Posts Tagged ‘Gourmet Food’
Originally a punk rock drummer from Chicago, Laura Ann was no stranger to the cut-throat side of business by the time she arrived in LA in 2004. Her next hurdle, as it turns out, was to figure out how to make it on her own when her band broke up. Fortunately, her grandmother’s teachings on food preserving would turn out to be her own preservation. (Though she turned her efforts toward an all-natural hot dog stand, her jams soon began to take center stage.)
Using farmer’s market herbs and fruits, she wowed her foodie friends, local musicians, and even her restaurant boss with innovative flavor combinations like blackberry bay leaf and strawberry vanilla bean. After a motorcycle accident in 2009, she persevered, soon gaining publicity in local and national magazines. Working simultaneously as a local mixologist and caterer, Masura started crafting original cocktails with her jams – an endeavor that has been greeted with even more accolades from LA Times, LA Weekly and Wall Street Journal.
Stop by the shop this Saturday to meet Laura Ann herself, as well as her famous raspberry habanero, blackberry bay leaf, and this season’s favorite apple butter.
“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.
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.
There were several people we wanted to meet this year at the Fancy Food show. One of these was Oliviero Colmignoli (Olli), a 4th generation salami maker from Italy who decided to settle in Virginia and is now producing cured meats and salamis using the 150 year-old family recipes he brought with him. He is also raising his own animals, naturally fed and grown, on his own 160 acre farm using a breed of pig that was introduced to the US 500 years ago by Spanish explorers and can still be found as a pure breed on Ossabaw Island. And, of course, on Olli’s farm. It’s a slow growing animal, but produces meats with superb flavor.
The salamis are amazing and we have two varieties at Fancifull: the Calabrese – vibrant and spicy, and the Napoli – applewood smoked and flavored with black pepper. You won’t find anything like this in your ordinary grocery store. Call us to buy some for yourself or include it any or our gourmet gift baskets or wine gift gift baskets. We are also sampling and selling these at our local Farmer’s Markets and in our store..
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!
Terry and I spent this last weekend at Raleigh Studios as part of the LA Wine Fest. Guess what we weren’t serving? Wine!
With over 50 wineries participating, we decided we would provide much needed relief by offering artisanal cheeses and the world’s best salami. We were right; we were swamped.
The Tumelo Classico Gouda style goat cheese sold out the first day. Next to go was the Point Reyes Toma. Then the Soledad Goat Cheese with Honey and Lavender. We were also sampling and selling Beechers Cheddar, Vella Cheese and Beehive (Seahive Cheddar). In the end we had almost nothing left.
The story was the same with the salami. The Fra’ Mani salami is incredible. If you’ve never tasted it, call us and order some. It’s made by Paul Bertolli, famous as the chef at Olivetto and Chez Panisse, and it is the best salami I have ever tasted. Other favorites were the Olli Calabrese and a Wild Boar salami from Creminelli.
We are very proud that all of these products are hand crafted in the United States. We feel that a food renaissance is happening here and we’re happy to be a part of it.
All this talk about food is making me hungry. so I’m going to go have some cheese and salami right now. Of course, any of these things can be included in our gourmet gift baskets and wine gift baskets. But you really should take advantage and order some for yourself. If you’re in Los Angeles, stop in. You never know what we might be sampling.