Giorgio Franci (top), with Davide Borselli (bottom)

Giorgio Franci (top), with Davide Borselli (bottom)

At the end of June, we spent two days in New York searching through the aisles of the Javits Center looking for new discoveries and old friends — at the premier event in the specialty food industry.

It is always exciting to attend the Fancy Food Show — there are miles of aisles of specialty food products. Luckily for us, most of the Italian producers are grouped together. If you think about it, it is a bit of a dating game for food producers and buyers as we seek the right products for our customers.

For Olio2go, the highlights were time spent with Giorgio Franci and Davide Borselli.

Franci is the master producer of exceptional oils. To sit with him and enjoy a progressive tasting of oils from Fiore, though Villa Magra Grand Cru, is a noteworthy experience. The first oils are direct and flavorful with a clean finish. As the oils become increasingly fruity and complex, the finish extends and lingers.

The Franci 4-bottle Gift Set provides the upper end of this tasting experience with Olivastra Seggianese, Le Trebbiane, Villa Magra dei Franci, and Villa Magra Grand Cru. It’s the perfect way to conduct your own tasting event.

Also, in the Italy Pavillion, Davide Borselli of La Poderina Toscana represented his family’s Biologico (organic) Wine and Olive Oil. There one could taste the organic selections La Poderina Toscana Oro and Argento side by side, while sipping on his Organic Integrona IGT Toscana (white) and Marracone DOC (red) wines. This was a prelude to of our visit a few days later in Washington. (More on Davide’s visit to DC in an upcoming post).

For more information on the outstanding extra virgin olive oils from Frantoio Franci and La Poderina Toscana, see this post.

So, what discoveries did we make?

Be on the lookout for new pasta shapes and packaging, risotto kits, Nutella-like hazelnut spread (made with extra virgin olive oil, rather than mystery fats), Crispy Capers to add a snappy, nutty, savory finish to dishes, beautiful green dried myrtle leaves (think of them as a delicate bay leaf), and with a nod to molecular gastronomy, a new balsamic treat (more on that soon). It was also the first look at the holiday season and time to order Panettone, Panforte, and festive treats. Coming soon.

 

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It took us too many years to read Bill Buford’s Heat. We’re not huge fans of the Food Network shows, so reading about a chef, just because he’s on TV, isn’t quite to our liking. What incited this reading of Heat? The references to Dario Cecchini (of Macellaria Cecchini) and Italian culture. Dario is the famed Dante-quoting butcher of Tuscany — a larger-than-life character in the Chianti. You can visit him in Panzano, but read the book first!

On page 147, there’s this amusing look at the eaters in the food regions of Italy: “…a northerner was called a “polenta eater,” mangiapolenta, just as a Tuscan is a bean eater, and a Napoletano is a macaroni eater, the belief in Italy being not that you are what you eat but that you are the starch”.

On page 216, Dario Cecchini was introduced:  “So I told her about Dario Cecchini: He, I’d become convinced was the person I should work for.  He didn’t know me, and I had no idea if he’d take me on.”  Buford’s story then intertwines connections with Mario Batali, Mario’s father, Armandino, and “food writer Faith Willinger [who] had  discovered fennel pollen at Dario’s, the stuff she secreted in luggage and smuggled across the Atlantic…”

While Bill spends most of his time with Dario learning to cut meat, his take on Profumo del Chianti is revealed: “The next day we prepared salt. We took bags of it, mixed with dried herbs, and put it though a grinder to make a herbal concoction called Profumo del Chianti. The result was indeed aromatic and evocative of summer camp when I was eight, having been finely pulverized, was fluffy and snow-like. For the next six hours, five of us poured fluffy salt….Hadn’t machines been invented to do this sort of thing?”  (p.226).

Grab a copy of Heat and enjoy Bill Buford’s inside look … especially his time with Dario Cecchini. And, when you’re ready, go to olio2go.com for your own Profumo del Chianti.

Welcome to Osteria La Porta

Welcome to Osteria La Porta

 

Planning a trip to Tuscany? We’re thrilled to share this recommendation.

Following a late start and a long drive, we had the great fortune of enjoying lunch in Monticchiello di Pienza with Pamela Sheldon Johns at her good friend, Daria’s restaurant, Osteria La Porta. If Pamela’s name isn’t familiar to you (it should be!), we carry her fine cookbooks, such as Cucina Povera, and her olive oil, Pace da Poggio Etrusco.

Pamela and Carol, looking at Pamela's Cucina Povera

Pamela and Carol, looking at Pamela’s Cucina Povera


With Daria and Pamela Sheldon Johns

With Daria and Pamela Sheldon Johns


We arrived toward the end of the lunch service and were charmed by the hospitality and excellent food. My craving for pasta with truffles, though not on the menu, was promptly addressed. Other gems included perfect duck, and a pasta ravioli with pumpkin.

The restaurant was charming, the host welcoming, and the town was ever appealing with a view toward Pienza.

Certainly a day or two spent in the area of Pienza or Montepulciano, could only be enhanced by a visit to Osteria La Porta.

A view from the mezzanine

A view from the mezzanine


Lunch in Tuscany was followed by dinner in Bologna. Don’t miss that upcoming post.

We’re thrilled with today’s article in the Washington Post. Jane Black reveals the new Association 3E, Super Premium Olive Oil — and we have one at Olio2go. In fact, it’s selling quickly. It is Davide Borselli’s La Poderina Toscana.

You can read more about La Poderina Toscana and Association 3E in Olive Oil Tasting: An Italian in California.

For a Free Ranging discussion on olive oil, you may wish to read this. But we must warn you, we are not big fans of the fill-your-own stores. We believe in supporting the small olive farmer through sales of estate-bottled olive oil. Think about it, would you fill wine bottles from a tap at the store?

Official Blue Tasting Cups

Official Blue Tasting Cups

We recently traveled to California to take part in the Sensory Evaluation of Olive Oil Course presented by the UC Davis Olive Center and the California Olive Oil Council. Have no fear; we have not strayed from our mission to provide exclusively Italian extra virgin olive oil!

We appreciate the knowledge of the Californians and we were able to translate issues to our business. Throughout the day we tasted extraordinary to ordinary, and even some “aged” oils. Tastings were primarily oils from California, and they only shared the names of the oils that were defect free.

If there was any disappointment in the day, it’s that none of the dozens of samples were Italian olive oils. Yes, we tasted Ascolana and Leccino, but those were grown in California. It would have been great to compare a California-grown Ascolana to Azienda del Carmine’s award winning Ascolana from Marche.  In one segment we tasted California-grown Spanish Picual in early harvest and late harvest pressings. The key descriptor is that the early harvest tasted like a quality artisan oil, while the late harvest was reminiscent of grocery store offerings.

We spent time discussing nasal and retronasal aspects of olive oil. Sounds enchanting? With an element of surprise we were treated to the negative attributes found in fusty and rancid olive oils. Our session leader served a rancid Arbequina, and in the discussion that followed, we learned that she tried a 3-year-old Tuscan and found it too good to be useful for our aged sample. The bitter and pungent characteristics common to Tuscan oils are indicators of high polyphenol levels. Those same strong components hold off rancidity.

In an official tasting, there are a number of restrictions to ensure an unbiased evaluation. The tastings are conducted with blue glassware to eliminate the influence of color. There are scoring sheets designed to make fair evaluations, and the high and low score sheets are discarded. Panelists are isolated, and a minimum of 8 tasters must be present.

In our sessions, ten oils were tasted straight from cups, and then five of those oils were tasted with each of six foods (mozzarella, beans, cherry tomatoes, bread, field greens, and steak).

Our food matching plate

Our food matching plate

As we discussed industry trends, the focused moved to the future of olive oil tasting and evaluation. One bright spot is the development of Association 3E evaluating Super Premium Olive Oil in Florence. La Poderina Toscana is one of the top oils on that list. You can see La Poderina Toscana’s evaluation here.

Quality olive oil has made great strides in a relatively short period of time. The olive oils of the ancient Greeks and Romans would be far more like the oils we now identify as rancid. The characteristics of a premium olive oil (excellent quality olives, good pressing conditions, minimal introduction of oxygen, and controlled bottling, storage, and transportation) were all unknown or unachievable until relatively recent times.  While the ancients made a quality product, critical to their civilizations, they might not recognize today’s best oils.