A Wine Blog Is Born

When people ask what I do for a living, it’s always the same: “I run wine tours in Italy, Spain, and Portugal,” I say, trying to look nonchalant. Then I get The Look (wide-eyed, incredulous) and a long, drawn-out “Wow!”

Sure, running around the vineyards of Europe is great. But like any business, there’s more to it than meets the eye. So if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a wine-tour guide, this blog’s for you.

Ditto if you simply want to learn more about Italian wine. Or Spanish wine or wines from the Douro Valley. Or if you’re looking for some nice recipes for food pairings.

Since I’m a wine writer, I’m also popping into industry tastings in New York, heading to wine conferences, and getting wine-education opportunities that I’m thankful for. And now I can share these with you, dear readers.

So today we officially announce the launch of Living La Dolce Vita: A Wine Blog.

Check back often. I’ll be providing dispatches from our wine tours, buying tips, interviews with winemakers, and much more.

What better way to celebrate the birth of something new than with chocolate?! The following is a luscious chocolate tart from Orangette, a food blog that I adore. (Read the original post here.) Best of all, it’s relatively fast easy. No dough to roll out; instead, there’s a simple cookie-crumble crust. Perfect for all of us with busy lives. (Speaking of which, I’ve got to pack. Heading to Italy this afternoon.)

Adapted from Gourmet, February 2007

For the crust:
28 chocolate wafers such as Nabisco Famous, finely ground in a food processor (1 ½ cups)
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the filling:
½ lb. good-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao), coarsely chopped
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 large eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Unsweetened cocoa, for dusting the finished tart

To prepare the crust:

Put an oven rack in the middle position, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap a sheet of foil around the outside of an 8-inch round springform pan, to catch any possible leaks. Lightly butter the sides of the pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the ground wafers and melted butter until well combined. Turn the mixture into the pan and, using your hands, pat it evenly onto the bottom and 1 ½ inches up the side. Slide the pan into the oven, and bake until the crust is slightly puffed, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, about 15 minutes. Leave the oven on.

To prepare the filling:

While the crust cools, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth, in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over – but not touching – barely simmering water. Remove the mixture from the heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs lightly. Add the cream, sugar, salt, and vanilla, and whisk to combine well. Add the chocolate mixture, and whisk to combine well.

To assemble the tart:

Pour the filling into the cooled crust, smooth it gently with the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula, and rap the pan once on the counter to eliminate any air bubbles. Slide the pan carefully into the oven, and bake until the filling 1 inch from the edge is set and slightly puffed but the center still trembles a little when the pan is gently shaken, 20-25 minutes. The center will continue to set as it cools.

Cool the tart completely in the pan on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Chill, uncovered, until the center is firm, about 4 hours. About 1 to 2 hours before serving, remove the tart from the fridge and carefully pull away the side of the pan. Put a teaspoon or two of cocoa in a small sieve, and dust it over the cake. Allow to sit at room temperature for an hour or two; then serve.

Yield: 8-12 servings