Tag Archives: the fortress

Summer Chapter Shoot for La Fortezza Cookbook

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As you all know, I am back in Italy. Mainly for 2 reasons:

1. Check on our house, La Fortezza.
2. Shoot the summer and autumn chapters of my next cookbook La Fortezza Cookbook, Rizzoli NY, Spring 2022.

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This project, for me, is a passion project. The book will be an epic and a beautiful depiction of the region we live in, in northern Tuscany. The book will be filled with local recipes and delicacies, gorgeous travel shots, typical local flavor, and purveyor portraits.

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These photographs will all be captured by the incredibly talented British Photographer David Loftus. I have been an admirer of David’s work for many years, as he has shot for some of the most famous chefs in the world; Jamie Oliver just to name one. His work is insanely beautiful. His discerning eye and recognizable style sets him apart as one of the world’s most respected food photographers. I was thrilled when he agreed to photograph my book.

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My sweet friend and producer, stylist Barbara Pederzini, agreed to help me with the prop styling. She brought all sorts of amazing serving pieces and plates to play with. I used a local chef to help prepare the dishes. It really was a magical team.

Without giving too much away, I believe that this book will take you on a journey and leave you with the lasting memory of a trip to our little piece of heaven. We will be shooting the autumn chapter starting October 5th, so be sure to follow the journey on my insta-stories. I can only tell you this is one of the best projects I have ever worked on. The love I have for this place, La Fortezza will shine through on every page and you will taste the love in every bite.

Until October, stay well x

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Back to Italy:: Air Travel during a Pandemic

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Some of you might be curious to know how my trip back to Italy was with the pandemic.

First off, let me tell you all how I could enter the EU. So many people commented on social media asking me how. Is there a trick? How can I enter Italy? No trick! The simple answer is that only EU residents and citizens may enter. Everyone must self-quarantine for 14 days. I am an Italian resident, so I was able to enter without any issues.

The tale of traveling here was pretty straight forward. I booked a late flight at 11:00 pm with KLM. I purchased a first-class seat, thinking that it would be a safer way to fly. The scariest part of the entire trip was the Atlanta Airport TSA line. I checked in at the international terminal around 9:00 pm. Not a soul at the counter. I wore an N95 mask through the entire airport. When I entered the TSA, there was only one line with no priority line. Everyone was masked, although I did see a lot of bandanas and buffs (you all know those are dangerous right?).

There were clearly demarcated spots on the floor for distancing and everyone stood on their spot. Well except one guy in a wheelchair with his daughter who was pushing me, so I let them ahead. But once we hit the TSA conveyor belt, it was a free for all. No distancing, grabbing, pushing. It was a nightmare! I did everything I could to step away and wait for a moment where there was no one attacking the belt as belongings piled out. I grabbed my stuff and headed for a corner with no one around to get my stuff together. It shook me up. Once I got to my gate, I seated myself all alone in the corner, mask on at all times and waited to board. Now the boarding process that was marvelous. It was so good, in fact, I hope they never bring back to the old way of boarding.

Here’s how it went: one section at a time, you entered the plane individually, and everyone had to remain seated while they called your name. I boarded alone, walked up to my seat, and no one was seated near me. We had 77 people on giant jumbo jet, so there was plenty of distancing. I quickly changed into a more comfortable cloth mask and waited to depart. I slept the entire way and woke up in Amsterdam.

In Amsterdam, everyone in the airport was wearing a mask. I headed to Passport Control to enter the EU. Everyone kept a good distance, and everyone was calm and focused. Security in Amsterdam was well monitored, and everyone was at a distance, filing in one at a time. It was very safe and organized.

I headed to my gate, on the departures board it had a B0 which was different. Usually, the Pisa flight leaves from the C concourse. When I arrived at B0, I realized it was a screening gate. Everyone had temperatures taken. We filled out a tracing form and then headed to our Gate in the C concourse. I sat quietly waiting for my seat and section to be called for the Pisa flight. Everything was very smooth with loading the plane. We all had several seats between us and were not allowed to remove our masks.

When I landed, I was picked up by our car service, Tuscan Drivers, and they whisked me away. The driver wearing an N95 mask I sat in the back. 1 hour and 15 minutes later I was at La Fortezza.  Where I will be quarantining for 14 days.

Lucky for me, the crew finished the new pool just in time, so I have had some relaxing days swimming. Flying and travel will never be the same (well at least for a few years). But here are the things I hope remain when all of this has passed:

  1. Boarding by section and seat (would be extra nice, but I doubt that will remain). Everyone remaining seated until your zone is called. It was wonderful not standing in the giant crowd.
  2. Spotless planes. The KLM plane was brand new and spotless; they cleaned the bathroom every time it was used. YES PLEASE, (sorry but instead of sitting in the back of the plane gossiping, maybe cleaning the bathrooms might be a nice thing for flight attendants to do for the passengers, just saying)
  3. Distancing. All about it.
  4. Mindful lines at TSA. TSA USA could perhaps take lessons from the TSA EU

I am happy to be here prepping for our photo-shoot for La Fortezza Cookbook.

I will let you all know how that went, masking, washing and distancing all while shooting a cookbook in Italy.

xx Annette

 

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July Recap:: Lots of things and offerings

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Ciao All! I hope you are all well and staying safe. I wanted to update all of you about happenings in July. There are lots of things and offerings to discuss…

Offerings: La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats Update

The reality of Italy banning Americans caused us to postpone our SOLD OUT workshops. All of our attendees could not have been more understanding, and for that we are truly grateful. We will have a great time in 2021; I am optimistic about that! As a result of the workshops’ success, we added an extra week with each of these sold out instructors. First, the wonderful and talented stylist, and photographer, Ros Atkinson of “her dark materials”, and then the iconic photographer and incredible instructor Bill Abranowicz. Both will be with us an extra week to conduct workshops. Since their workshops sold out so quickly and had so many inquiries, we decided that we would add another opportunity for everyone to experience these amazing workshops. Check the 2021 La Fortezza Workshop Schedule. It’s really going to be lots of fun.

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Things: New Construction at La Fortezza—our swimming pool

We are finally finishing up the construction of the swimming pool at La Fortezza. It will take a few months to shape it up to get it ready for our guests next year. I am excited to welcome everyone to our pool area next year with Aperol Spritzes under the pergola.

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Things: COOK Corriere 50 Influential Women in Food

I was super honored this month to be included in Italy’s number 1 food publication. COOK- Corriere della Sera. It is the national newspaper’s foodie special interest publication. I was one of the 50 Influential Women in Food celebrated on the cover and inside. I loved the wonderful illustration. Super fun and very humbling. It was a surprise which made it all the more special. The women featured are impressive. They are women I admire, and I even work with some of them, so you can imagine how pleased I was to be included. Definitely a bucket list goal achieved. I will be participating in a virtual food conference with COOK in the fall, too. Stay tuned for more details as we get closer.

 

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Offerings: Italy is My Boyfriend is NOW available in an audio version

July has had lots of surprises. My memoir, Italy is My Boyfriend, came out this month on Audible on Amazon. No, I did not narrate it, as some of you have asked. I wouldn’t have done as well as Devon Sorvari, a trained actress, does. It’s the perfect download for your road trips this summer.

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Things: La Fortezza Cookbook update

I am continuing to work on my upcoming cookbook, La Fortezza Cookbook (Rizzoli NY).
I have been writing and testing recipes all year. I will be shooting it with David Loftus, an English Photographer. He also happens to be Jamie Oliver’s Photographer. I will have an Italian chef and styling team, but it will be a small team considering the times. I am excited to start photographing it. I leave soon to begin the shoot! As a side note, some of you may wonder how I can enter as an American. Because we own a home in Italy, I am an Italian resident, and I live there most of the year. Most likely, I will not be back stateside for some time.

Lastly, I am so sorry that no one from the US is able to join us in Italy this year, but this too will pass. Please wear a mask, stay distant and wash your hands. Let’s squash this thing. We are all in this together. One World, one cause.

xx Annette

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AJS Team in Quarantine:: Valerie Failla

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Today’s post is from our PR guru, Valerie Failla:

I am a publicist.

I have worked in areas of public relations, in almost every specialty—big brands, small brands, in-house, off-site—you name it. For the last two decades, I have primarily focused on the culinary and hospitality industries. Unfortunately, these two are a few the hardest hit industries during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lately, friends and industry cohorts tell me, “Reinvent yourself.”

My response is always “No.”

I want to continue to be who I have always been simply because it is who I truly am. My “job” has never felt like a job in the traditional sense of the word. What I do for clients fuels my creativity, my drive, and my passion. There isn’t anything else that I could–or would–ever aspire to be.

9/11. I lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. For weeks, grey smoke hung outside the front windows of my dilapidated, fourth floor, walk-up apartment, although I lived over six miles from the World Trade Center site. I walked seventy-seven blocks and too many avenues to count to work for over two weeks for fear there would be another surprise attack, and I would be crushed underground on the subway. One would think that after surviving the fright of a terrorist attack in your own hometown backyard you could make it through anything. How could life possibly get any worse?

The most difficult difference between that darkest period in America and our current climate is the isolation. My kids can’t go to school. I can’t go to the diner for a cup of coffee and cheese fries. My husband and I cannot now do the work we have so thoroughly enjoyed since my agency, Via Failla PR & Events, launched in 2016. I have read that isolation can play incredibly interesting tricks on the mind, therefore, I will be infinitely grateful for my family who keep me busy, smiling, laughing, and again–very busy.

So what to do? Seek the silver lining.

Planting
As a family we have always planted an assortment of vegetables and herbs on our back deck. While we have been sheltered in place, we have taken the opportunity to create a much larger garden than we have in past years. Part of our newfound excitement is watching the newly potted strawberries and jalapeños bloom for the first time! Gardening is incredibly rewarding!

Play on!
Classic board games including Life, Monopoly, and Operation have been keeping all our minds occupied (as well as laughing!) After playing several nights of each, I have often thought to myself, if it wasn’t for the pandemic, would my kids even know about these iconic games that kept my sister and me so entertained throughout the 80’s?

Cooking
Hands down, our number one favorite activity. Cooking food is therapy. It is an incredibly positive, creative, and simple way to spend time with those we are quarantined with each day and then reap the delicious benefit! My sweet Gen Z children have created time-lapse videos of us cooking and my husband has taken so many photos of our dishes to post socially, that it’s beyond flattering!

Out of extreme circumstances comes learning. We will become tougher, smarter, save more money, and organically be more humble when we finally drive this infectious demon out of society.

Until then, stay home, stay safe, and keep on creating!

Here is one of my husband’s most favorite breakfast foods, egg toast cups. Adults and kids can easily make them and you can add in anything at all from your pantry.

Egg Toast Cups

You will need:
– One, regular size muffin tin
– Olive Oil spray or olive oil
– Bread Slices (Any kind work. However many muffins your tray makes, that’s how many bread slices you need)
– Room temp butter
– Eggs (number is same as how many muffins your tray makes)
– Italian Parsley (minced)
– Minced garlic (or garlic powder if out of fresh garlic)
– Salt and pepper
– Any Italian cured/dried salami “cold cut” that you can easily tear up
– Vegetables or other additions anchovies, roasted peppers, just about anything works!

To prepare:
Either spray the muffin cups or wipe evoo all over each muffin cup to prevent the bread from sticking

Butter both sides of each slice of bread

Push each slice of bread into each muffin cup and form it to stick to the muffin cup to make a bowl

Whisk all eggs and add in S&P, minced garlic (or garlic powder)

Pour egg mixture into each muffin cup and be sure to leave a bit of room at the top b/c egg will rise when cooked

Rip up salami and put a few pieces in each muffin cup (bologna is good too!)

Bake at 400 degrees until the egg is cooked but top is a bit soft (or cooked to your own liking)

Top w/parsley and serve (they easily come out of the muffin cup and they look really pretty!)

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AJS Team in Quarantine:: Laura Giannatempo

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Hello, Everyone,
My name is Laura Giannatempo, and I’m Annette’s travel concierge. When you take one of her future workshops, you can ask me for advice about where to go, what to do and where to eat if you want to extend your trip in Italy.

Right now, I’m not traveling, of course. I’m based in Brooklyn, and the hardest part of this quarantine for me has been not being able to return to Italy. I usually travel there several times a year to scout the best hotels, eateries, artisans and small, local businesses that are hard to find on your own.

Since I can’t travel, what do I do? I “dream travel.” I go over old photos of trips I’ve loved on my phone or in photo albums—yes, photo albums. I took some of my earliest trips before digital photography and smartphones, so the memories are captured in good, old-fashioned prints. Reliving these past travels not only brings up great memories, but it also gets my juices flowing for planning future trips for when we’re able to travel again.

Also, I cook. A lot. Short of being there, there’s nothing that channels a country or a region better than to cook something special from there. As you might have guessed, I cook a lot of Italian food. But I also like to dabble in other Mediterranean flavors and South-East Asian-inspired dishes.

I’ve been cooking a lot of Ligurian food, lately. I’m originally from Piedmont, but Liguria is my second home. My aunt and uncle live in Genova, and I used to spend entire summers in a small town not far from Cinque Terre when I was young. I always loved the food: the incredibly fresh seafood, fished just the night before; the creative use of vegetables and herbs, even wild ones; and the ability to create amazing flavors with very few, simple but great-quality ingredients.

One of my go-to Ligurian foods is farinata. With only 5 ingredients, if you count water, salt and pepper, fainata is one of the most versatile and satisfying snacks—and a true Italian street food. It’s hard to believe that mixing and baking chickpea flour and extra-virgin olive oil can turn into something so delicious. if you don’t believe me, you can try it yourself! Here’s the recipe. Buon appetito!

Farinata (Chickpea Flatbread)
Serves 4 to 6

You will need:
– 2 cups chickpea flour
– 3 cups water
– 1 Tbs. plus 1/2 tsp. salt
– 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
– Freshly ground black pepper

To prepare:
Place the chickpea flour in a large bowl and slowly add the water, whisking constantly to prevent clumps from forming. You’ll end up with a fairly liquid batter.

Add the salt, stir, and let the batter rest, covered with plastic wrap for at least 4 hours at room temperature.

Preheat the oven at 425F, With a large slotted spoon, remove any foam that might have formed on the surface of the batter and stir well.

Pour the olive oil in a 17×13-inch rimmed baking sheet (preferably nonstick) and pour in the batter. Spread it with the back of a wooden spoon to cover the pan and to incorporate the oil. The batter should form only a thin layer, about 1/4-inch thick.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the farinata turns a nice golden yellow. Let it rest for a few minutes and sprinkle on some pepper. Use a pizza cutter to cut it in slices. Serve warm and enjoy!

Photo (shot on film): credited to Michael Piazza

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