Meet the La Fortezza Wedding Team:: Philip Meeker

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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.

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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.

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Meet the La Fortezza Wedding Team:: Lisa Redgrave

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We’re continuing the excitement of our wedding page launch by introducing you to a few more members of the wedding dream team. Today, I’d like you to meet Lisa Redgrave of Hitched in Italy:

Q:  What is your wedding expertise? How long have you been a part of the wedding industry?

A: My family and I bought our home in Tuscany in 2004. I have huge affection for the region, so it was the natural choice to get married there 10 years ago. It was a small wedding, but I tackled the Italian Bureaucracy and planned it all myself. It went without a hitch. I thought if I could do it for myself, I could do it for others. That was the start of Hitched in Italy. I have since organized over 100 weddings: elopements, same sex ceremonies, Catholic, Jewish and Indian weddings. I’m proud to say I’ve done it all.

Q: What is your role when it comes to weddings at La Fortezza?

A: I’m the bride and groom’s “go to girl.”  I source suppliers suitable for the occasion. I keep a calm head in what can be a stressful environment. I maintain a level of cool when people are feeling far from cool, and I iron out the creases. Once all the planning is done and vendors are in place, I’m there to hold your hand and walk you through the most wonderful day of your life. I stay in the background on the wedding day, but you will feel reassured by my presence. I’m equally as happy adjusting your bouquet or getting you a cocktail. I have my eye on everything, and I’m thinking ahead. You’re safe in the knowledge that I will have already thought of ‘it’ and can fix ‘that’.

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Q: Why does La Fortezza make an exquisite wedding venue?

A: La Fortezza is an incredible venue, not only is the location staggeringly beautiful, the careful and thoughtful renovation and the styling of the property, and it’s private grounds are second to none.  Those who choose La Fortezza as their wedding venue will have a wedding day that will be truly unique.

Q: Why should someone consider planning an Italian destination wedding?

A: The best pizza in the world, cocktails at sundown, endless sunshine, delicious regional wine, breathtaking scenery, rich culture, real coffee…need I go on? A destination wedding is far more than just a wedding day; it’s an opportunity to spend several days with your family and friends, drinking in the atmosphere and making lifelong memories.

Q: What is your favorite part of a wedding day?

A: After the cake is cut and everyone is dancing and the drinks are flowing, I get to sit back and watch everyone literally having the best day of their lives. There is no better feeling.

Q: What is your number one piece of advice for brides?
A: Keep cool! Having organized hundreds of weddings, I know that the brides who are most relaxed have the most fun. At La Fortezza your wedding will be planned and styled with the utmost care and attention. Leave the hard work to us and allow yourself to kick back and enjoy.

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Meet the La Fortezza Wedding Team:: Kim Cheney

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Today I’m introducing you to our talented stateside wedding liaison, Kim Cheney of August Floral and Event Design.

As we launch weddings at La Fortezza, I thought it was important for you to meet the amazing team that will be carrying out all of the details. Here’s a little bit more about Kim:

I can’t remember exactly where Kim and I met; I think I approached her at a restaurant many years ago in Atlanta. She had a great fashion flair, and I knew she owned a very stylish vintage home store at the time. I felt compelled to know her. I was working with the Michael C. Carlos Museum on an event and needed artisans to design table-scapes for an event. I think I said something like, “You’re an artist.” Kim has always been very humble, and I think she was a little surprised by my straight forwardness, or maybe she thought I was crazy. Whatever the case, she looked up at me and said, “NO”, I said “YES! You need to design a table for us.”

She agreed maybe because she was a little scared of me. I would like to think she was just up for a challenge. The important part is that she agreed, and she did an amazing job. I hired Kim to design and install another huge event for me, and the rest is as they say is history. It was a new friendship and a new passion that would turn into an incredible business. I like to think I had a little something to do with her path. But mostly, Kim is one of the most visionary and talented hard working boss ladies I know. I am honored to call her a friend, and thrilled she’s agreed to help us with our weddings at La Fortezza. She is the best of the best. That’s the truth. I trust her implicitly. I am beyond thrilled to have her working with us. Get to know her below. x

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Q: What is your wedding expertise? How long have you been a part of the wedding industry?

A:  I have been part of the industry for 11 years. I started in Atlanta as the floral director for 2 large design companies. In the spring of 2015, I moved to Savannah and opened August. I am a member of Chapel Designers. I have built a studio on my property where I live with my husband Dale and my giant Goldendoodle, Grits.

Q: What is your role when it comes to weddings at La Fortezza?

A: We are primarily a floral design company, but I hope to lend support to the wedding planner with design aspects of the event. Whether that be linens, place settings, paper products or ensuring the entire party is cohesive is crucial to a successful design.

Q: Why does La Fortezza make an exquisite wedding venue?

A:  The fortress is stunning! It has several fantastic spots to have the vow exchange…including an on-property vineyard!  Being in the mountainous region provides breathtaking views and awe inspiring sunsets. The effortless elegance of the property lends itself to boho, adventurous couples. The layout of the property allows for guests to stay and eat and drink and celebrate in one spot. It has a charming little “downtown” area and is close to the west shore of Italy where attendees can venture out for day trips.

Q: Why should someone consider planning an Italian destination wedding?

A: If the couple enjoys adventure and travel and the size of their wedding guest list is on the smaller side, Italy is perfect. Italy is wildly romantic! The food is AMAZING! And lastly I believe that travel is important in this day and age. I think it opens the mind to new people, experiences and culture diversity that is transformative.

Q: What is your favorite part of a wedding day?

A: I love when the couple first lays eyes on the designed space. I always make sure I am there to help walk them into the reception. They are at their happiest because they have just been married and now it is time to have fun!

Q: How do flowers set the tone for a wedding?

A: Flowers can be very emotional for people. They are the living element of the design. They can elevate anything! They soften hard surfaces; they provide a focal point, and their beauty adds to the importance of the day.

Q: What is your number one piece of advice for brides?

A: Trust the professionals you have hired! They are there to relieve all the stress of the day, so you can focus on the  most important part…sharing the love of your life partner with those closest to you.

If your dream is to have your wedding in Italy, I’d love to hear from you. Email me directly at annette@annettejosephstyle.com for more information!

xx Annette

Photos by Pictory Productions

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A home tour of our Artist in residence Steve McKenzie

Ciao tutti! I wanted to share the beautiful Atlanta home tour of our La Fortezza Workshop Artist in Residence Steve McKenzie and his lovely wife, Jill. Steve will be with us for a month in July, working on a very special abstract collection inspired by our region Lunigiana. Check out the Artist in Residence Program here.

We are so thrilled to have him.

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The winter issue of Atlanta Magazine’s Home features his abode. It’s so personal well designed and comfortable. Pick up a copy on newsstands now. Make sure to book your days to study with Steve in July here.

See you in Italy! Steve and I are excited.

xx Annette

 

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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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