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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What to Expect on a Truffle Hunt in Italy

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We’re gearing-up for our fall workshops around here which start soon. Workshop guests are starting to nail down their plans for their free day. One of the options that I always recommend they take advantage of is truffle hunting.

Truffle hunting in Italy is an experience unlike any other. It’s a truly immersive expedition…plus you get to hang out with a cute dog all day! What’s not to love about that?

I wanted to share what you can expect during a truffle hunt in Italy. That way, if you’re headed here for a fall workshop, or if it’s on your mind for the future, you know what fun you’re getting yourself into!

What to expect:

  1. Hunting for truffles is a year-round activity which means the hunt happens during all temperatures and weather.
  2. Moisture has much to do with the harvest, and rain is a very important factor in the number of truffles annually. The more rain, the more truffles. In other words, bring comfy walking shoes that you can get dirty!
  3. Hunting with dogs will be with you on your trip. Dogs are more delicate and hunt with their paws. They’re cute, but keep in mind they are working.
  4. Truffles can be found all over the forest floors, not just the roots of trees, so keep your eyes (and nose) peeled.
  5. Once the hunt is done, you’ll be craving all things truffles, so come ready to enjoy them!

Who’s ready to join us for a fall truffle hunting expedition?!

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Lucca, a less traveled destination

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When we rented houses in Levanto over the summer with our family many years ago, we discovered Lucca. Lucca is a beautiful walled city with lovely churches and a wonderful antiques market held the 3rd weekend of every month in the summer period.

Our family would go there about once a month since it was the nearest “big” city. Home of Puccini, it holds a special place in our hearts as well as many great family memories. It is about 1 hour and fifteen minutes from La Fortezza, so it’s not unusual for us to go there for concerts even now. They have an amazing summer pop concert series. In fact, this year is was part of Elton John’s farewell tour! There are some fun activities that have popped up over the years. For example, food tours on bikes are popular.

Frank and I recently met a photographer, an American who has moved to Lucca with his wife. Tom England, was a photojournalist for Time Magazine, Newsweek, The New York Times, and National Geographic, to name a few.

Along with his on the road assignments, on his off time, Tom taught photography. Since Tom has tons of energy and a natural curiosity, he found exploring Lucca through the lens to be quite exciting. Last year Tom decided to start a photo touring business in Lucca. Since he has scoped out some amazing secret spots and knows all the best angles, not to mention his expertise, his tours have become quite popular. Frank and I decided that it would be fun to reserve one of his photo tours. It was amazing. Not only did he take us to some beautiful and photogenic spots off the beaten path, but he guided us to some really beautiful imagery. His teaching style was both informative, casual, and interesting.

We spent 3 hours walking all over Lucca, down alleyways and passages, all while listening to his stories about his amazing career as a photo journalist for iconic American publications. At times it seemed that he was the real-life Sean Penn, photographer in The Secret Life of Walter Middy. A great storyteller and teacher, it was a great idea to trek Lucca with Tom.

Tom and Frank framing the shot

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All the locals know Tom

Lucca is a small but scenic town on the far western side of Tuscany, near Pisa; it is an oasis for ex-pats because it’s so close to the Pisa airport and easy to manage as far as size goes. We had a great time, and I highly recommend Tom England’s photo tour if you’re looking the photograph Lucca in a more artistic and different way.

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Put Lucca on your list and head to the activities page on the Workshop and Retreat Website to get more suggestions about Lucca.

xx Annette

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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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Summer Delicacy:: Fried Squash Blossoms

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This time of year squash blossoms are everywhere in our La Fortezza veggie garden. For the past few weeks, we’ve been picking these delicate flowers and whipping up batches of fried squash blossoms.

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The recipe for fried squash blossoms is from my book,  Picture Perfect Parties (Rizzoli). It’s one of my favorite summer staples. You will adore this recipe. The exquisite flavors and crisp texture will make you swoon. You will be planting squash in your garden every year just to yield this cheese-filled treat. Trust me.

Ricotta Stuffed Fried Squash Blossoms
Serves 6-8

You will need:

– 12 to 16 large zucchini squash blossoms
– About 4 cups vegetable oil for frying
– 1 cup whole-milk ricotta (preferably fresh)
– 1 large egg yolk
– 1/4 cup finely chopped basil
– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
– 1 egg
– 3/4 cup chilled seltzer or club soda
– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– Salt and pepper to taste

For the filling:

– 1 cup whole-milk ricotta (preferably fresh)
– 1 large egg yolk
– 1/4 cup finely chopped basil
– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– ½ teaspoon salt

For the batter:

Note* you can make the batter a couple hours before and set aside.

– 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
– 1 egg
– 3/4 cup chilled seltzer or club soda
– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 teaspoon pepper

To prepare:

Filling the blossoms:

Dry the squash blossoms with a paper towel, do not wash them under the tap, wash them in a bowl of water.

Carefully make a small opening in the top of each blossom. Using a piping bag or plastic bag with a hole cut into the bottom, pipe the filling into the opening filling about half way up the flower. Close end and gently twist flower closed.

Store the stuffed blossoms in the fridge until you are ready to fry.

Frying the squash blossoms:

Heat oil. Test heat by dropping a few drops of the batter, if it crisps up you are ready to go. Dip stuffed blossoms into the batter with a small tongs then drop them carefully into the oil.

Fry the blossoms until crisp and place on a paper towel to drain.  Serve immediately.

 

Photo Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewelleyn & moi

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