We left Hisa Franko and our new friends Ana and Valter who gifted us with home-made preserves (hand-written labels in Slovenian - I'm clueless) and elderberry syrup. We were on our way to Manzano (chair capital of Italy) and the winery Le Vigne di Zamo. I adore their wines and owners Silvano and Brigitte who invited us to stay in their guest quarters. They had plans with friends so we dropped off our luggage, picked up the keys and headed for Sunday lunch at La Subida, a long-time favorite. We bumped into Matteo Carminucci from the fantastic honey company Mieli Thun and his companion Osiride, daughter of Mario Chiaradia, beer-master and owner of Zago, they were without a reservation, the place was packed, but owner-host Josko Sirk squeezed them in at our table. The food was traditional, as always, but presentations were a bit more sophisticated. We began with delicious, crispy frico (cheese crisp made with Montasio) on a long lollypop-like stick, wafer-thin pear slices arranged like a rose, topped with melt-y lardo, gnocchi stuffed with prune preserves, dusted with cinnamon. Roast veal shank (stinco), the restaurant's signature dish, was as spectacular as I'd remembered, carved by Josko's wife Loredana, worth a voyage. The palate cleansing sorbetto - honey and vinegar, was delicious, I asked for the recipe. After lunch Josko gave us a tour of his vinegar works - he selects quality local grapes, ferments in small vats with spontaneous acidification, ages in oak barrels. The results are splendid, we all purchased vinegar and Josko gave us a highly unusual book, "Baba Yaga's black suit, A story dressed with vinegar", photographed by Maurizio Frullani for Josko Sirk. We skipped dinner and spent the evening in Zamo's culinary-enological library, with a bottle of pinot grigio.
We had an appointment with enologist Michele Bean (pronounced bee-AHN) at Davide Feresin's winery. We tasted pinot grigio, extreme, just like Michele - he extracts color and flavor from the grape's skins (it's a clone of Pinot Nero, not a white grape) and it looks like rosé, acts like a light red. And a reserve refosco called Nero di Botte - a play on words - barrels and beaten up, with a cartoon of Davide and Michele on the label covered with bruises. We were invited for lunch, prepared by Davide's mother, but had plans to meet Silvano and Brigitte at Sale e Pepe, a perfect trattoria in the tiny end-of-the-road village of Stregna. We feasted on traditional dishes like buckwheat polenta with ricotta, horseradish and Seuca apples, bean and barley soup, sausage, white polenta, mushrooms and chestnuts and a tasty dessert called snow in a glass, featuring persimmons. I got the recipe.
We spent another evening in the library with pinot grigio.
Vito insisted on a visit to our favorite grappa distiller, Domenis where, in spite of the early hour, we sampled La Storica Nera, my favorite grappa, and I bought cartons of what look like cigarette packs containing 8 tiny, single-shot vials, a perfect gift (under the airline liquid limit). Bastianich was nearby, we had to taste with Wayne Young, the winery's spiritual leader according to owner Joe Bastianich - Friulano and Friulano Plus, Vespa Bianco, all from the latest vintage, tasty but young. Then back to Osvaldo to pick up our prosciutto, boned, divided into three parts, shrink-wrapped for easy transport. We had a forgettable lunch nearby, then back to the Le Vigne di Zamo for a tour, some barrel tasting (always fun) and shopping with Brigitte for some vegetables for dinner - Cathy and I were excited to purchase brovada, salad greens and beautiful squash, and headed back to the kitchen. Brigitte set out a beautiful cheese selection, whipped up a smoked pork and sauerkraut dish, Cathy and I made soup with the squash, roasted in Brigitte's wood-burning oven. Silvano poured champagne for the chefs, and, at the table, some historic wines, including a very special 1991 Ronco delle Acacie. After dinner entertainment - a video of the purcitade - a seasonal celebration starring pork, with butchers who dismantle a pig and make it into salumi and fresh meat, an all-day food and wine extravaganza for members of the Longolardi (a blend of Longobardi and lardo) Club - you can join online. Cathy was inspired, and wants do a purcitade at Nostrana. Stay tuned to her website for more information.
Next stops: autostrada problems, rained out of our cultural events, shopping, gifting, lunch and the schlep home.