Archive for February 2014

EVO, Salt And Other Musings

One of the many delights of traveling  around Italy is having many opportunities to taste wonderful Extra Virgin Olive Oils.

I have a fondness for the oils of Umbria. They differ in taste from Tuscan oils. Both are delicious. I fell in love with and brought home, an oil from that year’s harvest referred to as “new oil”, from a farm near Montefalco. It had a gorgeous green colour with an amazing flavour, with a slightly peppery aftertaste and properly olivey. We mourned when we used that final drop! So sad…

Last time we visited Panzano in Chianti,  we picked up a bottle of new oil from one of our favourite places,  Macelleria Cecchini, the oil comes from Dario’s  farm  A couple of nights later, in Rome, we couldn’t hold out any longer and so unwrapped this treasure. Of course this required the “ceremonial tasting” of oil drizzled on some great bread bought earlier in the day, absolutely wonderful. The Macelleria makes a seasoning salt called “Profumo del Chianti”. Written on the label is “To open if necessary to breath in deeply for sudden attacks of nostalgia”. No kidding. We always return home with a large stash along with their fennel pollen. Not that long ago, fennel pollen was not available in Vancouver, however, South China Seas at Granville Island, does sell some, although it is not Italian.

The problem with bringing home treats is running out of them….

Luckily for us, a couple of years ago we went to a tasting of EVO imported from Amelia, Umbria. The olives are picked in November and the oil is received here usually in January. There is nothing like “new oil”. Do yourself a favour and try and get some. Amelia Oil also sells a gorgeous salt called Sale Alle Erbe delle Marlunghe. **See below.

If you are traveling to California, look for the excellent EVO made by McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma. We were gifted a bottle and it was very good.

Mort Rosenblum wrote a book about olive oil and olives called “Olives”.  He visited McEvoy Ranch and recommends their oil. If you are interested in learning a lot more about olives and the making of olive oil, this is the book for you.

ATTENTION Costco shoppers.  Having done some research I discovered that Costco’s Kirkland Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Toscano  passed the University of California’s Test for EVO.  The oil is tested for acidity, taste, etc. Harvested in November/December each year, it is new oil.  This required a quick trip to get some and it is good. Did a comparison with Amelia Oil. Both wonderful but each have a different taste and finish.  Try their Mediterranean Sea Salts Grinder too, great for travelling or a picnic!


**If you would like to make your own herb salt, please see Sale Aromatico.

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What’s Up In My Kitchen


The pots have been bubbling away with all sorts of comfort foods lately!  Stew is such a good thing to have while watching the Winter Olympics!  But you don’t have to wait for them to roll around again to make some of these recipes!  Enjoy…

Something scrumptious to snack on:

This is one of the yummiest stews…beer in a stew, how can you go wrong?

Of course, it wouldn’t be our house without pasta at least once a week (frankly, I could have it every day!)

Not the normal version you would expect, but so good!

Let’s not forget a little something for dessert:

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More Favourite Things

Milo Baughman:

baughmanWas one of the leading mid-century modern furniture designers of the 20th century and a favourite of mine.  His American designs were forward-thinking and distinctive, but they were unpretentious and affordable. He was prolific and very influential; his work continues to be copied, reinvented and revived.

Beginning in the mid-1940’s, Baughman designed for many furniture companies, including Mode Furniture, Glenn of California, The Inco Company, Pacific Iron, Murray Furniture of Winchendon, Arch Gordon, Design Institute America, George Kovacs, Directional, Henredon and Drexel, among others, until his death. He is most famous, for his longtime association with Thayer Coggin Inc., which began in 1953, and lasted until his death in 2003.

Using mid-century modern materials like chrome, stainless, glass and leather, he created a new visual vocabulary, built on the legacy of two of my favourite designers, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer, however, his work was infused with the style and ease of the American West Coast.

baughman 2His furniture has been exhibited in museums and shows throughout the United States and he was inducted into the Furniture Designer’s Hall of Fame in 1987.

For me, his designs were and remain “cool” and just like Mies’ designs, I would be proud to own something he designed…but then there’s always those Eames lounge chairs I dream about! Not that I would want a home filled with “iconic” designer pieces, just a few special pieces that make me smile whenever I look at them.

What about re-upholstering those chairs in Pantone’s colour of the year, “Radiant Orchid”?  Might be fun!



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Bacardi Birthday’s

It’s getting to be that time of the year again! My husband will be celebrating his birthday very soon and when I asked him if he would like a special dessert he said “not really”. Then I said I’m thinking about making that Barardi Rum Cake for your birthday cake. “Oh well…that’s different and yes, please!”

bacardi cake pt3 resizeI simply must declare that I don’t use cake mixes!

But, if you are of a certain vintage, you just may remember this one recipe. It used to appear in Bacardi ads in magazines all the time. I had it the first time at a friends in the ‘70’s and could not stop eating it!

A number of years later I baked the cake again and took a couple of slices to a friend who owned a little fish shop/catering business up the street. He thought it was fabulous! Swiss trained chef, by the way! From that day until he closed the business a few years later, there was not only a standing order for a cake every week, that was sold by the slice, but he would get people calling in ordering whole cakes.

Then somehow or other, that cake became THE birthday cake for friends and family, served with whipped cream of course. From what I can remember, there never was much leftover!

To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, we held an Italian style dinner party in the backyard. There were a number of our favourite things on the menu, like stuffed deep fried zucchini blossoms, roasted marinated red peppers, vegetarian lasagna bianco, something barbecued, a big salad and then dessert.

Our very good friends and neighbours are amazing cooks so besides the zucchini blossoms, they offered to make dessert, fantastic! There must have been some conversation over the years we have known each other, about the Bacardi cake. So, unbeknownst to us, they decided to make that cake….their oven was in use so they used another of our neighbours’ oven. I just happened to be outside in the backyard when the dessert was finished baking and was being taken to their place to cool. Something I could not put my finger on…smelled so familiar! When dessert time came I figured out why. Instead of a whole cake, they made them into mini-cakes about the size of Madelines. Aha…I knew I recognized that smell!

Everyone, except the bakers, had had the cake at our house before for one celebration or another and was delighted at the re-jigged cake. They went down a treat! And once again, there was either very little or nothing left!  Click on the photo for an enlarged version.

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What’s Up In My Kitchen?


There are just some things I can’t get enough of when it’s so bloody cold outside.  We set records here in Vancouver but so far no snow…

I’m thinking, I need a big bowl of Mexican meatball soup to warm me up!  Ole´…

A  good stew would is just the thing as well.

Saturday night and pizza…love that!  This time, tomato sauce, Italian sausage, green peppers, red onions, oregano, mozzarella, goat cheese and a sprinkle of pepperoncino for good measure!

Domenica Marchetti has been all over ravioli lately in her blog and of course, WANT!

If that isn’t enough:  Valentine’s Day is coming up.  It’s a tradition in our house to have pasta so this year it will be a Tuscan ragu with garganelli pasta.

And only because it’s Valentine’s Day…

And…with the weather being so darned miserable these days, I think a treat is in order, something to go with a steaming cup of coffee or tea…

I’m hoping these will help ward off the winter chills at your house!

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