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Grill like an Italian: go gourmet HAMBURGER crazy!

labor day grill recipe hamburger

Many of you will be surprised to learn that Italians have gone HAMBURGER CRAZY!

Over the course of the last two years, scores of hamburger-themed restaurants have appeared across Italy, from Milan to Rome and beyond.

And Italian food bloggers join in the fun by rating and ranking the many different restaurants where they’re now serving all-American burgers, sharing recipes, and bragging about the “best hamburgers” they’ve ever eaten.

The fad is so popular, in fact, that you’ll often hear Italians use the English bacon when they order their “bacon cheeseburgers” (“amburgher con formaggio e bacon”)!

(Traditionally, bacon is called pancetta in Italian.)

Here at Live Like an Italian, we’re already planning our all-American burger Labor Day menu.

Italian food blog best

Above: Italian food bloggers love to rate and rank their gourmet hamburgers!

There’s probably no wine that pairs better with hamburgers than the Mazzoni Piemonte Barbera: it’s bright, fresh, and lively in the glass and it’s also a wine that Italians like to chill during the summer.

Here’s our Labor Day grilling menu wine pairing tip: put your bottle of Mazzoni Piemonte Barbera in the fridge the night before your Labor Day bash; take it out of the fridge about 20 minutes before you plan to serve it to your guests; it will be just the right temperature (chilled but not so cold that it will mask the juicy, delicious flavors of the wine).

Please click here to read more about this fantastic wine for pairing with hamburgers this Labor Day!

Truffle hunting in the U.S.A. just like in Italy!

black summer truffles umbria

Above: Summer truffles foraged in Umbria, not far from the Mazzoni winery in Tuscany.

The U.S. truffle foraging season doesn’t begin until the fall but it’s never too early to begin planning your trip to truffle country!

It was once believed that truffles — a Tuber (not a mushroom) – were found only in Europe.

But today, there are a number of truffle “farms” scattered across the U.S. and in some areas, the naturally occurring truffles are so abundant that the culinarily adventurous can book “private truffle forays.”

The most popular destination is Oregon, where truffle hunting begins in late November and lasts throughout the spring.

The spring and the summer are the seasons for black truffle hunting in central Italy, where Mazzoni wines are made.

August is generally the last month when hunters head to the wood with specially trained truffle hunting dogs.

In another era, pigs were used. Female pigs are attracted to the scent of truffles but they would often eat their bounty once they found it!

Dogs, on the other hand, can be trained to find the truffles and not eat them.

So if you want to hunt for truffles just like an Italian, simply Google “truffle foray” or “truffle hunting America” and you’ll find a wide array of truffle hunting packages.

And in case you just want to eat truffles (and not hunt for them), be sure not to miss the Oregon Truffle Festival in January.

Ferragosto: relax like an Italian!

best italian beach

Some may find it hard to believe. But it’s true.

In Italy, nearly everyone takes a vacation on or around August 15, a holiday known as Ferragosto (Italian for August vacation).

Some people go the beach. Others to the mountains. Many will leave the country. And plenty of folks will just stay at home. After all, when you live in Italy, you are surrounded by beauty — natural and artistic — wherever you are!

Across the boot, shopkeepers close up their business and signs that read chiuso per ferie (closed for vacation) appear everywhere.

Of course, there are some people who don’t take the holiday off: for people who work in the tourist industry, it’s the busiest time of year.

But the average Italian looks forward to this date each year and most take up to two weeks off.

It’s a sacred ritual. A time to relax, recharge, and take stock.

Even the team at Mazzoni takes time off from their work in the vineyard and the cellar. As Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Binodocci wrote on his blog last week, he and his entire staff are on vacation from August 9-17. They’ll come back just in time for the harvest.

So even if you can’t take a week off this month, take time out to savor a meal and enjoy a glass of wine. It’s just one way that we can live like Italians, too!

How are you living like an Italian? #MazzoniMonday #Contest

best italian wine for pizza

It’s August, which means Italians are taking a two-week holiday. While they’re celebrating summer, we want to celebrate YOU. Visit our Facebook page to take part in our first ever #MazzoniMonday. Take a picture of how you’re living like an Italian this week: cooking like an Italian, playing like an Italian, or simply feeling Italian. Post your photo to our wall with #MazzoniMonday. We’ll pick a winner to receive a prize and a feature on our page. Buona fortuna!

How to cook a “bistecca fiorentina” (Tuscan steak)

tuscan steak 1

When you travel to Montalcino, Tuscany where Mazzoni wines are made, you quickly learn that the folks who live there like to eat steak.

The bistecca fiorentina (often simply called fiorentina) or Florentine steak is one of the region’s most popular dishes.

Tuscany is famous for being “wine country” but it’s also cattle country. And the Tuscans are fiercely proud of their special breed of cattle, the Chianina. It’s an extraordinarily large breed and because of its size, it makes for some of the most prized beef in the world.

Grilling a steak can be a lot harder than it seems. And the Tuscan use a special technique (see below) for cooking the fiorentina, a cut that we know in America as the Porterhouse.

how to cook a bistecca fiorentina

Because they like their beef seared on the outside and rare on the inside, they cook the steak upright on its “T” before cooking either side.

This does two things: It heats and releases the juices of the bone and it warms the entire steak without changing its color. After the steak has “warmed through,” you simply cook it briefly on either side over high eat to achieve the desired char.

Do the Tuscans love steak because they make such great red wine or do they love red wine because they make such great steak? It’s an age-old question that may never be answered.

What we do know is that one of the greatest pairings for bistecca fiorentina is the Mazzoni Rosso di Toscana: the lush fruit of its Merlot sweetens the char of the beef while the acidity of the Sangiovese cuts through the meat’s tender fattiness.

It makes for a great summer grill but it will thrill your meat-loving guests anytime of year, as well.

Looking forward to the Palio of Siena (August 16)

palio di siena assunta 2013

Here at Live Like an Italian, we look forward each year to the running of the Palio in Siena, the famous horse race held each year in the town’s main square, the Piazza del Campo.

The Tenuta Il Poggione, where Mazzoni wines are made, lies about an-hour-and-a-half drive south of Siena in the village of Sant’Angelo in Colle (in the township of Montalcino). Even as far away as Sant’Angelo in Colle, the townsfolk “live” and thoroughly enjoy the event, following each development and all the pageantry that’s involved.

For those who have never heard of the Palio, it’s an ancient horse race that originated in the Middle Ages.

Each year, on July 2 and August 16 (in two separate races), ten of Siena’s seventeen contrade (wards or neighborhood) compete. They are selected by lottery.

The intense and deep-seated rivalries are as much part of the spectacle as the colorful feasts and parades.

The race is an “anything goes” affair and the ten competing wards will do nearly anything to put their rivals at a disadvantage.

Even an excluded ward (not chosen in the lottery) will rejoice when an adversary loses. The celebrations over a vanquished rival are as colorful as those held for an outright victory.

To read more about the Palio, its history, and legacy, check out this well-written entry on Wikipedia.

And to get a sense of the excitement on race day, watch the video (below) of last year’s August race, which was won by the Onda or ward of the Wave.

We’ll be following the events that lead up to this year’s August Palio and we’ll be posting on the race as the event draws closer and the excitement mounts.

Isola del Giglio: Costa Concordia to be towed away as early as next week

isola giglio concordiaAbove: The Isola del Giglio off the coast of Tuscany is one of Italy’s most beautiful summer vacation spots.

Two and a half years after it capsized along the coast of the beautiful Isola del Giglio in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the cruise ship Costa Concordia has finally been set afloat and will probably be towed away early next week, according to Italian news reports.

We were thrilled to read that tourists are flocking back to this gem of an island, with its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and scattering of beachside trattorie where it’s pretty hard to get a bad meal.

“I was here in October 2012,” said an American who is working there, “less than a year from the sinking. I have noticed that the Italians don’t seem too concerned about the wreck now. The island is a major destination for Italians, and there are many tourists here enjoying the sunshine and ignoring the wreck.”

The man, a Floridian, is part of the team that has been working arduously to right the ship and get it out of there.

The island lies (see Google map here) just a short ferry ride from the Italian peninsula and not far from the vineyards where the grapes for the Mazzoni Pinot Grigio and Vermentino-Chardonnay grapes are grown.

You can bet that we here at Live Like an Italian will raise a glass when the ship is finally gone.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed that they’ll be able to remove it early next week.

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