Tag - wine

A Recipe for Scallop Success

We asked Chef Alan to give us a taste of what he teaches during our Chef for a Day experience. One thing his students learn is that it’s not always best to slave away. Delicious, exciting meals can be made using smart shortcuts so that you actually have the energy to enjoy your meal when it’s ready. Read on for Chef’s tasty and time-saving risotto recipe…

Quick & Easy Scallop Risotto

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Cooking time, including prep: 15 Minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • A dash of garlic powder
  • A pinch of oregano
  • 1 bag of ready risotto
  • 1 pound parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
  • 5 colossal scallops
  • Salt & pepper to taste

1. Place a heavy non-stick skillet on the burner at medium high heat.

2. In a separate skillet, fry one cup of finely chopped onions and two cups of chopped mushrooms until tender. Add two cups of heavy cream, or just enough to cover the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and some granulated garlic. Add one pinch of oregano.

3. Now here’s the shortcut. Add to the sauce a bag of ready risotto (Uncle Ben’s works well). Stir in well over a medium heat until the sauce thickens. Add a generous amount of Parmesan cheese. Cover with a lead and remove from the heat.

4. In the first heated skillet, 4 to 5 colossal scallops. Avoid turning them until they are brown around the sides. At that point, nudge them until they release from the skillet, flip them, and brown for another 30 seconds.

5. Serve the risotto onto plats or shallow bowls and assemble the scallops on top. Garnish with a little finely chopped parsley.

Ready to learn more of Chef Alan’s secrets? Come to Virginia wine country for our Chef for a Day Culinary Getaway. Your taste buds will thank you!

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Wanderlust: A Culinary Tour of Abruzzo

The second thing travellers realize about Italy’s stunning Abruzzo region are its clutch of fabulous pastas, wines and cheeses. The region is one of Epitourean.com‘s favourites, and where we offer fabulous culinary excursions. For beginners to Abruzzo, we’ve curated a few of our favourite local specialities to eat and drink.

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Maccheroni alla Chitarra

Abruzzo Recipe: Maccheroni alla Chitarra

Pasta ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups semolina flour, plus extra as needed
  • 2 large eggs

Sauce ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 24 basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 fresh chili pepper, minced, or 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1/2 pound fresh grape or cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cooking and serving:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (optional)

This recipe is straight forward and classic. Start by making your sauce. Bring your sauce ingredients to a simmer and turn down the heat when the vegetables and tomatoes are soft.

Prepare your pasta.

After cutting your pasta to your liking, add it to boiling and salted water. Boil until the pasta is al dente. Reserve some of the pasta water and add it to the sauce. Return the sauce to a mid-low heat and add the pasta. Stir for a further five minutes. Serve with freshly grated pecorino cheese.

 

Abruzzo Wines

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Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

This small region of Italy packs a big punch when it comes to making top notch wines. Here are some of our favorites:

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo: We can’t go without mentioning the region’s important reds. This one is deliciously intense and dry, fruity and deep burgundy in color.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo: The region’s most popular and important red wine. The grapes carry notes of plum, the finish is dry and velvety, and the wine pairs so well with cheeses and meats.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo: This is a more dry and delicate tipple, also well paired with cheeses, and made from Bombino Bianco grapes.

Abruzzo Cheeses

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Scamorza Cheeses

Scamorza is a similar to mozzarella, a type of cow’s milk curd cheese that is buttery in flavour and best eaten as soon as it’s made and very tasty when grilled.

One of the best sheep’s milk ricottas made in the region is called Cacioricotta Abruzzo.  It has wonderful flavour notes of coffee and lemon zest. You would usually eat this cheese on special holidays.

Another amazing local cheese is Caciotta d’Abruzzo, a cow’s or sheep’s milk cheese that on occasion is made with chile peppers.

Pecorino d’Abruzzo is a typical sheep’s milk cheese that can be quite overwhelmingly pungent if it’s aged beyond two or three years. It is best when served with a dry and fruity red wine.

 

 

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Discovering Historic Chelsea Market

Travellers to New York City typically carve out time to check out one of the world’s greatest food halls, Chelsea Market. Over six million visitors throng the market each year to shop for fresh produce and seafood, or nosh on everything from soups and BBQ to Thai noodles and sushi. The place is always teaming with people fuelling up on coffee and bagels in the mornings, and hoards of local office workers stream in throughout the day to pick up lunches and dinners. Chelsea Market is also home to broadcasting companies like the Food Network and Oxygen Network, who film from their studios here.

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What most people love about Chelsea Market is that it is now part of New York’s architectural heritage. Once the headquarters of NABISCO, the building is said to be the birth place of Oreo cookies, among other iconic American baked goods. The old brick industrial building that Chelsea Market occupies is part of the Gansevoort Market Historic District, once an important district for heavy industry and manufacturing in the city. Many of the industrial buildings in the neighborhood are gone or repurposed into high end shopping boutiques , bars and restaurants. Chelsea Market enjoys prime Manhattan real estate, sharing the neighbourhood with the High Line Park and cultural attractions like the new Whitney Museum of American Art. 

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Epitourean.com loves to celebrate New York City’s food culture and checkered history. As part of our latest promotion, A Big Bite of the Big Apple, we are thrilled to offer a Chelsea Market and Meatpacking District Foodie Tour showcasing some of New York’s best sights, shopping and tastes.

 

Postcard from Istria

Notes from Istria from an Epitourean traveller and what he and his travel companion found along their journey. We had so many extraordinary experiences during our trip to Istria.  Our favourite was biking on the Parenzana Trail. The former train tracks are now a great hiking and biking trail that snake through Istria’s interior woodlands. We had a birds eye view of the region’s hill towns and countryside. We chose a downhill path that led us to local honey producer’s, Medea. The owners treated us to a 45-minute honey tasting before we crossed the street to have one of the best truffle-themed meals of our lives at Zigante.

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For us the point of this trip was to learn about and taste as many local specialities as we could. Out of these, our wine tasting at Kzlovic Wine Estate was phenomenal, and in such a beautiful location. We also learned a lot about local olive oils when we visited Vodnjan Chiavalon Olive Oil Estate. Epitourean brought us to see about a dozen other outstanding Istrian food, wine and beer producers. I think we caught the best of what Istria has to offer.

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Of course we wanted to see some of the region’s stunning villages, coastal towns and port cities. We stopped into Porec for the day, where the urban landscape is a wonderful mash up of Roman, Baroque, modern and and contemporary architecture. Rovinj was nothing less than dreamy and walkable, and a gorgeous seafront town. The hill top enclave of Groznjan, with its art galleries and incredible vistas of surrounding green hills, was one of the most charming places we’ve every visited. We will be back for certain.

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Has this postcard piqued your Istrian interest? Click here to book your journey to the Truffle Epicenter.

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Discovering Istria’s Parenzana Trail

Bucket List: Biking Istria’s Parenzana Trail

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Istria has a clutch of amazing destinations that we continue to discover and refer to Epitourean travellers. Of these are its bosky trails, which are perfect for year round hiking and biking. Most travellers tend to ignore the region’s stunning interior woodlands in favor of Croatia’s seaside resorts, beaches and boating activities. But that’s a bit of a shame, especially because there are so many stunning trails to explore. One of these is Istria’s Parenzana Trail, a moderately challenging path, that is best explored on bike, and ideal for those who are seeking gorgeous panoramas, a little activity, and small Istrain villages along the way.

The Parenzana Trail was once a narrow gauge railway that connected Trieste, Italy with Istria’s sea facing town, Porec. It operated until 1935, carrying people and goods between quaint villages and port cities. The journey was slow, around six or seven hours, because the heavy trains had to snake up and down hills, and through tunnels and towns. With the advent of more efficient modes of transportation, the Parenzana became obsolete. The Italian fascist dictator, Mussolini had the steel train tracks dismantled after 1935. They were loaded onto a boat and shipped down the Adriatic to be smelted and used toward WWII axis power war efforts. Weighed down by too much tonnage of steel, the ship sank to the bottom of the sea.

The trail’s fascinating history is obviously enlarged by the regions stunning beauty. In the summer the forests are green and lush, and in the autumn they turn gold and red like New England’s deciduous landscapes. Charming hilltop towns stand against soft blue skies, and along the way there are restaurants and shops that offer regional delicacies like truffles, honey, wines and olive oils. It is the perfect adventure, for groups, couples and solo travellers alike. Epitourean is pleased to discover and offer a range of fun, easy bike and hiking tours along this beautiful Istrain trail.

Postcard from Florence

The Good Life: Florence

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Epitourean’s intrepid traveler, Robert Everson, shares his experience in Italy’s renaissance capital, Florence. In Florence, we stayed at the SoprArno Suites. It’s a beautiful, upscale bed and breakfast in a charming neighborhood, and an easy walk to anywhere you want to go. The rooms are gorgeous and the staff is so friendly. Our tour guides Claire, Silvia, and Todd were all so knowledgeable, and they shared their amazing personal insights of beautiful Florence. We took Epitourean’s “Gourmet Walking Tour of Florence” where we had spectacular culinary experiences. It was a day of fun and learning, and the food, wine, cheese, and olive oil were all spectacular! What a perfect way to see the city! Our guide, Claire, brought us to the most amazing places where we had the best food and wine. We also toured the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell’ Accademia where we saw breathtaking art, including Michelangelo’s David. We had four hours to tour the museums, which was the perfect amount of time. Our tour guide, Silvia, was a wealth of information. She pointed out the museums’ highlights, and was able to move us right up to the front of each line. We wouldn’t have done it any other way! We also went to Chianti for a day trip to tour the Vecchie Terre di Montefili vineyard. Our guide, Todd, was amazingly knowledgeable about the Tuscan region and was an expert in Italian wines. The winery is gorgeous, and we had the entire place to ourselves for a private tour and tasting.  We learned so much about Italian wines. Since our visit here, we’ve become huge fans, and now ship Italian wines to our home in the US! Leaving Florence, we took the train to Naples. It was a beautiful and relaxing train ride. Drivers from the Positano Car Service, whom are complete lifesavers, greeted us at Naples train station. They took us around Positano, which is absolutely dreamy, and having a driver was much easier than having to navigate the region’s windy and dangerous roads! 

Our Favorite Istrian Wineries

Istria’s burgeoning wine business is something that locals will tell you is a tradition dating back millenniums. The region supplied Roman emperors, popes, Austro-Hungarian diplomats, and wine consumers throughout the wider Mediterranean. Today, this Istrian export is traded globally, and many of the region’s wineries have established tasting rooms, some in 19th century farm houses, others in modern, design driven spaces. Epitourean has strong relationships with many of the regions best wineries where we bring our clients on group or solo excursions. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Kozlovic Wine Estate is a family run business that has been making award winning red, white and dessert wines since 1904. These forth generation wine makers focus on producing native Istrian varietals on their 62 acres of vineyards. Their wines are delicious and seem to taste better when tried on site in their new modern tasting room. Don’t leave without sampling their white Valle wine, a crystal clear and fruity wine and one of Kozlovic’s classics.

2. Kabola Wine Estate produces one of the most unique wines in Istria, if not the world. They are of the few wine producers globally to make a wine fermented in large clay amphoras that they keep buried in the ground and allow fermentation to occur from the circulating natural yeasts in their environment. The result is a pleasantly unusual wine, best for drinking after dinner or by itself, and persimmon in color. Kabola is situated in a gorgeous valley that seems like a Tuscan landscape, and hosts daily wine tastings.

3. Bale San Tommaso Wine Estate sits on a 150-year old estate in Istria’s quiet village, Golas. Wine tastings happen in the winery’s recently renovated 19th century farm house. It’s a cozy wood clad room with tables and benches, and an upstairs loft that doubles as a sort of museum with an assemblage of antique farming and wine making equipment. Istrian delicacies and nibbles are offered to pair with the estate’s tipples, and the staff is incredibly warm and welcoming, not to mention wonderfully knowledgable of the Istria’s pantheon of wines.

4. Matosevic Wine Estate seems to always be bustling with eager oenophiles passing through to try the house’s latest vintage. The estate where the wine tastings happen is small, but charming, and has a large back yard planted with fruit trees and furnished with tables and chairs where tastings happen during the warmer months. These first generation wine producers are best known as the founders of Vin Istria, one of the region’s most important annual wine fairs.

5. Degrassi Wine Estate is probably Istria’s most prodigious wine making family, producing a whopping list of 30 different wines. Hidden off a busy road in northern Istria, this family run winery is blessed with a lively and animated sommelier who explains with clarity and detail the company’s wine making philosophy and the tasting notes of each Degrassi vintage. The tasting room is charming and rustic, and flanked on either side by a large fireplace and family-style table where the tastings are presented.