Monday, June 9, 2008

Speaking of European Products...

Every time when visiting a new country, I beeline to an outdoor market or grocery store to get a feel for what products the locals are consuming. Most often they are using things you might find in an American market, only the products are produced locally. Case in point, Santa fruit juices produced in Italy. On a recent trip to Italy I photographed Santa juices because they are one of my favorites in the world. These commercially produced juices are made with 40% juice as compared to our 10-15%. What a difference the higher percentage of juice makes in the intensity of taste, and as a side benefit less sugar is required to make it. I bought some of the albicoca in Venice and it was delicious on its own, but made a fine addition to the Prosecco our hotelier comped us on the day my husband rejoined me after a hiking trip in Switzerland. I only wish I could buy this locally.

Another Favorite Italian Drink

When I was a child sitting at my grandparents' dining table, I would often wonder why my grandfather was adding water to his wine. He would often offer each grandchild a small glass of water laced with red wine, to drink along with their dinner, but we recognized that pure wine was for the adults. So why did he add water to his glass? If the question was ever put to him, he most likely would have responded that he liked it that way and that would have been answer enough for a child.
On my first trip to Italy, I discovered Lambrusco in Rome. I loved it as much as any American teenager would love Ripple (even though I was of legal drinking age), a fruity, sweet, red wine with a big plus, it fizzed! But I made no connection with that and my grandfather's preference. Then a few years ago I tasted Gutternio, a wine from Emilia Romagna that was a robust, dry, frizzante (sparkling), red wine. Bingo!!! Everything fell into place as I remembered that the water Papa had used was a sparkling water. He most certainly was trying to mimic an Italian wine that was not imported into the U.S. This wine is the one that I look for when dining in Italy, since it is still not available locally. Prior to all the hoopla about carrying liquids on planes, I used to carry back a few bottles in my purse.

No Shortage on Chocolates in the British Isles

Butler's has to be the best chocolate in Ireland. After our visit in May, I have been rationing out the few pieces of it that managed to make it back home with me. The idea of using some for small gifts didn't even occur to me once we left the Emerald Isle and my ease of purchasing it was over. The few milk chocolate bars I tried were luscious and silky on the tongue, some had caramel or ganache as fillings, but the best by far for me was this, the white chocolate and raspberry.

It compared favorably with the organic fair trade chocolates that are being marketed by the Marks and Spencer Food Halls all over Great Britain and Ireland. Of the two M&S flavors tasted, I thought the rose infused one was exotic and flavorful, but as a novelty taste, not a classic chocolate. The milk chocolate was distinct from most other good quality chocolates and excellent in flavor. You can bet I will purchase that one again, when I get the chance.