• Los Angeles to San Francisco by car: fast, extended or slow

    Since I get ask all the time...

    Here the map that shows the three main options I am aware of. If you can carve out some time, the slow route is well worth it!

  • Things to do in Vienna with just 48 hours to spare

    Since I get asked all the time:

    Here some of my favorite places in and around Vienna. This list is highly personal and subjective. But so it goes.

    If I had just one or two days, I'd do this:

    See the inner city by visiting the St. Stephan's Cathedral and walking the Kaertner Strasse to the Opera building and then back down the Graben towards Trzesniewski for a very quick bite, or to Zum Schwarzen Kameel for a longer brunch and some great people watching (in summer, be sure to drink a Hugo-  nobody else makes one as good), or go for lunch at Zu den Drei Hacken .

    On the second day I'd hit the famous Naschmarkt market in the morning or for brunch (fish restaurants, etc), and I'd head out to get up into the vineyards around Vienna afterwards and reward myself with a bite and glass either at a Heuriger. Some favorites include Mayer am Pfarrplatz - where Beethoven used to hang (try their Nussberg Riesling), Heuriger Schübel-Auer or you hike up to a Buschenschank— the bare-bones version of a Heuriger up on the Nussberg mountain. If you are at the other side of Vienna, try the fantastic Zahel Heuriger, by one of the producers we import, the Zahel winery.

  • Bitterness in Liguria - with recipes!

    My mouth is still bitter when I think of the trip to the winery of Giobatta Vio in beautiful Liguria, Italy. The birthplace of pesto-- the land of artichoke. I think of the salted breezes and fresh seafood that comes with that scent, and the incredible bottles of Pigato, Vermentino and Rossese that were tasted. And of course, the meal: a five course feast featuring the wines and local bounty. And yes, I can still taste the bitterness.

    Bitter, because I was not there.

    Your Winemonger is a team, lead up by myself and my husband Stephan and then our various (spectacular) specialists who have lead us in our hunt for like-philosophied wines when we grew our portfolio beyond the borders of Austria. In Italy, that was Alessia Botturi (who has, sadly for us, since moved on to work at Antinori, but whose husband Diego Meraviglia has stepped in and about whom I really must write something about soon: he has more accolades as a sommelier and Italian wine specialist than I knew existed.)

    Giobatta Vio in the kitchen

    But back to Liguria. The story of the visit was already once gone over here in this post written by our Ms. Botturi, but when Jon Bonné, wine editor over at the San Francisco Chronicle published an article this past weekend about Vermentino and Pigato and highlighted the wine of Giobatta (Bio Vio), and even included a photograph taken by my husband, I was reminded of the trip not taken. And I knew that I needed to share what they ate on that day- seven (count 'em SEVEN) courses, all featuring seafood, artichokes and basil, and all prepared by Chiara Vio (Giobatta's wife and partner)

    So this is what was laid out upon the table, all paired with the Pigato, Vermentino and Rossese wines:

    Affatati Mistifried fishiesPescetti Fritti of AlborelleTortine di Carciofi FrittiPesto Pasta TrofieTrofie al PestoPasqualina Ai Carciofi Baccala' alla LigureCalamari con Ripieno di Pesto ai Carciofi

    -A quick snack of affattati misti just to get the ball rolling
    -Pescetti Fritti of Alborelle - wee little fried fishies
    -Tortine di Carciofi Fritti - Fried Artichokes
    -Trofie al Pesto - Trofie pasta (homemade, of course) with pesto
    -Pasqualina Ai Carciofi - Artichoke Pie
    -Baccala' alla Ligure - Stockfish done Ligurian style
    -Calamari con Ripieno di Pesto ai Carciofi - Calamari filled with artichoke pesto

    -Recipe for Pasqualina Ai Carciofi (not from Chiara Vio)
    For pastry:
    500 gr flour
    40 gr olive oil
    1 glass of water
    3 teaspoon of salt

    For stuffing the pie:
    12 artichokes
    100 gr of grated Parmesan cheese
    1 onion
    5 eggs
    300 gr ricotta
    some fresh parsley and marjoram.

    Prepare the pastry by mixing flour, olive oil, water and the salt. The result is soft dough; let it rest for 1 hour.

    Prepare the artichokes by removing the outer leaves, cutting the stems and the thorns. Secondly, cut the artichokes into thin slices and place them, for a few minutes, in some water with a lemon (cut the lemon into 4 parts).

    Meanwhile make brown slowly 1 onion, some parsley and marjoram. Then, add the artichokes, some salt and cook everything in a covered pan.
    When all is cooked add eggs, parmesan, a pinch of marjoram, salt and ricotta. Mix everything with a spoon. Roll out the dough and with a rolling pin make 4 puff pastry. Place on a baking pan 2 pastry and then pour the artichokes mixture uniformly.

    Finally cover the pie with the other 2 pastry and brush with 1 egg yolk.
    Cook for about 45 minutes at 200 degrees.

    Recipe for Calamari con Ripieno di Pesto ai Carciofi (also not from Chiara)
    Ingredients (serves 4)
    1.4lb whole squid, tentacles included and cleaned.
    7.5oz peeled prawns
    3 artichokes
    1 small bunch of parsley (finely chopped)
    1 medium bunch basil (minced)
    2 cloves of garlic
    1 glass of dry white wine
    1 lemon
    extra virgin olive oil
    salt & pepper

    Pre-heat your oven to 390 F

    Clean and prepare the artichokes, slice them very thinly and place straight into lemon water.

    Begin gently heating the peeled garlic clove in some olive oil until garlic is golden but not burned, and then remove it from the pan.
    Drain the artichokes of the lemon water and place them in the pan and increase to a moderate heat. Continue cooking till slightly tender.

    While the artichokes are cooking, clean the squid and rinse well under running water.

    Cut off the tentacles at the base of the body.
    Chop the tentacles up finely with the prawns.
    Add these to the pan with the artichokes and allow to cook through.
    Add half a glass of wine to the pan and allow to reduce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Place the contents of the pan, along with the basil, into a food processor and pulse a few times.
    Stuff the filling into the empty cavities of the squids.
    Use a toothpick to close the opening.

    Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a non-stick pan and place in the stuffed squids and brown lightly on all sides.
    Splash with the remaining wine and a handful of chopped parsley and place the pan in the oven to finish cooking for 30 to 40 minutes.

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