Posts Tagged ‘healthy food’
“Eureka! There’s gold in them thar hills.” That was the cry of the 49ers who came to California in the 1800s looking to score a fortune in the gold rush. Now up in the hills of Marin and scattered throughout the state, is gold of a different kind. It still of the land, but in the form of milk and dairy products.
Northern California has long been considered a food epicenter focusing on family owned farms producing organic product. The establishment of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) helped assure that the area of Marin would continue to support farmers and green space rather than being overrun by condos. You can learn more about MALT here: http://www.malt.org/
The call of gold lured me and Wally to load up our wagon and head up north to those very same hills in March to attend and help with the California Artisan Cheese Festival which was held in Petaluma from March 22nd-24th.
The weekend was filled with tours of local cheese makers’ facilities and farms, seminars (beer and cheese at 9:30 am anyone?), tastings, meals, and a Marketplace on Sunday. We attended our first festival last year and immediately became members of the Guild which gave us the opportunity to help set up and run their booth at the Marketplace. Having to be there at 9 am was difficult, but talking about the work the Guild does and the classes they offer in conjunction with the College of Marin was gratifying.
Since we teach classes and hold tastings in our shop, we like to get as much insight as we can from the Cheesemaker perspective to share with our students. This lead us to the New Kids on the Block Seminar early Saturday where we got to listen to and ask questions of four Cheesemakers who were bringing new cheese to the market. They spoke frankly about their development process and the challenges in introducing a new cheese to the American public. Janet Fletcher of the San Francisco Chronicle lead the discussion with the cheesemakers and asked pointed questions to keep the info flowing. One of our favorite new cheeses is Point Reyes Bay Blue. Cuba, the cheesemaker for Point Reyes, talked about how he has refined this recipe for years before releasing it. While visiting Point Reyes two yeas ago we had the opportunity to try it in its first stages! Patience pays off. The new Bay Blue is astounding and already winning awards. But it took over two years to get it right! That is a lot of time and effort. We felt fortunate to be able to experience its evolution, it gave us terrific insight into the process of taking a pretty good cheese and turning it into a great one.
Luckily for our Fancifull Customers we have an in with the dairy, so they shipped us a wheel even though it wasn’t in wide distribution yet. Nice to have friends in high places.
Toward the end of the seminar, our moderator, Janet Fletcher, let us know that she had just released her latest book: Cheese and Beer . I bought one immediately (and had her sign it). It has lots of information that should contribute to some tasty classes at Fancifull.
At lunch, we shared our table with the folks from Cypress Grove, another of our favorite cheese companies. Wally would eat Humboldt Fog every morning if he could and I have to say the same about Midnight Moon.
The afternoon held a wine pairing seminar with old world and new world cheese and wine. Old World basically means Europe while new world speaks to the U.S. and Australia. The class was very similar to what we offer in our classes at Fancifull but it was fun to be a student rather than the teacher. There is always so much to learn and Laura Werlin, author of several books on cheese, was a terrific tour guide.
This cheesy weekend left us brimming with ideas and new product to bring into our shop. There is just so much great cheese out there, how do we sell it all? Answer: One wedge at a time. One gift basket at a time.
Pick 3-4 Cheeses to serve. A general rule is 4 ounces a person but it depends on the time of day and what else you are serving with it.
Vary the consistency of the cheese: a soft fresh cheese, a semi hard and a harder cheese like Parmesan.
Provide three different milk types: a goat, a sheep and a cow’s milk for variety.
Serve at room temperature.
Leave the wedges whole with a knife to cut, or cut a few slices to get it started
Decorate the platter with grapes, cucumbers, apple slices…
A nice jam to serve with it would be fun, like Laura Ann’s Blackberry Bayleaf or Raspberry Habanero!
Serve with fresh bread. You can also add some simple crackers or a nice crostini.
Open a bottle of wine!!
A Fresh Goat Cheese or Crottin, Point Reyes Toma, Aged Gouda, Ossau Iraty Sheep Cheese
California Cheese: Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam, Central Coast Creamery Goat Gouda, Fiscalini Bandaged Cheddar, Cypress Grove Lambchopper
American: Nettle Meadow Kunik from N.Y. (a creamy blend of Goat and Jersey Cow milk), Beehive Cheese Barely Buzzed, Utah (rubbed in coffee), Beecher’s Flagsheep, WA (voted best cheese by the American Cheese Society).
We have a great selection of cheeses in our store. Need a basket with fresh cheese? Try our Cheese 101 Gift Basket or check our Gourmet Gifts page for other delicious gifts.
Need help? Come to our store or call us at 855 313 5680.
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!
Artisanal LA is a weekend long community event celebrating the city’s finest local, sustainable and handmade edibles. Taste, shop, sample and learn while supporting the local economy and local artisanal vendors at this seasonal show. Be sure to stop by and visit our booth!
We will be sampling some of our fabulous wares including California cheeses and salamis as well as our own product: Fred’s Magical Marinade and Barbecue Sauce. Invented by Wally’s dad over 50 years ago, you’ve never tasted anything like it!
Last October we participated in the first ever Artisanal LA event, selling out of every salami and cheese we had while discovering new foods to put into our store and gift baskets. Things like Compartes peanut butter, which has been on our shelves and in our gourmet gift baskets ever since.
Treat yourself to a fun day of delicious food! Visit ArtisanalLA.com for more information and tickets. Tickets are only $10 ($15 at the door). Hope to see you there.
At Fancifull we’ve long been advocates of natural and organic food. They taste better and are better for you and the planet. Why wouldn’t we want to sell that? It is a matter of following our passion – after 24 years of running Fancifull we are actually more excited than ever about the direction we are going. We get to support the smaller artisan producers and introduce our clients to a world of good. Delicious isn’t it?
Trade shows help us locate sources for good food – we get to sample it and often get to talk to the producers themselves. The Natural Products Show West, which takes place this weekend in Anaheim, has become a very important resource for Fancifull. I remember when this show started. It was tiny. I think it took up only a few of the banquet halls at the Disneyland Hotel, but I found some interesting things. Smaller shows often are more affordable for the smaller businesses and start ups, which is why I attend them. A great opportunity to discover something new. The show has since grown considerably and is now busting at the seams, taking up the whole Anaheim Convention Center.
You can imagine our delight when we got a call from Danielle at New Hope Media, the company that puts on the Natural Products Expo. She needed over thirty gift baskets for people associated with the show. She saw our website and realized we carry many products from the shows exhibitors which of course made us the perfect company to use.
It was particularly validating because we’ve been working on our Healthy Gourmet and other special diet baskets so anyone can enjoy them, no matter the discipline they follow.
Right now, our van is full of gourmet gift baskets heading to Anaheim to delight attendees as they enter their hotel rooms. They’ll be munching on organic Falafel Chips, Bean Dip, Nuts, Fresh Fruit, Red Wine, Dark Chocolate – most of it is organic, gluten free, vegan and all of it is absolutely delicious.
I will be heading down there in a few days to sample foods, query vendors, and locate new goodies for Fancifull. The Natural Products show isn’t just about food. I have found organic baby clothes for our Baby Gift Baskets as well as all natural bath items for our Pamper and Spa Baskets. It is an exciting time in this industry right now. More people are joining the party when it comes to handcrafted food and organic products – and let’s face it, the more the merrier!
There is an growing emphasis in this country on “special” diets:
Gluten Free, Vegan, Kosher, Low Fat, Eastern, Western and so on and so on. It can get crazy sometimes trying to sort it all out. Because we are in the business of giving food as a gift, sort it out we must.
But first it has to be really good food, something that anyone would like no matter what diet they follow. We wouldn’t be interested in anything less for our gift baskets. If it’s not wholesome and delicious, why bother? It wouldn’t be a Fancifull basket.
Fortunately we are finding many fine things that also will fit into a specialized basket when necessary. For example, we have had terrific Kosher foods at Fancifull since our inception. We carried these foods because they were great and would work with all our gourmet gift baskets, not just the Kosher ones. Then again, one of our best selling baskets, Fine Food and Fresh Fruit, just happens to be a Kosher gift basket as well.
Same with Gluten Free and Vegan Baskets: our White Bean Spread matched with the Organic Hummus Chips in our Healthy Gourmet Gift Basket is a delicious snack whatever your regimen. Eating well prepared, good food is the key to good nutrition for everyone. And if some has special requirements we can make a Fancifull basket for them that meets their needs.
In our ongoing quest for artisan products, we recently came across Beehive Cheese, a small-batch cheese company from Uintah, Utah. Brothers-in-law Pat and Tim are perfecting old world craftsmanship to create some of the most irresistible and unusual artisan cheeses on the market. They use only first-grade-quality whole Jersey milk from their local creamery.
Fancifull carries these wildly popular flavors, but check with us when ordering because they sell out quickly. These cheeses are also featured in our gourmet gift baskets.
A new American Original that is hand rubbed with Espresso and Lavender. Buzzes your tongue with a nutty, exotic and bold flavor
An Irish style cheese made with whole Jersey cow milk. Buttery, full-bodied and lively with snappy, citrus-like and fruity notes. Melts on your tongue and leaves a subtle sharp note in your mouth
Seahive is hand rubbed with Beehive Wildflower Honey and local Redmond RealSalt. The honey is harvested from a local farm where the bees visit wildflowers and fruit orchards. The salt is from an ancient sea bed near Redmond, Utah, and contains unique flecks of color that are the result of more than 50 natural trace minerals.
These two elements impart a subtle rich flavor.
We have featured these cheeses in a great seagrass box (often used for our cheese gift baskets) and you can add it to any of our other gift baskets or come by and get some for yourself.
On a trip to Sonoma last year, we made a point of visiting Vella Cheese Headquarters. This aged Sonoma Jack took us by surprise the first time we had it while dining at the Hollywood Bowl. I thought it was an Italian Pecorino, and with good reason, as I later found out. When Tom Vella started his own dairy in Sonoma in 1931, the Italian families of Northern California wanted a hard grating cheese, like their sheep’s milk pecorino or Parmesan of home. The Vella cheese company responded by carefully aging and nurturing their jack cheese, resulting in a delicious cheese and enduring popularity. We feature it in our Handmade Cheese Gift Basket, which showcases artisan California Cheese.
The success of Vella Cheese lies in the personal attention each day’s production is given. Quality starts in the pasture. Every cow is not the same. Every day is not sunny; every blade of grass is not green and lush. But, if you insist on the finest breeding of herds, the best feeds, the greatest care in milking and transporting the top grade milk, you have the best possible natural raw material, and you have set the stage for super cheese. One big advantage to us at Fancifull is that Vella cheese, due to its low moisture content, can stay unrefrigerated for a few days. This enables us to ship a first rate cheese economically in our Gourmet Gift Baskets with FedEx Ground or 3Day services with no compromise in quality. We also feature it in many of our Organic Gift Baskets as well as our Green Gifting Line because Vella adheres to strict principles which make it a sustainable product. Among those are:
They are the first solar powered business in Sonoma.
All the milk in their cheese comes from local Sonoma Happy Cows.
Their whey is biodynamically recycled by the dairy and local wineries.
Only natural ingredients go into their cheese and coatings.
The result is that we have an artisan product sustainably made, which tastes fantastic – sounds like a Fancifull product to me!