Holidays

Cherries have Blossomed

Cherry-Blossoms-Washington-DC-March-23-2012-01-1068x710

As a millennial born and raised in the wonderful state of New Jersey, I did not know all that much about the Cherry Blossoms in Washington, DC. Other than the fact there’s an annual festival to celebrate the beautiful trees that line the waterfront, there is a limited amount of common knowledge available about the Cherry Blossoms. From my perspective, to most of the nation, they just exist. However, when I moved to DC about six months ago, I told myself I would learn the quirky secrets behind this city. In this case, my research led me to the Cherry Blossoms; as per the scientific method I cataloged my thoughts and observations as I learned the history behind this breathtaking foliage.

Initial thoughts on the Cherry Blossoms:

“George Washington and the Cherry Tree” At the age of six, young George Washington received a hatchet as a gift. A little overzealous (as any six year old wielding a hatchet should be) George supposedly chopped down his father’s beloved Cherry Tree. When his father saw what he had done George admitted “I cannot tell a lie…I cut it with my hatchet.” Celebrating his honesty in lieu of punishing his wrongdoing, George’s father praised his son’s honesty was worth a thousand cherry trees. Clearly, it makes sense that a city named after our first president would host a festival dedicated to a tree he is legend for cutting down.

Question:

Why do we celebrate the Cherry Blossoms here in Washington DC?

BS bs-ae-cherry-blossom-fest-2013-p2

Hypothesis:

Beyond the George Washington tale, I have in fact been to the festival before and my impression it that this is a great family friendly fun experience and an amazing way to open up the city for a season of outdoor fun!

Research Shows:

In 1912 the mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, gifted the city 3,000 cherry trees to honor the close relationship the United States and Japan share. Even though the first 2,000 trees that arrived in 1910 were diseased, the two nations could not be deterred from outwardly expressing their appreciation for one another. These trees were such an important gift that First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda (the wife of the Japanese ambassador) planted the first two trees in West Potomac Park on the north bank of the tidal basin. Impressively, in 1981 the United States sent clippings from the trees to Japanese horticulturists who were desperate to replace some of the cherry blossoms, which were destroyed in a flood. Since the original festival celebrating the successful 1912 planting, these blossoms have been annually celebrated since 1934 (excluding a hiatus during WWII until 1947). Helium balloons, floats, parades over the course of four weekends is how DC currently celebrates the Cherry Blossom festival. Welcoming some 1.5 million people to the city from all over the country.

Parade-2

Afterthoughts and Commentary:

The National Cherry Blossom Festival draws attention to our national pride and to the positive relationships we as a nation formed across the world. These trees were a gift from Japan to us; still over a century later we give them the same respect as when they first arrived. To my disappointment, the festival has no foundation in the George Washington story. Turns out the Cherry Tree and the Cherry Blossoms were two separate plants. Regardless, this festival is a wonderful way to celebrate the beauty our change of season brings us. Get out, hit the streets, bring your mom, your kids, your grandma, the Cherry Blossom Festival is fun for the whole family!

P.S: We are celebrating this beautiful festival here at Via Umbria with a Cherry Jubilee Cocktail Class on Wednesday (3/23) and a series of themed Italian Dinner Parties (3/23-24-25). For more information and tickets please visit: http://viaumbria.com/events/

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From Disguise to Festivals


venice-carnival_of_venice-venetian_maskWe often associate carnivals with masks. In fact it is impossible to separate those fancy masks from the Carnevale or Mardi Gras celebrations today. But when and how did this tradition even begin?

The earliest of these masquerade festivals is known to be Carneval di Venezia, which dates back to 13th century. It is believed that the tradition of wearing the mask started as a tool to conceal their identity when Venetians would hold celebrations before Lent started. These celebrations were the only times when the upper and lower classes would socialize together. Hidden behind their masks, both aristocrats and peasants would engage in illegal activities such as gambling or underground affairs (as well as partying and dancing!). After all, the city was relatively small and not everyone wanted to share their personal life with others… The Venetian masks therefore at first symbolized freedom and class equality, allowing all citizens to indulge in behaviors that were otherwise seen as inappropriate. 

As Venetians started wearing the masks in their daily lives besides the celebrations, illicit activities started to become very popular and sexual promiscuity bcarnival8ecame publicly acceptable. Eventually, the Republic limited the wearing of masks to only certain months of the year, which included the Carnevale period. The tradition quickly spread out across the world and today masks have become iconic symbols of festivals. Whether you’re celebrating Mardi Gras, Carneval di Venezia or Brazilian Carnival, you will be surrounded by glamorous masks full of long feathers, elegant hats and lavish patterns.

Now that you learned all about the history of carnival masks, grab one for yourself and celebrate this exciting festival with us at Via Umbria!

For more information on our carnival events, please visit viaumbria.com/events

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Your Essential Food Guide to Mardi Gras

new-orleans-beignetsAround the world, thousands flood the streets of major cities to celebrate Carnival. Here in the United States this festival is celebrated in New Orleans, Louisiana. Similar to Carnevale di Venezia, Carnival in the Big Easy is host to parades all month long leading up to Mardi Gras and the closer it gets the crazier it gets. Some dress in full costume where some barely dress at all. Bourbon Street is lined in swaths of glimmering green, gold, and purple. With faces covered in extravagant masks, beads constantly flying through the air and feather boas flowing across the crowd Carnival is a unique cultural experience not to be missed. little-jewel-best-po-boy-los-angeles-anne-fishbeinCentral to any cultural experience is the food. If you don’t eat what the locals eat, have you actually been there? Famous for it’s Cajun and Creole Cuisine, New Orleans is the perfect place for a crazy party like Carnival. This festival gives the local eateries a crowd to showcase their traditional dishes. From Crawfish to Beignets, New Orleans Carnival food is quick and easy. Stop into any restaurant in the French Quarter and you’ll easily find great places to eat. Some standard fare include crawfish and other shellfish which are commonly boiled and served with corn and potatoes. Another easy meal is the Po’boy: a submarine sandwich on french bread filled with fried seafood such as shrimp or catfish topped with lettuce, tomato and a remoulade. Pat O' Briens HurricaneTo pair with these foods, you’ve got to have Hurricanes the classic New Orleans cocktail made with Rum, fruit juice and grenadine. If a sweet drink isn’t your preference you can always find a Sazerac (cognac based cocktail) in NOLA. It just wouldn’t be Carnival without a Hurricane or a Sazerac. And for dessert: Beignets. New Orleans is famous for this French version of the Italian zeppole, a beignet is a sweet fried dough ball topped with powdered sugar. Another important dessert in NOLA during this festival is the King Cake. Made specifically for the Mardi Gras celebration, the King Cake is a pastry filled with raisins, cinnamon, and pecans. In true New Orleans style, an additional ingredient fills this holiday treat: a trinket, originally a porcelain baby that represented Jesus, that promises luck to the finder. The person who does find the trinket is in charge of next year’s king cake and hosting the Mardi Gras party. Celebrate, reinvent old traditions, forge new ones, it’s Carnival!

For Information about our Carnevale Events visit: viaumbria.com/events

From King Cake to Hurricanes... Read more

Around the world, thousands flood the streets of major cities to celebrate Carnival. Here in the United States this festival is ...

If loving Stilton is wrong, I don’t want to be right

You guys. I have a serious relationship with British cheeses. This will come as no shock to those of you who have either read my blog posts or visited my counter – I’ve made my love known far and wide. Growing up with an English mother whose parents had a farm in the Yorkshire Dales, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where the roots of this relationship formed. Couple that with Via Umbria’s partnership with famed British cheese shop/affineur/exporter, Neal’s Yard Dairy – a partnership that has given me and my lovely customers access to the best that Britain has to offer – and my love of these curds from the UK has damn near become an obsession.

A very large portion of this love is dedicated to the one cheese that opened my eyes to the wonders of blue mold – Stilton. Creamy yet crumbly, powerful yet approachable, good on its own or incorporated into recipes, this beautiful blue cheese was my gateway blue. And no time of year makes me crave it more than holiday time.

Growing up, my family and I would celebrate Christmas with my English grandparents. My sisters and I looked forward to it for months – an hours-long feast that included caviar canapes, duck à l’orange or roasted pheasant, my granny’s famous roasted potatoes, and Christmas pudding served with copious amounts of rum butter. The meal was so lengthy and full of so many delicious things, that we’d have to play games between courses in order to make room for the next culinary delight. As with many a British Christmas, however, no Christmas meal was complete without a very large hunk of Stilton served with port. It was heaven.

stilton3

So what is Stilton? Named for the town of Stilton, this quintessentially British cheese can trace its roots all the way back to the 18th century, although research shows that it was a very different product then than it is now. The first descriptions of Stilton cheese describe it as more of a cream cheese with no blue veining whatsoever. Over time, however, it evolved into the classic blue beauty that we know and love today.

Now a protected food, there are restrictions on cheeses that bear the Stilton name – it must be produced in one of three counties (either Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, or Leicestershire), be made with local pasteurized milk, have a naturally rinded cylindrical shape, not be pressed, and of course, have blue veins. Even if a wheel meets all of these requirements, however, it still may not make the cut. Every wheel must be graded and pass a quality test before being dubbed “Stilton”. If a wheel doesn’t pass muster, it must be sold simply as “blue cheese”.

Even though about a million wheels of Stilton are made every year, there are only six dairies that are licensed to make this classic blue. At Via Umbria, our Stiltons are made by Colston Bassett Dairy in Nottinghamshire, and hand selected by our friends at Neal’s Yard Dairy. Founded in 1913, Colston Bassett has been making Stilton for over 100 years, and has only had 4 different cheesemakers during that period. As Jason Hinds, Sales Director at Neal’s Yard Dairy, puts it, “With only four cheesemakers in the last one hundred years, Colston Bassett has maintained a tradition and quality of cheesemaking that is unparalleled in the Stilton world. It is the only Stilton that Neal’s Yard Dairy has carried for the last thirty three years.” And if it’s good enough for Jason Hinds, you better believe that you have a seriously good cheese on your hands.

All of this to say: Colston Bassett Stilton is Via Umbria’s December cheese of the month! Come and join us next Wednesday at 7:30pm for our December Cheese Party, and jump into the holiday season by tasting this fantastic piece of British tradition.

 

Alice Bergen Phillips
Alice Bergen Phillips

the roots of a British cheese classic Read more

You guys. I have a serious relationship with British cheeses. This will come as no shock to those of you who have ...

A Turkey to Be Thankful For

The turkey is a noble bird, or so thought Benjamin Franklin when he argued that it, not the warlike, predatory eagle, should be America’s national bird. He had a strong case, the turkey being a species native to North America, ranging in the wild from Mexico through the eastern United States and into Canada. And although Franklin didn’t succeed in putting the nearly flightless gobbler on the Great Seal, the turkey has become essential to American culture and cuisine–arguably the only required part of our annual Thanksgiving Day feasts.

Turkey is, however, one of the most misunderstood meats in our diet. During the rest of the year, we eat almost exclusively the white meat in deli sandwiches. The rest is discarded or ground for burgers and the like–pretending to be the cheap, lean option. But then, once a year in November, there is a massive demand for the birds whole. The sheer quantity of turkeys in demand means that most of them come from “farms” that resemble factories more than a traditional farm. And the birds themselves are a breed more or less developed in a lab so that the breast meat is larger than natural. When cooked, these turkeys are bland and tend to dry out easily.

This is what I had to take into consideration when I decided to sell turkeys this year. With our commitment to tradition, quality, and locality, I wanted to make sure that our turkeys were something to be proud of. So I drove an hour away from the District into beautiful upper Loudoun County, Virginia where the rolling hills start to reach towards the sky in the Appalachian Mountains and breweries and wineries hide around every corner. I met with a local family farmer, whose farm, Fields of Athenry, began to raise wholesome animals to ensure that their children ate well. Heading up the driveway, I was almost immediately greeted by a loud chorus of gobbles from a pen near the entrance. There they were, in the daylight, turkeys running around in the grass with no cage in sight. As the farmer, Elaine, showed me around, she pointed at specific birds and mentioned what breeds they were. A Narragansett here, a Blue there. It was impressive watching this flock wander around the field together, with the occasional few flying over the fence and then, birds that they are, unable to figure out how to get back in and rejoin their friends.

Free Range Turkeys

I learned that the farm actually operates across three properties in Loudoun County and just over the river in Maryland. In addition to the turkeys, the family raises cows, pigs, chickens, geese, ducks, and make their own deli meats and bacon–all with the same standards of care they show for the turkeys. I’m really excited to work with these guys. But for now, for Thanksgiving, we’re going to have some of the best turkeys available. We have pre-ordering available now through November 16 online or in the store, and can get you a bird as close to the size you want it. I can spatchcock them for you, if you’re feeling adventurous and ready to grill, and Chef Johanna is preparing an awesome cider brine, if you so desire. Plus, we’re cooking up some awesome sides and appetizers to pair with them. Long story short: order a turkey! I promise it’ll be one more thing you’ll be giving thanks for this year.

Scott Weiss
Scott Weiss

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Bottomless Bellini Brunch

Brunch wasn’t until the afternoon, but the laboratorio kitchen got busy around ten o’ clock on Easter morning. Marco, Chiara, Bill, Suzy and Federico had their work cut out for them: in three hours, nearly 20 people would arrive to celebrate Easter, Italian-style. All hands were on deck, working together to create four glorious courses. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at all the hard work and creativity that made this meal possible!

Bill skinning potatoes, which were later served as Contorni.
Bill skinned potatoes with a smile this morning.
Suzy and Chiara make an excellent team.
When they put on their aprons, Suzy and Chiara mean business.
Chiara beginning the Ciramicola, a colorful holiday cake.
Chiara starting the Ciramicola, a colorful holiday cake.
Marco mixing the dough for cherry cubotti.
Marco mixing dough for cherry cubotti.
Federico making tagliatelle from scratch.
Federico making tagliatelle from scratch.

The real fun began once all the guests arrived. Bellinis (and mimosas) flowed steadily, and families gathered around our communal table with friends new and old to celebrate.

One of our younger guests made quite a splash with her stylish bunny ears!
One of our younger guests made quite a splash with her stylish bunny ears!
Bill is a generous pour when it comes to Bellinis (and mimosas!).
Bill is a generous pour when it comes to Bellinis (and mimosas!).
Marco and Chiara's daughter, Viola, enjoying Easter salami.
Marco and Chiara’s daughter enjoying Easter salami.

We hope you’ll join us for our next holiday celebration! On April 23rd, we’ll host a Seder dinner to celebrate Passover. As always, guests of all faiths are welcome.

Buona Pasqua, and many thanks to all who shared their Easter with us today!

Easter in Via Umbria's Laboratorio kitchen Read more

Brunch wasn't until the afternoon, but the laboratorio kitchen got busy around ten o' clock on Easter morning. Marco, Chiara, Bill, Suzy and Federico ...

Even More Easter Torta

Easter in Umbria means it’s time for Torta Di Pasqua, a rich holiday cheese bread unique to the region. Visiting chef Jennifer McIlvaine stopped by to bake a scrumptious batch in our laboratorio kitchen, and gave us her recipe. But because every Umbrian family has their own special way of making Torta Di Pasqua, we asked several of our friends for their recipes. Simone, Ernesto, and Marco and Chiara all chimed in, and each of their ways of making Torta Di Pasqua sound amazing. Try them out at home with cheese from our cheese counter and tell us which version you like best!

Ready for the oven, miniature-style!
Ready for the oven, miniature-style!

Ernesto’s Torta Di Pasqua

5 eggs
1T of oil or 1T of pork fat (strutto)
2 cubes (50g) fresh yeast
5 pinches of salt
100g gruyere cut into cubes
100g parmigiano grated
Flour

Mix together eggs, oil, yeast salt and parmigiano.  Add flour until you have a soft dough.  Add gruyere cubes.
Fill a buttered baking tin just under half full.  Let rise for one hour. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 180c.

Here's what you'll need to make you very own Torta di Pasqua!
Here’s what you’ll need to make you very own Torta di Pasqua!

Marco and Chiara’s Torta Di Pasqua

10 eggs
200 grams wet yeast
800 grams grated cheese (parmigiana, pecorino, swiss) – leave some in larger pieces
250 grams unsalted butter melted
30 grams salt
black pepper
10li grams sugar
Water, oil and flour as needed
Separate the eggs. Whip the egg whites into stiff peaks. Mix the yeast with sugar, warm water and tablespoon of flour and let sit.
Beat the egg yolks until creamy, add the melted butter, salt, pepper and cheese.  Fold into the egg whites. Add yeast.  Mix in flour, water and oil until you reach desired consistency.
Butter the baking molds.  Split the dough into four pieces, roll into balls and place into each mold (filling approximately half full).  Cover and let rise (sitting next to a pot of hot water) for 3 hours.
When the dough reaches the top of the mold bake in a 160c oven for 30 minutes. Raise the temperature to 180c and cook for additional 10 minutes.  When the top starts to brown cover with aluminum.
It's not fun unless you get a little messy.
It’s not fun unless you get a little messy.
Simone’s Torta Di Pasqua

2.2 lbs pizza dough

10 eggs
1 cup parmigiano
1 cup Romano
1 cup strong pecorino grated
Salt
Pepper
1 tbs yeast
1 cup butter
1 cup pork fat
1 cup olive oil
Work all the ingredients together. Add 00 flour until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Let sit for three hours and then knead it. Fill a buttered pan half full.  Let sit again in the oven off with a pot of hot water (to maintain humidity). Wait until doubled. Bake for 2 hours at 325 degrees. Test with a tooth pick . When it’s ready, set upside down until cool.
Let us know how you Torta Di Pasqua turns out and send photos of your bake-a-thon to feedme@viaumbria.com. Best of luck!
 

 

 

An Umbrian holiday tradition Read more

Easter in Umbria means it's time for Torta Di Pasqua, a rich holiday cheese bread unique to the region. Visiting chef Jennifer McIlvaine stopped by ...

Torta Di Pasqua

Colombe cakes are a celebrated Easter treat throughout Italy, but did you know that Umbria has its own leavened Easter speciality? Today, chef Jennifer McIlvaine joined us to bake the region’s signature Easter bread, Torta Di Pasqua, before she returns home to Cannara. She gave us a little background on this delicious dish, as well as her own recipe. Here’s what she had to say about this beloved Torta.
Chef Jennifer McIlvaine kneading Torta di Pasqua dough.
Chef Jennifer McIlvaine kneading Torta di Pasqua dough.
Easter is the most important holiday in the Catholic church, so for Italians, Easter is the biggest holiday, even bigger than Christmas. In its earliest incarnation, Easter began as a Roman pagan tradition, which the Church turned into a Christian holiday to bring people into the fold.
During Carnevale, we make a lot of fried food because we have to use up all the fats, lard, and sugar in the house before Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, 40 days before Easter. During Lent, tradition says you’re supposed to fast from sweets and meat. But then on Easter morning, we eat Torta Di Pasqua.
Easter is the only day of the year that we eat a salty breakfast. We’ve been fasting from heavy things, but Torta Di Pasqua, or Pizza Di Pasqua, has eggs, pork fat, and lots of cheeses. Eggs were considered very expensive, so anything that has a lot of eggs was a sign of richness. In fact, we eat the Torta di Pasqua with a hard boiled egg. Eggs are another old pagan tradition. They have always been  a sign of spring, of rebirth and new beginnings. And that is why we have eggs for Easter.
Fresh organic eggs! These hens must have known Easter is right around the corner.
Fresh organic eggs! These hens must have known Easter is right around the corner.
Another traditional dish we eat on Easter morning with Torta Di Pasqua are the first salumi of the year. Today, farmers makes salumi all year long because we have refrigerators. However before refrigerators, farmers would only butcher pigs in November, December, and January, the coldest months of the year. The first salumi–smaller cuts like salami and capocollo–would age for three months and be ready to eat by Easter. So the tradition is that you eat Torta Di Pasqua, a hard boiled egg, and a slice of salumi. We always have lamb at easter, so we also eat Coratella, a lamb innerd stew, for breakfast as well. In Cannara, our town, we drink a sweet wine called Vernaccia with breakfast as well.

As far as buying Torta Di Pasqua versus making your own, in my town the split is about 50/50. In Cannara, the baker opens up his oven to the people of the town, usually on Holy Thursday or Good Friday, and lets them bake their own bread. So many people makes the dough at home and bakes it in his big oven. The best Torta Di Pasqua is made in a wood-fired oven, so you’ll see people light up their ovens a few days before Easter and then everybody brings their dough over. It’s a community thing, so people cook them together. It’s nice.

Here is Jennifer’s recipe for Torta Di Pasqua, which she made fresh for us today. Snag a mini Torta or get your very own full-sized loaf before they’re gone!

Golden mini Tortas, now available at our counter!
Golden mini Tortas, now available at our counter!

Jennifer McIlvaine’s Pizza Di Pasqua

  • 25 g brewer’s yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 100g warm water
  • 300g ’00’ flour
  • 500g ‘0’ flour + 100g for dusting
  • 5-6 eggs
  • 150g grated pecorino romano
  • 150g grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 50g lard
  • 5 Tbs e.v. olive oil
  • 150g diced sharp provolone
  • 150g diced swiss cheese

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water.   Slowly add the flours, little by little, alternating with the eggs.  Mix well.  Add the grated cheeses, salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Add the lard and olive oil.  Knead well for about 10 minutes.   Add the diced provolone & swiss cheese and knead until well mixed.  Divide the dough into two equal parts and form into balls, folding the dough over itself.  Place each ball into a deep baking tin that has been greased (with lard) and floured.

Let rise for about 2 hours or until dough has reached the top of the tin.  Bake in the oven at 200°C for 20 minutes, then 180°C for another 40 minutes.  The Tortas are ready when a test stick comes out clean.

Every family has its own Torta Di Pasqua recipe. Check back later for more variations!

Umbria's Easter specialty bread Read more

Colombe cakes are a celebrated Easter treat throughout Italy, but did you know that Umbria has its own leavened Easter speciality? Today, chef ...

Love is in the air!

romantic-dinner-2

Each year, during the col-drums of February, the harsh winter seems to melt away as people celebrate Valentine’s Day, the holiday synonymous with romance. Although there are several theories on the origin of the holiday, it has been adopted in many countries across the world as a way to celebrate love among couples, friends, and family.

Italians are typically considered to be lovers, but the celebration of Valentine’s Day in Italy is actually an American import. Known as “La Festa degli Innamorati” it is typically only celebrated between lovers and sweethearts.

This Valentine’s Day Via Umbria is combining the American and Italian traditions with our Sweetheart Suppers being held on two nights – Saturday, February 13 and Sunday, February 14. If you don’t look forward to the annual Valentine’s Day chaotic restaurant experience, or if the thought of cooking a meal for two has you hiding in bed with the blankets over your head, take the stress out of romance and enjoy dinner at a cozy table for two in Via Umbria’s laboratorio demonstration kitchen where every table is a chef’s table. But it’s not all cupid and hearts around here; if you’re looking for a unique spot for ladies’ night out or a group date with friends to celebrate the occasion, book a seat at the communal table to enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, conversation, and wonderful Italian food.

Each evening features four courses of delicious Umbrian dishes, including appetizers, wine pairings, and a decadent chocolate dessert. And don’t forget, dinners in our laboratorio are more than just great food: our open kitchen format allows you to watch your meal as it’s created, and you can interact with the Chef. We promise it will be an unforgettable evening!

Dinner Details

What: Sweetheart Supper
Where: in the Laboratorio (demo kitchen) at Via Umbria
When: Saturday, February 13, at 7:30pm or Sunday, February 14, at 7:30pm

For more information or to book your reservation visit us online or call us at (202) 333-3904.

We're taking Valentine's Day reservations Read more

Each year, during the col-drums of February, the harsh winter seems to melt away as people celebrate Valentine’s Day, the holiday synonymous ...

Via Umbria’s Top Seven Resolutions for a Fuller Life

We make New Years resolutions for many reasons (and break them for many more). This year, make a resolution you are excited to keep, and aim to change your lifestyle in small ways that will feed you emotionally and physically.
With the New Year looming, resolve to bring new experiences into your life, and have fun while doing it.

Via Umbria’s Top Seven Resolutions for a Fuller Life

Rissa Miller Ravioli

Resolution #1: Learn to Cook.

Solution: Stop squinting at recipes on your computer screen and join one of our fun, relaxed, interactive classes. Sip a glass of our Italian wine while you laugh with new friends and learn simple techniques from our favorite Umbrian Chef, Simone!

Italian cooking is simple at its heart, and there’s no better place to learn the basic steps you can take to improve your kitchen game than in our brand new laboratorio.

Make 2016 the year you answer the question “what’s for dinner?” with enthusiasm and ease. Take the first step towards that goal by signing up for one of Chef Simone’s Umbrian cooking classes, here for a limited time in January.

Bill Menard at Ernestos Perbacco Canara

Resolution #2: Indulge in the finer things in life.

Solution: Italians know that nothing makes a day special quite like surrounding yourself with the finest things life has to offer, and for us, that means making every meal a celebration.

Every time we return to Italy we are reminded that Italians know how to work the finer things in life into their daily routines, and in 2016 we are dedicated to following their example.

Did you forget to celebrate the New Year in style with caviar and bubbles? Via Umbria now has sparkling wine, caviar, and blini – stop in and stock up and turn any day into a momentous foodie moment in the New Year. Or stop by our store to peruse our ceramics collection – eating off a work of art is a luxury that will make every meal feel special.

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Resolution #3: Travel more

Solution: What are your favorite memories from 2015? Do some of them involve traveling with loved ones? Here at Via Umbria some of our most cherished moments from the past year are our times in Italy.

In the upcoming year, book the remarkable getaway you’ve always dreamed of. Spend a week at the Fattoria del Gelso with those you love – with spacious accommodations that can house up to 16 of your closest friends and family, there is no excuse for leaving anyone behind.

For those of you eager for a family-free (and stress-free) excursion, Bill and Suzy’s tours are a perfect opportunity to relax and let someone else guide you through the wonders of Umbria. Engage with a new part of the world as Bill and Suzy show you their Umbria and help you experience the ‘Green Heart of Italy’ as locals, not as tourists. They will take you to their favorite restaurants, run by families who have become close friends and whose love for the land and its bounty is apparent in every dish. They’ll share with you the history and art that is found in the area’s museums, galleries and excavations, as well as in the streets of the many significant towns of the region. You’ll spend time in the company of locals who embody the hospitality and grace of Umbria.  Sign up now before it’s too late! Vinopalooza (April 17-23), Cucinapalooza (April 11-17), and our Food and Wine Tours (October 15-21 and 22-28) are three fantastic options.

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Resolution #4: Savor Richer Flavors 

Solution: Eat amazing cheese! Come in and talk with our friendly cheesemonger (the Cheese Whiz) and find your new favorite snack, or let them help you create the perfect cheese plate for your next party, hassle free.

Just as Italians make a weekly stop at the local latteria, getting the most flavorful cheese at our counter is guaranteed to improve your quality of life. You deserve some good, quality cheese in the New Year.

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Resolution #5: Discover a new favorite wine

Solution: Be a little adventurous. Come browse our selection of unique, small production wines, large enough to comprehensively cover Italy but manageable enough not to be overwhelmed. Our nonjudgmental, Italian-only approach to wines will make you feel stimulated and satisfied. Come to one of our complementary tastings every day to learn about our curated selection – our Wine Director would love to talk to you!

For a unique experience, sign up to wine and dine with Chef and Wine Director Vickie Reh as she hosts a series of curated wine dinners in our Enoteca throughout January. Be surrounded by the wines you drink with your food in this immersive experience!  For reservations, book here.

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Resolution #6: Discover the perfect “happy hour”

Solution: Italians know how to relax. Bring some of this spirit to your new year and wind down in our cafe during Spritz O’Clock!

Every day in the cafe from 5-7 PM, enjoy a new take on the traditional ‘bar snacks’ with our rotating menu of small plates for one or to share, and pair it with our favorite Italian cocktails or a glass of wine.

Meet new people as you snack on the bites found in bars and cafes across Italy. It’s an Italian piazza here in Georgetown.

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Resolution #7: Share new experiences

Solution: Would you like to expand your network of amici in 2016? To make meaningful connections with your neighbors? Make new friends (and bring the old) when you dine at one of our communal tables.

Whether you are enjoying a lively feast in our Laboratorio (kitchen), or a more intimate celebration in our Enoteca (Wine Room), there is no better place to come together for an exceptional, one-of-a-kind evening. With our ever-changing menus, we have an approach to dining that will redefine the idea of “eat local” with “eat convivially.” Combine that with our open kitchen design, which gives you the ability to watch your food being made, and interact with your Chef throughout the meal, and you will find that this is one resolution that you’ll be sticking to long after the New Year.

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At Via Umbria we strive to create Italian experiences right here in Washington, DC. So our ultimate resolution for 2016 is to enrich our lives with the things that really feed our soul – starting with the above list. In the words of our owner, Bill Menard:

“After our first night back in Umbria, following a day of discovery, of enjoyment, of relaxing and of peace and contentment, perhaps we are inching closer to understanding the secret that is Italy. Perhaps it is not one thing that makes Italy Italy, perhaps it is the sweep, the bounty of this place. But those things – the food, the wine, the landscape, the history, the art, the lyrical language, crazy drivers in tiny cars and museum-like cities – they are not the answer themselves. They are the things that satisfy the cravings that Suzy has. That I have. That our tour guests have. That Ernesto and Simone have. Each craving personal, each craving as deep as the soul and each craving desperately in search of satisfaction. Put simply, Italy feeds what you hunger for.”

 

Happy New Year from Via Umbria!

 

Resolve to bring new experiences into your life Read more

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Pasta Making Party at Via Umbria

With the arrival of our liquor license, we can now host events in our upstairs labratorio and Galleria! So we kicked off our events schedule with an pasta making party to remember.

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Spritzes in hand, our group had a riotous time learning how to make pasta from scratch, including squid ink pasta and ravioli.

Chef Rissa Miller offers pasta making tips
Chef Rissa Miller offers pasta making tips
Squid Ink Pasta
Squid Ink Pasta
Guests get their hands dirty!
Guests get their hands dirty!

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After learning the techniques, they moved to the Galleria for a leisurely, family-style meal featuring a pasta bar of their own creations and wonderful Umbrian wines.

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If you are interested in hosting a party at Via Umbria in the future, please contact events@viaumbria.com or call 202.333.3904 – we would love to have you!

 

Ci Vediamo!

 

– Via Umbria

Celebrating our Liquor License! Read more

With the arrival of our liquor license, we can now host events in our upstairs labratorio and Galleria! So we kicked off our events ...