January 2009

L’arte d’arrangiarsi!

by admin on January 30, 2009

Two things you must do if you haven’t done so already…..read
EAT PRAY LOVE…..and watch Babette’s Feast! Sandi, who keeps our St.
Helena store running, gave me EAT PRAY LOVE for a going away
present….I read it quickly and loved it…..and now I am reading the
phase where she was in Italy again…slowly….and literally laughing
out loud….she is very witty…..in one chapter she reveals an
Italian expression that I am now obsessed with….L’arte d’arrangiarsi
- the art of making something out of nothing…”the art of turning a
few simple ingredients into a feast or a few gathered friends into a
festival”…. how great is that? It’s also so true to our brand….on
every level….from the story of the Company…..to the production of
the products….and the emphasis on simple healthy meals…..and the
philosophy of the displays of 100% found objects….something out of
nothing…..and as the book says and I can attest to….you don’t have
to have money to do that! Now….if I could only pronounce it!

Babette’s Feast follows the same story line…..she had a bit of cash,
but the emphasis of the entire movie was on the feast that she
prepared and the connection that came from those gathered around the
table….a connection that they tried to deny at first but could
not….the meal was too powerful….it’s a classic and I’m sure many
of you have seen it….but rent it again….it will remind you of the
simple pleasures we can all partake it….no matter what is happening
around us.

A good life story….I’m not sure how many of you have read this in my
blog but I will quote it here….

“When I traveled with K and Em to Italy many years ago….I think they
were
5 and 7ish……we spent two days in Florence…..we were walking down
a
street and looked in a bar where there were many people having a good
time…..laughing and drinking……and I remember thinking how fun it
looked and having a
bittersweet feeling because of where my life was at that time…..and
as a good girl does when she feels a bit down….I wondered into a
boutique a few doors down and bought a jacket that I really shouldn’t
have….it was a simple light black jacket with “Mosshino” :) written
in small letters on the bottom….but more important….in larger
font, capitalized, written on the cuff of the sleeve was the word,
“LIFE”….and it had an arrow, which I interpreted as pointing to the
bar….oh no…I mean pointing forward…..I had to have it….it was
my symbol that life was moving forward….it’s amazing how we
rationalize these purchases isn’t it ladies? :)

Anyway, that was a
great trip but also tough…my first time out of the country and a lot
of
uncertainty in my life at the time….new life with the girls….new
business…new home…new career…in the Napa Valley…

FAST FORWARD to this journey…first day…..our taxi dropped us off
at
our apartment and we settled in. We quickly decided to
explore..turned left out the front door of our building and began to
soak it all in…walked no more then two doors down and looked in at
the jovial sounds
coming from our local bar….I stopped…..and immediately
knew….this was THE
bar….and I looked across the street….and there was the
boutique…..NO
JOKE….Chris was still with me at the time so went into the bar and
had a drink…we made a toast…..because nothing in life is a
coincidence……and I knew at that
point that this journey was a gift…and to enjoy it to its
fullest….no
matter what the days ahead may bring!”

And how does this lead to Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino?….ah
another coincidence is brewing….when I was cleaning my office before
I left I came across a bag of seasonings….Spaghetti aglio, olio e
peperoncino …. I laughed….I had bought them while I was in Italy
with the kids the first time…..they were amazing….and
simple….and I wanted to figure out what it was and being the
capitalist that I am….produce it. Obviously I got a little side
tracked….timing is everything…..so I took them home and started to
do some research….well I didn’t need to go far because this is a
classic Italian dish….not the seasoning secret that I had imagined
would have put my on Oprah….none the less..it was a cool product and
I wanted to make it….so I figured out the combination and then
sourced the best organic garlic, parsley and chili peppers that I
could find….and made the first batch right before I left…..and
it’s a hit!

The blending of the herbs is all done by hand in 5 gallons
batches….Margarita and Lourdes helped me as I made the first
batch….I almost killed us all…the aromas were so intense we
started choking…..eyes watering…the whole nine yards…..so next
attempt…I bought masks….we looked ridiculous but it worked. Since
my departure I’ve heard that they have ditched the masks and are
making smaller batches….but let me warn you…it’s intense!

Once I made it I realized it would be the perfect seasoning to use for
a dipping oil….use our Sevillano Extra Virgin Olive Oil and our 6
Year Old Balsamic with a small amount of the seasoning….it creates
that spicy oil that everyone seems to love…and you know that we
believe it’s better to add your own ingredients for dipping rather
than buying oils with stuff in them…..better quality control…..and
you can also sautee the seasoning in our olive oil and toss it into a
spaghetti….finish it with parmesan cheese and you have a meal!

If you want to check it out, you can go to our website and see the
product…it’s called Dipping Oil Herb Blend
or we put together a kit that is called Attention All You Dippers [

I challenge you now to take some time out of every day and practice
………L’arte d’arrangiarsi!

{ 1 comment }

Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

by admin on January 29, 2009

One of the oldest ways to dress pasta was with olive oil and raw garlic….later peppers were added…to create this simple and very classic Italian pasta dish.

Ingredients

Instructions

  • In a large pot, bring your salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander, reserving about 4  tablespoons of the pasta water. Do not rinse pasta with water — you want to retain the pasta’s natural starches so that the sauce will stick.
  • In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until light brown and fragrant.  Remove and discard the garlic. Add the red pepper flakes and saute for 1 minute. Carefully add the reserved pasta water and stir to combine. Place the spaghetti into the pan and mix well for 1 minute.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle with fresh parsley.
  • SEMPLICE!
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    A Doctor in Florence

    by admin on January 23, 2009

    Hello!

    It’s been a crazy week since I last wrote….the good news is as I write today…..do I dare say…..again…..we are settled!

    The biggest issue was Emily’s adjustment…her first few days atschool were overwhelming….even for Emmy!  She would come home in adaze and just collapse into bed…..and then she got sick…..real bad cold and really weak….so….I was immediately thrown into the class on finding a doctor in Italy….I was dreading the process for obvious reasons and much to my surprise it ended up being quite pleasant….as pleasant as going to the doctor can be…

    I found a Dr. who studied in London so we didn’t have to deal with the language barrier.  And…they make it very easy…..most doctors still make housecalls….and they have open office hours every day…..so….we simply walked about 5 minutes from our house and went to the open office hours and were seen very quickly.  It remindedmy of how my parents have always said it “used to be”……we walked up four levels of a winding stone staircase….through massive wooden doors…into a small reception area.  We were immediately seen and invited to sit on the other side of the Doctor’s beautiful wooden desk……he talked to Emily about her symptoms….discussed various things with us……and then said heneeded to examine her….so she got up…..I turned my chair around the other way….and we were in the examination room.  He checked all the usual things and then he walked back to his desk…..I turned my chair around and he went through what it could be and what it wasn’t.  At the conclusion….he ordered labwork….every blood test that you could imagine….Emmy hasn’t been very healthy since her bout with Mono last summer…..he assured us that he thought she would be fine….but wanted to take the precaution.

    He also explained that the lab was very efficient…..for Italy.  He explained in detail how we should get there….told us where to line up and how it would all work….and then said we would have to go back
    to pick up the labwork…..once we had the labwork….we would come to his open office hours again and he would let us know how it looks….it was comforting to be part of such an old fashion
    process….no waiting for your doctor to call when your lab results come in…because at home they never seem to call…..and then you call them….and you wait on the phone…and you get passed
    around…..and you get frustrated and hang up…..and then you do it all again…and finally you get through….and they tell you your fine….and you hang up the phone….and you don’t feel that great.

    The Doctor then reached for his tablet…..scribbled somethings down on it….ripped it off and handed it to me…..and these are a few things she will need from the pharmacy….go our my front door and it
    is the first door on the left.    As I got up to leave….he ripped off another piece of paper….and said….. it will be 45 euro….cash only….I smiled…paid him cash and off we went.

    Sure enough…the door left to his entrance was the pharmacy.  We were immediately helped my the pharmacist who took the perscription….filled the order….and rang us up…31 euro…..for eye drops and nose spray….not bad….and off we went…and they say we are more efficient in the U.S.? :)

    The next day…..Emmy got up and we hurried to the lab…it was fasting blood work so I didn’t want her to realize that she wanted breakfast….on entering the lab, we were greeted by a “concierge”…an attractive older woman in a blue suite withe the name of the lab on it….good branding….she looked at our note from the doctor and told us in detail…..in Italian….where to go….luckily hand signals are universal so we walked to the reception area and got in line…..reminded me of an older bank….the line in a zig zag….with receptionists at about six stations helping customers…..the line went quick and we handed over our paperwork…..she immediately started processing our work and then began to speak very beautiful Italian….from the look on our face she must have realized that we were Americans…because she immediately turned to her counterpart and asked for assistance…..in their broken English and my Very Broken Italian…we managed to finish the paperwork…..pay our 105euro….yes for all that blood work….that is total cost!….and head up stairs to have blood drawn.

    We walked into a smaller reception area and were immediately greeted by the nurse.  Again….with simple words…we communicated…..she gave Emily the option of sitting in the chair in the waiting room or going into a room to lay down….Emmy chose the bed…..the nurse was very sweet and quickly took Emily’s blood without a sound…..she then asked Emily…..”cafe?….do you like cafe?”..Em said…”no”….I was wondering what she was talking about….why would she care if Emily liked coffee?…then she said….” cioccolata….you like?”…Emmy smiled and said yes….and the nurse left the room.  I thought that was sweet….she was going to bring her a chocolate….the next thing I know the door flies open and a woman….much like the concierge…walks in with a white porcelain tray and coffee cup filled with hot chocolate and some toast on the side…..I wish I would have had my camera….are these people amazing?  Do they take advantage of every moment to enjoy life…food….moments…..and how nice that felt…..wow…..and how great for Emily…still adjusting to this culture and the language….to be treated with such kindness….that picture will stay in my mind forever…and as simple as it may seem….it will serve as a reminder to me…..that life is much more than agendas….efficiencies….operations…..life is about respecting moments….and to error on the side of moments would truly be fatal….because at the end….it’s all we will have.

    So…I will write more about the week because it was filled with great things….and Emmy’s return to happiness…but for now…my girls are home….and there are moments to be had….til tomorrow…..

    Ciao.

    { 4 comments }

    Zuppa Di Ceci or Chickpea Soup

    by new on January 23, 2009

    Zuppa di ceci….or Chickpea soup is another amazing cold weather soup….can you tell I’m having issues with the cold….I’m bonding with soups like I have never done before!

    This is an “Emmy’s Choice” …. my picky vegetarian loves her Italian soups!  It is perfect because it is full of nutrients….very hearty…add salad and garlic bread for a meal!

    Ingredients

    • 1 lb. 2oz. Dried Chickpeas….soaked overnight
    • 2 Carrots – peeled and chopped
    • 1 Celery Stalk – peeled and chopped
    • 1 Medium Onion – peeled and chopped
    • 2 Garlic Cloves, peeled
    • 3 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
    • 1 Small Dried Red Chili
    • 3 1/2oz. Swiss Chard, trimmed and sliced
    • 5 1/2oz. pureed tomatoes….Muir Glen is my favorite if nothing fresh
    • Country French Bread…..sliced
    • St. Helena Olive Oil Co. Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil buy product

    Instructions

  • Drain the chickpeas and put them in large stockpot. Add the onion, carrot and celery. Cover with 14 cups of cold water and bring to a boil….if the water doesn’t fit….add as it reduces. Skim the surface to remove any skum. Lower the heat slightly and cook, uncovered for a little over an hour…or until the chickpeas are tender. Add sea salt and fresh pepper half way through the boiling…..when done, puree 2/3rds of the chickpeas with their cooking liquid, leaving the remainder whole…similar to the cannellini beans in the Ribollita Recipe….we’ve got this part down now!
  • Drizzle our Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a saucepan and add chopped garlic clove, rosemary springs and the chili.  When you begin to smell the garlic, add the swiss chard.  Saute on medium heat for a couple of minutes and then add the tomatoes.  Saute until the tomatoes have cooked and blended in with the dish…remove the rosemary and discard.  Add this mix to the chickpea pot and simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors.  Add sea salt and fresh pepper to taste.
  • When you serve the soup, drizzle generous amount of our Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil with sea salt and fresh pepper
  • Serve with garlic toast…..toast or grill the sliced bread on both sides.  Rub one side with a clove of garlic and then drizzle with our Napa Valley Epstein Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil….

  • Again..there are many variations that we have come across…..Emmy’s favorite was when they added a bit of pasta to it….

    Buon Appetito!

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    Kaelin just skipped out the door to meet her new friends for dinner and a sleepover…she met them up the street at Piazza Repubblica….as if she was headed to Main St. in St. Helena…..she has acclimated easily…helps to have english speaking friends and school…but there is something about Kaelin and Florence…she is at home. I have never seen her so carefree…..confident….jovial….She is a great kid and always happy but here…she glows…she has a skip in her step…she comes home everyday with interesting things that have happened or perspectives she hadn’t had before…her World has opened up….already!

    Everything is new and exciting…and challenging here….take for instance….school supplies….now we all know how to get school supplies right? Well…not so easy here…there is no Target….and no one seems to know what we are taking about when we ask….for school supplies that is…not Target! :) …yesterday, when Kaelin and I were walking home from our haircuts we passed the numerous cafes and clothing boutiques when Kaelin shouted out..’Mom..school supplies!”..a store about the size of a walk in closet was squashed between a shoe store and a cafe….and they had binders and paper and pens and ink cartridges and planners….not a lot mind you as they had no space….but enough to satisfy Kaelin’s requirements….we were very proud of our find! I’m sure there is store full of supplies somewhere…..but for now we seem to just be feeling our way around the City….and we’re getting there….day by day!

    So I think it is safe to say that Kaelin is all set!

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    Dinner Conversations……

    by admin on January 13, 2009

    Great dinner….most came from a little cafe on our street… la spada…..they know us there now…K went with me….we stopped at our little market as well…..and then a new hole in the wall to get Em’s mars bar. Don’t know what happened but mid meal Emmy came alive….she was herself again…..talking about funny things at school et al and joking and laughing….such a relief…I enjoy her funny personality…I’ve missed her! She talked about how they had “gym” and had to run the perimeter of the school for 6 minutes…she said they would run and as soon as the teacher would turn her back they would stop…..somethings surpass language barriers.

    K thinks she may want to go to college over here….she says we are so isolated in the USA….funny….perspective……but its so different being here…..so many countries are accessible….and all the kids in her school have traveled alot…she learned today that a lot of them are children from military people living in Pisa….about an hour away….:)..she mentioned they may all go to dinner this Sat…..acclimating quickly!

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    The Language Barrier

    January 13, 2009

    We have had a tiresome week so far….. the adjustment is proving difficult for Em…..she is fine with the school and has made friends easily but the language barrier is getting her down…as to be expected…it’s getting me down too! She is used to being a leader…..class clown….and so social….and now she is going to [...]

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    Who Needs A Toaster?

    January 11, 2009

    we don’t have a toaster in our place so they other day I just fried bread in olive oil and the girls loved it……they love it with eggs in the morning…..we were out of eggs and our market was closed tonight so we went by a local restaurant to get some take out and asked [...]

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    Everyone In School!

    January 11, 2009

    So…tomorrow I get left in the dust the girls are insisting on going it alone…..and Chris is on their side……so….they will leave at 7:15am….walk up to our local spot and buy their lunch….and then walk to their bus stop…..K will kick Emmy off the stop before she gets off and then Em will hike up [...]

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    A Catholic School in Florence

    January 9, 2009

    Met with the Head Mother yesterday at the catholic school in Florence….she was actually very laid back…..she looked a bit like yoda and was in full dress with a cross that “50cent” et al would have died for! Emmy liked her…she was funny….”got it”…and the Mother said she didn’t know Emily but thought she probably [...]

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