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Let Summer Be-Gin!

I am not a Scotch drinker nor am I really a Bourbon drinker, but I can appreciate a well-made Old Fashioned or Manhattan every once in a while. So when planning our last vacation to Scotland, I knew my husband would be extremely happy enjoying the local spirits. The Scots aren’t known for wine and not being a beer drinker I thought I was going to be “Debbie Downer” at the pub. But, I had no idea how much the UK was into gin and other non-Scotch-based cocktails.

I found something to drink there and it was so crisp and just plain refreshing! I had no idea that it would take a trip to Scotland to make me realize just how good a well-crafted tonic could be! Almost every pub and restaurant we went to had not only amazing Scotches to choose from, but a HUGE selection of gin. The variety of mixers was incredible but the one that was most recommended to me to was Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water. I was pretty familiar with that brand name although this particular flavor was one I never had in the States before. It’s a little hard to describe in flavor. Reminiscent of a salty ocean breeze, it has a slightly herbal component to it that kind of reminds me of rosemary or herbes de Provence. Plus, I didn’t even need to add the gin! (But I did—more than a couple of times.)

What I can describe is how easy it is to make a simply stunning and refreshing drink. Cut a thin slice of grapefruit, lime, or orange and place it in the bottom of a glass. If you happen to have some fresh herbs handy, throw in a small sprig of rosemary or a basil leaf (thyme will work too).  Add ice and pour a bottle of Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water to the rim. Muddle or stir, and voila! Or, do like the Highlanders do and add a little gin. Perfect summer drink!

Sweet Summertime: 12 Ways to Savor Summer

Finally, summer is here! This means beautiful sunny days, cookouts, nature in full bloom, picnics, and fresh, colorful food. It’s time to fill your plate and savor all that summer has to offer with 12 of our favorite summer recipes.

1. Frosé

Cool off with one of our favorite cocktail recipes—Frosé!

2. Panzanella Salad

This popular summer salad is THE dish to eat while you’re on your patio soaking up the warm weather.

3. Heirloom Tomato Tart

The combination of fresh basil and tomatoes is unbeatable. This recipe kicks it up a notch with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

4. Carnitas Tacos with Summer Peach & Tomato Salsa

Filled with tender braised pork and bright salsas, these tacos are sure to please.

5. Peach, Tomato, & Watermelon Salad

Try topping this refreshing salad with crumbled goat cheese, sliced grilled chicken, or grilled shrimp.

6. Creamy Shrimp Pasta Salad

Loaded with flavor, this dish is sure to be a hit at your next cookout!

7. The Best Cheeseburger Ever

Barber’s 1833 Vintage Cheddar takes this burger to new heights.

8. Heirloom Tomato and Peach Salad

Embrace the fresh flavors this season has to offer with this Heirloom Tomato and Peach Salad recipe.

9. Summer Ratatouille

Nothing says summer quite like a dish loaded with seasonal veggies.

10. Grilled Peach Salad with Roquefort and Arugula

Summer calls for grilled food, including fruit! This salad hits all the marks—sweet, salty, crunchy, creamy, and so delicious.

11. Mozzarella, Melon, and Prosciutto Kebabs

These fun appetizers are perfect for your summertime cookouts and parties!

12. Gourmet Hot Dogs

Kick your typical hot dog up a notch with these 5 gourmet hot dog ideas!

 

 

Your Guide to Classic Steak Cuts

One of my favorite classes George Punter and I taught was a food and wine pairing class called The Great American Steakhouse. We pulled out all the stops with a classic throwback menu of Clams Casino, Wedge Salad, Steak au Poivre, Hand-Cut French Fries, and Chocolate Mousse, plus wine pairings that were simply stunning. Needless to say we all had a blast, but we did spend quite a lot of time just talking steak.

Rib-Eye
Rib-Eye

I pulled out all of our tender steak cuts and we discussed each of their attributes. If you are always buying and ordering the same cut, I would like to challenge you to break out and try a couple different ones. Different steak cuts vary in textures, looks, moisture & fat content, and obviously price.

Rib-Eyes tend to be the choice of most serious steak lovers. Plenty of tender meat and lots of flavor, it is sometimes called a Tomahawk Steak with the rib bone attached, or Beef Rib Steak, Saratoga Steak, or Cowboy Steak. In my kitchen, I don’t mess around too much with this cut because you are paying for all of its natural, big flavor. Enjoy it simply well-seasoned with some good sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. And a glass of California Cabernet.

NY Strip Steak
NY Strip Steak

Although Strip Steaks have less visible fat, I enjoy the firmer, slightly chewier texture better when I am in the mood for serious steak. This particular cut was made famous by Delmonico’s, an NYC restaurant founded in 1827. This restaurant offered a short loin as one of their signature dishes, and so the cut became known in the East Coast area as the Delmonico Steak. New York Strip, another name, is cut from the short loin part of the sirloin and has a fine-grained texture that has enough fat to produce lots of flavor but tends to not be as tender as a ribeye.

Call it what you want, Filet, Filet Mignon, Tenderloin, or Châteaubriand, it’s unbelievably tender and buttery on both texture and flavor. It also happens to be one of the leanest types of steak cuts. Since fat = flavor here, this is the steak I like to serve with some kind of full-flavored sauce (béarnaise or green peppercorn) or mount with some herb butter to ramp up its flavor.

 

Porterhouse

The Porterhouse is a thick, bone-in steak where you get the best of the strip steak on one side and filet on the other all in one cut. (The T-Bone is the smaller, thinner cut version.) A fun steak to share or carve at the table as one of these can easily feed 2-3 people! I like to grill this one for special occasions, seasoned well and drizzled with some Vera Jane’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil.

 

Top Sirloin

 

Love all sorts of rubs and marinades? Then Top Sirloin is for you. I tend to think of this steak cut as the unsung hero. Although it is naturally a bit tougher than the other tender cuts of steak, its grainy texture and leanness will more than make up for it in its overall flavor and price point. This cut benefits from the added fat a marinade can provide or the flavor boost from your favorite rub. I love it for steak salads and sandwiches, plus it can serve a crowd (or my family) who all want steak but are on a budget.

Vary your steak choices based on what you want on your dinner plate. Each steak cut offers different attributes and might not work for every finished dish. Remember two important things: fat = flavor and you get what you pay for!

Get Your Kicks with These 8 Recipes from Route 66

The ultimate road trip in America has got to be driving Route 66, spanning eight states with iconic comfort foods along the way. Although it was officially decommissioned in the 80s, it continues to attract tourists, road warriors, and food lovers looking to taste pure Americana. Today the historic route boasts vintage motels, nostalgic roadside attractions, and some really good road food.

After the Great Depression, folks finally had a little extra cash so they piled into the family car and embarked on a road trip of a lifetime with destination spots like the Grand Canyon or Disneyland Park in mind. Even great movies, songs, and books were inspired by the open road and aura of Route 66. For many, this road trip is also about the iconic flavors, like home-style baked goods, spicy chiles, BBQ, and all-around good country eating!

Buckle up and take a bite out of these eight recipes representing the eight states along Route 66!

1. Chicago Dog

2. Kansas BBQ Rub

3. Country Fried Steak

4. Buttered Pecan Blueberry Cobbler

5. Cowboy Steak

6. Easy Sticky Buns

7. Chicken Posole

8. Fish Tacos with Lime Crema & Cabbage Slaw

5 Easy Breezy Fresh Fruit Recipes

Sometimes life is like a bowl of cherries, and we hope this summer will be sweet and simple for everyone. But with a little thought, why not go beyond the bowl and branch out a bit? With all of these big, ripe sweet cherries we have right now from California, it’s hard not to think of all the fun ways to eat them! Here’s one of my favorites:

Fresh Cherries and Yogurt

Smear a little of your favorite vanilla yogurt across a plate or platter, scatter some washed and pitted cherries on top, and garnish with a little chocolate crumb. For the “crumb” I like to use crumbled Tate’s Double Chocolate Chip Cookies or the classic thin chocolate wafers that aren’t too sweet.

Dessert isn’t the only way I like to eat my cherries. Here are some suggestions for utilizing these beautiful berries!

  • Added to a green salad for a pop of sweetness.
  • Fresh component of a cheese or charcuterie plate. Cherries pair wonderfully with a nice and mild creamy blue or fresh goat cheese.
  • In a sauce or reduction accompanying poultry.
  • Plopped on top of oatmeal with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of crunchy granola.
  • On top of a toasted piece of DLM Classic 10 Grain Bread smeared with creamy ricotta and finished with a drizzle of local honey.

Looking for other ways to enjoy the bounty of fresh fruit this season brings? Check out some of my go-to recipes below!

French Blueberry Loaf with Mascarpone and Lemon Curd Sauce

Strawberry Oatmeal Cookie Tart

Grilled DLM Pound Cake with Blackberries and Caramel

Strawberries Romanoff

Chef Carrie Cooks: Lobster Cooking Tips

First off, it’s Lobstermania this weekend at DLM (sale starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday and once they’re gone, they’re gone)! But we actually kick it off with our sold out Lobster 101 cooking class event Friday night at the DLM Culinary Center (hint: buy your tickets early next year). On Saturday, you can procure fresh, live Maine lobster for $15, which is quite a deal for such quality of lobster weighing in at 1.25 lbs or larger. You can buy them already steamed fresh or you can do it at home with no Annie Hall freak-outs, I promise! Follow my tips below for steaming or boiling live lobster, and before you know it, you’ll be serving up a couple for dinner alongside corn-on-the-cob and some of our Bakery’s Herb Cheddar Biscuits!

To start, if you have never handled a live lobster, keep the bands on. Also, the lobster doesn’t “scream” when you start cooking it. If you do hear a noise it’s just the steam escaping from the shell.

Lobster Boiling Tips

Boiling a lobster is easy and probably the best way for cooking 4 or more at one time. Get a big pot and fill with fresh water about 2/3 full. Add 1 to 2 Tbsp of salt per gallon of water. Bring to a boil and add lobsters. Start the timer when the water comes back to a boil. You can figure 6-7 minutes for a 1.25-lb lobster, 7-9 minutes for 1.5-lb lobster, and 10-12 minutes for a 2-lb lobster.

Lobster Steaming Tips

Steaming lobster works great and tends to yield a more tender, less messy cooked lobster than boiling. Fill a large, deep pot with 2-3 inches of water. Bring to a boil, add the lobsters, cover, and steam, about 8 minutes per lb.

How do you tell when it’s cooked? Remember, sometimes the lobster may be undercooked even if the shell is entirely red. Double check that the meat is a creamy white color with no translucent areas. Give a good tug on one of the antennas and if it pops off, the lobster is done You can also insert an instant read thermometer into the underside of the tail. It should read 135-140°F.

5 Things to Know About Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. The 80- to 90-lb wheels of cheese designated as Parmigiano-Reggiano must only be made by approved producers. They are made by traditional methods that have been used for more than nine centuries.

2. We choose to have our Parmigiano-Reggiano aged for 24 months—longer than most. We think this has the best balance of flavor, texture, and aroma. The wheels are carefully aged in special rooms where they are cleaned and kept at specific temperatures and humidity.

3. As the cheese ages, peptones, peptides, and free amino acids form. When these crystalize, they give Parmigiano-Reggiano its distinctive, slightly crunchy texture, as well as making it a healthy, easy to digest food.

4. After aging for one year, professional cheese testers from the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium scrutinize each wheel for maturation, aroma, color, consistency, and internal structure. After passing inspection, the wheel is branded with the Consortium’s symbol and finishes aging.

5. Once a wheel is opened, it’s susceptible to oxidation, like a fine wine, and should be wrapped in clean plastic wrap. Store in the warmest part of the fridge and never freeze.

 

DLM’s Todd Templin, front right, visits the aging room for Parmigiano-Reggiano and takes in the wonderful aromas of a freshly split wheel.

 

DLM Food Explorer Viva Italia

On my first trip to Italy some years ago, I was surprised to learn that Tuscans largely ignore balsamic vinegar, and Milanese favor rice over pasta. And right in between Milan and Tuscany you find many recognizable delicacies from lasagna to Prosciutto di Parma to balsamic vinegar in the region of Reggio Emilia. Hazelnuts are a big deal in the north and hot peppers in the south.

You learn that when speaking of Italy’s great food culture, it’s impossible to describe it without putting it in a regional context. Maybe it’s the Italian connection to the land, a long culinary history, or simply local pride. In any case, discovering the regional foods of Italy is both educational and incredibly fun. Over the years, so many of us at DLM have traveled to Italy to discover its food treasures, and we’ve made it a point to bring a number of those back to you.

You see Italy’s influence at DLM in the Italian products themselves, like our Vera Jane’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil hailing from the hills of Tuscany or our Parmigiano-Reggiano from Modena. Other times, you’ll find its reach in the form of a technique we’ve learned from studying with Italian masters that we then replicate here, such as our DLM Handmade Mozzarella, Naples-Style Pizza, and Tuscan butcher-inspired specialty prepared meats, to name a few. As you can imagine, we could write a book on our passion for Italian food, but for the purpose of giving some focus, we are spotlighting a few regions of Italy that have inspired us the most: Tuscany, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, and Southern Italy, mainly Calabria and Sicily.

We’ll be celebrating Italy all month culminating with our Food Explorer Day taking place May 18. Join us for great fun and good Italian eating on our next stop as Food Explorers…buon appetito!

TUSCANY

FOOD

Vera Jane’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (GROCERY), Pane Toscano (BAKERY), Pecorino Toscano (THE DLM CHEESE SHOP), Italian Oven-Ready Meats (MEAT)

WINE

CAPPONE CHIANTI CLASSICO – Count Sebastiano Capponi is a dear friend to DLM, hailing from his lovely Tuscan estate that’s been in his family since 1524! This young-vine Chianti is named for the first ancestor of Sebastiano. It’s 100% Sangiovese, brimming with beautiful fruit and richness.

VILLA CALCINAIA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA – 100% Sangiovese from the best blocks of old vines near Greve in Chianti. It’s a well-structured wine that’s full of rich black fruits, leather, spice, cigar box notes, and supple tannins.

FONTALEONI VERNACCIA DI SAN GIMIGNANO – A wonderfully dry, minerally, and extremely pleasing white wine from the surrounding vineyards of the hilltop town of San Gimignano.

CAMPANIA

FOOD

Naples-Style Pizza (DLM WASHINGTON SQUARE & SPRINGBORO), San Marzano Tomatoes D.O.P. (GROCERY), DLM Handmade Mozzarella (THE DLM CHEESE SHOP)

WINE

COLLI DI LAPIO ROMANO CLELIA FIANO DI AVELLINO – A white wine from the Avellino province and a varietal the Romans called Vitis Apiana, vine beloved of bees. It’s dry, lovely, and has hints of pear and hazelnut, floral tones, and a hint of minerality.

EMILIA-ROMAGNA

FOOD

Prosciutto di Parma (DELI), Mortadella (DELI), DLM Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (GROCERY), Lasagna (GOURMET TAKEAWAY), Parmigiano-Reggiano (THE DLM CHEESE SHOP)

WINE

CASALI ROSA DI ROSA RED SPARKLING WINE – Perfect chilled with a plate of charcuterie enjoyed al fresco with its bright raspberry/blueberry fruit and soft bubbles.

LO DUCA LAMBRUSCO REGGIANO – Lambrusco does not exactly excite most after we’ve suffered so many terrible mass-produced and exported representations of this wine. However, Lo Duca is bright, semi-sweet, and has a naturally carbonated essence. Try it in a cocktail.

SOUTHERN ITALY (CALABRIA + SICILY)

FOOD

Cannoli (BAKERY), DLM Gelato (FROZEN), Scalia Anchovies (GROCERY), Marinated Anchovies (SEAFOOD BAR)

WINE

VILLA POZZI NERO D’AVOLA – The Pozzi family is a fifth-generation winemaking family located on the island of Sicily.

DONNAFUGATA ANTHILIA BIANCO – An amazingly crisp, minerally, and vibrant white wine blend from Sicily that’s perfect for light seafood dishes, salad, or poultry.

 

Savoring Every Bite of Emilia-Romagna

Modena is one of my favorite cities in Europe, a land of fast cars and big flavors. A few years ago, we spent an afternoon with Maria Livia Manicardi touring her family’s estate where they produce their wonderful balsamic vinegars. She makes our DLM Balsamic Vinegars, including Aunt Angie’s Balsamic Vinegar, which is great for everyday use. Best of all, Maria creates our DLM Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. It’s a blend that we chose on site with Maria and we’re extremely proud to put our name on it. We think you will love its richness, depth, and complexity.

Maria Livia Manicardi produces our DLM Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. On a visit, she offered us a sample directly from the barrel where it ages.

Just outside of Modena are the rolling hills where the Minelli family’s cows quietly graze. Modena is known not only for its balsamic vinegar and Prosciutto di Parma, but also for its Parmigiano-Reggiano, named after the provinces Parma and Reggio-Emilia. For more than a decade, we’ve been buying this cheese from the same family, brothers Valerio and Giovanni Minelli, and Giovanni’s son Carlo. As we toured their operation, Giovanni said something I’ve never heard before from a farmer. We were visiting the barn where the cows were eating fragrant hay, and he whispered “Look into their eyes. They are happy.” And we’re happy to enjoy so many wonderful foods from Reggio-Emilia!

Several of us spent a memorable afternoon enjoying food company, wine, and Parmigiano-Reggiano at the Minelli estate, overlooking the hills of Modena. This family produces our Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The Treasures of Tuscany

Over the years we’ve had the great fortune to travel to Italy several times to find new and exciting foods to bring back to DLM. Often, our home base is Tuscany. Our good friend and partner Alex Zanetti has graciously hosted us at his villa in the small medieval town of Lucignano. The rolling hills of this part of Tuscany are home to the olive trees that produce our signature Vera Jane’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. Made exclusively of Tuscan olives, it’s virgin pressed and bottled within a few miles of the olive groves. Its distinctive peppery notes are indicative of Tuscan oils and makes it our go-to olive oil for vinaigrettes, sauces, or simply drizzled over grilled meats or pasta dishes.

A trip abroad a few years back took several DLM food explorers, left, to Tuscany. One stop was at the estate of Count Sebastiano Capponi, right, whose beautiful wine we carry.

Not far from Lucignano is the better known town of Montepulciano. On our last visit, we enjoyed strolling through the street market, sampling pici (long cut pasta that is significantly thicker than spaghetti), pork sandwiches, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Some of the pictures on this page are from that trip. It’s a pleasure to be able to share some of our food finds with you this month.

The olives used in our Vera Jane’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil are grown on the Zanetti family’s estate. This olive oil has flavor, balance, and a peppery kick. Middle, Alex Zanetti shows DLM’s Scott Achs the olive grove.