this pairing calls for frog legs with spicy black bean sauce.

Matt Bennett, the creative chef-owner of Sybaris Bistro in Albany, Oregon, is known for both classic French dishes and imaginative flights of whimsy. He’s organized food/film pairings with the local, independent Pix Theater on the town’s main strip. Make your wine choice based on the level of heat in your black bean sauce.

‘Silence of the Lambs’

Wine: Chianti, of course

Food: Veal liver and favas

It might be wrong to categorize a film whose protagonist is a cannibal as one of the greatest food films of all time, but this visceral combo plays on Chef Bennett’s sense of humor and the infamous line delivered by Anthony Hopkins (“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”)

‘The Lady Vanishes’

Wine: A magnum of Champagne

Food: Roast chicken

Ian Johnson is the proprietor and wine director of Luc, a French bistro in Corvallis, Oregon. Johnson draws on his film school background with this nod to the Hitchcock classic. In the film, Margaret Lockwood has a roast chicken and a magnum of Champagne sent to her hotel room. Johnson’s notes on preparing the chicken: “Don’t bother trussing, rain kosher salt and pepper on it and roast for 50 to 60 minutes at 450°F.”

‘The Cave of Forgotten Dreams’

Wine: Mas de Libian, Khayyam, Cotes du Rhone

Food: Charcuterie! A board of rillette, pate, sliced salami, mustard and pickles with fresh baguette

Jessica Pierce of Brooks Winery in Oregon shows her sommelier chops with this deeply terroir-driven pairing, and recommends Werner Herzog’s haunting and lyrical documentary about ancient cave paintings in the Ardeche region of France. “The wine is a biodynamic producer in that region working with Rhone varietals and treating the wines in the most natural way possible, showing a true sense of the Ardeche terroir,” Pierce says. But lest we forget that food also represents the place just as much as wine: “Charcuterie is an important product from the Rhone, and curing meat is an age-old tradition.”

‘Babette’s Feast’

Wine: Comte Armand Close des Epeneaux

Food: Pigeon en sacrophage (truffled squab in a potato sarcophagus)

It’s no surprise that this classic food film shows up on a number of lists. Chef Matt Bennett recommends the pigeon, and Mike Officer of Carlisle Winery in Sonoma suggests the wine with the precision you’d expect of someone whose old vine Zinfandels have achieved cult status.

 

With its round, soft tannins and layers of fruit and licorice, this Burgundy from Domaine Ninot would be a great pairing with "Babette's Feast" or Miles's poetic paean to Pinot Noir in "Sideways." Credit: Copyright 2016 David Baker

With its round, soft tannins and layers of fruit and licorice, this Burgundy from Domaine Ninot would be a great pairing with “Babette’s Feast” or Miles’s poetic paean to Pinot Noir in “Sideways.” Credit: Copyright 2016 David Baker

‘Big Night’

Wine: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Food: A simple omelet and the crust broken from the end of a fresh ciabatta

Let’s close with the greatest food film ever made: Stanley Tucci’s moving and hilarious tale follows Italian immigrant brothers Primo and Secondo as they wrangle with their New Jersey restaurant, the American Dream, and each other. It’s hard to select a dish from so many options, from the tri-colored risotto to the complicated timballo, but in the end it’s best to settle on a simple omelet as you wipe away a tear during the gorgeous closing scene.

Main photo: Critics call “Amélie” a “sugar-rush of a movie,” so an obvious pairing for this vibrant romantic comedy is strawberry tart, chocolate espresso beans and Champagne. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Baker

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New Year Pantry Purge Blows Open Your Mind Image

When was the last time you cleaned out your kitchen pantry? I mean really cleaned it out? Sure, you try to stay on top of it, but the next thing you know you’ve got expired cans of tomatoes dating back to 2009. Oh, wait, maybe we’re talking about me.

Not long after 2016 made its debut, I opened up my pantry door to find not the can of beans I was after, but pure chaos. I practically needed a machete to hack through the jungle of “vintage” condiments, dusty spices and botulism-enhanced canned goods. How did I let it get that bad? I resolved then and there to mend my disorganized ways.

I began by taking every single thing out of the cabinet and surveying the damage. Holy Moses, was there any edible food in there? These are just some of the treasures I unearthed:

  • Cardamom seeds that expired in 2007.
  • A half-used pouch of never-good-in-the-first-place taco seasoning, “best enjoyed by” May 2008.
  • Two nearly full, expired bottles of Old Bay seasoning.
  • Truffle salsa brought back from a trip to Umbria in 2007.

No one likes a braggart, but I think I set some kind of record with this one: a bottle of Chinese five-spice powder from 1995!

Taking on the challenge

The pantry before (left) and after being cleaned out and organized. Credit: Copyright 2016 Tina Caputo

The pantry before (left) and after being cleaned out and organized. Credit: Copyright 2016 Tina Caputo

Three large grocery bags could barely contain all the forgotten food items I hauled out to the trash bin. I didn’t know whether to feel triumphant or ashamed.

The fun part was starting with a blank canvas. After tossing all the expired stuff, there wasn’t much left. (As much as I love having six different olive oils and five varieties of vinegar at my disposal, these items do not actually qualify as food.) A trip to the grocery store soon remedied that, and I returned with peanut butter, oats, polenta, pasta and other staples for my sparkling-clean cabinet.

Bottles and boxes tend to go rogue once the pantry door is closed, migrating to who-knows-where the minute your back is turned, so I also picked up a couple of baskets and a Lazy Susan to help keep everything in check.

Olive oils are now happily segregated in one of the baskets, placed in the front of the cabinet for easy access. My vinegar collection resides on the Lazy Susan, where a quick spin lets me find the bottle I’m looking for in seconds. Pastas and grains live together in harmony on the third shelf, and baking supplies stand ready on the bottom-right shelf. Few projects I’ve taken on lately have given me such satisfaction! Sometimes I open the pantry door just to admire the lack of clutter.

Starting fresh

Why, oh why, was I keeping a 7-year-old package of half-used taco seasoning? Credit: Copyright 2016 Tina Caputo

Why, oh why, was I keeping a 7-year-old package of half-used taco seasoning? Credit: Copyright 2016 Tina Caputo

Now that all my pantry foods are neatly organized and unlikely to poison my dinner guests, all I have to do is keep them that way. My pantry got out of control because I kept adding new stuff without purging the items that were past their prime. Well, there’ll be no more of that.

You too can start 2016 with a tidy pantry filled with still-edible foods. Just follow these tips:

Create groupings that make sense. For example, store all your baking supplies together, so you don’t end up buying multiple bottles of vanilla extract and jars of molasses. The items will be easier to locate, and you won’t have duplicates taking up extra space.

Pay attention to “use by” and expiration dates. If an item is stamped with a “use by” or “best by” date, that doesn’t mean it’s unsafe to eat when that day comes; it means the product’s quality can no longer be guaranteed. An expiration date, however, means “eat at your own risk.”

When you buy canned goods, place them behind the older ones on your pantry shelf, so you’ll remember to use them before they expire. In general, the shelf life of foods canned in liquids is one to two years.

Staying on track

Dried herbs are good for a year or two. Ground spices, like nutmeg, last two or three years. Credit: Copyright 2016 Tina Caputo

Dried herbs are good for a year or two. Ground spices, like nutmeg, last two or three years. Credit: Copyright 2016 Tina Caputo

Dried beans seem like they should last forever, but that’s not the case. According to the U.S. Dry Bean Council, beans that have been stored longer than a year may never get soft enough, no matter how long you soak or cook them. They’ll last longer if you keep them in an airtight container.

Check your spices. Dried herbs tend to lose their color and flavor after a year. Ground spices last longer, up to three years. If you have the time and patience to grind whole spices as you need them, you can keep them up to five years.

Move that honey! For decades I made the mistake of storing honey in the pantry, then gnashing my teeth when it became hard and crystalized. Well, guess what I learned while researching this article? Honey never expires! It just hates being kept in dark places. If you leave it out on the counter, it will remain fluid and keep its lovely amber color.

Look out refrigerator, I’m coming for you next.

Main photo: Start off the new year with a well-organized pantry. (Magnifying glass for reading expiration dates optional.) Credit: Copyright 2016 Tina Caputo

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Zesty Citrus Fruits Brighten Winter Meals Image

The orange trees outside the window are laden with fruit turning the colors of a sunset and pulling the branches down with their weight. The lemon tree is full of new buds awaiting a glimpse of sun before they burst open while baby lemons turn from green to yellow among the buds and last season’s fruit drops on the ground.

This is the season of citrus, and just about every corner of the U.S. has grapefruits, limes, lemons, tangerines and oranges in produce bins at farmers markets and grocery stores. The versatility of the different varieties makes it easy to include them in your daily diet in exciting and delicious ways. One of the best is to add the peeled, segmented fruit to salads or recipes.

How to segment a citrus fruit

Using a sharp knife, cut off the top and bottom of the fruit so it stands flat and stable on the cutting board. Carefully cut the skin off the flesh from top to bottom, rotating the fruit as you go, until all the skin and white pith is off the flesh. Then cut each segment from the membrane. Work over a bowl to catch all the juice for use in dressings, cocktails, smoothies or just to drink.

Oranges and tangerines

Oranges and tangerines are a good choice for adding flavor to a smoothie. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Oranges and tangerines are a good choice for adding flavor to a smoothie. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Oranges and tangerines — with names like navel, Cara Cara, clementine and Satsuma — may be the most popular citrus fruits. For eating out of hand or squeezing for juice, these sweet, tasty citrus have no match.

  • Try them peeled in a smoothie for breakfast; I like to use three oranges or tangerines, a banana and a good handful of spinach, which dyes the smoothie emerald green.
  • Zest the skin and add a tablespoon to your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe for a zingy blast — there is nothing like the combo of chocolate with orange.
  • Add segments to raw spinach and thinly sliced red onion for a tangy salad. Toss with a quick dressing of rice vinegar, honey, a dash of sesame oil and olive oil, then top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Limes

One use for limes: using the juice for making fresh guacamole. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

One use for limes: using the juice for making fresh guacamole. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Limes are one of nature’s seasonings and are absolute necessities for a well-stocked bar, in Southeast Asian cooking and as part of a gutsy margarita.

  • Add the juice to avocados, cilantro, salt and garlic for a creamy bowl of guacamole.
  • Stir coconut milk and lime juice with a good curry paste (I like Sukhi’s or Patak’s) then simmer briefly to make a sauce. Add cooked chicken, sliced fresh mango or peeled pears, peas and chopped sautéed onion for a quick chicken curry. Serve with steamed basmati rice and naan.
  • Make a marinade using the juice and zest of one lime with soy sauce, minced garlic, minced jalapeño and a drop or two of honey. Use on mild white fish, chicken, shrimp or skirt or flank steak cooked on the grill.

Grapefruit

These somewhat unwieldy fruits are too large to take in a lunch box, require a knife to cut or peel and have a surprisingly tart/sweet flavor, but what would winter be without this juicy fruit? In salads, dressings, juices, sodas and cocktails, both pink and yellow grapefruit add a tart/sweet smack of flavor. My favorite varieties are Oro Blanco and Melo Gold.

  • To make a healthy winter salad, mix segments of grapefruit and slices of ripe avocado with a mix of arugula and spinach, shavings of fennel and a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds over the top. Make a dressing with the grapefruit juice saved from segmenting, balsamic vinegar, a drizzle of honey and olive oil.
  • For a quick snack, cut a grapefruit into medium-size wedges and eat, pulling the sections off the skin. Stand over the sink or the juice will dribble down your front.
  • For a warming winter cocktail, shake vodka and ice with grapefruit and lime juices in a cocktail shaker. Strain into glasses and fill with pomegranate soda. Add a couple of cubes of ice and enjoy.

Lemons

Lemon juice adds nice flavor to dressings. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Lemon juice adds nice flavor to dressings. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Lemons are the most versatile of citrus fruits, used year-round and the world over. For squeezing on fish, adding the juice to marinades, dressings, curd, iced tea and cocktails, or zesting the skin into gremolata, baked goods and even pasta, every part of the lemon can be put to good use.

  • For a salad dressing that can be your go-to, whisk the juice of half a lemon, chopped garlic to taste, a dab of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil to form an emulsion.
  • Pile the zest of one lemon, a handful of parsley, ½ teaspoon of fresh rosemary needles, 1 large clove garlic and salt and pepper on a cutting board. Finely chop all ingredients together into a paste. Mix with a little olive oil and spread on halibut, albacore tuna, chicken or pork then grill over coals or sear in a hot pan, lower heat and cook to desired doneness. It’s a heavenly smell!
  • Combine lemon juice, a pinch of zest, honey and a knob of peeled fresh ginger in a teacup. Fill with boiling water and steep 2 minutes then sip for cough and cold relief.

Tools for citrus fruits

Working with citrus fruits requires a few basic kitchen tools. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Working with citrus fruits requires a few basic kitchen tools. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Pictured above are must-have tools for working with citrus fruits. A handled microplane grater is perfect for zesting citrus quickly and easily. Before microplanes were born, we had the most pathetic zesting tools, now this guy makes it painless.

A small wooden reamer is what I use to juice limes and lemons, it squeezes out every drop. The large juicing reamer is good for any citrus fruit and traps the seeds as well. It also snaps onto measuring cups or bowls for easy catchment of juice.

Main photo: Citrus fruits can help add flavor to everything from salads to dressings in winter, when many other fresh fruits are not in season. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

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Raspberries And Chocolate: A Rich Relationship Image

Having been married for more than two decades, I realize many factors contribute to the longevity of my marriage. Perhaps the most important is how my husband and I blend.

People often ask how we’ve done it, as if there is a secret. But there really is no secret. Just like the pairing of raspberry and chocolate, my husband and I are together despite our differences. We know how to compromise and work together, which we actually do most of the time.

Love is not “never having to say you’re sorry.” Chocolate is temperamental, so if you add the wrong amount of moisture from, say, fresh raspberries, you will have something to apologize about. But you get another chance. As in longtime relationships, you learn and grow.

Better together than apart

I love offering up treats that focus the partnership of raspberries and dark chocolate because of the magical synergy that makes them better together than individually.

In the past, dark chocolate was relegated to the lowest shelves in grocery stores. Over the last two decades, though, it has become very au courant. I would like to say that the only reason I give myself permission to eat dark chocolate is because of possible health benefits. But in truth, I like the taste. I find its bitterness to be complex and appealing.

What makes dark chocolate dark?

Dark is only defined relative to all other chocolates. It’s darker in comparison with milk or sweet chocolate candy bars. It has a higher percentage of cocoa, less milk fat and less sugar. The higher the cocoa percentage, the deeper and more intense the chocolate flavor. My favorite for baking and cooking is around 72%.

When choosing your dark chocolate, like choosing a mate, there are two more issues to consider: Where it was born and where (and how) it was processed. Dark chocolate is often labeled with the place of origin, the cocoa percentages and where it was processed. Climate and soil give chocolate its inherent nature, and that’s part of its heritage. The style of preparation is also key. To many, Switzerland’s chocolate production is the gold standard. In my book, it’s equaled or even bettered by Belgian chocolate.

Equal partners

In these cookies, chocolate and raspberries are equal partners. Credit: Copyright 2016 TheWeiserKitchen

In these cookies, chocolate and raspberries are equal partners. Credit: Copyright 2016 The Weiser Kitchen

Lest you think that chocolate is the alpha dog of this relationship, raspberries are an equal partner. They are more than just juicy and lovely to behold. They are rich in cancer-fighting compounds and vitamin C, and full of fiber. They taste sweet — with a uniquely tart undertone and a deep complexity. Just like chocolate. Raspberries aren’t mild-manned, singular sweetness, like the ever-affable strawberry or cherry. They are an assertive flavor in their own right.

Like any paramour partnership, each ingredient brings something unique and yet retains its distinctive character even as it blends with the other ingredients. Raspberries are juicy, but chocolate is silky. Both have a little sexy undertone that makes them interesting. Together they make a wondrous bite.

May they live happily ever after.

Chocolate and Raspberry Swirl Cookies

These charming swirl cookies, tucked, wrapped and snuggled like the spiral of a snail or a conch shell, are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The dough is oh-so-gently sweet, and the filling bursts with both the tartness of raspberry and a cacophony of rich chocolates. Like a good relationship, they contrast but support each other and together they create an enticing synergy. These cookies have one more touch of meaning: I developed them for my fantasy meal for Rashida Jones, an actress and writer I admire greatly. She is the co-author, co-producer and star of one of my favorite sad but sweetly tender and real films — “Celeste and Jesse Forever.” I wanted to make a cookie that hinted at the Jewish facet of her identity, so these cookies are a bit rugelach-ish. These are simply a joy to eat and fun to make.

Yield: About 28 to 30 cookies

Prep and baking time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Ingredients

1/2 cup (116 grams/4 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature

1 1/2 sticks (¾ cup/170 grams/6 ounces/12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup (54 grams) dark brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon (1.5 grams) salt

1 egg

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (see Notes)

1 3/4 cups (228 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2/3 cup seedless raspberry jam

6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped

3 ounces milk chocolate, very finely chopped

1 large egg yolk

2 teaspoons water

1/4 cup brown turbinado sugar

1/2 teaspoon any large-crystal salt

Directions

1. Prepare the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or if you are using a hand-held mixer, in a large mixing bowl), combine the cream cheese and butter and mix until completely blended. Add the brown sugar and salt, and mix for 3 to 4 minutes, until light and fluffy.

2. Add the egg and mix well. Add the vanilla bean paste and mix well. Add the flour and mix just until fully combined. Prepare a large piece of plastic wrap and scrape the mixture onto it, wrap, shape into a rough square or rectangle and seal well. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until fully chilled.

3. Wet a work surface with a few drops of water or a swipe of a wet paper towel. Quickly place a large piece (11 x 14 inches or larger) of parchment paper on top. It should stick. Dust the parchment paper very lightly with flour. Roll a rolling pin in the flour to coat it lightly. Place half of the dough on the floured parchment and roll it into a 6-by-9-inch rectangle that is 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick.

4. Using a pastry brush, coat the rectangle with raspberry jam, leaving a 1/2-inch border bare around the edges. Sprinkle the chocolates over the raspberry jam, distributing the pieces evenly. Position the parchment and dough so that the short side of the parchment is in front of you. Using the parchment, lift the short side of the dough up and over the filling, covering it by about 1/2 inch. Continue rolling to make a cylinder, rolling as tightly as you can. Place the roll on a large piece of plastic wrap and wrap well. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until fully chilled.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats and set aside.

6. Remove the rolled dough from the plastic wrap and, with a very sharp, long knife, cut it crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Place the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between the cookies.

7. Prepare an egg wash by beating the egg yolk and water gently in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, liberally brush the egg wash over the cookies, making sure to cover both the dough and filling. Sprinkle with the sugar and salt and bake (both sheets at once) for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely on the baking sheets before removing them, as the raspberry jelly will be very hot. They will crisp as they cool off.

Notes:

1. Vanilla bean paste is a form of vanilla flavoring that is made from vanilla extract and vanilla bean powder (sometimes it’s what’s left over from producing the extract and sometimes fresh vanilla bean seeds), mixed with a binder such as sugar syrup, corn syrup or, in commercial preparations, xanthan gum. It has the consistency of a paste and an intense, distinctly vanilla flavor. It’s available in well-stocked markets and online, but if you can’t find it, use pure vanilla extract.

2. Turbinado sugar is a minimally processed, minimally refined sweetener made from cane sugar. Brown in color, it is often confused with brown sugar. Turbinado sugar, however, has a higher moisture content, which will make a difference in baking, so it’s best to use the sugar that is called for in the recipe unless you are skilled enough to reduce another liquid in the ingredient list. With its large crystals, it’s great for sugar toppings on cookies and other baked goods. Like demerara sugar, it is made by drying the juice of the sugar cane and then spinning it in a centrifuge to purify it. Store in a cool, dry place.

Main photo: These Chocolate and Raspberry Swirl cookies are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

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Best New Year’s Diet Starts With Easy Kitchen Detox Image

Still looking for the perfect cleanse to start the year off right? Look no further.

Whether you’re following the brouhaha surrounding the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans or not, I’m betting you already know what the basics of a healthy diet (still) are: mounds of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and lean and sustainable proteins like beans, nuts and legumes. Healthy oils like olive, grapeseed, walnut and flax also play a role. If these foods are the stars of your plate, your year is off to a terrific start.

So what of the other things we chomp, such as cookies, chips, ice cream, candy, chocolate, soda and the like? And if you did overindulge during the holidays, what’s the remedy for restoring your health, and perhaps even losing a few pounds?

Exactly right. You need a cleanse.

Not that type of cleanse

A short-term diet or cleanse offers little in the long run to sustain weight loss and promote health. Credit: Copyright Dreamstime.com

A short-term diet or cleanse offers little in the long run to sustain weight loss and promote health. Credit: Copyright Dreamstime.com

No, I’m not talking about the kind of cleanse touted by too-skinny celebrities and junk-science food bloggers. There’s no evidence behind the vast majority of regimens floating around cyberspace. And guess what? Homo sapiens is a wondrous machine equipped with “detox” organs like the liver, kidneys and the gastrointestinal system, which work to clear your body of noxious substances you don’t need — including those found in food. That’s not to say that treating your body like a dump is a good idea; it’s not, and there’s no reason to make it work extra hard by feeding it junk. But human metabolism is magnificent at removing toxins from the body, while a short-term diet or cleanse offers little in the long run to sustain weight loss and promote health; some may even be harmful.

The cleanse I’m referring to doesn’t have a catchy name (sorry) and doesn’t require a blender (thankfully). And it’s not some weird juice with strange ingredients and a funky flavor (happily). Most important, there are plenty of studies to support that this type of cleanse will, if done correctly, improve your health and weight.

Now take a look around your kitchen pantry, counter, refrigerator and freezer. What do you see? If you’re staring at gallons of ice cream, boxes of cookies, bags of chips and cans of soda (not to mention sweetened yogurts and granola bars), the thing that would most benefit from a “cleanse” is not your body, but your abode. And, unlike your human form, your habitat needs you to do the cleaning. Simply speaking, no matter your dietary vices — and you know what makes you drool — they don’t belong in your house.

Behavioral research studies examining eating behavior (like this one, for example) show that you shouldn’t keep temptations close at hand, since that means — Duh! — you’re more likely to gobble them up. Science aside, common sense and adages like “out of sight, out of mind” tell you exactly the same thing.

Treats are often consumed in too-large portions that contribute substantial calories and few nutrients. They also tend to be loaded in sugar and refined carbohydrates (like white flour), and most of us eat more than is good for our health. Indeed, consuming foods with lots of added sugar (not the kinds found naturally in fruits) are related to a greater risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes; the risk remains, even if you’re at a healthy body weight. That’s why the new Dietary Guidelines state that everyone should limit added sugars to no more than 10 percent of daily intake.

Enjoy, in moderation

 The key is to keep goodies out of the house, rather than trying to keep temptation at bay. Credit: Copyright Dreamstime.com

The key is to keep goodies out of the house, rather than trying to keep temptation at bay. Credit: Copyright Dreamstime.com

Make no mistake: I love indulgences like gooey brownies and crunchy potato chips just as much as the next girl. I developed a keen sweet tooth growing up and it took many years to tame. The key was learning to keep goodies special, as if a guest were visiting, and never give them a permanent place on my grocery list or on my kitchen counter. Certainly more logical (and less painful) than rigging the cookie jar with a mousetrap.

I still think about savoring something sweet after everyday dinners, like many of us. But guess what? If there’s nothing around, I get over it. Or I suck it up: you simply cannot eat what’s not there. Excess-calories-I-don’t-need and overeating episode averted. Following most suppers today, I enjoy cut-up fruit or berries, and occasionally a small piece of chocolate. (And I save the outrageous desserts that I adore for special occasions only.) 

Once every few months or so I’ll take a trip to my local gelateria or pick up a pint of ice cream that my husband and I share over a couple of days’ time. If I’m craving salty snacks, I’ll buy a single serving bag or split a small sack with my husband. Do remember: ridding your house of temptation doesn’t imply you’ll never eat these scrumptious things, it simply means they aren’t commonly found in your freezer. Over time, you’ll find you have less of an appetite for sugar and salt as your taste buds adapt.

You can’t control many things in your environment, whether the workplace cafeteria, shopping mall food court or supermarket aisles. But you can control what you have in your house — as well as your car and your office. The spaces where you spend the most time should be filled with food that nourishes your body, not packed with nutritional landmines ready to explode at every turn. To clean up your diet, clean out your house.

It’s the only “cleanse” you need.

Main photo: Forget trendy cleanses; eating good foods is the best way to promote health. Credit: Copyright Dreamstime.com

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5 Tuscan Vineyards Just Waiting To Be Discovered Image

If you think of Tuscany and its wines, it is the famous names that immediately come to mind: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Bolgheri. But Tuscany is so much more than those. There are all manner of lesser-known wines off the beaten track.

I recently spent a couple of days in the Orcia valley, an area sandwiched between the vineyards of Montalcino and Montepulciano, with a river that rises at Monte Cetona and flows into the Ombrone. The Orcia DOC was recognized in 2000, and in 2004 the whole valley was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As for most of the red wines of Tuscany, Sangiovese is the dominant variety, often blended with the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. There are now about 40 wine estates in the 13 villages of the Orcia valley, with an impressive level of quality and just waiting to be discovered. Here are five that are well worth the detour.

Fattoria del Colle

Fattoria del Colle, near the village of Trequanda, produces three red wines and Vin Santo. Photo courtesy of Consorzio vino orcia

Fattoria del Colle, near the village of Trequanda, produces three red wines and Vin Santo. Photo courtesy of Consorzio del Vino Orcia

This is the property of Donatella Cinelli and Carlo Gardini. Donatella’s family has long been part of the wine scene of Montalcino, with her brother now running Fattoria dei Barbi, but Fattoria del Colle is where Donatella makes her mark outside Montalcino. She has about 81 acres of vines near the village of Trequanda and makes three red wines, not to mention Vin Santo, which is an essential part of every classic Tuscan estate.

Leone Rosso is Sangiovese with 40 percent Merlot, making for riper, fleshier flavors. Cenerentola, or Cinderella, is Sangiovese with 35 percent Foglia Tonda, an old Tuscan grape variety that almost disappeared. Donatella has played a large part in its successful revival. And then there is Il Drago e le Otto Colombe, a blend of Sangiovese with some Merlot, as well as 20 percent of an Umbrian grape variety, Sagrantino. The name of the wine refers to the fact that the estate is run by women, the doves, with just one man, or dragon, Donatella’s husband, Carlo. It makes an amusing aside. But Donatella has a serious focus; a fellow winegrower described her as the anima, or driving force, of the Val d’Orcia.

Podere Forte

Podere Forte’s cellar is state-of-the-art, with vats for microvinifications and a serious selection of barrels. Credit: Photo courtesy of Consorzio vino orcia

Podere Forte’s cellar is state-of-the-art, with vats for microvinifications and a serious selection of barrels. Credit: Photo courtesy of Consorzio del Vino Orcia

This is a relatively new estate, in Tuscan terms, for it was created in 1997 by Pasquale Forte, a businessman from Calabria. From one small purchase in 1997, he has developed a 416-acre estate, including 25 acres of vines (in addition, there are olive trees, extensive woodlands and land for rearing animals).

Sangiovese is the core variety, with some Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot. They aim for self-sufficiency and even have a restaurant, the very stylish Osteria Perillà, in the nearby village of Castiglione d’Orcia, where you can enjoy the produce of the estate. They are moving toward biodynamic principles and paying enormous attention to the condition of the soil, with advice from the leading expert in the field, Claude Bourguignon.

A drive around the vineyards offered breathtaking views of the hilltops of Rocca d’Orcia and Castiglione d’Orcia, with the autumn sunshine reflecting on golden vines. The cellar can only be described as state-of-the-art, with several sorting tables, vats for microvinifications and a serious selection of barrels.

They make three wines. Petruccino, a blend of 70 percent Sangiovese and 30 percent Merlot with 14 months’ oak aging, has a ripe fleshiness from the Merlot, balanced with freshness from the Sangiovese. More serious is Petrucci, a pure Sangiovese, described as their flagship wine, with aging in new oak. The third wine of the range is single-vineyard Guardiavigna, from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. The 2010 was drinking particularly well, with elegance and balance.

Olivi-Le Buche

Olivi-Le Buche produces a wide range of wines from an eclectic selection of grapes. Credit: Photo courtesy of Consorzio vino orcia

Olivi-Le Buche produces a wide range of wines from an eclectic selection of grapes. Credit: Photo courtesy of Consorzio del Vino Orcia

This estate was developed by Giuseppe Olivi, who produces an eclectic range of wines from an equally eclectic selection of grape varieties, namely Sangiovese, the key Bordeaux varieties, Syrah, and Pugnitello, another Tuscan variety that has been revived in recent years. His flagship wine is I Puri, a varietal wine that changes from year to year, depending on which grape variety is the absolute best in that particular vintage. In 2009 it was Merlot and in 2010 Sangiovese, with a fine expression of the variety. Unusually for the Orcia valley, they also have some white varieties, Verdicchio, Viognier and Sauvignon, making a fragrant white wine with some stony minerality.

Podere Albiano

The wines from Podere Albiano make a convincing range of wines that illustrate the characteristics of the Orcia valley. Credit: Photo courtesy of Consorzio vino orcia

The wines from Podere Albiano make a convincing range of wines that illustrate the characteristics of the Orcia valley. Credit: Photo courtesy of Consorzio del Vino Orcia

This is an enchanting spot, with views of Monte Amiata and the small town of Pienza. The almost abandoned property was bought in 1999 by Ada Becheri and Alberto Turri, and they began planting vines in 2002. Until 2008, they merely sold their grapes and did some experimental microvinifications. The following year, they built a neat compact cellar and now they make a convincing range of wines that amply illustrate the characteristics of the Orcia valley, with Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot in varying proportions. Oak aging is essential to them all.

Citto, from all four varieties, is elegant and cedary; Ciriè is Sangiovese and Merlot, with some fleshy fruit; Tribòlo is a pure Sangiovese, and a riserva, which requires 24 months of aging. In fact, it has spent 30 months in small barrels, with some lovely elegant sour cherry fruit and just the right amount of oak. And finally there is Albiano, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with just a touch of Petit Verdot. This is riper and immediately more international in flavor, while still retaining the benchmark elegance of Podere Abiello.

Marco Capitoni

Two large amphorae in Marco Capitoni’s cellar are used for experimenting with Sangiovese. Credit: Photo courtesy of Consorzio vino orcia

Two large amphorae in Marco Capitoni’s cellar are used for experimenting with Sangiovese. Credit: Photo courtesy of Consorzio del Vino Orcia

Marco’s first vintage was 2001. He has developed the vineyards of an old family estate to make two wines: Capitoni, which is a blend of 80 percent Sangiovese with some Merlot, and Frasi, which comes from a 3.2-acre vineyard planted in1973 that is mainly Sangiovese, with Canaiolo and Colorino. The three varieties are all mixed up in the vineyard and consequently fermented together, then aged in large wood for two years. A vertical tasting of Le Frasi from 2010 to 2005 illustrated the vintage variations. But the first things you see in Marco’s cellar are two large amphorae, for he is experimenting with Sangiovese in amphora.

The flavors are fresh and perfumed, with elegant red fruit and potential, rather like Val d’Orcia, which is a sleeping giant waiting to be discovered.

Main photo: Podere Forte’s vineyards offer breathtaking views of the hilltops of Rocca d’Orcia and Castiglione d’Orcia. Credit: Photo courtesy of Consorzio del Vino Orcia

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