Finished… Finito…All Done, the last photoshoot for La Fortezza Cookbook

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The Dapper David Loftus, photographer and fashion plate sipping the Rosé named for him.

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Chef Leo, garnishing the local dish, in an authentic Lunigiana cast iron cooking vessel, called a testa.

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Me at my new bar, that was a delivery saga let’s just say I was happy it arrived and was in one piece.

Ciao everyone!  I can’t believe I am saying this, but I am done with La Fortezza Cookbook. The manuscript? Check,. The recipe testing? Check. Edits? Check. Photo-shoots per season? Check.

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La Fortezza, capture by David, his POV is perfection.   92DA59CE-8F04-440C-BA52-740073A6C28D_1_201_a

As you can imagine, shooting a seasonal cookbook in Italy has been a challenge. We had to cancel the very first shoot for the winter Chapter in February 2020. We were finally able to shoot the summer chapter August 2020, and with lots of restrictions and hurdles, we managed to shoot summer with me and my local chef Leo, then in October. I brought our workshop chef from the US which was no small feat. He, unfortunately, was going through some personal issues which did affect the quality of his work and the food which was another challenge on top of the other challenges was a lot for me to process. We soldiered on in March, hiring a new food stylist from England, the incredible Rosie Scott. All the while David Loftus, my photographer, was truly brilliant and consistent and created the most beautiful images. Rosie, our stylist from London, joined the team in March, along with our local chef Leo. We tackled the re-shoots from October’s shoot, as well as the new images for winter (yes, winter at the end of March. We lucked out with some unseasonably cold weather). Rosie and Leo knocked it out of the park. We had the crew back from London last week to shoot the final chapter, spring. With London lockdowns, endless covid 19 tests, daily temperature checks, travel restrictions, and tons of paperwork, we made it happen. My friend and superstar producer Barbara Pederzini was one of the reasons the shoot went so smoothly. She was my rock, to say the least.

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Daily temperature checks, Rosie and Charlie doing their temperature checks.

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With endless playlists, espressos, market runs, sunshine, heat, rain, and cold days, we had a great time. There were many many challenges, but I am beyond pleased with the recipes, and the images are outrageously gorgeous. This book, as we referred to it, will be “the most beautiful book in the world”. I am delighted that all of our local slow food purveyors’ stories are included, and the rich history of this little-known region of Italy, The Lunigiana, will be the star. I am proud and so excited to share it with all of you. Endless thank yous to David, Rosie, Leo, Barbara and of course, Charlie, Rosie’s lovely and helpful husband, who saved my ass driving to see the Shepherdess in Zeri…that’s another story for another time… dream team does not begin to describe this crew. Fin…xx

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Garden Update

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loading these baby olive trees to be added to our grove

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Ciao Everyone! If you’re following me on instagram, you most likely saw me at the local garden center yesterday. My groundskeeper/gardener Gianluca accompanied me. We had a great time. I thought I’d share an overall garden update, along with a few more updates about the grounds.

One of the things I will be working on this season is adding 50 olive trees to the grove. We currently have about 150 trees on the grounds. We had to plant an olive grove on the property. Oddly our property had a few olive trees, but the terraces had no more than 10, so Frank decided we needed a proper olive grove. We had a fully functioning vineyard, but not an olive grove which in these parts is pretty rare since we are surrounded by abundant groves. I asked Gianluca what he thought had happened to our olive groves, and the only thing he could come up with is the maybe the property was planted with grain-like wheat. I guess we will never know, but right now our olive grove is expanding.

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The pool project is a big one this year. I met with the company working on the pool hardscape. Tiles will go on the deck in April once the chances of freezing are reduced. Our timeline is to finish by the end of May. I bought two large olive trees, one large pomegranate tree, a huge agave, and some fucshia azaleas. We will plant lavender and rosemary, succulents and cactus as well around the pool plus loads of soft green grassy areas. We will also have a fire pit on the lower portion of the pool deck.

Right now the pergola is going up at the end of the pool. It will provide loads of shade for relaxing, dining and reading. It’s pretty exciting around here. I love designing the garden. There will be loads of additions this year to the landscape, but the most beautiful part of our garden is the view. I never get tired of it.

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Our incredible view

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Gianluca with our new addition

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I am excited for our workshop attendees to come and enjoy the pool addition this year. I can’t believe I am saying this, but we are almost full. Folks are signing up every week. I guess everyone is excited and optimistic. I am too. Working outside always gives me a boost and puts me in my happy place.

For more updates from La Fortezza…definitely follow me on instagram if you aren’t already.

xx Annette

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Autumn Chapter Shoot for La Fortezza Cookbook

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Ciao Guys! If you follow me on Instagram, you know the legendary food photographer David Loftus was back during the first week of October to photograph the autumn chapter of La Fortezza Cookbook.

Autumn is my favorite time of year; I love the color palette. We smoked pumpkins, used the outdoor oven, “the “forno,” and implemented lots of fire and Medieval cooking techniques. We went to local purveyors and had great field trips. The olive harvest is starting, so we were able to witness the first press too. Green gold; it’s so delicious.

Of course, we had our trusty prop mistress and brilliant producer Barbara Pederzini. I flew chef Philip in from the US to work on this chapter. It was a huge effort and stressful to get him into Italy with the travel ban. He quarantined for 2 weeks prior to the shoot and then worked the week of the shoot with the team. We made beautiful images, and I am so excited to share this book with you. Thanks always for the support and lovely DMs on my Instagram. It’s always so wonderful to hear from you.

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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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Summer Recipe:: Olive Oil Poached Shrimp

Whenever you order a cocktail at a bar in Italy, there is always food involved. Simply brilliant. I think it may be my favorite part. Full disclosure: I love seeing what bars choose to serve with their cocktails. Sometimes it’s just olives and the humble potato chip, and sometimes it’s the most lovely fresh focaccia with sublime charcuterie, a veggie frittata or mini salad. Poached shrimp, rice salads, and fried calamari are some of my favorites.

Here is a recipe for olive oil poached shrimp, inspired by the tradition of aperitivo. This recipe serves up a true summer delicacy!

Olive Oil Poached Shrimp

You will need:
– 3 cups olive oil
– 3 large fresh rosemary sprigs
– 18 uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
– 4 Lemon wedges

To prepare:

Add 3 cups olive oil into heavy large saucepan, and add rosemary sprigs. Attach deep-fry thermometer to side of saucepan and heat oil over medium heat until thermometer registers between 165°F and 180°F. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper. Add shrimp to hot oil and poach just until shrimp are opaque in center, adjusting heat to maintain temperature between 165°F and 180°F, about 8 minutes. Transfer shrimp to paper towels to drain. Serve at room temperature, garnish with lemon wedges.

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