Entertain

Hang It High!

Looking over the week’s itinerary I realize there is a glaring gap – no time to spend in Deruta.  How can this be?  It takes a little creative juggling and we add in a morning at Geribi Studio without taking away from anything else. 

Bill has recently taken up yoga.  He really enjoys the peace and calm and the opportunity to escape and unwind. IMG_6072 He asks me to join him and I remind him that peace and calm aren’t really my thing.  Escaping and unwinding is difficult for me.  I’ve done yoga in the past but found myself constantly checking my watch, using the meditative time to freak out about things undone and worst of all falling asleep on the mat.  When it comes to escaping and unwinding – yoga for Bill and Gerardo’s studio for me.

This is where I can relax.  My hand is not steady, my eye is not creative – but I am not here for perfection I’m here to work with my hands.  To spend a couple of hours unwinding, escaping, living in the moment and watching a blank plate turn into my own creation.

IMG_6087Guests often panic when they sit down to paint.  The Ribigini family is so talented it is hard to imagine recreating anything close to what they do.  But of course this is a talent that comes from hours and hours, years and years of practice.

I’ve made the mistake before of looking at designs and thinking that they would be easy – but all the detail, the small thin lines – not as easy as they look.  Today I sit down confidently.  I have finally figured out the perfect balance of powdered color to water.  And that is a pretty major key to painting in Deruta.

I look at the graphite dotting the page and look at the hundreds of plates surrounding me and decide where I want to make my adjustments.  Of course I want to paint the peacock feather – but now I get to decide where I make straight lines and where I add scallops – where I add the pomegranate seeds or the round circles.  Sticking with the familiar but wanting to try something a little bit new.

When we first met Gerardo and Asunta 20 years ago we immediately fell in love with their designs.  IMG_6097The blues and yellows in their geometric designs and the beautiful green peacock feathers.  Over the years the designs have expanded – adding a beautiful lemon design with a dark blue background evolving into an array of fruits with backgrounds of  black and red and eventually lavender, burgundy and light blue.  When their daughter Claudia starting working in the studio she introduced a more modern twist – bold oranges and blues and soft pastels of pink and green and lavendar.  When I first saw the new colors – I was of a mind that these were not for me.  But my children fell in love with them immediately.  So a new color palate for a new generation.  Over the years the colors have grown on me.  And today I choose a pink for the first time.  Who says an old dog can’t learn a new trick?

IMG_6031And we spend the morning painting, laughing, scraping away mistakes easily with a small knife.  And we talk about what we are doing and how and where we are going to show case our pieces.  Most importantly we discuss what we will do if they aren’t perfect (a likely event).  And we leave Gerardo’s studio with our new life motto, “Hang it high or cover it with cheese.”

A Colorful Day at Geribi Studio Read more

Looking over the week’s itinerary I realize there is a glaring gap – no time to spend in Deruta.  How can this ...

Cherries have Blossomed

Cherry-Blossoms-Washington-DC-March-23-2012-01-1068x710

As a millennial born and raised in the wonderful state of New Jersey, I did not know all that much about the Cherry Blossoms in Washington, DC. Other than the fact there’s an annual festival to celebrate the beautiful trees that line the waterfront, there is a limited amount of common knowledge available about the Cherry Blossoms. From my perspective, to most of the nation, they just exist. However, when I moved to DC about six months ago, I told myself I would learn the quirky secrets behind this city. In this case, my research led me to the Cherry Blossoms; as per the scientific method I cataloged my thoughts and observations as I learned the history behind this breathtaking foliage.

Initial thoughts on the Cherry Blossoms:

“George Washington and the Cherry Tree” At the age of six, young George Washington received a hatchet as a gift. A little overzealous (as any six year old wielding a hatchet should be) George supposedly chopped down his father’s beloved Cherry Tree. When his father saw what he had done George admitted “I cannot tell a lie…I cut it with my hatchet.” Celebrating his honesty in lieu of punishing his wrongdoing, George’s father praised his son’s honesty was worth a thousand cherry trees. Clearly, it makes sense that a city named after our first president would host a festival dedicated to a tree he is legend for cutting down.

Question:

Why do we celebrate the Cherry Blossoms here in Washington DC?

BS bs-ae-cherry-blossom-fest-2013-p2

Hypothesis:

Beyond the George Washington tale, I have in fact been to the festival before and my impression it that this is a great family friendly fun experience and an amazing way to open up the city for a season of outdoor fun!

Research Shows:

In 1912 the mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, gifted the city 3,000 cherry trees to honor the close relationship the United States and Japan share. Even though the first 2,000 trees that arrived in 1910 were diseased, the two nations could not be deterred from outwardly expressing their appreciation for one another. These trees were such an important gift that First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda (the wife of the Japanese ambassador) planted the first two trees in West Potomac Park on the north bank of the tidal basin. Impressively, in 1981 the United States sent clippings from the trees to Japanese horticulturists who were desperate to replace some of the cherry blossoms, which were destroyed in a flood. Since the original festival celebrating the successful 1912 planting, these blossoms have been annually celebrated since 1934 (excluding a hiatus during WWII until 1947). Helium balloons, floats, parades over the course of four weekends is how DC currently celebrates the Cherry Blossom festival. Welcoming some 1.5 million people to the city from all over the country.

Parade-2

Afterthoughts and Commentary:

The National Cherry Blossom Festival draws attention to our national pride and to the positive relationships we as a nation formed across the world. These trees were a gift from Japan to us; still over a century later we give them the same respect as when they first arrived. To my disappointment, the festival has no foundation in the George Washington story. Turns out the Cherry Tree and the Cherry Blossoms were two separate plants. Regardless, this festival is a wonderful way to celebrate the beauty our change of season brings us. Get out, hit the streets, bring your mom, your kids, your grandma, the Cherry Blossom Festival is fun for the whole family!

P.S: We are celebrating this beautiful festival here at Via Umbria with a Cherry Jubilee Cocktail Class on Wednesday (3/23) and a series of themed Italian Dinner Parties (3/23-24-25). For more information and tickets please visit: http://viaumbria.com/events/

Spring had Sprung Read more

As a millennial born and raised in the wonderful state of New Jersey, I did not know all that much about the ...

All You Need to Know About St. Patrick’s Day

  • Why is it important?
    Saint Patrick’s Day, called as “Lá Fhéile Pádraig” in Irish, commemorates Saint Patrick as the leading saint who brought Christianity to Ireland during the fifth century and celebrates the Irish heritage and culture in general.
  • How is it related to Italy?patrick
    Historians believe that St. Patrick was born in Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton in Scotland, which was technically a territory of Britain at the time. According to historical documents, his parents – Calpurnius and Conchessa – were Italians living on a British estate. So here you go, a good enough reason for Italians to celebrate the day!
  • How do I celebrate St. Patrick’s Day like an Irish?
  1. Go Green: Pull out all the green stuff you have in your wardrobe and literally cover yourself with fifty shades of green from head to toe. Combining green with fashionable red and white stripes, buttons and pins are great, but make sure to keep the fun festive spirit! (Hint: Try painting shamrocks on the cheeks or go with a full-faced Irish flag of green, white and orange to really show your inner Irish soul.)
  2. Learn Some Irish Words: You might want to impress your friends with these really cool words and phrases:
    1. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day: Lá fhéile Pádraig sona duit (Law aye-la Par-ick sun-a dit)
    2. St. Paddy: This is a shortened way of saying “St. Patrick” (like calling someone named Michael, “Mike”)
    3. “What’s the craic?”: This phrase can be translated as “What’s up?” or “How’s it going?” and is often used in casual settings.
    4. Grand: This multi-purpose word in Hiberno-English can be interpreted as “fine” or “great” depending on the context. It is a perfect answer to reply when someone asks “How are you?”
  3. Feed Yourself with Traditional Irish Food: We are simply going to skip the “Traditional Irish Drinks” part, because we all know that beer and spirits are the greatest consumable goods to come out of Ireland. Yet, Ireland actually has an incredible selection of cuisine as well, which will make you fall in love with the Irish even more. We suggest you go with pink bacon accompanied by traditional Irish soda bread to “keep it real”. Corned beef and cabbage are more of an Irish-American tradition, but are still some of the yummiest options of the Irish diet.
  4. Enjoy the Day: There is no doubt that you’ll earn major points from the Irish once you go through our checklist and follow our suggestions. The last step is, of course, to have lots of fun! Check out our events at viaumbria.com/events and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day the way real Irish do!

For our St. Patrick’s Day themed events, please visit our website: http://viaumbria.com/events/

P.S: We will be having an all-day happy hour on St. Patrick’s Day: half price beer, wine and cocktails in addition to a special Irish inspired beer! See you then!

(And How to Celebrate It!) Read more

Why is it important? Saint Patrick’s Day, called as “Lá Fhéile Pádraig” in Irish, commemorates Saint Patrick as the leading saint who ...

From Disguise to Festivals


venice-carnival_of_venice-venetian_maskWe often associate carnivals with masks. In fact it is impossible to separate those fancy masks from the Carnevale or Mardi Gras celebrations today. But when and how did this tradition even begin?

The earliest of these masquerade festivals is known to be Carneval di Venezia, which dates back to 13th century. It is believed that the tradition of wearing the mask started as a tool to conceal their identity when Venetians would hold celebrations before Lent started. These celebrations were the only times when the upper and lower classes would socialize together. Hidden behind their masks, both aristocrats and peasants would engage in illegal activities such as gambling or underground affairs (as well as partying and dancing!). After all, the city was relatively small and not everyone wanted to share their personal life with others… The Venetian masks therefore at first symbolized freedom and class equality, allowing all citizens to indulge in behaviors that were otherwise seen as inappropriate. 

As Venetians started wearing the masks in their daily lives besides the celebrations, illicit activities started to become very popular and sexual promiscuity bcarnival8ecame publicly acceptable. Eventually, the Republic limited the wearing of masks to only certain months of the year, which included the Carnevale period. The tradition quickly spread out across the world and today masks have become iconic symbols of festivals. Whether you’re celebrating Mardi Gras, Carneval di Venezia or Brazilian Carnival, you will be surrounded by glamorous masks full of long feathers, elegant hats and lavish patterns.

Now that you learned all about the history of carnival masks, grab one for yourself and celebrate this exciting festival with us at Via Umbria!

For more information on our carnival events, please visit viaumbria.com/events

How masks became iconic carnevale props Read more

We often associate carnivals with masks. In fact it is impossible to separate those fancy masks from the Carnevale or Mardi Gras ...

Your Essential Food Guide to Mardi Gras

new-orleans-beignetsAround the world, thousands flood the streets of major cities to celebrate Carnival. Here in the United States this festival is celebrated in New Orleans, Louisiana. Similar to Carnevale di Venezia, Carnival in the Big Easy is host to parades all month long leading up to Mardi Gras and the closer it gets the crazier it gets. Some dress in full costume where some barely dress at all. Bourbon Street is lined in swaths of glimmering green, gold, and purple. With faces covered in extravagant masks, beads constantly flying through the air and feather boas flowing across the crowd Carnival is a unique cultural experience not to be missed. little-jewel-best-po-boy-los-angeles-anne-fishbeinCentral to any cultural experience is the food. If you don’t eat what the locals eat, have you actually been there? Famous for it’s Cajun and Creole Cuisine, New Orleans is the perfect place for a crazy party like Carnival. This festival gives the local eateries a crowd to showcase their traditional dishes. From Crawfish to Beignets, New Orleans Carnival food is quick and easy. Stop into any restaurant in the French Quarter and you’ll easily find great places to eat. Some standard fare include crawfish and other shellfish which are commonly boiled and served with corn and potatoes. Another easy meal is the Po’boy: a submarine sandwich on french bread filled with fried seafood such as shrimp or catfish topped with lettuce, tomato and a remoulade. Pat O' Briens HurricaneTo pair with these foods, you’ve got to have Hurricanes the classic New Orleans cocktail made with Rum, fruit juice and grenadine. If a sweet drink isn’t your preference you can always find a Sazerac (cognac based cocktail) in NOLA. It just wouldn’t be Carnival without a Hurricane or a Sazerac. And for dessert: Beignets. New Orleans is famous for this French version of the Italian zeppole, a beignet is a sweet fried dough ball topped with powdered sugar. Another important dessert in NOLA during this festival is the King Cake. Made specifically for the Mardi Gras celebration, the King Cake is a pastry filled with raisins, cinnamon, and pecans. In true New Orleans style, an additional ingredient fills this holiday treat: a trinket, originally a porcelain baby that represented Jesus, that promises luck to the finder. The person who does find the trinket is in charge of next year’s king cake and hosting the Mardi Gras party. Celebrate, reinvent old traditions, forge new ones, it’s Carnival!

For Information about our Carnevale Events visit: viaumbria.com/events

From King Cake to Hurricanes... Read more

Around the world, thousands flood the streets of major cities to celebrate Carnival. Here in the United States this festival is ...

Via Umbria’s Very Older Brother

It is difficult to overstate just how well regarded the name Roscioli is in Rome and throughout Italy.  A complex of food businesses (described by Anthony Bourdain as “an empire”), Roscioli is a family affair built over 4 generations that started with a renowned bakery, and now includes a wildly popular salumeria, ristorante, caffe/pasticceria and more recently the Rimessa and wine club.  Roscioli built its reputation on unrivaled quality and the breadth of their offerings.  They have been recognized through features in the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveller and even garnered a visit by Anthony Bourdain on his show No Reservations.

 

For the past several years they have sought to meet the customer where he is through a program of curated tastings they call Rimessa Roscioli.  Sommelier Alessandro Pepe and a team of top rated food and wine experts lead small groups on food and wine tastings in a relaxed, casual setting that they describe as “an educational and convivial lab.”  We think it describes perfectly Via Umbria.
Roscioli-blog-2
Rimessa Roscioli tasting dinner on left; Via Umbria Laboratorio on right.
When we first met the acquaintance of Alessandro and his partner, American born ex-pat Lindsay Gabbard, we were immediately struck by just how similar our passions were.  They, like us, love food and wine because they can create connections between strangers.  And they strongly believe that food and particularly wine, can and should be “democratic.”  Although an expert sommelier, Alessandro scoffs at wine tastings where the conversation focuses on arcane trivia such as malolactic fermentation.  Enjoying wine and getting in touch with your own tastes and sharing that with others is the what sommelier should strive to teach and it is precisely what Alessandro and Lindsay have been doing for the past decade.

 

Rimessa Roscioli is taking their show on the road and coming to Washington, DC and for one night Via Umbria is honored to be hosting them, preparing a special evening of food and wine tasting in the company of these fascinating and engaging people.  Limited seating is available on Wednesday, March 8 at 7pm for an evening that promises to be unforgettable – a small group tasting around a communal table featuring eight hand selected wines paired with a dozen small tastes, including a pasta dish and a dessert and lots of conversation and enjoyment.  This is a rare one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience and savor true, authentic flavors imported directly from Italy by one of Rome’s most respected sommeliers.  Tickets, which are non-refundable must be purchased in advance and can be bought online or at Via Umbria.

Located in Rome Read more

It is difficult to overstate just how well regarded the name Roscioli is in Rome and throughout Italy.  A complex of food businesses (described ...

In Love with British Cheese

You guys. I have a serious relationship with British cheeses. This will come as no shock to those of you who have either read my blog posts or visited my counter – I’ve made my love known far and wide. Growing up with an English mother whose parents had a farm in the Yorkshire Dales, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where the roots of this relationship formed. Couple that with Via Umbria’s partnership with famed British cheese shop/affineur/exporter, Neal’s Yard Dairy – a partnership that has given me and my lovely customers access to the best that Britain has to offer – and my love of these curds from the UK has damn near become an obsession.

A very large portion of this love is dedicated to the one cheese that opened my eyes to the wonders of blue mold – Stilton. Creamy yet crumbly, powerful yet approachable, good on its own or incorporated into recipes, this beautiful blue cheese was my gateway blue. And no time of year makes me crave it more than holiday time.

Growing up, my family and I would celebrate Christmas with my English grandparents. My sisters and I looked forward to it for months – an hours-long feast that included caviar canapes, duck à l’orange or roasted pheasant, my granny’s famous roasted potatoes, and Christmas pudding served with copious amounts of rum butter. The meal was so lengthy and full of so many delicious things, that we’d have to play games between courses in order to make room for the next culinary delight. As with many a British Christmas, however, no Christmas meal was complete without a very large hunk of Stilton served with port. It was heaven.

stilton3

So what is Stilton? Named for the town of Stilton, this quintessentially British cheese can trace its roots all the way back to the 18th century, although research shows that it was a very different product then than it is now. The first descriptions of Stilton cheese describe it as more of a cream cheese with no blue veining whatsoever. Over time, however, it evolved into the classic blue beauty that we know and love today.

Now a protected food, there are restrictions on cheeses that bear the Stilton name – it must be produced in one of three counties (either Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, or Leicestershire), be made with local pasteurized milk, have a naturally rinded cylindrical shape, not be pressed, and of course, have blue veins. Even if a wheel meets all of these requirements, however, it still may not make the cut. Every wheel must be graded and pass a quality test before being dubbed “Stilton”. If a wheel doesn’t pass muster, it must be sold simply as “blue cheese”.

Even though about a million wheels of Stilton are made every year, there are only six dairies that are licensed to make this classic blue. At Via Umbria, our Stiltons are made by Colston Bassett Dairy in Nottinghamshire, and hand selected by our friends at Neal’s Yard Dairy. Founded in 1913, Colston Bassett has been making Stilton for over 100 years, and has only had 4 different cheesemakers during that period. As Jason Hinds, Sales Director at Neal’s Yard Dairy, puts it, “With only four cheesemakers in the last one hundred years, Colston Bassett has maintained a tradition and quality of cheesemaking that is unparalleled in the Stilton world. It is the only Stilton that Neal’s Yard Dairy has carried for the last thirty three years.” And if it’s good enough for Jason Hinds, you better believe that you have a seriously good cheese on your hands.

All of this to say: Colston Bassett Stilton is Via Umbria’s December cheese of the month! Come and join us next Wednesday at 7:30pm for our December Cheese Party, and jump into the holiday season by tasting this fantastic piece of British tradition.

 

Alice Bergen Phillips
Alice Bergen Phillips

Discover Their Roots Read more

You guys. I have a serious relationship with British cheeses. This will come as no shock to those of you who have ...

A Turkey to Be Thankful For

The turkey is a noble bird, or so thought Benjamin Franklin when he argued that it, not the warlike, predatory eagle, should be America’s national bird. He had a strong case, the turkey being a species native to North America, ranging in the wild from Mexico through the eastern United States and into Canada. And although Franklin didn’t succeed in putting the nearly flightless gobbler on the Great Seal, the turkey has become essential to American culture and cuisine–arguably the only required part of our annual Thanksgiving Day feasts.

Turkey is, however, one of the most misunderstood meats in our diet. During the rest of the year, we eat almost exclusively the white meat in deli sandwiches. The rest is discarded or ground for burgers and the like–pretending to be the cheap, lean option. But then, once a year in November, there is a massive demand for the birds whole. The sheer quantity of turkeys in demand means that most of them come from “farms” that resemble factories more than a traditional farm. And the birds themselves are a breed more or less developed in a lab so that the breast meat is larger than natural. When cooked, these turkeys are bland and tend to dry out easily.

This is what I had to take into consideration when I decided to sell turkeys this year. With our commitment to tradition, quality, and locality, I wanted to make sure that our turkeys were something to be proud of. So I drove an hour away from the District into beautiful upper Loudoun County, Virginia where the rolling hills start to reach towards the sky in the Appalachian Mountains and breweries and wineries hide around every corner. I met with a local family farmer, whose farm, Fields of Athenry, began to raise wholesome animals to ensure that their children ate well. Heading up the driveway, I was almost immediately greeted by a loud chorus of gobbles from a pen near the entrance. There they were, in the daylight, turkeys running around in the grass with no cage in sight. As the farmer, Elaine, showed me around, she pointed at specific birds and mentioned what breeds they were. A Narragansett here, a Blue there. It was impressive watching this flock wander around the field together, with the occasional few flying over the fence and then, birds that they are, unable to figure out how to get back in and rejoin their friends.

Free Range Turkeys

I learned that the farm actually operates across three properties in Loudoun County and just over the river in Maryland. In addition to the turkeys, the family raises cows, pigs, chickens, geese, ducks, and make their own deli meats and bacon–all with the same standards of care they show for the turkeys. I’m really excited to work with these guys. But for now, for Thanksgiving, we’re going to have some of the best turkeys available. We have pre-ordering available now through November 16 online or in the store, and can get you a bird as close to the size you want it. I can spatchcock them for you, if you’re feeling adventurous and ready to grill, and Chef Johanna is preparing an awesome cider brine, if you so desire. Plus, we’re cooking up some awesome sides and appetizers to pair with them. Long story short: order a turkey! I promise it’ll be one more thing you’ll be giving thanks for this year.

Scott Weiss
Scott Weiss

Our local turkeys are something to be proud of Read more

The turkey is a noble bird, or so thought Benjamin Franklin when he argued that it, not the warlike, predatory eagle, should ...

A Labor(atorio) of Love

In a country that is renowned for its warmth, charm and grace, Umbrians, with their authenticity, approachableness and their connectedness to each other, their land, and their culture stand out. For me, there is no place in which this authenticity stands out more than around the dinner table. When I think back on the many (many) meals that I have enjoyed in Umbria, each one is colored with the rosy glow of being surrounded by strangers turned friends and friends turned family, all sharing stories, wine, and food and all living in the moment. The food is simple yet exquisite, the company is fascinating yet unassuming, and the conversation is energetic yet relaxed; every day brings a new experience and every night is a celebration. A visit to Umbria is truly an opportunity to experience authenticity in all aspects of what it means to be Italian.

Murder Mystery Dinner

This is the feeling that drives much of what we do at Via Umbria. We have created a space for friends and neighbors to meet, to eat, and to relax. A place to showcase the work of the amazing artisans of Italy, from ceramicists to winemakers, and to introduce their products and their stories to a new community. Above all, however, we are determined to recreate the feeling of sitting around a dinner table in Umbria- sharing food, telling stories, and creating memories- and from this the Laboratorio was born.

From the communal style seating to the open kitchen format, every aspect of the Laboratorio was designed with the Umbrian experience in mind. The space was created to be open, to be flexible, and to be interactive; in short it is our Laboratory, our space to explore and to create. For those of you who have yet to join us for dinner imagine it like this: take one part dinner party, add in one part of your favorite cooking show, one part wine tasting, and combine those together with a beautiful setting and an engaged group of friends and neighbors sharing a unique and unforgettable experience and you may start to get a sense of what I’m talking about.

Making Pizza

But as with all things, the best way to truly understand is to see it for yourself. Join us for dinner Thursday – Saturday night, or for brunch on Sunday for an unforgettable feast in our demonstration kitchen. Enjoy a Thursday night Demo and Dinner and let Chef Johanna Hellrigl teach you her favorite recipes from all over Italy before retiring to the communal table to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Visit us on a Friday night for a CYOB Dinner and let us teach you about a selection of wines from our unique cellar during a guided tasting before choosing your favorite bottle (or bottles) to accompany your meal. For the wine lovers, I encourage you to join us on a Saturday night for a Wine and Dine dinner where each of four courses is paired with a unique wine chosen and discussed by our experienced wine staff. And for those of you who crave relaxation at the end of your week, we welcome you to our Sunday Bottomless Bellini Brunch. No matter the format, no matter the day, a meal spent around our table will be one to remember.

Designed with an Umbrian experience in mind Read more

In a country that is renowned for its warmth, charm and grace, Umbrians, with their authenticity, approachableness and their connectedness to each ...

Braising the Steaks

Well, folks, it’s getting to be that time of year again–that time of year when it’s almost too cold to go outside and grill and we start craving foods that combat those cold temperatures. While this doesn’t mean that we have to say goodbye to our nice steaks (there are many ways to cook them inside in the kitchen) it does mean that the season of soups and stews, of braising and roasting is coming. As a butcher, this is an exciting shift. We’re moving from the cuts of meat that are well-known and easy to recognize, to the cuts that are not as familiar, often overlooked, but are packed with more flavor. The problem with many of these cuts is that they are typically tougher pieces of meat and require special methods of cooking to prepare. One of these methods is one of my all-time favorite ways to cook: braising.

Braising is, in simplest form, is slow-cooking in liquid. It is a method that is nearly universal in practice; ranging from a variety traditional dishes in northern China, to a Jewish brisket, certain preparations of Mexican carnitas, and ossobuco–Italy’s famous preparation of a crosscut veal shank. The common denominator between all of these different recipes is that they are all pieces of meat that have substantial amounts of fat and connective tissue. It takes time to break that stuff down, rendering the meat edible. But by the end of the process the meat is tender enough to be eaten without a knife, and having both absorbed and contributed to the flavor of the gravy that remains of the cooking liquid.

As with any cooking method that results in such “simple” foods, there are some very important steps to braising that, when left out or minimized can prevent your cooking from reaching its full potential. The most important, in my opinion, are:

  1. Sear the meat. This is definitely one of the most misunderstood steps of the braising process. Most recipes will all on you to brown your meat before you begin to cook it but nearly always the neglect to specify why. Contrary to popular belief this step isn’t done to to capture moisture, but rather to deepen the flavor of the dish as a whole. By altering the chemical nature of the outer layer of meat (a process referred to as the Maillard reaction) you are adding a carmel/roast-y flavor to the meat that goes miles in improving your dish.
  2. After searing the meat, recipes often call for the sautéing of vegetables and spices. It is very important that you do this in the order that the recipe calls for. For example, if you were to add onions and garlic at once, in the time it takes to sauté an onion to desired softness, any flavor that the garlic would have added has been lost. Make sure to add your aromatics and spices later in the process.
  3. Choose your liquid wisely! Any liquid can be used, but the most common are wine, beer and stock. Any will work, just make sure you use something that will complement your spices and the meat that you’re using.
  4. Skim the fat! While not the most crucial, this prevents your dish from being overly greasy when finished. This especially matters for fattier meats, such as the short rib.
  5. Patience! Braising is a method of low and slow cooking and it takes time. Don’t rush it.
  6. Don’t worry about it! Braising can, and probably should, be made a day in advance. That extra time, with all the ingredients sitting together let flavors to continue to blend. That’s also what makes it great for entertaining. Make it the day before and all you have to do when your guests arrive is warm it up.

When done properly, braising yields some of the most succulent, delicious meat possible without an overwhelming amount of effort. Don’t just take my word for it though- stop by the counter to pick up your favorite cut and see for yourself.

Scott Weiss
Scott Weiss

A guideline to braising and roasting your meat Read more

Well, folks, it’s getting to be that time of year again–that time of year when it’s almost too cold to go outside ...