Saturday, March 29, 2008

Visto, Vail e jamon iberico

What day is today? I need to settle down a bit! I think it is the 29th of March and I am in Vail. Yesterday, with some trepidation I opened the package from Chicago and examined the passport therein. All the reams of paperwork I provided for the consulate had disappeared, but in exchange, I now have a visto (visa) for Italy good until March 2009! Now, I get to go to the Questura in Ascoli and get a Permit of Stay which will allow me to license the car, get a driver's license, etc. I am excited, legal for only the 2nd time in Italy.
I am renting cars over here and I must say, if I lived here, I would get satellite radio. What a concept! Just pick the genre you prefer and listen only to music. In Colorado, i am in a cadillac (for the 1st time since high school and only 16 dollars a day) and while I am not a cadillac guy, it is a blast to drive in the mountains.
Here is my post from the other day when I didn't have internet.

March 28, 2008
Well, after a wonderful trip to my old stomping ground, Kansas City, I am off again
this time to Denver, where I will discover the fate of my passport. The package has arrived from the Italian consulate of Chicago. Is there or is there not a visa inside my passport?
I was really fortunate, for once, with the timing of my KC visit as I was able to attend the great prosciutto battle sponsored by the local convivium of Slow Food. Once again, I must urge everyone to join this worthwhile organization wherever you live, but you are truly blessed if you live in the KC area as the dynamic leadership team really keeps this club humming with the best artisanal and local specialty food products offered at various events throughout the year. Kudos to Jasper, Mike, Marianne, Lonnie and all the rest! This convivium puts ours back in Italy to shame. On to the tasting which was held at The Cellar Rat, a trendy enoteca in downtown KC, which was recently written up in Food and Wine magazine. Ryan, our host, despite delivery snafus, set a table with Italian and Spanish wines and 4 types of hams-3crudo or uncooked and 1 smoked (Speck)
The aged prosciuttos (the italian word for ham) were Parma (IT), Serano (SP), and the mythical and just legalized in america, Jamon Iberico (SP). The 1st two are industrial products with production numbers in the tens of millions per year, while the jamon iberico is really a special artisanal product with longer aging, free range animals and melt in your mouth texture.
My friends and hosts Kevin and Erika then accompanied me to Jasper’s restaurant where we were treated to a wonderful meal of onion soup, papardelle fresh pasta with a pork sauce (Wow!), and a wonderfully cheesey, creamy polenta topped with a shank of pork, and veggies, all washed down with a fine Ripasso from Allegrini. Grazie mille, amico, come sempre, tutto buonissimo!! And a big thanks for my slow food souvenirs from the KC chapter. I will wear them proudly in the Marche!
And now, I am off to check out my little house in the mountains, before skiing a couple of days and trying to work off this new belly I obtained while dining and drinking in Kansas City with my wonderful friends there.
Ciao also to John and Cindy, George, Chad, Len and Ginny, Neil and Mike, Katherine, and Rene’.
I hope to see all of you in Italy!
Also, I must thank my old office staff who gently reminded me when I lamented I would be hoeing 12 acres by hand all summer, “Well, you could be lancing a perirectal abscess”. I will smile and remember that every time I am cursing the Zappa!

OK, that is the latest. I am busy marketing in Vail now. Got to write this trip off as my govt. still asks me to pay taxes and those pesky expenses and losses in Italy don't count here against my income.
Wish me luck skiing, it is snowing right now a bit, but I hear the conditions are icy or "dust on crust" which is another way to say Dwight on butt.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


27 Marzo
Hi everyone from Kansas City! I spent Easter in St. Louis with my brother and his family and we had a wonderful easter dinner at Norma and Milton's (Jim's in-laws). We also built a deck for Jim's second oldest. Meanwhile, I did some serious shopping and bought enough white tea to last me the year and also, white socks, enough for 3 years!
I then flew to Kansas City where the Spring is a bit late in taking hold and the skies have been gray every day, a shame since i rented a convertible. Some words of encouragement for the residents here: I saw turkey vultures, flocks of blackbirds arriving and juncoes leaving-Spring has arrived!, even if it doesn't feel like it.
I have been feted grandly here by my friends Larry and Pam and Larry and Marcia (who also provided my 5 star lodging the past few nights). The food and wines were exceptional, as was the company!
I have finished my doing my taxes and get to pay the USA, and one last time also the state of Kansas, for the privilege of being a citizen here. Thanks for the good work, Len. It turns out your losses in another country don't count here. Too bad!
And now, on to "AG" day. Yesterday, I took a road trip to Waverly, one of the big apple and peach growing regions of the US and talked with my old high school friend Byron, about apple growing as Raffaele and I are trying to decide what to place on our 1/2 hectare below the old oak tree at the bottom of our property. I explained our soil type, climate and inability to use herbicides or pesticides as we are certified biological and Byron thought we might have some success with a little stand of apple trees. Now, we must decide between apples and olives and/or a pond for our low lying area, which looks barren without grapevines. Then, it was on to Wakenda to visit my friend Terry and we talked about tractors; how they work, maintenance, brands, etc. Finally, I was on to my home town of Carrollton, Missouri to visit the hospital where I worked as a 16 year old and it must be in the running for best little town hospital in the country! I took a tour with Jerry, the administrator and was truly impressed! He may come visit us at Nascondiglio di Bacco and we would love to host he and his wife.
I then visited Pete and Linda, great friends of my mom's before heading out to visit all my ancestors in the cemetery. I see the tree my Dad planted when I started in medical school has started to repair the damage it suffered in an ice storm years ago and as a newly avid tree climber, I couldn't resist that opportunity and cleared all the old dead branches out of the middle. I will include pix when I get back to Italy as I forgot my camera cable. I was encouraged to find 4 relatives who lived past 80; hope those are my genes.
I then completed the tour, returning to KC where I am spending the last 2 nights with Kevin and Erika. Tonight is the premier tasting of Jamon Iberico in KC and they have asked me to say a few words! More on that later
Finally, it is off to Denver tomorrow where a package from the consulate in Chicago awaits. I hope my visa is inside!
If you see me, don't be surprised if i am in Marketing Mode! I have to write off this trip, you know :)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good morning, America!! and the world

21 March
At least I think it is the 21st. I have arrived on my native shores after waking at 0200 at Nascondiglio, showering, shaving and bidding addio a Bacco at 2:35. That was Wednesday and after a 35 minute drive to Ascoli, I boarded the 0320 bus to Roma and thankfully slept a bit arriving much to my surprise at Termini, the railroad station which saved me a 15 minute walk at 6:30 in the morning. Next, it was a 45 minute train ride to the airport, followed by an 11 hour flight to Chicago, a 50 minute ride on the CTA train to downtown Chicago and a final 5 minute walk to the Palmer House.
At my friend Jasper's recommendation, I ate dinner at Osteria via Stato, which strangely enough, is located in the Embassy Suites on State St. and had a memorable 3 course dinner with wonderfully fresh ingredients, followed by a nice chat with the owner/chef, David. His family is from abruzzo and hopefully we will have him visit someday at the agriturismo. I also stepped into Quartino and talked with the manager who will be at vinitaly and maybe we can meet up.
With my jetlag in evidence, I awakened at 0400 and read the USA Today paper and made a cup of Lavazza coffee and watched the time slowly pass until finally I could head on to my appointment with the Chicago consulate. By the way, I probably didn't tell you earlier but after 7 emails with no responses, 8 hours prior to my departure, the consulate sent an email with what i needed and of course, I lacked 3 things which were all in St. Louis. Recording my prior experience with these folks for my student visa, I arrived punctually at 0900 and since this is a public blog and "they" might be watching, I will recount my experience and impression when I actually have the visa in hand.
I took an earlier flight to St. Louis and grabbed my Colorado driver's license, made a copy, had it notarized and included that with my bank statement, my newly purchased (that day) international health insurance and all the other goodies which the website had said I needed (the new 3 were not listed there); I hightailed it to the post office arriving at 16:58, 2 minutes prior to closure and express mailed all the stuff to Chicago-guaranteed arrival by noon today. PHEW!! Everyone cross their fingers for me and Buona Pasqua a tutti!!
The good news is I have my laptop back. It was a tearful reunion!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

new garden and 25,000 plants in the ground

13 marzo.
we are trying to make our little garden look better as i said, as well as spruce up the balconies a bit with new hanging flower containers. Here is a preview of our work in progress. It is changing every day.
Today, the planters finished planting all of the montepulciano; a bit over 6400 vines, and started on Syrah. Tomorrow they will tackle the rest of the Syrah and then petit verdot and perhaps a bit of cab. franc.
A bit of excitement here at N. di Bacco!

16 march
Happy Palm Sunday to everyone. We now are about 3/4 planted with about 25,000 barbatelle in the ground. The vines we have planted include Cab. Sauv., Syrah, Montepulciano, Petit Verdot and Cab. Franc. We lack about half of the cab. franc and syrah and the merlot and pecorino. I am still hoping they will finish before Tuesday when the next rains arrive. I have just about finished the garden and the balconies and have weedeaten (is that a word?) our acre of land around the house.
I went to 2 services for palm sunday and in the churches here, they use olive branches instead of palm fronds. Interesting. They also recounted all of Matthew's gospel from the entry of Jesus in Jerusalem to the crucifixion which was appropriate, since I just read all of that gospel last week.
Today is the antique market in Ascoli as is every 3rd weekend, so we are off to visit that today after lunch. I am trying to get in the mood for packing as I leave here in less than 3 days.
The trees here are starting to leaf out as Spring nears!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

finally a vine in the ground!!!

12 Marzo
Raffaele and I put the 1st 2 vines of Montepulciano in the ground and at this point there are about another 2400 which have followed those 2 underground. After putting the initial planting off another half day because of wet ground this morning, we are finally underway. Still about 34,000 to go, but maybe before I fly back to the states, we will be 80% finished. Here are some pix, starting with raffaele planting the 1st vine in the row at the south border of our plot of land. Then, you see some shots of our workers using metal poles marked every 80 cm for placement of the vines. (We change to 70 cm for the rest of the red varieties.) Then a finished row of Montepulciano. The weather was nice-20 degrees C. and more of the same for the rest of the week. Check out the site for more fotos and the prose of raffaele, which far surpasses my dry ramblings. Also, stay tuned for more photos of the new flower plantings as we try to spruce the place up a bit.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


11 marzo
Hello everyone. I spoke with our planter yesterday who says tomorrow is the day he will begin putting our strange combination of grapevines in the ground. With the exception of the white grape variety-Pecorino-we should be able to have all the other reds planted within 3-4 days. The white goes in the lower part of our terrain, which is still too wet from the recent rains to access.
I hope to plant the 1st barbatella with Raffaele and will duly send along the photos of the newly planted field.
We recently were given a short article in the Slow Food online magazine and for those who want to brush up on their italian, here is the link:
I am still waiting to hear from all my friends in the US as to the best restaurant to visit while in Chicago. Some research by me has narrowed the list to Alinea (not sure I can afford it), Avec, Boka, Lula Cafe or Scylla. Thanks for any advice.
My friend Terry from Carrollton is helping me decide what tractor to acquire for Nascondiglio di Bacco as that will be a priority come the Spring. They have John Deere here, which has the best "motore", but also costs more and Lamborghini which is the bottom of the barrel, believe it or not... no drag races after dark with that one.
The big news in the last few days was the Baptismal lunch we served for 24 on Sunday. We served antipasta including cheese, prosciutto, olive ascolane, eggplant, zucchini, and olives I cured from our trees. The primo was timbalo and the secondo was roast pork loin with all the spices from our garden and roasted rosemary potatoes. Then a salad and finally my rum pound cake with whipped cream and rum sauce.
We survived! and everyone seemed to enjoy the lunch. I am still not sure how many lunches for 25 my heart can take.
Bacco is starting to outgrow his puppy stage and act more like an adult which will prove challenging! I have to remain pack leader.
Mowed the lawn yesterday, so think about that when you are dreaming of spring! I have included a picture of what mowed grass looks like.
Sounds like several folks are coming to visit this year from the USA and that is exciting for me. I would love to show everyone this hidden gem in the southern Marche.
Other photos are of Nascondiglio from the back where the pool will be, and hopefully by May, you will see a waterfall from the upper pool to the lower pool where now you see the lawn. Also, this morning i snapped a fruit tree in bloom, our land begging for rootstock, but still unclothed, and finally our work in the front where we are trying to make our little flower garden more presentable with rocks we are collecting from the roadside and fields.
By the way, speranza is hope which is what i am feeling right now about our impending planting dds
ps, having trouble posting the photos today. stay tuned. also got my temp. visa today. one small step for man, a giant step for italia!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

rainy days and thursdays always get me down....

6 marzo
Our rootstock arrived day yesterday and it hasn't stopped raining since. Now our agronomo is happy because the ground will be wet before planting (overrated!), but it is too wet to get in there and start.... maybe sat or sunday, chissa? (who knows?)
We lost electricity for 8 hours yesterday, so I cooked fish in the fireplace. I felt a bit like a contadino of old mixed with a bit of Abe Lincoln (reading by firelight).
Today, I began a massive cleaning of the office, and rooms I frequent, like my room and b.r. and the kitchen. I am not embarrassed anymore, so you can come visit.
Bacco doesn't like being penned up with the bad weather and has taken to eating cd's in the car and plastic pots here, among other unmentionable which dogs tend to eat. We need some exercise!
Travel agent Dwight made plans to visit the USA last night with an appt at the italian consulate in Chicago the morning of March 20th. Wish me luck.. If anyone sees Mike Fedotin, ask him where I should eat the night of the 19th.
Then, I am off to St Louis to see the bro and sis-in-law and family and maybe take in an Easter service where I can take communion!
Planning on visiting KC to do taxes and if I am lucky with the timing, I can join Jasper for the 1st ever tasting of Jamon Iberico in Kansas City... You have to go way back in my blogging past to see my post describing this special type of cured meat from Spain and my prediction of its eventual acceptance by the FDA. Good news for the rich; it is now legal.. Join us thursday the 27th in KC and try also Serrano, Prosciuttos from Parma and San Daniele.
Denver is a big maybe this time, but if Chicago is tardy with awarding my visa, I may be in the states a while! I hope not. I have work to do back here.
The pix are of a field near us which reminded of me of the Wizard of OZ with its great fragrance.. not poppies and no flying monkees, however.
The last 2 show my planting experience in Sicily last year. hoping to repeat that soon.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

70 degree Sunday

2 marzo
Bacco is getting bigger and more in love with water. Yesterday we took a long walk along contrada Ciafone and into the woods. He enjoyed frolicking in the creek, eating artichoke flowers and running in the woods.
Today we host our 2nd olive oil lesson and tasting and have 8 people signed up.
Congrats to our friend Adrian who has been hired as restaurant critic for San Francisco for Gourmet magazine. Quite an honor for one of our old UNISG classmates.
We reached 70 degrees this afternoon and instead of doing a rain dance, I washed 2 cars and made sure the z4 still runs.
March 11 is the day I return to the Questura's office in Ascoli to get my temporary visa and then I can come back to the states and try to get my real visa from the boys in Chicago while doing taxes, retrieving my laptop and other fun stuff.
Enjoy the fotos from my walk. These poor flowers are going to get hit hard Wed. when it goes below freezing again. Some of them I am not familiar, so anyone who recognizes the green one, for example, let me know what type it is.