Edwin Real lived in France, fell in love with cheese and bread, then opened his own bakery in San Diego. After seeing what he didn't like about Yelp reviews, he launched the private Facebook group "Eating and Drinking in San Diego" to support small food purveyors and open discussion about food and drinks with local food lovers. His group has grown to more than 10,000 participants! His motto? To give everyone a chance. His favorite food at the moment? Chinese egg noodle soup from Minh Ky in City Heights. His favorite cheese shop? Well, let's see...
Remember that scene in the movie "Legally Blonde" where they wondered, "Do you think she just woke up one day and decided to go to Harvard?" Well in the spirit of Elle Woods, former Venissimo monger Seana Doughty of Bleating Heart Cheese woke up one day and decided to become a cheese maker. She read books, traveled to France, met cheese makers, took a course, bought 10 sheep and has now become one of the most awarded and respected cheese makers in California. In fact, her Buff Blue cheese won 2nd place Best of Show in last year's American Cheese Society competition, beating nearly 2,000 other entries! Her newest creation called Death & Taxes was a bronze medalist in the World Cheese Competition. What is her biggest joy? Doing what she loves each and every day. Listen to her inspiring story and be inspired yourself.
Ten guests started our inaugural gastronomical tour of Italy as strangers and ended as friends. Welcome Laurie and David, two of our tour participants, who share stories along with their host RobbyG about their 10-day culinary adventure from Milan to Florence. We learned that the slow food movement began in Bra back when McDonald's wanted to open there! One of their favorite stops was high in the hills of Langhe to visit Silvio, a man who uses his hands and mind to build things, paint, make cheese, grow things and live life to the fullest. He shared his very special "giunca" cheese with the group, something very few have ever had the privilege to try. For more about this lifestyle, check out the documentary "langhe doc." In the meantime, arrivederci...
The second half of our inaugural gastronomical tour of Italy was a smashing success! Here's a synopsis of the remaining days through the eyes of host RobbyG...
"Day five was the day for the holy trinity of regional foods: Parmigiano-Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma and Balsamico di Modena. Nowhere in the world do these foods taste as incredible than they do here. Even after a full day of touring, eating and drinking, the group wanted to be together for dinner, which says a lot about how we are getting along.
In the hills of Chianti, we enjoyed a 6-course meal on a patio in a castle overlooking miles and miles of vineyards. Truly magical. Then we made it to the medieval city of Siena for a casual evening. Some folks took a guided city tour while others relaxed.
The next day we were off to meet Tuscan chef Andrea at his estate, a gorgeous farm up a narrow, barely-paved road on top of a hill overlooking olive trees, vineyards and the best of Tuscany. Every direction you looked was postcard-perfect. Andrea greeting us in his standard chef coat, signature bandana and apron, ready to cook and teach us to cook. We wandered around his farm where we were greeted by Fool, the family dog, and 22 free-range chickens. He handed out wine (naturally) and proceeded to give us a walking tour of the farm and vineyard. Then it was off to his pizza oven for some appetizers where we were serenaded by a man singing Italian songs and playing his guitar. After about 10 pizzas, it was time for dinner, and we were recruited to help prepare. He taught us how to cook like an Italian, then proceeded to share six perfect courses. We could have used a wheelbarrow at this point to get us all home.
On our final day it was off to Formaggi Busti, a well-known pecorino producer. We were treated to a full tour of the creamery, topped off with an incredible lunch in one of their aging caves. It was crazy cool to see all the various cheese production facilities, from the very small to the mid-size family operation to the giant producers.
We can't say enough about our local tour guide and friend, Sandro. Words like friendly, patient, incredible, knowledgeable and helpful simply cannot capture the essence of this man. He will live forever in our memories.
What a way to end this wonderful adventure! This trip has exceeded all expectations by a long shot. May we be able to share this adventure with many more in the years to come."
How does a wheel of cheese get from high in the alps to your neighborhood cheese shop?
We spoke to Jonathan McDowell from Aniata Cheese Company to find out. One thing we learned for sure - it's not easy! The cheese maker typically works with an exporter to find buyers. The exporter then contacts importers to sell the cheese. The exporter fills out oodles of paperwork for the FDA and customs in order to have the cheese accepted in the United States. Then the cheese gets placed on a boat and it's bon voyage for a 1-2 week journey across the proverbial pond. At this end, the importer must wait for customs clearance on the east coast, then coordinate transportation (typically by truck) from east to west. Then finally it's time to sell to cheese shops, chefs, hotels and restaurants for you to enjoy. This whole process typically takes 6-8 weeks. Is it any wonder cheese is so expensive? Would love to put a camera on a wheel to follow the journey from start to finish. What an adventure...
Welcome to our very first gastronomical tour of Italy! A group of 10 turophiles are spending 10 days in Italy with our very own Professor McCheese, RobbyG, eating and drinking their way from Milan to Florence, coordinated by our friends at See Italy Travel by Laura Massoni. They are on day four of this adventure, and here are some highlights from host RobbyG...
"La Morra is the most spectacular little village and the hotel accommodations have been positively lauded by all. We really got to know each other well at our first dinner and I'm sure some lasting friendships will come out of this. I suppose eight bottles of wine didn't hurt!
Our first day was perfect, with just the right amount of walking, touring and group time balanced with some leisure time. The butcher demonstration in Cherasco was fascinating and yummy. In Bra, we met Fiorenzo, who cracked open a wheel of Grana Padano and showed us the aging caves. Then it was off to Alba for a tour of a hazelnut farm from an 82-year-old farmer, followed by a hazelnut-themed lunch of pasta with hazelnut butter & crushed hazelnuts & a dessert plate of various hazelnut sweets.
Our guide Sandro is incredible! He is so full of knowledge about all of the local food, wine and history. We are becoming fast friends and the group is really enjoying his easy-going personality.
Our first stop on day two was the old stone mill just a block from the hotel. The owner was a feisty Italian lady who put on a great show. We then headed to Barolo for our first Conterno Winery tasting of six wines (starting at 10:30 a.m.) in the most spectacular setting with five friendly vineyard dogs. I heard more ooohs-and-ahhhs here than any previous point. Then it was time for lunch in the village of Barolo. It was served family-style and of course delicious. Another winemaker happened by our group and Sandro flagged him down for an impromptu tasting. It was one of those unexpected, unscripted moments that make these trips so wonderful.
A walk around town included a visit to a corkscrew museum and a little castle on the hill. Then it was time for cooking class where we made gnocchi from scratch, peeled vegetables and braised meats. We then sat down to eat our work. Some thought the gnocchi was no good, but blamed themselves. We still could have used a wheelbarrow to get some people back to the hotel!
On day three, I was simply blown away by Silvio Pistone. He is one of the most incredible artisans I have ever met. His home, which he built with his own two hands in the Langhe Hills, is a work of art in itself. I felt like I was in a movie. He made small format sheep cheeses from his flock of 35 sheep that lived upstairs in what he called "the penthouse." After an intimate cheese talk in his kitchen, we went upstairs to meet the sheep. He was wearing a The Who shirt and said that music and antique collecting were his other passions. He also painted and we saw many canvases scattered about. I digress.
After meeting the sheep, we walked out to a cabin, which he also built, overlooking the valley and vineyards. He gave us an amazing tasting of his cheese, homemade bread, frittata he made with herbs form his garden, balsamic that he made. We looked at his son's photography & his mom's art. The guy was one of the most remarkable people I have ever met. He was super funny, kind and generous. One of the guests was in tears when we left. It was that special.
On day four, we were off to the culatello facility. We got to feed cows and see a bunch of giant smelly pigs. A few folks mentioned how sobering it was to be in the presence of your food, overall a very solid experience. They also had a vegetable and herb garden that was impressive which we strolled through. The last part of the tour was viewing the culatello. They were everywhere. It went on and on and on and on. The estate was gorgeous and they gave us a tour of the castle/home/mansion which everyone enjoyed too. Then we sat down to a lunch of their various charcuterie, risotto and a really good dessert with almonds.
We then got to the castle hotel and this place is something else. It has been a really good balance of activity & leisure. More to come..."
"Podcasting opens a window into the soul of a creator."
Gina Freize is the founder and Cheese Wiz of Venissimo Cheese and host of Noon on Tuesday, a weekly podcast all about cheese, all the time.