Tag Archives: Prosciutto di Parma

LAST DAY IN CHICAGO

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LAST DAY IN CHICAGO…NEXT STOP CINCINNATI

By Filippo Bartolotta

So Chicago wasn’t over yet as we another dinner with Karee and Loren.

Benedetta, Barbara and I decide to start the day with a proper Chicago brunch indulging in a breakfast burrito to face the tough and cold day:)

We end up being super sleepy and I manage to loose my credit card for the millionth time…great!

We walk a bit to digest the mexican feast and head to Karee’s house to prepare the wine dinner.

Tons of glasses are available in this lovely house where thogether with our usual suspects we also have the very profound and richly extracted Manachiara Riserva Brunello di Montalcino Nardi 2004.

The 2004 vintage has in general been a pretty good one across the board in Italy, but the very good weather also meant that it was a very generous vintage. As a result a lot of 2004 Brunellos, for instance might result a little dilute.

This isn’t definitely not the case for the ’04 with us at Italy at Your Table because together with Silvio Nardi Brunello 2004 also the other ’04 have been showing the best of a classic vintage character. Tenute San Leonardo 2004, ColleMassari 2004 and Elvio Cogno Barolo Vigna Elena 2004 have in fact been hit by our guests!

While I was getting my wines at the right temperature. Benedetta is still running the show preparing dinner for everybody and inviting the guest to join in making spaghetti alla Chitarra and Ravioli.

This evening was very entertaining also for me as I had a full hour before lunch to introduce  and taste the eleven wines together while nibbling on some Prosciutto di Parma invention by Benedetta Vitali. The two tables were formed by slit couples of husbands and wives and the competition was almost painful! Everybody was sooo intensely dedicated to it that for me was just a pleasure to watch while having a plate of Spaghetti with broccoli and anchovies like only Benedetta can make!


One thousand questions, one thousand doubts and answers and the evening went by in a slit second till we get to the succulent Benedetta’s Lamb chops!

Karee and Loren friends were all very interested and lively and I look forward to Chicago again!

On the way home we ask the cab driver to take us for a little detour to The Green Mill. This is one of the oldest and most established Jazz Club in town where nothing changed since AlCapone’s time! A beer and a chaser and some good music, fun people with a very different age and backround, like only one can find in these places!

Morning after we have a plain to catch to get back home in NYC.

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PARMA HAM: THE WORLD’S BEST PROSCIUTTO:)

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PARMA HAM: THE WORLD’S BEST PROSCIUTTO:)

By Filippo Bartolotta

I managed to go to bed pretty early in Parma and again I wake up and discover, during my early run that I am not too far away from the element water.

I love to discover cities and countryside wherever I travel through my morning runs. It somehow gives you a different feeling of belonging to the place.

Discovering for instance the Baptistery and the Duomo di Parma when nobody is around gives me a certain feeling of lust and intimacy at the same time.

I also like the idea to arrive hungry for my breakfast:)

Tomorrow morning I would have a run in the Giardini Reali in Turin. I was meant to go catch a train to Florence and instead I am going back to Langhe for more Barolo!

Today though I am hanging around in Parma with Fabrizio Raimondi, the head of press at the Consorzio Prosciutto di Parma. I am here on a quest to better understand this fantastic ham produced since Roman times. So off we go to see the first producer passing by the beautiful Castello di Torrechiara built by Count Pier Maria Rossi in mid 15th Century quite possibly to seduce and spend some nights in the so called Golden bedroom!

Parma Ham is 100% natural product.

The Ingredients for Parma Ham are basically three:

1) high quality well treated and well fed pigs

2) best salt in the market

3) dry clean air

…and

4) time

Every Parma Ham can be traceable all the way to breeder, the age of the animal, the origin of the slaughter house and the curing date. This way producers and consumers  can always check quality and origin. Of course all of the above is certified by law by an independent body which will ensure everything is carried out according to procedures. After many quality checks (organoleptic and veterinarian ones -one a day for the ham that go to the US!-) the ham will receive the famous Parma Crown seal of approval only after a minimum of 12 months of aging. Every year almost 10 million hams are produced

The production stages are the following ten:

1) Cutting

2) Cooling

3) Trimming

4) Salting

5) Rest

6) Washing/drying

7) Pre-curing

8) Greasing

9) Curing

10) Branding

1) Cutting. Before slaughter the pig must  be: healthy, rested and have fasted for min a min of 15 hours. Now the curing date seal is applied to the leg.

2) Cooling. The insulated leg is left for 24 hours to 0°C for hygienic reasons.

3) Trimming fat and meat is necessary to give the ham the typical “chicken leg” shape and to prepare it for salting.

4) Salting. The salt comes from the best Italian area which is Trapani in Sicily.

Very skillful people salt the leg on the most delicate parts with different amount here and there: too much and the ham wouldn’t be sweet anymore…too little and the ham would go bad! Humid salt is used for the pig skin and dry salt is used for the muscular parts.

The legs stay in the so called “first salt” room for a week -1°C to 4°C and 80% humidity.

Then it would go for another two week in the “second salt” room. Here it will louse 4% of its weight.

5) Rest. After removing the residual salt the ham goes to the rest store for 60/70 days at 70 degrees of humidity and between 1-5 °C. Here the ham would assimilate the salt evenly in each part loosing 10% more of its weight.

6) Washing/drying. Hot water is used to get rid of residual salt and impurity.

7) Pre-curing. The ham would spend three months hanging on wood frames called “scalere”. Here is when the airflow regulation is paramount to regulate humidity and fresh air, opening and closing windows when necessary to breath the marine/alpine air. The ham would loose another 10% of weight.

8) Greasing.The cavity around the bare parts are covered in order to protect the ham from further weight loss and to retain the right level of moisture.

The animal lard is mixed with a little pepper and sometimes ground rice to protect the ham also from excessive oxidization. .

9) Curing. We are now on the seventh month of aging and the ham is transferred into the cellars. Here there’s less air and a lot of important enzymatic and biochemical process take place contributing to the typical Parma ham character.  5% more of the weight is lost.

In order to check quality is carried out the “sounding”.

A horse bone needle is inserted and extracted super quickly to check the aromas of the ham.

10) Branding After a compulsory minimum aging of 12 months the ham can get the fire-branding with the famous Ducal Crown.

At this stage the ham has roughly lost 30% of it’s original weight and gained a lot in delicate and complex flavors and texture.

Now I am ready to try some…

So we head back to the centre of Parma for an aperitif at the Antica Osteria Fontana: a traditional laid-back wooden type table osteria bar where one can get from as little as a focaccia with Parma ham all the way to a pasta dish.

We go for a Parma Ham snack. The nutritional values of this product, loved already by Cato in 2BC, are extraordinary.

For every 100gr of lean Parma Ham -without visible fat-: 61.8% water, 26,87% proteins; 5,97% salt and 3,46% fat for a total of 138 kcal

For every 100gr of Parma ham with fat: 50,84% is water; 22,27% proteins; 21, 01% fat; 4,84% salt or a total of 280 kcal.

Parna ham is also packed with a lot of important minerals like phosphorus, potassium, irons and zinc; important free amino acids and over 60% of the fat composition is based on oleic, linoleic and steraic acids useful in preventing atherosclerosis.

Take a stroll around town to see the Duomo, the Teatro Farnese and or the Camera di San Paolo to admire the authentic Correggio and Parmigianino before going for lunch.

We decide for La Greppia. An old institution in Parma where they keep the best Prosciutto di Parma and other sublime hams and salamis and a spectacular Parmigiano Reggiano selection. On top of this one should go for their very fresh seasonal vegetables -we went for the artichokes- and their delicious home made pasta.

Aside from the love and caring that you will receive in this restaurant there is another important reason to come and visit: the deep wine list with the greatest prices ever seen. From a Sassicaia ’83 for €550, Quintarelli Amarone 1990 for €420, a Monfortino 1990 for €300 or a Tignanello 1980 for €280! I look forward to be there again!

Ravioli all’erbette.

Fabrizio and I go for a little after lunch walk and a coffee at the Oriental Caffè in Piazza Garibaldi. This is a lovely elegant and a little Parisian like place where together with a fantastic Parma Hams selection and good pasta one can find an outstanding Champagne list of little high quality growers for an excellent price.

After five day on the run across north west Italy, I was actually ready to go home when the office calls me for a last minute in Langhe with Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre.

the two american Ice-Skating champions on a mission to discover Barolo. I discovered this couple thanks to Kate and John in Cinncinnati while watching some competition. The world Ice-skating championship was taking place in Torino these days and so here I go to one of the most beautiful and underrated towns of the Bel Paese where our dearest friend Barbara lives. So let’s run for the train!!!

During the trip from Parma I manage to work and rest a bit. As I get off the train station in Torino I go to the “Confetteria Avvignano” to get an easter egg for my little friend Zeno.

I take a lovely walk into centre of town to relax after the long day. As I get to Barbara’s, I found there a lovely dinner with some specials prepared by Zeno, the ten years old kid who defines himself as a Chef of Extreme Cuisine.

Among the other dishes one that stood out from the crowd was the Tacos de Fuego, followed by another two unnamed dishes.

Went to bed really late after sharing a nice 2004 Ferrari Perle. I managed to get off the bed by 0700 to go for my run. And…sure enough I have some water one block away from my bed from which I can see the Mole:

Giardini Reali, Piazza San Carlo and straight for the shower and quickly to pick up Kim and Brenton.

Our first stop is Elvio Cogno, today in wonderful shape maybe for the spectacular day and for the great tension of his Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera 2005.

The more I taste wine and the more humbly I feel one should approach this great product. Usually is Vigna Elena the most opened, but not today when the Ravera was the warmest hug and caress one could have asked for in the morning. Above all after a not too easy getaway from the city! Our driver Gianluca couldn’t make it today and so a very unfit replacement who managed to get lost a few times!

The view of the Novello vineyards and the Alps in the background put everyone in the right mood for the day.

After tasting the whole production including the very floral and elegant Barbaresco 2006 -great surprise of the day- we set off for lunch at Bovio.

Before going back to Torino we stop at Mauro Molino where we discover that Matteo has hidden his beautiful sister from the wine scene!

Now the Molino family has acquired another enologist and ambassador for the winery!

My favorite of today have been without doubts the sweetly dense Barbera Vigna Gattere 2007 and the dark side of smooth La Morra “Barolo Vigna Conca 2005”.

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Italy at Your Table in Cincinnati

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Italy at Your Table in Cincinnati

by filippo Bartolotta

This morning while having breakfast with Kathy at her wonderful wooden, big and cozy home by a little lake in Cincinnati, life seemed to be very sweet.

Here it’s very cold and white by the tons of snow arrived in the previous days…Meggy doesn’t seem to mind though.

Also she is inside where it is all nice and warm and breakfast beautifully displayed by Kathy for us in the kitchen.

Everything is quite all around, only the sound of the birds struggling to fetch for food in the snow covered land.


I had a bit of a rough day yesterday after a last heavy night in Chicago and an early flight into Cincinnati.

After the event with the daughter of one of our sweetest clients Barbara and I are invited to go a check the Green Mill. An old school Jazz Club where Al Capone used to hang around.

Great setting, wonderful music and a lot of fun people, but we got back home late.

I am so glad we have been having so many people inviting us to stay at their places. This is how you get to know a Country and its people. And a lot of the success of this trip is due to these friends. I thank you all and I look forward to seeing you at my home soon.

Energy is contagious and passes from the first player to the second like quicksilver until it becomes a movement with its own momentum and its own direction…or something like that. This is a quotation grabbed from Kathy two mornings ago…

I was talking with a journalist for an interview over the phone and when asked why am I enjoying this trip so much I actually forgot to tell her maybe the main reason: visiting these homes.
Success in business is like riding a bicycle: either you keep moving or you will fall. H. Jakson Brown jr.

And so we move. We head to the very elegant Kenwood Country Club for our Italy at Your Table show where our friends from Provident Travel and Fifth Third Bank had organized a special evening for some of their best clients.

This was my second time in Cincinnati. The first time I got there thanks to the CEO of AAA Alliance with whom we became friends after a trip to Italy with Provident Travel and us.

This time we got here thanks to John Morley -Executive Vice President AAA- who made it all happen. John is a very kind Diesel engine who always manages to get things done, nice and neat.

And so the event came out just perfectly. I guess I shouldn’t be the one praising and leave others to say as they did repeatedly. Everybody simply  loved Benedetta’s food and everybody raved about the wines.

It’s terrific when I have a chance to talk so much in front of  a big audience in such great silence and positive tension.

Our wines where the stars of the evening. We started with the very crisp cherry driven and well structured Brunello di Montalcino 2004 Col D’orcia to move onto Gigi Rosso Barolo Arione 2005. We had used this wine already one or twice during the road show and it always required a little bit of time to show off, but then it shows a great floral and yet austere bouquet.

Right after it was time for the “loved-by-everybody” Isole e Olena Cepparello 2006 followed by the Pinot Noir Like Proprietà Sperino Uvaggio (Nebbilo, Coratina, Vespolina). I forgot the creamy and mineral Vernaccia di Sangimignano Panizzi 2006 which opened the evning pairing Benedetta’s Cauliflower Sformato with Prosciutto di Parma and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale 25 years Malpighi.

After this a Cincinnatian style prwan dish and a Tuscan style Arancino.

I was on stage taking people on an Italian Wine Journey with video projection and Benedetta Vitali demonstrating some of her creations.


Her Parmigiana arrived after the Stracotto and everyone raised their hands in a spontaneous applause.

The second lot of reds kicked off with the new 2007 very peppery and dense refreshing Montevetrano (well done again Silvia!) and then back to back the most elegant Italian northern eat Red: SanLeonardo 2004; to finish off this round with monumental earthy and graphite like Sagrantino di Montefalco Arnaldo caprai 2003 Selezione 25 anni.

The last round was done with the classy Grattamacco 2001 and Brabraresco Punset Campo Quadro 2001. then it was time for ripe black fruit Collemassari 2004, a splash of the great terroir driven Chianti Classico Riserva 2006 Monsanto. On the table right at the finish we also let the guests taste the two fantastic Elvio Cogno crus of Vigna Elena 2004 and Pernice 2005.

I will never forget this evening and I will never forget the warmth and welcome of these people.


As I will never forget what it is to come back home with two chirpy little kids jumping, kissing and hugging me.

I am very proud of my kids who are enjoying the New York School so much. Milo is speeding up with his learning path and now not only can he put together LEGO’s on his own, but apparently he seems to be having a special gift for chess.

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Italy at Your Table once more in San Francisco

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Italy at Your Table once more in San Francisco

by Filippo Bartolotta

After Quince Restaurant it is time to go for a private event with our friend and client Miriam. She came along for a trip to Venezia, to Verona and the Amarone wine region as well as the Collio and Carso regions near Trieste and the  Croatian border.
Miriam and her mum are two of the most omnivore people I have ever met in my life. I thought I was bad, but…

Radikon Stanko

It is great when I take guests around italy and the fully appreciate every single bit of the experience. Miriam is getting more and more serious about her Italian wine collection and appreciation and so are her lovely friends who bombarded me with tons of questions: It’s terrific when I have such an interested crowd.
Like always we begin our private events with one of Italy most forgotten and yet most classy White: Vernaccia di Sangimignano.

Many years have passed since the dilute/cheap Vernaccia was sold as a souvenir in Sangimignano. Now Vernaccia is back on track with its centuries of traditions and quality.Wineries like Panizzi, Cesani, Guicciardini Strozzi and Palagione are making this appellation more and more important every year.

Now with the new President of the Consorzio Walter Sovran and the new director Letizia Cesani it looks like the Vernaccia di Sangimignano is going for an even more radical change towards the quality path.

Vernaccia isn’t a spicy, aromatic and on your face wine, but rather an elegant, gentle and mineral White with a surprising aging potential. Most people, even among trade members, believe Vernaccia is good for the first two years, but I had a vertical tasting of over thirty years old Vernaccia which were so crisp, clean and delicious that I strongly recommend you buy now to enjoy the crispiness and store it to get complexity and minerality.

The price point of this wine is amazing: it starts under the $10 to get to max $25. When I first did the tasting with my friend and colleague Master Italian wine expert Ernesto Gentili -simply the greatest Italian wine expert today- we were gobsmacked about the quality we found. The tasting was so successful that later on there have been a series of comparative tastings with the best Whites in the world, including Grand Cru Chablis and Puilly Fumè.

And I am so glad that the great majority of our Italy at Your Table are enjoying this wine so much. For that matter everyone is enjoying our full wine list.
This time we had for the first time Gigi Rosso Barolo Arione 2005. This is an old School tough Serralunga Barolo which needs a little time to open and show its true amazing floral and truffles complexity.



It was also the first time for the very structured and leathery/earthy Brunello di Montalcino Col d’Orcia Riserva Poggio al Vento 1999. A great classic from an underrated vintage.
So the evening was a blast, I had a lot of fun I think I talked flat for three ours and then we carried on for more tasting and nibbling with the Prosciutto di Parma and the Malpighi 25 years old Balsamic Vinegar.


Why is there such a huge demand for Italian Fine Wine Tastings? Because the Italian wine scene is getting more and more complex and interesting by the year with over four hundred grape varieties it is just a delicious wine heaven. And Americans are eager to learn and share that for me this is becoming the best environment ever to teach.

I love this job, I love to teach and I love to share my passion and my knowledge with hungry wine lovers. Italy at your table is becoming a great hit. Anyone can organize a wine tasting but LeBaccanti with Vanessa, Barbara, Carrie and Valentina doing all the leg work in the back office to support me during my travels and evenings is just another thing. So why do so many people sign up for LeBaccanti wine tastings events wine tours and holidays? I think because people don’t want just to have something to drink, they want to have an experience, they want to have information, they want to increase their knowledge and possibly while having fun.


So this is what LeBaccanti Tours does: organizing made to size wine and food experiences, wether one wants to organize a Wine Challenge Evening for friends and business partners or the greatest Italian Gourmet holiday.

Grazie Miriam for having us!

Now it is time to rush to Palo Alto for an event at the Barton’s. Richard and Megan Barton are friends of some friends of ours in Chianti: Enzo and AnnaGloria Corti. The Cortis live in a beautiful Tuscan House in Chianti, not too far away from were we live. They rent a wonderful Renaissance Villa Castellare di Senigi: http://www.castellaredesernigi.com/eng


This is an authentic Tuscan Villa with authentic antiques furniture and the most spectacular location possible. The Cortis are partecipating to Italy at Your Table giving away seven nights for ten people to one of our guests of thi Road Show. At the end of our tour we will have a draft and the winner will get this amazing and very generous prize.

So my dear Italy at Your Table wine lovers, do not forget to send us your email for the final draft!

Prior our event in Palo Alto we stop for a quick bite at The Ferry Building were we had to do some shopping at the farmers market.


Fresh sea food and then indulging in a delicious chocolate cup cake!


We got to the Barton’s in less then an hour drive with Leigh being our Captain of the expedition. The house was kissed by the sun with fresh flowers all over the places and a stunning setting.

Like always Benedetta Vitali would start preparing dinner around 1430 while we set up for the evening and get the wines ready.

This time we start with nibbles and some wines are served :

Fratelli Revello with their very thick and yet fresh and round single vineyard Vigna Giachini 2005 which was a very big hit of the night.


I enjoyed this evening as it was very “active” in the kitchen an in teh dining room.


Being with a great Football Champion like Harris Barton the day after the game with the Saints dishing out their first victory ever in the Super Bowl was quite something!

Photography by Michael C. Hebert

And here is Richard and myself: of course…I am the big guy:)

The morning after Athena woke us up really early . . . as I mentioned I would have liked to attend a yoga class to relax and gain some energy. She told me about a Bikram steam room Yoga Class: www.bilramyoga.com. At 0730 -more or less, right in my favourite street in San Francisco: Dolores. This is a palm tree roller coaster to be done with a crazy cab driver, possibly mexican!
So at 0800 we are in a 100°F room with another 7-8 people sipping water and waiting to kick the lesson off.
Amy, our sweet teacher looks all ready and smily…Barbara and I instead a little worried to pass out during the class.
It has been one and a half hour of empowering sensation, great stretching and body and mind cleansing. This was a super start of the day. Thanks Athena for persuading us to do it!


After such a demanding workout session we were bound to be hungry! So nothing fits the picture better then a Mexican authentic grill with my favorite: shrimp Burrito and Guacamole!


I have been loving these San Francisco days sooooo much! And this making me into a better taster indeed!
Everything has its price though as we had to gobble down our burrito to avoid being late for Alice Waters…

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