January 2011


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Just back from the San Francisco bay area, I had a chance to visit Market Hall Foods, a cluster of stores and one restaurant, Oliveto, in Oakland. This collection includes a bakery, cheese shop, coffee, dry goods (pantry items), fish monger, and butcher under one roof. We carry some of the same olive oils and dry goods, so you could say it was a bit of a scouting trip. It was definitely worth the side trip, but not a full substitution for my current craving: a return to Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

We selected cheeses and purchased Mugolio. Just this week Florence Fabricant wrote about Mugolio in the New York Times. (We carry it at Olio2go, but I hadn’t packed a bottle in my bag!) We purchased a bottle of this piney goodness for dessert. Drizzled over vanilla bean ice cream, it called out for a crunchy topping. Further experiments will determine whether toasted pine nuts or glazed walnuts will be superior. A novel, artisanal, gourmet goodie!

Lunch at Oliveto was the highlight of the trip. We shared four small plates plus fried Ceci beans (just how many calories do you think those have?) The squash with pesto was our favorite, followed closely by the Brussels Sprouts salad. Our third favorite was the Pinzimonio with fennel, celery, and radishes. Each was a close favorite followed more distantly by the Potato Arrabiata, which was missing a good bit of fire. With a basket of crispy brick oven bread, and a few generous pours of a zesty, green, and fresh extra virgin olive oil, this was the kind of meal that makes memories. While we don’t know what oil they used (likely a Californian), Frankies 457 Olio Nuovo has just the right characteristics for this meal.

We were among the last of the lunch time diners as we savored our meal and our coffees, with the conversation and analysis only two 50-year Italian cousins could share!

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Dario Cecchini's Perfect Seasoning SaltWe love our customers and this is a special shout out to Kevin who gave us the great idea to import Profumo del Chianti for our customers. This is a remarkable steak salt crafted by a master of Tuscan steaks. This salt comes with a story, just like so many of the artisanal products we carry.

Dario Cecchini has built a cadre of small businesses in Panzano, located on the Chianti road between Florence and Siena. The story begins with Antica Macelleria Cecchini (the famous butcher shop), and his steak journey continues with “Mac Dario” (for burgers!),  the upper-end Officina della Bistecca, and SoloCiccia (featuring unusual cuts of grass-fed beef).

Dario Cecchini is referred to as a Dante-quoting butcher in Panzano, Tuscany, and there have been several articles on Dario in the past few years. A treasure trove of videos can be found on YouTube, and a sampling of articles can be found through these links:

Gourmet Magazine (plan your trip now!)

Travel+Leisure

The New Yorker (a great story!)

FoodWoolf.com

Zester Daily

Italian Food Forever

Bytes of Italy

The Pink Peppercorn Blog

Concierge.com

And, if you’d like to read up on Dario Cecchini and practice your Italian, then you’d best visit his blog. Feeling adventurous? Try this Inside Tuscany Tour with Il Chiostro.

We are kicking off the new year with another taste of Olio Verde, the fabulous extra virgin olive oil from Castelvetrano, Sicily. By now, you’ve certainly heard of Olio Verde, and we hope that you’ve had the great opportunity to try Olio Verde Novello. Through the years, this early harvest olive oil has been a very strong seller, as it always heralds the beginning of the new olive oil season. Certainly many olive oil fans experienced their first lively taste in a holiday gift from Olio2go.

 

The team at the Gianfranco Becchina’s estate Tenuta Pignatellli in Sicily has spent the last few months adding to their web site with a terrific blog with articles on their olive oil production, and it includes appealing recipes, like this one for Pasta with Boiled Cauliflower (and Olio Verde Novello). This simple and easy recipe highlights the pure fresh flavors of cauliflower, olive oil, and pasta in a very appealing week-day recipe.

If you’re planning a trip to Sicily in the new year, we recommend that you make a visit to the Becchina estate. We hope you enjoy their blog and are fans of their stunning Nocellara del Belice monocultivar unfiltered olive oil.