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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Shopping with me in Italy…who’s coming?!

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“As a prop stylist, I regard shopping as a sport”…

I am pretty over the moon to announce this 2022 spring retreat, The Great Italian Shopping Experience is back. A couple of years ago, I did a shopping retreat. Let’s just say it was super popular. We instantly sold out. We had a waiting list of 50 people…I am not even kidding…

So, next year, in June, I will be revamping this one with more shopping and more locations. Only 8 people can come for 5 days of non-stop flea-ing and shopping at all of my secret haunts. Who’s coming?

The dates are June 22- 27th 2022. Mark your calendars now! For all of you who missed your chance, we are launching this workshop on Friday, May 1st, so be sure check back in (or even better, subscribe to my newsletter).

We will be going to flea markets, junk shops, artisan food purveyors, vintage dealers, Italian merchants from this region and beyond.

I could not be more excited to go hunting and gathering with you…

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We’re Baaaaaack!

xx Annette

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La Fortezza Cookbook, Winter photoshoot in the Spring

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Rosie Scott, our foodstylist, adding her final touches to the Chickpea Soup recipe on set

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Monitor showing the recipe for Bavette with Spicy Anchovy

Hi there. As you all know, I am working on my latest cookbook, La Fortezza Cookbook. It will be a cookbook based on my time here in the Lunigiana region in Italy. Obviously, this has been a challenging time to work on anything that involves a location.

We last shot the fall chapter in October of 2020 which was honestly less challenging. Now with all the rules, regulations, and protocols, it has been extra stressful. Our team is from London, so the lock-down in England postponed the shoot until last week.

I’ve been so worried since it is a seasonal book, and it is already full-on spring here, and we were shooting the winter chapter. But the gods smiled on us, and it felt like winter here last week: dark, grey and miserable. In all my of years of styling, I have never prayed for bad weather, but lucky for me my prayers were answered, and we managed to replicate winter to the fullest.

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David and Rosie needed a Covid Test for their flight back to London. It was quite easy.

Three out of 5 of us are fully vaccinated (including me), so it was easy to distance and much less stressful. Although we did not travel around as much to shoot the countryside this time or photograph portraits, it was really a nice week, even with all the extra precautions. Everyone had to get a Covid test to fly back to London, but even that was pretty seamless.

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The best part of the shoot, which was not actually part of the shoot, was the delivery of David Loftus Rosé. I had been working on it all winter, and it finally arrived with a beautiful label designed by David himself. David loves a good rosé, so I asked him last fall during the harvest if he’d like to develop one with me. Of course, he was totally on board. It seemed fitting to name the wine for this Rosé enthusiast. What a thrill to have him taste it for the first time. We agree that it has definite notes of strawberry, and he even tasted vanilla. It’s bright, not sweet, and quite enjoyable. We will be enjoying many icy cold glasses, the way David likes it, at the pool this summer.

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One more chapter to go which is spring. Then, we will be finished with the photography. La Fortezza Cookbook, Rizzoli NY, releases spring 2022. As you can imagine, there is plenty to do before it goes to the printer. I will never forget putting this book together in the middle of a pandemic. Who could forget?! Stay tuned for more BTS at the end of June with our fabulous crew. xx

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GIVEAWAY with etúHOME:: Cocktails and Entertaining with Style!

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Hello, February! Now that we’ve gotten our new year kicked-off the right way, I thought we’d welcome a new month with a giveaway. I have not done one in such a long time. Honestly, I am in love with etúHOME’s beautifully crafted boards, so I asked if I could gift one to one of you, and they said YES, so here we GO!!

As you all know, one of my favorite party tricks is creating a huge, sharable charcuterie platter for friends to gather around and nibble on. It really is a fun and filling way to feed guests and requires absolutely no stress. You are instantly entertaining with STYLE!  This post about the anatomy of a charcuterie details exactly what you need to make a successful charcuterie as well as how to arrange meats, cheeses and accouterments in a complementary way. Pair your board with some cocktails from my book Cocktail Italiano, and you have a hit on your hands!

While the items you serve are certainly the stars of the show, the foundation is what makes a charcuterie board special. That’s why I have partnered with one of my favorite home decor brands, etúHOME, to give you a beautiful round oak charcuterie board. Here’s what the brand says about this board:

An even more functional and beautiful version of a signature pizza board, this charcuterie board is handcrafted from reclaimed oak. The oak wooden pizza tray is darker than the signature etúHOME pizza board you know and love, and has a side featuring a rigid wood planked top while the other side is smooth. The smooth oak side makes this wood board ideal for cutting and chopping, as well as serving. The round board is made up of rich oak hardwood that is distinguished by two strips of walnut timber to prevent warping of the reclaimed wood. These large, top of the line, reclaimed boards are amazing quality and will last for generations to come.

The board is  20″ in diameter, making it an absolute showstopper. Even better? I’m including BOTH of my books Cocktail Italiano and Picture Perfect Parties in the giveaway, and as an extra treat, I am marking the pages with my favorite recipes. Be sure to enter on Instagram! You don’t want to miss this opportunity to win a fabulous prize package worth $200.

Giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our winner, Leslie! 

Note: giveaway is open to U.S. residents ages 18+ only and is not associated with Instagram. 

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Her Dark Materials Workshop, 2019 recap

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Sometimes, one just has a girl crush, and with Instagram out there, it’s more likely that these crushes occur. That sentiment pretty much sums up my feelings towards Ros Atkinson, the woman behind the gorgeous Carravaggio still life styled images “Her Dark Materials” on Instagram.

The Dutch masters had nothing on Ros; in my opinion, she is the master. Although her work is very much in these styles, she very much has her own take with her images. They are simply spectacular. Having said all of this I said to myself, “Why not ask Ros (whom I’d never met in person) to come to La Fortezza for a weekend? Maybe she would agree to conduct a workshop.”

We hit it off immediately as she has a smart sense of humor, she’s cute, and we both wear Jo Malone perfume. A match made in heaven! I talked her into showing me how she constructs one of her very complicated layered still life sets. I was mesmerized.

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This October, she arrived a day early, and we immediately headed out to buy all the fruits, vegetables and things she would need to style with her students. We had a lovely meal with lots of wine and headed to bed. Wednesday, we prepped the studio and all the guest rooms for our group. Everyone arrived excited and elated to work with Ros for the next 4 days.

We had folks from all over the world including our first ever guest from India. Our days were spent with Ros in the lead. The weather even cooperated; we had several very dramatic days of fog and mist covering the fields around La Fortezza, and the vineyard was bright yellow against a gray sky. We tromped around the property all afternoon, and although it was damp and cool, we did not mind. We photographed food with Ros in the kitchen with Philip.

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We visited Parma and got lost in a maze near the city center. We toured Parma and dined the most amazing stuffed pasta, and fried dough with prosciutto and Parmesan cheese.

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It was a magical workshop, and Ros is the most divine inspiration and teacher. She shared all of her secrets, and everyone went away feeling creatively revived. The good news is that she will be back next year in September. Check the site and grab your spot we have limited spaces, and they usually go fast. Thank you Ros for a perfect workshop experience. My Instagram crush has turned into a beautiful real-life friendship with the most amazing and talented woman, love you Ros.

xx Annette

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