Semifreddo di Cioccolato

semifreddo cioccolato italiaoutdoors food and wine bike tours italyI’ve enjoyed some wonderful and not so wonderful versions of this dessert in Italy. One of the best versions was at Pulierin Enotavola at Contra Soarda in Bassano del Grappa – a favorite stop on our Bike the Amarone Wine Roads tours. I finally got around to developing my own version.

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Semifreddo at Pulierin Enotavola

Semifreddo translates to ‘half cold’, and refers to an entire class of semi-frozen desserts, with flavors ranging from chocolate to coffee to hazelnut to an endless array of fruit based versions. Today, the majority of recipes I see for semifreddo are made by combining equal parts ice cream (or gelato, if they are Italian) with whipped cream. However, a traditionalist would cringe at these modern versions.

A good semifreddo has a very specific texture, a perfect balance between hard and creamy, lighter and softer than ice cream. Traditional recipes use one part whipped cream combined with one part custard, combined with the flavor component. For semifreddo all’italiana, this custard is an Italian meringue, egg whites whipped with a warm sugar syrup, producing a smooth and shiny meringue.

ingredients italiaoutdoors food and wine bike tours italyTo quote the Gruppo Virtuale Cuochi Italiani – a network of Italian chefs and other culinary professionals, a true semifreddo is a challenge even for the professional chef and/or pastry chef, let alone the home cook. Master pastry chefs, manuals and books recommend a scientific approach to the making of semifreddo. To achieve a correct balance of the ingredients the proportions should be as follow: Sugar 20-27%; fat 15-24%; solids 5-10% (the total of solids should be 42-55%); proteins 5-7%.

vinegar salt chocolate italiaoutdoors food and wine bike tours italyMy cooking is all about maximizing the flavors with a minimum of fuss. I don’t end up with the perfectly textured semifreddo, but I do end up with a delicious dessert without spending all day in the kitchen. Here, I use the classic ingredients – whipped cream, meringue, and a flavor component, chocolate. But I just used a basic, simple meringue – no simple syrup, thermometer and determining ‘soft ball stage’, just egg whites mixed with granulated sugar. In the recipe below, I also simply mixed the three main ingredients together – the meringue into the whipped cream, then the melted chocolate. The chocolate begins to harden a bit, and you end up with some smaller hard bits of chocolate in your semifreddo. I actually prefer this texture, but I’ve also include instructions below to make a smooth chocolate version.

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Semifreddo di Cioccolato

Per Serving 490 calories

Fat 29 g

Carbs 59 g

Protein 7 g



  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cool
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 7 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Sauce

  • 2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar


  1. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap.
  2. In a large bowl, whip cream to medium peaks, set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the egg whites, sugar and sea salt to stiff peaks. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg mixture into the whipped cream.
  3. For the more elegant, smooth texture version, take about 1 cup of the egg/whipped cream mixture and mix it into the melted chocolate. Then fold the chocolate mixture into the remaining egg/cream mixture. For a more rustic texture with small bits of chocolate, fold all of the chocolate mixture into the egg/cream all at once.
  4. Place mixture in lined loaf pan; chill in freezer for at least 5 hours, or up to 1 day.
  5. To unmold, place your serving plate over the top and flip. Pull down on plastic wrap to unmold. Serve with strawberry sauce, mixed berries, and/or chocolate sauce. A few sprinkles of sea salt are nice too!
  6. For strawberry sauce: In a medium saucepan, combine the strawberries and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the balsamic. Transfer to a blender.
  7. Purée until smooth, strain, and set aside. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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Italian Wines versus American Wines – What Makes Them Different – Siduri

siduri pinot bike wine tours italiaoutdoors food and wineFor the final of my three part series on my December 2013 California winery tour, we visit Siduri Winery. Siduri has a story shared by many a California producer, here, two self-professed “Texas wine geeks” moved to California to “make a killer Pinot Noir from the best vineyards”.

Adam and Dianna were both working in the food and wine industry when they met in Texas. They shared a passion for Pinot Noir strong enough to fuel a move away from home and family to California’s Sonoma wine country. They spent several years working for smaller, family owned wineries to learn the ins and outs of cultivating grapes and producing wine. In 1994, they launched Siduri Wines.

siduri willamette pinotToday, Siduri produces single vineyard Pinot Noir from 20 different vineyards stretching from Santa Barbara north to Willamette Valley in Oregon. They have relationships with some of the country’s top vineyards and growers, include Pisoni, Van der Kamp and Clos Pepe. They do minimal processing, all of their Pinot’s are unfined and unfiltered. They “believe that great wine is made in the vineyard.”  Just as we see in Italy on our cycling wine tours, the folks at Siduri appreciate the role that terroir plays in the production of wines. They produce single vineyard wines, designing each to reflect the unique characteristics of the individual sites.

This focus on terroir is much more common in Italian producers than in US. In Italy, we visit small, family run wineries that are producing wines made from their own vineyards. Many of these families have owned these estates, and cultivated grapes on these lands for generations, passing down an immense amount of experience and knowledge. On a recent tour to our favorite prosecco producer, the owner showed us the oldest single vine on the estate, over 70 years old, planted by her grandfather.

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Oldest vine at Col del Lupo Prosecco winery, in Italy

In California, many producers like Siduri are making wines with grapes purchased from growers, and don’t actually own their own vineyards. I was at a recent panel discussion at UNH featuring another California producer, Peter Paul Winery. During the Q&A session, someone questioned their practices of using purchasing grapes, and the reply was a bit defensive. Purchasing grapes from growers has it’s pros and cons; if you are knowledgeable and know what to look for, you can pick from the best. Siduri has the practice of purchasing grapes by the acre, rather than by the ton. That way, they can control the yield, and the farmer is not incentivized to sacrifice quality for quantity. You can hedge your bets during the bad years. However, with vineyards to oversee from California to Oregon, you are not out overseeing the fields daily. You have a lot of science and expertise to guide you, but not the history and experience of hundreds of years.

Here’s a sampling of the MANY wines we tasted at Siduri

2011 Chehalem Mountain Pinot Noir – Willamette Valley, WA

Subtle aroma, cherry, with a bit of spice. Light, earthy, mushrooms.

siduri van der kamp pinot bike wine tours italy italiaoutdoors food and wine2011 Van der Kamp – Sonoma

Fruity, peppery, a bit of minerality. Light, fresh fruit. Nice complexity, well structured.

The 2011 Siduri Van der Kamp Vineyard Pinot Noir just received a 90 point rating from the Wine Advocate and was described this way, “Savory herbs, olives, menthol, game, tar and licorice all take shape in the 2011 Pinot Noir Van Der Kamp Vineyard. An
unrestrained Pinot, the 2011 is laced with wild animal notes throughout. This is another of the more powerful, angular Pinots in the range, but there is no shortage of personality or intrigue.”

siduri rosellas bike wine tours italiaoutdoors food and wine2011 Santa Lucia Highlands – Rosella’s

Lots of different fruit, cherry, floral, rose.

Antonio Galloni from the Wine Advocate described the wine this way, “ One of the more
promising 2011s, Siduri’s 2011 Pinot Noir Rosella’s shows the freshness of the year in its lip-smacking acidity, although there is more than enough fruit to provide balance. Sweet dark red cherries, flowers and spices come together in this impeccable, refined Pinot.”

siduri garys bike wine tours italiaoutdoors food and wine2011 Gary’s Vineyard

Nice cherry, spice and earth.

The 2011 Siduri Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir shows avery aromatic nose, with loads of
floral and dried herb scents. On the palate, the wine is mid-weight, with more red rasp-
berry fruits though there are some darker fruit flavors hiding underneath. There are hints of herbs and dried leaves (probably from the use of whole clusters in the ferment) along with some vanilla from the oak. The wine still shows some baby fat, but is certainly a great candidate for the cellar.

2012 Clos Pepe

We enjoyed a barrel sampling of this, as they start bottling in January, 2014.

This vineyard is located in a valley that runs east – west, with lots of wind. The grapes are smaller clusters, with lots of skin, resulting in a higher level of tannins.

Cherry, spice, a nice acidity. Tannins are managed nicely.

In addition, Adam and Dianna have now moved into other varietals, produced under the Novy winery label.

novy syrah bike wine tours italiaoutdoors food and wine2011 Zinfandel – Carlisle Vineyard

Zippy, with lots of fruit, spice and earth.

2010 Syrah – Sierra Mar Vineyard, Santa Lucia

Earthy fruit, a bit of spice.

2010 Syrah – Simpson Vineyard, Dry Creek

Nice minerality and fruit.

2011 Blanc di Pinot Noir – Willamette Valley

Sauvignon Blanc- like, crisp and tart, citrus

2011 Chardonnay – Rosella’s Vineyard

66% aged in neutral oak, 33% in new oak.

2012 Four Mile Creek White

Blend of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer

2012 “Oley” Late Harvest Viognier

Sweet dessert wine, grapes stay on vine 6 weeks after regular harvest.

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Torta al Miele, Nocciola e Limone

torta al miele italiaoutdoors food and wine bike tours italyWhen I indulge in dessert, I prefer simple sweets. On our ski tours in Italy, I sample the apple strudel at every restaurant we visit, usually with a glass of grappa. On our cycling tours, a simple cake or a traditional cookie accompanied by a glass of the local dessert wine, be it Vin Santo in Umbria or Torcolato in the Veneto. Continue reading

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Italian Wines versus American Wines – What Makes Them Different – Corté Riva

wine corte rive cycling tours italy italiaoutdoors food and wine bike tours tuscany italyMy recent vacation in California wine country inspired me to share a few thoughts on the differences between the US wine industry and the Italian wine industry. We discuss this very subject on almost all of our Bike the Wine Roads tours in Italy. My last post, on Bell Vineyards, discussed the different perspectives on terroir, the natural environment in which the wine is produced.

Our visit to another winery, Corté Riva, brings up other contrasts between the two. My guiding partner, Vernon, often shares his perspective on cultural differences he’s experienced as an American residing in Italy. In Italy, he shares, if your grandfather was a baker, your father then became a baker, and you would be destined for the same – that is the expected route, and many Italians are quite happy having their paths laid out for them, success being measured by becoming the best baker you can be. Many wine producers in Italy are still family run, every one with a story of how their ancestors started in the business, and how future generations expand, innovate and modernize. In the US, there is much more freedom to choose a different road, with many of us encouraged to find our ‘passion’, becoming a ‘self-made’ man or woman. So that is the story behind many a California producer – individuals pursuing a dream.
Continue reading

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Finocchi con Arance, Melagrana e Noci – Fennel with Orange, Pomegranate and Walnuts

finished salad private cycling tours italy italiaoutdoors food and wine bike tours tuscany italy_After the elaborate meals of the holidays, I find lighter fare refreshing. Here is an elegant salad, amazingly simple, requiring only a few wonderful ingredients found throughout Italy during the winter season. We see fennel and pomegranate growing by the side of the road during our Italy cycling tours. Oranges are produced in the southern regions, but find their way north where blood orange juice, arancia rossa, is on every breakfast buffet. Walnuts are harvested during the fall, and are used in everything from salads to savory meat dishes to risottos to desserts. A few basic knife techniques and a nice olive oil are all you need – directions on how to prepare the fennel and segment the orange (the fancy culinary term is ‘supremes’) are included here. Continue reading

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