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Bibemus & ABBA do Chianti & the Super-duper Tuscans

4 Dec

“Super-duper Tuscans gonna blind me
But I won’t feel blue
Like I always do
‘Cause Chianti’s in the crowd there too”

[Apologies from the daggy Krystina for ruining Abba’s Super Trooper song. On a side note, did you ever notice how annoying Agnetha’s pointing arm gets after the third time?]

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Bibemus Boozes on Barolo & the Red Panty Threesome

28 Aug


On Monday the 20th August, an Italian-loving wine club experienced an evening entitled ‘Bibemus Boozes on Barolo‘. While it may not be the most eloquent choice of expression in relation to such a noble wine, it was deemed delightful by Bibemus’ core members nonetheless.

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Bibemus boards the Brunello train. With surprise guest, Jean Claude Van Damme

10 Jul

During June’s waxing crescent moon and under the watchful eye of team Bibemus, fourteen Italophiles converged in the darkness outside the Carlton Wine Room and craned their necks towards the sparkling night sky.

Together they chanted:

star light star bright, wine, quote, poem

Adapted by La Donna del Vino

The stars twinkled back at the happy group. Their wish would be granted.

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Butterin’ the Golden Bread (Pandoro)

3 Jul

cooking, baking, recipe, vintage, lady

I have a problem…

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Great Grange & Grand Italians – A wine tasting event

20 Mar


Penfolds Grange is unquestionably Australia’s most famous red wine and has reached celestial heights in terms of adoration and expectation. From its experimental inception in 1951 by winemaker Max Schubert, Grange has been lovingly crafted to shine as a uniquely Australian wine of longevity, power and class.

“Grange’s aesthetic quality and remarkable aging potential is the stuff of legends.”

Andrew Caillard MW

In line with the 20-year celebration of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, an event was arranged that could commemorate the significance of this anniversary. Two bottles each of Penfolds Grange 1971 and 1976 (tested by the clinic in 2011) were obtained from a close friend of the owner of my workplace. The extensive museum Italian wine list was pulled out for perusal. It was like being a kid in a candy store as eight other wines were chosen that hail from Italy which would sit alongside Australia’s most iconic wine. The wines selected are classified in the upper echelon of quality and come from the most respected producers. These include rare wines such as Ceretto Bricco Rocche Barolo Brunate 1990, Produttori del Barbaresco Montefico 1985, Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino Schiena d’Asino 1990, Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella ‘Monte Olmi’ 1991, Castello di Ama Chianti Classico 1997 and even the famous Toscana IGT wine Antinori’s Tignanello 1985 and Bolgheri’s inimitable Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia DOC 1987.

In total, the combined age of these wines is over 200 years. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and one that I feel privileged to have been able to pour at. Below is a visual diary of the evening with small commentary made as to the condition of the wines.

La Donna del Vino savouring a glass of Grange

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All Aboard The Bandwagon – Gastrovins

27 Sep

Forgive me Father for I have sinned.

It has been 9295 days since my last confession. I accuse myself of the following sins. Absolve me if you see fit.

Last Wednesday night in a quiet, private room within the Circa The Prince complex, I found myself surrounded by nine much older and wiser gentlemen, where I then proceeded to try the finest white wines that I have ever had the privilege of putting past my lips.

The sin?

They were not Italian.

They were French.

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The Pigfather – Part I – The Making of Salami

23 Aug

June 4 2011

One day I was asked by my Zio John and Fausto to assist them in their upcoming Salami Day. Clearly I said yes. Along with some of the finest and most respected salami makers of Werribee South, I went and spent half a day with my hands coiled around raw meat. An indescribable sensation in itself.

Where did the name The Pigfather come from, you ask? Need I mention The Godfather? I shouldn’t have to. The first twenty seconds of this film should quite clearly demonstrate the reference!

Filming was gratefully undertaken by my friend Ben who I was able to bring along to join in on the cultural festivities. 

Produced by La Donna del Vino.

Quote: “I like my smallgoods well-hung.”

Written tale and photographs to follow. 

Random & Twisted: A letter to Gianduia

26 Jul


Question: Why the letter to ‘Gianduia’? Answer: Randomness and because I can.

Dearest Gianduia,

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Pericoloso, ma delizioso: Fichi d’India! – Dangerous, but delicious: Prickly Pears!

27 Apr

Sorry mum, but I am going to be honest here.

My parents’ property does not have any Fichi d’India (prickly pear) trees. Yet interestingly, come March and April, there seems to be an endless supply of this fruit in the kitchen.

Mind you, they did not pay for it…”Is this part of some dodgy Italian bartering scheme?”, I had initially wondered, ie: “You give me one styrene of broccoli, I give you two styrene of fichi d’india!”. ‘Fraid not, folks.

What ol’ ma & pa DO have is a conveniently-placed secret fichi d’india tree that they pass on their daily walk. From afar and to the untrained eye it will simply seem like a huge prickly succulent. Warning ladies and gentleman: it IS a huge prickly succulent but if you look closer you may find something oh so delicious within it’s spiky womb.

Should you be around in March/April and happen to be walking along a well-known foot/bike path in Melbourne’s west, you may perchance notice a seemingly pleasant older couple strolling along, wearing gloves and hovering around a specific area, heads darting from left to right occasionally to check for passers by, also holding a strange elongated object in one hand, plastic bags in the other.

Strange, they seem a bit dodgy…“, you may wonder.

Relax, it’s just my parents.

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Besugo al Horno – Baked Bream with Potatoes & Tomatoes

5 Apr

Sharing is caring, correct? Well how much do I care to be showing and sharing with you this delightful recipe from my Casa Moro cookbook!

It is called Besugo al Horno aka Baked Bream with Potatoes & Tomatoes

Newsflash: This recipe is SPANISH! Spreading the wings a little this week.

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“You are my Sugo, my only Sugo. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know dear how much I love you. Please don’t take my Sugo away.”

8 Mar

Well…well…well. Who would have thought. After my woeful post ‘No Sugo For You! Come back, one year!‘, it seems the men in the family who normally organise the supply of the tomatoes felt that they should do all they can to obtain some. At least this way La Donna del Vino will have something to write about, right? Correct! They did not disappoint!

Check out those juicy tomatoes! Ohhhh yeah!

So I went with ol’ ma and pa to the lovely abode of our friends where they had set up their garage to resemble the shed we would normally have used for making tomato sauce. We were more compacted, but it actually benefited the efficiency of the whole system we realised not too long after.

The system started off with a group of us cutting the tomatoes into smaller pieces so as to fit them easily into the crushing machine. Hmm…the words ‘crushing machine’ just made me think of Arnold Schwartzneger all of a sudden!

Best…photo…ever! Right? 🙂

So here is the process in photos.

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The ladies check out Luke Lambert’s wines in the Yarra Valley

3 Feb

Oh dear, I was glancing through photos and realised I hadn’t even written up the trip to see Luke Lambert and his wines in the Yarra Valley back on November the 1st.


My cousin Amanda is a massive cheese geek and overall foodie. We complement one another perfectly because I’m the massive wine nerd who also loves to eat food. Do you see how we mesh so well now?

After little debate, I convinced Amanda to take the day off work for health reasons and to accompany me on a visit to the Yarra Valley. First stop? Madden’s Rise Winery off the Maroondah Highway and also Luke Lambert‘s hideaway where he weaves his own magic.

After a home-brewed coffee in the lab, a tour through the vineyards to see his nebb (nebbiolo vines) and a sip through and comparison of the Heathcote and Yarra Valley Nebbiolo in barrel, we were met with this:

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Jealous much?

23 Dec

How’s this. A few days ago my mamma Italiana: Ornella Bonifacio from Alba, Piemonte, sent me an email. Within it, she merely wished me a merry christmas, asked when I am next visiting her in Alba, then sent me these photos immediately after…

Spigola with tartufi
Tortelli with tartufi bianchi

Why would she be so cruel? Tis the season of the truffle…and she felt the need to use something…any sort of enticement to get me back!

Worthy of writing about!

18 Feb

Bucatini pasta with good extra virgin olive oil cooked to infuse with garlic, mixed with chilli, parsley and anchovies

Glass of 2005 Henschke Hill of Grace

Fricken awesome

We drink a drink a drink a drink

6 Feb
The other cellarhand at Henschke, my old mate Stuart and I got ourselves organised and ventured on up to Angaston for a fulfilling breakfast on this Saturday morning at the Blonde Cafe on the main street. After lining our stomachs we set off to our first destination on what was to be a day of wine tasting in the Barossa Valley. Stuart was driving, so like my brother David would say, ‘You can get smashed‘, but considering I’m not the type to get ‘smashed’ per say, I knew that most of my day would be spitting these palatable libations.
Yalumba called upon us from just outside of Angaston and here we sampled their extensive range, finally finding myself reaching for the wallet and purchasing two bottles of Riesling: 09 Pewsey Vale Riesling & 09 Heggies Vineyard Riesling. Moving along we stopped at the Taste of Eden wine bar in the main street and sampled a range of amazing Rieslings on offer from tiny producers in the Eden Valley, here I bought a Radford 09 Riesling that will be put down for a while I reckon. Can you tell I’ve got a thing for Rieslings yet?
Following on we walked up the road to the small producer Small Fry where we got talking for a while to the wife of the winemaker and ex-viticultural manager of Penfolds vineyards. She was fascinating and they had some really good wines. I ended up buying their food-friendly 09 Barossa Grenache Shiraz Mataro Carignan Cinsault blend from the Vine Vale sub-region of the Barossa Valley. Should look good in two years.
We stopped at Kaesler’s where my ex-boss Matt Harrop suggested we go as they have good wines and they crush Shadowfax’s Sauvignon Blanc the last two years. When we arrived there was a large tour bus of old people gradually leaving and buying up big on sweet white port and telling me ‘this one’s lovely, make sure you buy some too’….ahh….no thanks 🙂 The list on the cellar door was customised for the tour bus so at first I thought they had a pretty dodgy offering, until they realised that the two young un’s here weren’t with the old foggies and gave us the proper list and we went through and tried some ripper reds ‘Old Vine Shiraz’ and ‘Old Bastard’ were favourites of mine, and their McLaren Vale Nashwauk range was really interesting too.
By this stage our stomach’s were getting a little peckish so we winded our way first to Torbreck’s and were served by one surfy and totally ‘tubular surf man‘ free-lovin’ dude behind the cellar door and another who offered to take us down to Adelaide Hills sometime when we’re free. They also whipped out from behind the back a bottle opened up from a dinner the night before of their new 2005 Laird wine to be released sometime this year that will retail for $750 or something. It was an incredible wine…I will never buy it…but I’ve tried it and I can testify that it’s a bloody awesome full-bodied red. In an Arnold Schwartzenegger kind of accent I would say it had ‘the power’.

Mangia Krystina, mangia!

20 Dec

Whilst the ex-boss and wife and child were still sleeping I got up and had breakfast on my own in the kitchen and dressed for lunch as they informed me we were going to the ristorante Bovio in Ceretto Langhe with Ornella also in attendance. Together we rugged ourselves up and braved the chilly winter air and sat down to a wonderful lunch. We ordered and pretty much were all having an antipasto and a secondo but then the restaurant chef who knows Giorgio well ended up bringing us an antipasto on top of our other orders which consisted of carne crudo di vitello in small balls on bread, a spoon of insalata russa and grissini…the child of Anja and Giorgio, Lidia, is two years old and eats like an adult. In fact she ate more of the antipasti than everybody else. On top of that she also ended up eating an adult sized primo of agnolotti, then a smaller sized steak. Hungry kid.

My choices were coniglio then polpo caramellata. I brought Giorgio Meletti-Cavallari’s 2006 Impronte red wine for lunch. First we had a Spumante that was lovely, followed by a Vermentino done by Antinori which was terribly simple and bland. Then we had the Bolgheri rosso, which Giorgio said he liked but Anja wasn’t so keen on. We talked a little about the wine and how La Spinetta’s going etc. The coniglio was delicious in an involtini-style dish cut into slices with an orange-coloured sauce alongside. They followed up with a surprise primo of beetroot-coloured gnocchi with lobster sauce. Again delicious but rich and thankfully portioned well. Giorgio ordered another red wine blind as he wanted to be surprised and it tasted really good and ended up being the 2005 Sezzana (La Spinetta’s reserve Tuscan label) that he would like to put down for another 10 years even. I was really impressed with that one. I also came to learn that the reason for him drinking so much Vermentino of late is because La Spinetta Toscana are doing a Vermentino, 2009 being the first vintage from bought grapes.
My secondo of caramelized polpo (octupus tentacle) was ordered by Ornella and Giorgio also, and was too sweet and the balsamic darkness of the sauce overpowered the freshness or any polpo taste you were hoping to get! It was on a lovely bed of polenta but the sweetness dominated and ruined the dish overall. I mean, it wasn’t horrible, it just could could have been much fresher for fish, y’know?
Afterwards we had said no to dessert and they still brought us coffee cups of tiramisu, probably the best tiramisu I’ve tasted with a yellow-creamy topping, not white, so I wasn’t disappointed they brought us this, but we were trying to eat light! Che ridere! Amazing dessert.
Anja, Ornella and I went for over an hours walk after lunch up the hills to attempt to work it off and chatted about everything. I mentioned how I am going to start studying again and how I’m interested to learn the business side of things also. Anja was interested in that and I think in the new year we will see what we can work out, whether there can be some sort of arrangement. Can’t really say anything just yet.
Later on I went back to Alba with Ornella to her place and we reheated her pipes with a hairdryer to get water as it had frozen. The joys of living where there falls snow. It worked anyway, no matter how funny it looked blowdrying a box. We then went for a walk together and got an espresso in the centre of town before heading back. At 7pm Manuela Rivetti and her boyfriend Simone passed by the house and picked me up and together we had an aperativo first at Piazza Duomo in Alba with rockclimbing friends of Simone, then had dinner at ‘Il Corsiero’ in Cinzano with his group of rock-climbing buddies. The night was spent chatting away with Manuela about old times. Good times, good times.

A feast to remember

15 Nov

Ristorante La Conchiglia in Viareggio, Provincia di Lucca, Toscana.

Where one goes to understand the meaning of fine dining in the true sense of the word…with a price tag to match.

Being a restaurant that resides by sea side, what would one expect other than the very best in seafood produce?! We were a group of 7 in total, including Giorgio & Francesca, Luca & Helena, Alessandro & Claudia and myself. On entering we handed the waiter our coats then sat down in the private dining room surrounded by artwork and the kitchen in the background. We were then greeted by the chef, Patrizio, who ran us through the program he’d created for us today. We would only have to select the wine, the rest we would leave up to him.

We were left in fine hands. Giorgio chose a Franciacorta from winery Alice to start with with our tartare and pane appetiser. We followed on from that with an assortment of dishes, all with some form of seafood and drank Trebbiano from Abruzzo 2007 then Pinot Noir from France.

Two hours later we arrived at dessert which began with Castagnaccio (a delicious local cake using flour from chestnuts, pinenuts and not much else then you put some olive oil and rosemary on top once it’s finished). Followed on by three offerings on a long plate of semifreddo with a fresh concoction of chocolate sauce, creme custard with rasperries, and panacotta…which Giorgio later recollected was like a woman’s boobies, soft with movement but not too hard…that’s Giorgio for you. Caffe’ was drunk by all and then we took our well-feasted selves our for a walk. The portions and the lightness of the food meant we didn’t feel so stuffed that you felt sick, but more the fact that you knew you weren’t going to be eating dinner that night for sure!

Afterwards us girls took off in the big Land Rover and drove along the backstreets towards the gorgeous town of Petrasanta in the province of Lucca also, swiping off a mirror of a blue Renault parked a little wider than normal. The mirror of the Land Rover was in the same condition…decapitated. We didn’t stop…though I suggested we should. Typical Italians for you.

At Petrasanta we arrived to find some sort of festival taking place involving lots of food, cheese and other produce…we didn’t touch a thing. Instead we took a look around the town then stopped for a drink at a bar which played music that reminded me of bars in Melbourne. In other words, modern.

After a long hard day of nothing we all drove back to Grattamacco, this time taking care to drive a little wider when passing parked cars, then watched ‘Italians’ on the big screen at home. It’s like ‘Manual of Love’ for those of you into Italian movies, entertaining, and always unpredictable. That’s one thing I can say about Italian movies in comparison to typical American ones. You can generally guess where the story line is headed with other movies, but with this one we were taking stabs during the film and of course nothing ever eventuated like we thought it would! Great movie though.

Olives Olives Olives

29 Oct

The olives are being harvested for oil. How does one know? You walk past a tree and there’s a carpet surrounding it and you hear a compressor working it’s little butt off in the distance whilst a person stands under a tree with a stick and a strange thing at the end that moves and shakes off the olives. After which, the olives are gathered up and put into a case. Cool stuff, just wouldn’t want to be shaking a tree when spiders and whatever other insects that live in trees fall on your face too whilst doing the work! Glad it’s not me. I’ll just have the end-product thanks very much!

Vintage Festa!

27 Oct

Ieri sera e’ passata la festa della vendemmia! We ate at Federico’s pizza restaurant and we were about 18-20 of us all up. We had a lovely meal set up for us with seafood salad, prosciutto crudo and crostini to start with, then I chose matriciana penne pasta which was delicious, and finally porcini atop scallopini. For dessert my end of the stick was a bit of a disaster. I’d made pavlova and:

1) I didn’t beat the eggs for long enough before adding the sugar so when mounted on the plate it was soft, and
2) it stuck to the aluminium foil I’d put underneath because in this house they don’t seem to understand the concept of baking paper! So when I attempted to pull the pavlova off I eventually had four individual pieces of meringue. But instead of making a mountain out of a molehill I said to myself, “ma chi se ne frega”, we’ll assemble it as per normal, pile on the cream and the fruit and we’ll see how we go!
Then, Federico, who prepared the final assemblage for me, chucked the mixed berries and their juices with the bananas and kiwis and mixed it all together…so basically in the end we had a purple mound of fruit atop my shitty meringue! Lucky I have no photos to post!

Fish – Pesce

17 Oct

The good thing about living in a coastal town is that they like to eat fish frequently. I remember mum telling me you can never say no to fish as it’s so good for you, so I take her advice and make sure I sample each morsel that is offered my way. Most of the time I’m not sure of the exact translation of what sort of fish I am eating, but I’ll take a stab at listing some of the things I’ve eaten so far whilst here:


Fresh Calamari






Dried salted cod (baccalà)



…and the list goes on my friend