La Terra Fortunata: The Splendid Food and Wine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
The Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia is perhaps the least well known by Americans. Tucked away in the northeastern corner of Italy, stretching almost from Venice to Vienna, the region proudly grows the widest range of grape varieties in all of Italy. The Friulians, therefore, are extraordinarily aware of the interaction between food and wine. Fred Plotkin wrote La Terra Fortunata after 25 years of visiting the small region. His knowledge of its food, its wine, and its people and their customs is immense. Plotkin offers a comprehensive history of the region and great insight and understanding in his choice of recipes and their instructions. There are few generalities that can be used to describe this collection. Friulians are great wine drinkers and have a reputation for working hard, and so have a custom of eating small dishes to wash down with their wine and to satisfy their hunger between meals. So it’s no surprise that many of these dishes can be served alongside one another. The herbs and spices used are not necessarily those we think of as Italian; they are much more international. Yogurt-Dill Sauce sounds Greek and Mustard-Wine Sauce sounds French, but both they and Montasio-Mint Sauce can be found in Friuli (the Montasio cheese gets just a hint of mint, beautiful on pasta or soft polenta). From a garlicky Mussel Frittata to the most traditional Frico Croccante (a thin crispy pancake made entirely of cheese, it makes a delicious cup for Gnocchi with Mountain Herbs or Risotto with Crabmeat and Peas), Plotkin’s recipes are flavorful, unusual, and well explained. Because the region stretches from the coast to the mountains, traditional cooking includes everything from seafood to game and every herb, vegetable, and fruit under the sun. Plotkin introduces every recipe with a story, and they, along with his guide to Friulian wines, make La Terra Fortunata an indispensable guidebook both for the cook and for the armchair traveler.