Archive for May 2014

Near Montalcino – A Little Piece of Heaven

If we had a bucket list, a visit to the Mate` winery would have been on it!

Our first introduction to Mr. Mate´ was through his utterly delightful, funny, books about moving to and living in Tuscany; “The Hills of Tuscany” and “A Vineyard in Tuscany.” If you haven’t had the pleasure, treat yourself! I can’t tell you how many times I have re-read them.

The author grew up in Vancouver, B.C., where I was born and live and I would guess we are around the same age! Ferenc came to Canada from Hungary after the revolution when he was 10 years old, ended up in Vancouver, where he met and married Candace, a Vancouver girl who is an artist whose work appears on the winery’s bottle labels.

DSC_2651 nx2In our opinion, Ferenc and Candace are a Renaissance couple!

His and their story, from building sailboats, writing books about sailing and sailing various parts of the world, to deciding to settle down in Tuscany is, in my opinion, an incredible journey. Initially they lived near Montepulciano but then he developed a passion to make wine, ultimately ending up with a property in an extremely desirable location for wine growing, near Montalcino, where they rebuilt a broken down priory on the property which became their home. With guidance and encouragement from some pretty famous wine folks, they began growing 3 varieties of grapes! The icing on the cake was that before too long the Wine Spectator was rating their wines from 92 to 95 points!

My husband was thrilled to find and purchase his first bottle of Mate’ wine from an enoteca in Montalcino in 2008, he was like a kid in a candy store!

Luckily, we still had the wine because the guys at the airport wanted to search our luggage for some reason or other; you never know what may come of that! One normally doesn’t celebrate your luggage not arriving when you do, but ours got left behind in Pisa…the wine gods blessed us that day.

So…for our 22rd anniversary, a few months after our trip, we figured it would be a very good idea to celebrate by creating a special dinner to go with what we hoped would be a very special wine.

It was…the man makes damned good wine!

The wine was amazing and near the end of the dinner I said, “I wonder if we would be able to contact Ferenc by email.” We did, telling him how very much we were enjoying his wine and that we lived in Vancouver and so on. He actually got back to us, wishing us happy anniversary!

Fast Forward to May 12, 2014: We’re back in Tuscany and on the road from Panzano in Chianti heading to Montalcino for our pre-arranged visit to the Mate’ winery! Candace Mate’ was our host and showed us around the breathtakingly beautiful “paradise” they created with a hell of a lot of hard work and sweat, followed up by a wine tasting…just the three of us…in the old stone tasting room, a little piece of heaven!

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Hunting and Gathering

I am so lucky to have married someone who has a passion for food like I do! It’s our way of nurturing each other. My husband likes the challenge of finding good, affordable wines to accompany our meals and on  the weekends he always asks what’s on the menu so he can choose the appropriate wines. The two of us have become even more passionate about food and wine since our travels to Italy!

We have a list of local haunts that we have developed over the years and visit them regularly to find our goodies.

As well, we are always on the lookout for news of new happenings in the food world.

We seem to spend a huge amount of time looking for new and different ingredients to try and to cook with. And…guess what? We actually love doing this bit. I know…weird or what?

It is so exciting to discover something you have read about in a magazine or new cookbook;  and bring home to try.

We seem to do this hunting and gathering no matter where we are, even on vacations and often get asked where to find certain items. We had a friend over who asked where one could find “mosto cotto”. As we just happened to have some in the kitchen purchased on our last trip to Italy, I jokingly said Panzano in Chianti!  So, you see…it is such fun to be able to unearth something and then let the person know where to find what they are looking for.

**If you would like to see a list of our favourite places, please go to My Source List.

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A Gustavian Themed Bedroom

headboard 2 nx2I fell in love with this “headboard” when I saw this photo in a decorating magazine a few years ago. Not being a fan of “country furniture,” I was surprised how much I liked it! It appears to be a reclaimed archway that would have been over a rather grand entrance. When I found the photo recently while purging homework from my decorating classes, I thought it would be fun to put together my version of a Swedish Gustavian bedroom based on this headboard that reminds me so much of that style. Here we go!

Swedish Gustavian style began in 1771 and takes its name from the Swedish monarch Gustav III. It’s a paired down version of French Neoclassicism that features an airy, delicate colour palette of toned shades of pale grey, soft blues, off-white and cream. The furnishings can also be gilded. The style is a simpler restrained design with clean lines, using less rich materials and a lighter colour palette than in France. The fabrics mostly used were linen, raw silk; the patterns were usually checks and a light floral pattern. Huge mirrors were used to maximize light and lighting included crystal chandeliers. It’s a style that is timeless, not fussy and remains a popular decorating style that works well in our modern world.

This style is light and airy with a colour scheme that includes soft greys such as Benjamin Moore’s HC172 for the walls, OC60 for any trim. The chest of drawers and night tables are painted cream, using Benjamin Moore’s CC100 which contrasts nicely against the headboard.  A touch of light smoky blue accessories would work well too.

Gustavian bedside table 2gustavian dressers 3 Gustavian bench


Placing two of these stools at the foot of the bed would look fantastic!  They could be upholstered using a linen type fabric in a neutral tone. To keep the look light and airy, simple window panels of linen or raw silk in light neutral tones would be a good choice. Because the headboard is such a dramatic focal point of the room, the other furnishings should be a light colour. The distressed mirror mimics the look of the headboard.

Gustavian chanelier 5

table lamps 4Gustavian mirror 10




duvet cover 2 cropThe fabrics used in this style are natural ones like linen and cotton and a checked pattern is representative of Gustavian style.  This duvet cover fabric goes very well with the décor chosen.  I would add some pale grey or white sheets and perhaps a throw that is a darker grey or light smoky blue to finish dressing the bed.  The chandelier brings sparkle and bling to the room!

Of course, we all can’t be running around buying antique furniture! But if one keeps in mind the motif’s of Gustavian furniture, derived from the Adam style, like laurel wreaths, garlands, medallions and the rosettes you see on Louis XVI furniture, the shapes of furniture and furnishings from that period, you can find pieces that will give you the feel of this style.



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To Meat Or Not To Meat?

Ever since Elizabeth Minchelli posted a photo on Facebook taken one night while having dinner at St. John, of what the table next to theirs had ordered; a whole roasted suckling pig and the comments the photo engendered, I wanted to make a response.

DSC04090 nx2We are not vegetarians. We eat a lot of vegetarian meals. We love just about all vegetables.

But…we do eat meat, poultry and seafood.

Some of the folks who responded to the photo were pretty “put-off”. Then I remembered a quote I had read that I would like to share with my fellow meat eaters and perhaps vegetarians may understand a bit of the philosophy of the nose to tail eating too. The quote is from Dario Cecchini, of Macelleria Cecchini in Panzano, Chianti, Italy:


An old Tuscan proverb passed down by Dario’s father:


Four Things An Animal Must Have:

  1. A good Life (a healthy life with natural feed; ample, clean space to move around, just like for people.)
  2.  A good death (no trauma when being transported, which often leads to shock.)
  3.  A good butcher (someone who knows how to select the right parts and cut them in a way that brings out its’ best qualities.)
  4.  A good cook (someone who can dignify the animal and all those whose labours led it to this table).

I think that about says it all!

P.S.:  The bistecca in the photo is from Macelleria Cecchini!

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