Friday, January 30, 2015

Week #3 brings us Salice Salentino Riserva, 2010 by Cantele

It's nice to get 2 in a row!  I liked this from the cork.  I find it to be very "Italianate," if I may say so?  I taste the Negroamaro grape along with clove and tobacco undertones, accompanied by a rich, and ripe plum flavor as well.  I find the balance to be excellent - gracing my pallet lightly to start, but finishing long, showcasing it's well cultivated tannins and acidity, bringing even a little vanilla and light cream to my tongue.  For all this flavor, it retains a light, clean, and crisp nature that I liked, and enjoyed with every sip.

I find it to be a very versatile wine, I'd pair it with lamb, veal, duck and even some seafood, specifically a chilean sea bass in a solid and flavorful preparation.  To me, the Salice Salentino quickly reveals it's Italian heritage, of young love out for a picnic, rewarded with a warm day on a hillside overlooking the ocean far below them, one laying upon the other, sharing a day neither will forget.  I'll bring the Salice on such a picnic, the next time I am fortunate enough to plan one.  Ah, salut.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Bottle #2 - Langhe Nebbiolo 2012, by Guidobono

Guidobono Langhe Nebbiolo, 2012
Now THIS is a great value, wow. I guess I'm obligated to share that information, but I didn't know it until just now!  This bottle was a gift from paisan David Fornaro, that I decided to hold onto until I really needed a good glass. I fully expected this "Baby Barolo" to deliver but as a gift I had no idea the value proposition it brought too - I'm impressed.

A little quick background on me and Italian wines... I grew up drinking ONLY Italian wine and thinking it was the only worthwhile choice! Imagine my surprise when a project landed me in Paris and I tasted my first French wine?! Suffice to say, I was blown away.  It's not that our family frowned on other wine "Oh, I'm sure it's good" we'd say, we just loved our Chianti and Valpolicella so much! My mother pushed the envelope with some Concha y Toro and took no small amount of grief for it! For all the love at the table - Sicilians can be a bit ruthless too!

As I grew older, my horizons broadened further and quite a lot of time went by that I nearly forgot about Italian wine; as I sought to taste and learn about South America, Europe, and of course California. And when I went back for Italian, I went back to what I knew - Valpolicella and Chianti Riserva. Until one day... I met Rick Simone - it was time to be blown away again. Rick taught me in 1 fell swoop about Barolo, Barbaresco, Sangiovese, and the tremendous Super Tuscan. From there I struck out in search of more and discovered Nero d'Avola, Primitivo, and the varietal featured here: Nebbiolo, just to name a few. Such a tasty journey it's been!

Which brings us back to this bottle, and my tasting notes.  Thank you for enduring my stroll down memory lane, and without further adieu:

Tasting Notes: I find the GLN to have strong character. It's very aromatic, even alluring, and gave me no hint of alcohol. I sensed a deep dark cherry forward, followed by soft leather notes and a very light tobacco undertone. As the aroma lingered, I got just the most subtle sense of roses that I found to be fantastic. When I personally imagine a wine's balance I'm focused on what it does to my tongue when the first drop hits - do the buds pucker up? Some wines as we all know bite back! Does my tongue go all leathery, or does a sense of alcohol pervade the first taste? Is the second taste the same, similar, or completely different? By taste 3 or 4, am I smiling? This Nebbiolo was smooth from the first sip - it tread lightly on my pallet, but was far from timid in expressing it's personality, quietly and confidently you might say. So expressive was this wine that if she were a woman, I'd have smiled stupidly and asked her to dance. Instead "we danced" our way through 2 glasses and her subtle complexity surprised me every so often with another nuance I hadn't noticed before: delicate, fresh, crisp, but with strong taste and character, leaving no question that this "baby barolo" is a Nebbiolo true to it's heritage.

I hope you can find it. My quick web research puts it in the low to mid $20 range and I will be adding several more bottles to my cellar as soon as possible! Grazie, Dave!

As we begin to get into the coldest days of winter - please remember, that to know good food is to be close to God - a truth which properly indulged in will warm your heart, body, and soul all at once.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Expanding to Wine Tasting - Bottle #1, La Petite Perrier Pinot Noir

La Petite Perriere, Pinot Noir - 2012
One of my new year's resolutions (I haven't been a big fan of resolutions as of late, but I'm trying again) is to try a new bottle of wine every week this year.  52 bottles of wine on the wall, 52 bottles of wine... if you will.

Remembering that opinions are like @$$holes, everyone's got one... I started with this Pinot Noir as recommended by my local retailer. They do a really nice job stocking a wide variety of wine, from the very expensive to MD20/20, and I'm lucky to have them and their excellent staff as my primary local source.

This wine was recommended as a "great value" by one of the staff members.  To me, if you're after quaffable, it fits the bill.  It's tasty, light, very drinkable and at about $14, easy on the wallet.  I'd say it's a "good value."  But I think "GREAT" implies more; something quite more than you bargained for, in a positive way.  I don't mean to be a snob on bottle #1, but I can't go "great" for LPP Pinot Noir.

Tasting Notes:  I found it's character delicate, so much so I'd almost say "meek."  I found it expressively timid, not that I was expecting Barolo, but I've been wow'd by a few Pinots (and not just because Paul Giamatti likes it.)  The complexity just wasn't there either - most prominently, I tasted some vanilla and berries like the ones we used to eat off the bushes at my Grandmother's house in Bay Shore, NY, and after a full glass and much thought, I convinced myself I sensed some subtleness of sage.  After that, I found it tastily drinkable - or, as a wine snob would say, "quaffable."  I have to say an upside for me was a general softness on the palate, it wasn't watery, just "too light" for my taste.  It was a reasonable partner to the hard belgian goat cheese I broke into as I started into my second glass - though I've heard it said that the best friend to wine is cheese, but the reason that's true is a subject for another day.  By no fault of the wine, I would have never guessed France in a blind taste-test, but this was bottle #1 and my ability to recognize terroir has some serious developmental need!

So there you have it, I give La Petite Perriere a "good" rating and am likely to buy again.

As you muddle through this thing we call life, please remember that to know good food (and wine) is to be close to God.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Fig, Gorgonzola, Prosciutto and Arugula appetizer pizza

Fig, Gorgonzola, Arugula and Prosciutto Pizza
I hope everyone's enjoyed a wonderful Christmas, and if you're one of the very lucky ones - you're NOT going into work today?? This guy will be in his office, but only for a short while. Before I go though, I have to tell you about this pizza I made last night, as an appetizer to Christmas dinner!

They say imitation is the fondest form of flattery, right?  Well some time ago (last summer) I tried the fig & gorgonzola pizza at Jamestown Fish - a local spot located shockingly - in Jamestown, RI.  As creative as I like to get in the kitchen - when it comes to pizza, I usually tend more to traditional themes. But I've become quite a fan of blue cheeses and arugula in recent years - and I had to try it - and I loved it.  Fast forward to this week, when a friend invited me to Christmas dinner at her family's house, and said I could bring a cheese & cracker plate... my response was, Ok, but you do know, I will have to expand on that a little.  No sooner had I said it - than re-creating this pizza came to mind.

I couldn't remember the whole thing, I knew there were figs, gorgonzola, and arugula (which a glance at their online menu will provide) but my brain and chef-sense wanted more salt (prosciutto & parmigiano) and some caramelized onion to boot.  Not having fresh fig handy, and going for a salty-sweet theme anyway - I opted to use a good fig spread (Dalmatia.)  Here's how you do it!


  • A good gorgonzola or blue cheese, crumbles or block
  • Parmigiano Reggiano, I recommend a block, not grated
  • (1) med-large sweet white onion - caramelized!*
  • (3-4) slices of prosciutto**, sliced in small strips
  • (1) bag fresh Arugula
  • Pizza crust (any you like - I used a thin, whole wheat)
  • A good EV Olive Oil (optional - white truffle oil)

Instructions (this is as easy as it gets):
  • PREP the crust by lightly oiling the top-side with the oil you chose
  • cover with a thin layer of your caramelized onions
  • cover the onions w/ a good layer of crumbled gorgonzola (or bleu)
  • cover the pizza w/ 1/2-tsp sized dollops of fig spread (see photo)
  • chop the parimgiano in v. small (1/8") chunks - you want those "blasts" of salt
  • scatter the parmigiano chunks and the prosciutto strips (don'a be shy!)

  • BAKE the pizza according to the needs of your crust (it's all about the crust!)
  • If you are using store bought, it may be pretty quick, which is fine.
  • The toppings will be hot, melted, and yummy-gooey in 10 min in any case.
  • When it is near done (check every 5 min or so) remove from the oven.
  • Cover with a layer of arugula, and drizzle with a little more oil
  • The White Truffle Oil is a really nice touch here and sure to impress.
  • Return to the oven just to wilt and even slightly crisp the edges of the Arugula
  • Remove, slice,*** and enjoy!

    *  caramelize the onion properly, google for instructions if unsure
  **  for a pizza such as this, a little thicker sliced (typ of grocery store prosciutto) is Ok
***  and for the love of Pete, please don't be a communist... always cut a round pizza in
      triangular slices, NOT squares!

Thank you for keeping up with Café 146 - I've appreciated all the compliments and am glad some of you have found a few original recipes here that you like - and have hopefully had some fun too.  And of course it's my responsibility to remind everyone not to forget - that to know good food is to be close to God.

À Salut!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Prosciutto-Avocado breakfast sangwiches

I don't know what it is, but I sure do love me some avocado lately. After a productive morning, I decided to make myself a "cross cultural" breakfast sandwich with the last 2 farm-fresh local eggs I had in the fridge.  Quick inventory of my "fixin's" revealed a few slices of fresh proscuitto, some shredded mozzarella, my last tablespoon of Parmigiano Reggiano, and half an avocado... oh yeah, I can taste this comin'...

So, I made this with Pepperidge Farms thin sliced Oatmeal bread, but whatever you like will do.  I'm a bread-a-holic truth be told, and I usually like the bread to be well-represented in my sandwiches.  But here, I liked the way the mild tastiness of the Oatmeal bread and it's thin slices really took a backseat to the salty prosciutto and parmigiano, and also the smooth flavors of the avocado and mozzarella.  To do this, is simple:


  1. Slice the avocado to as thick as you want it, I like ~ 1/4" thick.
  2. Fry the egg(s) near your liking in a little olive oil.
  3. Cook them almost, not all the way, and flip earlier than you usually would too.
  4. Top the egg(s) with the mozzarella and parmigiano, in the pan.
  5. Immediately the egg & cheese to a plate, add salt & pepper, and cover with a lid.
  6. The egg will continue to cook slowly, and the cheese will melt under the lid.
  7. You better have the coffee on by now, I'm assuming I don't have to tell you that part?
  8. Prepare the sandwich by now adding a little butter to the pan, and your bread.
  9. Place the prosciutto and avocado on top of the bread and adjust heat as necessary.
  10. Lift the lid on the egg(s) - oh, would you just LOOK at that, yum!!
  11. Place the egg on the bread, and top with another slice.
  12. Proceed like grilled cheese, flipping when your bottom slice of bread is golden,
  13. DON'T press down - you have golden yokie goodness to look forward to!
  14. Flip gently and brown the other side, adding a pat of butter if needed,
  15. M'adonne that smells amazing by now, huh ?!
  16. When it's done - give it a light press with your spatula and pop the yolk(s)...
  17. NOW QUICK - get it out of the pan, and onto the plate, and slice it open.
Now have a look at that - there should be perfect, golden yolk all over your plate, glistening over warm prosciutto, melted mozzarella, soft smooth avocado, all accentuated by classic parmigiano reggiano!  (Next time I'll be adding a slice of ripe tomato, by the way!)

Mangia bêne, and always remember - to know good food is to be close to God!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pollo al Forno di Campagna

Pollo al Forno di Campagna
Well, it's been some time since I blogged here, and for that I apologize.  I realize it's hard to build a following when you're not giving folks stuff to drool over.  Mi scuzi.  My life has been busy, and in all good ways for this amateur chef-wanna-be guinea.  How so, you ask?

Well, I've moved into new digs, I've bought a new boat, and I've changed how I earn my living. Suffice to say - life's been compli-KAY-ted!  But those are all just more reasons to return to simple cooking that warms the soul.  To that end, I would like to share with those who still keep the link to Café 146 alive in their browser, a new original:  Pollo al Forno di Campagna.

This dish is made in a dutch oven, on the grill. Obviously, you can do it in your oven just as well, and I would expect a setting of about 425 F to work with similar timing as you will see below (depending on your oven.)  This looks long, but I promise, it is - as simple as it gets:


  • (1) small onion, cut in half, sliced thinly
  • (1) large (or 2 small) cloves of garlic, diced fine
  • (2-3) large carrots chopped to your liking (or a handful of baby carrots)
  • (2-3) stalks of celery chopped similarly to the carrots
  • (1) zucchini again, chopped similarly to the carrots & celery
  • (1) bell pepper, any color, I used green this time, others are sweeter
  • (2-3) potatoes (optional, I made risotto, so I left them out) cut in large pcs
  • (1 or 2) links of Italian sausage, remove skins and "torn" to pieces
  • (1) package of 8 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs (or your favorite)
  • (1) Tbsp of Tuscan herbs (adjust amt to your liking, I prefer not to over-season)
  • (I used oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, toasted sesame seed, chives & parsley)
  • Fresh ground pepper (and salt, if you must)
  • (2) Tbsp E.V. Olive Oil
  • (1-2) Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • (1) Tbsp butter (optional)

First prepare the dutch oven...
  • Pour 2 Tbsp of the EV Olive Oil into the dutch oven first
  • Empty in the package of chicken and turn the pieces to coat with the oil
  • Add the sausage meat (be creative, pick any kind, I used traditional finnochio)
  • Add the onion (and the potato, if using)
  • Add the garlic, the herbs, the pepper (and salt) and butter (if using)

Now prepare the rest of the veggies...
  • Chop the carrots, celery, zucchini, and bell pepper all to your liking
  • (I prefer large pieces because I like my veggies to remain al denté)
  • set these aside in a mixing bowl, to be added to the dutch oven later

Start your grille...
  • I use a kettle-style charcoal grille, and it takes 20 minutes to heat up
  • Create an "indirect" heating arrangement of coals - don't skimp - we need heat!
  • Fire up the grille, and open a bottle of wine - you're ready for a glass for sure!

Cook!  (this is SO hard...)
  • By now you are a glass of wine in the bag, and the coals are glowing hot
  • Put the dutch oven on the grille, cover it, and resume drinking
  • Start the clock... in 20 minutes, you have to lift TWO lids, and add the veggies
  • SO HARD this is...
  • 20 minutes go by?  Lift the bbq lid, put it down.  Lift the dutch oven lid, set aside.
  • Is everything simmering like mad and smelling like heaven?? It should be!
  • Add all the veggies, and give it all a stir, if you feel compelled.
  • The chicken, sausage, butter, and oil should have created plenty of juices.
  • If you have a brain in your head - you brought a piece of bread to dip...
  • Replace BOTH covers, and give 5 minutes for al denté veggies, 10 for well-done
  • (If using chicken breast or a cooler grille/oven, just add time before the veggies) 

When everything has simmered to your satisfaction (and ideally before you have finished the whole bottle of wine) serve your guest(s) or sit down yourself, and enjoy this simple, soul-warming dish in good spirits.  And please try to remember - that to know good food, IS to be close to God. Buon Appetito!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Nothing French About this Toast!

Beach Breakfast Blues
There's not much "French" about this breakfast, except the roast on the coffee beans!  Just a quickie to try to get back into the blog, this cold grey Sunday at the beach following Thanksgiving.

Here a few slices of Coppacola heated, and served alongside a scrambled egg accompany the main attraction: Italian bread "toast" that's been sautéed in extra virgin olive oil and topped with crumbled ricotta salata.  Let us not forget the romano that permeates it all.  These are not your mother's left-overs… well OK, so if your name is Jason or Justin they are!

I've been eating better for longer than any one person should probably be allowed, I realize that now (and I didn't start until I was 15 or so… makin' up for lost time, I am!)

To know'a good food is'a to be close'a to God, ah?  Si.