Sunday, September 18, 2016

Stalking the Wild and Indigenous in the New and the Old World

From Parmigiano to Hoja Santa to Pecorino in less than 24 hours

Hoja Santa Harvest - inspected (and approved) by Jacques Pepin at Paula Lambert's Mozzarella Company
After harvesting what seemed like an endless amount of eggplants, okra and Hoja Santa, it was time to come back to Italy for the other important harvest – grapes. For a week or so, I’ll be hovering around Marche and Abruzzo with camera(s). This is my first trip back after narrowly escaping death in Sicily this past June. For those who don’t follow this blog religiously (and why should anyone us follow any wine blog with fervor these days?) suffice it to say I have been given clearance by the medical profession to travel overseas. The past six months have been most challenging, with the accident in Sicily and a series of throat afflictions that eventually led to a tonsillectomy a month ago. All this as background to recovering and getting back on the wine trail in Italy.

The plan was to get to Rome, get a car and head to the Adriatic coast in the Marche /Abruzzo area. First stop was a clothing store to get a new suit and a sport jacket. I’ve been buying clothes in the Marche for years, as the craftsmanship is very good and the prices are nice, especially in the off season, where sales entice one to buy more than one needs. This is also a place to get great shoes.

The reality of the area is that there are all kinds of small production workshops in the Marche region for clothing and shoes. Large fashion companies contract out the local artisans to make suits and shoes so they can put their fancy labels on them and even fancier price tags. The producers also have the right to make clothes with their own labels. I was turned on to these “factories” by longtime friend Vittorio Boccabianca, who spent his career in the clothing business. Vittorio lives in San Benedetto del Tronto, where we have set up camp for a few days.

Wild "foraged" mussels
I’ve been coming to San Benedetto del Tronto since 1984. It’s one of my happy places in Italy. Here is a pace of life that revolves around the beach. Mellow. Really love it here. And while it’s a great place to recharge the batteries, it’s also a wonderful place to eat and drink.

If your tastes run to seagoing delicacies, this area rivals Sicily and Puglia, in my opinion. The seafood here is smaller, and subject to having a smaller window of freshness. Hence they don’t travel as wide and as far as tuna or swordfish from Sicily. But the locals are voracious in their appetite for this food and the local cuisine has developed a repertoire in which to showcase the fresh fish and other seagoing items.

And what better way to enjoy them than with the local wine? For years I have nurtured my affliction for white wine in this his town. In 1984 that was no easy task, as white wine technology was just beginning to refine the wines of the area. But in the last 30 years, the locals have caught on. Along with that they’ve resuscitated once forgotten grape varieties like Pecorino.

One of my first exposures to the Pecorino grape was via the Capecci family and their San Savino winery. Their Pecorino wine, Ciprea, is reputed to be one of the first ones that developed commercially in the area. I remember when I first tasted theirs. Young Simone Capecci at the time was under the tutelage of his dad. Now Simone has taken the reins.

Pecorino is a chameleon. In the hand of one winemaker it can be rustic and sharp. In another it can be round, full and almost international in style. It mirrors the sensibilities of the winemaker. Yes, the terroir has a say in the matter as well. But Italians here aren’t so tied to those notions.

Simone’s 2015 Ciprea is a full-bodied white, almost with the weight of a red. The wine sees no oak, only stainless steel and long ageing on the lees. What was once an obscure wine is now a DOCG (Offida). That’s quite a leap from Trebbiano, which has been my go-to wine from the area. Both wines really match well with the local food.

Grottamare is a town right next to San Benedetto del Tronto, a short drive. A little restaurant, Il Chiosco da Maria, which literally grew out of humble origins (as in a kiosk) is now an enlarged establishment which runs all year long. This is a testament to the women who run this place, as San Benedetto and Grottamare are seaside resorts, and many places close up from October until Easter. But the sea keeps producing food and the locals keep eating it. So, Il Chiosco has grown from a kiosk to a local institution. Not easy to get into, and locals only, the pictures show why it is so loved.

Olive Ascolane - w/seafood filling
Hard working women on a Saturday night
We must have had ten antipasti, all from the sea. After that, where do you go? In our case, only one more dish, a local pasta. The pictures don’t do it justice. So what can you do? Well, you can go here and taste for yourself. Which I know a few of my friends and readers will do (right Hank and Phillissa?).

In the meantime, enjoy the pictures. I’m taking the rest of the day off. Monday is a work day, even if we are in Italy.


squid ala julienne

olive ascolane and squash wrapped shrimp

more calamari

more gambero

a type of squid which is red


baby clams

pasta casalinga with seafood

some of the world's hottest peppers (to go on top of the pasta)
Il Chiosco da Maria
Lungomare De Gaspari,85
Grottamare (AP)

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1 comment:

Marco Pizzacante said...

Good to see that you are well enough to go back to Italia. You have earned it, amico. An understatement, if there ever was one. Sounds and looks like our kind of Italia, where you are at now. Salute!

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