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Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

Sorelle Nurzia Torrone

Sorelle Nurzia Torrone

Every year, it is with great anticipation that we order torrone, gianduja and panettone from Sorelle Nurzia, a small confectioner in Italy. These delicious goodies arrive in the shop brightly packaged, beautiful-looking and wonderfully festive – kicking off the holiday season here at the shop! (more…)

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Women's Shoes in Bra, Italy

Whenever I attend ‘Cheese,’ the biennial cheese festival in Bra, Italy – or the VinItaly wine festival in Verona – I always marvel at the ability of the Italian women to walk in high heels on ancient cobblestone streets.   (more…)

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Cocchi VermouthIn my house, no gathering with friends and food is complete without vermouth. On hot summer days, I love an Americano on ice to cool off and prepare my palate for cooking and eating. On chilly winter evenings at the end of a long meal, I love a darker style vermouth to settle a full stomach. Even as a wine lover, vermouths are some of my favorite drinks. Their complex, layered herbaceousness have just the right balance of bitter and sweet. Today, I wanted to talk about two of my favorite Italian vermouths: a classic dark vermouth from the House of Cocchi, one of the original Torino vermouth makers; and the other, a limited production white vermouth from chemist-turned-vermouth producer Mauro Vergano. (more…)

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VinItalyThis year, my trip to Italy’s most renowned wine show, VinItaly, took on a different emphasis and dynamic. In previous years, navigating thronged pavilions of growers and tasters and trailing fellow importers was at center stage. This time, while those goals remained important, the focus was on introducing Jessica, a talented and emerging wine buyer for the shop, to many of the people that stand behind the Italian wines on our shelves. (more…)

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Castelmagno

Last week, Ihsan shared with us a few memories from one of his early cheese sourcing trips – a 1993 trip to the Castelmagno region of Italy. In that post, he described one of his revelatory food experiences: Gnocchi al Castelmagno. Since that trip, he has been working on recreating the dish at home. Here is the current permutation of that recipe, one he says gets pretty close to that amazing, first taste! (more…)

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Santuario di San Magno in Castelmagno

Santuario di San Magno in Castelmagno

One of the most memorable trips my wife, Valerie, and I have taken in pursuit of new cheeses was in 1993. We traveled to Castelmagno, home to the famous Italian cheese of the same name. Located on the very northwest fringes of Italy, Castelmagno is a small commune or municipality, consisting of several hamlets. We were invited to visit the region by our friend and mentor, Matteo Ascheri. The hamlet we visited had only one albergo (inn) and a total population of 56. Eleven of those inhabitants made Castelmagno. (more…)

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Millésime BioThis year marks the twentieth anniversary of Millésime Bio which has arguably become France’s most compelling organic wine exposition. As in previous years, it once again convened in Languedoc’s Montpellier and I had the opportunity to experience the show for the fourth consecutive year. For me, it’s a pause from the retail side of wine buying – a chance to revisit the producer/supplier side of the job. As usual, it involved the intersection of cultural, linguistic, visual, and visceral stimuli that allowed me to hone and redefine my palate as a taster.  I discovered a few producers whose wines that I had never tasted, and gained further insight into some of the producers that we currently support. Below are some of the highlights that I hope will trickle into our selection soon! (more…)

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Lisbona Tomatis Cookies

We have been importing Lisbona Tomatis cookies from Italy for 15+ years. Many of our customers know them well – a sweet-savory-secret in our bakery section. However, we worry that tucked on the shelves as they are, new customers may be missing out on this delicious taste of Piedmont. As a result, we wanted to share a little about how we came to import these cookies and what makes them special. (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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