I Fratellini Firenze

Dear Diva Readers,

top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 100px; line-height: 90px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>You know I love fine wines and fine dining… but sometimes a “hole in the wall” can offer finer times than the grandest of restaurants.  My Antiques Diva Tour Guide in Italy, Susan P, introduced me to one of her favorite spaces & places in Florence – i Fratellini  on the Via dei Cimartori – this little spot is what the Italians call a true fiaschetteria a word derived from fiasco  which is Italian for a flask of wine.  And wine is what you’ll get when you dine – or shall I say drink – here, over 27 varieties make this the perfect stop for your inner diva (or divo)!

This little “restaurant” has a roll-down awning that makes the “restaurant” virtually disappears into a “hole in the wall” when closed, but when the awning is up and the boys are behind the counter this place is ready to rumble! Locals line up for lunch and gather in the street in in front of the shop, an impromptu party filled with laughter and miles of smiles and not to mention a darn good sandwich.

Combine a surprisingly good selection of wine available by the glass for pocket change with a gorgeous array of Italian Panini’s and you’ve got the recipe for success.  My favorite sandwich is the cinghiale piccante con caprino (spicy wild boar salami spread with creamy goat cheese), but here, regardless of the sandwich, you can’t go wrong!

As I lift my glass to yours to say good-bye, I’m reminded of a funny story. In Italian for an informal “cheers” you might raise your glass and say “Chin Chin”.  While the origins of this expression hark back to a time when peasants drank their wine out of wooden cups and would say “Chin Chin” to mimic the sound of glass wine glasses clinking, I was advised recently to use the more formal “Alla Salute” (or merely “Salute” as is more commonly used) when with my international friends.  Apparently “Chin Chin” is slang in Japanese for genitalia and so is prone to cause fits of laughter when in mixed circles!!! 

That said, rather than signing off “Chin, Chin” as I was planning, I think I’ll use a more formal farewell “Cent’anni”!  Here’s to us living to the ripe old of age of 100!

The Antiques Diva®
(with a little help from her Italian Diva colleague, Susan P)

Spin the Bottle – From Nebuchadnezzar to Jeroboam

Dear Diva Readers,

top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 100px; line-height: 90px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks… but this chienne has had a whole new world opened up to her!  Last year while shopping a flea market in Belgium, my husband picked up a vintage 5 liter wine bottle for 5 Euro.  He liked the shape and its 1981 Chianti label while I was enchanted with it as it would make dreamy kitchen décor.  Recently I revamped my apartment in preparation for spring and I removed the bottle from its corner post and plonked it in the middle of my kitchen table as part of my art de la table… loving the rustic touch.  So imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago, my friend Laurie out of the blue asked, Is that a Nebuchadnezzar?” 

A what?”  

Now, for the record, my friend Laurie is a pastor’s wife, and had it been anyone else I might have thought there was a gentle reprimand for my copious quantities of wine consumption by bringing up the Biblical king who sent the Jews into exile, but I knew Laurie well enough to know she wasn’t a stranger to vino.  Thus, I was utterly confused on how we’d began discussing someone from the Old Testament when we were looking at my vintage wine bottle.

Jesus drank wine,” I responded, “and I suppose Nebuchadnezzar did too.” 

“No- the wine bottle!” she exclaimed, It’s called a Nebuchadnezzar… Didn’t you know that wine bottles have Old Testament names? She floored me with this revelation… 

Theres Jéroboam – that holds 3 liters or the equivalent of 4 bottles and then Rehoboam holds 4.5 liters or 6 bottles of wine.  Let’s just say Methuselah didn’t reach his old age drinking water… his bottle holds 8 bottles of wine – but sometimes the Methuselah bottles are also called Imperial.  My favorite is Mordechai – sometimes called Salamanza – which holds a perfect dozen!  And Balthazar boasts 16 bottles in one giant bottle.  Nebuchadnezzar holds a whopping 20 bottles (or15 liters) of wine while Melchior clocks in at 24 bottles in 1.  But the King of Israel – the son of David – gets down and dirty with with 26.66 bottles of wine in one giant bottle… however, I say in his defense he did have to provide for a nation, so his bottle should be bigger than the rest!  But the grand-daddy of all wine bottles is the Melchizedek which holds a whopping 40 bottles (or 30 liters) of wine! 

And to think, until a few weeks ago all I knew about bottles in the wine kingdom was the Magnum and Double Magnum.  This Diva needed to go back to Sunday school to learn the basics of life! 

While a little field research didn’t reveal why the bottles were originally named after The Old Testament, I did uncover that the typical wine bottle – 750 ml (1/5 of a gallon) was originally deemed as a suitable ration for 1 man with his dinner.  The Wine Lovers Page explains, this was “back in the days when men were men (and most wine was quite low in alcoholic strength)” and they go onto explain another theory that this traditional size of bottle was “actually the largest that early glass-blowers could produce with one full breath”.  And while that’s a fun fact I’ll be sharing at many a dinner table, I’m still dying to know the origin of how various wine bottles were names after the Bible.  If you happen to know, please tell me!

In the meantime, Sante, Cheers and Proust!

The Antiques Diva®
(seen below on vacation in St Emilion)

Christmas Traditons: Mulled Wine

Dear Diva Readers,

top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 100px; line-height: 90px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>Each year on December 25 – before sitting down for our traditional Christmas dinner – mom and I prepare an afternoon snack to keep the hungry mouths at bay.   We pull out some deli favorites, a variety of olives, some deviled eggs and pimento-cheese stuffed celery sticks and we serve these traditional mid-Amercan hor d-oeuvres with a piping cup of mulled wine

Reminiscent of wandering the Weihnachtsmarkts in Germany and France, mulled wine (also known as Glühwein  in Germany or Vin Chaud in French) tastes and smells like Christmas to me and in my house has become a Diva’s Holiday Tradition! 

This year, from my house to yours, I want to share with you my favorite Mulled Wine recipe from Epicurious.com.

The Diva’s Mulled Wine 

  • 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine such as Côtes du Rhône
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 1 small orange, thinly sliced
  • 1 small lemon, thinly sliced
  • Special equipment: a 6- by 4-inch piece of cheesecloth; kitchen string

Wrap cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, peppercorns, and cloves in cheesecloth and tie with string. Bring sugar and water to a boil in a 5-quart heavy pot, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then add spice bag, wine, vanilla bean, and fruit. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes.

Plus, if you’re looking for a Hostess Gift this holiday season, try wrapping all these ingredients up in a pretty package for an ideal present for family and friends!  Don’t forget to include a print out of this recipe! 

Happy Holidays,

The Antiques Diva®
(seen right with Lady Lotus celebrating Santa Style!)

Reader Question – Searching for Something Sweet!

Hi Diva,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>I am throwing a girls bash in a month and am featuring wines and desserts. Could The Wine Guy recommend a few dessert wines that would pair nicely with chocolate, berries and maybe something lighter with a lemony twist? And yes, of course we will have champagne on hand!!

Merci beaucoup,
Wardrobe Stylist and CEO of A Rendez-vous With Style



Hi Kelli,

Before I go on too much about matching wines with desserts, there is one little gem I MUST tell you about!! Quady Elysium Black Muscat from California. This little treat has a very dark color which is quite interesting (comes from the Black Muscat grape). Will work well with your dark chocolates and is also one of the only wines you can serve with chocolate pudding. Surprisingly, it goes with desserts that have vanilla in the recipe as well. Or for something a little more over the top, try it poured over vanilla ice cream! This is always a star when we serve it at home – very unique wine…definitely locate one and show to others! Elysium, by the way, is Greek for Heaven. Get it, like it, love it!

If your dessert is fruit (alone or in tarts, etc), go for a sweet white wine. For this, you can never go wrong with a Sauternes (the king of dessert wines…and it doesn’t hurt to have the royal funds of a king to buy them…). In fact, at to.html” target=”_blank”>the big gala The Antiques Diva and I went to at the Louvre last year, we enjoyed a sublime Chateau d’Yquem with our dessert… the undisputed king of Sauternes. To save a few dollars, though, and still have a similar effect, I usually go for a Monbazillac. My favorites are the ones from Chateau La Robertie. We ran into this family in the annual wine expo in Paris several years ago and have been faithful patrons ever since! They produce a very balanced, full-of-fruit wine that can be stored for quite some time and still retain a crispness. Just a side note: we will often serve Sauternes or this Monbazillac with fois gras, dates and fig confiture as a starter. Remember, often a solid dessert wine can stand on its own and actually be used in place of a dessert!

If you are serving chocolates, which is extremely common as dessert, it’s tough to serve wines to match. Definitely go for the black muscat I mentioned above. DO NOT SERVE A WHITE WINE WITH IT. I’ve heard of some people serving Merlot with chocolate, but I wouldn’t do that. If I didn’t serve the Elysium above, I would probably serve a Tawny Port or Madeira (a fortified wine from the Madeira Islands, Portugal) with the chocolate.

If your dessert is sweet and particularly heavy, you might try a light sparkling wine – remember, champagne works perfectly here.

Also, just a thought, but for desserts that are not very sweet (berries, shortbread, pound cake, or even your tart-lemony desserts), feel free to pop the cork on a few bottles of champagne. But try to get a “demi-sec” champagne – these are the sweetest of champagnes and will match well with those desserts.

Another type of sweet wine to consider is Ice Wine (usually from Canada or Germany). Interesting in that these wines are produced from grapes that have been FROZEN while still on the vine! The sugars and other juices in the grape don’t freeze, but the water does –the result is a highly concentrated grape must. These usually are characterized by a clean, refreshing taste. Given the labor intense and risky production process, ice wines are typically quite expensive as well.

One of our favorite sweet wines is Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (probably the best of all the Muscat wines made in Southern France). A beautiful honey color, they have the typical Muscat flavors of flowers, tropical fruit and honey. Have it with peaches, figs, strawberries & cream…or even ice cream by itself…. Yum, my mouth is watering! My favorite is from Domaine de Fenouillet – we stumbled across this place while visiting the town Beaumes de Venise and stocked up on this sweet nectar!! Sometimes, we serve as an aperitif (and I’m opening a bottle right now as a result of this delightful little blog!!).

Kelli, have a fantastic party and let us
know how it turns out!

And remember… “Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance” ~ Benjamin Franklin

The Wine Guy…