Posts Tagged ‘Italian Food’
Hi again to all my cheese loving friends.
I really appreciate the letters you’ve been sending and I try to respond to all of them, but typing is difficult unless I use my nose and that’s not what my nose is for! But my people are back from Italy now and I’m having them type this for me.
So, yes, they’re back from the Slow Food Cheese Festival in Bra, Italy. But while they were away, did they write? No. Did they call? No. Did they bring me any cheese? NO!
Instead they tell me a story about how they stopped off at this little Italian restaurant in the foothills of the alps and found Toma cheese on their cheese plate. Now understand, I know Toma cheese from Point Reyes. Mmmm – very tasty. And those nice grassy aromas, the taste of the cream, the just-right saltiness. Just the thought of it makes my nose twitch.
But what do I know about an Italian Toma? Nothing! Because, again, they didn’t bring me any cheese!
And they tasted three types, one with peppers, another more aged with smoky tones and one very much like the Point Reyes Toma. Humph! I should be the judge of that. They should have taken me with them, or at least brought back some cheese. Their big clumsy noses are no match for mine.
But no, I have to listen to them talk about the Swiss and French Tommes and how similar they are to the Toma instead of smelling it and tasting it myself and telling THEM what it’s really about.
Oh well, I did get some really nice cheese in my bowl this morning, but I’ll have to tell you about that in my next blog. Right now all this talk about cheese is making me hungry and I just heard the refrigerator door open! Smell ya later…
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 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!
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!
The Sicilian Village Olives are by far, the most popular olive (and possibly product) we carry in our shop and in our gift baskets. Every time I serve them at a tasting I hear the exclamations, “Oh my goodness, these are amazing”, and they sell out. I have other good olives, but there is something special about these.
Here is what Dave Quartaro, President of Sicilian Village has to say about his process and why his olives are so darn good:
“Nothing else comes close to the taste of a Sicilian olive. That’s because good things take time and, in today’s hurry-up-and-go world, most olive producers take shortcuts – like using chemicals to rush the curing process. Not at Sicilian Village.
Our olives are carefully picked, then allowed to cure naturally in salt – without any rush – until their flavors develop fully. Next, they marinate slowly until they’re infused with the seasonings of a recipe that’s generations old. Only then do we allow the Sicilian Village olives to leave our premises.”
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Today’s topic is a rare Italian wine from Piemonte – Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato. If you’ve visited the Fancifull Gift Baskets web site or followed any of our blogs, I’m sure you’ve noticed how passionate we are about the foods we carry in our store and put into our gift baskets. Many of these require some clarification. This is certainly true in the case of the lovely Ruchè grape with it’s enticing floral and wild berry aromas.
“If it’s so good”, you may ask, “why haven’t I heard of it before it appeared as an option in one of your wine gift baskets?” Well, there are two reasons. Firstly, there just isn’t much of it! The Ruchè grape production comes from a mere 100 acres of vines in the region of Castagnole di Monferrato, which is near Asti in Piemonte, Northern Italy.
Secondly, the wines that get the attention in this area are the three B’s made from the Nebbiolo grape: Barbara, Barbaresco and Barolo! Tough competition indeed. But Ruchè (pronounced roo-KAY) is an absolute delight to have on the dinner table – and at a very affordable price. So, next time you want to send someone an Italian gift basket or just surprise them with a new wine in one of our wine gift baskets. I highly recommend this rare little gem that we have here. My mouth is watering just thinking of it and a creamy Gorgonzola cheese. And I’m really looking forward to trying this wine with the winemaker at his vineyard next week. Yes, we are headed for Italy, and this is one of our stops. Buon appetito!