Posts Tagged ‘A Fancifull Life’
Here are some very short and sweet definitions to help understand some of the diet terms used these days.
Our Sweet Vegan Gift Basket.
The difference is Vegetarians don’t eat meat, fish, or any animal. Vegans go a bit further and eat no animal products such as eggs, dairy or honey.
Our Gluten Free For All Gift Basket.
Gluten is a mixture of proteins that occur naturally in wheat, rye, barley and crossbreeds of these grains. The FDA defines gluten free as having a gluten limit of less than 20 parts per million of gluten in foods carrying that label. We are careful with the products we put in our gluten free gift baskets. Luckily there is a world of good food to use: Nuts, Cheese, Fruit, Tea and Coffee, Chocolates, Chips and so much more.
Our Happy Chanukah Gift Basket.
Kosher is an adaptation of the Hebrew word meaning “fit” or “proper.” Kosher foods are those that conform to the regulations of kashrut. These will carry the symbol of the rabbinical council that approved the item. Fruit is naturally kosher. The best known rules are: no pork, no mixing of dairy and meat, and the term pareve which means it is a neutral food that can be eaten with meat or dairy. This is a very short abridged definition. There is much more to be found in research and among those who keep kosher (many who have been very helpful with advice). We have an array of kosher products in our shop including wine, cheese, chocolates, cookies and more. We also carry Kosher for Passover during that holiday. You can call and check the symbols on the foods we have if you have any questions.
Note: These definitions above are by no means complete as each diet has complexities that we don’t have the space to go into here; and it varies by individual. For more data please research or ask the people you know who adhere to one of these diets to find out how they adapt it for themselves.
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.
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
How does that song by Gladys Knight start?
“Mm, L. A.
Proved too much for the man”
And the Pips go
“Too much for the man
He couldn’t make it”
That’s how my week was going
(and I have always wanted to be a Pip)
Then came Friday night.
Single guy in the big city!
Hiding from the world.
And I was doing it with 3 companions
– Humboldt Fog. A cheese made from fine goat milk. Made by California’s own Cypress Grove Chevre.
– Zoe’s Uncured Ghost Pepper Salami. Ghost pepper is 900.5 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. The salami makers added tequila and cilantro to round the flavor.
– A bottle of Old Zin Vines Zinfandel. This Lodi wine is red, intense and very friendly.
I locked myself in a closet with my three friends
Like an old Daffy Duck cartoon, smoke came out of my ears when I bit into the Ghost Pepper salami. A dab of the Humboldt Fog cheese put out that fire. The mixture got me high. And then the sips of Zinfandel?
Let’s just say the world outside couldn’t touch me!
I was wild
Civilization be damned!!!
Until my roommate broke down the door on Sunday night, finding me foaming at the mouth.
Having stripped down to my Superman briefs sometime Saturday afternoon, (I don’t know cuz time doesn’t exist in my closet), I sat in the shower for 2 hours. Civilization stormed back into my life, unfortunately.
On Monday I once again donned my dress shirt and tie
And thought over my list of companions come the next Friday
Because of our personalized service at Fancifull we seem to become intertwined in our client’s lives. We help create memories.
This week one of our gift baskets was part of a scavenger hunt a woman devised for her boyfriend on their anniversary.
They had attended our Valentine’s tasting where Wally was wearing a top hat. The top hat and our shop on Melrose were part of the 3rd clue.
Kristin was the one who greeted him when he arrived and quizzically said “I’m here on a scavenger hunt?” Wouldn’t you know, we had a gift basket for him and, on the card, the clue for his next destination.
Have we mentioned how much we love our job?
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 an organic wine. 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.
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!
Despite 100 degree weather in Los Angeles, Fall is upon us, and I am excited by the change of seasons. In Southern California we have to rely on the little things to get that autumn feel: the days are noticeably shorter, the sun hits at a different angle creating long shadows, my roses and tomatoes are fading, pumpkins, ghosts and spider webs decorate the porches and lawns in my neighborhood.
As a designer this means that I get to design differently. My palette expands into the burnt oranges, olive greens and aubergines I love so. Rather than create gift baskets for outdoor picnics and barbecues I get to think about the family gathered around a table enjoying their gift.
When putting together a gift I’ll think about the person receiving it, enjoying the wine in a cozy home nestled in by the fireplace. I know, it is the romantic side of me, but I often envision the person getting the gift and how they will experience it. I’m tempted to put instructions in, but that is just the mother in me.
Food gets exciting at this time of year as well. I can’t wait to put together Autumn Harvest Baskets. They’ll include Pumpkin Butter with Maple Syrup, Yam Good Cookies, Dark Red Wines, a Riesling or two to go with that turkey, Rich Pates, Dark Chocolates.
Summer is over, so I consider Fall and Winter official Chocolate Months. I can ship chocolate gift baskets and receive chocolates without fear of them melting. I’ll be getting chocolates from Michel Cluizel, Fresh Truffles from Coco Delice and our own heavenly Norman Love Chocolates.
Well, once this heat wave passes…
I almost forgot I am in Southern California.
But the cool will come soon and then we can rejoice with wild abandon at the bounty we have and enjoy. – Terry August
Note from the sales team: you can order your holiday gift baskets now at www.fancifull.com.
Many of my vacations truly are “working vacations”. Yes, we spend three weeks in France, but we are visiting wine makers, cheese producers and the like. Yeah, I know, tough job but someone has to do it. I can’t complain. I do work at hunting out products. Much like the truffle pig, I am always sniffing around, looking in local shops, watching what the locals are eating. Of course this often means eating and drinking many things to be assured of quality – I never just take someone’s word for it – but that is another story altogether.
When I eat a cookie I like in Italy, I will find out who imports it to the U.S. I am quite vigilant. This is just the best way to bring my customers items they might not find otherwise, such as many of the wines we have in our shop and in our gift baskets. Sometimes I find them through a focused tasting or meeting wine makers. Sometimes greatness just falls in your lap, almost like Divine Intervention.
Forces were at work when we discovered the lovely wines of Jacky Blot: Domaine Taille aux Loups (whites) and La Butte (red).
The Intervention came by way of a kindly Paris wine shop owner, Christophe Vidal. While we were buying some wine from his shop, I noticed some odd whiskeys from Japan which started up a conversation (and some sampling of said whiskeys, did I mention how nice this guy was?). In our discussion of the wine business, we mention that we are planning to visit a winemaker or two in the Loire Valley. As we are about to leave we hear a shout. He comes running up to us with an open bottle of wine. Turns out that the winemaker, Jacky Blot from the Loire Valley, had been in his shop earlier for a tasting of his wines. Jacky had left an open bottle but Cristophe didn’t need it, perhaps we could take it back to our apartment and enjoy it. We took our Taille aux Loups wine, happily skipping back to our apartment and marveling at the kindness of strangers.
showing us their sparkling wine.
The wine is a delightful surprise. Chenin Blanc grapes, light, crisp, wonderfully balanced. What a nice gift! Wally, ever diligent, looks up the winery and I can see he is contemplating, actually becoming determined, to find the winery in our travels. We move on to the Loire and are having dinner in the city of Tours when, lo and behold, the Taille Aux Loups is on the wine list by the glass. We have to order it, and yes, it is as good as we remembered. Okay, that settles it, we have to find this winery.
After a few days of trying wines in Chinon and Saumur (both great cities to visit and sample wine), we track down the winery Taille Aux Loups. We drive along curvy roads, follow the river (because we don’t know exactly where it is) along the south bank of the Loire east of Tours. Eureka, we find it! Jacky’s daughter Françoise greets us warmly as we come in from the rain, and sets up quite a tasting for us. We try sparkling wines, the whites that we love, and reds from nearby Bourgueil. It is quite fantastic, especially since we don’t even have an appointment. Jacky pops in and gives us an exuberant hello, but he is quite busy with a bunch of clients in another room. We write down the name and phone number of their distributor in California and buy some bottles to add to the collection we have amassed during the previous few days. We high five ourselves once we get in the car, feeling the excitement of another successful hunt. We rub our hands in anticipation of tasting this wine for our clients back home, and hope that the distributor, Adventures in Wine, carries the wines we want. We have never bought from them before, or even heard of them.
We return to our Paris apartment a few days later with our cache of prized wines. I really want to serve Jacky’s wine at our upcoming tasting in two weeks. I need to email my assistant Dave to find this company. As I am looking in my purse to find the business cards from the wine makers we visited, I find a card for Adventures In Wine! I have no idea how it got there. I don’t remember ever meeting the person whose name is on the card. There is no other business card from America in my bag, having cleaned it out before we left. Françoise at the winery did not give me a card, she just had me write down the name in my notebook. But here it is. Magic! That did it. We were obviously destined to have this wine in our shop.
The importer has the whites I want, not the reds, but they are ordering them for me. So with this happy set of circumstances, I am able to offer this fantastic wine to our customers in our wine gift baskets. And it all began because I had noticed some odd whiskeys at a Paris wine shop and started asking questions.
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.