Shortly before Christmas, a display went up in front of our wine section: stacks and stacks of beautiful boxes of egg pasta. Brand new to the shop, the pasta was made by Marco Giacosa in Alba, a town in the northwest of Italy.
Since 1780, the Romanengo family has been dispensing handmade candies from this beautiful shop with its marble walls, glass shelves and rich wooden cases. Crystal receptacles are filled with confetti-colored candied fennel seeds, threads of sugar coated cinnamon, sweet fruit fondants, chewy rosewater marshmallows and tiny pastiglie.
Every year, we eagerly anticipate the arrival of panettone from Pasticceria Perbellini. And, every year, we order as much as we can, filling the shop to the brim! Piled high on our shelves, chock-a-block with torrone and candied fruits, staff members are thrilled to see these delicious Italian breads again.
Prosciutto di Parma is a DOP product – this means that in order to receive that name, the prosciutto must come from a specified geographic area (in this case, Parma) and must be made in accordance with certain parameters.
On a recent trip to Italy, I had the opportunity to visit a co-op that makes Parmigiano Reggiano. It was a first for me – I have witnessed the cheesemaking process before and have even tried my hand at making chèvre but I have never before observed the making of a hard, aged cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano. A small group of farmers in the area bring milk to the co-operative each week and, starting at 5am every day, that milk begins a process that transforms it into a cheese so many of us know and love. Parmigiano Reggiano is a DOP product. In Italian, DOP stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta (Protected Designation of Origin).
Never before in the Boston (or Massachusetts!) market are these two artisan wines made from Friuli’s star varietal: Ribolla Gialla. You may have picked up a bottle or two of I Clivi’s other wines in the past – Galea or Brazan – their white Burgundy-like cru bottlings of Tocai Friulano from heirloom vines in Colli Orientali and Collio.
Every two years, the biggest festival in the cheese world happens in Bra, Italy. The event is known simply as “Cheese.” Cheesemakers, cheesemongers, journalists, food lovers and folks lucky enough to live close by, descend on the small town of Bra to sample, sell and eat literally tons of cheese.
Lombardy is a part of Italy that is home to many well-known cheeses: Taleggio, Mascarpone, Provolone, Grana Padano and Gorgonzola. What is interesting to me is that such a wide variety of styles are represented – be it washed-rind, blue, cooked or fresh. Perhaps this is the result of the fact that cheesemaking has a long history in the region. Indeed, Gorgonzola is one of the oldest blue cheeses in the world.
If you are familiar with our wine philosophy, you will know how important natural, traditional farming is to us. In general, we have found that those winemakers who have a closer relationship to their land translate their terroir most authentically. Giovanna and Stefano are pioneers in their growing community, not only for their organic farming but also their commitment to tradition in both the vineyard and wine cellar.
After an exhilarating five days of intensive tasting in and just outside of Verona at VinItaly, VinNatur, and Vino Vino Vino, my palate has been reinvigorated and my “wine speak” in Italian has once again been thoroughly challenged and expanded.
Sometimes it’s just handy to have a good dried pasta in the larder for spontaneous pasta-making. Fresh pasta (pasta fresco) and dried pasta (pasta secca) are really two different beasts. Since working at Formaggio Kitchen, I have become a devotee of a dried pasta made by Poschiavo (and I know several other colleagues who have too).
We had the opportunity to try two French fondues. They were both delicious but the one Claude, the Chef du Cave at Marcel Petite, made for us was hands down the best fondue I have ever had.