Balsamic Vinegar

The Perfect Pair

by Emily Shartin on February 6, 2012

What better occasion to think about pairings than Valentine’s Day?

It’s no surprise that we love food, and we love coming up with new ways to use our products — our customers ask us for suggestions all the time and we are more than happy to oblige. When Valentine’s Day — a celebration of pairs — came around, we wanted to come up with some special combinations that were a little different, a little more festive. Today, we’re introducing some wonderful new products that we’re excited and proud to be carrying, and we’ve matched them up with some of our tried-and-true favorites.

Our staff had a lot of fun tasting and putting these gift ideas together. We hope you’ll try them out as part of your Valentine’s Day festivities (either as a gift or part of a special meal), let us know what you think, and maybe come up with a few new pairings of your own.

100% Napa Valley

four 100 ml bottles of our estate extra virgin olive oils

This collection features four estate extra virgin olive oils straight from our home, the Napa Valley. We work closely with each of these small growers throughout the season, ensuring that their olives are grown sustainably and organically. When the time comes, we are there to harvest and mill the olives, and collect the season’s fresh, new olive oil for our customers.

We are offering this set of oils in special 100 ml bottles that Peggy sourced directly from Italy. Each oil exhibits different characteristics, from the delicate flavor and buttery texture of the Ribolli, to the robust fruitiness and pepperiness of the Epstein Estate. They are all perfect for drizzling over fresh greens, poached eggs, roasted vegetables or cheese (more on this below), stirring into soup, or sampling straight up with a fresh, crusty baguette. Need we say more?

Something Cheesy

1 jar of Plumline quince jam, 1 jar of Katz and Co. limited edition sage honey, 1 100 ml bottle of Epstein Estate extra virgin olive oil

We love cheese by itself, but even the best cheeses can be elevated with the perfect condiments. A collection for the cheese fanatic in your life:

We are excited to be one of the first retailers to work with Santa Cruz-based Heidi Schlecht, who carefully sources seasonal, organic fruit for her Plumline jams (she even grows a lot of the fruit herself!). Heidi used to own a cheese shop, so along with classic jams like apricot, strawberry and raspberry, she also makes beautiful cheese condiments like quince jam.

Quince, for those of you who are unfamiliar, look kind of like a cross between a Golden Delicious apple and a pear. Typically too acidic to be eaten raw, they make wonderful, slightly tropical, tart jams with a hint of warm spice and a lovely pink color. Quince (known as “membrillo” in Spanish) is classically paired with the aged Spanish sheep’s milk cheese Manchego, but is also good with other hard cow and goat’s milk cheeses. We also love it on scones or toast, or stirred into a bowl of Greek yogurt.

Along with Plumline’s quince jam, we are offering a limited release Black Button sage honey from our friends at Katz and Co. in Napa. This richly-textured, not-too-sweet honey was extracted early in the spring from bees that pollinated rare wild sage plants. It’s one of our favorites for drizzling over fresh goat cheese or tempering the robust flavors of blue cheese. It’s also a good choice for dressings and marinades, or glazing roasted meats.

And don’t forget that olive oil makes a lovely addition to your cheese plate as well. We are offering a 100 ml bottle of our Epstein Estate olive oil, which is wonderful drizzled over fresh burrata (an Italian mozzarella-style cheese) with a little salt and pepper, or aged sheep and goat’s milk cheeses.

For more on pairing cheese with olive oil, click here.

Simple Decadence

1 bar of either Dandelion chocolate OR Poco Dolce chocolate with olive oil and sea salt, 1 100 ml bottle of Balsamic Vinegar di Modena Methode Tradizionale

Of course, it just wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without a little chocolate. We are very excited to offer you two locally-made chocolate bars that we’ve recently added to our collection.

Dandelion Chocolate was started a couple of years ago in a garage in East Palo Alto, and quickly gained a following for its “bean-to-bar” chocolates. The company, which recently relocated to San Francisco, is one of only a handful of producers in the country that sources cocoa directly from growers around the world, and then uses it to make chocolate. These simple, elegant, delicious bars are true reflections of their origins and of the farmers who grow the cocoa. We are one of the first shops to carry Dandelion Chocolate, and we are very excited to be working with this growing company.

Because we couldn’t resist, we also are offering a chocolate bar from the San Francisco confectioner Poco Dolce, appropriately flavored with two of our favorite things: olive oil and sea salt. While this might sound like an unusual combination, we promise you that the light fruitiness of the olive oil works wonderfully with the richness of the bittersweet chocolate, while the salt helps to brighten the flavors.

Along with the chocolate, we are offering a special 100 ml bottle of our insanely popular aged balsamic vinegar. Those of you who have tried it know that it is almost a dessert in and of itself, but for the perfect Valentine’s Day treat, we recommend it over fresh strawberries.

A ROSEmary

1 jar of Plumline pear rosemary jam, 1 jar of Katz and Co. Range wildflower honey, 1 375 ml bottle of rosemary extra virgin olive oil

Did we mention that we love cheese? Our last Valentine’s Day combination features a few more suggestions for all the cheese fanatics out there, including another standout from Heidi at Plumline: pear rosemary jam. Sweet with just a hint of minty savoriness, we loved this one on blue cheese and with semi-firm cow’s milk cheeses like Tomme de Savoie. Its texture is reminiscent of applesauce, which also makes it a great pair for farmhouse cheddar.

Katz and Co.’s Range wildflower honey is classic, mildly sweet and very versatile. It’s a good match for delicate fresh goat cheeses, aged Pecorinos or stronger blue cheeses. It’s also perfect for stirring into tea or drizzling over granola.

Lastly, we give you a bottle of our rosemary extra virgin olive oil to tie it all together. Try this on fresh goat or sheep’s milk cheeses, firmer Greek cheeses, or keep an eye out for cheeses that are coated in herbs — a drizzle of this oil will give those flavors a nice boost. We also love a splash over pasta with red sauce or fresh focaccia.

For a little more inspiration, check out this wonderful olive oil/rosemary cake recipe.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

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First Day Of International School In Italy

by admin on January 7, 2009

I am so tired that I wouldn’t do today justice if I explained it now…..but then again…I should give it a try.

Alarm went off at 6am….that was after Chris woke me up about 4 times during the night to check the time because he was worried the alarm wouldn’t go off…Kaelin got right into the shower in our freezing cold apt as the utilities are shut off from midnight to 6am…no choice…..I then got up to find Emily….my sleeper…bright and shiney at the computer…..when I asked what she was doing she said…talking to everyone…it’s only 9pm at home!!

I couldn’t bear to take a shower as I was cold and exhausted but I pulled myself together none the less….in a turtleneck I had worn three times before…… I did do my best knowing I could not embarrass K on her first day! It was raining and of course, we didn’t have any umbrellas but found tons of stylish ones outside our door…..Chris, K and I left Emmy at the computer at 7am, timing was Chris’ request…. as we did not want to be late……school starts at 8am. We walked up two blocks to the piazza to get the taxi and K and I convinced Chris that we would be WAY too early and look like idiots….so, we wandered into a cafe and went up to the bar and ordered espressos….the three of us drank our espressos with the locals and then wandered down the block to find a place where they sell food….I realized I had not packed her a lunch :) ….so K picked out a prosciutto and brie sandwich, some chips and water and off we went to find a taxi. We got to the school in no time….I think my Dad would have called it 7 minutes…and after the cabbie almost killed us with his premature left turn into the drive of the school….we got out….Chris stayed behind as k and I walked up the long drive. I was in my heels so it was not an easy walk in the rain….as we approached the gate that we had seen a note on previously that identified the school…we noticed it was open…..game on!….as I walked up the drive Kaelin stopped and insisted that this was not the right place…it was not open….I assured her that an open gate was a good sign…she crept behind….all the way claiming….mom..this doesn’t look like a school….this doesn’t look like the pictures….there is no one here….although I agreed with her secretly …I showed no signs of weakness…..even when we came to the crossroad to take the winding road or the straight path to the huge pink villa through the olive trees…..this is not it K exclaimed….that is NOT the school…..I knew too inside that it was not the school but I began the steps up the path….olive trees will not lead us astray! …she followed behind very cautiously……as my doubts became stronger…I continued up step by step….hoping for a sign at the top…..but none….NO signs…..I knew this had to be it and I knew I could not let her see me sweat so I continued as if I had gone there before myself…..and then, I turned a corner..and there it stood…on the TOP of the hill…..an amazing beautiful farmhouse with a huge tower…..here it is I exclaimed….not knowing really if that was it but as K bought into it then so did I ….and then we say a child being dropped off …aha…we made it……where is the office Mom…are the next panicked words I heard…..Mom….how do we know where to go…..I confidently went to the first door I saw and opened it…..this way K…..again not knowing where the hell I was….to my great relief there was a lovely English woman who must have seen the look on my face because she immediately exclaimed….ah…a new student perhaps?…..we smiled and introduced ourselves…she knew of K and was very welcoming….she said the Dean would be down in a bit but the heater was broken and they were trying desperately to fix it…..although I had never read nor seen any Harry Potter novels…..at that point…I felt as if I were in one….I wanted to stay and meet the Dean but I knew this was Kaelin’s deal…..she needed to handle it…..so SHE gave me a big hug and off we went…..our separate ways…..

Side note….as we were walking up the path I asked her if she was nervous…..she said….no…not nervous…just weird….I pointed out that ya….you are going to your first day….at a new school…in a foreign country….espresso at a bar before school….prosciutto and brie sandwich in your lunch….and your Mom walking you to high school…….all that combined….you should feel a bit weird…..as we continued to walk in a bit of silence…I said, K…and she said..ya…and I said ….soak it all in…soak it ALL in……she smiled and we continued in silence.

I will write more detail later but so you don’t worry we got a GREAT deal on a studio in the same building we are in until Jan. 31…..it is small but very european and nice…and as I told the girls…..we can either live in one room together and take advantage of the sales this weekend….or get a bigger place and stay home…….they chose the studio! :)

No school for EM yet but closer….meeting the nuns tomorrow….the school is right down the street from K…..you go through a gate and wind up a path to again….a villa on the hill…..not bad! Talked to an Italian tutor today for both girls…she said Emmy will be speaking great Italian within a few months if she is in an Italian school….we will have her tutored 2 days a week at first but the lady thought she wouldn’t need anymore within a few months….hard to believe!

I’ll fill you in on more tomorrow.

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There Is No Sun In Tuscany Today

by admin on January 7, 2009

what a day….will write it all later but we are headed out to eat….haven’t had a moment to think today but the conclusions are much to celebrate….between school meetings, drop offs, pick ups, bus ride practices, rain, freezing cold, wet ugg boots and pants, and apt shopping….I am BEAT…..but I am VERY thankful….will fill you in when I get back!

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Oil And Vinegar On Every Italian Table

by admin on January 5, 2009

Thank you so much for your emails supporting our journey to Italy. It was our largest response ever! I continue to receive emails every day….and they are so encouraging…and have really meant a lot as we have had crazy days since touching ground in Florence…it is quite an experience which I will write more about in our “Let’s Chat” section as we get settled in….but just know that I have read every email and they have all meant so much….thank you!

Tomorrow we are going to shop at the largest produce market in the City….find Emily a school…Kaelin a uniform…and figure out the bus routes….the time change is perfect because it allows me to work at night..we settle in a little more every day…it will be nice to have the kids in school and start our routine!

The first thing that struck me as we have begun to eat in our new home is the use of vinegar…..every place that we have eaten has a bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar and/or Red Wine Vinegar on the table. When you order a salad you are not asked what type of dressing you would like….the green salad comes out undressed…you simply drizzle the oil and vin on and voila….and it’s delicious…so simple….I think the beauty of this is that the taste of the greens can truly be complimented by the oil and vin and not overpowered by it…..

My family’s favorite salad is dressed with our Lemon EVOO vinaigrette…..and I love Caesar dressing and our Balsamic Vinaigrette as well…..but I’m going to work this style of dressing into our meals now…it’s just another example of the power of ingredients!

This journey has reminded me of how proud I am of OUR wine vinegar…they compete with anything I have tasted here…very similar…..and can I say that I miss ours? Over the years, our vinegar has been in all the major food magazines….Bon Appetit….Gourmet….Saveur…..Food and Wine…and more…and I always forget to brag about them!

Wine Vinegar is really dependent on the quality of the wine that you use….the method is which you turn the alcohol into acid….and how long you age it.

We ONLY use Napa Valley wine in our vinegar. We are the only company to do this…most companies buy bulk wine….so…I really owe it to the quality of wine that we are able to find….and it is NOT bad wine that you use to make vinegar. The wine that we use tastes good….that’s part of my evaluation….some of the wine that we have purchased is from VERY well known wine makers….not everything they produce makes the cut….and that’s where we come in. if the wine has good character….I send it to the local wine lab to test the level of sulfites….if it is is within our preferred levels then I purchase the wine and bring it into our facility…we actually have to have a Bond on our facility because we are moving wine into it.

Once we move the wine into our facility..it is blended with our vinegar that has our Mother Culture in it..that is the bacteria that changes the alcohol into acid….this is called the Orleans Method. The Vinegar is left in oak barrels until it is ready to be bottled…we then send a sample back to the lab to make sure the alcohol is gone….we taste it to ensure it is up to our liking…..and then blend it with distilled water…..the acidity level is about 11% so we have to bring it down closer to 6% so we don’t blow your socks off…..standard practice. So…as you can see…we do everything we can to ensure we produce the best we can….

I encourage you to check out the stories on all of our vinegar in the product pages and in the Let’s Chat section….great stories on our Sparkling Wine Vinegar and our Cask 85…..the oldest American Vinegar on the market!

THE FLORENCE VINAIGRETTE SPECIAL!

I’ve put together a package to make it easy for you to keep oil and vin on hand to dress your greens! I’m calling it “Florence Vinaigrette” and it includes one Sevillano Extra Virgin Olive Oil, one Red Wine Vinegar and one 6 Yr Old Balsamic Vinegar. This is normally $54 if purchased separately but we will offer it in the package for $48 and to get you totally set up….we will THROW in 3 pour spouts at no charge.

I hope this email finds you enjoying your New Year! As we sit in our chilly apartment waiting for our laundry to dry naturally….remember to appreciate your resources…not every Country is so lucky! :)

Ciao!

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Italians Take Their Holidays Seriously!

by admin on January 4, 2009

Wow…things have been crazy….it’s been so hard to get anything done because everyone is on Holiday forever around here….and our internet has been down for over a day…..finally back! The time change is still messing with us as well…our sleeping is way off…..it’s really cold too so we finally figured out today that we need to wear layers and layers….you know how challenged we are with assessing weather needs! We did laundry today…..hah!!!!……our washer holds about 2 pairs of socks and takes an hour to wash!!! And….no dryer…..so we checked out the laundry mat and it would cost about $50 to dry things! :) So….we are hanging dry…and believe me….we are quickly learning that we will not be washing much…..not a reality we could even grasp until now!!! Also…..utilities are so expensive here that our apt is kept slightly chilly and lights are kept off…the kids have been great about it all….doing their part….but such a lesson for me too…..we take our resources back home for granted!!!!! I’m sitting here with a turtle neck, sweater and scarf…pants of course and ugg boots!!! We did a lot of walking again today….getting the lay of the land….every step you take is beautiful……I am so awestruck most of the time….today I felt as if I was in a Charles Dickens novel…..it’s just so different…..and so beautiful….and everyone is dressed to the nines……

We found a “supermarket” today…..got lots of food for 25 euro…..pasta and all related items are so cheap…..thank goodness as the exchange rate is painful. The kids are very aware of that as well…our dollar is worth .60 cents at best…..so we are watching every euro…..no more leaving change in pockets!!! Every euro counts!!! Talk about learning the value of everything at once! But…I’m very aware of the fact that we are so lucky to be here….experiencing this…no matter what we have to forgo to do so!

I’m hoping people will be working tomorrow…epiphany is tuesday so I’m sure they will be extending their vacations until Wed! :) By the grace of God, I came across a place that I believe can help me with Emmy’s school…..that has been impossible til now….so tomorrow we will visit them (if open) and get her set up. ..then we have to get kaelin’s uniform….we are waiting to see where em will go to school before we book our apartment and we are out of this one on Thursday….so it’s a crazy week but I am peaceful……I know it will all work out…..it always does….and then we will be set….and can start our routine…..and live our life here! I was getting a bit anxious…okay real anxious….. at first but said some…ok alot…..of prayers and I think was then given the realization that what we are experiencing is challenging….but it is not life or death…..and we have so much love and support…..and I can dig deep…….and there is so much real terror going on in this World….and real hardship…..that I have to adjust my thoughts…..and I did……..and I’ve become peaceful….with an understanding that this is a gift…and I need to just believe and let go……there is something very magical about all of this…….

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