Tuesday, February 26, 2019



Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

 Outside the Church of the Carmine and the Rai Tower  (below) at Ca' Di Rajo

 Exterior of the Carmelite Church and the Cloisters

 Church of the Carmine interior and the vineyards near the Piave River

By Dwight Casimere

Ca' Di Rajo winery is located in the Piave River Valley just north of Venice in an area steeped in legend and history. Famed for its Prosecco sparkling wine, which is derived from both estate grown grapes and those from vineyards along  the surrounding "Prosecco Road" which stretches from Valdobbiadene to the idyllic city of Treviso, which is lovingly called the "little Venice." Ca' Di Rajo is a modern wine facility nestled within an historic estate which dates back to the 14th century. The church and the convent buildings  founded by Ramobldo XII (Count Collate) were once home to the cloistered Carmelite fathers. Today's winery was envisioned by Marino Cecchetti and is carried forth by his grandson Simone Cecchetti and his mother Sandra Degiusti. 

Below: Downtown Treviso the "Little Venice"

 Ca' De Rajo leader Simone Cecchetti and its founder Marino Cecchetti (below)

 Sandra Degiusti-a guiding light at Ca' Di Rajo
The banks of the River Piave near Ca' Di Rajo in late winter

The carefully cultivated vineyards and winery employ modern technology while embracing ancient techniques. Tradition is evident everywhere, with the preservation of the Church of the Carmine and its historic artifacts, and the adjoining remains of the Rai Tower, which stands by the banks where the Piave River flows. the wine is hand harvested in late October to ensure ultimate ripeness and allowed to ferment in oak barrels for 20-25 days in order to extract all of the full fruit flavor. Nearly a third of the grapes are then dried for 40 days before blending back into the wine which is then aged in oak barrels for 3 years before being allowed to rest in the bottle for 6 months before release. The wine is mature and full of rich flavor. With 14.5% alcohol,  it packs a wallop for a wine priced at under $30. 

With March Madness set to kick off and BarBQue season just around the corner, consider the food-friendly multi-layered flavor of Ca' Di Rajo Notti di Luna Piena (Night of the Full Moon)-$27. This is a robust red wine with abundant flavor. Think layers of dark red cherries and plums with aromas of crushed violets and lingering flavors in the background of cinnamon, licorice and black pepper with a hint of tobacco and shaved cedar wood. The flavor lasts in the back of the mouth for a long time, making it perfect for an afternoon or evening of game-watching with salami and cheese, popcorn shrimp or jalapeno poppers, buffalo wings and spicy rib tips. My latest find has been a shredded barbque chicken or pork slider slider topped with kosher pickle slicers and 'secret sauce' drizzled with Frank's hot sauce. Perfect!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019


Artersa 2016 Pinot Noir a perfect blend of hand harvested grapes from both Napa and Sonoma

 Sweeping hilltop views of San Pablo Bay and vineyards in both Napa and Sonoma

 Artesa's tasting room combines elements of the fine arts of design and winemaking

by Dwight Casimere

Situated atop a hill overlooking both the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, with sweeping views of San Pablo Bay, Aresa Winery produces vintages that artfully display the best that both wine regions have to offer. In a bottle of its newly released 2016 Pinot Noir are grapes from both its acclaimed hilltop Estate vineyards and grapes from the coveted Sangiacomo Vineyard in the celebrated Carneros district. The result is an intricate and intriguing wine that displays the best of California's two great wine growing regions.  Intense red fruit flavors are punctuated by layers of complexity brought about by a mixture of ancient and modern winemaking techniques that both reflects the winery's roots in the Pyrenees of the Basque region of northern Spain and the preeminence of  the Napa Valley.

 Vineyards in the shadow of the Pyrenees in northern Spain's Basque country


The Pinot Noir grapes were hand harvested at night at the peak of ripeness, then destined and soaked for four days in very cold temperatures in order to slowly extract the color and flavor from the delicately skinned Pinnot Noir grapes. Winemaker Ana Diogo-Draper then isolated about 25% of the juice in French puncheons. All of the wine then underwent three daily punchdowns during fermentation. The wine was then aged in a combination of new and aged French oak barrels to achieve a level of supreme complexity.  A nose enveloped in aromas of cherry, strawberries and rhubarb gives way to flavors of raspberry, blueberry, candied cherries and hints of caramel and vanilla bean. The perfectly integrated oak allows for a a satisfying long finish. There Spanish are famous for their lengthy late afternoon and late night eating and drinking sessions, in which small plates of various savory dishes, incorporating local olives, pickled peppers, smoked fish, grilled octopus, various Serano hams and local cheeses made from Sheep's milk. Try you own version of the small bites, called Pintxos in Basque country and Tapas throughout other parts of Spain, and discover your own favorite flavor combinations with this versatile wine. Perfect for drinking throughout the day, it is best with a variety of foods and, of courses, good company.

Sunday, February 10, 2019


Gibson's Italia-The perfect marriage of the American Steakhouse with Cucina Italia

Gibson's Italia
233 N. Canal Street
Chicago, Il

By Dwight Casimere 

With its sweeping views of the Chicago River and cityscape and its carefully curated list of menu favorites from Gibson's famed steakhouse on Rush Street combined with delicacies from the hillsides of Tuscany and Piemonte from its sister restaurant Quarto on North State, Gibson's Italia strikes the perfect chord for exquisite gourmet dining. From the moment of entering its stunningly sleek cocktail lounge area with its expansive well-stocked Premium bar to its upstairs dining room, the feeling is one of sheer luxury.  Table placement in the ample dining room allows for intimate conversation and uninterrupted sight lines at every table. Besides the superb food there is an expertly assembled wine list. Knowledgable Sommeliers and servers carefully guide their patrons through the comprehensive list, which is heavily weighed toward select Italian vintages, suggesting wine and food pairings based upon their depth of experience. 

Sommelier Robert Woodford was spot on with his selections of wine pairings. Starting with a glass and of Contratto Millesimato Prosecco from the Valdobbiadene in northern italy paired with the Chef's Crudo Selection of raw Bigeye Tuna with Oyster Crema,  combined with Ora King Salmon and Hawaiian Kampachi, a type of native kimchee with fennel, serrano pepper, honey pearls, fennel fronds and hibiscus salt. It is a house specialty from Executive Chef Jose Sosa. Next came a combination platter of Mozzarella and 24-month aged Prosciutto di San Danille served with grilled housemade bread and compressed melon.  To die for. A crispy Kale Salad finished table side served as the Intermezzo before plunging into the sumptuous Main Courses.

Service Manager Tee Efendija kept the massive dining room humming  smoothly with the adroit steps of an Alvin Ailey dancer as the entrees arrived--Gibson's signature Grass-fed Australian New York Strip, aged a minimum of 75 days, a Gibson's exclusive, and thick Lamb Chops, grilled to perfection and served in their own juices.

Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse in Chicago has been renowned for the quality of its USDA prime beef and the perfection of its ice-cold martinis since it opened its doors on Rush Street in 1989.
Gibson's is Chicago's top-earning independently owned restaurant and is among the nation's top five independent steak houses.  Gibson's  is the only restaurant group in the country to have its own USDA certification. 
Gibson's Italia has been in the works for two years, according to Liz Lombardo, director of marketing, whose father, Steve Lombardo, co-founded the original Gibson's. “We were approached by River Point Complex, who wanted a steakhouse for tenants in the building. Gibson's  Gold Coast isn’t too far away, so we decided to try something a little different. with a little steak, and  a little Italian."
Italian specialties are straight out of the hills of Piemonte and the fog-shrouded valleys of Tuscany. Winter white truffles are in season and a specialty of the house is Cacio e Pepe (housemade black pepper infused pasta) with White Truffles from Piemonte, shaved table side. Sommelier Robert Woodford allowed the truffles to steam in the warm pasta in order to release their delicate aromatics. A glass of Bugliono Valpolicella Ripasso, a complex wine from northern Italy, near Verona, which is fermented and then repassed (ripasso) over the left-over must of stems and pulverized grape skins to give it added depth and complexity. With its layers of rich dark berry flavors of black plums, blackberries, licorice and hints of dark chocolate and shaved cinnamon bark and sandalwood, it was the perfect accompaniment to the grilled meats and pungent pasta. A dessert combination of rich Chocolate Tort and Banana Gelato Tart were the ovation-worthy finales.



                                          CRISPY KALE SALAD SERVED TABLESIDE




Wine of the Week-Adriano Adami Vignette Giardino Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 2017-$18.99

by Dwight Casimere

Treviso is the ancestral home of Prosecco and the Alta Marca area is renowned for its excellent wines dating as far back as the Middle Ages. Historical records show that as early as 1606, wines were exported from Treviso throughout Europe. 

After much trial and error, the Glera grape, formerly called the Prosecco grape, became the standard variety used in the making of Prosecco, It is the grape variety of choice in the Alta Marca, home Adriano Adami Prosecco Superiore. It is especially so in the Valdobbiadene, where the variety dominates the steep slopes of its many hillsides. With the Dolomites looming in the background, the region is sheltered from the harsh winds and bathed in the warmth of midday sun, which nourishes the grapes. It was here that Abel Adami purchased a natural amphitheater vineyard where he began nurturing the Glera grape with his son Adriano. History was made in 1933, when Abelhad the intuition to make a presentation to the 1st Mostra Mercato del Vini Tipci d'Italia in Siena. His Riva (the name given to hillside vineyards) Giardino Asciutto was the first real vineyard selection from Valdobbiadene. Adriano Adami continued the family,y tradition. Continuing in his father's footsteps, Adriano made a name for himself, producing quality Prosecco.

The 1980s saw the arrival of the third generation, with the newly qualified oenologists Armando and Franco Adami, combining family traditions with specialization and technology. With a modern winemaking and sparkling wine production facility, the brand moved onto new markets and acquired a solid reputation.

Adami now produces about 750,000 bottles with grapes from 50 hectares of vineyards, 12 of their own land, the rest farmed by other small growers with time-honored links to the winery, and sharing its commitment to quality.

The historic Giardino Vineyard, purchased in 1920, is a south-facing natural amphitheatre-shaped vineyard. The sparkling wine from its hillside slopes is recognized as the first example of a Prosecco from single vineyard in the whole DOC zone.
It is not only admirably rich and intense n the nose, but it possesses a lovely crisp spiciness, enhanced by hints of apple and peach, surrounded by aromas of delightful wisteria and acacia blossoms. It has a velvety mouthfeel which mirrors the nose, with flavors of fruit tarts and melon cascading to an elegant finish. Serve well chilled with a variety of Focaccia breads, fresh fruits and soft cheeses, A pleasant lunch of Risotto with that Italian favorite baccala, or creamed salted Cod fish, is one of the regional delights that is right at home with Adami Vignette Giardino Prosecco Superiore.

 Steep hillside vineyards along the "Prosecco Road" above Treviso with the Dolomites in the background
 Two views of the canals in Treviso, known as "The Little Venice"
 Below: On location in the hills above Treviso

Risotto al baccalĂ 

Ingredients for 4

For the creamed codfish:
1 cup moistened dried codfish
Extravirgin olive oil: 1 cup
Garlic: 1 clove
Parsley: I bunch, chopped
For the risotto:
Carnaroli rice: 1 and 1/2 cup
Creamed codfish: 1 cup
1chopped white or yellow  onion
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Vegetable broth | Extravirgin oliveoil | White pepper


The ingredient that gives great character to this risotto al baccalĂ , or risotto with dried cod, is generally bought in specialty delicatessens. Its preparation, though straightforward, is fairly laborious, since the dried codfish must be re-hydrated for at 24 hours under running water. Then boil it for ten minutes or so, remove the skin and bones, which will go into the preparation of the broth. Once the flesh is flaky, turn the heat very low, and beat it with a wood spoon, adding as much olive oil as it will absorb (about a quarter of its original weight), until it becomes creamy and homogenous, or for a quicker method, put the olive oil in a blender and gradually add the pieces of fish.
Prepare a normal risotto, with just a few slight differences: chop the onion and brown in a bit of olive oil, add the rice and let it brown lightly, then add, in small doses, half the fish and the broth. Then bring the risotto three quarters of the way to done and add the rest of the fish. Finish cooking and cream with a bit of olive oil, grated cheese, and a sprinkle of white pepper.