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Mazzoni in Eugene, Oregon, one of the hippest food & wine cities in America

belly eugene wine list

Here’s what Mark Bittman, food critic for the New York Times, had to say about Belly in Eugene, Oregon a few years ago: “Belly, a popular new Eugene restaurant run by a lovely young couple doing honest, straightforward food and doing it well.”

Ever since Brendan Mahaney opened the restaurant in 2009, he’s been racking up the praise from the local and national media. It’s just one of those places that hits the mark on every level: great, wholesome food, prepared thoughtfully.

It’s no small accomplishment in a part of the country where great restaurants and fantastic wines abound. Indeed, many consider Eugene and Portland to be among America’s most hip food and wine cities.

Here’s how he describes his cooking on his website: “Rustic, European Farmhouse Soul Food.”

Belly current serves Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay by the glass. It’s a great list and we’re proud to be part of it.

We highly recommend it.

Belly Restaurant
30 E Broadway
Eugene, OR 97401
(541) 683-5896
Google map

Image via the Belly website.

Italy at the beach: Castiglione della Pescaia (Tuscany’s best-kept secret)

best beach in italy

Above: Castiglione della Pescaia is one of Tuscany’s best-kept secrets. Click here for the Google map to see where it’s located on the Tuscan coastline.

Now that summer’s around the corner, we know that a lot of you are planning your summer vacation in Italy.

Many of you beach-lovers will head to the glitzy Amalfi coast or to the swank beaches of the Lido in Venice.

But Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Bindocci will be spending his summer vacation (in August) in Castiglione della Pescaia in Tuscany, a roughly one and a half hour drive (depending on how fast you drive) from his home in Sant’Angelo in Colle where Mazzoni wines are made.

Castiglione has all the amenities of Italy’s more famous beaches. There are camping spots, beaches with cabana/umbrella services, and some of the most famous seafood restaurants in Italy, mostly on the economical side.

But the best part is that the village of Castiglione della Pescaia — which translates loosely as “the fisherman’s castle” — is a wonderful hilltop medieval hamlet. It’s a great place to get lost in its winding little streets, to have a coffee at a café with the local folks, or just to relax with one of the greatest views of the Mediterranean (the Tyrrhenian Sea).

And from Castiglione, you’re only a short drive from Montalcino where they make Brunello di Montalcino (and Mazzoni wines), an even shorter drive from Bolgheri wine country, and there are also a number of interesting historical and archeological sites in the area as well, including many Etruscan excavations and museums, like the Museo Archeologico e d’Arte della Maremma.

Tomato sauce: the great garlic vs. onion debate

best puttanesca recipe

Above: Puttanesca sauce is just another variation on classic pomodoro (tomato) sauce. The difference is that anchovies, capers, and pitted olives are sautéed with the garlic before the tomato is added. For our basic pomodoro recipe, please click here.

Anyone who’s lived in northern Italy knows that pomodoro (tomato) sauce is regularly made using finely chopped onions and garlic in the sauté (the soffritto in Italian, similar to the French mirepoix).

But when you travel south of Rome, you’ll find that home cooks religiously omit onion from the recipe. In fact, the mere thought of using anything more than garlic in the soffritto is considered sacrilegious to those living south of Italy’s capital.

In Naples and Campania (the region that forms the “shin” of Italy’s boot and claims Naples as its capital), classic pasta al pomodoro is made exclusively with garlic.

Some would attribute this to the fact that the warmer climate in the south produces richer garlic than in the north, where temperatures are colder and other species of Allium, the onion genus, are easier to cultivate.

In the period after the second world war, when canned tomatoes and dried pasta began to be sold across Italy, pasta al pomodoro went from being a southern Italian dish to being a pan-Italian, national dish. Indeed, today pasta al pomodoro is served regularly throughout Italy and is widely considered one of the symbolic dishes of Italian national cuisine, despite its true origins in the south.

It’s kind of like pesto. In Liguria, home to true pesto, the dish is prepared almost exclusively with a pasta shape called trenette and Pecorino, sheep’s milk cheese, is used. In the rest of Italy, pesto is prepared with Parmigiano Reggiano (from Emilia-Romagna) and spaghetti are commonly used.

When you make your pomodoro, do you use onion and garlic? Or do you use just garlic?

A tomato sauce secret

best tomato sauce

Last week, we posted our basic recipe for making tomato sauce for pasta.

There are infinite variations: over the next few weeks, as summer tomatoes begin to come into season, we have a whole series of posts planned on seasonings, the “onion vs. garlic” debate, pasta shapes, and other tips on how to make great, authentic tomato sauce.

But before we move on to the finer points of a great salsa al pomodoro, we wanted to take a moment to discuss one of the most important elements in “finishing” any pasta with tomato sauce.

While we have nothing against those who simply top their cooked noodles with a ladleful of sauce, we do subscribe to the camp of those who believe that the pasta should be folded into the sauce (as in the image above).

Here’s the trick.

Right before the pasta is done cooking, add a quarter or half ladleful of its cooking water to the simmering sauce (it’s important that you use the salted cooking water, which also contains some starch from the pasta).

Be sure too cook the pasta very al dente and you can even remove it from the burner while still undercooked.

Strain the pasta carefully and then fold it into the simmering sauce.

As the pasta finishes cooking through, it will absorb the flavors of the sauce (if you omit this step, the sauce will still flavor the pasta but not as deeply).

For many pasta lovers, this a key element in preparing any pasta sauce.

Coming soon: the great “garlic vs. onion” debate…

Mazzoni makes big splash @secondglass #WineRiot #Chicago

girls drinking wine

Mazzoni wines were a huge hit at last weekend’s Second Glass Wine Riot event at the swank Great Hall at Union Station in Chicago.

More than 3,000 “wine rioters” gathered for the shindig, now in its fourth year.

best italian wine chicago

The walk-around tasting included dozens of wineries and literally hundreds of wines.

And attendees rave about the seminars (including Wine 101) and the overall high quality of the wines poured.

(For a reviews of how the event works, how to buy tickets, and how to obtain a free ticket for future events, check out the Yelp reviews here.)

mazzoni

The Mazzoni ambassadors poured all four of the Mazzoni labels — Vermentino-Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Piemonte Barbera, and Rosso di Toscana. And the wines were a big hit among attendees (who have the opportunity to review the wines and trade notes with fellow tasters on the SecondGlass.com site).

Thank you, Chicago wine lovers, for making Mazzoni one of the most popular wines at the event!

Click here for more photos on the Second Glass Facebook.

How to make tomato sauce for pasta

best tomato pasta recipe

A great tomato sauce for pasta… It’s one of the holy grails of contemporary cooking.

One of the secrets of a great homemade tomato sauce is — yep, you guessed it — the quality of the tomatoes.

Today, there are so many great brands of canned and bottled tomatoes and tomato purées available across the U.S.

When you choose your brand, you want to make sure that the tomatoes are either unseasoned or lightly seasoned. This allows you to season your sauce the way you like it. Look for tomatoes that have healthy acidity (San Marzano heirloom tomatoes are arguably the best) and avoid tomatoes that are overly sweet. The number one thing that makes a tomato sauce great is the balance between sweetness, acidity, and seasoning.

Classic Tomato Sauce for pasta
serves 4-6

ingredients

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. finely chopped yellow onion or shallots
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
28 oz. peeled tomatoes (standard can size)
½ cup Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay
kosher salt
freshly cracked pepper

In a wide pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onion becomes translucent (this step is very important because the onion won’t fully infuse its flavor to the sauce unless it’s properly sautéed).

Add the tomatoes to the pot and once they begin to simmer, turn the flame to low, applying just enough heat to keep a gently simmer (see the video below).

Add the wine and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer for 1 hour or until you achieve the desired consistency, stirring occasionally (if you’re in a hurry, you can cook over medium heat but if doing so, be sure to stir more frequently so that the sauce doesn’t burn on the bottom).

In an upcoming post, we’ll address how to “finish” the dish and what other seasonings you can use. Stay tuned and buon appetito!

Leading wine blogger @Vindulge recommends Mazzoni Barbera

mary cressler wine blogger

Here’s what leading U.S. wine blogger Mary Cressler — author of Vindulge and contributor to VinSleuth Uncorked and Barbecue America —  had to say about the Mazzoni 2010 Piemonte Barbera, which she and her husband paired with her Grilled and Glazed Chicken recipe:

Lots of dark black berry aromas with some spicy pepper and a slightly earthy feel. More tart berry fruit flavors on the palate, lots of cherry (dried cherry, black cherry, even maraschino cherry), with smoke, pepper, smooth tannins and fresh, lively acidity…

[The wine] had excellent rich fruit that was a lovely match for the juicy chicken and balanced well with the sweetness of the sauce.

Click here to read the rest of her review and her superb recipe.

Image by Mary Cressler via Vindulge.

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