Meet the La Fortezza Wedding Team:: Philip Meeker

day_70 IMG_3207

The final member of the wedding dream team I’d like you to meet is our chef, Philip Meeker. Philip joined us for the first time last summer, and he was an amazing fit for our workshops and weddings at La Fortezza. Learn more about Philip in today’s interview!

Q: What is your culinary background/expertise?

A: My formal training is in classical French cuisine, but my first serious restaurant job was garde manger at a little Italian place. I learned to make pasta and tiramisu in the pastry kitchen, and I fell in love. I couldn’t believe how much better food tasted when it was made from scratch which I’d never really experienced before. From there I moved to Paris where I spent years studying the fundamentals of French cuisine, working in a two-star Michelin restaurant, baking bread in a traditional boulangerie, and learning how to properly handle and break down meat in an artisanal butchery. I moved to Atlanta in 2008 and spent several years in the restaurant industry making use of the amazing bounty of local vegetables, cheeses, meats, and grains. I’ve spent the last few years working as a private chef and food stylist which has allowed me to travel the world and deepen my knowledge of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.

Q: What is your role at La Fortezza? In what ways are you providing more than great food?

A: I get to nourish guests with all the wonderful foods from the garden, local farms, and shops in nearby villages. We often eat yogurt and cheeses from the dairy just across the river as part of our breakfast. I make sure to use local flours from the mill for everything that I bake. Having such fresh ingredients to work with is like being in heaven for me. And then I get to sit down with everybody and hear their reactions while we dine – what a treat!  My attitude towards cooking is pretty playful, so I like to think I add a sense of joy and lightheartedness to La Fortezza.

IMG_3320 1n98m67iRlyuW819Ku9Xdw

Q: Why does La Fortezza make an inspiring backdrop for everything from photoshoots to weddings?

A: From the moment you set foot on the property you’re engulfed in beauty. There are mountains surrounding you, gentle breezes, chirping birds, olive orchards, and little villages with terracotta roofs dotting the landscape below. Then there’s the house itself: the ancient fortress that Annette has brought back to life. The vineyard is full of grapes and the cellar is full of wine pressed and brewed by the local winemaker. The garden is full of tomatoes, herbs, and delicate greens. Each season different trees bloom and fruit. I loved eating the persimmons growing outside my room last fall.

Q: Why should someone consider planning a trip to La Fortezza?

A: La Fortezza exposes you to a side of Italy that you wouldn’t be able to get if you spent your time with tour guides, and Annette has a particularly unique point of view given her 15 years in Italy. The location of La Fortezza is near so many delicious locations: Emilia-Romagna and the towns of Parma and Modena, Carerra with its marble and lardo, and Liguria with its own riviera full of focaccia and fresh seafood. Annette is familiar with all of these regions, and La Fortezza provides easy access to each of them.

Q: What is your favorite part of preparing meals for La Fortezza guests?

A: I love cooking for people – it feels like my life’s purpose. It’s great getting to chat with (and sometimes teach) the guests as I cook, showing them how to roll out pasta or prepare pesto. The kitchen is totally inspired as well, from the marble countertops to the Lacanche oven to the ancient farm table and sunsets outside the kitchen window.

Finish this sentence: I love Italy because people in Italy understand how to live well.

Q: What is one food/beverage/ingredient you couldn’t live without?

A: I couldn’t live without olive oil, especially when it’s sourced from local olive mills.

All behind the scenes cooking dinner party Entertaining Food styling italian cooking italy Meet the Team Notes from Italy photography photostyling The Fortress Travel Tuscany Uncategorized weddings Workshops : Tags: , , , , , , ,

Italian Travel Guide:: One Stop Shop

day_36

After nearly an entire month of writing about traveling to Italy for one of my workshops, I thought it would be a good idea to devote a final post to the topic. Think of this as your go-to Italian travel guide, and a one stop shop for all of the information you need to know. It will be a FAQ page of sorts. Here’s a quick reference to all of my tips for traveling to Italy for a workshop at La Fortezza:

AJSTravelsITALY2019

How to Get the Best Airfare to Italy 

What to Pack in your Carry-on

What to Pack in your Suitcase 

How to Spend a Layover in Milan 

Why Mother-Daughter Trips to La Fortezza are a MUST

I don’t know about you, but the past month has me more ready than ever to get back to my Italian home. I’ll be in Italy for a few weeks in March checking-in on La Fortezza and readying it for guests. Then, after a short stint home in the States, I’ll head back to Italy for the summer. Our 2019 summer workshop and Artist in Residence program are shaping up to be absolutely spectacular. From styling workshops with yours truly to one-on-one painting lessons with Steve, this is going to be an incredible season of workshops.

There are only a few spots left, so if you’re planning on joining us, grab your spot soon! Don’t miss your opportunity to come to Italy for a once in a lifetime experience!

xx Annette

All behind the scenes Entertaining Food styling italian cooking italy Notes from Italy photography photostyling photostyling like a pro renovation in italy secrets on how to become a stylist style lessons Styling stylist tips The Fortress tips from a stylist Travel Tuscany Uncategorized Workshops : Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

2018 The year in highlights!

Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 3.54.03 PM

Wow what a year 2018 has been! It marked the conclusion of the Italian renovation of La Fortezza which was a milestone indeed.

Our second season of the La Fortezza workshops were a huge success. We had the opportunity to delve into our region in Italy more deeply, and we welcomed 40 guests this year.

We also welcomed our new chef, Chef Philip Meeker, to our workshops. We cooked in the kitchen with Angie Moser, preserved, jarred and canned and cooked with Domenica Marchetti and enjoyed showing James Beard Award winning Chef Rebecca Wilcomb our region. We introduced Rebecca, Angie and Philip to some local slow food artisans and purveyors. We harvested our vineyard and pressed olive oil at the local press with students in tow. We seasoned our new pizza oven and cooked with all the local products with locals. We ate every single thing out of our kitchen garden. We hunted truffles and sampled our wine (non stop) it was amazing.

IMG_3320

Testaroli tasting

Testaroli tasting

fullsizeoutput_5b66 zP2VEQJPRe26aJMyONW49Q-e1537017394393-624x832 IMG_2606 fullsizeoutput_58ff

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.

We had Steve McKenzie paint with our guests. Lucky for us, he will be returning in 2019 to stay for a month and paint a collection that will conclude in our first ever Art Exhibition at La Fortezza.

Steve+in+the+studio

It was a rewarding year, and with rewards naturally come some challenges. After all renovating a 12th century fortress in the Italian countryside can be bit daunting, but if you know me, you know I love a challenge. It’s great fodder for my next book, my third book, Italy is my Boyfriend.

Speaking of books, this was the year my passion project, Cocktail Italiano, was published in April. I was overwhelmed by the support and how much everyone loves the book. We’ve put it up for a Book Award, so keep your fingers crossed, and I will most definitely let you know if it wins. To all of you who came out to various book signings, know I loved meeting all of you, chatting about my favorite subject, Italy, and hearing all of your travels and impressions of my adopted country.

Me with Penny Randolph who illustrated my map

Me with Penny Randolph who illustrated my map

Me mixing up a Campari Shakerato from my book

Me mixing up a Campari Shakerato from my book

Switch-modern-APR2-03181

Here’s to hoping that 2019 will be filled with new adventures, and new friends. I look forward to meeting all of you at our workshops, and of course, I am excited to send my 3rd book off to the publishers in the spring.

Happy and healthy new year to everyone, and big grazie to all that made 2018 a perfect year. Cheers to La Fortezza and many dinners and drinks on the terrace with all those we love.

xx Annette

All Angie Mosier before and after behind the scenes Cocktail Italiano Food styling italian riviera italy Personal photography photostyling photostyling like a pro renovation in italy The Fortress Travel Tuscany Uncategorized Workshops : Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Atlanta Magazine’s Home, Holiday Entertaining with Hudson|Grace 2018

Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 11.08.33 AM Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 11.07.01 AM Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 11.04.25 AM

As you all know, I take great pleasure in my role working for Atlanta Magazine’s Home as the entertaining editor. This creative endeavor is always filled with great food, fun hosts and interesting guests, but mainly it gives me the opportunity to shine a light on folks I love in Atlanta and places that are worth paying a visit.

I try very hard to pick hosts that have a point of view on entertaining, food cocktails or a particular expertise at throwing parties. The holiday entertaining feature is one of my favorites to produce since it celebrates the period from Thanksgiving to the New Year. This year our hosts were the co-founders of one of the best of the best specialty stores in Atlanta on the Westside, Hudson | Grace.

The store is located at Westside Provisions and has everything from great hostess gifts to all the accessories you would need to host the perfect party. Monelle and her business partner Gary have pitch perfect taste. As you can imagine ,it was a breeze producing this soiree. Have look at the beautiful party we celebrated together in the winter issue. Pick up a copy on newsstands now!

xx Annette

All Atlanta Magazine Home behind the scenes celebration dinner party Entertaining Food styling Parties party tips photography photostyling photostyling like a pro producing Styling Uncategorized : Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Make Ahead Holiday Dessert:: Salted Chocolate Pots de Crème

PotsDeCreme

One thing that’s super important when it comes to hosting is to be a stress-free hostess. A key to remaining calm and collected is to make a few dishes ahead of time. Pots de Crème are a lovely way to end a meal, and they happen to be a great make ahead dessert choice. In fact, these can be made up to two days in advance! It’s an elegant, indulgent dessert that’s sure to wow your guests. Let me know if you give them a try; I’m confident you’ll love it if you do!

Salted Chocolate Pots de Crème
Serves 6-8

You will need:
1 ½ cup whole milk
– 1/2 cup whipping cream
– 5 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
– 1 teaspoon sea salt, or flake salt
– 6 large egg yolks
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1 cup whipped cream for topping

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Bring milk and cream just to simmer in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and salt; whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk yolks and sugar in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in hot chocolate mixture. Strain mixture into another bowl. Cool 10 minutes, skimming any foam from surface.

Divide custard mixture among six 3/4-cup custard cups or soufflé dishes. Cover each with foil. Place cups in large baking pan. Add enough hot water to pan to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake until custards are set but centers still move slightly when gently shaken, about 55 minutes. Remove from water. Remove foil. Chill custards until cold, about 3 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.) Top with whip cream, and serve.

All baking celebration chococlate cooking dinner party Entertaining Food styling Holiday Holiday Entertaining holiday recipes italian cooking Recipes the art of a party Uncategorized : Tags: , , , , , , , , ,