Last of the La Fortezza Workshops, end of the season

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I must admit the last 2 workshops in October were amazing. The first workshop was a private group. All I can say is that it was the most amazing group of friends. It was comprised of four ladies that really supported each other and enjoyed each other’s company. I have never seen anything like it.

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Philip and Suzanne prepared a pizza lunch for the group.

We tried a new chef, Philip Meeker, a classically trained chef with tons of restaurant and teaching experience. He was a fantastic addition to the La Fortezza workshop team. He was genuinely enthusiastic about our garden and local vendors like the dairy and the various butcher shops. He loved shopping at the Tuesday local market in the square in Fivizzano, and he became quite the local celebrity as he speaks great Italian and is quite charming, not to mention easy on the eyes.

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His food was absolutely delicious, creative and seasonal. His high regard for great ingredients is exactly what we look for in the meals we serve at La Fortezza – high quality, beautiful and delicious.

Our private group’s organizer, Suzanne Vizethann , is the Executive Chef and Owner of Buttermilk Kitchen. She brought all her best friends with her, and we had an amazing time touring Modena with my sweet friend and stylist/editor Barbara Pederzini. She even gave us the VIP tour of her hometown. As an aside, Barbara will be joining me next year for a couple days to teach the Italian side of styling during my Strictly Styling Workshop 2019; we have lots of surprises up our sleeves, so stay tuned.

We stopped for a bit of power shooppingat Oro Nero a custom design shop in Modena

We stopped for a bit of power shopping at Oro Nero a custom design shop in Modena

We began the workshop with Suzanne’s group with truffle hunting. It was a gorgeous morning trekking through the forest.

Truffle huntiing followed by a 4 course truffle lunch, left us stuffed and sleepy.

Truffle huntiing followed by a 4 course truffle lunch, left us stuffed and sleepy.

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Suzanne treated all of us to her Nonna’s sauce and meatballs at our Sunday supper. Philip rounded out the meal with amazing handmade pasta noodles along with sides and dessert. Private workshops have been very exciting and so fulfilling.T hanks to Katie, Janie and Kristy for joining the adventure and making the dance party so fun.

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For our final workshop of the year, Angie Mosier brought an amazing group of photographers to La Fortezza. We had a wonderful time touring and photographing. Angie is a gifted teacher, and she brought so much energy and expertise to her workshop. Chef Rebecca Wilcomb joined her friend Angie, and we all visited local food purveyors and introduced Philip, Angie and Rebecca to local fare, like panigacci and testoroli. My Italian girlfriends, helped introduce them to all things local in food stuffs. Thanks to Giovanna, local food ambassador, and Federica of China Clementi. We had professional barman Simone join us one night to create cocktails with China Clementi a locally produced Amaro, created in Fivizzano by the family.

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Panigacci made the traditional way on the open fire.

Testaroli being made

Testaroli being made

Me with Giovanna

Me with Giovanna

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Testaroli

Testaroli

Testaroli tasting

Testaroli tasting

We toured the China Clementi Amaro factory earlier in the day, so it was such fun to do a cocktail tasting later that evening for aperitivo with Angie’s group.

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Philip was enamored with our outdoor pizza oven (il forno). He and Rebecca opted to cook a few of our meals in it as well as a pizza lunch for our attendees. It was really an honor to have Rebecca cook in our kitchen, and she and Philip had a blast using fresh local ingredients. Phillip taught handmade pasta to many of our attendees. His charm and ease in the kitchen made him an instant hit with our guests. He’ll be back next year in June to create more exciting meals in our kitchen.

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Roasted in the forno

Roasted in the forno

Wrapping up the workshops with such great people was so rewarding, I am back in the US for a few months. I’ll be on book tour and of course producing a few editorial stories. I will be back to Italy next year. A heartfelt thanks to all who attended. I loved meeting you all and showing you my Italy.

xx Annette

 

 

 

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Fall Recipe Guide:: Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread

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Pumpkin season is upon us. There’s nothing like starting a crisp fall day with an espresso and a slice of pumpkin bread. This one is delicious for all the reasons you can imagine. It’s sweet. It’s seasonal. It’s festive. And it’s gluten free.

Sometimes I like to take one of my recipes and make them gluten free. In the past, I’ve used Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Flour (it’s amazing by the way), but feel free to use your gluten free flour of choice. You’ll still get the same results.

When you’re ready to serve the bread, try it toasted, and add a pinch of pumpkin butter. You’ll be left with a great breakfast or the perfect snack.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread

You will need:

– 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
– 3/4 cup granulated sugar
– 2 eggs
– 2 cups  Cup 4 Cup gluten free flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 t salt
– 1 1/2 cup organic pumpkin puree
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1 tsp allspice

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 350 F

Grease 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan

Mix flour, soda, & salt , cinnamon, and allspice together. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time and beat. Alternately add dry ingredients and pumpkin puree to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the dry (dry-wet-dry-wet-dry).

Pour mixture into greased 9″x 5″ loaf pan. Bake 50-60 min, or until cake tester comes out clean (I look for a few mini moist crumbs).

Cool in pan for 10 minutes, and then on a baking rack.

Enjoy!

xx Annette

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Announcing:: Our 2019 Italian Workshops at La Fortezza

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LA SERRA MK TEXTILE ATELIER

LA SERRA MK TEXTILE ATELIER

As some of you may know, we bought a dreamy medieval fortress aptly named, La Fortezza in the countryside of northern Tuscany,  a region known as Lunigiana. Over the course of the past few years, we have worked tirelessly to create a stunning atmosphere for our guests to attend workshops and retreats, create alongside the best instructors in the business, enjoy long dinners under the Tuscan sky, and rest their heads after a day of exploring.

This past summer, we completed our guest quarters and additional guest rooms, and we hosted several inspiring creative retreats for visionaries from around the world. We’ve enjoyed meeting everyone and working with attendees from all over the world.

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And now, I am delighted to announce our spring and summer 2019 Italian workshops roster. Beginning next spring, we will offer our traditional styling workshops and several one on one experiences with me. We will also offer, for the first time, a once in a lifetime artist in residence program, and an amazing styling workshop with three of our best instructors: Eliza Honey, Joanna Hawley, and Maren Ellingboe.

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Perhaps most exciting announcement is our Artist in Residence opportunity with Steve McKenzie. Steve, an accomplished interior designer, textile designer, and abstract painter, will spend the entire month of July painting under the Tuscan sun. As a guest at La Fortezza, you will be able to paint and or assist Steve, shop with him for supplies at an charming art store in the artsy town of Sarzana, discuss his style, or learn more about your own painting techniques. You can book as many days on our property as are available. I’d love to have you join us during this magical artistic experience.

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If you are an aspiring stylist, new blogger, experienced stylist, or experienced blogger looking for some new inspiration, you must book a one on one workshop with me. This workshop will consist of styling lessons, prop shopping at all of my favorite haunts, cooking, and even discussions about styling and production, including the business side of things and making your brand stand out to get clients. If you want to hang out with me and learn all of my styling secrets, plan to book this one of a kind experience.

During all workshops, we go on many excursions to flea markets and local farmers’ markets to buy food and products to use in our shoots and at our cooking lessons. You will meet the locals and experience Italy Italian style. We have so many amazing resources including our neighbors who run various food artisan businesses. Because we live here, we are so well connected. We have a wide array of resources for flea marketing, antiquing and prop hunting, too, so those excursions are always a part of our workshop experiences. Day trips to Florence are an easy 2 hour drive. Cooking lessons with our workshop chef is possible as well, yoga is also available on request.

Making our workshops even more unique is that you will stay on the Fortress compound with us surrounded by breathtaking views. We pride ourselves in offering everyone newly renovated and comfortable accommodations. Rooms are simple and authentic. We like to think of the design aesthetic as bohemian and monastic, a unique countryside take and pared down design. All rooms feature wifi and their own bathrooms. We have a private chef and all workshops include cooking lessons in our stunningly outfitted commercial kitchen.

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We pride ourselves on providing one-on-one personalized instruction for everyone, therefore classes are limited to 6-8 students max. Our instructors have 10+ years of real life experience in the professional photography field, or field of study, working for real publications, and with commercial clients and in the fine arts. We are very selective about who we bring to teach in this very exclusive learning experience with seasoned professionals.

Of course, as always, there will be plenty of eating and wine drinking especially since we are now the owners of our own vineyard. Drinking our own wine is really something special!

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Visit our workshops and retreats page to learn more about each of our 2019 summer workshops! There are only a few spots available, so act fast!

A Note about La Fortezza’s Guest Instructors Program: We will have a few surprise guest artisans/instructors cooking and styling and teaching art in 2019. Our goal is to network and create beauty with amazing talents from all over the world. We want La Fortezza to be worldwide creative haven where the best of the best teach and mentor other creatives from all over the world. A real creative cooperative where like-minded people can meet and create in the most gorgeous, untouched region in Italy. If you’re interested in conducting a workshop, please email me. We are welcoming all sorts of workshops and retreats next year!

photo cred: Infraordinario

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Comfort Food:: Fancy Fall Grilled Cheese

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Is there anything better on a fall day than sitting down to nosh on a grilled cheese? Honestly, I’m not sure there is. Grilled cheese is one of those comfort foods that is always good, but it can be made even better if you gather top notch ingredients. I like to use unexpected cheese and unique condiments. Oh, and bacon…because everything is better with bacon.

This sandwich would be perfect with a bowl of soup or chili on a crisp fall day. If you have guests over, set-up a station allowing them to create their own sandwiches mixing and matching ingredients while you man the grilling station. Interactive foods are always so much fun for a party.

This recipe is from my first book, Picture Perfect Parties, and the photo on this post is from a fabulous party that Design Sponge threw a few years ago using Picture Perfect Parties as a guide. Head over there even more recipes and a complete guide to throwing an easy Halloween soiree.

Grilled Cheese with Brie, Crispy Bacon, and Apricot Jam
serves 6

You will need:
– 1 loaf challah bread
– 6 pieces bacon cooked and crumbled
– 1 12 oz. wheel brie cheese
– 6 tablespoons apricot jam, 1 tablespoon per sandwich
– 6 tablespoons butter softened 1 tablespoon per sandwich

To prepare:

Cook bacon until crisp in the oven at 400 degrees F, drain set aside.

Slice challah into 12 slices. Assemble the sandwiches. Place crumbled bacon , thin slice of brie, and apricot jam on the bread, place another slice of bread on top forming a sandwich. Butter the top and repeat until you have made 6 sandwiches.

In a heated sauté pan place sandwiches butter side down, butter the top half. Cook until golden brown, flip and cook the other side. Continue until all the sandwiches are done. Let set for 1 minute and cut sandwiches into quarters.

Serve at room temperature.

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Moroccan Spiced Cauliflower

After years of leading  styling + photography workshops through Marrakech, I’ve developed a love of Moroccan spices. They are rich with flavor which makes them perfect for making otherwise plain dishes outstanding.  Villa Jerda‘s Harissa and Kefta rubs are must have items for any spice rack. They’re delicious and beautiful, too. Helpful hint: these would make great gifts this holiday season, too!

You’ll love how this cauliflower is absolutely transformed when tossed and baked with the Moroccan spices. It’s a delicious combination. Here’s the recipe, and I encourage you to read Villa Jerda’s blog for more amazing recipes using their spices!

xx Annette

Moroccan Spiced Cauliflower
Serves 6

*Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

You will need:
– 1 head of cauliflower
– 2 teaspoons Harissa
– 1 teaspoon Kefta rub
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 1/2 teaspoon salt

To prepare:

In a large bowl combine the Harissa, Kefta rub and oil, and salt, stir to combine.

Break the cauliflower into pieces and toss into the spices, coat the pieces well.

Place into an oven proof roaster and place into the preheated oven for 1 hour until the cauliflower is fork tender. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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