Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cooking Vacations Visits Villa Matilde

If I met Maria Ida in a different circumstance, I would have ventured a guess that she was an art gallery curator or museum docent- with her gray wool cardigan contrasted perfectly with a red scarf and matching gray spike heels.  As we walk though the vineyard, she jokes: “I’m so short, I’m used to hiking in heels.”  I admire as she strolls gracefully over the uneven rocky ground. 
“We are vignaioli,” – people of the vine – she explains.  Her father, a lawyer by trade, planted the vines of Villa Matilde as a hobby, but never thought to make a living that way.  Maria Ida and her brother Salvatore Avallone, despite their father’s warnings, decided to continue his tradition- leaving the wealthy professional circles of the city of Naples, to live and work in the countryside.  “We started with just our passion, and today we have over 40 dedicated employees that help us produce about 880,000 bottles of our wines each year.”  
Across the vineyard she points out the Renaissance villa that is built on ancient Roman foundations. The evidence of the Roman roots of this area is unmistakable, located just a couple of miles from the Lazio border in Campania.  Here, the people have been cultivating grapes and making wine since Roman times- with the ancient Falernum – today’s Falerno Del Massico.
Maria Ida stoops and grabs a handful of dust that drains out of her palm into the wind, to demonstrate the characteristics of the soil.  Thanks to the extinct volcano, the mountains on three sides, and the sea breeze, the soil is perfect for grape growing.  “Here we grow the Aglianico grapes for the prizedCamarato,” she explains. “The vines here were planted by my father 47 years ago.” You can tell the age by the twisted, gnarled shoots coming out of the sandy soil in neat rows that are destined to make the garnet-colored Reserve.
“We may not be the largest or the oldest, but my brother and I make wines that convey our history and the personality of our land.  That is our past and that is what we will carry on.” She gestures with her hands passionately as she talks, her silver bauble bracelets clacking together each time.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Food Trips Along The Amalfi Coast Wine Trails

Our Wine tasting had everyone dancing in the vineyard!

A day out of the kitchen and at the vineyard, of course eating & wine tasting!! Bringing you fresh new food experiences and cooking classes from Italy!  Chef Eva prepared Minestra with wine, Pasta e fagioli -yes with wine, grilled  sausage & rape with wine, aged Pecorino with wine wine, and a table of desserts with sweet wine and great music.  The country lunch in the hills of the Amalfi Coast brought new and old friends together, sharing recipes, tasting wine and keeping our artisan way of Cooking Vacations alive!  Raise your glass and SALUTE!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


For all the parents out there that just can’t decide where to take the 
kids on vacation this year both Florence and Rome have made the top 10 
vacation locations for families in Europe!

Italy is a fantastic place for kids to learn and have fun. With all 
it’s history your kids will have an amazing experience from seeing 
Michealangelo’s David for the first time to clambering over ruins in 
the Forum in Rome. Just remember after every museum or Church you 
visit just buy them a gelato!

Dining out will be easy with pasta and pizza on every menu, and for 
dessert some more gelato (you can’t have too much) the kids will be in 
paradise! They may even learn a few words of Italiano along the way! 
The Italians are all about families so the kids will be welcomed with 
open arms everywhere they go. They will have a priceless opportunity 
to enjoy their encounter with history, art, archittecture and a 
foreign lifestyle!

Italy truly is a a great way to learn, have fun in the sunshine for 
kids and grown ups too!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Apple Flagship Store Boston

Big Apple at the Apple Flagship Store!  I really felt like a big Apple on Friday, March 18 when I cooked up a spring menu and talked about my recipe for success using Apples for writing, I photo-ing, i pads, I phones and more.  An interesting full house listened, watched and tasted samples from the Cooking Vacations' Kitchen.  Grazie Apple! 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cooking With Apples- Ipod, MacBooks, Iphones & Cooking Vacations Italy

Ciao from Cooking Vacations!

Cooking With Apple

For all the foodies in the Boston area, come join Lauren Birmingham Piscitelli Of Cooking Vacations Italy at the Apple flagship store, 815 Boylston Street, Boston, on Friday, March 18 at 6pm and cook with Apple. 

Apple Computer, the world leader in Mac Books, Iphones, Ipads and computer technology pairs up with Lauren to discuss how she expanded her business to international heights using Apple Technology.  An informal cooking demo with tastings from Cooking Vacations kitchen, along with lots of juicy information on new Mac technology to be served!

If you can't make it to Italy, we bring it to you!

We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Italy's Feste Delle Donne & Sweet Mimosa!

Yellow is everywhere today with soft flowers of Mimosa for the feast day.  Ribbons & wrappings celebrating Feste delle Donne with Zeppole, Chiacchiere, Castagnole & Struffoli.  The Bar Mulini, Positano’s best sweetest bar, was bustling today as lines of locals made their way to the pastry counter.  Barister Maurizio piled the pastries high on parton’s platters with golden ribbons of Chiacchire & small mounds of Castognole; for the last sweet bite before Ash Wednesday tomorrow.    

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Amalfi Coast Beautiful In The Rain

Even when the rain drops are coming down, there is a soft blue veil of mist that covers the sea and its beautiful in the rain.  It looks like a Pasquale Volpe watercolor.  A foggy feeling of comfort even though the rain is beats down.  A mist of hazy blue, white and gray hangs over the mountains.  No one is around.  And the kitchen is waiting.  A bowl of Cannellini beans that have been soaking overnight.  Big as the rain drops outside, they are waiting to be tossed in onion and virgin olive oil with a little pink sea salt.  Pasta and beans with fresh parsley is the fix for this lazy rainy day.

Friday, March 4, 2011

DeCecco Pasta Puttanesca For A Cold Rainy Day

March winds and light sprinkles keep a cold winter feeling in the air.  The perfect recipe for a hearty lunch to keep the chills away, Puttanesca.  I started with a big pan and a three dollops of Extra Virgin first-cold-pressed olive oil, two springs of whole garlic over a medium to low heat (watching it while it infuses).  I then add two small chili peppers, pink sea salt and a handful of capers.  Next, I added a handful of small black olives, or olive di Gaeta.  (I will remove the olives for Melody’s portion, she does note eat them), and four alici rolled around a caper (one for each person). Lastly a small bowl of cherry ripe tomatos sliced in half. 

Let it simmer on low heat, about 15 minutes until the tomatoes start to cook.  

PASTA.  Boil water and a pinch or two of salt and "butta la pasta".  Today I used DeCecco Spaghetti n 12 intergral, which means whole wheat pasta on the small side.  Boil for 10 minutes, save a little of the pasta water or aqua magico to add to the sauce.  When pasta is cooked "al dente" toss into the sauce pan and saute for a moment or two.  Buon Appetito!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Tuscan Epic

The Soft Rains Of March Lead Us To the Spring's Green Grass In The Tuscan Hills.
The vineyards of Tuscany are home to our new program: The Tuscan Epic!

Join Anna Maria in her family’s historic mansion for a unique cooking experience blending Tuscan and Emilia-Romagna traditions in the village of Marradi. Luxury accommodations accompany delicious cooking, and local wines from Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna complete this colorful palate. Our weekend program gives you a taste of Marradi’s local flavor along with time on your own to enjoy the blend of tranquility and excitement that sets apart the Italian lifestyle, la dolce vita.


Marradi is a riverside village tucked in the Lamone valley near Faenza in Tuscany, though just a short distance from Emilia-Romagna. This rural village nests quietly below cirrus-dusted mountains and has a landscape that has inspired artists and poets for centuries. Perfect for a hidden relaxing holiday yet within a short distance of the cities of Florence, Bologna, the seaside of Rimini and the incredible art of Ravenna.
Excursions take you to Ravenna with its incredible Byzantine churches and towns of Faenza, famous for ceramics, Pomposa with its frescoed Benedictine Abbey, Comacchio, a Venice-like lagoon town split by a network of canals and 17 bridges, Cervia, a seaside resort famous for its salt production, and Ferrara, with its Renaissance Estense castle.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Carnevale & Chiacchiere On The Amalfi Coast

A warm cappuccino and Chiacchiere at a cozy cafe in Amalfi!  There were mounds of Chiacchiere neatly laid in trays a top a baker's shelf, a sure sign that Carnevale is near.   And as the cold wind swept in to this famous little bar with the many locals stopping in for their cafe, the baker's air inside kept me warm.  As I bit into the golden ribbon of lightly fried dough, this traditional sweet that celebrates Carnevale,  I immediately wanted another!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Executive Chef Franco Cerutti Executive Chef At The Hotel Paris Monaco!

Italian Royalty reigns in Monte Carlo as the Chef to the stars, that is Michelin Stars, is wowing guests with his sensational seasonal food! I just returned from a private tour with Chef Franco Cerutti in his Michelin Star Kitchen at the Hotel de Paris and learned about his knowledge, passion and cooking secrets.  Known for his simplicity in the kitchen, Cerutti uses seasonal high quality products and crosses the boarder into Italy to do his shopping.  Daily fresh produce, fish, game, cheese and herbs are just a few items on his shopping list!  Leading an orchestra of 20 Chefs, Cerutti serves up Sea Bass, Calamare, Turbot and game!  From antipasto to dessert Chef Cerutti won my heart and palate!