Posts Tagged ‘Food’
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!
It takes a certain amount of courage to have integrity in this world. You have to stand by your principles as the crowd tells you to step down. You know what is right, but darn, you are so tired – can’t you just take the easy way out this time? But you can’t.
Cowgirl Creamery in California
When I talk to the people behind the handcrafted food we carry I am always a bit in awe. These people aren’t in it just for the money. Yes, they want to survive, and survive well. But to go through the work they do you have to have passion. Passion for your product, for the methods that work, for putting in the long hours and attention it requires to make it come out perfect every time.
I talk to cheesemakers who won’t make their cheese if they don’t feel their milk is good enough that year. They sell the milk instead. The better vignerons prune back their vines to get a low yield thus more flavor to the grapes. Yes they could let the grapes just grow wild and make a lot more wine. But that would mean making mediocre wine. So they can’t – it isn’t in their blood. In a world where the operating procedure is more and more for less and less no matter what the cost in quality, this is a refreshing change.
in Montpeyroux, France
There is nuance in food that comes from the land and the skill of the producer, but it takes someone who understands that to bring it out. You raise the animals well so you get the most flavor while preserving the earth, you grow organically, you keep testing until you get it exactly right – this is where passion comes in. Besides passion they also have pride. Get them talking about their handicraft and you’ll hear Rashida from Cast Iron Gourmet talk about perfecting the recipe for her Bacon Chutney, or Sylvain Fadat explain in his heavily French accented English how he dynamited this old lake bed because he knew it would have the soil for the grapes he wanted to grow. La Bonita California will expound on the local farmers they get their fruit from and why. And you taste that passion and pride in each slurp, sip and bite.
They watch you taste their product and beam like a mom with her child. And when you get it, when you get how good it is and acknowledge their job well done, you see the sense of satisfaction in their face, the smile, the light in their eyes. And that is why I love to carry artisan food. I could say these people need our support, that’s true. But it is so much bigger than that. We need their food. It’s wholesome, delicious, nourishing and one of the great joys of life. So we need to support them so they can support us with this vast array of wonderful food that has the stamp of the artist. Otherwise we’ll be left with nothing but the cheap bland genetically modified nutrient-lacking mega-corporation foods that are flooding our supermarkets today. This is a worthwhile venture, and a tasty one. Support your local artisans and they will support you. For life.
The Fancifull Pavilion as it appeared in
the movie No Strings Attached
Farmers Markets, in my opinion, are playing a vital part in bringing real food back to the table in the US. I’m sure there are millions of Americans who think of Kraft American slices when they hear the word cheese! I love seeing the expression on a persons face when they experience one of our California artisanal cheeses for the first time. The shock. The joy!
We’ve been including more and more artisanal foods in our gift baskets so that we can share our joy in really good foods with as many people as possible. Most people don’t know that we’ve also been participating in several local Farmers Markets. We love that people are getting excited about the cheeses, salamis, crostini and other great natural products we have discovered since starting our little company in 1987.
If you’re in the Los Angeles area you can now sample (and buy) some of our fine foods not only in our shop, but also at these Farmers Markets:
Century City – Thursdays, 10 – 2
Bank of America Plaza – Fridays, 10 – 2
Melrose Place (at La Cienega) – Sundays, 9 – 2
So stop by and experience for yourself the joy of Toma cheese, Fra Mani salami, Vella cheese, Rustic Bakery crostini and other fine products that we carry in our store – it’s going to be love at first bite! Want some for yourself but can’t visit our store? Just call us and we’ll prepare a box full of delight just for you!
Of course you can also send these out in one of our gourmet gift baskets or wine gift baskets.
Please call with any special requests.
St. Patrick’s Day may be the impetus for focusing on the two artisan Irish Cheeses we are featuring here, but we are happy for any reason to showcase stellar cheesemaking.
Ireland is renowned for its lush green fields and clean air. This makes it the perfect environment to produce the top quality milk needed to make great cheese. The cheeses pictured here, Darú and Cahill’s Porter, come from well-tended farms that combine creativity and innovation with respect for traditional craft and simplicity.
Darú is a beautifully balanced handcrafted farmstead cheese with a natural rind and long finish. It is a semi hard cheese made with pasteurized cow’s milk from the herd of the Maher family in the heart of Tipperary where the pastures are fresh and green as the Emerald Isle. Vegetarian rennet is used in the production of this cheese and therefore it is suitable for vegetarians.
To learn more of the Cooleeney Cheesemakers and their farms, visit http://www.cooleeney.com/on_the_farm.php
Cahill’s Porter is Irish Cheddar flavored with Cahill’s own farm-made Irish Porter (a dark beer). The cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk. All of their cheeses are handcrafted and individually blended and have no artificial ingredients. Cahill Farms, too, uses vegetable rennet in their cheese production.
These cheeses pair well with beer or stout and are equally friendly with a red wine such as our Marimar Pinot Noir. You may request either of these cheeses in one of our Wine Gift Baskets or Gourmet Gift Baskets. Put your request in the Other Info box on the order form and we’ll replace the regular cheese with the one you specify. There will be a $3.50 charge added to your order for either of these premium cheeses. The additional amount will not show on your online order but will be included on your invoice.
These cheeses are, of course, available for purchase in our store. You can also call Fancifull at 800.350.4437 to order these and other products for yourself or to have us create a custom gift basket for you.
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.
Piemonte was a pilgrimage for me and Wally. It is home of the Slow Food Movement, great cheese, and some of the most popular Italian Wines. Barolo is made there from the Nebbiolo grape, and is considered “The wine of kings and the king of wines.” I also knew with all the different vineyards, grapes, and designations that, like Burgundy, Piemonte was going to require a personal visit so I could wrap my head around this magical land of wine and food.
While there we were lucky enough to meet with several winemakers, all of whom made marvelous wines that are available to us in the U.S. One of our favorites Mauro Veglio. We met with his wife and partner, Daniela. She was charming and funny, with a beautiful cantina set off by a huge half-circle window overlooking the vineyards that was the perfect vantage point for Daniela to school us on the different vineyards and grapes of the region.
Terry and Daniela in front of the half circle window
We sampled their Dolcetto, Barbera, and Barolos over a course of an hour or so. Now here is the exciting part: We have the Dolcetto and Barbera here in our shop now for your gift baskets. The Dolcetto is bright and vibrant, the Barbera a bit heavier, and both with a good acidity that pairs perfectly with the fatty foods of Piemonte. Both of these wines are featured together in one of our most popular Italian Gift Baskets: La Dolce Vita – the Piemonte version! Of course, you can always opt for one of them in many of our wine gift baskets as well.