Author Archives: Annette Joseph

Italy renovation:: where are we now?

As you know, Frank and I have been renovating La Fortezza our, 12th century fortress in the countryside for over a year. With the studio and main house complete, we have turned our attention to the guest quarters and commercial kitchen and lounge. The guest quarters are almost complete, and when they are finished, we will have 3 bedrooms in the guest quarters, all with their own bathrooms, a small kitchenette, and a lounge area for guests to enjoy snacks, coffee and wine.

The most exciting area is the commercial kitchen where we will teach cooking classes, and hold our Preserving Italy Workshop with Domenica Marchetti in the fall. We will also be hosting Canadian foodstylist, Marisa Curatolo in our kitchen. The decor will be practical and dynamic. The lighting is gorgeous as it has the exact same orientation as the studio upstairs. The giant Lacanche stove will settle into its new home, and we will prepare all of our workshop meals from the kitchen. To say I am super excited would be an understatement. Where are we now?

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The guest quarters are almost complete; windows are in, floors are set, and paint is done. We now will be placing the lighting, and the last steps will be the state of the art resin showers (as we have to wait for temperatures to rise for a proper set).

When I return in May, I will hit the ground running to finish furnishing the guest quarters with all the decor I have been collecting of the past year. Beds, lighting, cool rugs, and custom chairs from Marrakech. I can’t wait to see it all come together. Yes, I swear, it will all come together in May…

You can follow along on the progress report on my instagram. Once these projects are finished, then we will move on to the last project: the out building which will have 3 more bedrooms and bathrooms. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and believe me, it’s been a long time coming.

xx Annette

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Dispatch from the Parma Antique Fair

I have always wanted to attend the Parma Antique Fair because I have bought many things from the fair thanks to my pickers in Italy. Since we have been working on La Fortezza, I have woken up on Saturdays to tons of pics and choices sent to me by my designer Forrest and his partner Roberto from the Parma Fair. They both have an amazing eye. I am blessed to have them in my world, and the objects they have found for me over the past 2 years are astounding. This year I wanted to go along and see what all the fuss was about.

Well…I can tell you that the fair was dizzying. I have been to lots of fairs and antiques shows, like Round Top in Texas and Isle sur la Sorgue, but nothing compares to the beauty and the perfection in selection at Parma; it is like nothing I have every seen. There is row after row of Italian treasures. I was gob-smacked. No words could describe the sheer quantity and quality on sale. Mind you, we attended at the end of the show, but there were still gobs of beautiful objects everywhere. We waited until the end of show on purpose, too. Since I was shopping for basics, I felt that I could miss the crowds and leisurely take advantage of end of show pricing.

With Forrest by my side, we flew up and down the aisles with laser beam focus. I picked up a large dining room table and classic Italian wood chairs for the commercial kitchen as we plan to eat some meals in the commercial kitchen, mostly in the fall and winter if it’s too cold outside. The table will also serve as a beautiful surface for cooking, foodstyling lessons, and photography. The student lounge, located next to the commercial kitchen, now has some wonderful leather club chairs – all worn in, soft and comfy. The club chairs were in the most elegant booth manned by a most elegant vendor. She gave us a great deal, and we bought the last matching set. The guest quarters has a really cool rustic table for the entry, plus I found some wonderful wire chairs and a table for folks to hang out on while enjoying an espresso of a glass of wine with a few nibbles in the guest kitchenette.

We loaded all our finds into the old Range Rover. It’s incredibly roomy, but even I was surprised how much fit into the back, and we headed back home just in time for Aperitivo. It was a super successful trip – efficient and inspiring, just the way I like it. If you’re thinking about attending the Parma Antiques Fair, I highly recommend it. I would definitely schedule at least 2 to 3 days since there is so much to see. Plus Parma is such a wonderful place to visit.

Make sure you check in with the blog over the next months as we will be outfitting the rooms with all of our finds starting in May. I can’t wait to share the end results with you as we get ready for our summer of workshops and retreats.

xx Annette


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The Marrakech Express

Last weekend my friend Oma and I decided to take a quick trip to Marrakech. Since it is a quick flight from Italy, it is a rather easy weekend excursion.

We stayed at a charming Riad, and once we figured out how to get back to the place, we were golden. It is quite hard to find your way around the center of town, even if you’ve been there a bunch of times like I have. One incredible discovery was a map app that literally saved us a couple times called

The app, once downloaded works offline. If you’ve every been terribly lost in another country, this is a MUST.

The food in Marrakech is delicious and fresh. Some of my favorite places include Le Jardin, Nomad, and Terrasse des esepices  , but make sure you make reservations, this is very easy to do online. Note: Don’t miss Norya ayroN at the top of the stairs at Le Jardin for one of a kind Moraccan style kaftans and tunics.


We had a great time shopping for rugs and furnishings for our guest quarters. One of my big finds this trip was the most glorious rug vendor Bazar Du Sud, introduced to me by our guide Monica. I highly recommend that you hire a shopping guide. If you are interested in hiring my guide, just contact me through my site and I will connect you to Monica. I had a few places in mind for my shopping excursion, however our guide Monica had some new places on the schedule as well. I love shopping at Mastupha Blaoui, and if you have not been, GO! I found all sorts of great pieces for the guest quarters.

Warning: Leave plenty of time in your schedule as this place is enormous and chocked to the brim with amazing rugs, furnishings and home accessories. One amazing place we went, although it was not Moroccan and is owned by a Belgian woman, is called Magasin General. It is in an industrial part of town and is styled perfectly with treasures from all over Europe with a focus on Belgium. The owner is charming and full of helpful information; not to be missed. It is swoon worthy for sure.

All in all, our Morccan adventure was successful, and I managed to snag a few treasures for La Fortezza. I hope you will come visit sometime and stay with us in our newly appointed rooms.

Check out my instagram feed for more photos of our weekend trip to Marrakesh…Ciao for now

xx Annette

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Beautiful Briny Sea Salt meets Stuffed Leg of Lamb

Unicorn Salt

Full disclosure, I am a big lover of salt. As most chef’s will tell you, a dish that is not seasoned perfectly, that’s salt and pepper, is kind of not worth serving. A few weeks back I received an unexpected surprise: a box chock-full of salty and sweet treats from local Atlanta artisan food purveyor Beautiful Briny Sea, along with sugars that I will be using for baking, but most importantly be using for cocktails (watch out for these new recipes on the blog soon).

I decided to try these flavor salts, thoughtfully infused with herbs and spices on a few of my favorite recipes. Last weekend for Sunday supper I made one of our family favorites from Picture Perfect Parties: stuffed leg of lamb, generously stuffed with Meyer lemons, green olives, rosemary and garlic. I liberally used my favorite salt, Magic Unicorn (it is indeed magically delicious) on the outside of the lamb. It was spectacular. Here’s the recipe below, I used about 1 tablespoon (plus a little more:-) and massaged the salt into the lamb before stuffing and tying it up.

Unicorn Salt

Roast Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Lemon and Herbs
Serves 6-8

For the lamb, you will need:
– 1- 4 Pound boneless leg of lamb +kitchen string. Note: Some stores sell this already rolled and secured in a netting. You need to remove this if so.

To prepare the lamb before stuffing:
Liberally sprinkle then rub the outside of the lamb with Magic Unicorn salt, about 1 tablespoon, plus a little extra. Set aside and prepare the stuffing.

Lemon and Herb Stuffing

You will need:
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 3 tablespoons butter
– 4 cloves chopped garlic
– 1 cup panko bread crumbs
– ½ cup green olives chopped
– ½ cup raisins *optional
– 2 small lemons cut into small wedges, toss the lemon wedges in ½ teaspoon sea salt *note Meyer lemons , should be used if available
– 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
– 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
– ½ cup chicken stock
– 1 teaspoon pepper to finish stuffed lamb

To prepare stuffing:

Heat oil and butter add garlic sauté until lightly browned medium heat 3 to 4 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and sauté for 5 minutes until combined. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

Place the leg of lamb on a cutting board lined with butcher or parchment paper lie the lamb flat top side down.

Place the stuffing into the middle of the roast mounding it into the middle.

Wrap the sides of the lamb around the stuffing tuck in the ends and tie the lamb with kitchen string, sealing the stuffing.

Place the stuffed lamb on a rack in a roasting pan fattest side up.  Roast at 425 for 15 min. Reduce heat to 325 and roast 30 to 45 minutes or until desired degree of doneness., for medium rare it should read 130 degrees to 135 degree F. Once it’s reached this temperature, remove it from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes.

Carve into slices and serve.

salts sugars





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Raw Food Homemade Energy Bites


I don’t know about you, but store bought energy bars sort of gross me out. When I need a little something sweet and satisfying these will do the trick. I have amended a recipe from one green planet.

These bars are super good; let me know what you think. I usually store a bunch in the freezer and take them along to snack on during the day.

*Note these are more delicate than store bought energy bars, so place them in a glass sealed container rather than a plastic bag, they will hold and travel better.

Raw Super Food Energy Bars with Dark Chocolate
(note: I have amended the original recipe)
makes 20- 2 inch diameter bites

You will need:

– 1 cup walnuts
– 1/3 cup chia seeds ( *optional they are really rough on the teeth)
– 1/3 cup ground flax seeds
– 3 tablespoons hemp seeds
– 1/4 cup cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips
– 1/4 cup coconut flakes
– 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
– 1 cup raisins
– 2 cup dates ( remove the pit)
– 1-2 tablespoons melted coconut oil, as needed
– 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips melted

To prepare:

  1. Throw the dry ingredients in your food processor, then add the dates and raisins and process until everything it starts to stick together for at least 5 minutes it needs to resemble a paste. If it’s too dry, add more dates or coconut oil.
  2.  Mix in with your hands, forming rounds balls (note you really need to press together the mix) take the balls and press into a small muffin tin.
  3. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave for 1 minute, whisk to smooth
  4.  Carefully remove the energy bar cups from the tin and top off with melted chocolate  let them cool in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
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