Get Adobe Flash player

Oils & Vinegars

1 2 3 5

Bellucci Extra Virgin Italian Olive Oil Fights Fraud

As consumers seek ways to determine authentic extra virgin olive oil from the fake, Bellucci, headquartered in Grosseto, Italy, is offering a multi-pronged solution: traceability and sophisticated tasting skills. The company offers precise, detailed information to empower customers in choosing true EVOO products, while ensuring the authenticity of Bellucci EVOO at all levels of production.

Bellucci keeps digital track of each olive grower’s contribution throughout the cooperative milling and bottling process, so any bottle of Bellucci EVOO can be traced to its origin in rural Italy. In addition to its traceability function, the Bellucci App teaches users how to evaluate for freshness and taste for flavors unique to EVOO. Advanced instruction in discerning flavor nuances based on harvests, regions and olive cultivars offers an experience of EVOO as an expression of terroir.

The value of the Bellucci App in communicating with consumers was recognized at the 2015 Anuga International Food Show. Bellucci has also received several awards for its line of EVOO. The Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition awarded silver medals to both the 2016 Toscano PGI Organic and the 2015 100% Italian Organic, and the 2016 harvest of 100% Italian won a gold medal at this year’s New York International Olive Oil Competition. A brand less than three years old, Bellucci is already being widely recognized for its flavor and contribution to the industry.

CEO Gerard Jara said, “Our trace-to-source technology allows us to fulfill consumer demand for authentic, fresh, healthy, and honest EVOO at a time when integrity is what matters. The app enables us to connect our customers to the source of their EVOO in small family groves in rural Italy and gives users the skill they need to taste for freshness and flavors distinct to genuine EVOO. They’ll learn how to authenticate EVOO.”

Girard’s New Chef Inspired Dressings

The Girard’s® brand had its beginning in 1939 with a recipe for Girard’s Original French Dressing created by Chef Pierre Girard at his San Francisco restaurant. The restaurant was located on the third floor above the historic John’s Grill (established 1908) located at 63 Ellis Street in San Francisco. This was the first three story restaurant in San Francisco. Over the years, the brand evolved into a retail dressing line, and added many unique chef-inspired varieties. In addition to the distinctive flavors, the brand is also known for its exclusive triangular bottle.

Girard’s premium dressings inspire the home chef to create delicious salads and more. Some of the delicious varieties in addition to the Original French include the ever popular Champagne and Light Champagne, Olde Venice Italian, Greek Feta Vinaigrette, Caesar, Spinach Salad Dressing and Chinese Chicken Salad. Two varieties, Raspberry and White Balsamic Vinaigrette, were recently improved by reducing the sweetness and removing artificial colors and preservatives.

The two new varieties, Vin Rouge (Red Wine) Vinaigrette and White French Dressing, were inspired by French cooking, and will take consumers to new heights. The Vin Rouge Red Wine Vinaigrette is rich and flavorful, with a blend of both Cabernet and Merlot wines. Garlic, onions and shallots round out the savory flavor profile. Versatility is the hallmark of the White French Dressing. It is a unique blend of buttermilk and white wine vinegar, with a touch of mustard and tarragon. It is great on leafy greens or pasta salad.

Girard’s Salad Dressings are part of the T. Marzetti Company, a subsidiary of Lancaster Colony Corporation. Other brands, in both the retail and foodservice markets, include Marzetti®, New York Bakery®, Sister Schubert’s®, Reames®, Cardini’s®, Chatham Village®, Romanoff®, Amish Kitchens®, Inn Maid® and Flatout®.

ENZO Olive Oil Now Counts 125 Awards for its Products

ENZO Olive Oil Company continues to receive wide acclaim at regional, national and international competitions. During the 2016 competition season, ENZO has been awarded 57 medals to date at prestigious events around the world. The honors include Best of Show, Best of Class and multiple gold medals from Italy, Japan and New York, as well as regional competitions throughout California.

ENZO organic extra virgin olive oil is 100 percent estate-grown, utilizing a hands-on approach that results in fresh, premium and flavorful oil. ENZO’s full line of award-winning, California organic extra virgin olive oil includes: Delicate, Medium, Bold, Basil infused, Meyer Lemon infused, Garlic infused and Clementine Crush.

Specialty Food Producers Take Home the Gold

By Lorrie Baumann

La Pasta’s Radicchio, Parsnip & Apricot Ravioli has won the 2016 sofi Award for Best New Product. Radicchio is sauteed with a little bit of balsamic vinegar to bring out the sweetness of the vegetables and then folded into ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheese together with roasted parsnips and dried apricots. The filling is then enclosed in La Pasta’s signature pasta with black pepper pasta stripes.

“We got lucky. It happens,” said Alexis Konownitzine, President of La Pasta, “Our chef Kristen made the product and will be at the Fancy Food Show.”

La Pasta already had several sofi Awards for products including its Marinara Sauce and Beet, Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Ravioli. This year’s winner was selected from among 23 finalists in the Best New Product category by the sofi judging panel of culinary experts in a blind tasting. Overall, 28 products were named winners and 100 named finalists from among 3,200 entries this year.

This year’s judging diverged from the methodology used for the past couple of years, in that the judging was completed before the Summer Fancy Food Show and winners were named at the same time as finalists. This process was designed to make the judging more fair and transparent, according to the Specialty Food Association, which owns the sofi Awards program. The products were judged by criteria that awarded 70 percent of the product’s score for taste, which included flavor, appearance, texture and aroma and 30 percent for ingredient quality, which included a consideration of whether any of the product’s ingredients were artificial and whether they were combined in a creative or unexpected way. One winner was chosen in each of the 28 judging categories, and the top 4 percent of the entries in each category were named finalists. No awards were presented this year in classic, foodservice or product line categories, which were part of last year’s contest.

CFM_Prosciutto-sliceFinalists for the Best New Product award included Dalmatia Sour Cherry Spread from Atalanta Corporation, Jansal Valley Boneless Prosciutto Toscano D.O.P. from Sid Wainer and Son Specialty Produce and Specialty Food, Organic Stoneground Flakes Cereal — Purple Corn from Back to the Roots and Sliced Prosciutto (Domestic) from Creminelli Fine Meats. “Prosciutto is everywhere in the U.S., but we do it differently, using whole-muscle Duroc pork that’s 100 percent vegetarian-fed with no antibiotics ever. We layer it in the tray by hand instead of by machine,” said Kyle Svete, Creminelli Fine Meats’ Director of Sales for National Accounts. “We invest in people, not machines. It’s part of who we are – people, animal, craft…. We have machines to help us do our job, but it’s really about the people. The recyclable tray and the elegant look of it elevates the product and the category.”

“We’re proud of it. We put the ingredients right on the front of the label,” he added. “That’s all there is to it – time, love, pork and sea salt.”

Chocolate-covered Cocomels – 5 Salts from JJ’s Sweets, Gourmet Honey Spread: Salted Honey from Cloister Honey LLC, Wild Boar Salted Star Anise Single Origin Organic Dark Chocolate Bar from Hagensborg Chocolate Ltd., Original Tangerine Sriracha from Just Jan’s Inc., Mr. Hot Stuff Pepper Spread from Steppin’ Out LLC, Clementine Crush Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Enzo Olive Oil Company/P-R Farms, Inc. and Deschutes Brewery® Black Butte Porter Truffle from Moonstruck Chocolate, Co. were also among the finalists for the Best New Product Award.

JulieAnn CaramelsOther finalists were Pineapple Habanero Caramel from JulieAnn Caramels, Frozen Passion Chia Lassi from Monsieur Singh LLC, Chicken Fat (Schmaltz) Premium Cooking Oil from Fatworks LLC, Avocado Oil Mayo and Licorice Mint Tea from Chosen Foods, Inc., Chili Crunch Bar from Vivra Chocolate, Vegan Stone Ground Hazelnut Butter from Karmalize LLC, Raspberry Amaretto Preserves from Robert Rothschild Farm, Orange Artisan Fruit Cracker from Simple & Crisp, Gluten-Free Coffee Brownie from Savvy Girl Baking Company and Dark Moon from Marin French Cheese Company.

In the remaining categories, Brussizzle Sprouts from Pacific Pickle Works, Inc. was named the best appetizer. The Spice Hunter, Inc.‘s Coriander Lime Global Fusion Rub was named best baking ingredient, baking mix or flavor enhancer, Ginger Hemp Granola from Michele’s Granola LLC was the best in the category for breads, muffins, granola or cereal, and Vermont Creamery‘s Bijou was judged the best cheese. Vermont Creamery’s Bonne Bouche was a finalist for the award both this year and last year.

Money on Honey by Droga Chocolates won the sofi in the chocolate category, and Bittermilk LLC‘s No. 3 Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour won the award in the cold beverage category. Bittermilk was a sofi finalist last year with the same product. Non-GMO Salted Caramelized Fig Spread from King’s Cupboard was named the best condiment, and Sea Salt & Vanilla Farmstead Goat Milk Caramels from Big Picture Farm LLC received the award for the best confection. Big Picture Farm won sofi Awards last year for best new product with its Raspberry Rhubarb Goat Milk Caramels and for best confection with its Goat Milk Chai Caramels. Moon Dance Baking‘s Holly Baking Cookie Brittle Cinnamon & Spice was named in the category for cookies, brownies, cakes or pie.

Barnier Pimento Sauce with Preserved Lemon from FoodMatch Inc. was named best cooking, dipping or finishing sauce. Cranberry Pistachio “The Original” from Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps was named the best cracker. Epicurean Butter‘s Organic Cocoa Coconut Butter was named in the category for best dairy or dairy alternative product. “The reason this is something really new and innovative is that this is organic pasteurized cream, organic coconut oil, organic honey, organic canola oil, organic cocoa powder and Himalayan pink salt. It’s good on crepes, pancakes French toast. We actually just love it on a baguette,” said Janey Hubschman, who co-founded Epicurean Butter with her husband John, who’s the chef and still does all the formulations for the company’s products. “It’s got a lovely mouth feel with the butter and the coconut oil and then the finish of the salt.” The Organic Cocoa Coconut Butter is part of a product line that includes 13 finishing butters, of which two are organic. The company has just installed new equipment in its plant that allows Epicurean Butter to produce single-serve squeeze packs. Each of those has 190 calories for a 1-ounce serving, and Hubschman expects that the single-serve packaging will draw a lot of interest from the producers of home-delivered meal kits.

bourbon maple hi res (2)Bourbon Matured Maple Syrup from BLiS LLC was named the best dessert sauce, topping or syrup. Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate‘s Single Origin Drinking Chocolate 72% Belize, Toledo received the sofi Award for the best hot beverage. Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate was a finalist in the chocolate category last year with its 72% Madagascar, Sambirano bar. The Gelato Fiasco‘s Ripe Mango Sorbetto was named the best ice cream, gelato or frozen treat.

Cioccomiel, a spread made from hazelnuts, cocoa and honey, won the sofi Award for the best jam, preserve, honey or nut butter. It is imported by Marcelli Formaggi LLC.

Fermín Chorizo Ibérico Picante / Fermín Ibérico Pork Dry-Cured Chorizo Sausage Spicy from Fermin USA was named the best meat, pate or seafood.

Stöger Organic Austrian Pumpkin Seed Oil was named the best oil. It is imported by Los Chileros, which won a finalist award last year for the same product.

Gustiamo, Inc.‘s Pianogrillo Sicilian Cherry Tomato Sauce took home the sofi Award for the best pasta sauce, while the best pasta was Pastifico Artigianale Leonardo Carassai, made in Campofilone, Italy, and imported by Bravo International Inc.

NorthAfricanChermouladressingwozzWozz! Kitchen Creations, which won the 2015 sofi Award for best salsa or dip with its Kiwi Lime Salsa Verde takes home the gold in the salad dressing category this year with North African Chermoula Dressing. This year’s award in the salsa or dip category went to American Spoon Foods’ Pumpkin Seed Salsa.

Hickory Smoked Spicy Candied Bacon from Little Red Dot Kitchen LLC won the sofi Award this year in the category for savory snacks. The best sweet snack came from Creative Snacks Co. with its Organic Coconut Bites.

Dinner Tonight Black Bean Tortilla Chili Mix from Backyard Safari Company won the award for best soup, stew, bean or chili. ParmCrisps Mini Aged Parmesan Crisps from Kitchen Table Bakers won the award for the best vegan or gluten-free product. Kitchen Table Bakers was a finalist last year for its Jalapeno Parmesan Crisps. Finally, this year’s best vinegar was Balsamic Nectar from Boulder Flavours.

Butter Infused Olive Oil from Ariston Specialties

Ariston is introducing new Butter Infused Olive Oil in its never-ending effort to bring top quality healthy items to the market place. Not only is this a great tasting infused olive oil, it also became an instant best seller.

Ariston Butter Infused Olive Oil is made from 100 percent extra virgin olive oil that is sourced from the company’s own farms and from local farmers. Ariston then naturally infused the butter flavor, which is 100 percent vegan, resulting in a healthier alternative to butter. Creamy in flavor and produced in small batches, this product has Ariston quality.

It is perfect for popcorn. Make popcorn healthy again by adding Ariston Butter Infused Olive Oil and salt to the kernels instead of the long list of ingredients commonly found in microwave popcorn.

Adding Ariston Butter Infused Oil to a seafood dish not only makes them delicious introduces more good fat. Ariston Butter Infused adds a pop of flavor bring your taste buds to another level when it’s added to risottos, rice dishes or pasta.

Combining Ariston Butter Infused with Ariston Garlic Infused oil as a marinade for meats will provide the richness and depth of flavor, and Ariston Butter Infused Olive Oil will make steamed vegetables come to life with just a drizzle of the oil and a pinch of salt.

Ariston Specialties will be exhibiting and sampling all of its products in booth #4162 during the Summer Fancy Food Show.

Summer Fancy Food Show Promises Delights

By Lorrie Baumann

A finalist for a 2015 sofi Award for its Burnt Sugar and Fennel Shortbread, Lark Fine Foods will be back at the Summer Fancy Food Show this year with Salted Caramel Almond Chocolate Pearl shortbread cookies. This cookie starts with a traditional chocolate chip cookie and kicks the recipe up a notch with Valrhona Chocolate Pearls – little crispy nuggets enrobed in chocolate and mixed into the cookie dough along with crackly bits of salted caramel and almond brittle. “There are noticeable chunks of caramel throughout the cookie,” said Lark Managing Partner Bob Carroll, who describes this as “a chocolate cookie for grownups.” A 5.5-ounce package containing about 10 of the cookies has a suggested retail price of $6, and this new cookie flavor is shipping now.

Lark Fine Foods is also debuting three flavors of its all-natural shortbread cookies in a single-serving size. Each 1.5-ounce package contains two cookies in either Salted Caramel Almond Chocolate Pearl, Salted Rosemary and Coconut Butter varieties. Carroll says the Salted Rosemary cookie makes a great accompaniment for cheese, and all three of the single-serve packs are positioned for sale as snack items. They’re also available for immediate shipment.

Manicaretti Italian Food Importers won a sofi Award in 2015 with Sicilian Pistachio Spread and has fresh victories with four gold awards at the New York International Olive Oil Competition. Manicaretti will have those oils, including Titoni DOP, an organic extra virgin olive oil from Sicily, and Crudo, a bright green oil with strong yellow undertones. “Every year it wins awards, both in the U.S. and in international competitions. It stands out in terms of profile and in terms of story. It’s a very interesting olive oil,” said Rossella Florio, Manicaretti’s Marketing Director. “We have a very nice portfolio of oils from different regions in Italy.”

Manicaretti will also be bringing expansions to the gluten-free pasta line imported from Rustichella d’ Abruzzo, for which Manicaretti is the exclusive importer. The new products include pasta made from buckwheat, green pea and red lentil flours. Each is gluten free and organic. “It’s all about awareness and offering more options that are equally delicious as durum wheat pasta,” Florio said.

Missing from the Summer Fancy Food Show this year will be Boat Street Pickles and Coop’s Microcreamery. Boat Street Pickles’ Pickled Cherries were a finalist in the Best New Product category at the 2015 sofi Award competition, while Coop’s Microcreamery’s Salted Caramel Sauce was a winner in the Dessert Sauces, Toppings and Syrups category. Neither company has a new product to launch this year. Boat Street Pickles’ Pickled Cherries are selling well, and Chef Renee Erickson, the company’s product developer, has been very busy earning a James Beard Award at The Whale Wins in Seattle. Erickson was named the Northwest’s Best Chef by the James Beard Foundation.

Coop’s Microcreamery has pushed product development to the back burner while preparing to move into a new 1,200 square-foot facility, says Marc Cooper, the “Coop” of Coop’s Microcreamery. The new facility doubles the creamery’s production space, and Cooper is hoping that his expanded capacity will help him catch up with an orders backlog.

Frantoio Grove Wins Best in Class in New York Competition

By Lorrie Baumann

FG_Bottle_2016Fifteen years ago, Jeff Martin was a California real estate developer with 100 acres near Silicon Valley zoned for residential use on five-acre lots. Today, he’s the creator of Frantoio Grove, one of the two American olive oils to win Best in Class awards at this year’s New York International Olive Oil Competition, and he doesn’t plan to go back to building houses for a living.

Tasting notes for the medium frantoio oil from the United States noted “aromas of fruit, green grass, almond and notes of pear. Taste exhibits abundant fruitiness, green grass, sweetness, bitterness, vigorous pungency and notes of artichoke, with exceptional harmony, a high complexity and a high persistence.” Frantoio Grove oils have previously won gold awards in the 2015 and 2014 NYIOOC and a silver award in the 2013 competition.

Frantoio Grove made only about 4,000 gallons of the oil this year, with most of it destined to be sold by California retailers in the San Francisco Bay area. That market is big enough to use all the olive oil that Martin’s ever going to make from his 30-acre olive grove, which has the potential to produce up to around 100 tons of olives when the 3,500 trees reach full production. The trees are all frantoio olives, an Italian varietal common in Tuscany that makes an oil with markedly more pungency and spice than the the mild, buttery-flavored oils favored by most California producers. That comes from a decision that Martin made way back when he was planning to build houses on that land. Under the existing zoning laws in Santa Clara County, where the grove is located, Martin could have built 20 houses on that land, each on five acres. But he knew that five acres was a lot of land for the Silicon Valley home buyers he was hoping to attract – too much land. So he agreed with the county that he’d group the homes onto smaller lots within 70 acres and dedicate the remaining 30 acres to permanent open space, keeping the overall population density the same.

IMG_2872Then he and his wife Pam had to figure out how to use that 30 acres. Under the open space agreement, agriculture was a permitted use, and the logical move might have been to plant grapes on the property, since Martin’s family had been growing grapes in Yolo and Napa Counties since 1870 and his mother and brother are currently growing grapes in Sonoma County. Experts assured him that the land would work for a vineyard. Martin, thought, though, that California already had enough people growing grapes, and he wanted to do something a little different. The couple decided on olives, and then, still in pursuit of something a little different, they did a lot of tasting of various varietal oils and decided that they liked the Frantoio oil best. “I really like this Frantoio fruit. Most of the oil grown in California is Mission or Arbequina, which make lovely oils. This is a little more pungent and has a different character,” he said. “I knew that if I want to sell this stuff, it has to have distinctiveness in the market. The bad news is that I have to pick everything by hand, so it’s a pretty expensive oil to produce.” He planted his trees in 2005 and got his first harvest of nine tons of fruit in 2011.

For this year’s oil, Martin’s picking crew picked 50 tons of olives, all by hand, in late October and early November of 2015 and delivered it to Frantoio Grove’s on-site olive mill within minutes of picking. The picking crew showed up for work at first light, about 6:30 a.m. at that time of year, to rake the olives from the trees and catch them in nets so they could put the day’s first bin of olives on the mill’s dock at about 7:15. That short time between when the olives are ready to be picked and when they’re crushed for their oil is critical to the quality of the product, Martin said. “It’s critical for me to have the mill ready when my harvest is ready,” he said. “When the fruit is driven up to the mill, it’s in the crusher within minutes. It’s not sitting outside waiting for my turn at somebody else’s mill.”

The other 70 acres in the parcel is still waiting for houses to be built on it, but it’s probably going to be someone else who does that. Martin has moved on. “I used to be a house builder. I don’t feel like a house builder any more,” he said. “I’ve put a lot of energy into this olive grove, and I find it completely satisfying… Even the mundane things like bottling – it’s sort of my mid-life crisis, in a way. It’s kind of a cool industry.”

He’s counting on Americans’ tastes in olive oil to grow beyond the California extra virgins they’re already familiar with. “I think Americans are ready for varietal difference. As a small niche player, there are people who are going to say yes to a spicier frantoio,” he said. “This is an oil to finish with. It’s fine to cook with it, but you might use a less expensive oil to cook, and then when you come off the flame, get a bit of an olive kick with this frantoio.”

Capatriti Extra Virgin Olive Oil Earns Stringent USDA QMP Seal

Capatriti® Extra Virgin Olive Oil, manufactured by Gourmet Factory™, has qualified for the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Quality Monitoring Program (QMP) seal. The USDA Quality Monitoring Program verifies the purity and quality of a brand’s extra virgin olive oil. Capatriti Extra Virgin Olive Oil was required to meet meticulous program criteria in order to qualify for the seal. Upon entering the Quality Monitoring Program for its extra virgin olive oil, Gourmet Factory agreed to allow the USDA to conduct unannounced visits to review and inspect quality assurance records, randomly sample product for chemical analysis and sensory evaluation, and verify labels on an ongoing basis.

“It’s important that we, as a manufacturer and industry partner, provide consumers with the correct information about what is pure extra virgin olive oil – the taste, the aroma and the color,” stated Themis Kangadis, Gourmet Factory CEO. “As a family-owned company, we know that trust is the most important part of any relationship, and by earning this stringent USDA QMP designation, we are looking at our consumers as family by increasing their knowledge and making their choice easier.”

Confusion about EVOO is nothing new in the marketplace and is still an ongoing issue. According to a 2010 UC Davis report, “69 percent of imported olive oils labeled as ‘extra virgin’ failed to meet the international standard for extra virgin olive oil.” More recently, a 2015 report from National Consumer League found that six out of 11 (about 55 percent) of EVOO from four major retailers failed to meet the EVOO requirements.

The USDA QMP seal indicates that USDA samples of Capatriti Extra Virgin Olive Oil have passed USDA quality and purity analysis. Additionally, the USDA also reviewed the performance of the company’s production processes, quality assurance measures and record-keeping system. Under the program, the USDA will continue to monitor Capatriti’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil, conducting unannounced plant visits to verify quality assurance measures and test the extra virgin olive oil.

Italian Delicacies from Cibo California

by Lorrie Baumann

Start-up company Cibo California, founded last year, has reached exclusive distribution agreements for artisanal products previously unknown in the United States and is ready to launch them into the American market. Cibo California CEO Massimo Cannas says he spent months and even years persuading families that make artisanal Italian food products in traditional ways to share these products with the American market and to trust his company with that mission.

One of those product lines is Campofilone egg pasta from the Pastificio Decarlonis Srl, a family company run by brothers Paolo, Pietro and their father Enzo Decarlonis, who agreed to hold a “serious family meeting” after a long conversation with Cannas that ended with the decision that they were ready to enter the American market. “I spent several years convincing this family to start selling their products to the United States,” Cannas says. “We are the only company that is able to import their products to the U.S.”

The company is located in the Marche region on the eastern coast of Italy, directly across the Adriatic Sea from Croatia and separated from Florence by the Appenine Mountains. It’s a beautiful part of the country with an uncontaminated environment, and the pasta made in the tiny village of Campofilone is protected by the Italian government with an IGP designation, “Maccheroncini di Campofilone I.G.P.,” which means that the pasta can be traced back to this geographic area. “It’s only there that they can use this name, the Campofilone pasta,” Cannas says. “Only there, by the law, are people authorized to produce this kind of pasta and authorized to call it Campofilone pasta.”

Made with just egg and flour, with no added water, the Campofilone pastas cook in just two minutes. “They make this pasta using just flour and hand-cracked local, fresh eggs. This is what makes the difference,” Cannas says. “One by one, the eggs are cracked by a team of ladies. They must be quick.” Federico Pavoncelli, Vice President of Cibo California, says that one of his favorite recipes for the Decarlonis Maccheroncini di Campofilone IGP is Maccheroncini with lobster. “Very simple, quick to cook and delicious,” he says. He makes it with some chopped onion, chili pepper, a whole lobster and some white wine. He cooks the Maccheroncini separately for just one minute and then tosses it with the lobster sauce. “All this in no more than a minute. Serve it and enjoy!” he says.

Americans are familiar with the name Giuseppe Verdi as the composer of “La Traviata” and “Aida,” among other operas, but today’s Giuseppe Verdi is making vinegars at the Acefificio Aretino in Tuscany in the beautiful medieval city of Arezzo. Cibo California is offering the Verdi brand vinegars in a wide range of products for which it is the exclusive importer into the U.S. These include balsamic vinegar, red and white wine vinegars, organic red and white wine vinegar, red and white wine vinegar made with IGP Chianti wine in Tuscany, apple vinegar, and, very specially, blood orange wine vinegar made with blood oranges cultivated in Sicily. “This is something different, something unique,” Cannas says. “I tried it with a smoked salmon carpaccio and very thinly sliced sweet onions, a little radicchio, and a little lemon juice. It’s delicious.”

Cibo California is also importing a range of innovative high-quality products made with white and black truffles from Tartuflanghe, which is recognized as one of the world’s leading producers of truffles from Italy, according to Cannas. “Tartuflaghe is the master. We are talking about a very high-end product, the Louis Vuitton of the truffle industry,” he says.

The company based in Alba, Piemonte, is recognized as a leader, not just for the quality of its truffles but also for the elegance of its packaging, both for its retail and foodservice products. “This is a company that does a lot of research. They are not following the market. They are anticipating the trends in the food industry worldwide,” Cannas says. “It’s more expensive than the average imported truffle products, but in two or three bites, you see the stars, the best expression of an extensive line of truffle specialty products.” Tray the Parmiggiano Reggiano Cream with Truffle, or the Truffle Butter or the Acacia Honey with White Truffle!

Delizie di Sardegna and Sarda Affumicati are Cibo California’s source for bottarga, both from tuna and mullet. Bottarga is salted, cured fish roe, with mullet bottarga traditionally being produced in Sardinia, while tuna is used in Sicily. Most people prefer mullet bottarga for its flavor, which is less fishy than the tuna bottarga, Cannas says. “Bottarga is extracted from the fish and cleaned and covered with salt and put in a special drying cellar for a very slow drying process. In the last century, this process was done just under the sun,” he adds. “Today, bottarga is made in a drying system that produces an even better quality, flavor and consistency. Then it’s vacuum-packed and shipped all over the world.”

The bottarga is offered as the baffa, the egg sacs which have been extracted and processed whole, as well as grated or powdered in 40-gram jars. The baffa is vacuum-packed and sold at weights between 70 and 200 grams, with the best seller at around 100 grams.

“Add it to pasta to add a special flavor to any kind of meal. Over pasta, rice or soup, on top of a cioppino, drop a few drops of olive oil infused with grated bottarga,” Cannas says. “Or the bottarga is fantastic grated, a little spoon on top of grilled pork chops. This is the Sardinian way. Just use a little sprinkling of the bottarga to finish the meat after grilling.”

“With the baffa, you just slice the bottarga very thin, slice fresh artichoke heart, mix those together, add extra virgin olive oil, little bit of salt and two-three drops of lemon. This is all. You are in paradise,” he says. “That is a delicious appetizer that is offered in every restaurant in Sardinia. Instead of artichokes, you can use celery and add some cherry tomatoes.”

For dessert, Cibo California is importing biscotti and cookies from Grondona Pasticceria Genovese, a very traditional baker-biscottificio in Genoa since 1820. The pastries are made with simple ingredients of the highest quality, including, Cannas says, a lot of butter. Grondona products are made with La Madre Bianca, the company’s mother yeast, in which baker’s yeast and beneficial bacteria have been nurtured for almost two centuries. The process for feeding, tending and dividing the yeast has been kept a secret through four generations of the Grondona family – the art is rare today even in Italy, according to Cannas. “They are starting right now to enter the U.S. market, and we have been able to become exclusive importer for western U.S.,” he says.

Likewise, Grondona recipes are based on almost 200 years of tradition. Today, the company is operated by Orlando Grondona and his family. His son, Andrea Grondona, is in charge of the export division. “I took the airplane, I go to Genoa and I spent two days with Orlando and Andrea, the son. They are two wonderful human beings. Orlando is a lovely person, a genius, a master in the biscotti and cookie industry, not just in Italy but in the world. He is also a master wine expert and collector,” Cannas says. He is importing four Grondona products: the Baci di Dama in 100-gram packages, super-delicate and rich with real butter, honey, 14 percent chocolate and 17 percent hazelnuts; Canestrelli Antica Genova in 100-gram packages, in the shape of stars, 25 percent butter, lemon juice, Madagascar vanilla pods and packaged with a small packet of icing sugar intended to be sprinkled onto the cookie just before eating; Cuori Mori, heart-shaped and rich with butter, 9 percent chocolate and 3.5 percent cocoa; and Pandolcini Antica Genova, a miniature version of a cake that’s traditionally bought on the way home from church on Sunday to be served with Sunday’s lunch. It’s made from wheat flour, butter, 30 percent sultana raisins, orange peel, apples, pears, pineapples, 2.3 percent pine nuts, fresh eggs and lemon juice.

Cibo California is currently seeking account executives and distributors for southern California and other areas in the western U.S. Anyone interested in evaluating local distribution agreements for both foodservice and retail products is invited to contact Cannas at 949.230.6866 or email m.cannas@cibocalifornia.com.

California Olive Ranch Growing Americans’ Taste for Olive Oil

By Lorrie Baumann

Silicon Valley technocrat Gregg Kelley had a nice little career going for himself in 2006. He’d taken two dot-coms public and settled into a consulting career in which he could choose the clients he wanted to advise on how to succeed the way he had. He ditched it all when the owners of California Olive Ranch came to him and said they’d learned how to make a good product and wanted his help to scale up their operation to compete in the national market. Eight years later, he has no regrets.

“It was just the right time. The owners of the company had learned what they needed to learn and were looking for a CFO [chief financial officer]. I was interested in their approach to the industry,” he said. “I really liked the people who owned the company, liked the opportunity. It checked that box for me. I took a pretty significant pay cut to join the company. It was a leap of faith. It was right place, right people, right time.”

“It’s been a great opportunity. A change of direction. I wanted to lead a life where I could look at myself in the mirror,” he adds. “There were two things I wanted to do: be a good husband and a good father and have a positive impact on the world. I get to do that now…. Those are the simple rules to live my life by.”

Kelley is now California Olive Ranch’s Chief Executive Officer, and the company has been registering sales growth rates of 30 to 50 percent per year for a compound annual growth rate exceeding 45 percent over the past eight years. California Olive Ranch has become the U.S.’s largest domestic olive oil producer: in terms of consumer sales, it’s the #4 brand in the grocery channel, the #1 brand in the specialty/gourmet channel and the #3 brand in the natural channel, according to SPINS. With just under 15,000 acres planted with olive trees now, Kelley is actively looking for another 3,000 more acres to plant this year to feed rapidly growing consumer demand for extra virgin olive oils from California.

A few factors have combined to drive that growth, according to Kelley. Americans are becoming more aware of the virtues of high-quality olive oils, and improved technology has allowed California Olive Ranch to provide a better product at an accessible price point. “California has had an olive industry for hundreds of years, but it stayed small until technology got better. The ability to hit a price point that makes it accessible is what accelerates that learning curve,” Kelley said. “You break this barrier of accessibility for a larger number of people. California has made the norm become a much higher quality product. The American consumer, time and time again, has a proven preference for higher-quality products. Wine was an example of that. We’re seeing it in cheese, in chocolate…. We are participating in the same evolution.”

Kelley is determined to propel Americans along the learning curve by putting the taste of California Olive Ranch oil on as many tongues as possible. He says that letting people smell the aroma of a freshly opened bottle of good extra virgin olive oil and then letting them taste the oil and feel the warmth of it in their throats is all it takes to inspire them to want that experience again, especially if they can have it for a price premium of just a few dollars a bottle. “What makes us different is the ability to provide a much higher quality experience regularly,” he said. “The vast majority of the oil we produce would win awards around the world.”

“Great olive oils add to the experience of a good meal,” he said. “That was the ‘Aha!’ for me that was the final hook that got me involved in the industry and got me into California Olive Ranch.”

1 2 3 5
Gourmet News
Follow me on Twitter