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An Italian feast by Flora

An Italian feast by Flora

By Martin Mendiola, mendiola@usgourmet.us….

John Flora and Leo Alvarez

The use of Montepulciano in Italian wine names can be somewhat perplexing since it is both a grape variety and the name of a town in the Siena province of Tuscany.  We are most familiar with the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano which is not actually made with the grape of the same name, but mostly with the Prugnolo gentile (local name for the Sangiovese grape) and blended with other local varieties such as Canaiolo Nero and Mammolo.  The blend doesn’t contain Montepulciano grapes; in fact, even though this is the 2nd most planted red grape in Italy, it is not found in Siena.

On the other hand, the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is made in the Abruzzo region mostly with Montepulciano grapes.  This wine is deeply colored with an intense smell of red ripened fruit and a full yet soft fruity flavor.  One of its most controversial characteristics is that it feels and stays young even when aged, which does not seem to disturb many as it continues to be one of Italy’s most popular red wines.  Part of its popularity is due to its excellent price/value ratio.

We recently found what seemed to be a good example for the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines at a reasonable price, the Bosco “R” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC vintage 2007 with 10 months in oak barrels and 12 months resting in the bottle.  Since we were familiar with the winemakers at Azienda Vinicola Bosco we decided to try it.  The enthusiasm exhibited by Leo Alvarez (the distributor’s representative) regarding the wine was contagious and it certainly helped our decision.

Not only was Leo enthusiastic about the wine, but when told that we wanted to create a small Italian feast to accompany the wine he immediately said, “Look no further.  We also represent the Flora Foods label.  Flora Foods is a company that has been around for over 25 years with some of the best imported Italian products in the market.”  He then proceeded to tell us about the vegetables, the bruschetta toppings along with the pastas and their sauces while not forgetting the amaretti cookies and panettones.

By Martin Mendiola….
His comments created an interesting challenge.  Could we create an Italian feast based solely on Flora products?  We decided to try.  First we found some grilled artichokes which along with some marinated asparagus spears, roasted red peppers, peperoncini and some cerignola, kalamata and Sicilian olives, splashed with some extra virgin olive oil would make a nice vegetable antipasti plate that could be proudly served anywhere in Italy.  Along with the vegetables, we agreed on some anchovy fillets and smoked mussels in olive oil to balance out the bruschetta olive topping and the pesto alla Genovese that were served on thinly sliced toasted bread to compensate the vegetable flavors.

The toughest decisions were whether to make pasta, risotto or cous cous and which sauces to incorporate.  Since the feast was inspired by the wine, we decided to go with the dishes that most complimented the wine’s best attributes: we agreed on the vermicelli with the tomato basil sauce and the risotto with porcini.  We figured that the earthiness of the porcini and the acidity of the tomatoes would be enhanced and tamed by the wine, respectively.

We liked the fennel taralli but were concerned as to how they would blend with the meal, surprisingly having them around throughout the whole meal was a great decision.  Not only did they compliment many of the dishes but sometimes even served as palate cleanser.

Our plans were to end with a strong protein dish, but no one found it necessary after everything we had consumed.  Those with a sweet tooth could not resist the panettone with butter nor the amaretti cookies that were fresh, crisp and flavorful.  Even these sweet treats went well with the Bosco “R” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, which as expected turned out to be a good representative of this wine style.

When reflecting on a spectacular meal, other than the bread, cold cuts, wine and cheeses, all products used for our small Italian feast had the Flora label.  Leo Alvarez was right: these products were of excellent quality with flavors reminiscent of the old country.  It reminded us of a great meal we once had in a Siena farmhouse overlooking Montepulciano.

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