Posts Tagged ‘Food’
As I reflect on my 29 years building baskets and Fancifull I can’t help but think: “What is it all about? Why have I done this for so long? Why?”
Connections. Connecting people via a basket and a message, connecting our clients to the producers we’ve found over the years, connecting people to the truth of good food and why it is important.
It is a huge invisible but existent freeway system of lines going out – vectors arching across the U.S. with info, food, and warm messages. Our whole job is to send a message, to make people smile, to let them know someone is thinking of them.
When I started Fancifull back in 1987, I said to my friend, as we sat in the booth in my kitchen, drinking coffee and savoring the possibilities, that I didn’t want to just send stuff. The world was full of stuff: things that people didn’t want or wanted at some point but didn’t know what to do with now. I wanted my gifts to be joy bombs going out, making people happy, taking care of a need, sending a message.
I wanted to create delight in each person’s space upon receipt.
Letter from a Recipient
So I started the journey that is Fancifull. As that journey progressed there were detours, learning curves and terrific “ah-ha” moments. We evolved.
I threw myself into learning about cheese, wine, chocolate and how food is made. It became apparent to me that how we grow our food creates a huge impact on our planet. This wasn’t news to me, but the truth became more real, became something I couldn’t ignore.
I met many small artisans along the way and came to realize that by putting their products in my baskets I could help them find an audience. We began to do more tasting in our shop so we could indulge our passion for great food and finds and share them with anyone who was interested. This business of baskets got more and more interesting.
Our studio on Melrose near Gower in Hollywood has become a bona fide wine and cheese shop with all our offerings. We kept listening to our clients and created different packaging, some more sustainable some in a manner that would make shipping easier and more cost effective. Fresh flowers became a big part of Fancifull and making the baskets with fresh flowers along with gourmet food, became a signature design. They look like a still life.
Evolution and Connections. It keeps us expanding and growing. It allows us to daily create products that make us proud. We get to contribute back by buying from sustainable producers, encouraging the start ups, offering lots of advice (sorry to all whose ears we have bent), speaking to other retailers across the nation about how to succeed, holding fundraisers in our shop and sampling lots and lots of cheese, chocolate, salami and wine (those seem to be the favorite 4 food groups).
It keeps our love of Fancifull alive and burning. There is a vitality to sending out messages for people daily; knowing the gift is going to land on a desk and someone will smile, someone will feel acknowledged. Our clients’ business and personal lives will get stronger because their connections are stronger. We make life personal. We do it on many levels. We love doing it for you.
The proportions are up to you: I don’t care for a lot of cucumber so used 2 little persian ones with about 6 tomatoes and 1 large Red Pepper
All this is to taste:
A few cucumbers
Red Bell Pepper
Several tomatoes – fresh grown are the best
Touch of Garlic
Splash of Wine Vinegar (Sherry Vinegar was used)
Splash of Olive Oil (flavored is good)
A bit of hot sauce
Any other herbs you want to add
Option: we added grilled corn which was great
Whip it all up in your food processor to desired consistency, and voila – you have a refreshing summer soup
I’ve lost over 15lbs this year
And I have no idea how
Fancifull is not a place for those
Who cannot control their urges
I am surrounded by cheese
And I’m not talking Velveeta
I’m talking goat cheese
Cheese made from sheep’s milk
And the cheese is located
Right next to the salami
Ghost pepper salami
Wild boar salami
(salami made by a Michelin star chef)
Is there a more attractive corner on Earth?
I sit at my desk
Work on my computer
And chocolate falls from the sky
Right in front of my face!
That’s Terry, the owner
She likes to make it rain
I never say no to my boss
Then there’s the wine
And the cookies
And whatever crazy item comes my way
(ie Velvet Rope)
EVERYTHING IS DELICIOUS!
I tell people we eat cheese and chocolate
I, like you, cannot control my urges
In fact I refuse to
I’m the guy who’s lost over 15 lbs
While eating all these foods every day
Some people dream of the perfect job
I live it
Terry and I, are heading east to visit artisan cheese makers in Vermont. Destinations include Shelbourne Farms, Grafton, Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, Fat Toad Farm and others.
Fat Toad Farm’s Goat Milk Caramel Sauce was a mouth-watering favorite at the FanciFull Cheese Tasting 101 class last weekend. We served it with Bellwether Farms’ rich, creamy Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese. Heaven.
It’s a long trip, but we feel it’s important to know our suppliers, especially when it comes to food. And it makes our gourmet gift baskets all that much better.
Want to taste some of these and learn more about cheese? Sign up for one of our Cheese Tasting Classes.
If there is just one thing I love about my husband (and there are many) it is his attention to detail. This trait of his is one reason he is known for his Cheese Bread. He’s made it ever since I’ve known him. Even when on the road with his band in the 70s, Wally had an electric skillet in the bus so he could make it.
Yes it is simple, but the taste is in the details.
He toasts the bread (sourdough) just so, fits the cheese like a tile layer putting together a mosaic, then the salt… I’ll let him give you the full rundown, if he will indulge.
If every chef has their star dish, this would be Wally’s. It has been his staple for breakfast for many a year. Our kids grew up on it. Today I watched him as he grabbed the Point Reyes Toma, like an artist with new paint. “Ahhh…Toma and my fresh tomatoes….”
Cheese Bread. I like the fact that it still excites him after more than 35 years of making it.
But that is another thing I love about him…
Wally: How I Do It.
Ah, so much hoopla about so little.
The first and most important thing is to start with good ingredients.
Bread: No light, airy, squishy breads, please. I generally like a good sourdough although a bit of the fig bread from the Breadbar is also a wonderful choice. (The Fig Bread is also available at Fancifull and is finding its way into many of our gift baskets.)
A good cheese: Almost any kind of cheese works – but nothing pre-sliced! Cheddar, Brie, Goat Cheese – and today’s choice Toma, are all great.
Options: Fresh tomatos from your garden are a great addition. Fresh herbs if you like. Slices of hard boiled egg would be great, too.
1) Slice the cheese thinly – 1/8th inch. Could be grated but it’s easier to use slices.
2) Slice the tomatos, chop the herbs and have ready any other ingredients you might want. Tomatos need to be at room temperature. (They should never be refrigerated anyway.)
3) Turn on the broiler or toaster oven to 400 degrees.
4) Toast the bread lightly in a toaster. For a richer version you can pan fry the bread in butter lightly on each side. Mmmmmm… Today I just used the toaster.
5) Lay out the cheese slices on the bread. I try not to leave any gaps. Don’t let the cheese hang over the edge – it will melt off and fall into the oven. Cover the bread completely with the cheese.
6) Place the bred in the oven – you can put it on a piece of foil to catch drippings.
7) Let broil for 2 – 4 minutes. Time will vary depending on the type of cheese! Watch it. When it’s melting over the entire surface it’s ready.
8) Pull the rack out and add the tomatos.
9) continue to broil for up to 1 minute.
10) Add fresh basil if desired. A pinch of salt if desired.
11) Enjoy the aroma while the cheese cools enough to eat!
You remembered to make your tea or espresso, right?
By the way, it was delicious! And my tomatos this year are absolutely mahvelous.
We are really happy that several of our favorite cheese makers won big awards at the American Cheese Society Meeting and Contest held recently in Montreal, Canada. We’ve been championing and selling their cheeses for years, so it’s really fun to see them getting the accolades they deserve for their delicious products and dedication to their craft.
Among the winners was Point Reyes Toma cheese for Best Original Cheese. We’ve been including this in our gift baskets for some time now as well as sampling and selling it at our local Farmers Markets. Their fabulous Mozzarella, which we got to taste last week when we visited their creamery, won a second place award. Unfortunately it’s currently only available at the creamery in Point Reyes, CA. We’ll let you know if that changes. (Meaning we’re going to get it if we can!). Their Original Blue cheese also won a big award recently when it was awarded the title of Best Dairy or Cheese Product of the Year at the Fancy Food Show in Washington, DC. Go Point Reyes!
Another big winner at The America Cheese Society was Beehive Cheese which is located in Utah. They won awards for their Barely Buzzed, Seahive and Promontory Cheddars, all of which have been included in our gourmet gift baskets. You can read more about their cheeses in an earlier blog we wrote on Beehive Cheese.
Flavio DeCastilhos of Tumalo Farms in Bend, Oregon also won awards. His Classico, a Gouda style Goat Cheese, is simply amazing. Just this morning I greated some of it very finely and cooked in in with some scrambled eggs with fresh basil and some chopped Jeaune Flamme tomatos from my garden. Ooh la la la la, I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it. I published the recipe in a previous blog on Tumalo Cheese.
And then there’s Beechers Handmade Cheese of Seattle which won awards for three or four of their Cheddars. We carry their Flagship cheese – rich, full flavored, creamy, and extremely popular with everyone who tastes it. I’d recommend this in any of our beer gift baskets. It also makes for a killer macaroni and cheese.
Haven’t yet tried any of these cheese yourself? Call and order some from us – you’ll be very, very, very happy!
Is there some cheese you know of that we should try? Please let us know! If there’s good food involved, we’re interested.
See you at the table!
Terroir is an important concept in wine. I believe it also translates to food. Here is a good definition of Terroir from the Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil:
“This French word means the total impact of any given site: soil, slope, orientation to the sun, and elevation, plus every nuance of climate including rainfall, wind velocity, frequency of fog, cumulative hours of sunshine, average high temperature, and so forth. There is no single word in English that means quite the same thing. Generally viticulturists believe that soil indirectly bestows flavor (and relative quality) only insofar as it is one of the voices in the chorus of terroir.”
Wines from different vineyards, coffees from different plantations, cheeses from different regions, indeed all real foods everywhere exhibit the effects of their terroir. This is one of the things which makes the foods we carry in our shop so interesting.
It doesn’t matter what you are eating, whether it is a hamburger and fries or foie gras and champagne – it is the ingredients used that make each one marvelous or mediocre. At Fancifull that is what I look for when choosing what goes into our gift baskets. Fresh natural ingredients, organic, no odd chemical fillers. Because you want to taste the food, not the chemicals. I’ve tried cookies where the butter leaps out at you because it is so fresh, and then I’ve tried ones – in beautiful tempting packaging – that taste like cardboard. For example: Americans have a style of chocolate, as do the Europeans. Both have great chocolates. I can’t argue that a fresh truffle is better than a perfect peanut butter cup if both are made with good ingredients. And why argue anyway? Eat them both and enjoy. We will always be searching, tasting, and finding the best ingredients the world has to offer so you can send the best gourmet gift baskets.
Genuine, real, not fake. I like to travel because I like to experience authenticity in the world at large. For instance, I love being in the countryside of Italy and eating what is grown locally. I want to smell the air, meet the people, find out how they have been making this food for hundreds of years and why it is so good. This is true of anywhere I go, whether it be close to home or in far away lands. Even more so, I love to bring these experiences back to share with friends and family. I cook meals similar to those I’ve had on my culinary voyages and bring back jars of ingredients to taste. I find this is a better snapshot of a country than a photo. My joy in Fancifull is that I get to delight you with the pleasures I have found. I get to stock my shelves with the foods and wines I’ve tried and share them with you and your friends. Welcome to the family.
Gourmet gift baskets and wine gift baskets containing genuine artisanal wines and foods can be purchased online at www.fancifullgiftbaskets.com, in our store at 5617 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038, or by phone at 800.350.4437.
We have always loved the idea of organics. Who wouldn’t? Organic products are better for the environment and the people on the planet. Unfortunately, we found that better for the environment didn’t always translate into better taste. Wines we tried lacked balance; baked goods were heavy and bland.
Then, on a trip to Italy, we were visiting a Parmesan cheese factory near Bologna and learned that even though it wasn’t mentioned on their packaging, all their cheese was from local cows fed on organic hay and grains, without the use of antibiotics. They didn’t think to advertise it. It was the way they had always done it. This discovery led us to ask more questions as to how the products we carried were made. I was in for a surprise!
I began reading labels on our product shelves and found that some of our favorite cookies-such as Aunt Gussie’s Pecan Cookies (buttery and not too sweet)-contained mainly organic products. Then, purely by chance, we discovered that a wine that we love – a rich, balanced, complex Merlot from Robert Sinskey – is made from organic grapes (see our note below about organic wines). As I write this, my husband and I have just returned from France where we visited one of our favorite wine makers, Sylvain Fadat, and learned that he, too, farms completely organically.
Checking further on our shelves, I found that few of the products we carry have any additives. I guess looking for things that taste good naturally has led us to natural products. You’ll find a good example of this when you try some of the “cheese products” other companies use. They use very little real cheese and you can taste the synthetics. We have always insisted on real cheese for our gift baskets and we always will.
We also have organic tomato spread, olive oil, honey, coffee, all natural bruschetta, preservative free whole grain chips, additive free chocolates, organic bath products, organic cotton baby clothes and other products that fall into the natural/organic category.
We have come to realize that if we just keep with our purpose of searching for the best products the world has to offer, we will naturally be lead to all natural products. The flavors speak for themselves, and that’s great!