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Sarzana Antique Fair

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Every year in August I wait for it…in Sarzana there’s the most wonderful event, the Sarzana Antiques Fair. Sarzana is about a 40 minute drive from our house in the Lunigiana. Sarazana is a quaint medieval town 20 minutes inland from the sea, right before you get to Cararra where the marble is from. Complete with a citadel and duomo, it’s our region’s fun little secret hipster haven. It’s also virtually unknown by tourists. In fact I cringe a little bit letting you all in on my secret happy place. It’s chocked-full of artisan clothing boutiques and antique stores, yummy hip restaurants, and the most charming little bakery/tearoom, Melissa’s (Ill be writing about it in the next blog post, so you will want to come back, and read about it this Thursday). There’s even a hipster barber shop.

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This year I went twice. Once to scout it out. I found a charming hand painted terracotta urn that I have proudly displayed in our front entry. I headed back to find some pieces for the guest quarters and kitchen, and a trunk for the master bedroom.

The stalls under the brightly lit passageways always make me smile. Striped umbrellas and trillions of trinkets catch your eye. It always makes me a little dizzy with anticipation. Oh, and it’s held at night which is a stroke of genius since the August heat can bring upwards of 100 degrees in the shade. It’s the perfect time to have an aperitivo and people watching at the fair is an added plus.

All summer long there are wonderful antiques markets all around the region, but this once-a-year fair is the one I wait for. Now that I have let you in on my little secret, you should think about visiting our region inland from the Riviera. Thirty minutes from the very popular and incredibly over-crowed over-marketed Cinqueterra, there is a treasure trove of quaint towns and beautiful views, amazing hikes and unexpected local cuisine. Adventure awaits you off the beaten path. Start with Sarzana; you won’t be disappointed. You’re welcome. xx

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The Testament of Testaroli

During our 3rd workshop here in Italy at La Fortezza, the emphasis of the workshop was on cooking local. I was thrilled to be able to introduce our attendees and our instructor Sif to one of the most original and authentic dishes in our region. Lunigiana is a mystery to most tourists visiting the region, but the truth is that most Italians are not familiar with the region either. Folks here are extremely proud of the area, and that includes the local products and cuisine. We have loads of products with chestnuts, bread honey, faro, China Amaro, and apple cider.

My dear new friend Giovanna Zurlo of Azienda Agricola di là dall’ Acqua  invited us to an event she was hosting demonstrating the method of how testarolo is prepared.

What’s Testaroli? Wikipedia describes Testaroli as, sometimes referred to as testarolo, it is a type of pasta or bread in Italian cuisine that is prepared using water, flour and salt, which is sliced into triangular shapes. A common dish in the Lunigiana region and historical territory of Italy, it is an ancient pasta originating from the Etruscan civilization of Italy. Testaroli has been described as “the earliest recorded pasta.” It is also a native dish of the southern Liguria and northern Tuscany regions of Italy.

Testaroli is prepared from a batter that is cooked on a hot flat surface, after which it may be consumed. It is traditionally cooked on a testo, a flat terra cotta or cast iron cooking surface from which the food’s name is derived. It is sometimes cooked further in boiling water and then served. Testaroli is sometimes referred to as a bread, similar to focaccia in composition, and is sometimes referred to as a crêpe. It may be dressed with pesto sauce or other ingredients such as olive oil, Pecorino cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and garlic. Falsi testaroli al ragu is a similar dish prepared using sliced pasta dough and a ragù sauce.

All I know is that the demonstration was amazing. Over an open fire, the pan is heated and then the crepe-like batter is ladled into the white hot pan. It cooks in minutes and then is served with charcuterie. The alternate version of preparation is that the crepe is cut into bite size squares or triangles and boiled briefly about 30 seconds and served with pesto or ragu, like pasta.

We all enjoyed a dinner together under the stars of local goat cheese and focaccia then the testaroli with pesto and local wine. Sharing this local cuisine and talking about the local products with our workshop instructor and attendees was truly magical and exactly what we wanted to accomplish. Eating local is the way of life here, and it’s my goal to share this region with all our attendees one dish at a time.

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Cooking Healthy and Local Workshop with Sif Orellana

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Sif Orellana is a force of nature. I have followed her on Instagram for years, and you should too. She’s creative, and oh so talented. We have been IG friends for a while, and when I finally met her in real life, she did not disappoint. In fact she’s even more wonderful which I thought would not be possible.

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She arrived from Denmark 1 day before her workshop, and we headed out to an incredible local grocery store here in Italy. Here the super stores are really SUPER. She, like me, LOVES to grocery shop. Her eyes widened when we stepped in to my favorite grocery in all of Italy Esselunga. Read all about it; it has an unusual history and has been around since 1957. Our nearest store has 2 floors and is incredible. We spent the better part of 2 hours buying items for her workshop, but the rest of the produce came right out of my garden.

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Everyone arrived on Wednesday. When we all met at the welcome dinner, it was love at first site. What a wonderful group we had. So smart, energetic, and full of life. They had amazing questions and got on with Sif like a house on fire. I don’t think they took a breath until they parted ways.

Cooking in the kitchen with Sif was such fun a whirlwind of activity. Our chef, Teri, and I were non stop making sure all the attendees were busy with cooking chores. The kitchen turned out Sif’s delish and healthy recipes. Some recipes were from her new venture, a healthy restaurant in Aarhus, Denmark called Greenilicious. If you’re in the area ,by all means stop by. Sif’s super electric energy and great tips made for a wonderful meeting of the minds both in the studio and in the kitchen.

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We headed out of the kitchen for two local food excursions, too. One was to our favorite baker Fabio at l Forno in Canoara di Fabio Bertolucci; you can read about him here.

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We also had supper at a local agriturismo di la dall’aqua and watched the ancient preparation of Testerolo, a large crepe which is then cut up into square, boiled for 30 seconds, and served with pesto or ragu, thought to be one of the first inceptions of pasta in Italy. Giovanna, the owner, is a gracious and attentive host, and she is also the local food ambassador to the region. She was kind enough to pop in on Friday and familiarize our attendees of all the local product produced in the region. We had a magical evening at her location and learned a lot about the local cuisine.

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I loved spending time with everyone learning their stories and their dreams and goals. Fingers crossed Sif will have time to come back and teach again; she’s such a great addition to our team.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Sif. You really gave it 150%. You’re a powerhouse of creativity and wisdom.

Thanks to Luba for some of these super captures!

 

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House Updates, an Olive Centric Workshop, and More: It’s the Top 4

4 for July

As you’ve probably noticed, July in Italy has been full. Whether we’ve been hosting workshops in the studio, enjoying wine from the vineyard, or gearing up for fall workshops, this has been an awesome month.

Each month, I bring you a round-up of the best blog posts. The idea is that you can see the best of the AJS blog all in one place. Find the top 4 July below!

Italian House Updates

Oh, and We have a Vineyard 

Announcing our Olive-Centric Workshop

Strictly Styling Workshop Recap

xx Annette

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Strictly Styling Workshop

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Ciao tutti, as you know, it’s been a whirlwind here in Italy. I have held 3 workshops back to back from June – July with a mini break in between. The first workshop (you can read all about it here) was a big success. We all had a great time, and the truth is, I learned a lot.

Our second workshop named “Strictly Styling” was just that. We did have a photographer, but mostly it was all about styling with lectures and demos and lots of hands on. This was a new concept and not so photography based. No cameras were needed, although we did have folks bring along their cameras, and photograph their own set up. But mainly we worked on composition for the camera and prop styling. Of course, shopping for props and inspiration all over the region was a big hit. Let’s face it who does not like to shop? It was such a success that some of my attendees are coming back for more. I have decided to do 2 One on One styling Sessions here next summer. A student will stay with me at the main house, we will style discuss the business of styling and marketing strategies, and of course shop until we drop at all my secret haunts all over the region for exceptional unique props. Stay tuned for the dates on this one.

I loved spending time with our Strictly Styling attendees. They were enthusiastic, fun, funny and above all, a pleasure to hang out with. We shopped, ate, and drank wine and cocktails while taking in the sunset on the terrace. It was a truly unforgettable gathering of creative minds. God I love my job.

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Thanks to Megan for some of these beautiful captures. x

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