24 September, 2017
2017 – Puglia Region Day 4 – Back To The Beach & Esposito Family
All weather reports predicted a rain storm today, but we all took our positive attitudes to the beach so we could enjoy one more day.
Antimo conducted an impromptu exercise class with breathing, stretching, a little yoga, a few movements with weights and resistance bands, and voila! It wasn’t as if we didn’t need it with all the eating and drinking we’ve been doing. A dip in the sea afterward to refresh and then off to visit the Esposito family and have lunch.
We had the most delightful time with the Esposito family. We met them last time we were in Manduria and felt an instant connection. Massimo (the head of the family) is a multi-talented guy. Besides making the sealing caps for the tops of wine bottles (day job), he has built a house by the sea, with a stone driveway that looks like an artist rendering, he spears fishes in the sea, and coaches volleyball in his spare time.
Arianna, Graziana, and me. Just love these ladies!After catching up with the family, Capacola Di Manduria, a specialty of Salvatore Di Pasquale, was served. I’ve never tasted an Italian meat this good. Salvatore created a special way of flavoring and tenderizing this delicacy. His family has been in the meat business for generations and I hope he starts selling this special Capacola Di Manduria in the states soon! Massimo and his wife Graziana prepare gourmet meals for family and friends. Our lunch today was out of this world! I couldn’t even count how many courses there were. They invited us into the kitchen to help prepare the fish – so we salted, olive oiled, and herbed the outside and inside of small fish he had caught in the sea the day before, wrapped them in foil for the outside wood-burning oven, and then sat down for the meal of a lifetime!
Oh, did I mention we were going to eat outside in the lovely patio/garden area until the rain started, followed by thunder and a little lightning? Just as Antimo was saying how lucky we were that he was cooking in the outdoor oven in case we lost power… we lost power. But it was only momentary – everything was moved into their lovely dining room and the meal went on as planned.
We did hear at one point in the meal that there was a funnel cloud that was spotted on the beach where we were earlier. One of Salvatore’s friends texted him a picture of it!
The first course was pasta with a tomato fish sauce. Fish included squid, octopus and another white fish. Next was shrimp served with zucchini spirals and faux mushrooms made from potatoes. These tasted great, but a lot of work to create!Shrimp wrapped in puffed pastry with a puff on the side on a bed of radicchio. Are you full yet just looking at the pictures?
The fish we helped season and wrap came next. Sorry, we plunged into the fish before I took a photo. Melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Fruit finished the meal, or so we thought. On this plate is melon, pomegranate and prickly pear from cactus.
The family also brought out candied figs like the ones we made with Anna (Antimo’s mom) with the almonds in the middle. I spaced by this time and didn’t take a picture. But wait, then this chocolate cake arrived made with Primitivo wine and best ate with sips of the wine. Well, if we have to….
And then, there was grappa and liquors, and espresso to finish the meal. A four-hour lunch to be sure.
A family photo. Francesco, the tallest young man in the back was about my height when we saw him two years ago and he’s only 15 so he has more growing to do!
It was so hard to leave the family but know we will see them again in our travels and hopefully, they will come to the US and we can show them a good time. Hugs, kisses, and tears good-byes.
On the way home we stopped into Guiseppe Grecco’s (friend of Antimo) to say “hi.” He was so gracious to let us just drop in unexpected. Guiseppe is an exceptional artist who works in several mediums – copper, sketches, sculpts and designs. I wrote a lot about him when we visited a few years ago. Click here if you want to read more (Please excuse the fact that some photos in this older post are upside down. I didn’t have time to fix them while on the road.)
The event of the evening was a very special wine tasting.
There are so many antiques and tools in the tasting room upstairs and downstairs that it is almost like a museum. There were holes in the floors where you could see down in the basement where they keep casks, bottles, and more cement vats. This winery still uses cement vats, some steel, and oak.
The wine tasting was a full dinner even though they consider it more of a “small plate” affair. I won’t bore you with more food pictures – let’s just say it was good and looked pretty when presented. With the white wine, they brought out cheeses, olives, pickled roots that looked like small onions, eggplant, and bread. Their signature red wine was served with Italian meats, beets, peppers and garlic, tomatoes and mozzarella. And then came the sweet wine (not quite a port) and it was served with Amaretto cookies and fruit (figs and pears). After our long lunch and then this “tasting,” we were stuffed! Luckily we walked to the winery from our house and then strolled the city afterward for a little more exercise.
Just when we thought we were done for the night, while walking home we noticed there was a dance show going on in the town square. Now realize it is 10:00 pm at night and this program included little children that couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years old. We thought that was kind of late for the little ones, and on a school night. The show had started earlier in the evening, but we enjoyed watching what dancing was left as we passed by on our way home.