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Entries in cheese plate (5)


John and Elana's Foodie Gift Guide 2012

All images courtesy of Brooklyn SlateWell, here we are on the other side of Thanksgiving. How are you all feeling? Are you PSYCHED? Are you PUMPED?? 

Are you completely hostile every time you walk into a place of commerce and hear "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" being piped through the sound system? Let me tell you, that song hits a nerve for me. Because if there is someone who knows exactly when I've been naughty and when I've been nice this year, I have the following to say:

1. SH&T

2. Doesn't this person have anything better to do?

No, this does not make me a Scrooge. I just speculate about the mental soundness of someone who would so closely monitor my behavior and then pepper me with coal should it not be to his liking.

That being said, I like Christmas. I like giving people presents. I also like buying them for myself (is this naughty or nice or borderline?), which I often have to do because of the constant influx of coal.

However, we are going to put this in the "Elana's Been Nice" category, as I am here to offer you both:

1. Advice

2. Discounts and promotions

Get excited, because over the next few weeks leading up to the big day we will be pumping you full of gifting advice. We will also be starting a Pinterest board to archive all these suggestions, which you can check here (special stocking stuffers go to those who start following us on Pinterest).

Our first present to you comes from Brooklyn Slate Company. You may recognize their beautiful products from many of our posts. Their gorgeous reclaimed slates can be used as cheese boards, appetizer plates, serving trays and much more.

They even have handy-dandy composed gifts like their Pantry Collectives (photographed by yours truly!)

Pantry Collectiveand the campfire kit;

Campfire Kitand sweet little accessories like cheese knives and tote bags.

And starting NOW through December 24, 2012, our readers get 10% online purchases.

Please use this code: JOHNANDELANA12 at checkout to get your 10% off. 

Now go check it out ---- > Click here for the Brooklyn Slate website!


An Italian Thanksgiving Antipasto - Part 2

Did you know Calamata olives are Greek? They are.

In order to properly continue our platter in Italian fashion (started with bread), we need to have Italian olives. I chose two different types as they are polar opposites in the olive department, taste-wise.

The first are large, Cerignola olives. Green, meaty and mild, these are almost like eating a small almost-ripe nectarine in texture. They are slightly salty, but hover at a 2 on the 1-10 ranking of saltiness (10 being the most salty).

My second choice were small Sicilian olives. These little devils are pitted and punchy on the saltiness scale, ranking at an 8 in my book.

Side note: I don't know if there are any other "books" on ranking relative olive saltiness. I'm just telling you how I feel about it.

I chose them because I wanted one salty olive and one mild to pair with some other items I've got coming your way, notably cheeses, fruit and nuts.

Now, you could stop here. Throw these olives in a bowl and have on it with. Or you could take it one step further...and marinate.

I chose to marinate (of course I did). Here's how you do it:

What You Need (also listed in the above artwork):

2 cups mixed olives (your choice, but you should really take my recommendation...)

Half an orange, quartered and thinly sliced into wedges

Half a cup extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1 Tablespoon chili oil (optional)

2 bay leaves

A sprinkle of red pepper flakes

What You Do:
Place the mixed oil-packed olives in a bowl with the orange. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the extra-virgin olive oil, garlic cloves, chili oil (if using), bay leaves, and the red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant and garlic begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let steep for 1 hour. Pour oil mixture over olives and stir to coat. Marinate at room temperature for 2 hours, or cover and chill up to 4 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Based on a recipe from Bon Appetit.

Now don't run away so fast! I'd like to give you two cheese options to pair with these fabulous olives. I suggest you obtain a Robiola Bosina, which is a soft, almost Brie-ish in consistency cheese. It's a mix of goat and cow milk, so the goat-cheesy flavor on this variety is mild.

I also recommend a Pecorino Foglie di Noce, slightly soft but very salty, this cheese is such a treat, I can hardly compliment it enough! It's fabulous with a little honey, or orange marmalade on top.

Both of these cheeses pair well with the olives, marinated or no.

So, let's recap:

First, toast some BREAD.

Then get some olives and MARINATE.

Have some honey and/or orange marmalade (the orage flavor will be fabulous with the citrus in the olive marinade)

And stand by for Part the THIRD...coming soon.


The Iaciofano's Go To Naboo, I mean Lenno...

Although we were sad to leave Verona, we were anticipating with much enthusiasm the adventures that awaited us in Lake Como.
Our fearsome foursome took up temporary residence in Tremezzo, one of the towns circling the lake. Travel from town to town happens by boat on Lake Como, so the Iaciofano's heaved-to and set sail for Lenno one rainy day.
Our main purpose in visiting Lenno was to see the Villa Balbianello, an impressive estate that you may recall from such films as Star Wars (I forget which – one of the new films with that Jar Jar creature), and Casino Royale.
In order to get to the villa, we had to trek through a couple miles of woodsy terrain. I very much enjoyed this, even in the rain, but The Box was not a fan. 
"Are we there yet?" He'd ask... and, "I'm turning around and calling a cab."
Needless to say I was not amused. I was, however, floored by the grandeur of Villa Balbianello once we finally made it onto the main grounds.
Impeccably manicured and coiffed, ivy coiled around the columns and the trees were manicured within an inch of their lives. We entertained ourselves for quite some time, until I got very cold.
Did I mention it was raining? So, we hailed a water taxi (one conveniently pulled up to the back door of the villa's grounds) and made haste back to the main center of Lenno, where in spite of the cold, we all had gelato at La Fabbrica del Gelato.
This wasn't the best gelato John had sampled – he much preferred the gelateria in Bologna. BUT it was very pretty, and they got extra marks for their display of tiny colorful gelato scoops.
Now I was REALLY cold. And the state of my hair in the rain...let's just say Marmo and I were picking up RAI Uno and RAI Due station feeds.
Also, we were hungry. Yes, we just had gelato, but gelato does not a meal make. What does is meat and cheese. And wine. So we headed back to Tremezzo and located a local wine bar, Cantina Follié.
Perched atop some bar stools, and wearing The Box's jacket for warmth, I commandeered the wine list. I selected the wine pictured below based on the label design. I do that. I'm a sucker for pretty design. Also, I was cold, hungry and out of patience.
Luckily, the wine proved to be delicious. Marmo and I started to calculate U.S. shipping as we devoured a plate of local meats and cheeses, included a personal favorite formaggio of mine: TALEGGIO.
Stuffed full of meat, cheese, wine and gelato, we headed back to our hotel for.... a NAP.
Hey, we needed to conserve energy for dinner. 



Verona, Part the First

After rejoining the rest of the Iaciofano's in Bologna, all four of us made haste to the train station and headed to Verona.

I have to admit to being a bit disoriented, having just spent four days biking in France and getting blown over by hurricane-force winds. I kept saying "frommage" instead of "formaggio" and I couldn't get my outfits right.

Verona is a beautiful city. A combination of Medieval and Roman architecture, it's a feast for the eyes. 

We made camp at the Due Torre Hotel. Marmo scored us some prime suites with a balcony!

We were just a short skip away from the Piazza delle Erbe...and some serious shopping. And eating. Have I talked about the eating yet? I'm gettin' there, don't worry. Before there is food, there are usually some antics. You have to work up an appetite by doing something... 

So first, we visited Juliet's (of Shakespeare fame) house to find a place to put our used gum...

And then we made our way to the Roman theater surrounding the city center to check out some quality ruins, and play amongst the archways.

And then we got lost. So The Box had to pull out the map and both sets of his glasses.

Getting lost makes me hungry. So I suggested we forgo the usual tourist-infested, open-air panini cafe's and find something local. We found something local while I was getting everyone lost running them around the Verona looking for a cycling shop. Which we eventually found, along with a fancy wine bar - Osteria del Bugiardo.

The Osteria looked very local. There were no Americans inside. I could tell. This made The Box nervous. Things "outside the box" generally make The Box nervous. But I convinced him with the promise of cured meats and cheeses and perhaps even beer that it would be worthwhile.

Well, they were out of beer.

But they had wine! And LOTS of meat and cheese. I suggested to our server using my elementary Italian and some all-encompassing hand gestures (Italians love hand gestures), that we wanted enough meat and cheese for four people, a crostini sampler plate and some local wine.

Our server wandered away with what I hoped was our order (The Box was still wary at this point, perched atop his high bar stool like an owl on high alert). At this point, he and John started sketching diagrams of the perfect golf swing onto the kraft paper placemats.


And then came the crostini!

Some of these were unidentifiable! Others were just strange, like the purple one which turned out to be a cabbage slaw type of thing. All were really good! Seriously. I have not, however, developed a taste for anchovies, so that particular crostini didn't appeal to me.

This was just a precursor to the awesomeness that lay ahead in the form of:


Not a scrap of either remained. Iaciofano's young and old devoured them all....diagrams of golf physics lay forgotten underneath piles of LARDO. Yes, my favorite meat butter made an appearance on this platter. This particular version tasted slightly smoky. It was expertly seasoned with fresh pepper...and it just butter. The best I've had to date.

As for the cheeses, we were presented with a lovely arrangement of semi-hard to hard cheeses accompanied by a selection of jams. John preferred the raspberry, while I fought Marmo for the pear flavor.

The Box was now full of wine, cheese, beer, and some random crostini and acting like going to the wine bar was his idea all along.

He does that, get used to it.

As for the rest of us, we were ready to go get lost all over again, in an effort to work up an appetite for dinner...


Wine, Cheese, Pizza – A Gastronomic Triple Play!

We are still in San Francisco. Are you with me? Good.

I had strategically planned my dinners in San Francisco around Una Pizza Napoletana. However, en-route to Una, we were sidetracked. By wine and cheese. And also these fabulous chalkboard sheep:

Mission Cheese is a tiny wine bar in the Mission district (aptly named!) of San Fran. Tiny but well stocked! Behind the natural wood bar are rows and rows of cheeses. Piled on top of each other in an orderly fashion, just waiting to be sliced up and placed on miniature cutting boards.

After some convincing (Kaz is slightly apprehensive of stinkier cheeses) we decided up on the Monger's Choice – which means we threw caution to the wind and allowed the monger to choose three cheeses that he thought we would like to eat. We were allowed to give him some guidelines (for example Kaz suggested nothing "too" stinky). We were presented with the following plate (accompanied by the selection of dried fruits, baguette slices and cornichons featured above):

The first cheese from the left was a goat cheese - smooth and silky wrapped in a leaf which gave it just a touch of earthiness.

The cheese on the right hand side was a mild blue variety. Soft for a blue, it was almost spreadable. To me, it was like butter with a kick and was my favorite. Even Kaz (stinky cheese averse) liked it.

The cheese in the middle I can't remember. This is very irresponsible food blogger behavior of me. And it could be because of this:

The Donkey and Goat Carignane from 2010. It was a recommendation from the bartender and a perfect one at that. It was a medium-bodied red with a cherry fruitiness. It also seemed like there was a touch of minerality that made it downright refreshing.

So refreshed we were, that we felt it was time for pizza.

I was living in Los Angeles at the time that Una Pizza Napoletana was located on the Lower East Side of NYC. Upon moving back to NYC, Una promptly left for San Francisco. I admit to taking it personally.

However, I was hell-bent on making up for lost time.

The scene is wide-open and airy. And very basic. This theme of simplicity is carried over into the "kitchen" which is essentially a baby blue wood-fired pizza oven in the center of the restaurant roped off by chains.

The prep table has just enough ingredients to make the following pies:

We selected the Margherita and, on the server's recommendation, the Filetti. Chef and owner Anthony Mangieri alternately wielded a long pizza peel and rocked a baby carriage from side to side. That's dedication if I ever saw it. Both to pizza and to his child.

Our Margherita arrived (also pictured above) with generous amount of tiny globs of fresh mozzarella, and a smattering of whole basil leaves all decorating a thin layer of crushed tomatoes.

I would like to begin with the crust. My description of the crust covers both pies. This is the most perfect crust outside of Naples that I have sunk my little teeth into.

Moist? YES.

A thin crispy layer dotted with extra crunchy char spots? YES.

Chewy but light and airy? Oh my yes.

Floppy but not falling apart? Indeedy.

And how about the way those blobs of mozzarella sunk made pockets in the crust (much like Homer Simpson's butt groove in his couch), creating nooks and crannies of flavor. It was like eating the surface of the moon, if the moon's terrain were moist and glazed with extra virgin olive oil.

I did find the tomato flavor a bit sweet, which I personally am not fond of. I prefer more tang to my tomatoes, so it felt a bit bland on my taste buds.

Next up was the Filetti, the easy winner of the two.

Halved cherry tomatoes were nestled lovingly in the crevices created by cheese and dough. Small pools of oilve oil collected in the around the tomatoes creating reseviors of happiness where the tomato juice mingled with the oil and the fat from the cheese.

And once again, I must draw your attention to the crust. Look at that form! I'm not sure Michelangelo ever etched anything in marble that was as beautiful as that crust.

We topped our pizzas off with two Neapolitan coffees – an espresso-like beverage, but a touch less intense.

Our beverages were served with some chocolates from Poco Dolce – a new brand for me. I became so excited by these chocolates that on a subsequent trip to Bi-Rite I raided their stores and brought home tins of the salted toffee and burnt caramel varieties.

My review would not be complete without a trip to the bathroom – for photos:

A very basic, but clean establishment, the bathroom was accented by a two pieces of framed art. These included Chef Anthony's tattoos hands forming a round of dough, and "Una Pizza Napoletana" in Copperplate calligraphy. A large vase of purple flowers offset the yellow walls quite nicely. And there were, of course, subway tiles – clean and white.

Overall Pizza Eating Experience: Heat

Mission Cheese
736 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA

Una Pizza Napoletana
210 11th St + Howard St
San Francisco, CA 94103