Monday, 19 December 2011

Foodie Food Gifts from Italy

Well, there's one more week before Christmas arrives so you'd better shake a leg!

I love giving food gifts and since I travel often to foodie locales I always find delicious and unusual things to bring back and share with friends. Sometimes I give them the goodies directly but more often than not, I whip up dinners and invite them over for a culinary equivalent to the vacation slide show. 

Either way you chose, here are some things I discovered this year from Italy that you might like to share with your foodie friends.  That is of course if you don't become a little holiday piggie and keep them for yourself,   quite understandably.

Fiat Chocolates (Photo up top)

Here's a fun twist on the classic gift of chocolate. 

These melt-in-your-mouth layered "Fiat" chocolates by Bologna based chocolate makers, Majani were originally created in 1910 to celebrate the launch of the Type 4 Fiat. They also make a sugar free version.  I love the cool packaging.

 Amarelli Licorice

I first spotted these little boxes of Amarelli Licorice in a Depachika or Japanese Food Hall in Tokyo. They were hosting an Italian food festival and I was immediately drawn to the charming vintage images on the little tins.

Fast forward to November of this year at the Monte-Carlo Gastronomy Fair where Amarelli had a booth and as luck would have it they were offering free samples.  One taste and I was hooked.    Now I keep them in my purse wherever I go, the orange flavoured ones being a favourite.  They should know their stuff since they've been making licorice candy from licorice grown in Calabria since 1731.

If you remember Black Cat gum from childhood, Amerelli licorice will transport you back there.

Edible Gold

What could be more festive than something glittery under the tree that you can use throughout the year?  I posted about edible gold and where to buy it this summer and I think it would make a great Christmas gift.

Florentine gold producer, Giusto Manetti Battiloro has a huge range of edible 23k gold products from dust to flakes to leaves.  What could be more festive and fun than a bit of  gold sprinkled on top of desserts, cookies, sushi or anything that needs a bit of sparkle?

A Balsamic Vinegar Tasting Collection
I'm loving Acetaia Montale Rangone's Collezione di Sapori or Tasting Collection kits consisting of 3-10 of their balsamic vinegars.

It's a fun way to amuse and test your palette and with the kit of 10 samples (pictured) you also get a little bottle of their very fine 25-year-old Extravecchio and another of their 12 year-old Tradizionale.  These two are usually only available in the larger and much more costly maraca shaped bottle as dictated by the certified balsamic vinegar manufacturer's consortium,  the DOP (Denominazione d'Origine Protetta).  I'd save those for last. 

Of course a full bottle of their Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale wouldn't be so bad either since theirs is so reasonably priced.

The Brugnoli Family's Organic Parmesan

Not all Parmesan is created equal as we all know from shaking it from that green cylindrical can when we were young.  You know what I mean.

I first tasted the Brugnoli family's Parmesan last year at the Monaco food fair and it's become a bit of an obsession ever since.  They've been making their award winning Parmesan on their farm in the hilltop town of Bardi in the province of Parma since the 1960's.  Now whenever I buy Parmesan I ask for it.

It's sweet, buttery, floral, salty, and sprinkled throughout with tiny flavour crystals characteristic of  the best Parmesan.

If you're lucky enough to find a wheel stamped with the spring months of aprile, maggio, giugno, or luglio  (April, May, June or July) buy as much as you can carry.  Parmesan from these months is particularly good since this is when the herd is finally released from the winter barns to feast on spring meadow grasses and flowers thereby producing the sweetest most fragrant milk of the season.

Bergese & Paganelli Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles

No one does hazelnuts better than the Piedmontese so it's natural that the Cuneo based confectioner Bergese & Paganelli, excels at creating hand made chocolates and other sweets using hazelnuts, intense dark chocolate and locally farmed ingredients.  At the 2006 Monte-Carlo Gastronomie they walked away with the Slow Food best artisanal product award. 

As luck would have it, they ship.


Fine Piedmontese Foods from San Maurizio Gourmet
The stunning Relais San Maurizio Resort and Spa is perched amidst rolling hills covered in moscato grape vines in a sympathetically restored 17th century monastery just outside of Alba in the Piedmont. As if that weren't fabulous enough they've just launched a line of fine foods under the label, San Maurizio Gourmet.

So what's the big deal you may ask?  Well, all of their products are made from ingredients sourced from the nearby producers and most of these ingredients cannot be found anywhere else.  As an example, their Ottofile or "eight rows" cornmeal.  Each Ottofile corn plant produces a single ear of corn with eight rows of kernels, hence its name, whereas modern corn plants produce 2-3 cobs with 18-20 rows of kernels.  The Ottofile cornmeal makes creamy, rich  polenta and perfect Paste di Meliga or Piedmontese polenta cookies.

Some of their products include tomato sauces made with local Borolo and Barbaresco wines, pastas with truffle, cookies, chocolates, wines, and limited editions of olive oil from the ancient olive trees that surround the Relais.  

Just hope that if you give any of their products as gifts, you're invited when they're served.

Goodies from the San Maurizio Gourmet

Merry Christmas to you and I hope you find pleasing goodies under your tree to share and remember.

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