Summer Chapter Shoot for La Fortezza Cookbook

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As you all know, I am back in Italy. Mainly for 2 reasons:

1. Check on our house, La Fortezza.
2. Shoot the summer and autumn chapters of my next cookbook La Fortezza Cookbook, Rizzoli NY, Spring 2022.

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This project, for me, is a passion project. The book will be an epic and a beautiful depiction of the region we live in, in northern Tuscany. The book will be filled with local recipes and delicacies, gorgeous travel shots, typical local flavor, and purveyor portraits.

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These photographs will all be captured by the incredibly talented British Photographer David Loftus. I have been an admirer of David’s work for many years, as he has shot for some of the most famous chefs in the world; Jamie Oliver just to name one. His work is insanely beautiful. His discerning eye and recognizable style sets him apart as one of the world’s most respected food photographers. I was thrilled when he agreed to photograph my book.

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My sweet friend and producer, stylist Barbara Pederzini, agreed to help me with the prop styling. She brought all sorts of amazing serving pieces and plates to play with. I used a local chef to help prepare the dishes. It really was a magical team.

Without giving too much away, I believe that this book will take you on a journey and leave you with the lasting memory of a trip to our little piece of heaven. We will be shooting the autumn chapter starting October 5th, so be sure to follow the journey on my insta-stories. I can only tell you this is one of the best projects I have ever worked on. The love I have for this place, La Fortezza will shine through on every page and you will taste the love in every bite.

Until October, stay well x

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July Recap:: Lots of things and offerings

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Ciao All! I hope you are all well and staying safe. I wanted to update all of you about happenings in July. There are lots of things and offerings to discuss…

Offerings: La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats Update

The reality of Italy banning Americans caused us to postpone our SOLD OUT workshops. All of our attendees could not have been more understanding, and for that we are truly grateful. We will have a great time in 2021; I am optimistic about that! As a result of the workshops’ success, we added an extra week with each of these sold out instructors. First, the wonderful and talented stylist, and photographer, Ros Atkinson of “her dark materials”, and then the iconic photographer and incredible instructor Bill Abranowicz. Both will be with us an extra week to conduct workshops. Since their workshops sold out so quickly and had so many inquiries, we decided that we would add another opportunity for everyone to experience these amazing workshops. Check the 2021 La Fortezza Workshop Schedule. It’s really going to be lots of fun.

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Things: New Construction at La Fortezza—our swimming pool

We are finally finishing up the construction of the swimming pool at La Fortezza. It will take a few months to shape it up to get it ready for our guests next year. I am excited to welcome everyone to our pool area next year with Aperol Spritzes under the pergola.

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Things: COOK Corriere 50 Influential Women in Food

I was super honored this month to be included in Italy’s number 1 food publication. COOK- Corriere della Sera. It is the national newspaper’s foodie special interest publication. I was one of the 50 Influential Women in Food celebrated on the cover and inside. I loved the wonderful illustration. Super fun and very humbling. It was a surprise which made it all the more special. The women featured are impressive. They are women I admire, and I even work with some of them, so you can imagine how pleased I was to be included. Definitely a bucket list goal achieved. I will be participating in a virtual food conference with COOK in the fall, too. Stay tuned for more details as we get closer.

 

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Offerings: Italy is My Boyfriend is NOW available in an audio version

July has had lots of surprises. My memoir, Italy is My Boyfriend, came out this month on Audible on Amazon. No, I did not narrate it, as some of you have asked. I wouldn’t have done as well as Devon Sorvari, a trained actress, does. It’s the perfect download for your road trips this summer.

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Things: La Fortezza Cookbook update

I am continuing to work on my upcoming cookbook, La Fortezza Cookbook (Rizzoli NY).
I have been writing and testing recipes all year. I will be shooting it with David Loftus, an English Photographer. He also happens to be Jamie Oliver’s Photographer. I will have an Italian chef and styling team, but it will be a small team considering the times. I am excited to start photographing it. I leave soon to begin the shoot! As a side note, some of you may wonder how I can enter as an American. Because we own a home in Italy, I am an Italian resident, and I live there most of the year. Most likely, I will not be back stateside for some time.

Lastly, I am so sorry that no one from the US is able to join us in Italy this year, but this too will pass. Please wear a mask, stay distant and wash your hands. Let’s squash this thing. We are all in this together. One World, one cause.

xx Annette

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From Her Perspective:: Alexandra Korey, ArtTrav

Alexandra Korey in Florence – Photo by Christine Juette

Alexandra Korey runs a successful travel blog, ArtTrav. There, Alexandra reviews temporary exhibitions, wineries, museums and luxury hotel experiences.

A few months ago, Alexandra interviewed me about Italy is My Boyfriend for The Florentine. She had such great insight, I asked her to contribute a little something about the state of tourism in Italy for the blog. Below, she shares her insights and offers us a way to escape to Italy without leaving the comforts of home.

What does tourism look like in popular destinations in Italy so far this summer?

Summer 2020 has been a constant evolution, and as we make our way towards August, tourist destinations seem to be seeing greater numbers, and people seem to be becoming more confident about going outdoors and traveling.

What I have seen is that beach destinations here in Tuscany quickly have become rather crowded, and although regulations have been put into place for greater distance between “ombrelloni” at the bathing establishments, these spaces look and feel almost as full as usual, and masks (which are currently obligatory indoors, and outdoors only where distance cannot be maintained) are few and far between. Although all studies show that keeping a distance outdoors is much safer. The numbers remain low, so safe to say there is less infection floating around. So some things can get back to almost like normal. Like at the seaside.

Friends who have visited Venice and Rome have commented that they are pleasantly empty. Florence feels quiet and in my opinion quite pleasant. Tourists can easily be spotted; there’s a few with maps or speaking another European language, and you look at them and think “Hello tourist! You must be so happy here. Welcome!”. I don’t know what it feels like for them, but I think it must be marvelous.

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On Florence’s main shopping streets between the Duomo and Piazza Signoria, there are people walking but never as many as before, and there’s an absence of a loud buzz that I never really realized was there before, but now that I do, I realize it was one of the things that made the centro storico a stressful experience for me. I wrote about overtourism on The Florentine a few years back, and comparing the photos I took for that article to ones I took last week, it’s a whole other story. Tourism was a big problem. Groups, on a set route, not bringing value to the city. What I pray for is a shift to a kind of tourism that brings real value, both to businesses and to travelers.

What are some experiences that Americans can look into for the future, that they might not have thought about before? For example, I saw your post on your website about visiting (and even staying) at wine resorts.

I’m a big fan of wine resorts, which I have lately billed as the perfect post-COVID experience. These wineries offer a type of experience that tends to appeal to independent travelers, and by their very nature, they have a ton of space. From May through October, wineries and wine resorts offer mostly outdoor hospitality that represents some of the best parts of our culture – products of the earth, presented by locals. That’s authentic!

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If cities remain less crowded, what I hope is that people will stay longer and travel deeper. And also explore beyond the usual cities and regions. I’ve got my eyes on Abruzzo for example, somewhere I’ve never really thought of visiting. During the lockdown, I interviewed Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun about her newly released book, Always Italy, in which she travels to all 20 regions. She suggests we discover lesser-known centres, regions we’d never considered. Many have artistic, cultural, and enogastronomical treasures just waiting for you to discover.

How are some of the museums in Florence adapting to social distancing? Are any museums offering virtual tours?

Museums, as inside spaces, follow social distancing and mask-wearing laws. The museums in Florence have been slowly reopening, with special, limited hours and online booking is mandatory. A free app offered by Mibact, the ministry for culture, can be used to buzz when you’re too close to other people (like when you’re gazing in awe at a work of art). I’m not sure if everyone is using it, though I think they ought to!

The Uffizi has really ramped up its digital content during lockdown and continues to create new material on a daily basis, on social media (including tik tok, an account they recently opened and are totally killing it!) and for their website, which they claim is receiving record viewership. Few museums have the forethought and budget to produce digital content like the Uffizi, so this is the one that stands out the most. Palazzo Strozzi has also produced a regular deep-content newsletter and videos with artists from the current and recent exhibitions, and some smaller museums have put one or two online exhibitions up.

How can we, as Americans and other non-EU residents, “visit” Italy this summer without leaving our homes?

Good question! There are lots of ways you can visit “virtually” and keep your love of Italy alive.

  • Museums: as above, check out what the Uffizi and other museums are doing
  • Travel through Instagram / follow Italy-based bloggers (I’m at @arttrav if you’re interested!)
  • Wine: many wineries are offering virtual tastings that you can complement with a box ordered from them. It supports their business and keeps you closer!
  • Food / Italian cookbooks are the perfect complement to food either ordered online – some specialties from Italy – or purchased locally, maybe at Eataly or if you have a “little Italy” in your area you might have access to small-scale-sourced Italian foods. Some tour operators are offering Italian food tours or cooking classes online.

Thank you for your insight, Alexandra! After looking at Alexandra’s suggestions for cooking classes and virtual offerings, I found a few great resources for you to check-out:

Portrait of Alexandra by Christine Juette.

Other photos via Alexandra Korey for ArtTrav.

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AJS Team in Quarantine: Kate Blohm

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Hi there, I’m Kate Blohm, the on-staff photographer of La Fortezza. Quarantine has been a mixture of emotions, as I’m sure it has with everyone. I hope that you and yours are staying well and that after reading, you may be inspired to lean into the small joys in this new pace of living. 

When everything started happening, I was already in North Carolina for my niece’s birthday. The numbers in Atlanta started to grow, my jobs were being canceled and then my roommate was diagnosed with the virus (she has thankfully since recovered).

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I ended up staying with my family for a few weeks and at first, I felt really overwhelmed trying to figure out what I could do, how I could help and contribute as much as possible. I realized that I had to transition my thinking to be smaller, actionable items and focus on this day and what I can do next to help others and take care of myself. 

Each night I cooked dinner for my parents (who both work essential jobs), and each day I watched my niece Elliott for my brother and sister-in-law (who also work essential jobs). It was quite the opposite of my life here in Atlanta, so I tried to savor the slowness with that freshly turned two-year-old. We went for walks, baked cookies, danced daily and had pool parties. It was a nice change of pace, and it was very fulfilling for me to be able to spend that kind of time with my family. 

Since returning to Atlanta, I’ve been working a lot with my friends at Georgia Organics, a non-profit that connects Georgia’s organic farmers to Georgia consumers. Originally we were working on a video project for the G.O. Farmer Champion Campaign, a campaign designed to encourage and celebrate chefs and restaurants who focus their sourcing on buying local. There was an award ceremony planned for May, the video was 90% shot, caterer sourced, flowers budgeted for, the whole shebang, but like many things these days, it’s been canceled until further notice.

However, the work is still moving forward, and we’re transitioning the story to also cover G.O.’s responses to the outbreak, like Food Fight GA, “This new initiative is providing restaurant workers with weekly grocery boxes including ingredients sourced from Georgia farms and freshly baked bread from Root Baking Co.” It’s been really grounding to watch this movement unfold and see how the Atlanta food community is rallying together to support each other in this time of crisis.

At home, I’ve been able to do a lot of the things that I’ve been “too busy” to do. Over the years, I’ve saved recipe videos (mostly Bon Appetit) or bookmarked cookbook pages with the intention to cook it someday. “Someday” always feels like it’s coming but for some things, it never does. I’ve tried to utilize this time to be full of all of the “somedays”.

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For me, it’s things like roasting a whole chicken and not letting any of it go to waste or writing letters on those beautiful postcards that I got in Greece and mailing them out or finally scheduling time to complete Marie Forleo’s B-School. Having to find joy in daily (at-home) life is the new norm, for who knows how long…so I encourage you to reach out to people you care about, do some things that you’ve always wanted to do “someday”, eat nourishing food and support local as much as you can. I promise, it’ll help you feel better. 

Photos by Kate Blohm

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Fresh Pasta Recipe:: Pasta Puttanesca

La_Fortezza_Kate_Blohm_2019-363 Over the past few weeks, our workshop chef, Philip Meeker and I have been hosting cooking demonstrations on Instagram LIVE. In fact, we had another one last week!

Each lesson utilizes our quick and easy handmade pasta recipe found here. It serves as a great base for any pasta recipe, including pasta puttanesca.

Famously named for Italy’s “ladies of the night” who quickly made it between clients, this fast, easy and delicious pasta puttanesca recipe is an ideal weeknight meal and is perfect for the warmer spring weather that is upon us. It’s from the archives, and trust me, you’ll love it. It calls for lots of jars, including jarred marinara. What’s not to love about that?!

You will need:
– 1 pound fresh spaghetti or linguini
– 2 teaspoons anchovy paste (don’t skip this!)
– 1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
– 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
– 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 jar Marinara sauce
– 1 cup jarred olive tempande
– 2 tablespoons drained capers
– 2 tablespoons dried basil
– Optional 2 tablespoons lemon oil

To prepare:

Cook spaghetti in a pasta pot of boiling water until barely al dente.

While pasta boils, cook garlic, anchovy paste, red-pepper flakes, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and pale golden, about 2 minutes.

Add jar of marinara to garlic oil along with olive tempande and capers and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is ready.

Drain pasta and add to sauce. Simmer, turning pasta with tongs, until pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and lemon oil.

*Note: for a touch of protein you can stir in canned tuna to the pasta.

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