Archive for September, 2003

Lazing in Capri

Tuesday, September 16th, 2003

To travel to Capri is to escape to a magical island. Capri is small, only 4 miles long, but it is filled with limitless beauty: steep craggy cliffs that drop dramatically to the sea, mountains that dot the landscape, and fields of jasmine and lemon trees. Capri has also become a popular day trip for those staying along the Amalfi Coast, so as you arrive at the Marina Grande, expect a sea of tourists.

Many of the hotels are a 10 to 15 minute walk from the Piazzetta (main square), and provide a sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle. Two favorites are the Punta Tragara perched over the Faraglioni rocks, and the Scalinatella, known for its superior service and the best al fresco lunch on the island. The Quisisana, owned by the same family as the Scalinatella, is a bit larger, but may be a good option if traveling with kids.

Many travelers return to Capri year after year for a little R&R in an atmosphere of chic yet casual elegance. The hotel pool becomes a tranquil oasis on those warm and sunny days. The island is filled with natural beauty, so it is worthwhile to go on excursions and explore. Villa Jovis is a magnificent place worth visiting. Perched high on a hill on the NE tip of Capri, it is the remains of the largest villa of Emperor Tiberius, and has majestic views of the island and the Gulfs of Naples and Salerno. The Giardini di Augusto are pretty gardens just outside the Piazzetta. It offers magnificent views looking south and west. From the Gardens you can continue along Via Krupp, down steep switchbacks, past beautiful villas, to the Marina Piccola. Lastly, but a bit more touristy, is to rent a boat and visit the Grottos. They are like nothing you have seen before.

The food on Capri focuses on fresh seafood. Pastas with clams, shrimp, or mussels are terrific. The pezzogna, a local delicate white fish, is outstanding. La Campannina is the best and most popular restaurant. The owner, Antonio, ensures superior service and fresh food. Da Tonino is also outstanding, excelling in fresh pasta and seafood, along with a huge wine list. After dinner sit at one of the cafes in the Piazzetta and have a gelato, or better yet, a sgroppino (a drink of vodka, prosecco, and lemon sorbet) and enjoy the people watching.

WINE OF THE MONTH: 2000 Perrin Reserve Cote du Rhone ($8.50)

Monday, September 15th, 2003

The Perrin family, owners of the prestigious Château de Beaucastel , are outstanding winemakers in the Rhone Valley. Their 2000 Reserve has a deep red color, and is loaded with fruit in an old world style. It is a blend of Grenache (60%), Syrah (20%), Mourvedre (10%) and Cinsault (10%). The wine is a perfect balance of cherries, blackberries with a mix of spices and pepper. It is a soft, medium bodied wine with a nice long finish. It has more complexity than you would think; and as an everyday house wine it’s a homerun.

WINE TASTINGS: Primitivo

Sunday, September 14th, 2003

Apulia, located on the southeastern tip of Italy (the heel of the boot) is a major wine region producing over 1 billion liters per year. One of the major grapes from this region is Primitivo, with the vineyards concentrated around the town of Manduria. It is thought that Primitivo is a distant relative of the California Zinfindel grape. Both are similar in that they are typically fruity, simplistic wines. Primitivo grapes bake on the vine in the hot sun of southern Italy. This concentrates the fruit into a rather high alcohol wine that is not always tame. The wine however is not complex, and displays an aroma of cherries, blackberries and plums which should be enjoyed young. It is perfect for the summer BBQ, pairing well with hamburgers or other grilled meats. Of the Primitivos tasted, these were the favorites:

Pichierri Terrarossa 2001 ($21)
The hands down winner. A medium bodied, robust wine that exhibited a high concentration of cherries and blackberries. The perfect balance mellows the wine on the palate with a nice long finish.
Cantine dei Trulli 2000 ($16)
A rust colored wine typical of long aging. The wine was not typical, but showed characteristics of a wine that was harvested very late. It displayed layers of prunes and molasses and layers of spice that gave a unique level of complexity.
Rosa del Golfo Salento 2000 ($15)
A rich wine with style. The cherry and plum flavors have softened to produced a balanced wine with
a long smooth finish.

In the Garden

Saturday, September 13th, 2003

What’s fresh? September is a great month in your garden or at your local farm stand. Bicolor corn is plump and sweet. Heirloom tomatoes, although not particularly attractive, are packed with flavor. Carrots are bright orange. Peppers and summer squashes are plump, colorful and delicious. When vegetables are at their peak, it is best to enjoy them in recipes with few ingredients. This highlights their flavor, rather than overpowering it.

CORN SALAD (mix, chill & serve)
3 ears of corn, cooked & removed from the ear
8-10 cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters
3 scallions, chopped
1 tbs. fresh parsley
lime juice from ½ lime
1 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
ground pepper to taste