Risotto ai Funghi Porcini Secchi

Emi and I share many preferences: our passion for porcini mushrooms is just one of them. Last week I posted on Facebook a photo of the Risotto ai Porcini that she ordered at A Bellagio in Campbell. It was really good, though a bit salty, and the suspicion is that a lot of butter was used. Someone asked me to post the recipe that I use, so here we go, I just translated it and I hope that you will try it.

  • Submerge 50 grams of dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl full of water and some wine. All the recipes say to use white wine. For some reason I like to use red wine better.
  • Use a strainer to preserve the liquid and remove the impurities.
  • Slice the well drained mushrooms.
  • Finely mince an onion and stir fry in extra-virgin olive oil. Many recipes call for garlic instead of onion, and that is what I prefer to use (3-4 cloves).
  • Add the mushrooms making sure that they do not stick to the pan.
  • In a separate pan, bring the beef broth (1.5 liters–6 cups) to a slow boil (it must be boiling temperature so that when you add it to the rice it does not stop its cooking process).
  • Back to the mushrooms: add a little of the water set aside and add about half a glass of wine.
  • Add the rice (somewhere between 1 and 1.5 cups) and let it toast for a few minutes, mix well to make sure that the rice will not stick to the pan.
  • Add the other half of the glass of wine.
  • When the wine has evaporated start adding the broth and stir frequently to make sure that the rice does not stick to the pan. The rice should always be covered in broth so keep on adding broth as needed.
  • From the time you added the rice, the rice should cook in about 20 minutes, but this can vary depending on the rice used. Turn off the flame.
  • Add finely minced fresh parsley and the imported Parmigiano Reggiano (it is rather important not to use imitation cheeses here). I also usually add some butter.
  • Finally, give the risotto a good stir and let it sit for five minutes. Then it is ready to serve.

This is the recipe that I like the most out of every recipe I am familiar with. It requires paying very close attention to every step as you can’t walk away from the pan for longer than a minute. If you try this recipe I would be very curious to find out how it turned out. Buon appetito!

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I Won’t Let Summer Slip Past Me

When the days start getting noticeably shorter in August I start thinking of ways to hang onto summer for just a little bit longer. When I get up it is pitch black again, when I go for a walk with my dog it calls for a sweatshirt, it is easy to start thinking that fall is just around the corner.

But the reality is that summer is only half over and in the San Francisco bay area there are plenty of hot, sunny days ahead that call for gelato and dinner in the yard. To get myself back in a summer mindset, all I have to do is think about summer in Gianni’s Sicily. I can picture him in his patio overlooking the sea with paper and pencil sketching new designs. There is a sail boat in the far distance, moving slowly, he picks up some paper, makes a boat origami, and one idea is sparked.

Barchetta sail boat leather key chain

 

Then I picture Gianni reaching for a slice of Anguria and bam! Another idea is calling for a cute design.

ANGURIA watermelon keyring

By now I am thinking of when we visited Sicily: the most delicious Spaghetti alle Vongole we ever had at Oasi Azzurra, the summer heat, the refreshing clean water, the fun of carefree times with your family and friends.

Now I am ready to enjoy summer again. My motivation to go to work has disappeared–it is time to plan a few days off (maybe during the week-end) :-).

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Reflections on the past year

Two weeks ago, we celebrated my one year anniversary of working at Marcopoloni! Time sure flies by when you’re having a good time. As you all know, Marcopoloni is a very small company with only a grand total of three employees! Yes, that means it’s just Daniele, Emi and me handling every possible scenario in an online retail business. It can get really busy but it can also be relaxing. Working at Marcopoloni is also an introvert’s dream! I work in my own office in the comfort and silence of my leather-made companions, I am left alone 95% of the time to complete my tasks for the day and handling customer service isn’t bad at all since our customers are extremely nice and understanding. I love that I am encouraged to let my creativity run wild with side projects such as thinking of new ways to show off all the beautiful artisanal products we have! With the added bonus of house made cappuccino at our daily meetings, I don’t think it can get any better. I have learned a lot over the past year and I can only imagine how great the next year will be! Cheers to Daniele and Emi for making my first year at Marcopoloni awesome!

 

Left: Daniele, Right: Me, Bottom: Emi We went to Color Me Mine to make hand painted works of art on my anniversary!

 

 

 

 

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We Love Modeling for Our Customers

Have you ever wondered what it is like to work at Marcopoloni? I know that some customers have commented that they would like to be here to be around all the fabulous products that we carry. We do spend our days surrounded by wonderful Campomaggi bags, fragile Murano glass and Koito pottery, intriguing Antartidee wall clocks, etc. When I am not staring at all that, I try to catch up on accounting, make web site improvements (most of the time they are fixes), and market our products. My favorite part about marketing is helping customers with specific questions, and, in particular, modeling products for them.

Daniele taking photos with Emi modeling a Campomaggi bag.

Here is Daniele at the beginning of July taking photos of Emi modeling a Campomaggi bag.

The photo above is an example. Daniele and Emi are in front of our office. Our office is to the right of Emi and the big 274 sign. You can see the mannequin through the window, probably featuring a Caterina Lucchi bag, and that is how you can recognize our office if you come and pay us a visit. If I remember correctly, Emi was modeling a Campomaggi bag for a customer who needed to figure out whether the bag would be too big for her.

We know that shopping online is full of uncertainties, so please do not hesitate to ask us for help. Do YOU have any questions for us? We would love to help.

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The Fall/Winter 2013 Campomaggi Collection is Arriving

Every time Campomaggi introduces a new collection it is a feast for the eyes and a challenge for the mind. That’s because some bags immediately catch on to your tastes while others make you wonder: “will I ever become a fan of this style?” What I know is that, in my case, most of the latter models eventually do grow on me and a few don’t. That’s not surprising given how unique each model is: it is designed to appeal to different tastes.

DONDI leather sling bag: the first bag from the Fall Winter 2013 Collection by Campomaggi has arrived.

Campomaggi made a beautiful distressed leather sling bag that is both comfortable and practical.

The first member of the Fall/Winter 2013 collection by Campomaggi to go up on Marcopoloni.com was the DONDI Leather Sling Bag. My first impression was: “wow, what is it? A fanny pack?” Then I put it on and realized that, besides looking and feeling good, it was both comfortable and practical. I can see using it around town or travelling. You have heard many times that Campomaggi bags are heavy thanks to the quality of the leather. So, if you stayed away from Campomaggi bags because they are heavy and regret that because you know that Campomaggi leather is the best, give the DONDI some serious thought.

The only other bag that we have received so far is the CAMPAMINI Camouflage Canvas Tote. We decided to name it with a mix of CAMPANI and MINI to indicate that this is essentially a smaller version of the CAMPANI. The bag is the first one to sport the fantastic camouflage canvas cloth by Campomaggi. Although I generally prefer leather, there are times when canvas is the way to go and this camouflage canvas is absolutely attractive because it exudes ruggedness. I want it.

Our first camouflage canvas bag by Campomaggi is the CAMPAMINI

The CAMPAMINI is somewhat smaller than the CAMPANI. The camouflage canvas with the white print give it make it appear both rugged and vintage.

So far, then, the novelties are a new canvas print and a bag style that he had never (or not in a very long time) created. That’s a pretty interesting start. Do you like what you can see so far?

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Suddenly, Snails Are Back into My World

One of my earliest memories, from when I was five, is about observing and playing with snails. I have to admit that “playing” with snails involved poking their upper tentacles and watching them retract. The thought never crossed my mind until today that I was poking them in the eyes. I think some apologies are in order: “sorry!” And I hope that the whole “what goes around comes around” doesn’t apply to five-year-olds!

Leather Snaily-friend

Tuscan vacchetta leather snail key chain handmade by Gianni and his team. Adorable craftsmanship.

I hadn’t paid that much attention to snails since then and until last Easter. Chiara got invited to an Easter egg hunt in our friends’ backyard. As we were riding home, much to our surprise, we found that the goody bag Chiara had found had a snail in it. It took only two seconds for the snail to become Snaily-friend, our new pet. Luckily, I was able to reason with Chiara that Snaily-friend needed to live in the wild to survive and we setup a ceremonious farewell at the park that involved making sure that Snaily-friend was happy with his new surroundings–a fairly uneventful ceremony that took a long time.

Little leather snail cell phone charm

Its little brother: the snail cell phone charm.

Finally, earlier this week, we got an international order for the snail key chain and snail cell phone charm that got me to spend some time admiring our snail-inspired products. This is one of Gianni‘s most creative designs, which he features briefly in his video, that requires skilled craftsmanship to assemble. When Chiara needs her first key chain, I will make sure to remind her of Snaily-friend.

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New Leather Bags from Dionigi

We have just posted two new leather bags from Dionigi: the first one is the MONDANO messenger bag and the second one is the FINANZA briefcase. The leather bags are similar in style as they both use the high-quality vegetable tanned leather that Dionigi is known for. Also the interiors are padded and designed to carry a laptop or tablet in comfort and to provide a good amount of protection for your electronics. What I like about them is their focus on high quality in both materials and craftsmanship.

MONDANO Italian leather messenger bag

My experience with Dionigi products is that they are durable. I did not experience this, but a handful of customers have had to replace the strap a few years down the road. If that happens to you we try to keep replacement straps in stock so that we can help. The nice part about Dionigi nylon strap is that it is comfortable and somewhat casual, thus making the bag better suited for today’s more casual business environment.

FINANZA Italian leather briefcase

The FINANZA Italian leather briefcase is a beautiful marriage between a modern form factor and a classic style.

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Campomaggi is Sending Us The Brander Book

The Brander by Campomaggi

Photo provided by Campomaggi & Caterina Lucchi

I just found out that in our next Campomaggi shipment we are going to receive a copy of The Brander. The Brander is a book about successful artisans who allowed the writers to take a look behind the scenes. I remember reading the article about Campomaggi and it was full of insights that made me love the brand even more. In a way, it affirmed and expanded on the qualities that make the brand so special, but, on the other hand, everything was already revealed by the products.

I don’t know of any other products that can convey the purpose and personality of their creator like Campomaggi products do. When I touch a Campomaggi bag I immediately feel that it is the best bag that the artisan could have made and that is something that Marco conveyed to me when he said: “when my company was up and running, I took a step back and decided to make leather bags the way I would make them for myself, without worrying about any boundaries set by market conditions.

At a later stage Marco said that his ambition is to let us experience the emotion of the passage of time. I often remind myself of that and turn to my Colombo to have my “time” moment. After a few years with your Campomaggi bag you will know what I am talking about. Marco, for sure, has accomplished his ambition.

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The 2014 Mazda CX-5 with SkyActiv Solved my Dilemma

At Marcopoloni we care a lot about our carbon footprint and the environment. Since Emi and I are married, we decided a long time ago to commute together to eliminate the need for a second car. But now that we have a second baby on the way, we know that we will need to be in two places at the same time every now and again and will need that second car. Also, we need a slightly bigger car: with just one child we could always recline one seat to get a little more cargo space, but we will not be able to do that if we have two precious passengers in the back seat. So my determination to get a car that got better gas mileage than our Mazda 3 seemed like a pipe dream when I realized that I also had to get more cargo space.

This dilemma had been on my mind for a few months until one night, a couple of weeks ago, we watched a special on the Japanese TV channel that featured the CX-5 and the progress made as they came up with the SkyActiv system.

The new 2014 Mazda CX-5 with SkyActiv next to our older Mazda 3

The new 2014 Mazda CX-5 with SkyActiv gets far better gas mileage than the 2007 Mazda 3, while offering more cargo space.

My dilemma was solved! Although the advertised gas mileage wasn’t tremendously greater than my current Mazda 3, it was about 20% better and the car was significantly roomier. We bought the CX-5 last Sunday and I have been watching our consumption very closely. The advertised gas mileage in the city is 25 mpg. Getting that required driving conservatively, but eventually I’ve been able to average about 26 mpg. The pleasant surprise came today. We had to go on the freeway for a while and averaged more than 40 mpg (41.2 to be exact), far better than the 32 mpg advertised on the sticker. Of course, I had to drive 65 mph on cruise control to achieve that, but it was such a huge improvement over the 30 mpg highway of the 2007 Mazda 3 that I was elated.

Many thanks to the fine folks at Mazda for coming up with a system that takes a big step towards conservation at a price that we could afford. Dilemma solved, the End.

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A special July 4th treat

I hope you all had a wonderful July 4th! I’ve been experimenting with baking a lot recently so I decided to spend a part of my day off making a pie from scratch! Cooking is one of my biggest passions in life and I happen to be pretty decent at it. Besides, how much more handmade can it get than cooking something from scratch? Without further ado, here is my handmade strawberry rhubarb pie.

Cutting up the rhubarb

Slicing the strawberries

Rolling out the pie dough

Cutting out strips of dough for the lattice top

Constructing the lattice top

Not bad for my first try, eh?

 

 

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