Polar Vortex, cold front and the inevitable arrival of winter are all drawing near here in New England. Looking at the forecast I am thrilled that we will be getting out of Dodge to the sunny shores of Sanibel next weekend but that still leaves me 8 days to shiver through until I get on that plane. Everyone who knows me knows that I am the Queen of Scarves, the Lady of the Layers, but when the temperature drops below freezing, there are only so many sweaters you can put on to get warm. Instead, do what the shepherds in the Dolomites do - try warming yourself from the inside out. Here are two of my favorite options for warming the cockles of your heart (literally and figuratively).
If you remember an earlier blog post about the many ways to order espresso in Italy you may recall this being one of the lesser known options. Cafe Corretto is literally “corrected coffee” which means a shot of espresso with a shot of liquor in it. The corrected portion is usually grappa. We could now launch into a long debate about whether or not grappa is good and how closely it resembles lighter fluid. I personally like it and believe that if you do not like it, you should try a different one. Grappa, like wine, varies greatly in quality. It is a perfect digestive after dinner. But in the case of cafe corretto, grappa is not reserved for after dinner. I remember getting off the plane in Venice one year with a brutal head cold. I checked into my hotel and went down to the cafe for something warm and comforting. I told the women who worked the bar of my cold and without hesitation, Paola poured a shot of grappa into my sacred espresso. I was horrified but obediently tossed back the concoction. She ordered me to bed and said that I would be good as new in the morning. I had my doubts - what do these crazy Italians know? They are obsessed with not getting cold, covering up, staying away from any drafts so as to avoid the “colpo di freddo” or hit of cold that will send their immune system into a tailspin. I fully expected to have a sleepless night of coughing and stuffiness. But alas, I slept like a baby (the grappa overriding any effects of the caffeine in the espresso) and awoke the next morning completely cured. Cafe Corretto is my go to cold cure. It also warms your insides if you are heading out for a hike or if, like us, you still need to get those leaves out of the gutters. That’s cold work.
Mulled wine is not something necessarily Italian but I have fond memories of it from Christmas time spent in Assisi. On Christmas Eve we would make our way to the tiny village of Armezano on Mount Subasio to see the living nativity scene. The whole village was turned into the town of Bethlehem, lit with torches, all the townspeople in costume. It was quite an experience. When you entered the village you were handed a terra cotta mug of steaming hot vin brulè. It was perfect for keeping your hands warm as well as warming your whole body as you sipped it. I think this weekend will be a perfect time for some vin brule here in New England. Here is a good recipe:
1 liter of full bodied red wine
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup sugar
zest of one orange
zest of one lemon
Add zest to a saucepan with the cloves, cinnamon, sugar and just enough wine for the sugar to dissolve into. Turn the heat on to medium high and warm, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the rest of the wine and heat to just before boiling. Filter the vin brulè through a fine-mesh strainer and serve.
Simple but delicious polenta cookies pair well with vin brulè. Here is a recipe.
Stay warm my friends.