Preserving Italy Workshop:: the slow food experience

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We just wrapped up the Slow Food Experience workshop, and I must say it was a wonderful experience not only for our attendees but for me too. We visited food artisans in the area and sampled local food like panigacci and chestnut fritters, and with the help of my foodie friends, I think we represented the region of the Lunigiana proudly.

There are so many interesting and different local foods here. It’s so different, in fcct, that I am writing my next cookbook about it (keep your eyes peeled for the La Fortezza Cookbook, due out in 2021). It is a region rich in history and food history with many kitchens born out of need and lack of funds; the “poor kitchen,” or as they call it, “cucina povere” was creative and inspired.

We made pasta with Chef Philip using jarred tomato sauce, (passata) from our kitchen garden tomatoes. We made grape jam with my friend and slow food ambassador, Giovanna, and sampled bread from the local bread maker Fabio

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We enjoyed chestnut fritters with chestnut honey and dined on all the products from around the area breakfast lunch and dinner, and of course many aperitivos…

This workshop will be available next year. All workshops for 2020 will post in November. We would love for you to join us and sample all the local food products and meet all the lovely people that work so hard to preserve the traditions of this beautiful region.

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Thanks to all the attended and we really loved meeting your eating with all of you. See you next year.x

Some imagery is from our team photographer Kate Blohm

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Easy Appetizer:: Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini

Esporao & Annette Joseph
If you’ve meandered through your local farmer’s market or grocery store recently, you might have noticed that we are officially in the thick of fig season. After you’ve made a fig tart and enjoyed fig jam, pick a few extra figs to make these crostinis.

This is a quick and easy appetizer for fig and goat cheese crostini that is a crowd-pleaser. I also love the idea of serving this as a light, unexpected dessert at the end of a meal. It’s a tried and true recipe perfect for any occasion.

Fig Goat Cheese Crostini
Serves 10

You will need:
– 20 small figs cut in half, lengthwise
– 1 loaf of French bread sliced into 1/2 in slices (makes about 20 slices)
– 1/2 cup olive oil
– 8 oz. soft artisan goat cheese, at room temperature
– 1/4 cup lemon honey
– 40 Marcona Almonds
– 1 teaspoon cracked pepper

To prepare:

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Crostini: Lay the bread slices on to a cookie sheet with a brush coat the top of the slices with olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the slices are golden brown. Cool the crostini.  Spread 2 tablespoons of goat cheese on the crostini, top with 2 half figs, and add 2 almonds on either side of the figs. Place on a platter and repeat with the rest of the crostinis.

Once all the crostinis are on the platter, drizzle with honey, and sprinkle with cracked pepper and serve.

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Private Retreats at La Fortezza Workshops

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Ciao everyone,

We’re gearing up for our next round of workshops. As always, I am excited to welcome everyone, but I am especially jazzed about spending time with our private retreat end of September.

What is a “Private Retreat” you might be asking yourself? Well, a private retreat is just that. It is a retreat put together by a host or organizer, for a private group of friends or co-workers. We offer activity focused vacations or corporate retreats in Italy that include all aspects of our unique Tuscan location. Activities like shopping, art, food and cooking lessons, exploring local food artisans from the region of the Lunigiana, Liguria and Emilia Romagna. With 30 years as a producer, I can tell you with confidence we can facilitate any type of cultural experience. La Fortezza offers yoga, wine tasting, truffle hunting, foraging in the kitchen garden, horseback riding, hiking, cooking lessons, shopping for antiques or at local markets like Forte Dei Marmi, chic beach clubs, lingering lunches at a family-owned village, boat rides, styling lessons, social media tutorials, and outdoor movies on the terrace.

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We are ready to help you enjoy your time in Italy in our bohemian monastic styled guest quarters.

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Make pizza in our pizza oven…

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Harvest from our own vineyard and fruit orchards and kitchen garden, witness olive oil being pressed or wheat being milled.

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Are you ready to experience 5-star food from our amazing classically trained Chef Philip, take a cooking lesson or two in our commercial kitchen?

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and enjoy aperitivo and meals on our three beautiful terraces?

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If you’re ready we are taking bookings through the end of October 2019…

To book a private experience for 2020 email me annette@annettejosephstyle.com for pricing information, Private retreats are for 6-8 people. Gather your group and join us. La Fortezza is a special place to get in touch with your inner creative and to share it with your group. x

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Ode from our Intern:: Meet Adri!

Ciao a tutt*,

My name’s Adri Tan, and I was this year’s summer intern at La Fortezza. I just graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in Computer Science and Italian Studies in May, and I found the La Fortezza internship to be the perfect transition from school to work. After having studied in Bologna last year, I was looking forward to immersing myself in the language once again, and my summer in the historic territory of Lunigiana definitely gave me the opportunity to exercise my conversational fluency.

My daily tasks included helping our chef, Phillip Meeker, prepare meals for guests during workshops, taking care of the outdoor plants, and figuring out the odds and ends to make everything run smoothly at La Fortezza. Beyond that, my fondest memories were my translation work for Annette as well as our artist in residence, Steve McKenzie, and getting to know some of the locals that live their quiet lives in this beautiful countryside.

As a photographer, I always have my camera on me, and I’d like to share a few of the photos of the experiences I had and the people I met:

Agriturismo Cà Vidè

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In a small village of Caprognano, situated in the mountains of Tuscany, two sisters Francesca and Sara operate a restaurant called Agriturismo Cà Vidè. Their family has been the sole occupants of this quiet village since the 1700s, and the sisters manage not only the restaurant but also the production of olive oil and wine. During my time in Fivizzano, I went to Cà Vidè for both lunch as well as dinner, and their corn-based focaccia is so incredible that I almost ate the whole bag while waiting for the main courses.

The China Clementi Factory

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During the second week in June, we went on a tour to the China (pronounced key-nah) Clementi factory, owned by the Clementi family that also owns the oldest pharmacy in the town of Fivizzano. Annette’s friend, Federica, gave us a wonderful tour through the factory and explained the painstaking process of maturation of the digestif.

I helped a bit with translating the tour for the rest of the workshop guests, and we learned a lot about how carefully monitored and balanced the drums are to produce a consistent flavor that truly speaks to the artisanal history of the liquor. As a small portion of each batch is left in the drums, each bottle of China Clementi is augmented by the remnants of dozens of years of maturation. We ended the tour with a cocktail of China Clementi and pomegranate juice, which I very much enjoyed as someone who loves bitter tastes.

Hiking in the Apuan Alps

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Last but not least, I drove to Equi Terme on a free day to go on an ~8km hike in the Apuan Alps. The Equi Gorge, where I started the hike, is known for its unusual landscape as a narrow valley incision that comes from the glacier and river modelling processes in the in the quaternary period. It has a unique geological makeup of marble, cavernous limestone, moraine deposits, and more. In particular, I came across a marble quarry adjacent to my trail and later heard some explosions from the site as they were working.

In Italy, all trails are marked with red, white, and red stripes, and I made the mistake of wearing shorts as the trails are certainly not as well-maintained as those in the US. Upon meeting an older Italian couple a bit into my hike, I was reprimanded for my outfit choice and was then advised to wear long pants next time I go hiking in Italy. We all got a bit lost going up the mountains but figured out how to get back on the trail. The trail passes through a beautifully-reconstructed village called Ugliancaldo that is home to only 18 inhabitants according to the most recent census, and ended in a loop back to Equi Terme. Before heading back and concluding my successful day trip, I cooled off in the Equi Terme streams while having lunch.

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Thanks Annette for this opportunity! Starting a new chapter of my life in Brooklyn will certainly be a change of pace compared to my two months living at La Fortezza, but I’m grateful for this Italian summer of incredible food and new experiences.

Non vedo l’ora di tornare!

Adri Tan
IG: @atangerinee
https://www.adriannatanphotography.com

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Berry Week:: Blueberry Pie

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If you are ever in need of an excellent dessert filled with succulent berries, I recommend this delicious blueberry pie from my cookbook Picture Perfect Parties Rizzoli NY.

This is the most delicious blueberry pie recipe ever and is wonderful this time of year when blueberres are plentiful. I love to serve pie in vintage pie tins. Sometimes I slice a large piece and serve it to a couple with 2 forks. It’s a great way to mix it up.

Blueberry Pie
Serves 6-8

You will need:

Pie Crust Ingredients * pie crust can be made up to 2 days ahead
– 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
– 4 tablespoons sugar + 1 teaspoon sugar for the top crust of the pie
– 2 sticks butter chilled and cut into cubes
– ½ teaspoon salt
– ¼ to ½ cup ice water
– 3 tablespoons whole milk

Garnish: fresh lavender sprigs

To prepare:

Pie crust Preparation

In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, and salt for 3 seconds. Add butter and pulse into pea-size pieces about 3 minutes. Drizzle cold water, 1 tbsp at a time, and pulse just until evenly moistened and pulls away form the sides and forms a ball about 3 minutes. Turn dough out onto a work surface and gather into a ball, turning dough to combine any dry crumbs. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, then press into a disk about 1 in. thick. Chill dough at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

For the filling, you will need:

– 4 cups blueberries
– ¾ cups sugar
– 3 tablespoons cornstarch
– 2 Tbsp. butter, cubed

To prepare:

Pour blueberries in a large bowl, sprinkle sugar, corn starch and salt over the blueberries, and toss lightly.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

Cut crust into 2 pieces form 2 disks and roll out each pie crusts to about an 11-inch circle. Place 1 dough circle into a pie plate, add blueberry mixture, dot the top with butter and cover with top crust. Trim excess dough and Crimp edges with your fingers all around and cut slits in pie. Brush with milk and sprinkle with a teaspoon sugar. Bake on the bottom rack for 45 to 50 minutes until bubbly (shielding with aluminum foil after about 20 minutes or until golden) let cool and serve.

xx Annette

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