Sweetbreads – A Delicacy to be Devoured!

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Don't you just love them?

Don’t you just love them?

I love sweetbreads!  Not the kind you eat with your cappuccino in the morning, but the ones you eat as a treat every so often.

I first tried them about ten years ago and have sought them out since.  It is not something you would eat every day, but something as a special treat.

Rather than describing sweetbreads in my own words, below is an excerpt from Wikipedia that explains in good detail:

“Sweetbreads are culinary names for the thymus (also called throat, gullet, or neck sweetbread) or the pancreas (also called heart, stomach, or belly sweetbread), especially of the calf (ris de veau) and lamb (ris d’agneau)  although beef and pork sweetbreads are also eaten. Various other glands used as food may also be called “sweetbreads”,  including the parotid gland (“cheek” or “ear” sweetbread), the sublingual glands (“tongue” sweetbreads or “throat bread”), and testicles (cf. Rocky Mountain oyster or lamb fries) The “heart” sweetbreads are more spherical in shape, and surrounded symmetrically by the “throat” sweetbreads, which are more cylindrical in shape.

Frying Sweetbreads dredged in flour

One common preparation of sweetbreads involves soaking in salt water, then poaching in milk, after which the outer membrane is removed. Once dried and chilled, they are often breaded and fried. They are also used for stuffing or in pâtés. They are grilled in many Latin American cuisines, such as in the Argentine asado, and served in bread in Turkish cuisine.”

Pan frying sweetbrads

The word “sweetbread” is first attested in the 16th century, but the etymology of the name is unclear. “Sweet” is perhaps used since the thymus is sweet and rich-tasting, as opposed to savory-tasting muscle flesh. “Bread” may come from brede, “roasted meat” or from the Old English brǣd (“flesh” or “meat”).”

Wherever you find yourself in the world you will usually find sweetbreads on the menu, In Italy, France, Mexico, Spain – all of the countries that show their culinary expressions.

Ciao for now




A Hot August Night….Sizzles with the tastes of South America

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This is what happened when we gathered a small group of people to an Italian restaurant to enjoy the cuisine of South America paired with Chilean wines. An amazing time with our Ambassador, Javier Guinzazu.

Javier and David

David and Javier

From a young age, Javier always had a passion for wine.  Having parents from the premier wine producing region of Argentina, Mendoza became the setting for his early education.  His family vineyards, which are still run by his father today, were regularly visited as a child and helped teach him the intrinsic values terroir and careful vineyard practices.  This unique heritage fueled his fervor for wine and inspired him to one day work closely with wines from South America.  He has spent the last five years dedicated to several wineries from Chile and Argentina, working in different facets  to help promote the most authentic wines from various regions.

He is currently specializing in the wines of Chile and helping to spread the excitement over emerging regions like Casablanca and Leyda Valleys, and seemingly obscure varietals like Carmenere and Sauvignon Gris. Chilean wine is mostly known for its value, but variety and quality that are now coming out of the region are incredible.


Halibut and Shrimp Ceviche

Halibut and Shrimp Ceviche

Chilean Sea bass

Chilean Sea Bass

Churrasco Beef Sandwich

Churrasco Beef Sandwich


Before I did this wine dinner I was not very knowledgable about food and wines from Chile. My focus primarily has been on Italian food and wine. For me it was exciting to research and then cook the fabulous cuisuine of the foods from Chile. Even though the foods are different from the Italian regions, their are some similarities. The Spanish have had some great influence as well. The Spanish came to Chile in 1541 and they brought grapes, olives, walnuts, chestnuts, rice, wheat, citrus fruits, sugar, garlic, and spices. They also brought chicken, beef, sheep, pigs, rabbits, milk, cheeses, and sausages.

Before I did this wine dinner I was not very knowledgable about food and wines from Chile. My focus primarily has been on Italian food and wine. For me it was exciting to research and then cook the fabulous cuisine of the foods from Chile. Even though the foods are different from the Italian regions, their are some similarities. The Spanish have had some great influence as well. The Spanish came to Chile in 1541 and they brought grapes, olives, walnuts, chestnuts, rice, wheat, citrus fruits, sugar, garlic, and spices. They also brought chicken, beef, sheep, pigs, rabbits, milk, cheeses, and sausages.

Ultimately for me what it comes down to is having the opportunity to share and to experience the culture of food and wine of different countries with my customers who have now become my friends.

Ciao for now

Maria and Alexia

Maria and Alexia



Vego and Jorge

Vego and Jorge




Summer Is Never a Dull Moment!

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Waterskiing on the Columbia

Waterskiing on the Columbia

Summer can be an amazingly busy time for all of us. Between taking sets on the ski lake, camping, going to parades and riding my bike, I still find time to organize and take time to facilitate all of our out of town guests we will be hosting for either wine touring, cooking amazing foods or setting up for our coming wine dinners. I don’t know how I manage to fit it all in, but it is those things in my life that keeps my juices flowing. It is those things in life that inspire me.

Chilean Mountains

Chilean Mountains





First on the agenda, a guest from Chile will be joining us, Javier Guinazu. He will be hosting a wine and food event in our wine bar in which he will be presenting and tasting us on his incredible wines from Chile. It is fun finding recipes to compliment the wines  from Chile. Whether it’s Chilean Sea Bass, or Pebre, a Chilean Chile Pepper Salsa, or something tasty like an empanada. Served with Cousino-Macul Sauvignon Gris, Antiguas Chardonnay & Antiguas Cabernet, & Terranoble Gran Reserve Carmenere.

The following week will involve 4 Italians arriving from Milan. Two of them great friends, and their business associates. We will be taking a road trip to the Willamette Valley, introducing them to the great Pinot Noirs from this region. They are fascinated with trying the wines of Washington, Oregon and California. Seeing this region from their perspective is going to be so fun. Three of  them have never been to  America. After spending a few days in Oregon, off we go to Sonoma for a few days to introduce them to the wine of Northern California. The big, bold Cabernets, along with the buttery Chardonnays. It is going to be fun and funny traveling in a mini van with 4 young Italian professionals. They will continue on their journey for three weeks, going to Big Sur, Santa Barbara and finally ending up in San Diego.


Matteo and Maria
Matteo and Maria

Fast forward to September when we will be hosting Andrea Librandi, our good friend and Chef/ pharmacist from Calabria. Andrea’s family has always been in the pharmacy business since he was born. Following in the foot steps, of his father, brother and sister, who all work at the same pharmacy, he felt that this is what he should be doing. Andrea’s true passion however, is food and wine. He is a talented chef who studies and executes amazing dishes in his free time. He wants to come to America to learn what it’s like to work in an Italian Restaurant in Seattle. Not only will he be helping out at our restaurant, Grazie Ristorante, but will be hosting a series of cooking classes and special dinners. The first dinner he will be cooking for is a Paella dinner paired with the great wines of Spain. Stay tuned for all of our upcoming events and fun and funny stories of the adventures of our Italian explorers.




Ciao for now!

Linguine con Vongole

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I love to eat a little lighter in the summer. No heavy sauces with lots a cream, or a meat ragu. One of my favorite most flavorful dishes is the Linguine with clams. Very simple, without to many ingredients to mask the flavors of all of the individual flavors. I have had it in many different regions and found it to be quite similar, depending on how far south you travel it will usually be a little spicier in the regions where the sun is hotter. Here in the Pacific Northwest we are very fortunate being able to purchase fresh clams at almost any market or fish store. They are usually very small, but very tender. We are in the tomato growing season so I always recommend to use the fresh ingredients out of your garden to get that burst of freshness on your palate. I will recommend a nice Rosato to compliment this delicious meal.

Linguini Con Vongole

Linguini con Vongole (recipe from Epicurious.com)


  • 3 tablespoons kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 1 pound linguine
  • 12 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound New Zealand cockles or 24 Manila or littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (14-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes in juice, juice reserved and tomatoes coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped


In large pot over moderately high heat, combine 8 quarts of water to boil and salt. Bring to boil, then add linguine and cook to 1 minute short of al dente according to package directions (pasta should still be quite firm).

Meanwhile, in large sauté pan over moderately high heat, heat 6 tablespoons extra- olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add garlic and sauté until just golden, about 30 seconds. Add clams and 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes and sauté 1 minute. Add wine, tomatoes and juice, and 1/2 cup parsley and simmer, uncovered, just until clams open, 7 to 8 minutes.

Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain linguine and add to pan. Simmer, tossing occasionally, until linguine is just tender, about 1 minute. If necessary, add some of reserved cooking water to keep moist. Remove from heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons parsley, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and extra-virgin olive oil, tossing to coat. Transfer to serving dish and serve immediately.

Who Doesn’t Like A Great Cold Cut By Itself, Or In A Sandwich?

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cold-cuts Salami:
It’s a large (3-4 inches across) sausage made with ground pork and cubes of fat that are seasoned with garlic, salt, and spices, and stuffed into the pig’s large intestine. It’s smaller cousin is salamino, with a similar filling (the fat may be ground somewhat finer) but only an inch thick. The town of Felino, in Emilia Romagna, is famed for its salamino. Salamino piccante, spicy salamino, is made with enough red pepper to give it that familiar orange cast; in the US it’s known as pepperoni. All of these salamis are consumed raw.

People have written books about Northern Italy’s cured raw hams. Broadly speaking, they can be divided into two categories, dolce (sweet), and salato, casalingo, orToscano (salty, home made, or Tuscan). The former is more refined and more expensive.

The most common varieties of prosciutto dolce are Parma and San Daniele. Both should have deep red meat and pure white fat. The former are rounded and rather stubby, while the latter are pressed to give them their characteristic “Stradivarian” shape (by women, according to the Consorzio — men lack the necessary touch).

Prosciutto salato, on the other hand, is more heavily salted, and is also rubbed with a spice mixture called agliata, made with garlic and pepper. The meat is frequently darker in color, and the fat can be pinkish.

Incidentally, in Italy, the word prosciutto by itself invariably refers to raw ham. Cooked ham, which was introduced in the 60s, is called prosciutto cotto — except on pizzeria menus, where it’s simply prosciutto and the true prosciutto is called prosciutto crudo.

Link sausage, made with ground pork, cubed pork fat, spices, and herbs. They’re consumed three different ways.

Raw when fresh, in a sandwich (they have to be very fresh and one has to be a great fan of raw pork to eat them this way — more of a fan than I usually am).

Cooked when fresh — either as is on the grill, or with the casing removed, as an ingredient in other dishes (for example, try slipping a couple of skinned sausages into the cavity the next time you roast a whole chicken).

Thinly sliced, once they’ve aged for a couple of months. In this case they’re much like salami and can be a real treat.

This is a variation on salami that supposedly owes its origins to a thief at a fair near the town of Prato, who stole a fresh salami and hid it in a stand of wild fennel. When he returned for it he discovered it had absorbed the aromas of its hiding place and had become fit for the Gods.
There are two kinds of finocchiona.

One is called finocchiona, and is made of finely ground pork and fat, laced with fennel, and aged for a while; it’s fairly firm.

The other is called sbriciolona, a word that means crumbly, and though the mixture is the same it’s much fresher — so fresh that it simply crumbles unless sliced about a half inch thick. A good sbriciolona is an amazing treat, especially on a slice of schiacciata.

Also known as rigatino (little lined one) and carnesecca (dried meat), this is made from the same cut used to make bacon. However, it’s not smoked, and there’s no sugar involved. Just garlic, salt and spices, in particular a liberal dose of freshly ground pepper. It’s almost always used as an ingredient in other dishes, sometimes providing flavor, and other times taking a commanding role, for example pasta alla carbonara or a rich pasta all’arrabbiata.

Pancetta can also be sold rolled and tied, at which point it’s pancetta arrotolata.

Also known as coppa, this is cured shoulder but. Again raw, and prepared with salt, herbs, and spices.

The word translates as lard, and that’s what this is, thick fat with some thin streaks of red meat, cured with herbs, pepper, and salt. The best-known Italian lard is from a town called Colonnata, which is perched on a ridge between two marble quarries in the Apuans above Carrara.

Lardo can be used as a flavoring ingredient in other dishes (in the form of lardoons, or thinly sliced and wrapped around the other cut of meat), but if it’s very good it’s divine served as is, thinly sliced with toasted bread. If your cholesterol count can take it, this is one of the finest antipasti there is.

Rendered lard that’s used for cooking, as a grease, is called strutto.


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carpaccioWhen is the last time you tried a good Carpaccio?

Carpaccio is the international name of a typical Italian dish made with raw meat.

The dish was proposed with this name for the first time in Venice, at the time of an exhibition dedicated to Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio, which took place around 1950.

The diffusion and the name of this typical dish originated from Piedmont, called the “Carne cruda all’Albese” (when it was considered only a starter and never a main course). Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of the Harry’s Bar in Venice prepared the dish to serve to the countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo when he learned that the doctors had recommended she eat raw meat. It is also said his creation was inspired from the paintings by Vittore Carpaccio, the venetian painter well known also for the tones of his reds and whites. This became the dish that today we all know by the name of “Carpaccio”.

The typical Piedmont Carpaccio is made with very thin slices of beef meat, placed on a dish, with a marinade made with lemon, olive oil and with shavings of white truffle or parmesan cheese.

Today the typical Italian Carpaccio preparations are varied, but usually is prepared serving the thin slices of meat with olive oil, lemon, shavings of parmesan cheese on a bed of arugula.

The meat used for Carpaccio is the beef sirloin, a cut tastier than the fillet.

Since this is a dish best served raw, the meat must be fresh!

Also in the Piedmont tradition, we find the Carpaccio made with minced meat and garlic, called “Carne cruda”.