A Sicilian surprise at Grant’s Farm in Missouri

Grants farm 4 (1024x576)You never know where the Italian south is going to show up.

My daughter and her husband planned a family outing when I visited them this month near St. Louis, Missouri. Grant’s Farm looked like a family-friendly place that their toddler daughter would enjoy, and the history of the place appealed to the adults.

The property was given to Ulysses S. Grant by his wife’s parents when they married, and their cabin, built in 1855, is still on the property. Grant also built an interesting fence from Civil War rifle barrels. In 1907, August Busch bought the property and developed it as a family getaway in the style of the rich and famous. As the fortunes of Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company rose, the Busch family developed world class riding stables, and gathered exotic animals. The friends they hosted loved the place so much, eventually the family decided to open part of it to the public.

Since the day we visited was rainy (to put it mildly) we were glad to browse the Bauernhof, a building where several horses were stabled. Trophy cases filled with blue ribbons and silver engraved plates and bowls reflected the Busch family’s horsemanship. Another wing held their collection of carriages, wagons, and sleighs–dozens of horse-drawn vehicles.Grants farm 2 (823x1024)

And there I found the unexpected, the Sicilian surprise: A beautiful pair of Sicilian wedding carts dating from the 1700s. Traditionally pulled by donkeys, the carts were the smallest vehicles in the collection. I hope my photos give you a glimpse of the Sicilian history they represent. One is for the bride and one for the groom. The detailed carving and bright color stood in high contrast to the gleaming black carriages and bright red Budweiser wagon nearby!Grants farm 1Grants farm 6 (865x1024)Grants farm 5 (741x1024)

New world record from Molise?

Snow in Capracotta. Image from the Capracotta.com website, which also provides ski information in three languages.

Snow in Capracotta. Image from the Capracotta.com website, which also provides ski information in three languages.

We rarely hear from Molise, that region southeast of Abruzzo, northwest of Puglia. Molise extends from the mountains of central Italy to the Adriatic coast. But a village in Molise made international news today, boasting a world record snowfall of more than 100 inches–in just 18 hours! Take a look here. 

The village of Capracotta (translation: cooked goat. Hmmm.) is in ski country, so winter snow is common. But their recent snowfall was out of the ordinary, even for them! Check out this webcam for an image of Piazza Falconi.

9 Recipes to Celebrate Carnevale

9 Recipes to Celebrate Carnevale

Sandy Frykholm:

I have to admit, I never thought about the translation of the word “Carnevale”! But ‘farewell to meat’ makes sense, as that was the tradition for centuries. Here are some ideas from the Sons of Italy blog for celebrating Carnevale!

Originally posted on Sons of Italy Blog:

It’s Carnevale! Carnevale, translated from Latin as “farewell to meat,”  is celebrated in the days leading up to the season of Lent. Since meat was once forbidden during the entirety of Lent, people would celebrate and feast extravagantly beforehand.

To celebrate #MangiaMonday and Martedì Grasso (Fat Tuesday) tomorrow, we are serving up Nine Recipes to Celebrate Carnevale! Buon appetito!

1. Galani di Carnevale
This is a typical Venetian sweet treat! 

galaniRecipe: Hotel Mediterraneo

2. Sweet Ravioli with Ricotta
A new twist on a traditional favorite!

lazio_ravioli_dolci_con_ricotta__mg_8418-7Recipe: Academia Barilla

3. Castagnole
This treat goes by many different regional names. Shaped like a chestnut with a soft interior, this dessert is one to try!

hd450x300Recipe: Giallozafferano

4. Ricotta Gnocchi
This easy-to-make recipe will have you asking for seconds!

canada-gnocchi-xlRecipe: Delish

5. Pignoccata
This dessert and Carnevale tradition hails from Palermo.

324-ingaglia-pignoccata-pignolataRecipe: Cooking with Nonna

6. Pasticcio di Maccheroni
Another easy dinner from chef…

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Abruzzo’s gift that keeps on giving

Glenn and I with Piero at the Cantina di Biffi in Sulmona. Note bottle of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo on the table.

Glenn and I with Piero at the Cantina di Biffi in Sulmona. Note bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo on the table.

We drank a lot of wine in Italy. Italian wine. Big mouthfilling reds and crisp Calabrian whites. But one of the most lasting wine pleasures we discovered was Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a wine I had never heard of before spending a few weeks in Abruzzo.

So last week my brother, Glenn, forwarded me an email from a wine store, touting “a true gem of a wine” in Fantini’s 2012 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The email claims a wine score of 90 for it, though my online research turns up 85 or 87. Am I concerned? Naaa. I’m gonna go look for some of this, which is available from several places at about $10 a bottle, and I’m gonna bring it home, and I’m gonna cook up some pasta with sauce that includes zucchini (because I am overloaded with it right now). Then I’ll pour a couple of big red glasses of that stuff.

I’ll be wishing my brother was here to enjoy it, like we did in Sulmona in 2004 at the Cantina di Biffi. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has become my go-to red since then.

Readers, please share your best Italian wine experience in the comments. What made it special?