Thursday, April 16, 2015

Pomora Adopt An Olive Tree, Carnivore Club + Giveaway!

Mother's Day and Father's Day are coming up and if your parents are anything like mine, they don’t need more “stuff.” I’m not saying you should skip giving them presents, but you might want to consider focusing on something consumable. Here are two really special gift options, and they have the added bonus of being recurring. 
I have seen olives harvested and pressed in Italy, Spain and in California. I’ve also gotten to enjoy delicious high quality extra virgin olive oils, fresh from the mill, and there is nothing like it. While there is better and better quality olive oil in the supermarket these days, Pomora gives you an opportunity to connect on a deeper level, to learn more about a specific olive farmer and olive oil production and to receive a set of three 250 ml tins of oil each quarter (the tins protect the oils from light and heat, to keep the oil as fresh as possible). 

I got a chance to try the olio nouvo from both Southern Italian farmers, Antonio and Carmelo and the oils were very different. The one from Campania was pungent and peppery, the other from Sicily was milder and grassy. Both were wonderful! If you plan to be in Italy, you can even visit the farmer and see the olive groves. This subscription is flexible, you can adopt or just “foster” for as little as one quarter for $69 or a full year for $225. These extra virgin olive oils are best for finishing or flavoring so you can appreciate their subtlety and quality.

Why adopt? It supports the farmer, giving them a direct route to market so that they get a living price for their oil which in turn ensures that their businesses are sustainable and that they can continue to produce these very special oils. 

This is a program that offers you a chance to try cured meats from artisans around the country and the world. It focused on producers who “purchase ethically treated animals, employ humane slaughtering practices, use locally sourced ingredients and have a passion for making exceptional products.” 

I got to try the monthly box in March and it featured 4 amazing salami from Olympic Provisions in Portland Oregon, which included their Good Food award winning loukanika. You can subscribe for as little as one month or bimonthly or quarterly. In each shipment you or your gift recipient will receive 4-6 products, delivered in a faux-wood box and accompanied by a Meat Eaters Handbook which has detailed information about the products and how to enjoy them and even suggestions for what to pair with them. Single boxes cost $55 or $50 if recurring. Enter the promo code AMY25 (must be in caps) to receive a 25% discount. 

Why subscribe? You’ll get a chance to try and learn about great artisanal charcuterie, from a wide variety of producers at a reasonable cost. 

One lucky reader will receive an olive tree adoption! Leave a comment telling me about the best olive oil you’ve ever tasted or which olive oil producing region of Italy you'd be most interested in learning more about and why, and on April 24th, 2015 I will choose a winner at random. You must have a US mailing address to win. One entry per person only. In order to win you need to leave your email in the correct field so I can contact you—it will NOT appear publicly in your comment. Do not leave your email in the body of your comment. 

Disclaimer: I was provided samples but was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post on Cooking with Amy. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dinner, Movies & Drinks—April 2015 Events in San Francisco

There is never a shortage of cool foodie events in the Bay Area, and April is no exception. Here are my top picks for the month and then it’s back to recipes, reviews and a super awesome giveaway later this week that you won't want to miss...

On Thursday April 16 Carlo Middione cooks what promises to be a memorable dinner with Chef Daniel Corey at Luce. If you’ve lived in Bay Area for a while, you probably recognize the name Carlo Middione as a groundbreaking chef and restaurateur of Vivande. He’s been out of the limelight for a few years but the event which is a tribute to Carlo and his wife Lisa features an incredible sounding five course dinner with dishes like antipasti of poached squid stuffed with prawns and garnished with squid ink, cannellini beans and California osetra caviar, homemade tagliatelle and Calabrian style lamb chops and baby artichokes. I asked Carlo how this dinner came about and this is what he told me:

"Peter Koehler, (the general manager at the Intercontinental) who runs the best hotels in the West, was a decades long customer of mine and my wife Lisa's. Peter has become our valued friend, and he thought we should be remembered for our contributions to the food scene, and for "hanging in there.” 

Carlo will be cooking what promises to be a memorable dinner with Chef Daniel Corey, tickets for the cocktail reception, book signing and 5 course dinner with wine pairings and live entertainment are $150 (does not include tax or tip).  Call the restaurant to reserve, 415-616-6566
Friday April 17 - Sunday April 19 this film festival takes place at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco, in partnership with Bi-Rite Market. All proceeds go to 18 Reasons program Cooking Matters (a great program that teaches people in low-income communities how to cook). There are classics like Tampopo, the best ramen movie ever, and movies I’ve reviewed and recommended like The Search for General Tso and finally film festival award winning films such as East Side Sushi. 

Tickets are only $15 and include a food snack that is chosen to go with the movie. Yes, even ramen to go with Tampopo! 

Saturday April 25 you'll have the opportunity to try artisanal ciders from around the country and the world at The Presidio. Over half of the ciders are from California including Common Cider from Auburn. Their Lemon Saison was my winning pick for summer sipper at the recent Beer and Bacon Classic where I was a judge. If you don't trust me, it was also Pete Slosberg's choice (that's the Pete of Pete's Wicked Ale). Come discover the world of cider! 

Tickets are $35 in advance and include 10 drink tickets and a souvenir glass. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

All About Orange Blossom Water

Orange trees at the Saadian tombs, Marrakech, Morocco
One of the things I love most about Morocco is its intensity. I was often overwhelmed by the sounds, sights and flavors found there. In particular the colors seem to vibrate and the smells combined with the heat radiate from everywhere--the tanneries, the medinas, the communal ovens, the trees and gardens. One scent in particular reminds me of my time spent there more than anything else. Orange blossoms. 

The scent of orange blossoms in Morocco is intoxicating. When a tree is in full bloom the scent is heady and exquisite. I can understand why someone would want to to capture it. Orange blossom water is made from a distillation of the blossoms from bitter orange trees. It is used in bath and body preparations but also in food. You will find it used not just in Moroccan cuisine but also in Persian, Middle Eastern, Indian and Turkish recipes.

I recently purchased some orange blossom water for use in a fruit salad and got to wondering how else I could use it. It turns out that it’s rather versatile. It is a natural complement to fruit, chocolate, vanilla, nuts, dairy and not surprisingly to all citrus flavors. A little goes a long way, start with just a few drops since you can always add more. Middle Eastern brands such as Carlo or Cortas are both good, and cost about $4 a bottle, which will last you a very, very long time. Cortas also makes an excellent pomegranate molasses. If you have access to bitter orange blossoms, you can also make orange blossom water. 

Here are some ways to use orange blossom water:

* Add some to fruit salad, it's especially good with strawberries

* Use a few drops and some honey to flavor yogurt or ricotta for a simple dessert 

* Add it to whipped cream, creme fraiche or mascarpone as a dessert topping

* Mix a bit into vanilla ice cream or panna cotta 

* Stir it into rice pudding before serving

* Sprinkle it on a platter of sliced oranges

* Put a few drops into crepe or pancake batter

* Add just a touch to iced tea, lemonade, fizzy water or cocktails

Use it to flavor smoothies and milkshakes, especially nut milk based ones

* Add some in place of vanilla in polenta cake, pound cake or citrus cakes

Here is a collection of Moroccan recipes using orange blossom water from Christine Benlafquih's About Moroccan Food site.

If you have another favorite way of using it, please do share it in the comments. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Wine on Fridays: Sequoia Grove Winery - A Taste of Cabernet

A few years ago I wrote a story about Chardonnay and consumers perception of it. It's a wine that while very popular, is also held in disdain by many consumers. Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is another such wine. Not that there is just one Napa Cabernet, there are lots of stylistic differences but as the signature wine of Napa Valley, it’s one worth getting to know. 
Whether you collect Napa Cabernets or avoid them, I recommend you consider a special educational program at Sequoia Grove Winery called A Taste for Cabernet. Boutique winery Sequoia Grove makes mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s about 3/4 of their total production. They have some of their own vineyards but also work with quite a number of growers in the area. At the tasting, which is set in a private space away from the crowds in the tasting room, you get a chance to try four of the their top Cabernet’s and a Bordeaux blend. The wines come from different parcels with different growers, are different vintages and the session is led by the very knowledgable and friendly wine educator Dean Busquaert, who shares soil samples and his exquisite photography to really give you a feel for the terroir. 

The wines I tried were Lamoreaux Vineyard 2008 Cab, Stagecoach Vineyard 2008 Cab, Henry Brothers Vineyard 2011 Cab, Morisoli Vineyard 2008 Cab and the Cambium 2008 Bordeaux blend. They range in price from $90 to $145. Needless to say these are not the wines you will get to try at the average tasting or visit. 

The best part of the program for me was the tasting experiments done with a plate of different nibbles including two kinds of cheese and an apple wedge. The guided tasting helped to dispel some myths when it comes to wine and food pairing. 

I'm not going to tell you what I thought of the wines, because the experience is really about discovering what YOU like and there is plenty of variety. The tasting lasts almost an hour and half and costs $50 which is a bargain when you consider the wines you get to try. The fee is waived for wine club members or with the purchase of 6 bottles of wine (there are many much less expensive bottles to choose from). 

Sequoia Grove Winery is indeed set in a grove of beautiful trees. More details about tasting options are available at Visit Us. 

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Sequoia Grove Winery for this experience. I was not compensated monetarily to write this or any other post on Cooking with Amy.