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brunello i funghi 1

Brunello in a bay of funghi.


It started with a bottle of great wine.

I used to think that $12 at a wine shop buys a good bottle, and $18 something really great. My unsophisticated palate didn’t warrant further investment. Then we went to Rome and Florence. There I discovered (among other morsels of the sensually-sublime feast that is Italy), the renowned Brunello di Montalcino, the perfect red wine – complex, intense, full-bodied, smoky and ancient. Upon returning to the States, I visited Alex, my favorite wine guy, and said, “I have three words for you: Brunello di Montalcino!”

“You’ve made quite a leap there!” He said with amusement. “The esteemed bottle here starts at $60.”

Uh … I know, right?

So when my generous and loving partner, Joe, came upon a Brunello sale-priced at $39, he snatched it up for us for some unknown future occasion.

Now we are upon it – Thanksgiving 2013! An inspiration for a fall feast that Joe and I are sacredly guarding for ourselves. And not just because we don’t want to share the wine.

Joe and Liz

Back story: A few years ago Joe and I started spending the holiday away with another couple we enjoy. We’d pick a destination somewhere within a two-hour radius of Washington. One year, it was a modern cabin near Lost River, West Virginia; next a beach shack near Broadkill Beach, Delaware; last time, an A-frame with hot tub overlooking the Shenandoah River.

We all wanted to escape the familial expectations of Thanksgiving, and this was clearly a legitimate out. Then they broke up, and we haven’t found that particular chemistry (and intention) with other friends. In spite of lovely invitations from friends and family, Joe and I decided that what we really want is to retreat by ourselves. Because we are on the “right side of 50,” and we can. We can do whatever the hell we want!

Joe and I have been together since 2004, but we live apart. Exactly one mile apart. It’s perfect for us – at least for now. So the idea of four days together without our usual social schedule is very appealing. And we love to cook together so … what should we make to compliment the Brunello?

Although we both like traditional Thanksgiving dishes, we decided instead to cultivate the Italian theme and create an autumnal Roman-repast. I adore the earthy, fetid wonder of wild mushrooms. So we will make a wild mushroom pasta with the last few ounces of olio di oliva organico we got in a cobbled corner of Florence. A dash of fresh butter, a splash of Marsala wine, and lots of freshly-grated parmesan reggiano. Molto bene!

For the secondi piatti, we will saute fillets of branzino (a wonderful Mediterranean fish) in olive oil, lemon and garlic. Charred brussel sprouts tossed in a light Dijon aioli will round out the main course. Dessert is yet to be determined!

As we’re preparing and cooking to the tunes of John Coltrane or Bobby Blue Bland or Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (what will be my mood??), we’ll be sipping a glass of Prosecco, and whetting our appetites on plump, juicy smoked mussels.  Buon Appetito!