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The first time I have been to Valtellina was at the end of last year’s harvest season with three Italians, my other half and a couple of friends from the region. After running the Valtellina wine trail (a scenic marathon through the vineyards) we visited Chiuro to do a tasting of the heady Sforzato wine made with partially dried Nebbiolo grapes grown on impossibly steep terraced vineyards. Beer was the last thing on our minds when we entered the cellars of the winemaker Balgera. We were in for a surprise.

This was when we first heard about the making of the Italian grape ale. A long-standing family wine company Balgera and an artisanal beer company Pintalpina had worked together to make this ale, a newly classified type of beer. But we couldn’t taste it as it was not yet bottled. More… “The Beer Harvest”

Demet Güzey writes books and essays on food. She is the author of Food on Foot: A History of Eating on Trails and in the Wild, to be published in Spring 2017. Her writing has appeared in Gastronomica and various scientific journals. You can follow her on instagram at demetguzey and twitter @demetguzey
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In classic steampunk style
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Happy National Coffee Day! If you haven’t had your coffee yet, it’s time to grab some (check out these places for a free cup) and sit down to read the Smart Set. To pair with your espresso: An article about the Italian origins of Starbucks and why there are none in Italy.

The invention of Mr. Coffee in the 1970s was an enormous leap for American coffee drinkers: Before then, most coffee was boiled in percolators at home or prepared inexpensively in industrial-scale drips to be consumed at diners. The result was mostly terrible — there’s a reason that coffee ruined by wives and secretaries was a running gag in midcentury sitcoms. •

Read It: Counter Culture by Sara Davis

Get in touch with The Smart Set at editor@thesmartset.com.
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Not your basic ragù

In the town of Crema, less than an hour east of Milan, they make a stuffed pasta that goes by the straightforward name of tortelli cremaschi. The name, however, is about the only straightforward aspect of this local speciality. Federico Fellini may have famously said, “life is a combination of magic and pasta.” But even the great filmmaker himself could not have dreamed up tortelli cremaschi, which must be the most Felliniesque pasta in Italy.

While the pasta itself follows a basic egg-and-flour recipe, the ingredient list for the ripieno (or filling) reads as follows: amaretto cookies (nearly a pound); candied citrus; raisins; mint candies; grated lemon zest; grated Grana Padano cheese; nutmeg; Marsala wine; mostaccino, a local cookie that is sort of like a ginger snap.

Allow me to address a few of your questions: No, I am not making this recipe up. No, this is not a child’s… More…

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, February 21–September 1, 2014. Photography by Kris McKay © SRGF.

My wife, the over-observant Shuffy, noticed a group of children playing with geometric shapes cut from pieces of black paper. The children were arranging these shapes on larger sheets of construction paper. The construction paper was lying on the floor of the Guggenheim Museum and the Guggenheim Museum was in the midst of its exhibit of Italian Futurism.

“Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe.” Through September 1. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. 

One wonders what Filippo Tommaso Marinetti would have thought about these children. Marinetti (1876-1944) was the founder of Futurism. In 1909, he wrote a document that has since become the most famous testament of Futurism. It is known as The Futurist Manifesto. The fourth “principle” of Futurism states, infamously: “We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the… More…

Officially, the answer is no...

Killing cats is illegal in Italy. And eating them was understood to be something only done during times of deprivation. Bigazzi said as much when he explained that this was the case during his childhood in the 1930s and ’40s. (Obviously Italy is not alone. During the siege of Paris in 1870, certain restaurateurs resorted to purchasing their meats from the zoo. Writes Kenneth James in his biography of Escoffier, “there was donkey, elephant, camel … and kangaroo, bear, wolf and roe deer,” and yes, “the humble cat delicately embellished with rats.”)

So was Bigazzi being merely nostalgic or was he actually suggesting Italians today eat cat? If you ask restaurateur Dean Gold, the answer is, in all probability, yes, it still happens — not out in the open by the Piazza del Popolo, mind you, but rather in secret gatherings akin to the supper club that feasted on Komodo… More…

 

 

How would you describe the smell and taste of a fresh white truffle? Meg and I asked each other this very question as we navigated the streets of Alba, lost on our way to Pio Cesare winery. We debated this because we were in possession of a tiny truffle that filled our tiny Lancia with its odor. And odor seems the right term — I definitely would not call it a fragrance or a scent. Like most people experiencing the white truffle firsthand, we’d been throwing out the usual descriptors: earthy, pungent, woody, rooty, garlicky, cheesy. We were also still laughing about the unfortunate description of its taste by food writer Corby Kummer, published in Gourmet some years ago: “It tasted of parts of the body I urgently wanted to know better.”

“It’s like a regular mushroom… More…

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But I don’t live in Sardinia, and I certainly don’t have a wood-burning fireplace in my kitchen. Nor do I have access to the ingredients that a good 50 percent of the recipes in Sweet Myrtle require. I live in Chicago, and while I have access to a good number of strange foods that rot in my fridge while I try to figure out what to do with them, I can’t find mosto d’uva. Or abbamele, a honey and pollen reduction. Even the dish on the cover calls for salted, pressed, air-dried fish roe, which is not likely to be found in the local supermarket.

But the idea of my Sardinian home was just too tempting, so I decided to at least give the book a try. I started with something simple: polenta with sausage and tomato sauce. While it was absolutely delicious and quick, it was close to something… More…

Move away from the pepperoni.

I should start by revealing the location of my own perfect pizza: Denino’s Pizza Tavern, which has made its home on Port Richmond Avenue on Staten Island since 1937. The place is run by the family of the original founders, a fact that some claim contributes to the consistent quality of the pie throughout the decades. Staten Islanders, Bayonners, and Brooklynites alike have been eating here for generations, my family included.

Here’s a recent Friday night: The kitchen door swings open and out walks a waitress with a silver platter. The pizza arrives. I raise the first slice to my eager mouth and take a bite. As the thin, brick-oven crust, creamy mozzarella, and sweet but tangy sauce meet my taste buds, I can’t help but think: This must be the perfect pie. It’s the same epiphany I’ve had every time I’ve dined there over the past 10 years or… More…

A kind of sidewalk along the water that itself forms the street proper.

Once I met a man who did not travel. He lived in the Swiss city of Locarno, on Lago Maggiore — the city, famous now for its film festival, that Hemingway’s Frederic Henry rows across the Italian border to reach in A Farewell to Arms, making his sad separate peace with the Great War. It is a city of transit, a place to hide money, and probably my acquaintance knew about all that, for he was an investment counselor from an old family, a local pol, too, a man who looked as comfortable in a good suit as the rest of us do in jeans. But he did not travel. His wife might go to India or America, his children as well; he couldn’t even be bothered to cover the hour or so to Milan. Locarno had all the cultural and commercial amenities he needed, the lake was beautiful, and… More…

Today’s oenophiles have to consider the possibility that their valuable wine bottles may be corked, oxidized, “maderized” (ruined due to over-heating), re-fermented (gone fizzy in the bottle), or sullied by a contaminant. Things were much easier in 16th-century Italy: You could just blame the witches. It was commonly believed that after their satanic midnight Sabbath parties, witches had the nasty habit of invading a village’s wine cellars and sullying the vats with their urine or excrement. This, needless to say, did nothing for a wine’s bouquet. Thousands of European women were being burned at the stake for their evil powers, but somehow the problem could not be controlled.

The situation was better if you happened to live in northern Italy’s alpine province of Friuli on the border with Austria (still a fine wine-producing region), because there dwelt a team of occult heroes: the benandanti, or Good Walkers, a revered group… More…