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  • The Salvagno Story...

    The Salvagno family are one of our favourite as well as longest-serving suppliers.

    When you visit the beautiful part of northern Italy in which they live, it is immediately obvious why their extra virgin olive oil, olives: both in brine or pitted in that same oil, and their excellent olive paste are so good.

    They are a mere ten minutes from elegant Verona, the town where you can imagine Romeo and Juliet being played out. Along with the other cultural and vinous attractions - this is the area where Prosecco and Amarone rule and the home of the now very trendy Aperol or Campari Spritz - it is a must for young people to go to Juliet’s house and leave a stick-it love note on her wall and perhaps be photographed with her.

    Salvagno is located in the countryside, and the family, Gianni, his wife Elena and daughters Christina and Francesca are very well known in the area. When we walked through Piazza Erbe in Verona with Gianni, it took some time to get to the restaurant as he was greeted by so many friends along the way.

    Gianni is an innovator in the world of olives as he invented a modern version of the traditional stone wheel, feeling that his town’s olives were too delicate for modern methods of crushing.

    Certainly Salvagno extra virgin olive oil is always been quite delicately almondy but also quite rich in mouth texture and smooth and balanced on the palate. It is naturally organic and the fly they spray for normally does not exist in this climate. Or perhaps the prayers of the nuns in the cloistered nunnery we drove up to on the top of the hill near the frantoio protect them...

    The olive paste tastes as though it is a fully flavoured tapenade complete with anchovies and capers, but is in fact just olives and salt. Gluten-free and vegan as well as very moreish. One witty food writer once described it a ‘yuppie’ vegemite (a term anyone under 35 probably doesn’t know!).

    Their pitted olives in extra virgin olive oil are just sensational. They are rich and meaty, but mild served as is or stirred through pasta, risotto and many forms of grain or vegetable salads - or gain extra texture and crunch when roasted with meat, fish or vegetables.

    This brand is the ideal quality pantry staple.

     

  • Giusti Balsamic

    The Giusti family have been making their superb balsamic using authentic and traditional methods for over 400 years in Modena, Italy – also home to Ferrari, Maserati and Pavarotti. Established in 1598, they still stand today at the top of the balsamic world. Their continued use of smaller wooden barrels, in preference to the more industrial approach, stood the test of time for Giusti with many prestigious awards bearing testament to this.

    Claudio, Luciano and Francesca are the 17th Giusti generation following the family tradition. Sabato have enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Claudio and his family for the last 20 years and Giusti has been a key brand in our range. On our most recent trip we visited the Giusti family again and shared a hospitable, fun evening of balsamic cocktails, great food and live music.

    Because of the excellent quality grapes Giusti source, the juice from the slowly reduced grapes becomes thick, dark and sweet. They then add good quality wine vinegar to the cooked grape must before aging in the already seasoned traditional wooden barrels of various woods including those from cherry, juniper, oak, ash and mulberry. These each infuse the balsamic with its own unique flavour profile and aroma. Giusti have over 1000 barrels in use - 600 of which are over 200 years old and some dating back to the 1600s. As the balsamic ages, the liquid evaporates and the flavour intensifies. Each barrel is then topped up with balsamic from another barrel of different wood. Because each barrel contains a blend of vinegars from other barrels, it is impossible to truthfully determine the age of the balsamic in any one particular barrel.

    As part of Sabato’s 25-year anniversary celebrations, Giusti have made a special, limited edition Sabato 25-year balsamic vinegar in recognition of our long and close relationship. This is available now for a limited time only!

    We are also celebrating with 25% off the Giusti range, both in-store and online, from 1-14th June 2018 excluding the 25-year anniversary balsamic bottle.

  • The Ferron Rice Story...

    In 1975, Gabriele Ferron recognised that mass production of inferior rice posed a serious threat to the survival of two exceptional varieties of Veronese rice. To ensure its survival he went on to establish and lead a group of rice growers in the Isola della Scala valley in Italy to protect these delicate species. It is Gabriele’s dedication that has ensured that Vialone Nano and Carnaroli rice are available today. We all have great reason to be very grateful to Gabriele as we effortlessly create delicious risotto dishes the Ferron way, using that indispensible pantry item – his unique style of rice. You no longer need to stand over your risotto, laboriously ladling in your hot stock, and stirring repeatedly, when you use this rice. The whole process is effortlessly streamlined to become quick, simple, and guaranteed to deliver a fabulous result every time. This rice is an essential ingredient for the modern, smart, sophisticated cook.

    Ferron rice is grown without the use of chemical fertilisers of pesticides. Instead their rice fields are irrigated with spring water and are full of frogs and carp, which control pests in a natural, organic way. Crops are rotated and corn and medicinal herbs are planted in the non-planting years to replenish the soil with nutrients.

    In recognition of the quality and characteristics of this rice, in 1996 Ferron Vialone Nano rice was declared a ‘PGI’ - a geographically protected, quality product. It is the only variety in Europe that carries the PGI quality guarantee and Gabriele Ferron has been knighted for his involvement in this field. We have been lucky enough to have Gabriele visit Sabato in Auckland on several occasions. He helped us celebrate our 20-year anniversary 5 years ago by taking a risotto cooking class. Gabriele is an enthusiastic, passionate, bubbly character who certainly knows how to entertain a crowd!

    Ferron rice is very different to the more commercially known Arborio or Vercelli rices. It is not a highly polished rice, therefore it retains more essential starch and vitamins on the outer part of the grain. Ferron rice gives a greater yield and has a very distinct and pronounced flavour. It also has the amazing ability to not only absorb greater quantities of stock but also to retain the classic individuality of the grain.

    Carnaroli is a ‘super-fino’ rice, meaning that it has a larger and longer grain. It has a more ’nutty’ flavour, and absorbs less stock or sauce, contributing more of its own flavour to the dish. It is produced in even smaller quantities than the Vialone Nano.

    Vialone Nano is classed as a ‘semi-fino’ rice. This describes the size of the grain which is small and oval. Its flavour is full, yet delicately herbaceous. Vialone Nano has the ability to absorb two and a half times its weight in liquid or stock, makes a naturally creamier risotto and is also ideal for desserts - especially rice pudding!

     

  • Fun in Barcelona

    Since our work is all about food, everything we eat could be regarded as research – and certainly in Barcelona it is extremely easy to eat very well, either traditionally, or at the cutting edge. We figured our exercise would be to walk thousands of steps everyday – nowhere near enough to counter balance our intake – however the intention was always there.

    Barcelona is both busy and friendly with great museums, galleries, restaurants, bars, port and street theatre. We had booked an Airbnb in the Gothic Quarter, with a couple of bedrooms, as our daughter Helen was joining us. Phil and I heeded advice to take the back bedroom to avoid being disturbed by the noise of the church bells from the nearby, rather wonderful cathedral. Even so, we could hear the chimes on the quarter hour all night – though they did soon fade into the background.

    Restaurant-wise, we revisited some we had previously enjoyed and added a few more to the list, including a Michelin-starred experience at Roca Moo. Our suppliers volunteered their thoughts, and over tapas I took the opportunity to suss out a list from Ramon, the husband of Susana. She and her brother Jordi, own Torres, our Spanish potato chip supplier. They took us to the very popular, very good tapas bar Parco Meralga. The Obama balls were terrific – black with squid ink. Showed a naughty sense of humour, as well as talent in the kitchen.

    Starting with an excellent mojito at one of Barcelona’s oldest nearby bars Casa Almirall, we then moved on to dine at a simple regional favourite eating spot – also liked by Ramon, Estevet. Situated in the slightly seedy district of El Raval, this restaurant is best described as casual, not sophisticated, and reliably good.

    St Jordi’s Day, our equivalent of Valentine’s Day, is hugely celebrated here, with men giving women roses, and women giving men books. There’s some wisdom in that! Booths are everywhere.

    We touched base with Eduard Pons and enjoyed more good tapas together, he may visit us in September, along with Albert Roca, maker of excellent Forvm vinegars. At this point we are intending to once again offer a couple of Albert’s fine Avgvstvs wines.

    It was also great to catch up with Javier and Carlos Oliva, the very witty La Chinata brothers, and our new friends from Torres chips have just added a very appealing spicy Pimentón de la Vera flavour, to their already upmarket range. We visited their factory and learnt the secrets behind great potato chips. They are a national obsession in Spain, and there are some very interesting flavours – fried egg crisps anyone?  For Torres, their difference starts with growing the potatoes from the best seeds. Their operation is really quite small and the attention to quality and detail is impressive. They also make their own flavourings – the popular truffle chips are made from Spanish and Italian truffles they dehydrate themselves, and in keeping with their commitment to quality – real caviar is used for their caviar flavoured chips. They take about two years to develop each flavour to the point where they are happy to release it, and a new secret one is in the pipeline for early next year!

    Both of our suppliers Cudié and Vicens have some new sweet treats and temptations for this coming Christmas. You will have a wonderful selection to choose from when they all arrive later this year.

    Helen arranged an excellent tour for us at the Dali Theatre Museum in Figueres. We had never realised Dali made a fabulous selection of jewellery as well as paintings and statues. A complex man of many talents. Our guide was very knowledgeable and it was well worth doing. We found it to be very reasonably priced as well.

    All-in-all, Barcelona was the enjoyable experience we always find it to be. We happened across a very hip cocktail bar called Dr. Stravinsky, which looked as much like an apothecary as a bar, and having asked which spirits you preferred, you were then made a bespoke cocktail. We all enjoyed our choices.

    If you’d like more details of the Dali Theatre Museum tour, or a list of places to eat and drink, just contact us and we will share our discoveries.

  • Jacqui & Phil's 2018 Adventures

    A blissful start

    Before setting off on our annual sourcing adventure, spending a couple of days with our (now firmly London-ensconced) daughter Helen was a must. However Helen had decided we should eschew London for the Cotswolds. Airbnb was consulted, a car was hired (you don’t need one in London, and unlike her Kiwi counterparts, many of Helen’s British contemporaries do not even know how to drive!) with enough luggage space for us all, she collected us from Heathrow and off we went.

    It was a comfortingly brisk, grey British day, though temperatures of up to 22 degrees were apparently promised the following week. Yeah right!

    We stopped en route at a huge service area, complete with mini supermarket and Ramada Hotel for a truly awful coffee – Allpress definitely need to expand their (understandably successful) operation beyond London. It really didn’t take long to arrive at our gorgeous destination, the accommodation being a cottage traditional to the area, complete with a modern kitchen, good heating, great water pressure – and soft beds. Bliss!

    Cottage

    Helen had a timetable in mind (you don’t mess with a Virgo) so after unpacking, showering and a change of clothing we set off to the train station to collect the fourth member of our party, and head to our first eating spot: The Cherwill Boathouse. We all enjoyed a hearty and tasty meal, finishing with a couple of fine British farmhouse cheeses.

    The next day we had been invited to visit Daylesford Organics and were accorded a comprehensive tour of this wonderful place. It comprises a 2000-acre organic farm complete with restful spa, as well as a restaurant, a food store and a home wares shop by Jerome, who is the export manager for one of Lord and Lady Bamford many operations – a French winery called Léoube. A magnum of their very nice Rosé had been a gift for my birthday earlier this year.

    Torres

    Certainly the shop and restaurant are exceptionally attractive – and we were interested to note the presence of Torres crisps. The star of the show however was not on the food side. We had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Charlie – a chatty 10 year old on the animal husbandry side – who certainly knew his lambs, lifting one straight into Helen’s arms and enthusiastically offering to prepare a bottle for her to feed it. Charlie was not looking forward to abandoning his small charges to return to school the following week.

    Charlie

    We then meandered through a few of the nearby romantic Cotswold villages, complete with thatched cottages, clumps of daffodils growing in artistically-placed clusters, crows and magpies,  bridges christened with names like Tadpole Bridge and pubs called ‘The Red Lion’, ‘The White Hart’ and ‘The Kings Arms’, then headed to another of Lady Carole Bamford’s establishments, a restaurant called ‘Wild Rabbit’ to enjoy lunch in another of her very convivial settings.

    Wild Rabbit

    That night we self-catered with some of the fine fare we had purchased at Daylesford Organics and took some time to enjoy our gorgeous cottage, before we packed our bags and set off early the next morning for Barcelona.

     

  • The La Chinata Smoked Paprika Story...

    A defining ingredient of the Spanish kitchen, La Chinata Spanish smoked paprika is favoured by top chefs and food writers worldwide. It is instantly recognisable in its red tin and can be seen in the kitchens of the likes of Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay.

    The rounded smoky flavour and intense colour of La Chinata smoked paprika make it a great addition to so many dishes. It is essential in a traditional Spanish paella and delivers so much flavour when used in marinades, rubs, dressings and sauces. La Chinata smoked paprika works especially well with fish, chicken, beef and vegetables bringing out flavours that salt and pepper alone simply cannot.

    Sabato has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with La Chinata, which was founded in 1975 by the Oliva family. Cecilio Oliva has been joined by his two sons Javier and Carlos and they continue to produce this world class spice.

    Pimentón (peppers) from la Vera in Spain, are smoked over oak for 10-15 days to intensify their flavour before being stone-ground to produce a paprika totally distinct from other paprikas. In 1993 ‘Pimentón de la Vera’ became the world’s first pepper spice with ‘Denomination of Origin Protection’ (DOP).

    There are three varieties of La Chinata smoked paprika to choose from, dulce (sweet), agridulce (bittersweet) and picante (spicy). Each variety is made from a different variety of pepper, unique in taste. We recommend starting with dulce and working your way through the range. Although if you like spicy foods, go straight to the picante!

    Paprika flakes are a NEW addition to the La Chinata range. These are packaged in convenient glass bottles with grinders and are perfect for grinding over steak, eggs and potato and for use at the table.

  • Celebrating the Julie Le Clerc Range

    Phil and I have enjoyed a long collaboration with the talented food writer and cook Julie Le Clerc and we are thrilled to celebrate the Sabato Julie Le Clerc range this March for our 25-year anniversary.

    Julie’s passion for cooking is inspiring. Her flavour focussed philosophy, based on fresh, natural ingredients cooked well means her recipes consistently deliver vibrant tastes that are simply made to be shared. Julie enjoys creating accessible, straightforward but stylish recipes which encourage home cooks to put together deliciously satisfying dishes from scratch.

    When Julie sold her café many years ago, the Sabato philosophy of small batch, quality production fitted her desire to have her very popular, signature preserves and chutneys available to her established following. One of the most popular is the spicy harissa, a fiery, North African chilli spice paste perfect to rub or marinate meats, chicken or salmon or add to a Ferron rice risotto. A classic favourite is her Moroccan chutney, an appealing condiment with very addictive qualities.

    We have some exciting things planned for 2018 with Julie so watch this space!

  • Catching up with the Girolomoni brothers

    The only thing that momentarily drew our attention away from the demands of the bumpy, winding road leading towards the crest of a hill (we would call it a mountain) in Isola del Piano, in the Marches, was the appearance of busy local bee keepers, as we headed up the slopes, to visit Girolomoni. They are our organic supplier of pasta, farro, mountain lentils, extra virgin olive oil and a few other very interesting grains.

    The Girolomoni entrance sign. The Girolomoni entrance sign.

    We were particularly intrigued to return to the 14th century Montebello monastery that the late Gino Girolomoni was making his life's work to restore, complete with a small museum, when we first visited some years ago.

    Entrance Arriving at Girolomoni.

    A pioneer of the organic movement in Italy, Gino is renowned throughout the region as the man who brought it back to life again through the introduction of organic farming. At one point he had also been a very innovative and progressive mayor. These days, both his sons and daughter are involved in the co-operative which now includes 200 farmers spread through this, and other regions, in Italy.

    Seven years ago, Gianluca, the General Manager, had told us how lucky he was to work in this company and this environment, a comment he reiterated this visit. Everything in this unique area is farmed organically and the movement has grown considerably over the last few years. Girolomoni grow organic ancient varieties of wheat and grains onsite, and make pasta from these. We heard of plans to build their own flour mill next year on the side of the 'hill'. This will close the circle. Durum wheat is quite difficult to grind compared to normal flour, as it is more like sand in texture. If environment can be seen to directly influence the end product then this mill will produce truly wonderful flour as the views are serene, and the air has a crisp freshness, even on a sunny afternoon. Their power sources are mainly supplied by solar and wind turbine.

    View View from Girolomoni farm.

    The farro used for Girolomoni’s farro pasta is from the father of all modern wheat: triticum monococum. It is characterised by a very appealing natural sweetness. We tried it simply dressed with their extra virgin olive oil. Often people who are sensitive to gluten find they can tolerate this pasta, and the pearled farro they also supply us with. We have recently added their semi-integrale pasta to our Sabato range, which has part of the husk left on, ensuring it is higher in fibre than normal pasta but is still delicious to eat.

    The businessman and the farmer. The businessman and the farmer.

    Gino’s son, Giovanni, is involved on the business side and his brother Samuele, on the farming side. There is a small restaurant onsite, where the chef, Andrea, was mowing the lawn as we arrived. Andrea's previous employment had been at a two-starred Michelin restaurant and he had been interviewed and employed by Maria, their sister, who later became his partner. Andrea cooked us a really delicious lunch and his talents extended to an interesting crispy cracker made from leftover pasta.

    The Montebello monastery chapel. The Montebello monastery chapel.

    All three of Gino’s children now have children of their own, with Giovanni having married in the chapel of the ancient Montebello monastery, lovingly restored by his father from the roofless ruin we had last seen. In the last few years the children have managed to get through the red tape of Italian administration to have the remains, of both their mother and father, laid to rest in the simple, beautiful chapel.

    Here, there is a strong focus on educating the next generation to ensure the survival of the organic movement and Girolomoni frequently invest in this by conducting visits to the property for school groups. The students are shown first hand the passage of the wheat from farm to grain or pasta. Everyone at Girolomoni is very passionate about organic being the sustainable way of the future, and in that environment you can understand the appeal.

  • Jacqui & Phil's visit to Carlo Crivellin

    Having warned our son Thomas, about the breakneck driving we would be likely to encounter in the south of Italy compared to the 'civilised' north, it was a rude shock to have an early hair-raising experience whilst still in Northern Italy. We were on our way to see one of our newer suppliers, 'Carlo Crivellin', driving the narrow road alongside the Adige River in the Veneto. We managed to arrive in one piece despite the best efforts of large trucks and speeding, loose-laned cars playing the game of 'sideswipe'.

    family Crivellin family

    The little company of 'Carlo Crivellin' was started by Carlo and his wife Fiorella in 1969, focusing initially on pasta and polenta, until the pasta took precedence and the polenta machinery was sold to a good friend.

    Carlo-+-Madonna The man himself - Carlo Crivellin and the beautiful Madonna perched in the garden.

    Today the company is still very much a family-run operation, in a tidy little factory complete with a rather beautiful Madonna in the garden. Carlo and Fiorella are at the helm on a daily basis, working with their children Laura and Arianna, and son-in-law Alessandro. Carlo and Alessandro create the recipes, with Alessandro refining the machinery and plant to customise production - and he and Arianna live onsite. Talk about living your work!

    Gluten-free pasta being made right in front of our eyes! Gluten-free pasta being made right in front of our eyes!

    They tell us the secret to the great flavour of their gluten-free egg pasta is the high percentage of local eggs: 25% instead of the usual 20% - made to an old recipe of Carlo's.

    We lunched at a large, local, simple restaurant where for the princely sum of €13 a fixed daily menu offered pasta or risotto, followed by the choice of steak, prosciutto, chicken, duck, octopus, rabbit or horse - which is commonly offered in the Veneto. Also a salad, which can be hard to come by as we travel, mainly eating in restaurants. We chose the duck, which tasted free range and was a wood-fired black. Alessandro told us he normally avoided the rabbit as a nearby local town used to be known as 'gattomangia' (cat-eaters) and he always wondered if the custom lingered.

    After a night in a nearby agriturismo, we left early for the long drive further south to see our organic supplier: Girolomoni.

  • A visit to Marina Colonna's olive grove

    Marina Colonna's quality extra virgin olive oil has been a prominent hero in our range from the day we started Sabato.

    The sign welcoming us to Marina Colonna's Estate The sign welcoming us to Marina Colonna's Estate

    Her excellent quality oil - and the distinctive anfora bottle bearing the Colonna family's ancient noble crest - are personified by the woman herself.

    A very resilient woman, of resourceful character, she became involved in the family farm in the 1980s as she tired of a career in documentary-making. The final straw was a trip to the Amazon where she was the only woman on a dark and threatening jungle journey. Hot, sunny deserts she could handle deftly, but that jungle trip was mainly pitch black and "you never knew what might slither down your neck". She decided to focus on the potential of producing quality extra virgin olive oil instead.

    Marina cooking us lunch Marina cooking us lunch.

    This is also not for the faint-hearted, to which those involved in our local industry can attest.  Consistently achieving the high quality Marina has maintained for decades and remaining in business, is a feat accomplished only by very few. Marina Colonna may be the only woman to have achieved this status.

    A' Principessa' from a lineage based in Rome with a long and noble history, her estate in Molise has been in the family since the 1800s. It is now 180 hectares with 55 hectares devoted to the many varieties of olives she nurtures like children. About half of these are certified organic, which comes with a lot of extra cost.

    The driveway leading us up to the Colonna estate. The driveway leading us up to the Colonna estate.

    Marina is a fearless innovator and her infused oils - which were first in the market in New Zealand, and often the inspiration for copies - have always matched the superb quality of her classic oil. The Granverde (lemon-infused) in particular has been a staple we have enjoyed supplying to many restaurants and domestic kitchens. It is pressed from the skins of hand peeled organic Calabrian and Sicilian lemons along with the olives. She loves it as a finishing oil or with balsamic vinegar. We really must take her a bottle of the Forvm Chardonnay vinegar, as that has long been a favourite combination in New Zealand.

    Jacqui, Marina and Phil by the tanks. Jacqui, Marina and Phil by the tanks.

    We enjoyed visiting her again. Like a proud parent she showed us around her groves pointing out varieties and individual trees of which she is particularly fond. She noted that the flowering this year is excellent which, barring natural disasters, should mean a good harvest. The necessary water comes from three natural lakes on the property. Nothing is wasted.  The olives provide fertiliser and power as well. She turns the pomace (the waste of the paste after crushing for her extra virgin olive oil, often turned into pomace oil by other companies) into compost. This is then used as fertiliser, while the olive stone part of the pomace is separated out and used as fuel for the boilers, which heat the buildings and the water.

    A view of olive groves and one of the lakes on the estate. A view of olive groves and one of the lakes on the estate.

    I thought to ask what had inspired her unique anfora-shaped bottle, and she laughed and waggled a wooden curtain tassel of the same shape at us.

    Marina with her curtain tassel! Marina with her curtain tassel!

    Simple, pure genius - befitting of the lady herself.

     

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