A Vineyard in Tuscany

Now that the temperatures in New York are dropping below freezing, a jaunt to Tuscany is sounding quite lovely (not that it doesn't the rest of the year as well). I actually read A Vineyard in Tuscany a couple of years ago, but revisited it a few weeks ago and enjoyed it just as much as I had the first time. Ferenc Máté has also written several novels, so it comes as no surprise that his narrative is engaging and funny. The book tells the story of his family's venture into buying a ruined vineyard in Tuscany, and their first year of grape-growing.

Máté is able to present his story in such a way that you want to be right there working in the field with him, not so that he comes off as pretentious and self-satisfied. You get to know his wife and son, as well as their eccentric neighbors in their small town. Of course, at the end of the book is a convenient list of their wines and where to buy them (which you can find here). I can't say that I have tried any, but it does seem that their vineyard sits on a prime lot in the midst of some of the best Tuscan vineyards. Overall, A Vineyard in Tuscany is an enjoyable romp through a life that sounds extremely enjoyable but also like a lot of work. I think that many people have a romantic sensibility in regards to vineyards (including me), but in his prose Máté doesn't gloss over the immense amount of works it takes to run a vineyard -- but he also doesn't leave out any of the wonderful parts either.


I will be posting more recipes soon, including some cakes and party food!

Pre-Thanksgiving + a Book

Let me just say, I am SO EXCITED for Thanksgiving. It is far and away my favorite holiday -- I love the smell of roast turkey and buttery  mashed potatoes and stuffing, 30+ people crammed into my parent's not-so-large house (somehow everyone finds a seat), the crisp November air, the leftover turkey sandwiches...Ok, mostly it's about the food. But my parents have been hosting Thanksgiving for any and all who would like to come for as long as I can remember. Usually it's just cousins and aunts and uncles, but every year there is someone new -- friends, a new fiancé, someone's random great aunt. I can't wait. Of course, between now and tomorrow I have to actually board a flight from JFK to Minneapolis which is scheduled to leave at 8:30 pm but is somehow already delayed. However, the woman at the help-line assured me that the flight would not be canceled, so hopefully all will go smoothly.

On another note, I just finished a book called The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It by Tilar J. Mazzeo. Ms. Mazzeo seems to have a love of champagne which rivals my own, so of course I had to read it. The book tells the story of the woman behind the Veuve Clicquot empire -- the Widow Clicquot herself. It's quite a remarkable story; of a woman who grew up in an upper-middle class household during the French Revolution and transformed a small family business into a multi-billion dollar company -- all during a time when women had almost no rights in the public sector. While her writing is a little dry at times, I found it very informative and would recommend it to anyone interested in the history of wine and how champagne has evolved throughout the last few centuries.

I'll be back after the holiday with pictures! And probably larger pants, if we are being honest.

The Greene Grape

For those of you who live in Fort Greene or Clinton Hill, The Greene Grape is probably already familiar to you. However, even if you don't live nearby, I think it's worth a trek from elsewhere in the city. Their provisions store has a good selection of organic produce, fancy packaged foods (many from Brooklyn), and one of the better cheese selections I have seen in the area. My particular favorite so far is toma della rocca, an excellent goat, sheep, and cow's milk cheese that is runny and soft and has just enough tang to make it interesting. The Greene Grape also has a wonderful meat counter, and all of the employees are extremely helpful. Ari and I bought some ground beef from them the other night to make hamburgers, and they were quite delicious if I do say so myself, even though they were made on the stove instead of the grill. The meat and fish is also all organic, and locally raised when possible.

Luckily, they also have a wine store by the same name just down the street. Though small in size, they have a great selection of wines in many price ranges. One of my favorites over the summer was the 2010 Laurent Micquel Syrah Rosé, affordable at $9.50 while also being a lovely, dry summery wine. They also have have hard-to-find Aperol, one of my favorite spirits from Italy (particularly when mixed with prosecco over ice to make a Spritz). In addition to a great wine selection, they have tastings at least once a week, and the last time I was there they had a bottle open for people to taste for themselves.

I love the informal atmosphere of both of their stores, but the people that work there are always ready and willing to help if you need it. You could easily buy ingredients for an entire dinner there, but my favorite is to ask for a cheese recommendation, grab a baguette (and some wine, in a paper bag of course), and picnic in Fort Greene Park a few blocks away. Doesn't get much better than that.