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).
“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.
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.
“The world will look very different in the next decade than it does today. For travelers, this means the time to explore is now. . . Before our world’s landscape changes even more, here are the destinations that should go straight to the top of your bucket list in the next decade.”
Besides Taos Ski Valley, she recommends:
Elqui Valley, Chile
Great Barrier Reef
Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem, Thailand
“Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico is so much more than just a ski mountain. Rugged and remote, Taos is famous for its breathtaking scenery and the “legendary light” that has inspired artists like Georgia O’Keeffe. Taos has always had a sort of mystique about it. In 2013, billionaire Louis Bacon bought the mountain from its founders the Blake family, promising this lovably weathered mountain would get a “much-needed shot in the arm,” as The New York Times put it. This year, a chair lift opened to Kachina Peak, which had previously only been accessible by a hike. Thirty-five acres of new tree skiing opened, too, and the village’s ski lodge also got an upgrade. Ski Taos in the next 10 years to take advantage of these new developments, and also to experience the unique charm of the place while it lasts.”
He was 47. I began reading Josh’s writing when we opened Bellavitae.
Here’s what The Wall Street Journal reported today:
“Joshua Ozersky, who wrote prolifically on the subjects of dining and drinking for The Wall Street Journal and many other publications, was found dead in Chicago on Monday. Mr. Ozersky was in Chicago to attend the annual chef and restaurant awards ceremony presented by the James Beard Foundation. He was a member of that organization’s advisory board as a well as a nominee and winner, in previous years, of its media awards.”
He was the founding editor of New York Magazine’s food blog Grub Street, a columnist for Time, an editor-at-large for Esquire and a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal. The New York Times yesterday called him “one of the most forceful food writers in New York.”
The Kachina Peak Lift, right here in Taos Ski Valley.
The new lift will expand the mountain’s advanced and expert lift-serviced terrain by 50 percent. The five-minute ride will whisk skiers up some 1,100 feet on a triple-seated fixed grip lift to New Mexico’s second-highest peak to an altitude of 12,450 feet.
The lift is being manufactured and installed by Salt Lake City-based Skytrac. A majority of the concrete was poured in April, and the crew was back last week to install the poles. I’ve gotten to know some of the guys when they come in Café Naranja to eat breakfast or buy beer.
It’s tough work in tough terrain, but they seem to take it all in stride. Check out the video to see just how tough:
Here’s a report from Albuquerque television station KOAT that aired back in May:
The new lift is on schedule to be operational when ski season starts on Thanksgiving.
We are pleased that The Blonde Bear Tavern will be participating once again in this year’s 28th Annual Taos Winter Wine Festival and celebrating the return of René Schlatter from Merryvale Vineyards, one of Napa Valley’s most prestigious wineries. René and I will be hosting a special wine dinner to guide guests through six of Merryvale’s most notable wines. We have carefully developed the menu to highlight these wines in a way that will engage the palate of both wine connoisseurs and novice wine lovers alike. Last year’s dinner proved to be simply magical; we’re working to ensure this year’s will be as well.
The first winery built in Napa Valley following the repeal of Prohibition, Merryvale is located in the heart of America’s premier wine region. The winery’s focus is on crafting elegant, complex wines in the finest European style, yet reflecting the exuberant fruit from the Napa Valley and Sonoma appellations.
Merryvale’s white wines are whole-cluster-pressed to yield the clearest juice, and then fermented with native yeasts in French oak barrels. The reds are made using traditional European methods and also aged in French oak barrels; they are then bottled unfiltered, which contributes to the rich, round flavors and supple textures.
In 1991, European businessman Jack Schlatter became a partner in Merryvale Vineyards. A native of Switzerland, Jack’s lifelong love of wine drew him to the Napa Valley. Within five years, Jack and his family became the sole proprietors of Merryvale Vineyards, expanding vineyard holdings to 75 acres and constructing the Starmont Winery in 2006.
“Napa Valley’s diversity of soils and microclimates allows us to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir just a few miles from Cabernet. There’s no other place in the world like it.” says Jack.
Jack has dedicated himself to making sure the winery remained true to its founding vision of crafting fine wines that capture the essence of Napa Valley’s noble vineyards. One of his earliest decisions was to allocate all of the winery’s resources to uncompromised grape quality and winemaking. Dramatic improvements were made in equipment, facilities, wine grape sources and personnel.
“I’ve always said that quality is Merryvale’s life insurance,” he says. As Jack is now looking forward to more free time with his wife, Lilo, their son René is now responsible for the winery’s day-to-day operations.
René upholds his family’s integrity in his broad role as president. Working his way up the Merryvale ladder the old-fashioned way, he has held progressively more responsible positions since 1995. Also born in Switzerland (near Geneva), René grew up an expert skier and all things snow. He has lived in the U.S. since 1987 and played Division 1 tennis at Trinity University and earned his MBA from the American Graduate School of International Management in Arizona. He lives in St. Helena with his wife, Laurence, their three young daughters and two friendly dogs.
That Laurence’s family has owned a winery in Switzerland for five generations provides a special sense of tradition. “It’s very rewarding to continue this family heritage at Merryvale,” says Jack.
Together, Jack and René have developed long term partnerships with some of the best wine grape growers in the Napa Valley, as well as making the careful assessment to acquire three estate vineyards:
70-acre Saint Helena Estate Vineyard on a ridge top high above St. Helena ideal for the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot to which it is planted
55-acre Stanly Ranch Estate Vineyard on the historic Stanly Ranch in Carneros ideal for the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah grown there
Juliana Vineyard in Pope Valley, planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
In 2006, Merryvale completed construction on a second winery in the Napa Valley’s Carneros region. This state-of-the-art facility, called Starmont after the Merryvale wines of the same label, is “green” with 100% of winery process water being recycled and 54% of the winery operations powered by solar energy. The Schlatters are committed to protecting and preserving the Napa Valley for future generations using sustainable practices. Both wineries and estate vineyards have been Napa Green Certified.
Merryvale produces ultra-premium Napa Valley wines available throughout the US, Europe and Asia. The winery has earned numerous awards and continues to gain critical acclaim for its outstanding wines and hospitality.
Merryvale’s historic Cask Room is often cited as Napa Valley’s most enchanting setting for special events. Two stories of century-old 2,000 gallon casks line the stone walls and create an unforgettable ambiance.
Starmont Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 2012
This wine is sourced from several distinct growing regions within the Napa Valley, including Oak Knoll, and Rutherford, each contributing a different expression of the varietal. The wine is fermented in a combination of neutral French oak (60% of the blend; only 2% new) and stainless steel tanks (40%). The intent is to preserve and enhance the varietal nuances and texture complexity.
Tasting Notes: Full and lush mouthfeel with refreshing acidity providing for a wonderfully long finish that ends with clean minerality of wet slate, and bright kumquat rind.
Merryvale Carneros Chardonnay , 2011
Sourced from the Stanly Ranch Estate Vineyard and Hyde Vineyard in Carneros, the fruit for this Chardonnay is carefully sorted, whole cluster pressed and barrel fermented using 100% native yeast. The wine spent 11 months in French oak barrels on the lees.
Tasting Notes: Displays expressive aromas of pear, papaya, citrus, nectarine, pineapple, toasty oak and spice. The wine is medium weight with a round fleshy texture and a crisp sweet finish.
Merryvale Carneros Pinot Noir, 2010
Sourced from vineyards throughout the Carneros appellation, including Merryvale’s Estate Vineyard on the Stanly Ranch, this wine is a blend of favorite Pinot Noir clones including: Dijon 114, 115, 667, 777, and 823, along with Pommard and Swan. The Dijon clones bring good color, bright focused fruit, and concentration. The Pommard and Swan clones bring nuanced complexity, along with minerality and great texture. The grapes were handpicked and carefully sorted. The wine was aged for twelve months in French oak and bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Tasting Notes: Soft, yet bright entry, round and pleasantly balanced on the mid-palate, medium weight. Finishes with delicate length.
Cabernet Napa Valley Sauvignon, 2008
This Napa Cabernet received choice lots from the Estate Vineyard located in the hills high above St. Helena, as well as fruit from other top Napa vineyards, including Stagecoach and Sugarloaf. The fruit was hand-picked and triple sorted before undergoing extended maceration and a long, cool fermentation for increased flavor, color and aroma. The wine was aged for 18 months in 70% new French oak, including 20% of the wine coming from larger 500 liter (132 gallon) puncheons. The wine only racked twice and was bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Tasting Notes: Dark red/purple in color with lifted aromas of cassis, blackberry, violets and cedar interwoven with vanilla and toasty oak. The wine is plush and round in the mouth with resolved tannins and great intensity.
Profile is Merryvale’s flagship red Bordeaux blend showcasing the very best fruit from each vintage. Most of the Cabernet Sauvignon and all of the Petit Verdot are sourced from the St. Helena Estate Vineyard, planted fifteen years ago. The favorite lots of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc are chosen for their concentration, depth of flavor and fine tannin structure to produce a wine that is rich, elegant and opulent. After extended skin contact, native malolactic fermentation in barrel and periodic lees stirring, the wine undergoes extensive tasting and blending until the final version of Profile is complete. The wine was aged the 2009 Profile for 21 months in 100% new French Oak barrels, and an additional year in bottle before release.
Tasting Notes: Shows powerful aromas of cassis, blackberry, raspberry liqueur, licorice, sweet vanilla bean, complex oak and baking spices, including cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. Upon entry on the palate, this wine displays a generous, mouth-coating texture, with very fine tannins and exceptional length.
“Antigua” Napa Valley, NV
This dessert wine is 100% Muscat De Frontignan from vintages 1970 to 1983, 1992 to 1994. It is fortified with fine pot-still brandy, aged in French oak barrels and tanks with 11 years average aging.
Tasting Notes: Golden/amber in color from its long aging in French oak, the wine is a complex combination of nuts and orange-peel aromas. Thick and rich in the mouth, the nuts and orange-peel theme continues from the entry through the long finish, highlighted by the many subtleties from the fine brandy and time in the barrel.
Aged Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP drizzled with 10-year old Acetaia Leonardi Balsamic Vinegar
Pecorino Toscano Stagionato DOP with Maria Grammatico’s Quince Paste
Colavolpe Montagnoli Baked Figs wrapped in crispy Pancetta
“Starmont” by Merryvale Sauvignon Blanc
Medallions of Lobster Poached in Butter with Creamy Lobster Broth
The Reserve Tasting will be held at the elegant El Monte Sagrado Resort, with many of Taos’ best restaurants serving signature appetizers alongside tastes of reserve wine from owners and winemakers from 36 participating wineries. This Opening Night Reserve Tasting also features a silent auction of wine to benefit a local non-profit organization.
For more information and tickets, visit the Taos Winter Wine Festival website. Please stop by our booth to say hello — and after the event, why not come to The Blonde Bear Tavern for dinner and a little more wine?
The Merryvale Vineyards Wine Dinner
Thursday, January 30, 2014
$95 per person plus tax and gratuity
The Blonde Bear Tavern
106 Sutton Place
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
575.737.6900 ext. 6996
“At far too many ski areas across North America, the slopeside food options are dismal, consisting of little more than hamburgers, pizza, and wings eaten off plastic trays. But that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, some of the world’s best ski areas are known as much for their food as for their slopes and snowfall. For apres-ski cocktails overlooking the French Alps in Courchevel to a multicourse meal at the top of Telluride, here’s where we go to ski and savor.”
Whistler, British Columbia
Park City, Utah
Taos, New Mexico
“The low-key resort of Taos has a surprisingly good mix of restaurants, which are deeply rooted in Southwest and Mexican cuisine but it’s easy to find French, Italian, and Asian food too. “
We made a few more runs before I knocked off that afternoon and headed to The Blonde Bear Tavern, in the lobby of the Edelweiss Lodge and Spa, for an après beer. What the Ski Valley has in abundant untapped terrain it has long lacked in base-area amenities—at least compared to other A-list resorts in the region. But that’s changing, too, and the Edelweiss offered a glimpse of the future. The Blonde Bear Tavern has a more upscale and cosmopolitan vibe than the other watering holes in the base-area village, with a polished stone bar, leather stools, and a discriminating wine list.
“We want people to come and enjoy a meal in a warm atmosphere that has some sophistication, but that is still casual,” said Jon Mudder, The Blonde Bear’s executive chef and a New York City transplant. “The Ski Valley is always going to have a laid-back attitude, and we don’t want to lose that.”
Ski season is right around the corner and here’s one more short film to get you in the mood. If you have high-speed Internet, adjust the YouTube settings to allow for HD viewing.
After each ski season, I assemble pictures and videos and we show them at our end-of-year staff party. This is the last chapter of four in the film we presented in April.
It’s titled “. . . Of Which We are a Small Part”, because, well, we are — when viewed from atop Wheeler or Kachina Peaks. In addition to my own filming, I shamelessly borrowed other pictures and video, some of which I found on the Internet.
As with Part 1, I think it’s a great way to gear up for the 2013 – 2014 season. We received another 14 inches of show on Tuesday, with more to come.