By Richard Thompson
“We were cleaning our aprons when he just comes in to have coffee. We were planning the dinner and he just walks in. Really, it was like he floated in,” recalls Lidia Bastianich, award-winning chef of Felidia and meal curator for the Pope.
Bastianich gets giddy and, in her sweet Italian accent, recounts the time that the People’s Pope walked into her kitchen and took a coffee break with her and her staff. “He talked to us about family – in Italian of course – for nearly 15 minutes. It was extraordinary, but beautiful because he addressed each one of us and asked us to pray for him.” she says.
For Bastianich, who is a devout Catholic, the pope’s surprise visit to her kitchen resonated on a personal and professional level. “He makes people feel important in his life. From somebody of his magnitude…it’s big,” Bastianich says.
For anyone wondering if the Pope likes cream or sugar in his coffee, he doesn’t. “For me, cooking for the Pope is special because…I am proud to give back through what is most dear to me on this Earth: food and my family,” she says.
Bastianich worked alongside Angelo Vivolo and a team of executive chefs that included Bastianich’s children to carefully curate a meal plan that would embody a homeliness for the spiritual leader. “For me, food – comfort food – is home, and I wanted [the pope] to feel welcome and feel like he was right at home,” says Bastianich.
Initially aiming to create a series of dishes reminiscent of Pope Francis’s background, Bastianich instead moved to lighter fare such as squash and other vegetables, rice and fresh fish to accommodate his diet better. “I wanted him to feel like he was in his mother’s kitchen. We were going to show off American beef – a whole rack – for Argentinian beef meals, but we were told he wanted to eat light, so I cooked more seasonal fare like rice dishes… He loves risotto with some olive oil, lemon and parsley,” she says.
The first meal that would grace the pope’s plate was Caprese di Astice e Burrata (Heirloom tomatoes, house-made Burrata and steamed Maine lobster) followed by Brodo di Cappone con Anolini (Capon soup with Grana Padano raviolini) and veal medallions ‘Boscaiola’, porcini, corn and fresh tomato – known as Medaglioni di Vitello alla Boscaiola. For dessert, Sobetto di Uva Fragola con Torta degli Angeli – Concord grape sorbetto with angel food cake.
While the pope follows a very specific diet, Bastianich’s capon soup was such a hit with His Holiness that he had leftovers the next day. “It was really done from the heart…I made a big pot of capon soup and fed it to him twice. One day with lots of vegetables and one day with lots of rice,” says Bastianich.
Each morning started at 6:45 am with the pope coming down for a breakfast that consisted of a medley of frittatas, all kinds of yogurts, honeys and cereals and fruits of every type, recalls Bastianich, “He was rather simple on the breakfasts he liked and was very undemanding of everything, but he loved his coffee.”
The pope never did business at the table – maybe with the exception of light scheduling – and didn’t stray from his routine of mangoes and pineapple, Melba toast and some jam, despite the abundance of jams, baked goods, crepes and freshly squeezed juices that were available. “Saturday was the last breakfast…and he greeted everyone’s family before eating,” Bastianich says. “It was very moving.”
Bastianich relied on her own personal garden to provide many of the ingredients in the vegetable-inspired lunch that was prepared for Pope Francis. Insalata Cotta e Cruda con la Nostra Ricotta, cooked and raw vegetable salad with Felidia’s ricotta, comprised a veritable cornucopia of Bastianich’s private vegetable reserve. “Whatever I had in my garden is what I made with…beautiful squash, string beans, beets, sage, basil, parsley, tomatoes….” she says, “We wanted the pope to feel the love of home.”
Next came the Risotto con Porcini e Tartufi (Risotto with porcini, summer truffles and Grana Padano Riserva) followed by Pere ed uva al forno con Gelato alla Vaniglia, roasted pears and grapes with vanilla gelato, for dessert.
For dinner, Bastianich focused the four-course meal of fresh striped bass, tuna and vegetables. The Tutto Tonno is tuna tartare made with a semi carpaccio preserve and tonnato sauce that was followed by the Cacio e Pere, pear and pecorino filled ravioli, aged pecorino and crushed black pepper. The main dish of the evening was Bastianich’s signature Felidia dish, Spigola Striata al forno con Olio d’oliva e Limone, which is whole roasted striped bass, late summer vegetables, extra virgin olive oil and lemon. The dessert was a specially made apple crostata with local honey ice cream. “I think the focus is on the ingredients – the goodness of the ingredients. When making traditional Italian, stick to traditional Italian products. I always say, ‘Follow the recipe…don’t be dominated by it,’” says Bastianich.
Bastianich tempers any pride in who she serves with the humility that the Holy Father carries with him to the masses. “Food is not a luxury,” she says with the inflection of an Italian matriarch, when asked why cooking for Pope Francis meant so much to her. “Food nourishes us all in about the same way.”
Amen to that.
Click the cover image or click here to read the December 2015 issue of Gourmet News.
Grower-owned cooperative Oregon Cherry Growers, known for perfecting the original maraschino cherry and debuting the first line of maraschinos made with non-GMO certified Fairtrade® cane sugar, is unveiling its latest innovation – this time in packaging. The cooperative’s popular Royal Harvest™ Bordeaux-Style Maraschinos and The Royal Cherry® Maraschinos, featuring hand-picked cherries grown in the Northwest, are now available in stand-up pouches at select retailers across the country, liquor stores in Oregon and on Amazon.com.
The no-mess, convenient and re-sealable stand-up pouches are the first to market in the maraschino category, and feature transparent packaging for product visibility. As with all Oregon Cherry Growers products, the cherries are of the highest quality and freshness standards.
“We take great pride in delivering the products our customers are looking for, and we know convenient packaging is an increasingly important factor,” said Tim Ramsey, Oregon Cherry Growers President and CEO. “We have had great response to the new pouches so far and expect them to be popular with people looking to enhance their cocktail experience or liven up their desserts.”
The pouches are available in three varieties:
· Royal Harvest Bordeaux-Style Maraschino Cherries, which are rich and dark in color, free of preservatives, made with natural ingredients and sweetened with Non-GMO certified Fairtrade® cane sugar. Available in 8- and 4-ounce sizes.
· Royal Harvest Nature’s Maraschino Cherries, which are ruby red cherries, free of preservatives, made with all natural ingredients and sweetened with Non-GMO certified Fairtrade cane sugar to retain that “just picked” cherry taste. Available in the 4-ounce pouch.
· The Royal Cherry Maraschinos are Oregon Cherry Growers’ traditional maraschino cherries with stems. Available in 8- and 4-ounce sizes.
Suggested retail prices are $3.69 for a 4-ounce pouch and $4.69 for the 8-ounce, available immediately in eight pack cases.
By the time Andy Wright displayed his organic barbecue sauces at the big Anuga Food Show in Germany this fall, he’d already participated in two other international organic promotion events coordinated by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) during the year, and this novice in the export market had learned quite a bit. Wright put his new knowledge to the test in Germany, and he left Anuga with almost 50 solid business leads.
“This wouldn’t have happened without OTA,” said Wright, Owner of the Minnesota-based Acme Organics and maker of the organic Triple Crown BBQ sauce. “OTA not only gave us a platform to show our products to an international audience, but it also connected us to the right people, the decision makers, and that was huge.”
From those leads in Anuga, Wright is now in the process of closing on three deals to sell his barbecue sauce in Sweden, Switzerland and Australia. Wright notes that the initial contracts aren’t enormous, but that “for a small company, a little bit can create a lot.”
A little bit can create a lot. A solid investment can yield significant results. For more than 15 years in its role as an official cooperator in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Market Access Program (MAP), OTA has been investing in the promotion of American organic agricultural products in global markets and connecting buyers and sellers in order to reap a good return for organic and create new organic customers around the world.
This hard work has not gone unnoticed by USDA. This week the agency awarded $889,393 to OTA in MAP funds for export promotion activities in 2016, an 11 percent increase from the association’s 2015 funding. Plans are well underway at OTA headquarters on how to leverage that money to enable the biggest return on investment for American organic stakeholders.
“We thank USDA for recognizing the tremendous value and opportunities that our export promotion programs are creating for the organic industry, and for enabling us through its generous funding to continue this work,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. “Our analysis shows that for every dollar we spent in promotion activities this year, over $36 in projected organic sales were created. These new sales not only help organic grow, but they create jobs, boost incomes, and contribute in a positive way to our communities.”
Returns for organic, and beyond
A case in point: Jeff and Peggy Sutton founded To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co. in rural Alabama. They have participated in OTA’s export activities for three years now, and Jeff said as a direct result of that involvement, they are beginning to sell their products in the UK, South Korea, Mexico and Japan, and are getting business inquiries every day from all over the world. As demand and sales for their sprouted organic grains and flours have grown, their business has evolved from two part-time employees less than a decade ago to a projected payroll of 45 by the end of next year.
“We’re building a new 26,000-square-foot facility, and this will allow us to quintuple our production capacity. We now employ 30 folks, but we’ll be pushing 45 employees within the next year,” said Sutton. “Our involvement with OTA’s export activities has been a tremendous asset in helping us get started in the export market and creating these opportunities for growth.”
OTA’s export promotion programs in 2015 spanned three continents and included strategic participation and showcasing of American organic products in the biggest food shows in Europe and Asia, sponsoring an Organic Day in Japan, exploring potential opportunities in the Middle East, representing the U.S. organic industry at the World’s Fair in Milan, connecting foreign buyers with U.S. organic suppliers at major trade shows in America, and commissioning a landmark study on organic trade to provide organic stakeholders with the most up-to-date information on the global market.
In 2016, OTA will build on its activities to bring more information about market conditions and opportunities to new and first-time organic exporters, to display and introduce organic products to buyers, and to help first-time exporters connect with qualified global buyers.
“It is not easy to get into the export market,” said Monique Marez, Associate Director of International Trade for OTA. “Our mission is to help open the doors and remove some of the barriers for American organic businesses, and to educate international buyers and consumers on the integrity, diversity and quality of U.S. organic products. There are huge opportunities for the U.S. organic sector throughout the world, and we are invested in helping the industry build relationships and brand awareness so they can take advantage of these opportunities.”
OTA’s membership represents about 85 percent of U.S. organic exports. The market promotion activities administered by OTA are open to the entire organic industry, not just OTA members. OTA provides further assistance to U.S. organic exporters with its online U.S. Organic Export Directory.
As part of Italy’s “Extraordinary Italian Taste” campaign, aimed to promote authentic Italian food in the United States, Italy will become the first-ever partner country of the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco next year.
Under the “Extraordinary Italian Taste” banner, food companies from most Italian regions will present their best in pasta, cheese, olive oil and cured meats to buyers looking to bring more specialty food from Italy to U.S. consumers.
“There is a noticeable change in consumer trends,” said Maurizio Forte, Italy’s Trade Commissioner in the U.S. “Americans are increasingly enjoying authentic Italian food, the Mediterranean diet, which is tastier and healthier. We now need to take advantage of this trend. It’s the right time to go full speed ahead.”
According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Italian food exports have climbed 24 percent in the first nine months of 2015, with products such as Italian olive oil, cheese and pasta ranking as number one in their individual sector.
“Food from Italy has long set the standards for excellence in the U.S.,” said Ann Daw, President of the Specialty Food Association. “Our partnership will further raise awareness of the authenticity, taste and quality of Italian food. Together we are changing the way consumers eat.”
The Italian Trade Agency enjoys a long-standing partnership with the Specialty Food Association as well as the key Italian food and wine shows, such as Vinitaly, Cibus and Tuttofood. Italy has long been the largest international exhibitor at the Fancy Food shows.
By Lorrie Baumann
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a New Animal Drug Application for the production, sale, and consumption of AquAdvantage® Salmon, an Atlantic salmon that has been genetically enhanced by biotechnology company AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. to reach market size in less time than conventional farmed Atlantic salmon. The approval has drawn immediate denunciations from environmental and consumer advocacy groups.
Ronald L. Stotish, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of AquaBounty, commented, “AquAdvantage Salmon is a game-changer that brings healthy and nutritious food to consumers in an environmentally responsible manner without damaging the ocean and other marine habitats. Using land-based aquaculture systems, this rich source of protein and other nutrients can be farmed close to major consumer markets in a more sustainable manner.”
The U.S. currently imports over 90 percent of all the seafood, and, more specifically, over 95 percent of the Atlantic salmon consumed in the country. AquAdvantage Salmon will offer the opportunity for an economically viable domestic aquaculture industry while providing consumers a fresh and delicious product, the company says. “The U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee encourages Americans to eat a wide variety of seafood—including wild caught and farmed—as part of a healthy diet rich in healthy fatty acids. However, this must occur in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. FDA’s approval of the AquAdvantage Salmon is an important step in this direction,” said Jack A. Bobo, Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer at Intrexon, AquaBounty’s parent company.
Environmental groups are taking issue with both AquaBounty’s claim that its product is environmentally responsible and the idea that Americans are willing to eat it. A New York Times telephone poll conducted in January 2013 found that three quarters of those polled said that they would not eat genetically modified fish and two thirds would not eat genetically modified meat. “Despite FDA’s flawed and irresponsible approval of the first genetically engineered animal for human consumption, it’s clear that there is no place in the U.S. market for genetically engineered salmon.” said Lisa Archer, Food and Technology Program Director at Friends of the Earth, which claims that more than 60 grocery store chains representing more than 9,000 stores across the U.S. have made commitments to not sell the GMO salmon, including Safeway, Kroger, Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Aldi and others. “People don’t want to eat it and grocery stores are refusing to sell it.”
Carla’s Pasta’s new line of frozen, ready-to-eat pastas and pestos will be launched at all 64 Big Y locations starting this month. Big Y® is a family owned and family oriented retail food company headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts.
“We could not be happier or more proud to launch our best in class pasta products with the best in class grocery chain like Big Y,” said Sandro Squatrito, Vice President of Business Development for Carla’s Pasta. “To this day, we make everything the way that Mom always did, just a bit more of it.” Carla’s Pasta is made at a state of the art production facility in South Windsor, Connecticut. The company has about 165 employees.
The Carla’s Pasta product line at Big Y includes Cheese Ravioli, Cheese Tortellini, Gluten Free Penne and Six Cheese Sacchettini, which come in a revolutionary microwave bag that has been over a decade in development. The line also includes microwavable steam bag meals, which include Mac & Cheese, Six Cheese Ravioli with Marinara, Tortellini Alfredo and Buttered Noodles. In addition to the microwavable line, which is ready in minutes, they have a line of frozen specialty raviolis in clam shell packaging which include Spinach & Egg Striped Cheese Ravioli, Tomato & Egg Striped Ravioli, Tuscan Style Vegetable Ravioli, Sage & Egg Striped Butternut Squash Ravioli, Spicy Italian Sausage Ravioli, Shrimp Scampi Ravioli, Vegan Ravioli and Gorgonzola Pacchetti. In addition to the eight year round flavors, Carla’s Pasta has a seasonal rotation program of four specialty ravioli flavors; fall’s flavor is Pumpkin Ravioli. The product line also includes four varieties of pestos: Basil Pesto, Basil Pesto with Pine Nuts, Sundried Tomato Pesto and Wild Mushroom Pesto. In addition to the four current pesto offerings, Carla’s Pasta is working on introducing Kale Pesto, which will be coming soon.
There is a growing trend among American consumers, as well as in global markets, toward the avoidance of a host of specific food ingredients and components. The ingredients not found in our foods are scrutinized just as much as the ingredients that are included. The result is an influx of recipes and food products aimed at providing American’s with the gluten-free, non-GMO, sugar-free, dairy-free, fat-free, and various other free-from alternatives they seek, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts in the report “Food Formulation Trends: Ingredients Consumers Avoid.”
Even iconic family recipes and culinary sacred turkeys—err, sacred cows—that have a longstanding tradition at our dinner tables during special occasions such as Thanksgiving are receiving a free-from overhaul in many homes nationwide.
“America is in the midst of a free-from food movement. Organic, free-range, heritage turkey and other poultry. Gluten-free cornbread dressing. Lactose-free mac and cheese. Desserts and cranberry sauces made from sweeteners with a low risk for GMOs such as cane sugar, agave, and maple syrup. These are all within the realm of what we can now expect to potentially cook or be served during our holiday meals,” says David Sprinkle, Research Director, Packaged Facts.
Survey data published in “Food Formulation Trends: Ingredients Consumers Avoid” reveal that 44 percent of U.S. adults somewhat or strongly agree that food restrictions, food allergies, or foods/ingredients they avoid play an important role in what they eat. There are, of course, consumers who have to avoid certain foods due to allergies and sensitivities or specific health problems, such as celiac disease, diabetes, or lactose intolerance. But then there are those consumers who choose to avoid certain foods and food ingredients. Main motivations behind the trend towards elective food avoidance include:
Likewise, there are cases in which people aren’t intentional avoiders, but don’t consume certain specific foods or ingredients because they don’t have access to them in the first place. Inuits living in the Arctic region, for example, have limited access to plant-based carbohydrates.
The food avoidance trend can also be viewed in a larger social context of people wanting to simplify their lives, or to have fewer intrusions from outside forces such as big government and big industry. In some instances, this is driven by a nostalgia for less complicated times, either remembered or imagined. In other instances, the desire for simplicity is forward-looking, not focused on re-creating the past as much as on trying to control a future that seems to be heading in the wrong direction.
American Born Moonshine celebrated its two-year anniversary with a nod to the past and a push to the future. Founded in 2013 by Patrick Dillingham and Sean Koffel as the lead product of Windy Hill Spirits, American Born Moonshine has expanded its reach to 24 states, while also staking its claim as the fastest growing moonshine brand in the United States, doubling its sales volume over the past year.
“2015 has been an incredible growth year for American Born Moonshine,” says Co-founder Sean Koffel. “We are now available in 25 states across the nation and we have expanded our reach with national marketing campaigns in music and racing as well as local bartender campaigns to help give people the best moonshine experience. We are looking forward to a great rest of the year with more growth on the way for 2016.”
In the past year, Windy Hill Spirits’ first brand has achieved overwhelming success. American Born Moonshine is identified by many as the most authentic and best tasting in the category and is poised to be the category leader. Earlier this year, Windy Hill Spirits kicked off a number of partnerships with large national retail and grocery chains including Kroger’s, Walmart, Safeway, and Albertson’s and expects this to be a significant area of future growth for the brand. In addition, American Born Moonshine has grown geographically and organically over the past 12 months, doubling sales volume and depletions in the same time frame.
“We have seen tremendous positive feedback on American Born Moonshine since we rolled this out in Florida earlier this year,” said Eric G. Pfeil, Vice President of Sales, Premier Beverage Company. “The volume has surpassed our initial expectations and projections. Additionally, the folks from ABM have been very responsive with the market needs, and have provided excellent resources. We are looking forward to continued success with the brand and with Windy Hill Spirits as a whole.”
To celebrate its incredible growth over the past two years, American Born Moonshine will be unveiling a new program called #sharetheshine, which will honor the bartenders, retailers and bootleggers who serve the company’s moonshine this fall and winter. American Born Moonshine will be utilizing the hashtag #sharetheshine to track pictures of bartenders serving these participants and will select the most creative image as a winner every two weeks. The winner will be contacted and will receive an American Born Moonshine crate filled with the best “ABM Moonshine Bootlegger gear.” To participate, people just need to like or follow @AmericanBornMoonshine on Instagram and post their most creative image embodying #sharetheshine. Participants can tag a friend or two they’d like to share the shine with and then hashtag #sharetheshine. Winners will be chosen randomly.
There are three different types of American Born Moonshine – Original, Apple Pie and Dixie:
For the first time in the history of coffee, there’s a packaging that will preserve the cold-brewed beverage without refrigeration. Coffee concentrate packaged in a bag-on-valve system is shelf-stable for three years or more and comes out of the can with the same taste and aroma it had when it was freshly brewed, according to BOV Solutions Founder and CEO Paul Hertensen.
“The packaging is specifically designed for today’s cold coffee drinks,” he said. “It looks like an aerosol can, but it’s not aerosol. This is a pure, natural coffee product with nothing added. There are no preservatives. No refrigeration is required.”
BOV Solutions has partnered with the world’s largest coffee-brewing company, which is making the coffee concentrates that are packaged inside the BOV Solutions’ bag-on-valve cans. The coffee concentrate itself is enclosed inside a bag so that it’s in an oxygen-free environment and is never touched by propellants. Then the can is pressurized outside the bag, and that pressure provides the force that propels the coffee concentrate out of the can when the valve is opened. The can is made from 100 percent fully recyclable aluminum, so there’s no landfill impact, and shelf-stability tests have shown no change in the coffee after three years without refrigeration. “The flavor is still there; the aromas, still there. It’s exactly the way it was when it was put into the can,” Hertensen said.
Flavor stays the same because the sealed bag protects the coffee from the oxidation that changes the flavor of coffee as it sits in an open container. “Our coffee tastes the same from the first cup to the last cup with no changes whatsoever,” Hertensen said.
All the consumer has to do to prepare the beverage is to dispense a quarter of an ounce of the coffee concentrate into hot or cold water. “You absolutely need no equipment whatsoever. All you need is hot water or cold water or milk, whatever you use to make your coffee drink,” Hertensen said. The coffee concentrate can also be used as a flavoring ingredient for foods like ice creams or baked goods. “It has no bitterness,” Hertensen added. “All the bitterness has been removed.”
The same technology can also be used to package tea concentrates. At-home preparation for those also requires just the dispensing of a quarter of an ounce of the concentrate into a glass of ice water or a cup of hot water. “Tea is also a cold-brewed process,” Hertensen said. “We get the pure flavor of the tea.”
The technology has patents pending around the world, Hertensen says. “What we actually patented was the ability to put a coffee or tea concentrate into a bag on valve. We also patented putting the bag-on-valve into a dispensing system.”
“This is the most exciting product I’ve ever had my fingers on by far,” he added. “People are dying for us to get it onto the market.”
BOV Solutions’ profits from sales of the coffee and tea packaging will be donated to a new veteran’s organization that’s providing an outdoor recreational retreat area for disabled veterans and first responders. “It’s a good cause. There are organizations helping these veterans get mobile, but there’s no place they can go to enjoy outdoor sports that has equipment modified for them,” Hertensen said. “It’ll be totally free of charge to the veterans. This is drastically needed for those who serve and protect us and have been disabled doing so. It’s a marvelous thing because it will help them feel whole again.”
The recreational facility will also be available to firefighters, police officers and other first responders who have become disabled through the performance of their duty as public servants, Hertensen said. “It’s a great organization.”