One of my favourite Italian desserts is simple, elegant, and endlessly adaptable: cookies and sweet wine. In Italy I’ve seen this dish served with every manner of cookie, from amaretti to lady fingers to biscotti, and sweet wines as various as Vin Santo, Recioto, and Pantelleria. You could easily take the dish outside the realm of Italian cuisine and try something like ginger snaps and sweet applejack. A particularly memorable experience was being served s-shaped Buranelli cookies with a glass of sweet Zibbibo in a small restaurant in Venice on a wet, chilly September afternoon.
In practice it is both drink and food. The fundamental idea of Italian aperitivo is that you order a drink and receive complimentary food. That food may be a fistful of olives, or it may be a no-kidding smorgasbord. Isn’t that amazing?
Let’s talk about drinks, then about food.
A Simple Bar for Aperitivo
Amari. If you can buy only one bottle of liqueur for aperitivo, it should be Campari. Campari is a bitter liqueur of about 25% ABV, flavoured with obscure herbs and fruit (eg chinotto, the myrtle-leaved orange tree). It was invented in Novara, Piedmont, by Gaspare Campari. It was first … Continue reading.
Amarone is the most fashionable Italian wine in North America. I’m in no way qualified to make such a sweeping statement, but I think the shelves of boutique wine shops offer ample testament. The wine is rich, concentrated, age-worthy, and expensive. It is by its very nature more pricey than most other wines: made from partially-dried grapes, it requires more kilograms of fruit to produce a litre of wine. The absolute cheapest bottles in Canada cost about $40, but most mid-level bottles sell for around $60. My first taste of Amarone was in the home of a self-impressed eye doctor. It was delicious.
Amarone is from Valpolicella, a small region in northeast Italy, just outside Verona. Valpolicella is an … Continue reading.
Let’s look at the ingredients list. First is wine vinegar. Then concentrated grape must. “Must” is the winemaker’s term for unfermented grape juice. So concentrated grape must is just cooked grape juice. Next we see caramel, or cooked sugar, which gives the vinegar is characteristic colour, sweetness, and body. Finally we have sulfites, which inhibit micro-organisms and prevent unwanted fermentation. In other words, this condiment is sweetened vinegar.
Bottles labelled “Balsamic Vinegar of Modena” have a faux seal on them that says “Indicazione Geografica Protettata,” or IGP. This is … Continue reading.