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Bill’s Whole Snapper with Garlic and Ginger

Bill’s Whole Snapper Garlic Ginger recipe may seem seem out of place in an Italian recipe blog, but this Asian recipe shares a lot with Italian preparation.  First, the fish should be fresh, which in our case was beyond doubt, having purchased it from Robert, our local fishmonger at the daily harbor fish market in Georgetown, Grand Cayman.  Robert cleans and filets all manner of fresh catch with an uber sharp machete right in front of your eyes.  Second, the accompanying flavors are understated and elevate rather than overwhelm the fresh fish.

This is a favorite of Suzy and mine when we, like we are now, spend time at our vacation home in the Caymans (no money laundering jokes, please).  After a grueling day under the sun, there’s nothing quite like this flavorful fish dish and a little (or a lot of) white wine to wash it down.

[recipe courtesy of taste.com.au] 

Whole Snapper with Garlic and Ginger

1 whole snapper, gutted and scaled

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Ginger, cut into thin strips

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 Tbsp fish sauce

2 Tbsp rice wine

2 tsp sesame oil

2 scallions, sliced

2 or 3 dried chili peppers crushed

 1 bunch coriander


Preheat oven to 400 deg.

Rinse and pat dry 1 whole red snapper.  Line baking dish with aluminum foil (you may have lay 2 sheets side by side) and place wax or parchment paper on top.  Lay snapper on paper and liberally salt and pepper.  Sprinkle garlic and ginger over entire surface.

In a small bowl, mix well soy, fish sauce, rice wine and sesame oil.  Pour over snapper allowing it to penetrate the skin.  Baste several times.

Close aluminum/parchment paper to form an airtight pouch with snapper inside.  Place in oven (in baking dish) and bake for 30-45 minutes.  The snapper is cooked when the flesh flakes and displays no opacity.

Unwrap fish and transfer to a serving plate or bowl being sure to pour the liquid over the fish.  Garnish with a liberal amount of sliced scallions and some sprigs of coriander.

Serve with lots of white wine, preferrably a crisp, acidic wine such as Falanghina, Greco di Tufo or anything from Campania.

Buon appetito!

red snapper 1

A favorite of Bill and Suzy's Read more

Bill's Whole Snapper Garlic Ginger recipe may seem seem out of place in an Italian recipe blog, but this Asian recipe shares ...

A Walk in the Woods

Asparagus 002Italy has afforded us countless memorable experiences. Unique snapshots of time and place that simply don’t exist for us at home. A memorable meal under a moonlit sky with friends and family in tow. A stroll through the woods in pursuit of a truffle sniffing dog to locate and retrieve from its earthy hiding spot musty, aromatic truffles. Donning a protective suit and gloves to liberate a hive full of honey from our honeybees.

Italy is not so different from America. But it is different enough that each day brings the possibility of doing something, experiencing something that is truly unique. And so it was with my day of asparagus hunting in the woods of central Umbria.

I don’t believe asparagus hunting exists in America, unless you count pushing your shopping cart through the produce aisle in the supermarket and “discovering” bundles of green stalks, rubber banded together and standing upright, ready to be taken by the urban hunter. But for several weeks each spring the Italian landscape is dotted with Fiat Pandas parked on little country lanes, their owners combing every possible hillside for these delicacies that define the term “fresh.” We’ve buzzed by as families methodically scour roadside shoulders and we have been amazed to see groups of friends strolling through town centers with enormous armfuls of asparagus, showing off the bundles of their handiwork like it is just in a day’s work. And so I was not particularly surprised when the first words out of my mouth when I ran into Amadeo, husband of le Delizie del Borgo co-owner Ombretta Ubaldi, and someone known to me to be an avid asparagus hunter, “when are you going to take me out asparagus hunting?”

Asparagus 005Without much of a thought, Amadeo replied, “domani. Partiamo da qui alle otto e un quarto.” The die was cast. We were to depart from the restaurant at 8:15 the next morning. The only word of advice he gave me was to wear boots. To protect against the deadly poisonous vipers.

The next morning I was at the restaurant. At 8:10. And I had my boots, borrowed from Marco’s brother in law Alberto. It didn’t matter that they were a size too small and painful to wear. They were less painful than a viper bite would be.

Amadeo arrived on time and we had the obligatory morning espresso before taking off in his Panda to a secluded wood about 15 minutes from the center of Bevagna. Conversation was not exactly easy, as Amadeo speaks no English. I fumbled my way through Italian, asking questions about whatever popped into my head. It was a beautiful, sunny day with mild temperatures. It promised to be a great day whether we spoke or not.

And so it was. Amadeo lent me a snipper, a sort of pair of scissors on a long stick that allows you to cut the asparagus stalk without reaching into the thicket because, as we now know, vipers may lurk there. The snipper cuts the asparagus stalk and grabs it, allowing you to bring the stalk to you and to add it to your bundle.


The difficulty in asparagus hunting is not the snipping, the harvesting. It is the locating. The seeing. For four hours Amadeo and I trudged through thicket, along hillsides and stream beds. I climbed over fallen trees, untangled myself (and my anti-viper boots) from vines and took a nasty direct hit in the eye from a branch that left me in pain and partially blinded for a day. But even before losing half my sight I realized that finding asparagus is not simply a visual exercise, it is an exercise in context. In that overgrown thicket there are simply too many things that look like stalks of asparagus – other plants, branches, vines. You have to know where to look, the particular sides of hills, along the edges of vegetation. You have to feel where to look. Then you have to find the telltale asparaghia, the thicket of spindly, spiny ground cover that is part of the plant and from which the stalks grow. But even then it is next to impossible to see the individual stalks that reach skyward. On occasion after occasion Amadeo would call for me and point and bark out a number. “Tre,” he would say, indicating that there were three stalks in a particular location. I would look, seeing none. Hinting at the location with his snipper I would still see none until he was touching the first one. “Va bene” I would exclaim, snipping the prize and taking it for my bundle. This would be repeated two more times as my mentor pointed out each individual asparago.

Asparagus 003But after a couple of hours your asparagus sense begins to sharpen and even the most unskilled americano becomes attuned to the woods and to where these delicious stalks of green freshness are hiding. I would not say that I ended the hunt at even the advanced beginner level, but my two large bundles of wild asparagus – the first I have ever cultivated in my life – left me looking forward to next spring, when I intend to follow Amadeo once again into the woods and into one of those adventures that makes the Italian experience so unforgettable.

Ci vediamo!
Bill and Suzy



While we can’t offer you wild asparagus, Via Umbria is currently featuring fresh, local asparagus from Tuscarora Farms for sale.  Pick up a bunch today, while they’re still in season and try roasting them wrapped in pancetta or prosciutto.  Be sure to blanch the asparagus first and roast in an oven preheated to 425 degrees for four to six minutes (or until crispy).  And enjoy!  It’s one of the true treats of the season.

Buon apetito!

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Difficulty in asparagus hunting is the locating. The seeing Read more

Italy has afforded us countless memorable experiences. Unique snapshots of time and place that simply don’t exist for us at home. A ...

Bill’s Journal: Feed Me

_DSC0182We’re back in Umbria for our annual fall pilgrimage, our fall Food and Wine tour. This year Suzy and I are hosting two small groups over two week long itineraries, which we plan to punctuate with a brief side trip to Piemonte (for the White Truffle Festival) before returning home to DC. We have the small matter of reopening Via Umbria to attend to back home.

Returning to Umbria, particularly during the fall harvest, is always a homecoming of sorts for us, summoning up a host of emotions and memories. It is a special time of year, with the orange and rust hues of the vineyards, each one in a different state of harvest, combined with the early evenfall to create a sense of quiet and peacefulness tinged with just a po’ di malincholia.


_DSC0009-2We come to Umbria this year as we have for the past eight, on a mission to offer our Food and Wine tour guests an opportunity to discover with us the Umbria we have come to know and love. A land where the earth gives forth an incredibly rich bounty, coaxed lovingly from nature by men and women who respect nature by taking what it has to offer and leaving it better off than they found it.

But we come this year, too, with eyes even wider open than normal, seeking to put our finger on those elusive sights, sounds and smells that when combined together shout out “benvenuto in Italia.” To identify those iconic details that define Italy so we can bottle them up and bring the back home with us, spraying them into the air on Wisconsin Avenue so that our customers, breathing deeply of them will know what it is to experience Italy.

Our Food and Wine tour this year is not just an exercise in loving the here and now, it is a mission to capture and bring home the essence of Italy so we can share it. For nearly two decades we have been bringing back pieces of Italy to share with our customers. This fall we are tasked with bringing back the nature of Italy itself.

Food and Wine TourHow better to understand Italy than by experiencing the bounty of its land and its people. And so we started our trip, a group of eight, by exploring the Etruscan town of Todi and the Umbrian settlement of Gubbio. By delighting in the recounting of the history of these places by a guide with palpable pride in her land. By lingering over meals of local meats and cheeses, regional pastas and wines that come from here and can only come from here. By getting to know Simone, our driver, and each other.

What better way of exploring what makes Italy Italy and what makes Umbria Umbria than to arrive at the farmhouse on our first day and to discover Ernesto Parziani, the chef and owner of our favorite local restaurant Perbacco, in the kitchen of our farmhouse with his daughter, preparing the first night’s dinner. To spend time in the kitchen with Ernesto and Agata rolling balls of baccala, pureeing broccoli for gnocchi alla romana, of discussing the menu, discussing family, discussing nothing at all.

_DSC0751_DSC0288What better way of enjoying our first evening in Italy than by sitting down over this home cooked feast and culinary history lesson with the new friends we have made, our travel companions for this week, along with Ernesto and his wife Simona. To drink wines that our friends the Pardis have labored over just a dozen miles from here. To talk and eat and laugh and relax deep into the night long after most mortals would have succumbed to jet lag.


Suzy and I have long maintained how difficult it is to neatly and cleanly and succinctly define Italy and the Italian experience. There simply is no one thing that says it all, no Tower of Pisa, no fettuccine alfredo, no Madonna col bambino that one can point to and say, “ecco qua, Italia!” Yet we keep coming back, time after time, and millions of visitors keep making the pilgrimage to the boot each year for that something special that speaks to them.

In the end, maybe it is just simply its incredible bounty that defines Italy, that makes Italy Italy. Perhaps that is the magic potion Suzy and I are searching for. Italy itself didn’t even exist a little more than 150 years ago, a crazy quilt of city-states, kingdoms, alliances and fiefdoms then and even now resembles less a well ordered English country garden and more the wild, natural orto that we find when we step out back, behind our farmhouse kitchen.

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 Simona 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.


Italy, with its richness and its willingness to let you live in the here and now, scratches the itch, the longing in our souls for connection and meaning. And as far as we have figured it out, it does it better than any other place on earth.

Perhaps that is the secret of Italy, the ingredient we can bottle up and bring back to Georgetown with us. Suzy and I certainly look forward to testing this hypothesis for the next three weeks.

Ci vediamo!
Bill and Suzy

With all that Umbrian magic Read more

We’re back in Umbria for our annual fall pilgrimage, our fall Food and Wine tour. This year Suzy and I are hosting ...

Easter Presence

Famiglia 011One of the things we have found so appealing about Italy and the Italians throughout the years is their ability to slow down and enjoy the life that is right before their eyes, noses, ears, tongues and fingers. Often summed up in the phrase la dolce vita, we have built our business and our lives around spreading the gospel of slow. And we even sum it up in Via Umbria’s tagline – Discover | Savor | Share.

Italians don’t just pay lip service to savoring life, they simply cannot ignore this genetic predisposition, ingrained as it is in their DNA. More than once when involved in business negotiations or getting to know a new supplier we would break for lunch and rather than continuing the negotiations over the meal all talk of business would be banished until the last grappa was consumed. Usually three or four hours later

But despite being ambassadors for this way of life, we have always had a difficult time walking the walk. Anyone who has travelled on one of our tours and who has gotten to take a peek behind the curtain knows that in organizing these apparently carefree experiences, the reality is anything but. It’s not just that the candle is burnt on both ends, the leftover wax is literally doused in lighter fluid and until the table itself is set aflame and the house afire.

And so as we returned to Italy last week, the first five days to be shared with both our daughter and one of our sons, we resolved to be truly Italian. To slow down and put aside all thoughts of work or business, anything that would distract from enjoying the here and now of being with our family. And despite not just a mountain, but a whole range of Everests that demanded our attention – more than you, dear reader will ever know – we did a pretty good job of staying focused on the things that matter. Family. Friends. Connections.

And what a memorable and meaningful five days it was.

  • ♦  Arrival lunch at Trattoria da Oscar in Bevagna, our first visit but definitely not our last.
  • ♦  First night’s dinner at Perbacco, a homecoming every time we see Ernesto and Simona.

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  • ♦  Our first visit to the winery at Villa Sobrano near Todi, learning about how the sandy soil in that part of Umbria imparts a mineral characteristic to their Grechetto and then getting to taste the proof over a simple but delicious lunch with the owners.

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  • ♦  A sunset visit to Diego’s farm, Calcabrina, where a local Franciscan monk was offering his Easter blessings (in exchange for a sack full of Diego’s caprino cheeses), washing down the milky freshness with some light rose and some fresh sagrantino.

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  • ♦  A home cooked dinner at the farmhouse with Simone, where we welcomed in the spring with a bistecca and a menu of fresh artichokes prepared four ways (grilled, steamed, fried and raw in salad).

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  • ♦  An Eastertime visit to the artisanal chocolate producer Ellegi, where they are lovingly working overtime to create chocolate Easter eggs filled with surprises.

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  • ♦  Lunch and a winery visit at Terre Margaritelli, where our friend Federico defied the odds and shook of the pressure of being told he gives the best winery tour in all of Italy by delivering the best winery tour in all of Italy while his wife Jennifer prepared the best porchetta in all of Umbria.
  • ♦  Dinner at casa Simone e Desiderio with our new best friends Roberto and Elena DiFilippo (and their daughter Bianca Maria).
  • ♦  A leisurely lunch of “leftovers” at home by the pool, under cool spring skies.

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  • ♦  A visit to Birra Perugia, where the owners not only kept the doors open for us an hour and a half after closing, but shared stories and glasses of each of their beers with us.
  • ♦  Carlo Magno pizza eaten fireside at home, followed by a late night movie viewing in the upstairs sitting room.

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  • ♦  A day trip to Florence featuring lunch at the Birreria Centrale, our original haunt on our first trip to Italy, and an enormous dinner of bistecca and Brunello at Francesco Vini, capped off by a tour of the restaurant’s cellar, built into the original Roman amphitheater that occupied the spot nearly two thousand years ago.

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  • ♦  An early morning send off of our youngest son as he embarked on what would turn out to be a 24 hour journey back to the west coast and college as we pulled up stakes and headed to Verona with our daughter for VinItaly.

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Five short days with family. But when you slow down and savor each moment as we did this week, it seems like a blessed eternity. The Italians definitely have gotten something dead on right.

Ci vediamo!
Bill and Suzy

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What a Week Read more

One of the things we have found so appealing about Italy and the Italians throughout the years is their ability to slow ...

Menard Musings – Terroir

As February gives way to March (and aren’t we all looking forward to the prospect of non-Arctic March temperatures?) I can’t help but reflect that this young new year has for me featured a heavy dose of wine.  January was spent with Chef Simone crisscrossing the continent doing a series of promotional dinners that featured food/wine pairing nearly as much as the food itself.  February saw a return visit of our friend Daniele Sassi from the Tabarrini winery for a special winemaker’s dinner at DC hotspot Casa Luca.  And just a week ago we said our goodbyes to our friend Roberto DiFilippo, owner of DiFilippo and Plani Arche wineries who spent five days hosting winemaker dinners at Via Umbria and tasting events at the store.  Playing apprentice to and spending time around the table (always with glass in hand) with these professionals surely upped my wine game.  It was pretty darn enjoyable, too.

IMG_1072Chef Simone listens in at the Tabbarini Dinner at Casa Luca. IMG_1095

The first Tabbarini white wine is poured. IMG_1101



I am happily in a wine – induced haze after the first course. IMG_1360

Daniele meets with guests to personally talk about his Sagrantino wine. 



Suzy of Via Umbria gazes at the second course. 


And so it was with heightened interest that I read Wednesday’s Washington Post’s Food section article on terroir (“You can’t define terroir, but you can taste it,” Wash Post 25 Feb. 2015, p. E5).  In the article Wine columnist Dave McIntyre noted that terroir “is a word with almost mystical charms for wine lovers,” holding that wine shows terroir “if it tastes like it came from somewhere.”  Wine exhibiting terroir contrasts with most wines, which McIntyre rightly points out taste “as if they could have come from anywhere.”  McIntyre opines that wine enthusiasts love the idea of terroir and wines that taste as though they could have only come from where they actually came from.  If love of terroir makes one a wine enthusiast, send us our membership cards.

Our relatively recent journey into the world of wines has been heavily influenced and shaped by the concept of terroir because the wines we have come of age with are wines that define the term terroir – Umbrian wines and in more cases (no pun intended) than not, wines from the tiny D.O.C. wine region of Montefalco.  Look up the word terroir in the dictionary and it wouldn’t be a stretch to think you might find a map of Italy with Umbria highlighted in red.

In Umbria and in Montefalco a number of factors – relative isolation, local consumption and a fierce pride in local culture (which includes their food and wine) – have led wine makers to produce traditional wines that represent the region, that utilize indigenous grapes (so long, cabernet sauvignon) and that pair sublimely with the region’s food.  Put simply, the wines of Umbria taste as though they could have only come from Umbria.  What a wonderful attribute for a wine to have!

If, like Suzy and me, you cut your wine teeth in a deep dive of a particular region’s wine (e.g., Bordeaux, Napa, Australia) your wine chops are highly developed but only with respect to a small sliver of the universe of wine.  This has truly been the case for us, and our next challenge in this relatively unusual situation has been to transfer and apply our Umbrian wine knowledge more generally to other regions.  And so we have been working to learn and appreciate the wines of California, of Washington State, of France.  It is a pretty good challenge to face.

Aside from the blessing of terroir, our Umbrian wine experience has offered us the blessing of accessible winemakers.  In Umbria winemaking has not been mystified and deified.  It is a simple act carried out by real people.  And these real people – farmers – don’t intimidate and try to make what they do into something it isn’t.  Instead they gladly invite you into their world, show you the grapes in their fields, talk to you about how they entice the best fruit possible from the vine.  They let you put your head in a stainless steel vessel to see grapes fermenting, to smell the yeast and the offed gasses.  They pour you a glass of cherry red juice that is still two to three years away from maturity, explaining how a winemaker can judge how this awful liquid will transform itself into sublime beauty.


Roberto Di Filippo discusses his Grechetto with a guest. 





Roberto speaks from the head of the table in the Via Umbria Galleria. IMG_1795

Terroir paired with access to real people, wine people.  It is something that sets Umbria and Umbrian wine apart in our minds, something that has made our journey along the strada dei vini unique.  And it has made the new year a truly enjoyable one.

We can’t wait to see how the next months unfold.

Ci vediamo!

Bill and Suzy

If you are interested in experiencing Umbrian terroir and Umbrian winemakers at their source, join Bill and Suzy on their first annual Vinopalooza wine tour, March 26-April 1, 2015.  For more information click here or call Suzy at (202) 957-3811.

For all those wine lovers Read more

As February gives way to March (and aren’t we all looking forward to the prospect of non-Arctic March temperatures?) I can’t help ...

Seeing Seattle

Blast from the past. Bill and I are off to Seattle for the week. Looking forward to discovering a new city. My one and only time to Seattle was when I was thirteen and visited with my parents. We dropped all of my siblings in Spokane with my grandparents and the three of us set off for an adventure. I don’t remember all we did – but I do remember eating fish and chips wrapped in newspaper for the first time – a treat that I repeated every day of our trip. Seattle was my one and only trip where I was the only child – making it the perfect city. Looking forward to exploring and discovering the city all over again.

Blast from the past. Bill and I are off to Seattle for the week. Looking forward to discovering a new city. My ...