This has been the winter of snow, blankets, gently falling over the New York cityscape.   We are into snow day number two after a series of storms.  Cabin fever is really cabin bliss in my apartment as I have managed to get my spring house cleaning done early along with lots of yummy cooking experiments.

On this rather bleak winter night, February’s wine of the month from the 2010 vinartculture calendar, brachetto, is a perfect excuse for a dinner party.  Brachetto is a red grape from southern Piedmont, usually made into frizzante slightly sweet rose wine and more rarely into dry still reds.   Tom and Andy, friends from the neighborhood joined in the festivities and we started the night with a slightly effervescent semi-dry rose, Bigaro by Elio Perrone.  A mixture of muscato di asti and brachetto with a low alcohol level of 5% and a nose of strawberries, cream and a jolly rancher candied finish.   The bigaro worked well with the sardine spread appetizer and would also complement many cured meats and sausage.

The main course came from my latest cookbook muse, The Italian Farmer’s Table, by Matthew Scialabba and Melissa Pellegrino.  The couple, two culinary grads from New England spent four months traveling through Northern Italy visiting agriturismos and gathering recipes and stories for the book.  Some of the most creative, simple and fresh meals I’ve had have been at agriturismos in various regions of Italy.   The Agriturismo is basically a working farm with food and lodging, subsidized by the Italian government.  The meals are centered around fresh, seasonal produce from the farm and usually served with the wine grown on the estate and cooked with lots of love.

In addition to the book, the authors also have a blog using local produce from New England farms with accompanying recipes.

For dinner I made their four cheese mac and cheese recipe which uses ricotta, fontina, pecorino and goat cheese along with tomatoes.  It was an excellent lighter version of mac and cheese, if there is such a thing.  I also made braised laconato kale and finished with an arugula and radish salad.  With dinner we opened a bottle of dry brachetto, Sottimano, Mate 2008.  Sottimano in Piedmont is one of the few estates making dry, still, brachetto and is practicing organic.  Medium bodied and ruby colored with an earthy nose opening up to cranberry and rhubarb fruit on the palate.   It has good acidity and tannin with a medium finish and started to open up as we were digging into the mac and cheese.   This is definitely a wine that is better paired with food and would also be excellent with most fish and seafood dishes.  I thought it would be better with a little chill but it really opened up as it warmed to room temperature.  For dessert my friend Tom brought a honey cake from our local Russian grocery store.  We consumed it along with the leftover Bigaro just as the snow started to fall once again.