Posts Tagged ‘Florence’

Olive Oil in Tuscany – An Epicurean Discovery

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Exciting news!! The Scrumptious Pantry has teamed up with tour operator and travel agency Callisto Tours and Willett Travel to give you – our customers – the unique opportunity to visit Tuscany with a small group of fellow food lovers, meet the big family of producers behind The Scrumptious Pantry and take an in-depth look into the beautiful and tasty food world of Italy.

So excite your tastebuds by embarking on an epicurean olive oil experience this November! Tuscany is the perfect location to taste the world of olive oil and enjoy beautiful scenery and historic capitals such as Florence, Lucca and Siena.

We will be learning all about olives and their cultivation, the production of olive oil, how to use it in the kitchen and how to choose the right variety to match with which food. We will be tasting mono variety oils and classic blends in the Chianti Classico, visiting Cosimo (producer of olive oil for The Scrumptious Pantry) and joining the olive harvest in the hills of San Miniato (where we will take advantage of the white truffle season). We will learn about different extraction methods by visiting farmers and oil mills in the mountainous region around Lucca and finally taste the difference the sea makes at the coast of the Maremma, prized for its enormous wines such as Sassicaia and Ornellaia.

You will meet food artisans producing olive oil and wine, pasta and white truffles, chocolate and sweet delicacies, sun dried-tomato spreads and tomato jam.
You will discuss different farming methods, production techniques and ask every question that you always wanted to ask an Italian food artisan about his craft.
You will eat well, joining family style lunches with our food artisans, discover hidden wine bars and typical osterie, and celebrate happiness at a closing dinner with white truffles (hunted by ourselves) in a historic Bonaparte villa.
You will make new friends in Tuscany, being welcomed by our family of producers into our Scrumptious Pantry family.

For further info and booking please contact our travel partner:
Callisto Tours in association with Willett Travel
11365 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 100, Studio City, CA 91604
Phone 818.508.7619 or 800.994.5538
Pamela Abraham at
Or go to:
(CST# 2002558-10)

Bring out the flying pig!

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Every year in April posters with flying pigs pop up all over Florence and Pisa - Jazz in Macelleria-time! Andreas Falaschi, the fourth generation running one of Tuscany's greatest butcher shops, hosts an annual Jazz concert. The small main street of old San Miniato get's flooded with people from close and afar listening to a local Jazz band playing behind the counter of the butcher shop, while nibbeling on the delicous taste bites Andreas serves together with local wines: the blood sausage "Malegato" (a Slow Food Presido), the "Spuma di gota", a puree of the Cinta Senese hog's cheek and various kinds of Salami.

Inside the butcher shop meanwhile, Andrea takes the time to explain all the different products to curious visitors, in this picture he is talking to Chie from Japan!

For more info on Andrea's shop, his family and the great products they create:

Seasonal tastes

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

2008 saw one important development in Tuscany: finally the concept of Farmers' Markets has made it to Italy, too. It might seem weird to you, but so far there were little possibilities to snatch up some local, seasonal food! At least in the countryside a significant number of people own a little vegetable garden (or someone in the family does), the harvest from these gardens is usually enriched with produce from the supermarket.

Some local buying groups for local and organic food have led the way over the years, now we finally also have Farmers' markets - only once a month to start with, but we will not complain.

So, what does the winter in Tuscany hold for the consumer? Pretty much the same as in big parts of the US - pumpkins, kale, cabbage, carrots, potatoes and swiss chard. Some salads and wild greens. To cut a long story short: the perfect ingredients for a nice, hearty soup. The classic in the Florence region is the Ribollita.


A typical dish from Tuscany, more specifically the Florence region, the Ribollita is a hearty soup that was traditionally prepared in big quantities and then reheated the following days. Hence the name “Ri-bollita” (“boiled again”). The following list of ingredients – and their quantity - can be adapted to your personal taste, but bear in mind that stale bread, kale and cannellini beans make the traditional basis of the Ribollita!

Pls. let me know your favourite recipe for Ribollita – just leave it as a comment to this entry! I will raffle off a 250ml bottle of Cosimo’s Extra virgin Olive Oil “Premium Blend” (sold in The Scrumptious Pantry) among those participating! Deadline: February 18th, 2009!

9 slices of stale white bread (best if from a wood fired oven)
10.6 oz. Cannellini Beans
1 head Kale
¼ head Savoy Cabbage
1 bunch Swiss Chard
2 Potatoes
2 Carrots
1 Leek
2 mid size Onions
¼ cup tomato sauce
Scrumptious Pantry 100% Mission Extra Virgin Olive Oil
black pepper

Soak the Cannellini beans in two quarts of water overnight. The next day, bring the water and beans to a boil and cook them till done. Puree half of the quantity and add some of the cooking water to lessen the density. In a cooking pan, sauté 1.5 chopped onion and finely sliced leek in Cosimo’s extra virgin olive oil “blend” till slightly browned. Add the tomato sauce and leave everything to cook about five minutes. Cut kale, cabbage, potatoes and carrots into bite sized chunks and add to the onion & leek mix. Let cook for about 10 minutes before covering it with the remaining water from the beans and boil everything at medium temperature for an hour. Add both whole beans as well as the bean puree, thyme, black pepper and salt to taste. Boil for another 20-30 minutes.

In a soup bowl, layer slices or chunks of stale bread (you can also use fresh bread that you roast briefly in an olive oil lined frying pan) and vegetable mix and give the bread some time to absorb the liquid before serving.

Serve the Ribollita with a dash of Cosimo’s extra virgin olive oil “premium blend”. Some people also like to add some chopped fresh onion.

400 cows in six bites

Friday, October 24th, 2008

On a recent trip to Florence I was drawn into the local outlet of an international fast food chain, which is conveniently situated within the train station. Being the sole destination for tourists that do not trust Italian food (unfortunately there are still a lot of them, but that will be the topic for another post), I am sure it is the most successful restaurant in the whole city - economically speaking.

Curiosity guided me through the doors: I wanted to eat a Hamburger. I wanted to see how long it would take me to eat 400 cows. Or the meat of 400 cows. A recent statistic I read in one of the many food magazines that are sent to me on a weekly basis confirmed that the average meat patty contains the meat of 400 cows. I found that a) very impressive and b) very frightening. I was even more frightened at the sight of this thin burger patty in front of me, which weighted a maximum of 200 grams. I tried to map out a pattern of 400 squares on its surface, but I quickly gave up. 400 cows for 200 grams of meat. That is half a gram per cow!

Shaking my head, I wondered where our food production has gone to.

But then the confusion set in. When do we know that we have crossed the line towards industrial food production? Let me give you an example: to produce our Sangiovese wine, we harvest two hectares. A total of 10,000 vines, which carry about 12,000 kg grapes, which in turn can be transformed into 9,600 bottles of wine. In realty, to produce a single bottle of wine, we would just need 8 vines, just as one cow would have been plenty for a beef patty. Of course, this is an extreme example, but is there a difference between 12,000kg of grapes going in to a bottle of wine and 400 cows going into a meat patty?

I guess the question at hand is: were those 400 happy cows? Cows that were raised in the open, had the chance to munch on some grass and run around and play, when they felt like running or playing? Did they have someone that gave them a name? Or were they raised in the dark, chained to concrete floor and fed with hormones to grow fat in the right places?

In order to make the right decision on what food products we buy, which ones we choose to nourish not only our body, but also our soul, we need to know where our food comes from. Who is raising the cattle, growing the vines and milling the grain. We need to be sure that our alimentation is in the hands of proud craftsmen that work with integrity. The famer that raises healthy cattle in an healthy environment, a butcher that buys his meat from a trusted farmer. Then, and only then, 400 cows in a burger patty might be acceptable.