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Slow Food Cheese Event in Bra Italy 2019

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Ciao Tutti! As you may have seen from the complete coverage on my instagram feed, Philip Meeker our chef, and Rachel Ritchie our guest liaison, and I headed to the region of the Piedmont, known for delicious wines like Barolo and Barbaresco. Our destination was Bra, Italy, the Slow Food capital of the world. We wanted a little R&R and lots of cheese, wine and truffles.

As a girl from Wisconsin, you can imagine my pure joy. I was excited to share cheese with the team and few truffles as well. We stayed in Alba, the truffle capital of the world, so with all the food groups covered, we relaxed and treated ourselves to endless aisles of cheese, cheese talks and local makers’ booths. We stayed in an Agriturismo by a local wine maker who had a few rooms to rent on the top floor. In truth, the entire foyer smelled of wine-no complaints from me. The location was great and staying at a working winery was kind of fun.

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We got in around 5 pm in time to do a little aperitivo, but not before stopping at my favorite truffle store, Tartufi Ponzio, to load up on Truffle potato chips. Yes, really, truffle potato chips. They are truly the crack of the potato chip family. You can’t eat just one. The owner was there Gianfranco, a very energetic, and enthusiastic man, especially about truffles. He’s a hoot! He’s taken over the family business, and from what I can see, he has brought it into the 21st century with the utmost care.

There will be a documentary coming out on truffle hunting early next year, so keep your eyes peeled for “The Hunt” and look out for Gianfranco. It will be shown for the first time at the Sundance Film Festival 2020.

Gianfranco showed us all his new products, improved both inside and out. We bought a few more staples to bring back to La Fortezza to share with our guests. As I always do, I asked him where he liked to eat. He immediately told us and picked up the phone to make us a reservation for that night. All set, we said our goodbyes, and told him we hoped he would stop by after closing the store and join us for dessert. The meal was impeccable, more truffles and butter than you could imagine. Divine. GF, as we call him, stopped by for dessert and told us a few stories about truffles and hunting and his family business. All in all, he was quite amusing. Great food, great stories and a great night.

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The next day, we headed to see and eat more cheese than we could have imagined. The festival was huge and would take days to see. We tried cheese from all over the world, all kinds, to the point that we could not eat anymore. Our bellies were full and our feet were hurting which surely means we had an amazing day.

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I will say, most people would say you can’t have enough cheese. Oh but you can. I still cannot think about eating cheese. Vegetables? Yes. Although I never get my fill of truffles. We ate, we drank and we walked and walked all weekend. It was a great little break and mini vaca with the team, but now it’s time to get back to the business of taking care of our workshop attendees. Of course, there will be cheese and there will be truffles, as we love to share.

I highly recommend the slow food cheese festival! It’s in one of my favorite regions in Italy. Piedmont is not to be missed. Tutto il Formaggio. (all the cheese)

xx Annette

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Our First Ever La Fortezza Antiques and Merchants of Italy Shopping Retreat

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Ciao Tutti! We had amazing whirlwind of a week with our first ever La Fortezza Antiques and Merchants of Italy Shopping Retreat. My co-leader Lisa Burnett of Inner Pieces Inc. could not have been a better partner in crime. We hosted 7 lovely ladies and toured them all over the Italian countryside, to shop and meet local artisans and vendors that I love. It was an insiders shopping tour that was both exciting and informative.

Every day there were new destinations and some surprises. We could not have asked for a more fun group of ladies. Even though they did not know each other before, I think some solid bonds were formed. We danced, drank, made pasta and enjoyed the beautiful fall weather on the terrace.

Of course, there was a pizza party where a few of our attendees tried their hand at making pizza in the pizza oven. We loved sharing information about how and why we choose certain props, discussed searching for antiques and loved shopping at my super secret locations. Lisa spent a couple of extra days, so we checked out some of her Italian vendors and hope to expand the shopping experience next year.

We will be conducting this retreat again in 2020 because it had such an overwhelming response when we posted it. Since we still have 50 people on the waitlist from last year, we have decided to do this retreat for 2 consecutive weeks in 2020. If you are interested in joining us and want first dibs sign up for the newsletter. We will be sending a private mailing to our list before the workshop goes public.

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grazie Lisa you’re simply the best! x

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We only have 6 spots available in each retreat, so this shopping retreat very limited. We have decided to vary the schedule in case some of you want to join us for both weeks. We have so much to show you. I cannot express how wonderful it is to meet like-minded shoppers, who share the love of beautiful things. As a prop stylist, I have to say sharing my resources with our groups gives me great joy. Thank you again to my most talented and lovely friend, Lisa. x Let’s shop ’til we drop in 2020.

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Festive Fall Food:: Chorizo Skewers

Esporao & Annette Joseph

Hey Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web manager and friend, and I’m here sharing another inspiring recipe from Annette. This time of year seems to be filled with fall fetes. It is football season in the South afterall! I’m always on the hunt for quick, easy and most of all, delicious recipes to take to parties. Of course, I turned to Annette for inspiration and found this recipe for chorizo skewers.

I love the idea of making elevated tailgate food like this, especially since my days of outside tailgating are over. I prefer to watch games from the comfort of my couch with a fine wine versus a cheap beer, thank you very much!

What’s more simple (and transportable!) than a tasty skewer? Annette recommends using top-notch ingredients for this one. Let us know if you try it for your next party!

Chorizo skewers with Manchego Cheese and Tomatoes
Serves 10

You will need:
4 links of Chorizo sausage
– 1/2 pound wedge of 12 month Manchego Cheese
– 20 baby tomatoes
– 1 loaf of crusty bread, cut into slices
– 10 wooden skewers

Preparation:

Grill sausages on medium heat then pull off of the grill and set aside to cool. While the sausages are on the grill, cut the cheese into 1 inch cubes and set aside. Cut the sausage into 1 inch slices. Using the wooden skewers, pierce the sausage and then the tomato, and cheese, then sausage, tomato, and cheese and then sausage. Repeat with all the skewers, and serve with slices of bread. I like to place some olives on the side as well.

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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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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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