La Terra Fortunata: The Splendid Food and Wine of Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Italy’s Great Undiscovered Region

February 24, 2019 - Comment

A great food and wine region of Italy-largely undiscovered by those who live to eat-Friuli-Venezia Giulia springs succulently from the pages of La Terra Fortunata by Italy expert Fred Plotkin. Friuli-Venezia Giulia was one of Italy’s best-kept secrets-until now. Between Venice and Vienna, with Trieste as its capital, this region has the most varied and

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A great food and wine region of Italy-largely undiscovered by those who live to eat-Friuli-Venezia Giulia springs succulently from the pages of La Terra Fortunata by Italy expert Fred Plotkin.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia was one of Italy’s best-kept secrets-until now. Between Venice and Vienna, with Trieste as its capital, this region has the most varied and sophisticated food in Italy. No other regional kitchen uses more fruit or spices or a greater range of meat and seafood. In La Terra Fortunata, readers will discover gnocchi filled with plums or apricots; tagliolini tossed with poppy seeds and the region’s superlative prosciutto di San Daniele; sea scallops with almond sauce; risotto flavored with a rainbow of spices, including ginger, star anise, and nutmeg; cinnamon-scented veal stew, and, of course, frico, the region’s signature dish, a delectable cheese crisp that is positively addictive.

Since Friuli-Venezia Giulia produces Italy’s top white wines and outstanding reds, with more varieties than any other region in Italy, Fred Plotkin has included the most detailed list of the region’s wines and their makers ever compiled.

With more than 160 recipes and an indispensable list for wine lovers, La Terra Fortunata will come as a revelation to those who thought there was nothing new under the Italian sun.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. –Leora Y. Bloom

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