It had been a long day at work, and I wanted some Italian with a matching wine. So I picked up the 2005 San Quirico Vernaccia di San Gimignano. I first tasted this wine in March of last year, though I mistakenly said it was made of Trebbiano grapes (bad info on the tasting sheet?). No, the grape variety is the same as the name of the wine, Vernaccia: the legendary favorite beverage of Michelangelo. Lemony acidity, slightly bubbly crispness, a short finish and overall great balance. Probably more suited for summer than winter, but it was paired here with a summery dinner. San Gimignano is a little medieval town in Tuscany that's famous for it's towers (seen on the label). Not as well-known as Florence or Siena, but in the area and beautiful in its own right.
Side note: If you're visiting Tuscany, many of the cities fall into either Medieval or Renaissance categories. This has a lot to do with squabbles between the 13th and 17th centuries, and who was on top at certain key moments in history. In general, if the town looks ancient and somewhat gothic and your feet hurt after a day walking around on steep cobblestones, it's probably a medieval town (like Siena). If the buildings have a softer shape and the walking is easier, it's probably a Renaissance town (like Florence). If you're a guy traveling with a woman who is fascinated by shoes and purses, your feet are going to hurt wherever you go. I would suggest that you set her free to shop while you hang out in a bar, restaurant, post office, youth hostel, or, as a last resort, plead asylum at a U.S. Consulate.
This is a variation on a dish I had in a cafeteria in Milan. Here in the States, a cafeteria generally means a place where you grab pre-cooked and -plated dishes off a counter and a sullen cashier rings you up. Over there, we found this little place in the Galleria called Ciao. (The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is essentially a shopping mall that's been around since the 1870s. It's next to the Duomo in the middle of town.) At Ciao, you'd take your tray down the line and order whatever you wanted. They had a dozen different pastas, a dozen sauces, and various raw meats, and your plate would be cooked to order right before your eyes. I had something involving farfalle (bowtie pasta), pesto, and baby octopus, all flash cooked in a hot skillet. I still sometimes wake up at night craving it.
For this version, I used shrimp instead of octopus, due to the scarcity of the latter in these parts and the fact that I was feeding The Girlfriend and The Roommate, who are not fond of eating unusual animals. In the past, I would have grilled the shrimp separately, but lately I've learned to appreciate the natural juices of shellfish that can contribute to a sauce. So I tossed them in hot olive oil, then added thawed frozen spinach, a half cup of pesto, and a splash of white wine. All elements were stirred and tossed until just done, then the freshly boiled farfalle were mixed in right before serving. Served with a little Italian loaf of bread and a dash of cheese.
Not as good without the octopus, but damned tasty nonetheless.