Monday, July 30, 2012

3 summits/one day with Bacco in the Sibillini mountains

30 Luglio, 2012
My reward for working for 9 hours on Sunday was to have the day off on Monday to take Bacco to the Sibillini mountains.  A part of our 5 years together is the tradition to climb a summit for each of our birthdays; Bacco was lamenting the other day his mountain just didn't hack it (Mt. Amandola), so we hiked up 3 different peaks today, so he could claim one higher for his birthday.  I had been wanting to climb Mt. Priora all summer and it was my bd climb.  After hearing horror stories about how the Priora hike took 10 hours from Gola dell'Infernaccio, I consulted my handy book "Italy's Sibillini National Park-walking and trekking guide" by Gillian Price and found a shortcut.  The road requires a higher profile vehicle and not a z4, but is possible if you drive slowly.  We started at the Forcella del Fargno mountain pass with its eponymous refuge (more later), arriving at 9 AM with a wind just calm enough to not send us flying off the mountain.  I lost an important cap in the first minute outside the car and it tumbled down a cliff.  A trail worker suggested we go around the  back side of the Mt. Pizzo Tre Vescovi to avoid the tempest and since we arrived close to that summit, we hiked on up where Bacco marked this as his birthday summit in his usual way.
Mt. Pizzo Tre Vescovi

Leaving the Pizzo, we can see Mt. Priora 2332 meters to the left and Pizzo Berro 2259 meters on the right, both of which we are going to conquer or die, hehe.

Looking across the saddle from the trail on the flank of Pizzo Berro to the top of Priora

Here you get an idea of the steepness of the final part with the visible cross marking the summit.

The big wind returned on top and  after a light lunch to replenish our reserves, we hightailed it back west to Pizzo Berro.  Luckily I had my windbreaker, but my hands got a bit cold, strange after our multiple days in the 90's.

Notwithstanding Bacco's mark, I decided to leave something a bit more permanent to record our success.

Here we are together, having finally seen our first people of the day on top of Pizzo Berro.

Kids are always trying to spook their parents by walking right up to the edge of the cliff.  My son did the same in Bryce National Park.

A look at Mt. Bove North which will be a part of our next big excursion including the 3 mountains of the Bove circuit, North, South and Mt. Bicco, but not today.

Arriving back at the refuge of Fargno where we smelled some good stuff coming from inside and the wonderful caretakers rehydrated Bacco and brought me a nice 1/4 L Sangiovese from Lucangeli near Jesi and a big plate of lentils and beans and bread to take care of my energy deficit.

They loved Bacco.  The wonderful iron work is from the 1700's and not the epoch of art nouveau and used to be a decoration for a catholic church pulpit.

A look up at the Mt. Pizzo the Vescovi where we started

Views of the refuge which is in its 3 incarnation, now as a "bunker"; the first 2 iterations flew off the mountain in the winds (a bit like the story of the 3 pigs).

Look closely and you see the baby feeding; not sure what the cow behind has in mind.
Consigli: Advice: Wear lug sole boots and preferably real hiking boots as there are lots of opportunities to slip on scree or turn your ankle.  There is some minor exposure, so this might not be good for those with a great fear of heights.  The book says Pizzo Berro requires expertise, but not really, just caution and a bit of fearlessness.  Hiking poles are helpful, if you like them and be sure to take 2-3 Liters of water for yourself and 2 for your dog.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Un Americano a Pianello: KC vs. Abruzzo BBQ

17 luglio
A few months ago, I met Alessandro at a wine tasting to select the best Abruzzo wine to pair with mozzarella cheese.  He is a fellow gourmand and kindly invited me to join his group "15 of the President" which met on the 15th day of various months for theme dinners.  I was finally able to attend a dinner in Alba Adriatica with a theme of eggs, which was quite interesting and not knowing any better, I opened my mouth and offered to try my hand at KC bbq for the group and in concert with another winemaker from Abruzzo, Max, who really did all the work for the meal you are about to see, we programmed the event for July 15.  Thus it was I was made co-capitano and starting planning my contribution.  Since my fellow captain had already planned a full day of eating and learning, I decided to concentrate only on ribs and sorbet.

The day started with a demonstration of pecorino cheese making; here the cheese man is read to add the rennet.

The first of the newly coagulated milk served up in small portions with a consistency of custard and wonderfully light and fresh.

With a little more time in the heated water the cheese becomes thicker and is put into forms; the one nearest the cheese maker has had a bit of mint added because:

Max was busy at 11:50 in the morning making mojitos for everyone.  I had 2 sips as that is just a bit too early for me to start drinking.  This, I will add came after a Pecorino wine which we drank with the "custard" cheese.

Now the cheese is ready to serve fresh.  It is cool to experience the change in consistency of the cheese as it dries and becomes more solid in the space of just an hour.

After the cheese was all coagulated, collected and placed in forms, our maestro cheese maker increased the temperature of the pot to near 90 degrees C. to make the ricotta.  Fresh, warm ricotta of any type is one of those gastronomic experiences you must try!

Next lesson is bread making with "lieveto madre" started last fall by the bread maker with the fermented must of Pecorino grapes supplied by Max.  (I was able to take home my own starter and yesterday made my first sourdough multigrain bread.) 

This is our chef for the 5 types of arrosticini we tried.  This is the Abruzzo part of the BBQ war.  We tried industrial arrosticini, then hand-made from lamb meat, with and without chili peppers, then lamb liver with onions and with onions and chili peppers.  He cooked them about 5 times longer than I usually do, but that seems the norm, so if you like your meat medium rare, ask for al sangue when you visit Italy.

This is one of the butchers who is bringing back the tradition of hand cut and skewered arrosticini.  Arrosticini were invented to take advantage of the small amount of good meat that one might find with an old animal or one that was weak or injured.  Now the lamb used is, for the most part imported from France, with only about 10% of the lamb meat sold here being from italian producers.  The animals  raised here are used for milk and cheese for the most part.  

I am thinking "I can do this"!

Patrizia made a mistake and volunteered to make the skewers and for her hard work she was made "capitana" for next event in November.

Ready for cooking

The first time I have ever used a grill which raised and lowered so you could control the heat and flame was at this agriturismo called La Rustica in Pianella, Abruzzo.  I am heating up the ribs which I had cooked previously in the oven for hours at low temperature after using rubs from Arthur Bryants and one of my own making.  Since I was unfamiliar with the facilities I figured I better have these ready to go quickly to serve 35 people.  My 20 lbs of ribs, which took about 15 minutes to heat up arrived at the plates at about 1630 when everyone was already completely wiped out.  They revived, however and did a good job of wiping out my ribs and the Thalia wine we produce, which, being a mix of Montepulciano and Syrah, is perfect for BBQ.

The kerchief was a gift from the bread maker and is a part of the gift of his sourdough starter yeast.  
I will leave it to the guests at the event to decide who "won" the bbq cook off, but I am secure in the knowledge that KC style ribs were presented well and did not disappoint them.  After the ribs, as a "bookend" to the earlier aperitif, my frozen dessert arrived to cleanse their palates from all this heavy bbq: mojito sorbet.
The whole group ranging in age from 2 to 60 something.

Dessert wine from Max for the tort is visible in the ice bucket.  A 6 hour lunch coming to a close, not for the faint of heart or stomach, that is for sure.

Sunset in the beautiful Marche as I near Nascondiglio di Bacco at 20:40, having left home at 9:30.

Homemade bbq rub as suggested by my brother but change the percentages to your taste preference.
equal portions of each of the following:  brown sugar, salt, pepper, paprika (I use a bit less of the last 2).  Rub abundantly on the meat you want to grill-not a great steak obviously hehe.