Update on La Fortezza, Tuscany Italy

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I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know how we’ve been doing at La Fortezza during these challenging times.

As some of you might know, I was in Italy March 1-7th working on my next cookbook, the La Fortezza Cookbook, (Rizzoli,NY)  fall- 2021. I had all intentions of staying until March 23rd, but COVID-19 had other plans for all of us. After talking to with family, I made the difficult decision to postpone the shoot and head back to the US. I self-quarantined for 14 days, and I am happy to report at this time, I am healthy. We are continuing to stay home. My husband, Frank, a doctor, is starting to televisit with patients, and it’s working well.

We continue to communicate with the staff in Italy. They check on our property, and they work on the property following the work and lockdown guidelines when possible. Last week, our vintner worked in our vineyard. Our gardener is preparing our garden to plant. We continue slowed down progress on the swimming pool. Everything should amp-up towards the end of April and in May as people are able to work outside and leave the lockdown in Italy. We continue to pay our staff and help them however we can in these challenging times in Italy. The good news is that our staff is well and healthy, and our friends like us are doing the best they can during the lockdown. I text or talk to everyone at least once a week. We can only hope that the cases in Italy continue to decline.

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Workshop Updates:

We have made the decision to cancel the “How to Publish Your Cookbook” workshop in June. We will also postpone the “Mark Making with Nature” until late August

All of our fall workshops remain the same as we believe that most of this will pass by late spring or early summer, and we continue to stay optimistic. As of this moment, we intend to conduct all of our fall La Fortezza workshops and experiences. We are hopeful that this will pass, and slowly, we will be back to the new normal. Just know that we always have the best interest of our instructors and attendees in mind, and if anything changes, we will let you know.

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New Cancellation Policy:  

Our current policy is on our website. It states no refunds on deposits. However, because of these unprecedented circumstances, we have decided to issue credits to all attendees that decide to pass on fall 2020. This credit can be redeemed at any time and for any future workshop. You may also transfer or sell your spot if you wish. We will honor your credit however you choose to redeem it.

Once again, we feel strongly that we will be able to conduct fall La Fortezza workshops, and we are confident because of our remote location and secluded compound, everyone will feel safe.

We think that La Fortezza (a medieval fortress) has seen many rough times, some worse than this, most likely. We wholeheartedly feel one thing is for sure: Italians (and all of us) are resilient, and we will get through this and again enjoy aperitivo on the terrace at La Fortezza.

In the meantime: Our La Fortezza workshop Chef Philip and I will be doing some online cooking lessons on Instagram stories. So keep an eye out for that! It will be a fun thing until you can all join us in Italy and cook with us in person. I know that Betty Soldi has been doing some online art courses as well.

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Just know that we are eager to see you in Italy and have faith that this will happen soon. Please email me with any questions annettejoseph@mac.com. Keep the faith, stay home, and stay well.

xx, Annette

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Go Green with Arugula Ice Cream

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Does it sound too good to be true? It’s not! Today I am sharing a recipe by our workshop chef, Chef Philip Meeker. It’s one of his specialties, arugula ice cream. This dessert is the perfect way to get in some greens while giving in ever so slightly to your sweet tooth.

Arugula Ice Cream or in Italian, Gelato di Rucola

Chef Philip says, “This time of year there’s a lot of fresh arugula at the market. Buying it from the farmer is a totally different experience than getting it at the store. The nutty and peppery flavors that you get from farm-fresh arugula are as striking as any herb which to me is a great indication that it would go well in a gelato just like rosemary or basil would. But what to pair the gelato with depends on whether you use cane sugar or glucose to make it. If you use glucose, the sweetness will be so minimal that you can use it in salad, like a carpaccio di fragole (a.k.a thinly sliced strawberries) with balsamic, fresh arugula and olive oil. And don’t worry: while glucose may sound fancy and hard to get, the light corn syrup you use for pecan pie is mostly glucose.”

Arugula Ice Cream

You will need:
– 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
– ¾ cups whole milk
– 1 ½  cups sugar (or glucose or light corn syrup)
– ¼ cup cornstarch
– 3 cups puréed arugula (about 3-4 bunches of field arugula)
– pinch of salt plus salt for boiling arugula
Note: There is no acid in this recipe because it will destroy the green color

Blanching and Puréeing Arugula:

Prepare a bowl of heavily iced water. This will be used to immediately cool down the arugula after it cooks. Bring a saucepan full of water to a boil. Salt the water lightly. Throw in the arugula and let it cook for three to five seconds. Remove it from the boiling water and immediately plunge it into the ice water. As soon as the arugula becomes ice cold, about 20 seconds, put it into a blender. Don’t worry too much about water that stays with the arugula as it goes into the blender. This will help the arugula blend into a smooth purée. Add a couple of ice cubes to the blender before starting to ensure the arugula won’t heat while blending which will allow the beautiful green colors to be , preserved. As you blend the arugula to a purée, add water and ice to the blender as needed to ensure the arugula has enough liquid to blend. Store the arugula purée in the fridge until you are ready to add it to the ice cream mix. Keeping it cool will ensure that its color will stay green and that the flavor won’t weaken.

Making Ice Cream Base:

To make the base of the ice cream, heat ½ cup of the whole milk plus the heavy cream in a small saucepan on high heat along with 1 cup of the sugar. Stir occasionally to make sure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. In a bowl, mix together the remaining sugar and cornstarch with a whisk (mixing these two ingredients together ahead of time helps avoid lumps). Mix in the remaining milk.

When the dairy-sugar mix in the saucepan comes to a boil, mix a little of it in with the cornstarch mix. Then pour the entire contents of the bowl into the pot. Put it back over high heat. Mix it slowly while it comes to a boil. When the contents of the pot boil, mix it rapidly, carefully scraping the bottom to avoid scorching. The mixture needs to boil for 1-2 minutes until it lacks a starch taste.

Afterward, pour the mix into a sealed container, and store in the fridge to cool down.

Once cool, whisk the arugula into the dairy mix along with the salt. Spin in an ice cream maker to make ice cream.

*Tip: Make sure the arugula mix has enough salt in it to make it have maximum sweetness but not enough to make it taste salty instead of sweet. You do this by adding salt to the mix, little by little, tasting as you go. It will bring out the nutty, peppery flavor of the arugula.

*Suggestion: Create new flavor profiles by using other herb purées, such as parsley, mint, or tarragon. If a herb seems like it might lack flavor, steep the herb in the dairy mix after the dairy mix comes off the heat. Remove the steeped herb before it starts to turn color to something dead looking. I generally do a five-minute infusion.

Grazie mille, Chef Philip!

xx

Photo credit: Philip Meeker

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William Abranowicz 2019 Photography Workshop recap

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There are some people that just impress you. Bill Abranowicz is one of those people. He and I worked on a Rolex photoshoot together, at Augusta National Golf Course. It was a bit stressful as the masters location is much like visiting the Whitehouse. Think credentials, and lots of checks and cross checks. It’s like performing a military operation. But Bill was cool as a cucumber and sailed through the assignment. I liked his vibe from the start: super chill, sort of funny and very professional without being intimidating.

I knew I had to have him join us at La Fortezza.

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Bill arrived at Pisa airport with his striking wife Andrea in tow. Andrea, a location scout by trade, is chic, funny and endearing. To say she and I hit it off would be an understatement. The group of attendees was small but completely delightful. It was all men, and they were happy with everything; easy and amusing. I worked styling for all the attendees as they worked on their still life assignments.

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Bill’s powerpoint presentation was amazing. I must say one of the best I have seen. Bill told us about his influences and his early days as a printer (he printed for Horst). When he revealed that, I almost fell off my chair. He’s a humble guy who is completely focused on the work. He has so much knowledge that 5 days with him did not seem like enough time. Luckily for us, he returns in 2020 to do it again.

I can hardly wait for his return. He is truly a prince of a guy, and his wife ain’t so bad herself. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from the master, at the ultimate masterclass at La Fortezza.

xx Annette

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Her Dark Materials Workshop, 2019 recap

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Sometimes, one just has a girl crush, and with Instagram out there, it’s more likely that these crushes occur. That sentiment pretty much sums up my feelings towards Ros Atkinson, the woman behind the gorgeous Carravaggio still life styled images “Her Dark Materials” on Instagram.

The Dutch masters had nothing on Ros; in my opinion, she is the master. Although her work is very much in these styles, she very much has her own take with her images. They are simply spectacular. Having said all of this I said to myself, “Why not ask Ros (whom I’d never met in person) to come to La Fortezza for a weekend? Maybe she would agree to conduct a workshop.”

We hit it off immediately as she has a smart sense of humor, she’s cute, and we both wear Jo Malone perfume. A match made in heaven! I talked her into showing me how she constructs one of her very complicated layered still life sets. I was mesmerized.

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This October, she arrived a day early, and we immediately headed out to buy all the fruits, vegetables and things she would need to style with her students. We had a lovely meal with lots of wine and headed to bed. Wednesday, we prepped the studio and all the guest rooms for our group. Everyone arrived excited and elated to work with Ros for the next 4 days.

We had folks from all over the world including our first ever guest from India. Our days were spent with Ros in the lead. The weather even cooperated; we had several very dramatic days of fog and mist covering the fields around La Fortezza, and the vineyard was bright yellow against a gray sky. We tromped around the property all afternoon, and although it was damp and cool, we did not mind. We photographed food with Ros in the kitchen with Philip.

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We visited Parma and got lost in a maze near the city center. We toured Parma and dined the most amazing stuffed pasta, and fried dough with prosciutto and Parmesan cheese.

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It was a magical workshop, and Ros is the most divine inspiration and teacher. She shared all of her secrets, and everyone went away feeling creatively revived. The good news is that she will be back next year in September. Check the site and grab your spot we have limited spaces, and they usually go fast. Thank you Ros for a perfect workshop experience. My Instagram crush has turned into a beautiful real-life friendship with the most amazing and talented woman, love you Ros.

xx Annette

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Announcing 2020 Workshops and Retreats: run don’t walk to sign up!

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Run don’t walk to sign up for 2020 La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats. I feel like this year we have hit the sweet spot with our selections. Photography and styling are, as always, center stage, but we also have a great selection of workshops that highlight the unique part of Italy we call home. You’re going to love it.

Check the selection. I am sure there is something for you with us in Italy.

Click here to see the full descriptions. Keep in mind we have limited spaces, and private rooms are first-come, first-serve. I am so excited to head back to La Fortezza in May to prepare for these amazing experiences.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions, in the meantime, have a look below and grab a spot! See you in Italy x

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