Food & Wine’s Ray Isle calls Salice Salentino “one of the year’s best red wine values”

Here’s what Food & Wine executive wine editor Ray Isle had to say about the 2010 Salice Salentino, which in included in his list of this “Year’s Best Red Wine Values”:

2010 Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva

Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot, produces so many good-value reds that it can be heard to choose among them. All of Cantele’s basic bottlings are good, but my favorite was this Negroamaro-based red, full of smoky dark cherry fruit and brambly spice notes.

Click here for his complete list.

best salice salentino puglia

Vinoteca on U St. in DC, one of America’s coolest new culinary desintations

best restaurant %22u street%22 washingtonAbove: Chef Lonnie Zoeller’s gorgeous cooking at Vinoteca in Washington D.C. is as passionate as it is focused and precise (image via the Vinoteca website).

It used to be the U Street in Washington D.C. was known for a handful of cool rock clubs, a smattering of delicious authentic African-cuisine restaurants, and the American culinary landmark, Ben’s Chili Bowl, where Washingtonians as well as tourists regularly gathered for chili cheese fries and chili dogs (often in the wee hours of the night.

Today, the allure of U Street continues to grow as more and more high-concept, hip restaurants have appeared there.

One such destination in Chef Lonnie Zoeller’s Vinoteca Wine Bar and Bistro. Just check out the food photography on his site: it’s easy to gauge how passionate he is about his cooking ability, which he honed during a stage at Els Casals in Spain (a restaurant that the Financial Times called “magical” earlier this year).

The focused wine list at Vinoteca is full of little by-the-glass gems that would impress wine professionals from any corner of the world.

We were thrilled to discover that Cantele Negroamaro is one of them.

Vinoteca Wine Bar and Bistro
1940 11th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 332-9463
Google map

Top taster Greg St. Clair on 2010 Salice Salentino: “I absolutely love this wine’s aromatics”

best salice salentino pugliaHere’s what Greg St. Clair, one of the top authorities on Italian wines working in the U.S. today, had to say this week about the 2010 Salice Salentino by Cantele:

“I absolutely love this wine’s aromatics, so intriguing, full of Middle Eastern spice, elegant plum, bramble, dried-cherry fruit and nuances of fresh Provencal herbs. On the palate the wine is supple, medium bodied while still being so full flavored, easy to drink, only 13.0% alcohol yet this multifaceted red always beckons you for another sip and then another it is just so tasty. Made from 100% Negroamaro fermented in stainless steel and aged in 1-2 year old barrique for 6 months. This complex yet elegant wine comes from Puglia, the heel of the Italian Peninsula and is the perfect accompaniment to your favorite tomato based pasta dish.”

Click here to read more glowing reviews by some of his colleagues and Stephen Tanzer’s tasting note and 90 point score for the wine (International Wine Cellar).

Wonderful, authentic Italian at The Corner Room in Portland, Maine

best italian restaurant portland maineAbove: Authentic Italian pasta is made fresh every week at the Corner Room Italian Kitchen and Bar in Portland, Maine.

It used to be that you had to go to New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles to find authentic, hand-crafted pasta (like the sheet in the photo above) in America.

But today, there’s probably no mid-sized city in the U.S. where you can’t find young chefs who are as passionate about genuine Italian gastronomy as their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic.

Chef Harding Lee Smith of Portland, Maine, was a pioneer in this movement: For nearly ten years now, his team at the Corner Room Italian Kitchen has been putting out true Italian cuisine (that’s Smith’s pasta chef, Chet, in the image above).

Chef Smith now presides over a “mini restaurant empire,” as Food & Wine put it, in a city that was once known culinarily only for its famous lobster shacks.

We’re proud to share the news that the Corner Room serves Cantele wines — currently, the Cantele Rosato from Negroamaro and the Salice Salentino Riserva. We couldn’t think of a better home for them.

The Corner Room Italian Kitchen & Bar
110 Exchange St
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 879-4747
Google map

Image via the Corner Room Facebook.

Pierce’s Disease crisis: Puglia president Vendola requests emergency aid from Prime Minister Renzi

This week, Puglia region president Nicola Vendola sent a letter to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi requesting emergency relief for the growing Pierce’s Disease crisis that has already affected an estimated 2.5 million olive trees in Lecce province.

The effects of Pierce’s Disease, which is caused by the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, have been widely documented in the U.S., where it was first discovered in the late nineteenth century.

Its presence in southern Italy was first reported two years ago. By some accounts, it has already destroyed a quarter of the olive groves in Lecce province.

According to PiercesDisease.org: “Pierce’s Disease is a deadly disease of grapevines. It is caused by the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, which is spread by xylem feeding leafhoppers known as sharpshooters. Pierce’s Disease is known to be prevalent within the USA from Florida to California, and outside the USA in Central and South America. Xylella fastidiosa works by blocking the xylem [i.e., the wood], which conducts the water around the plant. Symptoms include chlorosis [yellowing] and scorching of leaves.”

For images of the damage caused by Xylella fastidiosa see this page on the Puglia Agriculture Superintendent website.

In the U.S., Xylella fastidiosa is known primarily for its effect on grapevines. In Puglia, the alarming outbreak has manifested itself primarily in olive groves.

Lecce dreaming: the Rustico and the magic of Pugliese pastry

rustico pastry lecce pugliaAbove: The supplì (left) and rustico at the Caffè Alvino in the heart of downtown Lecce.

Maybe because it’s that time of year when the weather cools down and the holiday season gives me an excuse to take a break from my rigorous diet of tuna fish for lunch and spaghetti al pomodoro for dinner.

Or maybe it’s because it’s the time of year when things slow down and I remember to remember all the good things in life.

I’m not sure why but this morning I woke up with a hankering for a rustico, the classic savory pastry of Lecce, Puglia, stuffed with béchamel and mozzarella.

That’s the rustico, above, at the Caffè Alvino in the center of the town, a sine qua non stop for me whenever I visit and a favorite late-morning snack place for Paolo Cantele, who’s taken me there many times (here’s the Google map).

To its left, you will see a classic supplì alla romana, a tomato-spiked rice log stuffed with mozzarella. It’s not a “classic” dish of Lecce or Puglia but the Pugliesi are experts at crafting the savory nuggets — at once a hangover cure and solace for a broken heart.

stuffing for rustico savory pastryAbove: The rustico is comfort food in the extreme. I know that sounds like an oxymoron but somehow it’s true. But then again, that’s part of the magic of Pugliese pastry.

Even though I didn’t visit Puglia on my last trip to Italy this fall, I was reminded of why Pugliese pastry — savory and sweet — stands apart from the rest when I dined at one of my favorite restaurants in the world, Dispensa Pani e Vini in Franciacorta (in north).

After I raved about how delicious and wholesome it was, the owner, Chef Fusari, insisted that I take home a bag of his favorite dried pasta, Cavalieri. As a discussion on the pros and cons of wholewheat and refined-wheat pasta ensued (Cavalieri is refined wheat), Chef Fusari launched into an eloquent discourse on how refined wheat can actually be superior in terms of taste.

“When the quality of the materia prima is impeccable,” he explained, “you don’t compromise wholesomeness for flavor.”

It’s not surprising that he would sing the praises of Pugliese wheat and the food products derived thereof. In the minds of many (including mine), the wheat of Puglia is unsurpassed in terms of its quality and flavor.

And my piping hot memory of the last rustico I ate in Lecce is testimony.

Jeremy Parzen
blogmaster