Tonight I finally feel like I am at home in my new kitchen. After spending a few months getting to know the stove, I have found my balance and tonight I also made a Marinara sauce that was really delicious.
It started with the selection of the ingredients. Instead of buying my Roma tomatoes (Perini) at Trader Joe’s I bought them at Sprout. I don’t necessarily think that the tomatoes are better, but they are meatier and less watery and 20 tomatoes will yield enough sauce for a pound of spaghetti. The other key pick was the Parmigiano Reggiano. I never use Grana and I always buy imported. I try to select one that has been aged for two years if I can find it. What I got a Trader Joe’s (their most expensive) was good and it paid off. Finally, the olive selection. I have tried just about anything on the shelves at Trader Joe’s and some other stores and the best pick for the Marinara sauce is the can of pitted black olives. I hate buying canned products, and the olives in some of the jars are delicious, but too flavorful. The olives for this sauce need to simply taste like olives–a subtle taste.
Boiling, peeling, cutting up, mushing the tomatoes takes a lot of time, but it is worth it. This time, instead of salting the water, I added salt and a bit of pepper to the sauce. I think that it made a difference. I also added three cut-up anchovies and the result was a dense red sauce, tastier than usual, but still a subtle, not bold, pleasure to eat.
The only complaint I heard was that I should have cut up the olives. I didn’t because the recipe doesn’t say to cut them up. Next time I will cut them up in half and see.
We’ve been wanting to display a few of our most recent blog posts on the home page of our website. Today, I finally sat down to take a look at what’s involved. At first, it seemed quite daunting. I am not a WordPress expert by any means, and my knowledge of PHP is pretty much limited to the fact that PHP files have a file extention of “.php”.
… But no, that would be too easy, wouldn’t it?
Going this route, no matter what I did, there was a huge “Subscribe to this feed …” box appearing at the top of the frame. Truly annoying. I tried to figure out how to remove that box … read up about how I’d have to customize the functions.php file for the WordPress theme I was using, etc., but in the end … I just couldn’t figure it out. So I gave up. Good news is, I found a clean-looking version that did most of what I was looking to do at http://feed.mikle.com/en/ I don’t mind giving them credit for the code, I just hope they don’t start spamming our feeds with ads. Until then, I’m fairly happy with our new home page … what do you think??
For the past few months, I have been saving for a road bike bit by bit. Well now that I have it, I think I’m in love! Of course, there were extra expenses for the additional gear but I was finally able to go on a nice weekend bicycle ride. I rode along the Stevens Creek Trail in Mountain View, CA and it was a really fun route overall. At the beginning of the route, I had passed by what seemed like crowd after crowd of pedestrians walking and running. It was a bit of a mess but after that short stretch of nonstop foot traffic, the trail opened up and emptied out for what few cyclists were on the trail that day. I really wish I was able to do this sooner. I think everyone should start cycling instead of driving. It’s so much fun and you barely notice that it’s actually a workout! I am starting to transition to using my bicycle for my work commute as well. Here are some photos that were taken that day!
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!
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.
Then I picture Gianni reaching for a slice of Anguria and bam! Another idea is calling for a cute design.
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) :-).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.