Third Time Is The Charm

Basic Focaccia
Basic Focaccia
It turned out very well. It was perhaps a little insipid, but some salty olives made it wonderful!

Well, in my case I can not settle for this. From a point of view of getting something right, this was a successful attempt. It was edible and quite enjoyable… if you did not know how it might have tasted.

There Is Always Room for Improvement

I made this focaccia because we had our friends over. Our friends are my Guinea Pigs when it comes to my food-related experiments. They will tell me the truth and the truth did come out: good but a bit insipid (though it went perfectly with the salty olives they brought) and what’s up with the lack of toppings? Even last time I had a little sprinkle of onions, which was quite enjoyable.

The truth is that I forgot, which leads me to my next point.

Practice Should Make Perfect

In the rush of getting the focaccia in the oven and not missing any of the recipe’s steps, I forgot to add any toppings (which are not mentioned in my recipe). Though it sounds unbelievable that I forgot them where I hadn’t forgotten them in my two previous attempts, I think that the reason is that I don’t have the whole procedure engraved in my brain yet. More practice is required. If you ask me to make Spaghetti Alla Carbonara, I will do it right every time because I have been making it for so long. But when it comes to focaccia I am going to have to try a few more times.

Delicious and Natural

Now that I have produced an edible version of focaccia I feel that I can recommend that you try it at home too. It is not very difficult, and the actual working time is less than making pasta by far. The ingredients are very basic (flour, water, yeast, olive oil, salt, and a bit of white wine) and natural. Maybe some day I will make a whole wheat version of it, but I am not there yet.

From A Wonderful Corner of Italy

Focaccia exists in a thousand varieties in every corner of Italy. It is one of the best street foods that I grew up with and every region has its variants (in fact, every baker worth of the name probably has a favorite variant considering that the toppings can vary a lot). I am focusing on the traditional focaccia genovese, which originated in Genova around the XVI century. This article tells you where to try it if you are ever in Genova. Some of the pictures of the bakeries are really inviting! Who’s going to Italy with me?

Artisanal Gelato

Affresco helps gelato craftspeople perfect and market their product.

In Italy summers are pretty hot and it stays nice and warm on most evenings. After spending the day evaluating so many products in the new Campomaggi collection, I was ready to chill with a nice gelato. Actually, that night I was in the mood for an even more refreshing granita and decided to try a new ice cream shop with Emi and Chiara. Sidebar: after we arrived in Italy we quickly discovered that Marco would also like to have gelato and he gets really, really upset that he can’t have any yet so we waited until he fell asleep.

We went to Affresco, which turns out to be one of many independently owned gelaterie that draw on the experience of renowned Italian gelato craftspeople and a team of people who design the store layout.

Affresco helps gelato craftspeople perfect and market their product.
Affresco helps gelato craftspeople perfect and market their product. I tried only one location where I noticed a clear difference in the quality of the gelato.

When I finally (the line was long) got my granita (shaved ice) all menta (mint) I was astounded. I was quickly reminded, yet again, of the difference between a mass-produced product and one carefully refined by people who care. I was expecting the usual crushed ice with mint flavored sugary syrup. Maybe they were able to trick me with a syrup that finally tasted like it was made from fresh mint leaves. I have lots of mint in my yard and what I got tasted exactly like it and I am convinced that it was actually made from fresh mint leaves. The ice was also finely crushed and the product was very enjoyable and refreshing: exactly as I had envisioned.

This granita alla menta (mint) tastes like real mint. I have mint in my yard and I know what it should taste like. This was the first time that I found a perfect match.
This granita alla menta (mint) tastes like real mint. I have mint in my yard and I know what it should taste like. This was the first time that I found a perfect match.

This is the experience that I want to provide to my customers. When a product is made by people who care enough to seek and use the best ingredients for their work, and use skills developed over a lifetime aided by generations of refinements, the outcome is usually a notch or two better than the mass produced imitation.

Maledetti Toscani Is 100 Percent Made in Italy

At Marcopoloni we are 100 percent committed to offering authentic products.  We started the business with that goal and over the last ten years we have seen countless companies say that they offer Made in Italy, experienced, artisanal quality while, in reality, they were cutting corners every step of the way. Some hide behind the requirement that at least 60 percent of the value of the product needs to be Italian to be allowed to put made in Italy on the label; some use inexperienced immigrant labor; some use cheaper leather; some use industrial processes; and many use a combination of all of the above.

While we respect the ability of such businesses to make money, we feel that cutting corners results in a different product and a different experience for the customer. If you think that Parmesan cheese made in Wisconsin is the same as Parmigiano Reggiano made in Parma or Reggio Emilia, please move on elsewhere because you will not find any cheap imitations here.
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While at dinner, Alessandro Quadri (one of the owners at Maledetti Toscani) and I decided that it is time for us to go beyond just talking about the difference, we need to show the difference. During the next two days I hope to document as much of it as possible.

Really Good Ice Cream

On our last day shopping in Milan our list was almost complete. Only one thing still needed crossing off the list: finding a cool t-shirt that said something cool in Italian.

We were shopping in Corso Buenos Aires, the long avenue between Loreto and Porta Venezia that has always been packed with shops. The difference between 20-30 years ago and today is that so many, if not all, the mom and pop shops that sold Made in Italy clothing have been replaced by affordable and somewhat trendy chain stores displaying imported clothes with all prints in English, or French. Nothing wrong with that, except that we were not making any progress on our goal.

Feeling that time was running out, Emi went shopping while Chiara and I naturally gravitated toward the very long line outside of an ice cream shop. When I read that the ice cream was handmade of natuaral, real, what-we-say-it-is-is-actually-what-is-in-it ingredients I was hooked.

Before our turn came I had plenty of time to pull up the Grom web site. Grom has stores worldwide and it seems that its recipe of getting good ingredients from organic farms to make really good gelato can be replicated. The smile on Chiara’s face as she tasted vanilla ice cream (gelato alla vaniglia) that actually tasted like vanilla was priceless. I am a Grom fan now.

Campomaggi leather pouch: after 1 week

I have wanted a Campomaggi leather pouch to carry my wallet and phone for a long time and now I am test driving it. In my previous post I began discovering what it is really like to use the pouch.

Over the last few days I noticed that you have to get used to being just slightly wider when you are carrying the leather pouch on your belt. I scraped a wall with it a couple of times and inadvertently bumped it against the kitchen counter and the open microwave door. This was no big deal for me, but your situation may be different.

So what if you have to unzip your pants? If you wear the pouch on the right there is a chance that it will fall out–if you are not careful. If you wear it on the left side it will still pull a bit on the belt, making things somewhat more complicated.

Campomaggi leather pouch open.

The other thing I did was to ask the forum Male Fashion Advice (MFA) on Reddit what they thought about the pouch. The answer was a resounding “MFA doesn’t like belt appendages.” Yet there were a couple of people who seemed to secretly like it. I took the blanket statement with a grain of salt, yet it made me realize why we advocate to “take it slow”: it is often through prolonged observation that you can notice the qualities of many of our products. I do concede that walking around with an albeit tiny utility belt expands the waist line and makes it hard to look sharp.

After a week I love the Campomaggi leather pouch. The main reasons are: I love the look and feel of the leather, I love opening and closing the flap, my wallet and phone fit perfectly, I can run as much as I want and it will not bounce around wildly like a bag will, I don’t leave my wallet and phone on my desk any more, and it is nice to know where to reach for your phone and to be able to do it quickly.

On the other hand, I would be careful not to give this as a gift without doing some definitive research first. After seeing the feedback from Reddit, I think that most men would look at this and prefer not to use it. I had a specific reason to want this, it solves my problem, I think it looks good, and I expect that I will keep it. But the test drive is not over yet. Let’s see what another week’s use does to my opinion.

2 New Caterina Lucchi Bags: a convertible clutch and a flower-motif handbag

We just posted two new Caterina Lucchi leather handbags and we are so excited about them both!
The Sera is a gorgeous clutch with a chic, playful design. By attaching the leather strap, you can turn it into a shoulder bag or a crossbody bag, making it a super versatile accessory! It reminds me of my favorite pleated skirt that I never had… except better, because I don’t have to worry about fitting into it six months from now 🙂

SERA Convertible Clutch Handbag
SERA Convertible Clutch Handbag ... chic, playful, and oh so versatile!

The Petalo is a small, light handbag, and it feels oh so good in the hand. The laser-cut flower-motif design is stunning in its own right, but add to it the uniquely-dyed pattern and you’ve got an amazing little bag that packs a big punch!

PETALO Laser-cut Flower-Motif Handbag
PETALO Laser-cut Flower-Motif Handbag ... small, but packs a punch!

Both bags are made with Caterina Lucchi’s signature garment-dyed process, resulting in calfskin so soft you will find them very hard to put down!

Authentic Italian Accomplished

I recently commented on how difficult it is to export a local experience to another country. Yet, it can be done, at least to a good extent.

We had been up since 3:30, thanks to serious jetlag, and still had time to kill before we could start calling the artisans we wanted to visit. What a better way than a nice breakfast to kill time?

We set out to find a nice place and I was eyeing all the coffee shops with Italian sounding names, but none of them were open that early. Luckily inside the subway entrance we found a Segafredo outpost that was open and that spelled everything correctly, including shakerato and macchiatone.

Authentic Italian

As we were about to board our plane to Japan, we stopped by an Italian bakery, which I will leave unnamed, to get some lunch. The bakery advertised that it offered authentic Italian food true to its Italian origins, as the company was started near Milan.

As I was growing up in Milan, I went to this bakery every once and again and it was a good bakery, like any respectable bakery in town–something that I cannot say about the location at San Francisco Airport.

Pasticceria was not the only thing misspelled here.When I saw that they even misspelled the word “pasticceria” on their sign, I started to think about how could these guys make their Authentic Italian claim. The reality is that it is hard to copy what is Authentic Italian and deliver that around the world when you are talking about food that can only be made locally.

At Marcopoloni, we go to great lengths to make sure that what we label “Made in Italy” is truly authentic Italian. Our relationships with our artisans deepen every year and we go and find out about the production and content of the products we offer. Vendors that take advantage of the fact that you can label “made in Italy” something that is 60% made in Italy, don’t make it very far with us.