A Visit to the Enchanted Valley through the Palette of Steve McKenzie

Today I have a special treat for you. One of our guest instructors and one of my dear friends, Steve McKenzie, is sharing a bit about his experience in May at La Fortezza. Steve is a brilliant interior designer, artist, and textile designer in Atlanta. His workshop here in Italy with us is in September, and I cannot wait to welcome him and his students. Enjoy today’s post from Steve, and be sure to sign-up for one of the very few remaining spots for his workshop. Take it away Steve:

My wife, Jill, and I recently had the chance to visit Annette at her magical Fortress in a verdant valley in Northern Tuscany. I wanted to see everything as I prepare for the abstract painting class I will be leading there in September. Inspiration is everywhere, and I cannot wait to return.

The magic begins as you approach her home, and up on the mountain sits her Fortress. They have created beautifully appointed living and working spaces as well as incredibly comfortable guest quarters for the students that are unparalleled. It feels a little like a visit to a monastery where the furnishings and the views take you to a place of contemplation and inspiration.

These cozy places, coupled with a superb cocktail, encourage congregation and conversation.

We were greeted in typical Annette fashion with a delicious, as well as beautiful, Aperitivo of Negroni and nibbles, taken straight out of her new book, Cocktail Italiano. A delicious dinner of pasta and salad followed, reminding me of what a talented cook Annette is.  I am excited that a cooking lesson in the commercial kitchen will be part of our fall workshop.

Day two we had a chance to visit the charming local village, Fivizzano, on market day. It is charming and again, inspiration is around every corner. Following our visit to the market, we visited some of Annette’s favorite vintage and antique dealers. These are a must during the workshop on our free day.

I also strolled over to the La Fortezza vineyards with Annette and Jill. The beauty of this location really spoke to me and inspired me to paint en plein air.  During the workshop, we will take a picnic lunch out here and paint, eat and drink. The colors and vistas are one of the most inspirational places I have visited.

On the journey back to the house, I filled a market basket with wild flowers from the property as well as colorful roses from her rose garden. The most beautiful arrangement quickly came together in a beautiful pitcher from Annette’s copper collection. We will incorporate a quick floral arranging lesson during my workshop as well.

I can’t wait to return and share all the fabulous experiences with my students during the workshop September 19-24, 2018.

There are only a few spaces left, so register now

Thank you for guest posting today, Steve! As always, if you have questions about our workshop, feel free to send me an email or leave a comment below.

xx Annette

All behind the scenes dream home Entertaining gardening italian cooking italy Meet the Team Notes from Italy Personal photography photostyling photostyling like a pro renovation in italy Styling The Fortress Travel Tuscany Uncategorized videos Workshops : Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Summer Cocktails: Americano Shakerato

Portofino_Americano Shakerato_010

Today I’ve got a fun summer cocktail for you, the Americano Shakerato. Shakerato simply means “shaken.” Shaken vigorously. The agitation of drinks forms a desired foam, and this technique is used in many classic drinks to add a little foam. Almost anything can be a shakerato!

Give it a try, or any other recipes from Cocktail Italiano, and let me know what you think!

American Shakerato
serves 1

You will need:

1.5 ounces sweet vermouth
1.5 ounces campari
– 1 orange peel

To prepare:

Chill a martini glass with ice, then discard the ice.

Place the vermouth and Campari into a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake, and strain into the chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

xx Annette

All campari celebration Cocktail Italiano Cocktail of the Week Cocktails Entertaining italy mixology Recipes specialty cocktails Uncategorized : Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

4th of July Firecracker Cookies for Kids

IMG_3082

Hi everyone! I’m Nicole, Annette’s web-manager and friend. I’m guest-posting today just in time for my second favorite holiday, the 4th of July!

For as long as I can remember, July 4th has been a special holiday for me. I love the patriotic attitude, the fireworks, and of course, the food! Since 2009, I’ve spent every 4th of July on the Florida Panhandle with my husband’s family. Over the years, the family has grown, and there are a lot more kids than there once were. Because of that, I’ve started to look for things that can both entertain the kiddos while pleasing their palates. After all, I’m not a regular aunt, I’m a COOL aunt!

While at Target recently, I stumbled upon the cutest 4th of July decor in their dollar spot. Namely, these adorable metallic paper straws. I knew I wanted to incorporate them into our beach trip in some way. Taking a tip from Annette, I started thinking about how these straws could be used differently than just with cocktails (although nothing wrong with that!).

IMG_3111 IMG_3097

Then, BOOM! I had an idea: 4th of July firecracker cookies. What’s more fun than food on a stick?! These stuffed cookies dipped in white chocolate serve a few fun purposes:

  1. Kids can get involved by decorating them with sprinkles.
  2. They make a darling centerpiece – just fill a festive vessel with dry rice!
  3. They’re fun to eat!

IMG_3104

Let me know if you give these a try, or save them for your food arsenal later this year. Simply swapping out icing and sprinkle colors means these can be used for just about any holiday!

4th of July Firecracker Cookies

You will need:

– Double stuffed sandwich cookies
– White melting chocolate
– Sprinkles/candies for decorating
– Paper Straws

To prepare:

Begin by cutting your paper straws down. I snipped off about 3 inches. Set aside.

Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Set aside.

If you want to have multiple shades of icing, divide your chocolate into two (or more) microwave safe bowls, and melt it according to package directions. I melted mine in 30 second increments until smooth.

Add food coloring and mix well.

Dip your sandwich cookies into the icing, using a spoon to cover at least half of the cookie. Gently lay the cookie down on the cookie sheet and decorate!

Once your cookies are decorated, place the cookie sheet into your freezer for 15-20 minutes until icing is firm.

Remove from freezer.

Gently squeeze the top of your straw to make it flat at one tip. Insert this flat part slightly into the cookie (about 1/4 – 1/2 inch). Repeat with remaining cookies.

Place your firecracker cookies in a rice filled vessel until it’s time to chow down and enjoy!

I hope you all have a safe and happy 4th of July holiday!

xo, Nicole

All baking Budget minded parties celebration Decor DIY DIY decor DIY Holdiay crafts Entertaining kids kids table Uncategorized : Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

A Patriotic Tablescape for July 4th

While we won’t be celebrating the fourth of July in the traditional sense in Italy, I know many of you are gearing-up for a few days of festive fun at home. Whether you’re planning a cook-out at your house or headed to a friend’s home, I wanted to give you a bit of July 4th inspiration.

A few years ago, I created a patriotic tablescape for guests. I used red, white, and blue of course, but I also added a few pops of silver. The silver streamers add the cutest fourth of July flare and mimic sparklers.

The video above covers a few of my other favorite ideas for setting a great table as well as some tips for keeping drinks in order and some ideas for nibbles and treats too. Take a look and let me know what your 4th of July plans are in the comments!

xx Annette

4th of July All behind the scenes Budget minded parties celebration Decor dinner party DIY DIY decor Entertaining Events grilling Holiday Parties Party Accessories party tips the art of a party tips from a stylist videos : Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Zippy Summer Dessert:: Espresso Caramel Sauce

photo

Today I’m sharing a zippy summer dessert recipe for espresso caramel sauce. I made it for friends in Italy a few years ago, and I might have to recreate it again soon. It’s a quick and easy recipe for all coffee lovers out there, and you know how I love my coffee, especially espresso. I like to serve this sauce on gelato, but since it’s a caramel topping, it’s great on almost everything…especially chocolate desserts!

Espresso Caramel Sauce:
serves 6 to 8 on ice cream or pound cake
You will need:

– 1 cup sugar
– 1 shot of espresso
– 1 cup of heavy cream

To prepare:

Place sugar in a small sauce pan on medium heat.

Watch the sugar carefully, with a silicone spatula brush down the sides of the pan until combined and the sugar turns a deep amber color.

Pull the caramel off the heat and add the espresso while stirring until combined, it will bubble and spit this is normal. Next add cream very gradually while stirring the entire time until combined. If there are any lumps don’t worry they will melt once you put it back on the heat.

To Finish: Place the pan of caramel back on low heat, stirring continually until the caramel starts to slowly bubble not boil. This takes about 3 minutes.

Pull from the heat and place into a glass or ceramic container with a spout, place in the fridge until you’re ready to use.

Warning: With all hot sugar be extremely careful so as not to burn yourself. If you’ve ever burned yourself with hot sugar you know it’s very dangerous. This is not an activity for children.

xx Annette

All celebration chococlate cooking Entertaining italian cooking italy Recipes spring desserts Uncategorized : Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,