Tag Archives: Behind the Scenes

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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La Fortezza Artist in Residence Art Opening Party

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As all of you know by now, in July we welcomed our first Artist in Residence at La Fortezza. Steve Mckenzie arrived on the first of July and diligently worked on his Lunigiana inspired exhibition, abstract mixed medium works called, Recollecting the Past, “Ricordando il Passato.” Steve was inspired by his time here in Italy. You can read all about where we traveled, and what we saw and collected, here.

All of this work and passion led to the opening night end of July. We had visitors from all over the world join us: the US, France, Greece, and England to name a few. We planned to celebrate on the expansive terrace with a quirky food truck, gelato cart, and an open bar. Steve meticulously hung his show with the assistance of our intern Adri; she helped him catalog and photograph his collection. He also painted special table runners. All plans for the opening party were planned with the utmost attention to detail. And all would be outside, especially with 65 rsvps, so we could enjoy the company of so many, and Steve could share his beautiful collection. The perfect plan….that was until all hell broke loose. What do they say about best laid plans?

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As a hostess, I know that perfection is only an idea, not a reality especially when it comes to throwing a party. So when the heavens opened up, and I mean an earthshaking lighting cracking thunderstorm that dumped tons of rain on us, at the exact hour that the opening was supposed to start. All I could do was laugh.

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We pulled everything into the studio. So many braved the weather to be with us, for which I was most grateful. We had a wonderful turn out and a wonderful party, including an after hours dance party. Sometimes what you imagined, turns out better than you hoped. We really had a wonderful time, and Steve and I were so happy with the opening party. It was also a great lesson in letting go for both Steve and I, and I am always amazed at the idea of a party can mean anything at anytime, even in the worst weather. All you need are great friends. We gathered with everyone as it pelted down rain, and we drank and ate and enjoyed gelato well into the night, surrounded by Steve’s beautiful artwork. What fun!

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Thank you to Steve who is as my husband says, a prince. And he’s right Steve is a stellar human, a great friend and such a talent. It was a pleasure to have him here every single day. He’s going to be a tough act to follow! x

If you’d like to purchase pieces from the show link here

Food Truck Photo Credit: Thomas England

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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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Lavender Ice Cream

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You might have noticed in the recent blueberry pie post a certain yummy dollop on top: lavender ice cream. This recipe is from my first book, Picture Perfect Parties, and is absolutely divine.

If you haven’t cooked with lavender, it’s actually such a fun addition to many dishes.  Be sure to use culinary lavender for this recipe which can be found any number of places. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for, so spending a pinch more on a high-quality ingredient would be a good idea here.

I know you’ll love the floral notes paired with the blueberry pie. It’s truly a delightful and delicious flavor marriage!

 Lavender Ice Cream

You will need:
– 3 cups heavy cream
– 1 cup whole milk
– 2 tablespoons dried lavender
– 6 eggs + 2 yolks
– ½ cup sugar
-¼ tsp salt
– ¼ cup honey
– 1 teaspoon vanilla

To prepare:

Simmer cream, milk and lavender in a saucepan until milk is scalded about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat pour into a bowl and let lavender steep for 30 minutes.

Strain cooled lavender milk mixture back into the saucepan and bring back up to heat. In a bowl whisk egg and sugar, salt and vanilla until creamy. Pull the hot milk off heat and pour about ¼ cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking while pouring.

Pour warmed egg mixture into the sauce pan with hot milk and put back on heat (medium) simmer until custard is formed and coats the back of a metal spoon about 10-15 minutes.

Whisk in honey and place into fridge chill until very cold.

Put into an ice cream maker follow manufacturers instruction.

Place ice cream into low pan with plastic wrap on the bottom. Freeze until ready to serve.

Photo Credit : Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

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