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Carpe Vinum takes a Roman Holiday

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One of my Carpe Vinum girlfriends is off to Rome!  To help her get ready for her Roman Holiday, the theme for this month’s Carpe Vinum was, The wine regions in and around Rome.  (Lazio is the wine region of Rome, but we expanded our focus to include Rome’s neighbors: Umbria, Abruzzo, and Campania).

I wrote a separate background post on those four regions — if you missed it, you can find it here: In the Neighborhood of Roma.

We had a terrific afternoon, sampling our way through Rome and her neighbors.  As always, the recipe titles are links to the recipes.

Bay Scallops Gratin paired with Fontana Candida Luna Mater 2011
This is an Ina Garten recipe — it’s scallops topped with a paste of butter, parsley, prosciutto, garlic, lemon, olive oil, and Panko.  The only real change I made was to blend all the ingredients in a food processor.  I really wanted to use my new appetizer spoons, and I wanted a little more control over how the topping spread over the tiny bay scallops.  I also omitted the Pernod.  Because who has Pernod in their pantry?  These scallops are outstanding!  And you can use any leftover gratin topping as a spread for crackers.

Fontana Candida Luna Mater 2011 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/90
From Lazio — A blend of 50% Malvasia di Candia, 30% Malvasia del Lazio, 10% Greco, and 10% Bombino.  I checked-off a couple more grapes on my Wine Century Club application with this one.  A pale yellow color in the glass.  Peaches and pears on the nose.  Light-bodied and clean, with flavors of pear, banana and minerals.  This will be a superb patio wine when warmer weather finally shows up!  I will definitely be a repeat customer.  $24.

The Pairing 👍👍
Really, really loved this pairing!  The wine was a perfect partner for both the scallop and the gratin toping.  The parsley was especially complimentary.  So fresh and crisp!

Piselli al Prosciutto (Sweet Peas with Prosciutto) paired with Masciarelli Rosato Colline Teatine 2011
This is a classic Roman side-dish (one I’d never heard of before, but I’m assured it’s a classic). I’ve always been impressed by how Italian food can be so simple, and yet so flavorful.  Italian food proves you don’t have to have an ingredient list a page long to make something that tastes amazing!  Delizioso!

Masciarelli Rosato Colline Teatine 2011 ⭐⭐⭐/86
From Abruzzo — Aaaah, Rosato . . . a little preview of Spring!  A gorgeous pink hue in the glass. Nose reminds me of rhubarb.  Light-bodied and crisp, with flavors of tart pomegranate.  Well balanced.  And the price is right at $12.

The Pairing 👍
I agonized about a pairing with this dish.  I immediately thought white wine for the peas, but what to do about that prosciutto??  Rosato to the rescue!  The extra heft of the Rosato provided just the right balance for the prosciutto without clobbering the peas.

Parmesan Crusted Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich paired with La Carraia Sangiovese 2010
This might be the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever eaten.  If you’re a fan of fresh mozzarella and pesto, then you MUST make this treat!

La Carraia Sangiovese 2010 ⭐⭐⭐/86
From Umbria — Ruby red in the glass.  Medium bodied and slightly lean, with flavors of cherry, eucalyptus, licorice and basil.  Would be a great Friday night pizza wine.  $10.

The Pairing  👍
The sandwich definitely adds complexity and smoothness to the wine — morphing the wine from lean and fresh to round and full.  I tried a bite with the Rosato . . . also a winner!

Saltimbocca alla Romana (Veal Saltimbocca) paired with I Vasari Old Vines Barba 2008
Translated literally, Veal Saltimbocca means “hop in the mouth”.  Who doesn’t want to try a food called “hop in the mouth”??  I’m embarrassed to say I’d never had Veal Saltimbocca before, but I fixed that.  Again, so simple and flavorful.  Veal, sage, and prosciutto all tied together with olive oil and butter.  Buon Appetito!

Barba I Vasari Old Vines 2008 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/90
From Montepulciano d’Abruzzo — All grapes are from a single vineyard — the Colle dell Corte, which are over 30 years old.  It definitely benefits from decanting — the nose is stingy.  In a word, rustic.  Powerful and dense, with flavors of blackberry, leather, tar and mushrooms — all things I really enjoy in a wine.  (Can you tell I’m not a “fruit bomb” fan?).  $24.

Bonus:  I’m told Montepulciano D’Abruzzo just might be the perfect chili wine.  Anyone ever put that to the test??

The Pairing  👍
There’s something about that sage that makes a perfect conduit between food and wine.  Just beautiful.  I hope my girlfriend gets to eat “hops in the mouth” at a rustic little Roman trattoria.

Pasta alls Puttanesca paired with Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici 2006
Translated literally, Pasta alla Puttanesca means Pasta a la Whore.  Lewd food?  Apparently, Puttanesca was named after the whores of Naples.  There are dozens of origin stories for this dish.  Some say local restaurants made the sauce out of the evenings leftovers and gave it to begging whores.  Some say the fragrance of the sauce was a Siren Song to lure men.  Still others say the prostitutes created the dish because they needed something quick and easy (pun intended) between appointments.  Whatever the origin, the sauce is simply delicious — perfectly salty and hearty.

From Campania — A beautiful ruby-rust color.  I get WD-40 on the nose.  Hugely tannic, yet smooth, with flavors of violets, licorice and leather.   Interesting clove finish.  This could cellar for another ten plus years.  $36.

The Pairing  👍
I’m almost positive you could pair Pasta a la Whore with just about anything and have a good story to tell.  That said, the Taurisi is a good partner for the rustic simplicity of the olives and capers.  But the wine is soooo tannic, it begs for meat.

Simplified Lasagna Bolognese paired with Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2011
This is a great little lasagna.  I’m not really sure why it’s “simplified” — the recipe is an arm long! But I love the departure from a traditional (more acidic) lasagna to this version with a creamy Béchamel sauce.

Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2011 ⭐⭐/82
For me, this wine was a little thin and lacked tannic grip.  It was also a bit sweet, which pulled my focus.  But it’s also $10, so if I reframe expectations accordingly, this would be a great little picnic wine.

The Pairing  👍
The simplicity of the wine complimented the light creaminess of the lasagne.  But again, the slight sweetness seemed off-balance.  On a more robust note, the lasagna was KILLER with the Taurasi.

And for dessert?  Wegmans Hazelnut-Pistachio Butter Cookies and Baci Perugina chocolates from Umbria. There are far better wine pairings, but Limoncello comes from the Campania region of Italy, and it just seemed prudent that we try it.  Plus, I found a use for all that blasted snow we’ve had this winter!

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Carpe Vinum.
Next Month:  We’re going to Barcelona!


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