Friday, December 26, 2008

Tomm and Danise in Italy: Thursday, December 25

Editors Note: Content Warning -- pictures and descriptions of wine appear in this post. If that disturbs you, just scroll down, while keeping your eyes closed.

Xmas morning en Venezia. What did San Nicola bring us? A bright sunny day with mild temps (upper 40s!) and the option to sleep in.

Venice and its aged, weather-beaten buildings and palazzi take on a different mood in the low winter sunlight, yet retain their dark, mysterious aura. But the people (particularly the kids) in red hooded jackets startle me in bright as much as they do in shadow -- those frightening images of the murderous, red hoodie-clad dwarf lurking around the dark Venetian passageways in Nic Roeg's frightening film "Don't Look Now" from the 70s.

As the sun sets, the temps drop considerably. The Venetian elite are out en route to their Xmas dinners. And yes, the women do wear full- length furs and the men full-length capes and fedoras. Euro-class, I guess you'd call it.

Speaking of Xmas dinner, we have ours at one of the city's best, Antico Martini (since 1720), next to the opera house. While Danise opts for the Pedovena (the sole birra available), I break ranks and order wine(!): a 2003 Brunello from Il Marronetto; deep red, mildly fruity and alcoholy. Not only does it go well with my pumpkin, ginger and coriander soup and gnochetti with pomodoro and basil, but the second I take my first sip, the haunting Ennio Morricone theme from Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America" comes on the sound system. Perfecto. I half expect some mafia guys to enter with their machine guns and conduct a gangland slaying -- the Antico Martini Massacre!

Tomm & Brunello

Fortunately for us, that does not occur. But it is windy and rainy -- and even colder -- when we leave the ristorante and wind our way through alleyways and across footbridges to Chiesa di San Vidal, a gorgeous church where we attend a delightful Concerto Natale (Xmas concert) of Vivaldi's "Quattro Staglione" (Four Seasons) performed by strings and harpsichord by a local ensemble. Sure beats a church service.

Walking back to the hotel, we see the rain turn to snow flurries for about a minute. Magical. We cap off this amazing Xmas with a double nightcap of beers we brought from Milano: the musty amber from Monaci (monastery) Benedettini (6.4%) and Baladin Elixir, a 10% Belgian old ale-style beer with candi sugar and aged in Islay whisky barrels.

It perfectly complemented the chocolate torte we took away from Vino Vino the other night.

Baladin Elixir

Monaci Benedettini Amber

Submitted by Tomm Carroll

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