Do you ever get asked your favorite thing is, only for your mind to go blank? I get asked on a daily basis what is new and exciting at Great Ciao, only for the same thing to happen. With a warehouse full of fancy groceries, and new ones coming in every day, there is just no excuse for that. So this afternoon I went old school and walked through the warehouse with a whiteboard to brainstorm my top ten list of foods I’m excited about for September.
10. Mozzarella di Bufala
As Minnesotans, we shouldn’t be so eager to usher in fall menus and pumpkin spice everything when we know the weather that lies ahead. We still have plenty of delicious Mozzarella di Bufala, brought in direct by air-freight from Italy to the 612.
9. Red Boat Fish Sauce
While it may be pungent when tasted solo, Red Boat Fish Sauce is liquid gold, adding a big hit of meaty brothy umami flavor to every dish it touches. Founder Cuong Pham started a small factory on the tropical island of Phu Quac in 2006. When the fisherman return to the port, native black anchovies are cleaned, and packed in salt into tropical wood barrels. The tropical wood barrels impart a vivid fruity sweetness into the fish sauce and soften its intensity. We have Red Boat Fish Sauce in both retail and foodservice sizes.
8. Maritime Lavender Honey
French lavender honey (a mono-floral honey collected from bees pollinating lavender fields, rather than being lavender infused) is delicious enough, but this version was collected from bees pollinating lavender off the coast of southern France, which adds a breath of briney ocean air to its perfumed sweetness. It is every bit as delicious as it is esoteric (and I really dig it.)
7. Pralus Chuao Bars
These tasty chocolate bars just arrived from France, and they are one of our combined favorites. Chuao is one of Francois Pralus’ most esteemed bars, collected from a single plantation in Venezuala. We love it for its deep, earthy, cigar-tobacco-y, dried fruit and leather flavor and aroma. Most of the time we hoard it for ourselves, but we could also sell it to you if you ask nicely.
6. Italian Wild Fennel Pollen
This stuff is the magical fairy dust of the spice kingdom. Wild fennel pollen is more floral, sweet, and fragrant than fresh fennel fronds. A little goes a long way, and now that the weather is cooling down (despite my protests) I’m excited to use it on roasted meats and root vegetables. I also love sprinkling fennel pollen over a slice of Bucheron goat cheese and a drizzle of Acacia honey for a simple but elegant cheese course.
5. Arroyabe Ventresca Tuna Belly
Who knew that canned tuna could be so irresistable? Answer: The Spanish, but they were probably keeping it to themselves. Ventresca is the belly cut of the small Bonito del Norte breed of Tuna that makes an annual run off the coast of the Adriatic Sea. The tender fillets are packed in olive oil, and deserve to be sprinkled with good salt and eaten straight out of the can.
4. Great Ciao Signature Balsamic Condiment from Compania del Montale
Three years ago, we set out to develop a signature balsamic with Compania del Montale, a small Acetorium in Modena. It took countless sample vials, tastings, and transatlantic journeys before we settled on a blend that was finished in Juniper barrels and had a luxurious velvety-thick texture. This is as good as you can get without breaking the bank for Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. We have it in both 500ml. foodservice bottles, and in the pretty 250 ml. bottle you see pictured.
3. Unio Muscatel Vinegar
Two vinegars in a row? Well, you can never have enough good vinegar in your arsenal. Made from Spanish Moscatel grapes, this vinegar has a crisp acidic backbone balanced by candied lemon sweetness, all at once aromatic and complex with lively overtones of melon and honey. Perfect for a vinaigrette, but sweet enough to enjoy with soda water for a refreshing vinegar spritzer.
2. Haricot Soisson
One of the two classic beans used for cassoulet (the other being the more well known Tarbais bean) Soisson beans are much bigger, plumper, and practically beg to be infused with duck fat, sausage, and whatever other meaty tid-bits you can throw their way. Soisson beans nearly double in size after soaking, and become rich and creamy once cooked.
1. Finally! Local Honeycomb from Ames Farm
We are always looking to find the ingredients our customers request, and local honeycomb has been one of the hardest things to source given the state of our bee population in Minnesota. Fortunately, Brian at Ames Farm had an awesome year that exceeded his expectations, and we finally have delicious local honeycomb at your beckon call!