Tag Archives: Wine

What you might be surprised to know about eating in Italy


Drinking a cappuccino in Venice

Guys, I went to Italy. And there’s really no other way to put it except to say that I fell in love with it. Just like everyone said I would. If you’ve never been, you’re probably envisioning incredible pizza with fire crackling in wood burning ovens, romantic glasses of prosecco consumed outside on cobblestone streets, giant bowls of homemade pastas carefully crafted by little old grandmas in 500 year old kitchens, and gelato up the ying yang.

That last one really gotcha, didn’t it?

Well, I’m here to tell you… it’s all true. IT’S ALL TRUE. Only it’s better. Every cappuccino, even those from little tourist shops, was creamy and strong and frothy and smooth. Every pasta was handmade because what’s the alternative? Boxed pasta?! Bite your tongue. But not really. You’ll need that to taste with, dummies.

So instead of describing ad nauseum all the dishes I loved in Italy, below is a “I was surprised by” list of eye openers.

You might be surprised to know that…

Truly authentic Italian restaurants are only open for a few hours at night
I don’t know why this is. But almost every single restaurant we went to for dinner was only open from 7PM to 11PM or 8PM to 10:30PM. And if there was any doubt that those were their true hours, one night we ate at an adorable little spot in Rome and come 11PM, closing time, our waiter told us they were out of dessert. Out. of. dessert. We nearly cried. And stole our neighbors’ chocolate torte.


Pappardelle at Trattoria la Casalinga in Florence

Wine is dirt cheap.
It’s like they’re BEGGING you to drink with every meal! When wine is 4 euro for half a litre, how could you say no at lunch? Or at 2PM? Or at 9PM? Or… you get it. We had the warm-wine-rosies for 90% of the trip.

Gelato really is good everywhere.
When people said this to me before I left, I thought, “Well sure, because gelato I buy here at the grocery store is ‘good,’ too.” I was dumb. Gelato is AMAZING everywhere in Italy. We inadvertently popped into a super touristy shop in Florence where two gelato ran us FOURTEEN EURO (eeps) and it was still just as delicious as the cheapo, clearly more local, gelato we got in Venice for 3 euro.

Gelato near Circus Maximus in Rome

Gelato near Circus Maximus in Rome

If you order a pastry with your cocktail, you’re a dope.
This one I’m not sure of, either. Our first morning in Venice our lovely apartment host Giulia took us out for coffee because our apartment was still being cleaned. She told us the official drink of Venice is called a Spritz, an aperitif made with prosecco, Campari, and sparkling water, so we ordered two. The BF also ordered a croissant because he was hungry. Giulia thought this was HILARIOUS. “A croissant with a Spritz?!” “Yeah… why?” “Ooookaaaay…” Cue eye roll. We don’t really know. But that’s okay. It was all delicious.

Spritz in Venice near Teatro Italia

Spritz in Venice near Teatro Italia

Italians really love to feed you.
Twice we ordered midday meals or snacks that were freaking huge and we had no idea. But the lovely people who served them to us were so smiley and proud of their creations that we couldn’t help but eat every bit on the plate, no matter how tight our pants were getting. It only reminded me that cooking and serving someone the meal you created is a really gratifying experience, and it’s one of the reasons I love making food.

A platter of cheese and meat in Florence

A platter of cheese and meat at Il Club del Gusto in Florence

First course and second course are suggestions. They are great suggestions.
In all three cities we visited, Venice, Florence, and Rome (and perhaps in all of Italy?) pasta is a first course, and entrees and proteins are the second course. When The BF and I finally came around to this manner of eating, we loved it! Portions are small (cough normal cough) enough that you’re not stuffed on pasta before the second course arrives. You’re just… teased. And at the end of the meal you feel full and complete but not disgusting.

An ocean of fish (ha!) at Paradiso Perduto in Venice

An ocean of fish (ha!) at Paradiso Perduto in Venice

Ciao Italia! Thanks for treating us so well. We’ll see you real soon.


Filed under Travel

New York Wine & Culinary Center

New York Wine and Culinary Center
Rochester might seem like your standard blue collar city with not much sophistication and little in the way of culture. But if you assumed that, then you’d be dead wrong. There are endless summer arts festivals, jazz festivals, it’s home of Eastman Kodak and the Memorial Art Gallery, and a tiny movie house plays indie films on the reg. The newest addition to the little-city-that-could is the New York Wine & Culinary Center in Canandaigua.

The New York Wine and Culinary Center features all New-York-sourced food and wine (i.e. you won’t find any rice on their menu here because there is no rice produced in NY – did I just blow your mind?), and they expose visitors to said food and wine in a variety of ways: classes in their beautiful professional kitchen; food demonstrations in a lecture-style classroom setting; a tasting bar where you can experience flights of seasonal wines, beers, or liquors; and a restaurant upstairs that puts it all together for you.

The space itself is beautiful: all dark wood and sophistication. You won’t find any steel-countered surfaces in their professional kitchen – in addition to being functional, it’s also aesthetically pleasing. And situated on beautiful Canandaigua Lake, on a good day the view is spectacular.

On the night I went with my family, it was drizzling and cold outside (I’ll give you that against Rochester, the weather never does seem to cooperate), but the interior of the space was warm and inviting. We went straight to the bar where the tastings are held and each of us ordered a flight: one dry red wine flight, one vodka flight, one white wine flight, and one beer flight. The bartender was ridiculously knowledgeable about every single drink he put in front of us and after I expressed particular delight in a wine from Coyote Moon Vineyards, the bartender said, “Would you like to meet the wine maker?” The winemakers happened to be in town doing a demonstration at the culinary center (this is the type of special event they hold all year round) and filled me in on their winery and a specialty tomato sauce they sell at the vineyard. If you’re ever doing a wine tour in the area or happen to be out near Clayton, NY take the time to stop in and meet the lovely Randazzo family.

The next stop was the bar upstairs for another glass of wine (do you love how specific I’m being by telling you I had “wine”? It was so good I forgot what kind). We settled into a giant wooden table and stayed for dinner. The first course was a cheese plate, followed by a delicious entree of Long Island flounder and scallops over leeks fondue and seasonal vegetables. For dessert we had apple fritters that I’m still dreaming about: apple rings deep fried in the lightest, crunchiest batter imaginable with sweet, smooth vanilla ice cream. Is there any dessert more New York than an apple?

If you’re in the Finger Lakes region, make a point to visit the culinary center. It’s incredible to see a place this innovative and committed to local food and wine thriving in an area that isn’t usually known for its culinary ingenuity. Take a class on making truffles, taste the New York wines (of which there are HUNDREDS), gaze out over beautiful Canandaigua Lake, or just eat your face off in the upstairs bistro. Whatever you do, you won’t be sorry you did it.

New York Wine & Culinary Center is located at 800 South Main Street, Canandaigua, NY. Call 585.394.7070 for more information or email info@nywcc.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking, New York Restaurants

Relax and Un-wined

A few months ago a friend of mine asked if I’d like to go with her and two of our other friends on a wine and bike tour out on Long Island. I asked one question: do I have to know how to bike? Now, don’t get me wrong: I know how to “bike”. But as my brother likes to (lovingly) recall, I walked my bike down our 10-degree-inclined driveway until I was 16 years old because the hill was too “steep” to ride down and I was scared to fall off. Not that falling off would’ve been so bad. I did plenty of that, too. Somewhere in our family archives are Mother’s Day pictures of Little Lauren Four Eyes with a massively scraped up chin and forehead from an earlier neighborhood debacle between her and the pavement. And somewhere else in those family archives are family vacation pictures that are missing Little Lauren Pre-Teen Gangly Legs because she took a tumble down a Jamaican roadway and had to ride for most of the tour in a van with a kindly tour guide who offered her a sample of some of the local greenery IF you know what I mean.

Needless to say I’m not super adept on 2 wheels. But my friend reminded me that if they were going to be serving alcohol on this trip, it would most likely be easy enough that even the drunkest amateur would make it through unscathed.

So off we went last Saturday, pop music blaring out of our little green ZipCar rental, on our way out to the North Fork of Long Island to enjoy a hot, sunny afternoon with North Fork Bike Tours. We showed up a bit early and stopped in for a cold beer and some nachos at a townie bar where they were having a baby shower in the back room. If you’re rolling your eyes then you don’t know class.

We arrived at the scheduled meeting spot on time and ready for a ride. We hopped on bikes and followed our friendly guides, Jason and John, down the road to the first winery. I am happy to report that I never, not once, fell off the bike. I almost hit someone. But she didn’t even notice so it doesn’t count.

Wine casks at Pellegrini Vineyards

The first stop on our bike tour was Pellegrini Vineyards. I’d never visited a winery before (save for special events at Casa Larga Vineyards in upstate New York) and it was fascinating to tour the rows of vines, visit the giant casks that press and process grapes, and go down into a cool cellar where row upon row of barrels waits to produce the tasty wines we were lucky enough to sample. I’ve admitted here that I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about wine, but I do know Pellegrini served up a lovely chilled 2010 East End Select BBQ red that changed my mind about chilled red wines (aka loved.it.).

Vineyards at Pellegrini Vineyards

The next stop on our tour was Pugliese Vineyards. We tasted the wines here but didn’t tour the premises. At this point in the tour I think we were all too hungry to care about vines and grapes and casks and whatnot and North Fork Bike Tours served up a delicious selection of sandwiches from Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck. I was wholly impressed by the spread: Cuban sandwiches, mozzarella with chicken, tomato, and pesto, steak sandwiches, chicken salad on fresh bread… and then tiny cupcakes to finish it off. As we lounged in the grass in the shade of a massive tree in front of a koi pond out in the “country”, I took a breath and relaxed into my alcohol-infused-calmness. A break from the city. Bliss. I picked up a bottle of a Pugliese Pinot Grigio to take back home with me, back to real life.

Our bike ride back to the original meeting place was only around 2 miles and it was incredibly peaceful just lazily drifting along the main road in Mattituck as the sun settled below the treeline. The sore butt bones I incurred the following day were well worth it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel