Food & Drink

There’s a New Chef in Town

It was an epic beginning to an epic battle. A battle for the ages. Chifari contra Gilocchi. And it all began in a little agriturismo in a little farming village called Cannara on April 3, 2012. Continue reading There’s a New Chef in Town

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It was an epic beginning to an epic battle. A battle for the ages. Chifari contra Gilocchi. And it all began in ...

One Cough Good, Two Coughs Better, Three Coughs Best

Bill, Austin and I spent the day at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley for a full day course titled, “Olive Oil Flavor and Quality.” What a spectacular day. I haven’t been in a classroom for years and wasn’t sure how I was going to hold up for a nine hour class. Let’s just say there was no time to nod off. I am a huge olive oil consumer and advocate. I have access to some of the best olive oils and I use it in everything – baking, sautéing , frying and topping off my favorite dishes. At any given time I will have 10-12 bottles of olive oil open at the house – but not to worry there is no chance they will get overexposed or go rancid – a five liter tin doesn’t last long in our house.

The panels and presenters covered a wide range of topics focusing on ensuring that olive oils are labeled properly. Olive oils from all around the world are still being mislabeled and inferior oils are being sold at exorbitant prices. In all things, keep in mind you get what you pay for. A bottle of olive oil is no bargain if it is a blend of other oils or has old oil mixed with new oil.

Olive oil does not age well. It is meant to be young and fresh – and you should be able to taste the freshness in every bite. But how best to taste olive oil? We sampled 20 different varieties today and it was definitely sipped, let sit on the tongue and then slurped back. It gives you the ability to feel the taste in your mouth and then open it up and feel it in the back of your throat. A good fresh oil will leave a peppery taste in the back of your throat. There was a lot of happy coughing in the room today.

Bill, Austin and I spent the day at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley for a full day course titled, ...

Olive U.

Is it possible to drink 18 cups of olive oil in one day?

We set out to find out today, arriving at the St. Helena (Napa Valley) campus of the Culinary Institute of America, known to foodies as the CIA.  Not that CIA.  Although we were told that the culinary version predates the spy version by a few years and rightly claims the acronym.  We were told, too, of the similarities between the two organizations.  They both use knives and they both keep secrets.  At lest when Dick Cheney is not outing them.  (We have it on good word that Scooter Libby leaked the recipe to McDonald’s secret sauce to the press.  Talk about a weapon of mass destruction!).

We arrived early in the morning at the CIA’s Greystone Lodge, an enormous stone building that was obviously something big and important before becoming the west coast center of the American cooking scene.   Something important like an insane asylum.

After being seated in the amphitheater-like lecture room together with a hundred other devotees of nature’s loveliest, most sublime, healthy liquid fat – olive oil, and specifically extravirgin olive oil – each participant being provided a cafeteria tray covered with a paper placemat with numbered silhouette circles over which were placed plastic jello cups filled with a couple tablespoons of various olive oils, and realizing that these samples were for tasting, perhaps the insane asylum metaphor was appropriate.  (Apologies for the run-on sentence.  An hour after the class I’m suffering slight olive oil withdrawal symptoms).  For an entire day, from 9am until 6:30pm we heard from experts in the field – producers who literally came from the field, chefs, writers and journalists, distributors, retailers and wholesalers about the state of the world of extravirgin olive oil.  And it is a story full of complexity, intrigue and, ultimately, incredible taste and potential.

The message from the day?  It would be hard to single out one thing.  But it is clear that the American market is in its infancy with regard to its understanding, appreciation and use of extravirgin olive oil.  But we need not fret our inferiority.  Even in Italy and Spain, the world’s largest producers and consumers of olive oil, misinformation and ignorance are widespread, too.  But it was refreshing to see professionals and passionate amateurs come together to grapple with how to make extravirgin olive oil assume its rightful place in our kitchens, on our plates and in our hearts.

More on the specifics later.  If you’ll excuse me now, I have to go drink a pint of balsamic to complete me.

Ci vediamo!

Bill and Suzy

Is it possible to drink 18 cups of olive oil in one day? We set out to find out today, arriving at the ...

Open Up Your Golden Gate

It’s time to buckle your seatbelt.  The ride is about to begin again.  Food, wine, adventure!  Time to blow off that New Year’s resolution of diet and exercise.  After all it’s been over a week.

Christmas is over and now it’s time to exchange the big presents.  We’re going to dine and discover, entertain and explore.  There will be familiar characters – Simone from Bevagna and Pete and Nancy from California – and new friends made along the way.

It’s time for more of Bill and Suzy’s excellent adventures.

But despite the Italocentric theme, this month’s adventures will be decidedly closer to home.  For we are welcoming chef Simone back to America for two weeks of private in-home dinners, in our nation’s capital and in the capital of American foodie-ism, San Francisco and the Napa Valley.

So strap on your seat belt and join us on our ride.  Just be prepared to ask for the extender.

It’s time to buckle your seatbelt.  The ride is about to begin again.  Food, wine, adventure!  Time to blow off that New ...