5 Reasons to Visit Taos

Luxury travel website Tripveel released its latest “5 Reasons to Visit . . .” feature today with 5 Reasons to Visit Taos.  We especially love #3: Yes, The Blonde Bear Tavern.

Located within Edelweiss Lodge & Spa—The Blonde Bear Tavern personifies the unique personality of Taos Ski Valley like no other. Chef Jon Mudder has transformed this once-sleepy restaurant into a world-class destination that is now known throughout the Rocky Mountains for its critically-acclaimed food.

Read the whole thing here.  Their Instagram post is here.

Tripveel is powered by Booking.com and OpenTable, part of the Priceline Group.

Ricette Classiche: Fritedda


The change of season is always something seasonal cooks look forward to.  At Bellavitae, we would welcome spring with fresh asparagus, peas, fava beans, artichokes, and morels.

In springtime, we should celebrate freshness, whether fruits and vegetables and served cooked or raw.  A perfect illustration of this is the classic Sicilian dish fretedda (also called fritella – in Greece it’s koukia me anginares, in Rome it’s la vignarola and fresh peas are added).  It’s a much-loved Mediterranean stew that is made at the end of the artichoke season and beginning of the fava bean season.

Best of Sicily magazine writer Roberta Gangi provides her recipe here.  Clifford A. Wright offers his here.  Nancy Harmon Jenkins’ Greek version is here.  Note that while these recipes differ significantly, I would label them each authentic (my views on authenticity of classic recipes will be saved for another post when I have time for such a rant).

Reader Gida Ingrassia recently commented on my May 2010 post In Season: Asparagus and Fava Beans:

“I am looking for a recipe to make Sicilian “fritedda” with fava beans, asparagus, onions, peas and artichokes. Do you use regular artichokes and pare them down or are artichoke hearts necessary? Please advise.”

Well, I suppose I have already answered the question in the introduction!  To understand this dish you need to understand its purpose:  It is served in the Mediterranean when the artichoke and fava bean seasons cross.  It celebrates spring freshness.  So use fresh!

Gangi, Wright, and Jenkins give you specific instructions on how to cook the artichokes.  Buy the youngest available, boil the hearts and tender leaves until partially forgiving but not yet quite soft enough to eat.  Then add the other ingredients for further cooking.

Pianogrillo Farm Olive Oil

Here are some tips for success:

  • Make this dish as soon as fava beans come into season.  Nancy Harmon Jenkins wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal:  “It’s true that favas left to mature on their stalks too long will have a leathery skin that must be removed. Like peas, favas should be harvested and consumed when they are young.”
  • Don’t listen to the food snobs who insist you peel the beans after they’ve been shucked.  Again from Jenkins:  “How tiresome—and unnecessary. That’s not how it’s done in Italy. Or in Greece, Spain, Lebanon, Great Britain or anywhere else the beans are a spring staple. Only in France do they call for peeling the beans. Go figure.”
  • Use only the freshest ingredients.  Avoid dried favas, bottled artichoke hearts, or canned peas (in a pinch, I may use frozen peas).
  • Use Sicilian olive oil!  This tip will transform the dish from very good to phenomenal!  My favorite Sicilian olive oil is Pianogrillo Farm Extra Virgin Olive Oil available from Gustiamo or Amazon.

Thanks for the question, Gida.  Let us know how it turns out.




Further Reading:

Food Renegade: The Secret Ingredient In Your Orange Juice


Kristen from Food Renegade does some top-notch research on that carton of “100% Orange Juice”  that’s “not from concentrate” sitting in your refrigerator.  The results are shocking, but not surprising:

When you make orange juice at home, each batch tastes a little different depending on the oranges you made it from.

Haven’t you ever wondered why every glass of Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice tastes the same, no matter where in the world you buy it or what time of year you’re drinking it in? Or maybe your brand of choice is Minute Maid or Simply Orange or Florida’s Natural. Either way, I can ask the same question. Why is the taste and flavor so consistent? Why is it that the Minute Maid never tastes like the Tropicana, but always tastes like its own unique beverage?

The reason your store bought orange juice is so consistently flavorful has more to do with chemistry than nature.

Here’s the skinny:

After the oranges are squeezed, the juice is stored in giant holding tanks and, critically, the oxygen is removed from them. That essentially allows the liquid to keep (for up to a year) without spoiling– but that liquid that we think of as orange juice tastes nothing like the Tropicana OJ that comes out of the carton.

In fact, it’s quite flavorless. So, the industry uses “flavor packs” to re-flavor the de-oxygenated orange juice.  When the juice is stripped of oxygen it is also stripped of flavor providing chemicals. Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh. Flavor packs aren’t listed as an ingredient on the label because technically they are derived from orange essence and oil. Yet those in the industry will tell you that the flavor packs, whether made for reconstituted or pasteurized orange juice, resemble nothing found in nature.

These flavor packs are simply by-products that originate in oranges, so they are considered an “ingredient,” even though they are chemically altered.  What’s the point of drinking juice that is only palatable if it needs to be chemically altered?  Okay, it’s convenient, it’s consistent, and it tastes good.

I’ve never been a fruit juice drinker, and here’s why:  Fruit juice is high in sugar, devoid of healthy fiber, and high-priced relative to fruit.  I think of fruit juice as a turbo-charged glucose and fructose injection, albeit with most of the vitamins left intact.

Drinking juice (or other sugar-loaded processed drinks) delivers sugar directly to the blood stream, which causes inflammation in our body’s cells, resulting in what scientists believe accelerates the aging process.  Recent evidence links these sugars with several chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension, and many common cancers among them.

How many oranges (and the associated sugar content) are there in one glass of orange juice?  Three to four.  At 23 grams of sugar per orange (and 92 calories), one glass of juice has 69 more grams of sugar and 276 more calories than merely eating one juicy, satisfying orange.

Is drinking Tropicana or other processed orange juice that bad for you?  Maybe not.  But I contend that eating the whole fruit can slow down the intake of sugars into the blood stream because of the added fiber.  Not only is eating the whole fruit better for you from a health perspective, but more enjoyable as well!


Further Reading:


California Beef Council: Hiding Where Your Steak Comes From?

Fifth generation rancher and blogger Megan Brown found herself in the midst of a public relations kerfuffle after posting an informative article last week.  Megan has a terrific writing style:  frank, amusing, informative.  I’ve enjoyed reading her posts for some time.  As Megan writes:

I feel like most of us are so far removed from our ag roots, and that makes me sad. I hope to offer a glimpse of what less than 2% of our population does for a living. Ag is not pretty. It is not easy. Agriculture – is dirty, hot, cold, bloody, messy, hard – I have no wish to sugar coat it for my readers. I want you to know what it is really like, I want to provide transparency.

Apparently the California Beef Council doesn’t like the transparency part, mainly for Megan’s photo essay of a recent beef slaughter on her farm. She was told that her pictures were too graphic for consumers to deal with.

The council’s PR person told her:

My concern is that pictures like the ones posted would turn people away from eating beef or meat in general. Yes, consumers are too far removed from agriculture and our practices, and it’s our duty to try to connect the consumer to modern production. However, I do think there may be a better way to convey to consumers how on-farm slaughter occurs and a better explanation of custom slaughter versus federally inspected slaughter facilities, etc.

The pictures are not only graphic to a consumer, but they also don’t explain the science-based practices and regulations that the industry follows — and the millions of dollars we spend each year to produce safe beef. All of these messages have proven to resonate very well with consumers.

I’m just concerned about the message consumers will get from the pictures. As an industry representative, I have to be prepared for any possible feedback from consumers, media or other beef producers that might read the blog.

Good Lord, meat comes from dead animals?

Agricultural journalist and rancher Andy Vance weighs in:

Are we so battle-scarred as an industry that we can no longer admit what it is we actually do for a living? When industry professionals are cautioned not to use terms like “slaughter” and a farmer can’t share pictures of the process with the consuming public, we have a bigger problem.

We produce meat for a living. It is a lifestyle, and it is a business. Let’s call it what it is and be proud to do so.

A former classmate of mine and Über-blogger Dan from Casual Kitchen wrote in Megan’s comment section:

It *is* an interesting post and there should be no controversy. As Tovar says, heaven forbid we figure out that meat comes from animals. The California Beef Council blew it, and their actions here make them look defensive, as if they’ve got something to hide. Guys, time to grow up, okay?

It’s interesting to point out that Oprah Winfrey’s mega audience applauds agricultural transparency.  Guest Michael Pollan was on her show last February titled “Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From?” and said this:

It’s all opaque. You go to the grocery store and the meat doesn’t even have bones anymore. It’s just shrink-wrapped protoplasm, and kids don’t even know that it comes from an animal and that the animal had to be killed in order to put it on your plate.

He went on to say that one should know how meat is produced.  So to get the inside scoop, Oprah sent Lisa Ling to Colorado, where Cargill — the biggest producer of ground beef in the world — gave her a rare inside look at a slaughterhouse to see just how meat is processed.

Most interesting are the video’s comments (491 of them so far), which clearly illustrate how the majority of Oprah’s audience did not “turn away from eating beef or meat in general” — about which the California Beef Council appears to be overwrought.


Further Reading:



Consigli per la Cottura: Egg Yolks

The always-helpful Rose Levy Beranbaum offers three tips when using egg yolks, discussing the following:

  1. More and more often, the proportion of yolk to white is less than it has been over the past decades.
  2. If egg yolks are combined with sugar and allowed to sit they will crust over, dry out on the surface, and result in lumps in the cooked or baked product.
  3. If you have extra yolks, you can freeze them but only if you stir in some sugar which will maintain their texture.


Read the whole thing here.

Rose has an excellent blog for bakers, a great source for information that nicely compliments her highly acclaimed baking books; I highly recommend it!

“Rose Levy Beranbaum is the award-winning author of nine cookbooks, including The Cake Bible, the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook of the Year for 1988.  It was also listed by the James Beard Foundation as one of the top 13 baking books on “the Essential Book List.”  Rose also won a James Beard Foundation Award in 1998 for Rose’s Christmas Cookies, and her book, The Bread Bible, was an IACP and James Beard Foundation nominee and was listed as one of the Top Ten Books of 2003 by Publishers Weekly and Food & Wine.  Her most recent book, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, won the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook of the Year for 2010.

She is a contributing editor to Food Arts magazine and writes regularly for the Washington Post, Fine Cooking, Reader’s Digest, and Bride’s.  Her popular blog, realbakingwithrose.com, has created an international community of bakers where you can visit Rose Levy Beranbaum and join in the discussion on all things baking.  While you are there, you can bring the author right into your kitchen as she demonstrates key techniques and shares trade secrets so that you can create perfectly divine cakes.”


On the Blogroll: Stacey Snacks

Here’s a terrific blog for any enthusiastic cook to explore:  Stacey Snacks.  Stacey and her husband were longtime Bellavitae enthusiasts and from what I can see, Stacey’s enthusiasm is greatest in her kitchen.

She’s cooking up a storm in Summit, New Jersey.  Her neighbors are apparently well-fed with all that wonderful food coming from her kitchen — but most importantly, she shares her recipes and enthusiasm for all to experience.

Here are a few of her dishes that caught my eye; click on any of the photos for the recipe:

Grape and Goat Cheese Crostini


Pan Seared Fish with Artichoke, Caponata, and Orzo


Cherry Almond Biscotti

Stacey’s recipes are inspiring and her enthusiasm is contagious.  Check it out.


Blogroll: Cook Italy

Last month, Italy magazine interviewed Carmelita Caruana, “your authentic Italian cooking lady.”  Based in Bologna, Carmelita not only blogs about authentic Italian cooking, but since 1999 has presided over a well-regarded cooking school with classes throughout Italy.

Carmelita Caruana
Carmelita Caruana

I love Carmelita’s cooking mantras:

  • Local, seasonal and rooted in history.  Eat everything, in moderation.  And cook it yourself.
  • Simplicity: less is more.
  • Flavour, colour, texture: When you eat an apple, eat an apple.  When you drink tea, drink tea.  Savour the moment.
  • I also often say, “First you shop, then you cook, then you play.”  The “play” part is about presentation, making the dish look as attractive as possible.  I often think about colour when planning a meal.  Great colour combinations can really whet the appetite and make the meal that much more enjoyable, because in the end, eating a good dish is sheer pleasure.


Her blog is full of wonderful recipes and beautiful food photography (click on the photos for recipes):

Sweet Pepper Roll-ups

Rosette di Pasta al Cotto e Zucchine

Ravioli with Peas and Prosciutto

This is a great blog to follow, and if you’re planning to be in Italy, check out her cooking school!

Nine Italian Food Fallacies

If only people thought about skyscrapers....

Eleonora Baldwin:  “I’ll spare you speeches on how chicken Parmesan isn’t Italian.  Volumes have been written about the dubiously Italian nature of Fettuccine Alfredo, spaghetti with meatballs, and Caesar salad.  Still, there are a few generalizations and assumptions that stop me in my tracks.”

My favorite has always been “paninis”.

Welcome to our new Home

Welcome to the new home of Bellavitae’s blog.  We may have closed the doors of our physical location, but our enthusiasm for Italian food and wine remains undiminished.

Take some time to look around and see what’s new:

  • Subscriptions.  If you’ve previously subscribed to our blog at the old address, you’ll need to re-register, using one of the colorful buttons to the right.  You may subscribe via RSS, e-mail, twitter, or facebook.
  • Blogroll.  We’ve expanded our blogroll and will continue to do so, highlighting other bloggers whom we find interesting.
  • Food Links.  We’ve added an expanding list of links to websites that sell food or organizations we support, such as Eat Wild and American Farmers’ Markets.
  • Italian News.  These English-language websites provide information from and about Italy, whether it be News, Business, Travel, Sports, The Arts, Food & Wine, or Entertainment.
  • Italian Marketplace.  We’ve entered into a partnership with Amazon to bring you an assortment of items – from books on Italian art, cooking, history, design, nutrition, and wine – to useful kitchen gadgets, food, music, DVDs, operas, and documentaries.  We’re still stocking the shelves and organizing the store, but it’s open for browsing!  Click the link at the upper right corner of the website to check it out.


We hope you enjoy our new format and content.  Please visit often!  As always, we appreciate any comments you may have.


Just Published: Jay McInerney at the Wall Street Journal

Jay McInerney marks his debut as wine columnist for The Wall Street Journal today.  Jay is the author of seven novels, including his 1984 bestseller Bright Lights, Big City.  His wine columns for House & Garden are collected in Bacchus and Me and A Hedonist in the Cellar.  He will be writing the column alternately with Lettie Teague, the former Executive Editor of Food & Wine.  They also are co-blogging for the Journal’s On Wine.   

No one who knows Jay will be surprised to hear that he devotes his first column to rosé champagne, specifically Moët & Chandon’s 1990 Dom Pérignon Œnothèque Rosé.   

Until now, there’s never been an Œnothèque rosé, and collectors and geeks have been buzzing in anticipation of this one.  It is really spectacular, one of the greatest rosés I’ve ever tasted, richer and more voluptuous than the 2000.   

Dom Pérignon was a Benedictine monk and an important quality pioneer for champagne.  Contrary to popular belief, he did not discover the champagne method for making sparkling wines.  The first vintage of Dom Pérignon was 1921, released for sale in 1936, and, as Jay points out, probably the first prestige cuvée.   

If you have a chance to visit the winery you should.  It’s a magical place full of history.  I had the opportunity to take a private tour a few years ago and taste some wonderful vintages.   

Jay talks about “the chalk tunnels of the Moët & Chandon cellars deep under the town of Épernay.”  I snapped a picture of them while I was there:    

Say what you want about the French, but they make the world’s best sparkling wine.  I’ve always been tempted to add champagne to our all-Italian wine list, but never have.  Most restaurants in Italy will offer at least one champagne.   

Jay has a special way with words when telling a story.  Combine that with an acutely perceptive palate for food and wine, and you get a fascinating wine column.  It’s always fun and interesting when Jay visits Bellavitae.   

I’m sure he’ll occasionally write about Italian wines and I heartily recommend his new column in the Weekend Edition of The Wall Street Journal as well as the blog.