Christmas Shopping Made Easy
This holiday season I am doing most of my gift shopping at my favorite food stores and websites. No fighting crowds and worrying about getting the right size or color, these are gifts that everyone will enjoy. I’ll pack them in pretty gift boxes or bags — and relax. Shopping is done! Now I can have some fun.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil — Top quality extra virgin olive oil is my first choice for drizzling on a bowl of pasta or soup and as a dressing on tomatoes, cooked greens or salad, and it makes an ideal gift. One I know I can rely on is Tenuta di Capezzana, produced in Carmignano, near Florence. The olives are picked while they are still green, then crushed within 24 hours to insure fresh flavor. The oil is grassy green with flavors of black pepper, apples and artichokes.
Parmigiano Reggiano — A lot of different cheeses are known as parmesan, but there is only one Parmigiano-Reggiano. Often called the king of cheeses, it really can’t be beat. It is a cow’s milk cheese made exclusively in the area around Parma in Italy and aged a minimum of 16 months up to a maximum of 3 years. I always keep a large chunk in my refrigerator for cooking and snacking. I’m so crazy about it that I once painted my kitchen to match its gorgeous golden color. A big piece of Parmigiano Reggiano is a sensational gift. For more information, go to www.parmesan.com.
Panettone and Pandoro — These two cakes are essential additions to the Italian holiday table. Panettone is traditionally sprinkled throughout with raisins or candied fruits while Pandoro is star-shaped and no fruit. But many modern versions of both cakes are iced or contain chocolate, nuts, and other fruits. Personally, I prefer the original versions. Either cake should be eaten with a glass of sparkling moscato or Asti Spumante. They are great toasted and topped with mascarpone, butter or jam. Leftovers make the best bread pudding and French toast. But skip the cheap supermarket brands of these cakes, many of which are not made in Italy. Some good brands include Loison, Fiasconaro, and Tre Marie.
Recently Charles and I did some Christmas shopping at Di Palo’s on Grand Street for I-Italy.tv. Here is a link to the video from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-_4GmDATpw
Where can you find these products and many more like them? My favorite shops include Di Palo’s and Eataly in Manhattan, A.L.C. Italian Grocery in Brooklyn, and Mike’s Deli in the Bronx. On line sources include Gustiamo.com and Amazon.com.
One final suggestion: cookbooks make welcome gifts, too!