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[whitespace] Sacred Hearts and Passaportos

Willing spirits, winning wines, and free trips to Italy!

By Christina Waters

ITALIAN FOODS REALLY TALK to me, and almost nobody this side of Bologna manages to speak authentic Mediterranean flavors so well, so consistently as does Il Fornaio. Unless you're George W. Bush and have spent the past decade locked in your room trying to memorize basic facts about the world, you already know about the delicioso Passaporto 2000 program at all the Il Fornaio restaurants. Essentially, they showcase the culinary regions of Italy, one per month--and you come to dine. If you "visit" all three regions (and have your little green Il Fornaio passaporto stamped) you get a commemorative plate (I'm not kidding) and entry into a "Trip for 2 to Italy" drawing. You eat like a caesar and get a chance to go to Italy on Il Fornaio. Now that's Italian!

The chef of Irvine's Il Fornaio--Marcello Apollonio--is a native of Basilicata, the region currently showcased in the restaurant group's current Aug. 7-20 Festa Regionale. Apollonio has created a special menu, featuring the recipes, flavors and wines of his home region, the area forming the "arch" in the Italian boot. A region of rough hillsides, herbs, sharp cheeses, legendary sausages and seafoods, Basilicata shows up on the Il Fornaio menu this month in such specialties as an insalata with tomatoes, aged ricotta, basil, oregano and the sensuous olive oil of the region. Scampi joined with crisp Greco di Tufo wine. Gnocchi of lamb ragu and pecorino cheese with Aglianico wine, grown in the volcanic soils of Mt. Vulture. Risotto with salsiccia and artichoke hearts, grilled Lucania sausage over sautéed spinach and stewed peppers. I have worked up such a craving for these foods that I may need to drive over to an Il Fornaio for lunch! And so should you. Questions?: Call 1.888.ITALIAN.

Wine Dotcom

Cheryl Murphy, of Clos LaChance Wines, emailed me to say how excited they all were about their elegant 1997 Cabernet Franc winning the Best of Show award at last month's Santa Cruz Mountain Wine Competition. Here's the contact info: Clos LaChance is located at 21511 Saratoga Heights Drive in Saratoga: 408.741.1796 (1.800.ITS.WINE) and www.clos.com.

Still Ticking

Think of it as a dotcom with spirit, this new Silicon Valley startup dedicated to high-proof elixirs. Essential Spirits Alambic Distilleries--the brainchild of Mountain View residents Dave Classick (also a Hewlett Packard engineer) and marketing ace Andrea Mirenda--contains the key to European-style cognacs, brandies and eaux de vie. That secret would be the ancient (as in ancient Greece) alambic-still process of refining fruit, wine and other brews into very elegant, alcoholic liquors. Artisanal in process, Essential Spirits' gleaming copper alambic still works by heating a liquid (wine in the case of cognac-making) and then collecting the condensed liquor, the distillate. That's how we get gin from Holland, Scotch from you-know-where, and Cognac from France. The Mountain View team has begun the quest for the Bay Area's spiritual enlightenment with a very distinctive, hand-crafted spirit that starts out as microbrewed California pale ale. Through the miracle of distillation, it turns into a crisp elixir called Classick Bierschnaps®. Sip it neat, or try it as a martini, with a twist of lime. "The crisp, clean taste, with the subtle essence of beer, will surprise you," Mirenda believes. You can find the new product at your local Beverages and More, Lunardis, and the Menlo Park Beltramo's. Sipping is believing.

... Speaking of which, try a Sacred Heart: One part Bombay gin, one part Fernet Branca, three parts Campari. A divine experience! If it's not available at your favorite saloon, tell the bartender how to make it.

Email me! Readers, restaurateurs, chefs: Please send any news items, tips, menu changes, openings, special events and juicy gossip to [email protected]

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From the August 10-16, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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