Archivi tag: artisan

Stop #15: The poetry of Scaldaferro’s nougat @ Dolo (Venezia)

Russi-DoloSome months passed after the last Travelling Delights’ trip… Summer has gone and, at least theoretically, it has made the way for Autumn. From here to Christmas, it’s a short step: isn’t it the best moment to taste its flavors in advance? So here we are, ready to tell you the behind the scenes of Scaldaferro‘s torrone sweet (nougat), a one-of-a-kind product! Follow us and discover this wonder…

Scaldaferro insegnaThis time, more than ever, we delved into a small apart world, which smelled of honey and roasted almonds, where tradition and innovation walk hand in hand to create sweets… and it would be reductive to define them delicious.

Foto nonno Scaldaferro e Pietro
But let’s start from the beginning: after our early arrival to the nougat factory, the very kind Urania welcomes us and diplomatically tells us that they were waiting for us at least an hour later… until that time, the nougat production won’t be starting.
Here we learn the first lesson: the long cooking times of this special product aren’t only bragged about, but they are strictly respected. Of course, of the ten hours of cooking needed, they can’t bypass one only because we arrived in advance.
The torrone sweet has its needs, and in this small company they are supported from first to last. Just think of this: Pietro, the member of Scaldaferro’s family who currently runs the company, moves to the plant and lives there for the whole production period – which means months – so that he can personally verify every single detail of it.

Albumi che si montanoSo his work starts every day around 3 a.m., measuring the temperature and humidity of the air, then preparing the mixtures that will fill the eight copper pots, one after the other. The machines, some of which come from the early years of ‘900, whip more or less 50 egg whites together with honey, confectioner’s sugar and Bourbon vanilla. Pietro supervises, changing the speed of the whisks or adjusting the heat of the pots, for the thirteen minutes of the whipping and the following hours of cooking.

Impasti in diverse fasi di cotturaAt some point in the morning, the other employées of the small family company join him: there are three men who help preparing the mixtures, which is a job that needs physical strenght, and around ten women who – hear ye – make the final products by hand, shaping the nougat in wads, pinnacles or small cakes depending on the needs and giving life to unique creations, each of which is different from the others.

Collage sciroppoJust before the end of the cooking of the mixtures, which already have a strong personality thanks to the different kinds of honey in them, they add another handful of vanilla, then a waterfall of honey and sugar syrup, that will help the nougat crystallize at its best, and finally the almonds, which will be the 55% of the final product. These are roasted in advance and then kept in jute sacks, that allow them to perspire their humidity but maintain the heat – it’s important that, when they are added to the mixture, they are at its same temperature – so that the egg whites won’t un-whip.

Collage aggiunta mandorleAfter amalgamating the mixture so that it equally covers all the almonds, it is taken away in small amounts and shared among the women who work it when it still has a temperature of 60/65°C. The temperature is high and the hands are reddened, but there isn’t an alternative: if you leave the mixture out of the pot for just a few minutes, it completely solidifies and becomes useless.
The following step is the wrapping, which happens when the nougat is still warm in order to maintain its crispness, but not before a final check of the wads’ shape and of possible unexpected contents.

Fiocchi di torrone fatti a manoThe raw materials used for this torrone sweet deserve a small but necessary parenthesis: Pietro himself tracks down the most unusual and rare kinds of honey, like the “mascena” rose or medlar honey, he chooses the best nuts, like the  IGP Piedmont hazelnut or the DOP Bronte pistachio, and he matches them adding other excellent ingredients, in order to create the classic products and the limited editions.
All of them, it’s worth underlining it, are rigorously made without adding any chemical additive.

Donne al lavoroI don’t know how many of you have ever had the chance to see the production of nougat with their eyes, least of all of such a quality of torrone sweet: since we had this luck, we can testify that it’s pure poetry, a marvel for each of our five senses.
Sight could get lost for hours looking at the mixtures dancing in the machines or at the fingers running fast on the soft nougat.
Touch is amazed by the gummy texture of the mixture when it’s still raw and warm.
Smell gets inebriated by the sweet fragrances of honey, almonds and vanilla that fill every corner of the plant.
Hearing impatiently listens to the sound of the friable, just cracked nougat.
Taste enrapturedly welcomes the always different flavors – delicate or strong, floral or fruity, traditional or innovative – that this special creature can offer.

Stella di torrone fatta a manoAt this point, you can’t help but tasting Scaldaferro’s nougat: we’re sure that, among all its types, you’ll find the right one for you and you’ll never leave it again. Moreover, thinking about Christmas, these sweet creations could be the perfect gift for everyone… relatives, friends, fiancés, gluttons of every age and every need – consider that many of their products are also glutenfree, so suitable for celiac people too!
What are you waiting for, then? Step by La Delizia (in Russi, near Ravenna) to try this artisan marvel. Paola and her girls are waiting for you with lots of brand new Scaldaferro products!

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Pubblicato da su 20 ottobre 2014 in English version!, Uncategorized


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Stop #13: The magic of Marangoni Cioccolato @ Macerata


After visiting the realm of Giamaica Caffè, the trips under the sign of intoxicating aromas continue: this time you can come with us to meet the magic world of Marangoni Cioccolato, in Macerata.


In the late morning we reach the small shop, where we’re welcomed by two nice and kind ladies: Francesca, Mrs. Marangoni and mother of the chocolate master Alfredo, and Carla, that we later find out to be the mother-in-law of Alfredo himself. We look around for a few minutes, fascinated by the glass jars full of different kinds of dragées, by the chocolates neatly placed inside the cases and by the colourful tissue paper that contains the chocolate-covered fruit. Carla offers us a “novembrina”, that is a round and flat dark chocolate with a thin layer of almond paste on the inside. We obviously can’t decline the offer and, in the exact moment we taste it, our immersion in the magic of Marangoni Cioccolato officially begins.
In the meanwhile, from her crimson sofa, mum Francesca starts telling us the story of the family, that goes at the same pace with the one of the shop and of their production.


The great-grandfather of her children was the one who launched the activity, which was born as a bakery and continued by his son, who was passionate of both bread and motors (love that he passed down to his grandson Alfredo). Hereinafter, Eros Marangoni, Francesca’s husband, bought the building where part of the family still lives and the shop is located, and he also launched a patisserie, so sweets became part of the family tradition. Being a farsighted man, he was one of the founders of the consortium of bakeries in Macerata, but unfortunately he couldn’t pursue all of his proposals. When he died, Alfredo was about 4 years old, his sister Lorian was 17 and his brother Giorgio 18.
During the years, the family preferred to entrust the management of the bakery and patisserie to the employées, but then…

Cioccolatini allo zabaione

…but then Alfredo, who in the meanwhile got a diploma as a land surveyor, became fond of chocolate and its processing. It’s the eighties, and in Italy there are very few chocolate masters. Even less are those who think of matching fruit and chocolate in a happy marriage of taste.
He started experimenting new pairings and he took the reins of the professional life of Marangoni family, who has always remained united even in this new adventure: Alfredo is the chocolate master, Giorgio works behind the scenes, Lorian takes care of the confection, her daughter Valentina is the brilliant mind who creates the packaging and graphics and, as said before, Francesca and Carla give life to the shop.

Parete con frutta ricoperta

In addition to them, in the small family company work the smiling Cristian, Fabrizio and the intern Giacomo, and two ladies that wrap up every single chocolate in its own colourful tissue paper.


Imagine a typical day at the laboratory: the few employées untiringly work until lunch time, doing everything by hand, cleaning and preparing the dried fruit or covering it with chocolate, while Alfredo and Lorian keep on working until night, sometimes even late, in order to take care of every single detail of their creations.

Al lavoro sui fichi

As soon as he stops working, Alfredo runs to the shop… or better, under the shop, where he can unload his second passion: music. In the basement he built a rehearsal room, that is now turning into a small recording studio, and there, still dirty with chocolate, he plays the bass and the guitar with his friends, who scold him because his perfume distracts them.

And we could open a separate chapter about the perfume. Entering the laboratory, situated in a small warehouse in a badly paved alley, you’re hugged and pleasantly invaded by a scent of cocoa and rum that, even by itself, would be able to raise again any bad day. Such a scent necessarily has to come from something magic…

Fichi in fase di copertura

In the room where the chocolate creations are produced, we find the guys busy around the machine that is covering – in this case – the figs. On the right, three other machines continuously temper white, milk and dark chocolate.
In the meanwhile, the base of the raisins chocolates is cooling down as much as needed by Alfredo to cut it with a knife, in perfectly similar squares. He is the only one responsible for the cut and preparation of the chocolates and chocolate bars, that he makes by hand in the molds.
We taste another creation: a zabaglione-filled chocolate… greatest of wonders!

Trancetti all'uva passa

Here Alfredo tells us about his philosophy and his way of producing: he only chooses excellent ingredients, even to the detriment of of the price, he experiments with his beloved pots and molds in order to create the best chocolate blends, that change based on the preparation he wants to realize. As regards the covered fruit, Marangoni specialty, for exemple he needs a “round and neutral” dark chocolate, not too acid or invasive because otherwhise it would alter the final taste, covering the flavor of fruit and rum. The latter, moreover, it’s not a random rum but it’s made with an Alfredo’s recipe, so that it’s not too much alcoholic but very aromatic, with a vanilla aftertaste, and none of its shades gets lost during its evaporation.

Frutta in uscita

After finding the perfect balance, the blend of dark chocolate is made in a huge pot, that contains around 700 kg of it, and it’s used to hug fruit and fruit chocolates.
Alfredo’s words are soaked with all of his passion for chocolate, that happily accompanies his life in and out the laboratory. Every creation is born from an idea that is experimented and refined, every chocolate is like a child that belongs to the big Marangoni family.
You understand that Alfredo’s love for chocolate is total and insatiable when he tells you that at night, at home, when he’s hungry, he eats the chocolates that surrounded him during the whole day, never tired of them.

Cioccolatino in sezione

And, after all, it exactly goes in this way: the small Marangoni sweets are unique, each of them is a microcosm where the perfect balance among fruit, rum scent and chocolate emanates at every bite… and you’d love to taste every available type, one after the other, because you never have enough of them.

Fiore di cioccolatini

At this point your mouth is surely (and properly) watering… if you want to personally try the magic of Marangoni Cioccolato, step by the shop La Delizia in Russi (Ravenna) and let yourself get inspired!

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Pubblicato da su 2 novembre 2013 in English version!, Uncategorized


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Stop #12: The little realm of Giamaica Caffè @ Verona


After some months off, the Travelling Delights are restarting their trips seeking the food and wine jewels that Italy conceals.
This time, more than ever, we had to dig deep in order to find the enterprise we’re talking about: Caffè Giamaica, an artisan company situated at the doorway of Verona.

Actually, the word “artisan company” it’s absolutely reducing: Caffè Giamaica is a small world on its own, a realm that moves to the rythm of the philosophical laws that regulate it by nature.

But let’s start from the beginning…

We stop the car in front of an apparently ordinary building from the seventies and we wonder if we are in the right place. Two unmistakable clues confirm that yes, besides the look, this is the coffee roasting plant we are looking for: a dark iron sign, that reads “Caffè Giamaica”, stares at us from the gate and the coffee scent flutters in the air intoxicating us since the first breath.

Targa torrefazione

We get in and a continuous noise of machinery and moving grains welcomes us. Right after it, comes Simone Fumagalli, that we later find out being the son of the wife of Gianni Frasi (the owner of the company) and the latter’s successive. This guy, with a nice face and a patient manner, takes care of the coffee roasting, after watching for years more expert people at work, absorbing the fire art. Or, as we later understand, his first years of “apprenticeship” haven’t done anything else but helping his nature fulfilling itself… apparently no one else, in the little Giamaica realm, has ever been as good as him in roasting coffee.

Tostatura del caffè

Simone himself explained and showed us how the roasting plant works, and we had the chance to watch it for a long time completely enchanted.
We learnt that their machine, a Vittoria that comes directly from the fifties, roasts the grains with a direct flame for about 15 minutes, whithin which the specific timing changes not only for different kinds of coffee, but even for every single sack… here the mastery of who roasts the coffee gets in the running, because he has to ensure that in the end every grain reaches a consistent “monk’s robe” color – which means that it’s homogeneously roasted.
Thanks to Simone’s words we start to understand that nothing, in there, is trivialized: the roasting is not just a basic recurring process, but it’s the way with wich they give to the coffee the possibility of expressing itself for what it is. Only at that point, tasting the final result, an expert can recognize its qualities and flaws.
Before arriving to the roasting plant, the coffee is grown in an environment with certain characteristics, then it’s harvested and procesed so that the pulp of the seed of the fruit of the plant – what we commonly call “coffee grains” – is ready to be roasted. All of this obviously influences the coffee and gives it specific characteristics: the already quoted qualities and flaws.


After the roasting, the grains that will be grinded and used to prepare espresso have to rest for 48 hours.
In a week, that coffee reaches the peak of its potentiality and expresses at its best all of its aromatic and physical characteristics. After a month, those characteristics begin to decline… and this is the reason why the Giamaica coffee is not granted to any client that doesn’t pledge to be able to use it within that period of time. Yes, because in this roasting plant they attentively select not only the grains (from those who “seem to be” the best plantations in the world) but also the clients. They are examined and they have to be approved by Gianni Frasi before deserving a part of this precious treasure.
Precious, very precious… both because it’s an inherent quality of coffeee – in the regulation of trade it’s only secondary to oil – and because in this roasting plant everything that wheels around it forms a kind of mystic cult, and finally because you can definitely say that the Giamaica coffee is a limited edition product. Gianni, Simone and their collaborators only work on demand and, just to have a hint on the amount of their production, read this anecdote: last year, record year for what concerns the amount of the coffee production, working 365 days without any interruption, from the Giamaica plant came out as much coffee as the one that gets out of a big industrial plant in 8 working hours.

Cartelloni Giamaica

This is the reason why, when we met Gianni Frasi, one of the first things he said was that Caffè Giamaica shouldn’t exist. Yet there it is, since the 1930s it continues its activity and it has no intention of giving up.
Perhaps, as Gianni himself told us, if he hadn’t received a crucial suggestion from above in a critical moment, it would have disappeared like thousands of other italian roasting plants, on the contrary it resurrected from its ashes and it started to burn even brighter than before.

Tazzine Giamaica

But who’s Gianni Frasi? It would be reducing to just identify him as “the owner of the Caffè Giamaica company”.
Frasi is a guru that developed a life philosophy that mingles with the cult of coffee, an enigmatic man who inspects the world through his penetrating blue eyes, with which he stares at you as if he wants to understand if you’re worth, if you’re able to get the meaning of his truth facts and to overcome the initiation ritual.
Meeting him smells like coffee and tastes like a university lesson given by that professor that everybody fears and venerates, with an aftertaste of theatre show where nothing is left to chance. Every sentence is weighted, every word has a specific meaning and is a metaphor for the almost esoteric point of view that Frasi has about coffee, his vocation and the whole cosmos.

Torretta dei caffè

It would be impossible to report all of the stages of the fascinating journey that we made following him on the paths charted by his words, but there’s a central concept through which it’s possible to grasp the point of view of this “coffee holy man”.
The raw coffee grains only have a potential existence, and they can develop this potential only thanks to the baptism obtained through the “aqueous fire” of roasting. The product, before and after it, has the same nature but it’s not the same thing anymore. In order to take advantage of their nature, then, the roasted grains need “burning water”… so the circle can close: espresso is not just an ordinary espresso, but it’s the result of an opposite way antinomy with a religious-philosophical aftertaste.

Uomini e caffè

“Men should be like coffee: Strong, Good, Warm”

Are you curious to try the mystic experience of a coffee that comes from the Giamaica plant?
Don’t fear: we overcame the initiation ritual… not only Frasi allowed us to take the pictures that you can see here, but he also granted Paola to sell his coffee at her shop La Delizia (in Russi, Ravenna).
Step by as soon as you can!

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Pubblicato da su 24 settembre 2013 in English version!, Uncategorized


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Stop #11: Bazza, the cold cuts artisan @ Terrassa Padovana (Padova)

Russi-Terrassa Padovana

After our trip to Acetaia La Bonissima, our journeys went on, always dedicated to tradition: this time we went out of the borders of our region and we got to Terrassa Padovana, where the Bazza company is located.


In an industrial zone, not very “poetic” – word and concept often used by Giovanni (called Vanni), owner of the company – it stands the small Bazza plant, a real treasure chest filled with tradition, the cold cuts artisan’s kingdom.

Salami senza aglio in asciugatura

Born in a family of generations of butchers, Vanni Bazza himself, when he was only 14 years old, started working in one of the most famous butcher shops of the area – also equipped with a laboratory where he had the chance to learn the first basics of meat processing.
After some changes in his working life, when he still was very young, he opened his own first butcher shop, then a second one, but he finally decided to close both of them because – with the arrival in town of a big supermarket – he wasn’t able to sell his products anymore.

Tagliere di salami

At that point he decided to take a big leap and do his utmost opening a laboratory where he dedicated himself only to the production of salami. As it often happens to those who have the courage to start an activity that goes “against the tide”, the first years have been very difficult, so that he thought to close also the laboratory down.
But then it made the scene an element of “lucky coincidence” that brought to a positive change and to a happy ending – as it happens in all the best fairy tales.

Rassegna stampa

Vanni met Giorgio Onesti, a famous discoverer of Italian food excellences, who tasted his product and simply asked him: “Can you make it even better?”.
At that point he realized that it was the right moment to completely revolutionize his production: he gave all the salami he had in the warehouse away, he began studying their chemistry and he restarted all over again.
The proof that that was the direction to follow came from Giorgio himself, who liked his salami so much that he started selling them in different parts of the Italian boot… when Vanni didn’t even know how to ship them!
From then on, the cold cuts artisan career has been an escalation: now his products are sold everywhere in Italy (and also in a shop in Stockholm) and everyone acknowledges their outstanding quality.

Salame Bazza

But what makes these cold cuts so unique?
The first secret surely is the specialization: Bazza’s cured pork meat factory produces almost only salami and soppressa, apart from smaller quantities of other cold cuts – both seasoned (coppa and pancetta) and raw (zampone, cotechino and bondiola). If you’re an expert in the field, you will probably have better results than those who do and know (or think to know) a little bit of everything.

Pancette arrotolate

The second secret, as we often underlined, is the choice to use first quality ingredients, selected with attention and awareness. A few elements, all of them natural, and an apparently simple processing that repeats the traditional one – but making it “modern” thanks to all the chemical knowledge that stand behind the natural cold cuts production. In other words, it’s a rediscovery of tradition through scientific means.

Salami dall'alto

Let’s consider salami as an exemple: they were the first born in Bazza’s cured pork meat factory and they still are the main product. Their only ingredients are pork meat (thigh and bacon), salt and pepper – with the addition of garlic in one of the two kinds of salami. No niters, no preservatives, no flour (grain, milk or animal), no sugar, no water – all of these are added in the industrial production.
This choice obviously requires the need to pay absolute attention to every detail, from the selection of the meat to the processing, in order to obtain an excellent product without external “help” – which is dangerous for the consumer’s health.

Salami all'aglio in asciugatura

Vanni perfectly explained us all the chemical “behind-the-scenes” of the salami production, especially regarding the bacterial formation within the processed meat. There are “bad” and “good” bacteria (the second ones are necessary for the meat fermentation and seasoning) and, without the niters’ help, everything is up to how you choose and handle meat, as well as the timing and temperatures of the different production steps.

In Bazza’s particular case, when the meat (of the rear part of the pig, less polluted by the butchery) arrives in the sterilized spaces of the laboratory, it’s kept and grinded at very low temperatures, then put into sterilized natural sausage skins, hand-tied one by one.

Salami all'aglio

The following step is the drip, which imitates the kitchens where our grandfathers used to keep the fresh salami: in the shortest time possible, so that harmful bacteria can’t grow, the very cold meat has to get to a temperature of 19 Celsius degrees. In this way, the product obviously loses weight (around 15%) because of the water loss, and the salt within the meat begins to work as a preservative.

Muffe da vicino

After it, it’s time for the drying, which corresponds to the warehousing in our grandfathers’ granary, where the salami are kept to a fresh cellar temperature and on their surface the mold begins to grow – and this is a very positive thing, contrary to the expectations, because it shows that the water went out of the sausage and that bacteria aren’t growing in the inside. Substantially, these molds are a proof of the absence of niters and of the fact that the harmful bacteria are killed in a natural way.

Muffe da vicinissimo

In the end, there’s the conservation and seasoning phase, that lasts about 90 days.

Salami in mantenimento

It is clear that a product of this kind, completely genuine and natural, needs absolute attention and devotion – which brings to an increase of the costs and to a necessarily limited production.
Vanni Bazza, driven by a huge passion for his profession and by the continuous desire to grow and improve himself, didn’t get discouraged but, on the contrary, he has been farsighted: his efforts are now completely rewarded thanks to the satisfaction of knowing that his customers are enthusiastic about his cold cuts.

Lo speck

The history of Bazza’s company is not ending here: Enrico, Vanni’s son, is studying food science and technologies in order to deepen the knowledge of those subjects with which his father dealt almost as a self-taught. He inherited his big passion and there’s no doubt about the fact that he will be able to bring that treasure chest filled with tradition straight into the future.


Paola met Vanni almost 20 years ago, and from then on she has been selling his salami at her shop La Delizia. If you want to try them and go back to the past of Italian tradition, you can as always find them in Russi (Ravenna). We are waiting for you!

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Pubblicato da su 12 marzo 2013 in English version!, Uncategorized


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Stop #9: Friultrota’s fish specialities @ San Daniele of Friuli (Udine)

Our last trip took us to closely discover a reality that we wanted to share with you since ages: the Friultrota company and its delicious products.

In San Daniele of Friuli, in an area that seethes with ham factories, there’s a plant that proudly stands out for its typology, showing at the entrance not a pork thigh but a modern wrought-iron fish sculpture. Its main product is known everywhere as “La Regina di San Daniele” (The Queen of San Daniele), and in the matter of celebrity it doesn’t envy at all its fellow citizen ham. That company precisely is Friultrota, which we visited for you and now we’re pleased to tell you.

The history of this company, and of the family that gave birth to it, is more than ever characterized by that healty craziness and that courage that bring to follow one’s own passions even when the wisdom says to let them go… but, at the showdown, it’s the glaring proof that the hard work, when it’s based on a deep and strong passion, fully pays off.

Giuseppe Pighin, founder of the company and father of the current owner Mauro, wasn’t a well-learned man – as it usually happened at his time – but he was extremely clever. He was curious and had a lot of innovative ideas, that he often followed even if who knew him called him crazy – until when all of them had to change their mind and give him credit for his far-sightedness.

At the beginning, the family business had nothing to do with fish farming: indeed it used to deal with gravel and concrete, and it mainly took place in a quarry located on the river Tagliamento. Little by little, by constantly digging, they formed a small lake where Giuseppe put some trouts, that he later started to raise and fish as a personal pleasure.

Since the fishes began to grow in size and number, in the Seventies the Pighin family tried to sell them on the fresh market, but they were forced to stop because their way of raising the animals – very “domestic” and regardless of the costs – brought them to lose money.

At the end of the Seventies, for a series of accidental coincidences that, in retrospect, have been providential, they met a person who was fond of fish processing and a chef who had been a pioneer in smoking salmon, and who wanted to try with trouts. Relying on their enthusiastic comments and on those of who tasted their fishes and claimed that their quality was definitely superior to the one of other trouts that they previously tried, the members of the family decided to permanently abandon the work at the quarry and to dedicate themselves to the farming and processing of trouts – choosing to follow what they were fond of, despite the uncertain perspectives. 

As complete self-taught apprentices, Giuseppe and his sons started to experiment fish preservation, following their own intuitions, without choosing paths well-trodden by others but venturing into that field in a totally empirical way. Their first “laboratory” was an aunt’s cellar, then they moved to a train carriage internally covered with stainless steel. The sons were guinea-pigs: every experiment they approved was put forward to the public.

The main processing method they used was smoking, but in that way their trouts found themselves in competition with salmon – which at that time was still of excellent quality since it wasn’t an industrial product.

In 1984, despite all the people who told them they were crazy, the Pighin’s took up the gauntlet and started the current Friultrota company. At that moment, thanks to all the experiments and collaborations previously made, they already had the necessary expertise in order to perfectly know what they wanted and how to achieve it – for exemple, their smoking cells have never been the “standard” ones suggested by the suppliers, but they were custom-made based on their needs.

This was for sure a strong point of the company, while the second fundamental one is certainly the quality that from the beginning characterized their farming: indeed it is a low-density breeding (15kg of fish per cubic meter, which is even lower than the standard of the organic production), realized without force-feeding and with good fodder, and respectful of the natural growth time of the animals.
Even the quality of water is vital, because the trouts need it to be extra pure: in this geographical area there luckily is resurgence water, which is taken from the river Tagliamento with a system of canals and goes straight to the farming.

The fish is then fished with non-invasive methods (using a small net which is casted into the water when needed) around two or three times a week, and afterwards it’s immediately butchered in special facilities located next to the lakes, so that it can arrive very soon and already gutted in the close plant where it’s going to be processed.

A vital thing, in this series of steps from the fishing to the final processing, is the speed – less time passes from the first step to the last one, more the fat of the fish maintains its quality and better will be the resulting product. Moreover, in the processing it’s always observed the cold chain: all the operations – cutting, boning, salting, possible spicing – are hand-made in rooms where the temperature doesn’t exceed 12/14 Celsius degrees.

The timing of the different steps, like for exemple the salting or the smoking, aren’t fixed but they change based on the characteristics of fish, like the size or the quantity of fat – this means that every detail is carefully assessed and supervised by staff people provided with a huge experience about. The business is therefore a completely artisan one, so the processing of fish requires around 4/5 days (on the contrary, the industrial one is executed in 10/12 hours). Moreover, as a choice Friultrota doesn’t use colouring nor preservatives… and the final quality of the product fully testifies that all of this attention makes a difference!

In the course of time, for market requirements they included also other kinds of products, such as smoked salmon and chicken breast, trout eggs, herring… always with an innovative point of view. This last kind of fish, for exemple, is processed salting and smoking it less than the classic one (that’s why it’s been called “Aringa Sciocca” – “Bland herring”), and it’s been released from tradition – which consigned its use in the Easter period – making it a product suitable all year long, even during summer – matched, for exemple, with rocket and green apples.

Friultrota series offer a very wide choice of products, for people who love good fish and at the same time love the convenience of ready-for-use dishes – indeed their products are sold already ready for eating them, even if they can be further elaborated (maybe using the recipes that can be found on their website) by whom would like to create delicious dishes.

Their fishes have good full taste, they can be easily distinguished, some are stronger while other more mellow, with such a soft consistency that it melts in your mouth, and their excellence is now multi-awarded.

At this point, all you can do is try them… you can find them at the shop La Delizia, in Russi (Ravenna), so we wait for you!

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Pubblicato da su 26 ottobre 2012 in English version!, Uncategorized


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Stop #6: ’32 Via dei Birrai’ artisan beer @ Onigo di Pederobba (Treviso)

Finally, after eating so many kinds of food all around Italy, we moved to beverages… not to any beverage, but to the artisan beer made in 32 Via dei Birrai!

Right when the hot and sultry weather started to boss the show, with almost 40 Celsius degrees that kept us company under a burning sun, we thought it was time to reach Veneto in order to go and get fresh with some sips of excellent artisan beer.

In Onigo di Pederobba, a place located in the plain of Treviso surrounded by hills covered with Valdobbiadene vineyards, in an industrial park you can find the small plant where beer 32 comes to life. Very recognizable, thanks to the unmistakable mark that triumphantly takes up a big part of the external wall.

Before even getting there we meet Loreno, one of the three charter members of the company, who is going to take a coffee in a bar. We join him, start talking and realize that our day will be full of lots of chatter that, apart from being instructive, will be also very pleasant.
In addition to Loreno, who takes care of the commercial part of the work, the other two pillars of the company are Fabiano, Italian-Belgian master brewer, and Alessandro, engineer with a passion for beer.
Every one of them obviously provided with a bright mind, because if there’s an adjective that perfectly fits the 32 brewery is: brilliant!

You can see that from the very first moment you enter the office of the plant, or the small room where they organize courses that, for exemple, teach how to reuse the packing material. Yes, because one of the basic principles of their philosophy is: you mustn’t throw away anything from the beers. Not even the tops, the boxes that contain them or the cardboard that separate the bottles in the six-pack.
The first ones turn into key-rings, wonderful curtains or even jewels; the second ones into shelves, legs for tables and much more; the third ones in leaflets or counter signs. Loreno also invented the “paper-meccano”: some parts of the boxes that contain the bottles can be removed and they can be reused as drip mats or in order to create original sculptures.

You can also find their genius in the design that typifies all the 32 production: the bottles have a peculiar and unique shape, the circle has been chosen as the main symbol, the big colourful round brand – associated to the names of the beers – makes the product immediately recognizable, the tops have the same colour of the brand and on one side there’s a letter… so that you can write sentences just placing them side by side!

Even the name, as you probably noticed, stands out of the mass. Why 32 instead of another number? Because 32 corresponds to the affiliation class of beer, based on the international classification that categorizes all the products. There’s always something new you can learn!

The 32 brewery was born six years ago from nothing. Loreno managed a successful club for 14 years, then he interrupted that business starting new ones that didn’t satisfy him all the way. In the meanwhile, he had met Fabiano, and at a certain point he decided to try their luck realizing a dream with him: opening a brewery. With a first investment of 80000 euros in used machinery, they managed to start the business, that enriched and refined itself with time, bringing the brand ’32 Via dei Birrai’ to a great succes in Italy and in the world.

As for every excellent product, even in this case the basic elements are just a few: the ingredients must be of the best quality – both the cereals, the spices (that come from Romagna), and the hops (from Belgium) have been carefully chosen by Loreno and partners – and the processing must be simple, so that it doesn’t pervert the nature of the final result.

At the bottom of every kind of beer they produce there’s anyway an accurate research, in order to measure out blends and flavours in the best way. A percentage of the revenue from the sales is indeed assigned to research in order to improve the product: in the brewery there’s a small chemistry room where the potions are tested and the magic comes to life.

The processing of beer is composed of different stages: first of all the cereals are roasted – in our case, we tasted some grains of roasted “sour” barley which was the base for the Audace beer – and cooked with hops in the water at a temperature of almost 100 Celsius degrees.

The obtained fluid is filtered in order to remove the residues of the grains, then the yeast is added and the whole thing rests in a tank for many days. In this way a first brewing takes place, which means that a lot of carbon dioxide is released – indeed, there’s a small pipe that gets out from the tank in order to allow air to escape.

Such beer is then bottled, closed with three protective devices – a cork top, a crown cap and the external capsule, put into boxes and then kept in a cell at 24 Celsius degrees where the second brewing takes place, so that every flavour is released in the best way.

Basically, from the beginning of the processing to the moment in which the beer is ready, there are around 45 days. If you consider that there are only two brewing tanks, you can see how the production cannot be much ample, and this preserves a total attention to every step and an excellent final quality. Also consider that a sample of every batch is tasted and, if it doesn’t fit the quality norm, it’s not sold. It’s also true that, as Loreno says more than once, since it’s artisan beer the result is never the same… but it has to be the best every time!

There are seven beers in the 32 stable: Curmi, Audace, Oppale and Tre+Due are produced during the whole year; Admiral, Atra and Nebra on the contrary are seasonal. Each of them has its peculiar characteristics as regards colour, alcoholic strenght, flavours and as a consequence dish-matching.

In order to soothe our curiosity, for lunch we tried to match Tre+Due and Curmi with a serie of more or less seasoned kinds of cheese… and we found out that they’re very good with the most underripe ones.

I’m sure that all this talk about beers made your thirst and your wish to try them exponentially increase, considering the hot summer weather that is surrounding everyone in these last days (at least in Italy).
So you just have to pass by Russi and stop by “La Delizia” in order to get some of these brilliant beers… and if you have friends that love this kind of things, give them some beers from ’32 Via dei Birrai’ as a present and you will cut a dashing figure!

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Pubblicato da su 1 luglio 2012 in English version!, Uncategorized


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Stop #3: Laura’s World cookies @ Rome

Our first trips took us to discover the secrets of two great traditional products of our land, Emilia-Romagna: Branchi’s cooked ham and S. Ilario’s Parma ham.
As regards the third stop, we changed article and, following its sweet call, we went to Rome to visit Laura and to get to know the small world where she makes her wonderful artisan cookies.

Her laboratory, which is also a shop, is located on Tiburtina street, hidden among machine shops and very masculine workplaces: it’s a neat little number that stands out, with a shutter surrounded by a colorful painting and the inside furnished in Occitan style – old furniture painted in white, fuchsia and frivolous wallpaper, flashes of colour given by the ornaments that are spread all over the place, a huge decorative cake covered with white sugarpaste and pink roses, and then Him, the central table, sprinkled with glass jars and cake stands full of cookies.

As soon as the door of that small world opened, a heady scent which smelled like spicy cooking dough welcomed us – we later found out that the oven was full of apple crumbles. Laura immediately appeared, a tiny girl wrapped in a huge work uniform, with a headscarf, a nice face and pink dolly cheeks.
She offered us some cookies, and how could we refuse them?! After a four-hours car drive, we couldn’t ask for a better welcome.

Comfortably sit in a corner used as a small parlour, we started chatting and Laura told us her story.

She was born in Rome, where she attended the hotel-management school – after which she tried to work as a chef, because it was what she had studied for, but she almost immediately stopped, realizing that it’s not at all a feminine job.
Following her interests, she turned to pastry making, but when she was 20 she started feeling not in the right place, so she decided to move with a friend to New York, where she worked as a confectioner in some restaurants.

When she came back to Rome, she went working in a pastry shop which offered very traditional products. Realizing that in that field, in Italy, we were one hundred years late, she left again, with another friend, and she moved to London, where she staied for almost a year. There she worked as a cook, as a baker in a French restaurant – where she learnt the secrets of natural rising – and in the end as a pastry chef in a laboratory which used very rare and precious raw materials.
Life brought her back to Rome, but she soon left again, with a third friend, for Tel Aviv. When she was there, she worked in an artisan biscuit factory, absorbing new influences and learning recipes and the secrets of the trade.

Once back to Rome for the nth time, she worked for a couple of years in a chocolate shop, where the cookies she baked had a great success. At that point she had the idea to start a biscuit production on her own, to then sell them to the owners of the shop.
So, little by little, the “Laura’s World” adventure began: first she rented a laboratory from a friend who gave it to her in the afternoon, then with the help of her parents she managed to open one on her own, and in the end she landed in the current location a couple of years ago.

After opening the artisan laboratory – Laura is one of the very few artisans in Rome, you can count them on the tips of your hand’s fingers! – she was very quick in getting people to know her… for exemple, as soon as she moved to the current building, she went to the Taste fair to introduce her product.
Moreover, this year she participated to CIBUS with the aim to bring Made in Italy in Europe, market of which she’s very fond because she feels it more similar to her work philosophy.

In a word, this miniature woman is totally enterprising and full of experiences that influenced her activity very much and that you can find in the biscuits she makes!

They’re really unique, very different from traditional Italian biscuits but even from the concept of biscuit itself.
They’re small artworks of taste, with three important strong points: the first one is for sure their “clean” flavour, so that you can clearly recognize all the ingredients they’re made of, the second one is the absolute fantasy as regards the names, shapes and colors of packaging, very well-groomed, and the third one is the possibility for the dealers of selling them unpacked, which brings completely back the sensation of craftsmanship and freshness that is the foundation of these products.

So you can find yourself tasting the Pepita (Nugget), a crisp cocoa biscuit, with dark chocolate chunks and Himalaya salt, or the Green Lady, whole wheat, with pistachios, honey and ginger, or the Raggio di Sole (Sunbeam), made of oatmeal, sesame, honey and Corinth raisins… but the options are really a lot, each of them intriguing thanks to the name and the particular look, and so good once tasted!

But how are these biscuits concretely born? We obviously went and looked around the laboratory, with Laura as our guide.
In the backstage of the shop there are various rooms, each of them with a specific function.

We started from the biscuits’ storehouse, where the buckets filled with the ones that will be sold unpacked are parked – not for long. In this time of the year it’s quite empty: the cookies are made and delivered to the addressees almost immediately, at the same rhythm… from August on, instead, the production exponentially increases within sight of Christmas, and sometimes the small storehouse is not even enough to hold all of the boxes, which often invade even other places of the lab.

Then we went in the big room where the biscuits are kneaded, shaped and cooked. In that exact moment, two guys were hand-making some baking trays of Miss Cioccolatissima. We were amazed! Miss Cioccolatissima is one of Laura’s most successful biscuits, it’s a peculiar one, more a dessert than a breakfast biscuit: it’s close-grained but soft, with cocoa and a coffee liquor aftertaste, covered with sugar. The apotheosis of taste. We were very surprised to see how this biscuit is made: while for other kinds of biscuits they legitimately use machines that roll out the dough and make things easier, every Miss Cioccolatissima is hand-made, collecting the soft dough with a tool that shapes it into small spheres (like the ones that are used for icecream, but smaller), and then they’re run over caster sugar and confectioner’s one. One by one, and think that it’s one of the most produced biscuits!

The following room we visited was the one where biscuits are packaged. A few days ago a new machine arrived at the laboratory: it packs them in modified atmosphere, so that they can be stored for a much longer time, without adding any chemical.

In the end, we popped in the ingredients’ storehouse, and we certified what we already knew: all the raw materials are carefully selected by Laura in person, in the strenght of two criteria: quality and being kosher.

After our visit, before leaving the shop with the car loaded with biscuit boxes, we had the chance to taste also a hazelnut brownie… a very gluttonous goodbye!

So, loaded with small sweet artworks, we left bound for Russi (Ravenna). There, at the shop “La Delizia”, you can find also these jewels, both packed and unpacked, perfect as a gift for others or for oneself, even shaped as a maxi colorful cookie-pop.
You have an embarrassing wealth of options, and your taste buds will be very grateful to receive this kind of gifts!

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Pubblicato da su 9 giugno 2012 in English version!, Uncategorized


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Stop #1: Branchi’s cooked ham @ Felino (PR)

Our travels across flavours start with the King of delicatessen: ham.
First stop: Felino – a small town in the province of Parma, famous for its salami – in order to visit the small Branchi company, specialized in high quality cooked ham.

The factory is located in the center of the town, but we only knew how to get to the main square. As we got there, we met a Branchi truck and we decided to ask the driver for some infos… and, how we later found out, he was Mr. Tito Branchi in person, current owner of the company. Who could show us the way better than him? Indeed, we didn’t have any problem in finding the plant: 100 mt away, rusty gate, nr. 11.

The first thing I noticed was the front of the house (that we later got to know is still occupied by Tito Branchi’s old mother): a pale, clean facade, with a small plant of climbing roses, their color perfectly matched with the window green. A poetic sight, symbol of the simpleness and the authenticity of the company and of their products. And its romanticism too, because there surely is a lot of love in the devotion that the Branchi’s put in their job.

In the courtyard, we found a welcoming Giovanni, Tito’s son and brother of Franco, the three pillars of the company.
After taking us to a cellar converted into a meeting room, soflty enlightened and full of family heirlooms, he started telling us the story of their business.

The firm started in the Fifties maturing ham. After a while, the family – because, we need to underline this, it’s a family-owned business – decided to specialize in cooked ham and to abandon the maturing activity.

Giovanni, in particular, has been a rugby player at a semi-professional level until the age of 29. Then he graduated in Food Science and Technology, he left rugby and he decided to dedicate himself to the company. They updated everything, in order to create a more modern series of products even if keeping on respecting all the criteria of homemade production.

That’s how they gave birth to Magnolia Cooked Ham, the series of the Smoked ham and the one of the Specials – High Quality: the Classic Local Printed Cooked Ham, the Hand-Tied, the Cooked Culatta (made with a fine part of the thigh) and the Mec Special (the only one made from non-local thighs). Every local ham has the P.P. brand, which stands for “Parma Production”, and the meat is personally chosen by Franco, who goes on purpose to the slaughterhouse every week.

The latest launched is also the flagship of the Branchi production: the “Cotto ’60” (“’60 Cooked ham”). It was born in 2010, and it’s a completely natural product, cooked inside the typical can used in the Sixties for this kind of production. It was subject to various tests, but even the very first version revealed itself as a world-beater: it was indeed awarded – by the prestigious “Gambero Rosso” magazine – as the best cooked ham in Italy in July 2010, after it was introduced to the market at Taste exhibition in April of the same year.

After this introduction, it came the moment to go and visit the real plant, quite small in its genre – it’s about 1100 square mts – and suitable for a company that, as we said, is an artisan and family enterprise.
The production is not very extensive, we’re talking of about 500 pieces of ham per week… which are a lot anyway, if you think of all the hand-made actions that Giovanni and the employees do!

Our tour started in a cold store where the fresh thighs were hanging. Everyone of them was marked, so that their origin and characteristics are recognizable.

Then Giovanni let us see the “ribollita”: a huge pot full of very dark water, which was the concentrated infusion of spices, used to season the pieces of ham. Real spices, that we later saw with our eyes and profusely smelled, which are mixed following a secret family recipe and then boiled to extract their essence. No flavourings, normally used in the industrial output, nor other weird brew to make the meat damper and heavier – at the expenses of quality and above all of our health! The Branchi’s only use their secret spices, salt and water in a sufficient but not excessive quantity: the pieces of ham loose a bit of weight compared to the fresh thighs, but they absolutely gain quality.

The brine is injected in the meat with a multi-needle technology, the femoral arteries are hand-cleaned one by one and the thighs are manually salted, then they are churned – that is they’re put in a kind of a “concrete mixer” which massages and softens them, and finally they’re put into the molds – or into the cans if it’s the “Cotto ’60” – and cooked for about 24 hours.

For the smoked series, the smoking is done on the raw meat by burning beech wood, then the pieces of ham are cooked.

Once ready, the products get to the small room where a brisk worker hand-packs them, sticking every single label on the bag and then wrapping the pieces of ham.

The last step is the pasteurization, and after that the products are ready to be sent to the addressees!

Addressees among which stands also Paola, who cuts and sells Branchi’s cooked ham in her shop “La Delizia” so, if you got fascinated by this story of complete devotion of Branchi’s family towards their products, if you’re looking for absolute quality which respects both the meat they use and the consumer, if you want an excellent product both in the processing and in the flavour, you ought to know that you can find it in Russi (Ravenna), always at your disposal!

Believe me, after getting to know this kind of reality, seeing how they treat their products and, instead, listening to how ham is processed in the industrial production, you couldn’t desire nothing but a few good slices of artisan cooked ham, made in accordance with the rules… like this!
So when you’re around you should run to “La Delizia” to taste it! 🙂

10 commenti

Pubblicato da su 27 maggio 2012 in English version!, Uncategorized


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