Tag Archives: Italy

Some Pretty Fancy Food

A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to attend the NASFT Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C.  A mecca trade-show for all artisan and ‘fancy food’ products.  What it really comes down to is a huge networking event for people in the industry and a bunch of free samples!  On a more serious note, I did have a moment of realization that no matter what is going on in the world, no matter the differences, people come to the NASFT Fancy Food Show on the same platform and with the same spirit and curiosity to learn and support what others are doing in the specialty food industry.  Industries cross as cheese people meet the cookie people, BBQ people meet pasta people.  And international countries who are millions of miles apart from each other share a reserved sense of pride and specialty food items close to their culture.

Every corner showcases originality, creativity and perseverance to educate participants of the show.  There is a divine entrepreneurial spirit behind each booth, a story that led then to where they are today and a common goal to share their labors of love.

Many of the participants are just starting out, some have been around for a very long time and are launching new products.  And it is also fun to spot celebrity chefs promoting their product lines.  Lydia was serving pasta, Duff Goldman was promoting fun decorating supplies like cake tattoos, Richard Bayless  was at his Frontera Mexican food product booth.  And the lovely Cat Cora was promoting a variety of tapenades, olive oils and kitchen utensils.

Cat was also the Keynote speaker at the Sofi awards which stands for specialty outstanding food innovation.  There are more than 2,600 entries which are narrowed down to 125 silver finalists and then 33 gold winners in each category.  Cat’s keynote speech was a rally call for all of us who have made sacrifices and believed in ourselves to do what we love.  Her advice was to push yourself to obtain the best possible education in your field, to give back to your community, to reach and develop your sense of self, and to know at everyday is a series of small steps that will get you to your goal.  “Have fun, and keep cooking!”

The show itself was definitely like the Academy Awards of specialty food.  However in this case the acceptance speeches are much shorter and thanks is given to key family members, employees and even the cows! People were truly gracious, touched and confirmed that their hard work has been recognized by industry leaders.

Here are links to some vendors and winners that caught my attention:

Sir Kensington’s Gourmet Scooping Ketchup – Awesome packaging, and a delicious  product!  They’ve also done a really great job with branding their product.  The website is so well designed and gives Sir Kensington a real personality!

The Brooklyn Salsa Company – Again, great package design, delicious and they’re from Brooklyn!!!  Bonus they use as much direct trade, local, and organic ingredients as possible.

Theo Chocolate – Ghost Chile Caramels was a Gold winner in the Confection category of the Sofi Awards.  They say the Ghost Chile is one of the hottest peppers in the world combined with silky caramel, sounds right up  my alley!

Ajiri Tea – Kenyan Black Tea – The word ajiri means “to employ” in Swahili, and that’s the goal of Ajiri Tea: to create employment for women in western Kenya.  They were also the Sofi Gold winner in the innovation in Packaging Design or Function category.

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company – This family won the Sofi Award and literally thanked the cows.  Gotta try this!

To see all the Sofi Gold Winner Click Here

One of my favorite parts of the show is the is the International ‘pavilions.’  Each country gets several devoted rows of booths to showcase their products.  It is clear that the Italians had the most robust set of showcases and most likely the first pioneers of getting their products to the United States.  I’d walk by and over-hear the Italian business transactions like the melody of an Italian love song.  That and anything to snatch another sample of cured meats and mozzarella cheese.  You know you’re in love with food when you can look at a hunk of cured meat and admire it’s beauty.

I had a really great time, and hopefully next year I will have more time to play around and visit more booths!  I’m sure I’ll be low on my free samples by then!

Isn't she beautiful!

Isn't she beautiful!

This was a great campaign for Principe Prosciutto, and I just love the pig.

Harry Potter made out of Jelly Belly Jelly Beans. Great branding for their Bertie Bott`s Brand.

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Curtain Opens on Eataly

For about a year now, I have been stalking the opening of Mario Batali and company’s Eataly.  A mecca for a little Italian girl living in Chelsea.  After writing a very thoughtful cover letter and sending my resume I received a call for an interview!  I diligently did my homework on all the Eataly’s across Italy and stepped into the wine cellar of Del Posto for my interview.  Armed with all the right answers the man who interviewed me was very interested in my background, but my majestic visions of this Italian wonderland deflated like a balloon after he called it a grocery store on more than one occasion and the best place he thought to put me was at a customer service desk.  The position I thought I was interviewing for was a sales job, and I figured I would be the cheese master, or the knowledge behind all olive oil or something like that.  Alas, they offered me a job at the pasta bar for $10 an hour.  I think at the time, what was holding be back the most was a complicated vision in my mind’s eye of what this place was going to be like.  And of course the $10 an hour and abandoning CitiField before the season was over.

As usual the universe has it’s way of intervening into my life’s decisions.  That very same day of my interview I was on the phone with one of my guests for the Brooklyn Cyclones and she mentioned the DDL Food Show a similar concept to Eatly, that crashed and burned in the 80s.  We talked about the major carbon foot print the store will have and not to mention some of the bad press Batli has received about underpaying his staff.  Personally from a marketing standpoint is there even a target audience for a place like this?  The price points will have a major impact on how well it does.  I can see it maybe doing well at lunch time in the cooler months when standing on line at the Shake Shack suddenly isn’t too appealing.  From a neighborhood standpoint a couple blocks away the new Trader Joes just opened and in the other direction there is Whole Foods.  And a lot of times for me, the little Garden of Eden is most convenient.       

Time will tell, and I will definitely follow-up next week when I visit the store first-hand.

Until then here is an article from Eater with some pictures.  The space looks nice and the thought of a vegetable butcher sounds fun!

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Spuntino con Mostarda di Cremona

Thanks to the very precise and credible regional cooking of Mario Batali I was able to find this recipe for a Spicy Mustard Fruit.  I made this a several years ago and wanted to resurrect it for Christmas this year.

This spicy fruit-based condiment is native to Cremona, Italy which is in the northern region just south of Milan.  What I love about this mixture is the clear definition of sweet and spicy.  Mustard is also a main flavor which is pretty much my favorite condiment.  Traditionally it is served with Italian meats such as Capocollo or Soppressata.  I however will dip just about anything in it!

Here’s the recipe

Makes 8 Servings

4 dried figs, stemmed and cut into quarters

1 unripe pear peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup of dried cherries, cranberries, golden raisins, and apricots (cut into bite-size pieces)

3 1/2 cups of dry white wine

2 1/2 cups of sugar

1/2 cup Colman’s Mustard Powder

1/4 cup mustard seeds

2 tablespoons of hot read pepper flakes

Directions

1.  In a medium saucepan, combine all the fruit and stir to mix.  Ad the wine and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Lower heat to simmer and let cook until the wine is reduced to about 1 cup.  Should take about 30 minutes or so.

2.  Remove from heat and stir in sugar, mustard powder, mustard seeds and red pepper flakes.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.

3.  Allow to cool and then cover for 24 hours.

4. EAT IT!

5.  Transfer to a jar and refrigerate up to 1 week.

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Cannolis Continued

Decisions decisions!  Luckily I was with 3 other people and we were able to conduct a Cannoli tasting!!  Not only comfort in the food but comfort knowing that a Napoletani (my people!) influence reins over the shop.  Cannolis originated in Sicily but have taken a lead over popular Italian desserts.  Artisan Cannolis started (as many things do) on a truck in Little Italy and with the drive and creativity of owners/entrepenaures a solid location and business flow has been established.

Cupcakes are soooo 5 years ago go for the Cannoli!!

Keep an eye out for their infused liquor line coming soon!

Recommend: Pumpkin Pie, Peanut Butter and Jelly, and Almond Joy Love!STUFFED Artisan Canolis 002STUFFED Artisan Canolis 003

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You’ve Got to be Kidding Me!!!

My little Italian food baby is already kicking!!  To be continued….Picture 6Picture 4

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A Pilgrimage to The Native Land

I spent a week in southwestern Italy visiting family and divulging in the fresh, homemade ingredients Italy is known for.  Seeing family was definintly a religous and emotion experience.  Eating the food was just as emotional!

Fresh, homemade pasta from our favorite hotel/restaurant, Albergo Miramonti.  A few years ago we got to watch as the owners mother handrolled out each indiviual noodle.

Fresh, homemade pasta from our favorite hotel/restaurant, Albergo Miramonti. A few years ago we got to watch as the owners mother handrolled out each indiviual noodle.

Homemade meats from Uncle Giacamo, most commonly known as soposatta

Homemade salami meats from Uncle Giacamo, most commonly known as Sopressata

Tomoatoes on the vine at Aunt Pina's summer home in Paestum

Tomoatoes on the vine at Aunt Pina's summer home in Paestum

Hot chile peppers in the garden

Hot chile peppers in the garden

Me and Aunt Pina toasting to some  homemade limonciello!

Me and Aunt Pina toasting to some homemade limoncello!

I had such a hard time finding good figs in the city this year.  Thankfully I got some fresh from the trees!

I had such a hard time finding good figs in the city this year. Thankfully I got some fresh from the trees!

Fig and Olive Trees

Fig and Olive Trees

Baba Rum cake, a Napoleatano classic where the cake is saturated in rum!

Baba Rum cake, a Napoleatano classic where the cake is saturated in rum!

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