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Archive for the ‘Buyer’s Guides’ Category

Pink Peppercorns and Bali Long Pepper

Pink peppercorns and Bali long pepper — two particularly striking alternatives to the standard peppercorn.

Peppercorn berries may have originated in India, but plenty of other places around the word have sought similar spice qualities in local plants that are now also called peppercorns. In Part 1 of our series on this “king of spices” we looked at the wide range of peppercorns available from the piper nigrum plant. In Part 2, we’ll take a closer look at five other well known types of peppercorns that are not to be confused with “true” peppercorn berries.

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Green, Black and White Peppercorns

Green, Tellicherry Black, and Muntok White Peppercorns

Experimenting with herbs and spices in everyday cooking can be very intimidating. When I first became a spice buyer, I myself was overwhelmed by the seemingly endless number of herb and spice varieties that are out there, and it wasn’t until I was preparing to teach my first spice class at Formaggio Kitchen that I truly delved into one of the spice world’s most basic yet versatile berries: the peppercorn.

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Italian Olive Oils

A selection of some of our Italian olive oils — left to right: Raineri Unfiltered, Salustri Olivastra, Madonna Antonia, Podere San Biagio, and La Bandiera

The other night, while having dinner with a friend, she said “I’m not buying Italian olive oil anymore because of all the fraud – I just can’t trust it.” and my head just about exploded.

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Syrups - Lyle's Golden Syrup, Steen's Molasses, Muddy Pond Sorghum and Steen's Cane Syrup

Walking into Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. Exotic products, tight corners and packed shelves can lead to missed goodies and overlooked treats. This holds true in the bakery, too. Right now, we have four different baking syrups and, at first glance, you might wonder why you would buy one over another? Curious myself, I did a bit of research and in this post, I share what I gleaned. I’m going to breakdown each syrup into its profile, process, and when to use it, so that you can decide with confidence about what to choose for your next baking venture. (more…)

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Selection of Butters at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge

Most of us love butter. It melts beautifully on a piece of toast, it gives wonderful flavor to both sweet and savory goods and provides a preferred mouthfeel to the likes of buttercream frosting. Here at the shop, we carry quite a variety of butters and sometimes folks ask us what distinguishes them from each other – a very fair question! (more…)

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Vecchia Dispensa Balsamic Vinegars

Vinegars from La Vecchia Dispensa

As I mentioned in my prior post, Balsamico Tradizionale offers the best chance to taste some of the purest expression of true balsamic vinegar. One of the reasons for this is the thoughtful regulations governing the production of Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena and Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia, which dictate a range of protections – from the grapes varieties that must be used, to the style of bottle.

Once you move beyond the world of Balsamico Tradizionale into the less controlled world of non-tradizionale balsamics, things get more complicated. Historically, the category of balsamic, balsamico or balsamic vinegar consisted of products with levels of quality all over the map. Some careful producers, employing traditional methods, produced balsamics with beautiful balance and depth of flavor. At the same time, large, industrial producers sold balsamics using inexpensive ingredients and time-saving technologies to maximize profits, capitalizing on the balsamic name. (more…)

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Battery of Barrels used to age balsamicThere are many forms of balsamic vinegar on supermarket shelves these days. The most industrial forms can be made anywhere with a variety of ingredients that may or may not contain concentrated grape must, wine vinegar, sugar and caramel coloring. For this reason, it is often difficult to grasp the differences between a $10 bottle of balsamic vinegar and a $40 bottle of balsamic or even a $150 bottle. (more…)

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