Spring 2014 Newsletter
*Note: This is not the current newsletter. Items listed in the following newsletter are not guaranteed to be in stock and the prices shown are subject to change without notice.
COSTA NAVARINO is a new resort area based in the Messinia region of the southern end of the Ionian coast of Greece's Peloponnese. The Peloponnese is that almost hand shaped part of Greece which juts out at the southern end of the country. At one time it was the land of the Spartans as opposed to the Athenian land just to its north. It is separated by the gulf of Patras and Corinth and attached by a slender finger of land to continental Greece.
COSTA NAVARINO itself is a group of four resorts/golf courses/spas that occupy a great deal of the land mass of the region. You should take a look at the properties at www.costanavarino.com. We are interested in their food products.
Greek cuisine is an ancient one, yet at the same time very open to new discoveries and influences. As opposed to the Athenian saying that for the Spartans (their enemies) "hunger was the best sauce," Greek cuisine is not just feta and "Greek" salad and retsina. Hopefully, you'll be very surprised with some of the Navarino Icons and they will add joy to your table. I am also giving some pronunciation help for words that just might come in handy.
PASTA (zymariKA) Made in the traditional Greek fashion with fresh eggs and milk KRITHARAKI (Orzo) $8.99 450g box (#3300) $48.00 cs/6 (#3300C)
This is the rice shaped pasta also known as orzo (barley). It is cooked in enough water so it is absorbed and the pasta is tender. Made from semolina and milk instead of water, this is uniquely Greek.
HILOPITES $8.99 450g box (#3301) $48.00 cs/6 (#3301C) A thin, square pasta again made with semolina and milk. It is cooked in enough water to absorb. It can be cooked with other liquids to make a "risotto" type dish.
VEGETABLE PUREES: These are limited only by your imagination
Roasted Red Peppers and Tomato $9.99 17.64 oz jar (#3302) $53.00 c/6 (#3302C) When first tasted as a spread on bread it is very tasty. As a sauce it would be even more so.
Crushed Roasted Eggplant $9.89 17.64 oz jar (#3303) $53.00 cs/6 (#3303C) Unique in its greenish color, this is a delight for eggplant lovers. Delicious as is, it would make a wonderful souffle base. It really does beat roasting fresh eggplant.
GLIKA: (GlyKA) Sweet Spoon Fruits. These fruits are to eaten with a spoon and accompany coffee or a soft, fresh cheese.
Sweet Olive (Elea) Spoon Fruit $14.29 330g jar (#3304) Made from Kalamon olives, almonds, sugar, herbs, and honey.
Tomato Spoon Fruit $13.99 330g jar (#3305) Made from whole oval cherry tomatoes, sugar, and lemon juice.
Organic Sweet Orange Spoon Fruit $13.99 300g jar (#3306) This is thick slices of organic local oranges and sugar. They also make a lovely addition to cocktails.
MALLORCA, the largest of the Baleric Islands off the Spanish coast in the Mediterranean, has been cultivated land since the time of the Phonecians. Mallorca and the other Baleric Islands belong to Catalan culture and now are more known for their beaches and vacationing than agricultural production. In2013, group of eight olive growers banded together to produce extra virgin oil from their groves and to sell it as a group. The name chosen as the logo is SICLOS. This word is the name of the currency once common in the Mediterranean. It is cognate with the English "shekel."
The growing areas on Mallorca are varied and the olives that produce SICLOS come from differing sources such as hundred year old trees in the mountains to younger trees on the plain. The final blend is 55% Picual, 43% Arbequina, and 3% Mallorquina. Due to poor flowering and drought during the year, production is limited. Because of its location, harvest on Mallorca begins in September, relatively early in Spain. Acidity is 0.16% with peroxides of 7.6. This initial production corresponds to the year of the Third Centenary of the birth of Fray Junipero Serra, the founding Father of California and its agriculture. Serra was Mallorquin from Petra, one of the villages where olives were grown that are in the Siclos blend. Corti Brothers is very pleased to be able to be the first to present this new oil to the U.S. market.
SICLOS, Mallorca Extra Virgin Olive Oil $24.99 500ml (#3307) $134.00 cs/6 (#3307C)
Just as panettone heralds the arrival of Christmas, the COLOMBA means Easter is coming. This raised dough cake is baked in the form of a dove, hence its name. From LOISON in Italy's Veneto, we offer COLOMBA, VENEZIANA and FOCACCIA. The COLOMBA is a Lombard tradition, while the VENEZIANA is similar to the Colomba in flavor and consistency, but not shape, and hails from Venice. The FOCACCIA is a round shaped raised dough cake and not the flatbread bread normally called by this name. Focaccia is the ubiquitous breakfast bread in Venice.
These three raised dough breads, aromatic with candied fruit and almonds or hazelnuts, are traditional at Easter and through the spring. They have wonderful uses with fruit and for fruit desserts. Since they are made with a natural "sponge,"these bread/cakes hold up extremely well and can be kept through the summer to be used with any manner of fresh fruit. The selection for this year is in Kilo size except where noted and is as follows:
COLOMBA CLASSICA, Pink paper wrapped, flower bow, candied peel, almond topping $31.99 (#3308)
COLOMBA CLASSICA 750g Clear film wrapped, flower bow, candied peel, almond topping $27.79 (#3309)
COLOMBINA 100g Inwindow box, candied peel, for two people. $10.99 (#3310)
COLOMBA CLASSICA 3 kilo Clear film wrapped, flowered ribbon $85.99 (#3311)
COLOMBA CLASSICA 5 kilo Clear film wrapped, flowered ribbon $117.89 (#3312)
COLOMBA NOCCIOLATA ALLA PESCA Dried peaches and hazelnuts, boxed $35.99 (#3313)
COLOMBA ALLO ZABAIONE Zabaione cream, pink paper wrapped, flower bow $33.59 (#3314)
COLOMBA AL LIMONE, Lemon cream filling, pink paper wrapped, flowered bow, $33.59 (#3315)
COLOMBA AL CIOCCOLATO With chocolate cream filling, pink paper wrapped, bow $34.99 (#3316)
VENEZIANA al Pistacchio di Bronte 550g Filled with cream of the rare Bronte pistachio, boxed $29.99 (#3317)
VENEZIANA CLASSICA 550g Boxed, almond and sugar topping $24.99 (#3318)
FOCACCIA MANDORLATA 750g Pink paper wrapped, flowered bow, almond topping $20.89 (#3319)
Although the name FAVA may look like the word we know, Vicia Fava, horse beans or fava beans, FAVA from SANTORINI, from the island of the same name, is a yellow colored, lentil-looking pulse which is actually a split pea. This pulse occupies a special place on the island and in Greece since it is known to have been cultivated on Santorini for three millenia. The island's soft, sandy soils, rich in potassium, iron and magnesium, together with the short rainy season provides the perfect growing conditions.
Botanically, the Fava of Santorini is Lathyrus clymenum L. from the Fabaceae family. Ifyou are familiar with the flower we call "Sweet pea," Fava is in the same family with about some 160 species. I would be remiss, ifl did not mention the fact that much like its name sake the fava bean, (Vicia Fava) massive, prolonged consumption of excessive quantities of the Santorini Fava may have a toxic effect. However, normal, occasional consumption of this ancient, tasty pulse, just like consumption of fava beans, is harmless.
The FAVA OF SANTORINI, a Protected Denomination of Origin product, comes in a cellophane package with several utterly simple and tasty recipes for using this pulse. Very tasty, light textured, with a slightly sweet flavor, Fava can be used in ways similar to hummus. This is eating history.
SANTOS FAVA SANTORINI P.D.O. $9.99 400g bag (#3320)
In the summer of 2004, to celebrate the Summer Olympics in Athens, Corti Brothers offered a list of, new to most wine drinkers, Greek wines. I think at that time, it was the longest list of Greek wines in California. Now, with the great strides made in quality production by Greek producers and the emphasis on high quality Greek cultivars promoted by the promotional arm of the government, NEW WINES OF GREECE, more and more Americans recognize Greek cultivars and wines and can speak about them. One of the most talked about cultivars is ASSYRTIKO, a white variety grown mainly on the Mediterranean island of SANTORINI. This unique variety is now also being cultivated elsewhere in Greece and in California. It is a lovely candidate for hotter regions with its very striking acidity. One of the major producers on Santorini is Haridimos Hatzidakis, recognized as one of the foremost producers of Assyrtiko.
HATZIDAKIS SANTORINI 2012 is an Assyrtiko wine which deserves to be on your table and in your cellar. Assyrtiko needs a couple of years bottle age to show its stuff. This 2012 is just the thing, especially if you have never tasted the variety before. Decanter, the British wine magazine, awarded this very same wine its highest score in a 2013 tasting of 57 wines from the variety.
There is another Hatzidakis Assyrtiko wine, but just slightly different. It is the NIKTERI 2009. Nikteri wines- from "nikta," night--are produced from night harvested assyrtiko, vinified in stainless, but must be given oak aging for a minimum of three months. This gives the wine a slightly fuller body to combine with its acidity.
Remember the name Assyrtiko. As was written by the tasters on Decanter's panel: "This unique Greek grape is rising from relative obscurity, with an insider cult following, to achieve a resonant new voice in the wine world." Enough said!
A Greek red variety which is gaining notoriety is XINOMAVRO, pronounced see-NO-mavroh, meaning "sour black." This typically northern variety, from Greek Macedonia, produces the red wines of NAOUSSA, often considered the "Barolo" of Greece. Nikos Foundis is the producer of this single vineyard wine from the Karaoutsa area of Naoussa.
FOUNDI NAOUSSA 2006 is a nicely matured version of both the variety and appellation. Xinomavro really does need time to soften its tannic structure and time-- rather bottle age-- is rare in today's wine world. Here is an example which is very approachable and delicious drinking now and for the next 5-8 years. This is a delicious wine for red meats and especially for the coming barbeque season. Another example of a varietal to experience.
HATZIDAKIS SANTORINI 2012 13.5% $16.29 750ml (#3321) $175.00 cs/12 (#3321C)
HATZIDAKIS NIKTERI 2009 15% $24.39 750ml (#3322) $263.00 cs/12 (#3322C)
FOUNDI NAOUSSA 2006 13% $17.99 750ml (#3323) $194.00 cs/12 (#3323C)
ARBEQUINA is a Catalan variety said to take its name from the village of Arbeca in Catalunya's province of Lerida. A clonal selection of Arbequina arrived in California in 1999 as the basis for the creation of super high density plantings now popular in California. In fact, Arbequina has become the most widely planted olive variety in California. It produces a light fruity oil, famous in Spain for the denominations of Siurana and Borges Blanques. Its soft, fragrant character has become important throughout Spain, for example, where it is used to lower the pungency and bitterness of other varieties. What makes this Arbequina unique is the "NO MALAX."
MALAXATION is the word used for the slow mixing of the crushed olive paste containing oil globules, water, and pieces of olive pulp which, when slowly mixed, causes the agglomeration of the small oil globules into larger ones, easier to separate as oil. Malaxation also causes a certain amount of oxidation unless carefully done. An innovation created by Marco Mugelli, my late Florentine oil expert friend, was to do the malaxation in a container that was under vacumn, avoiding oxidization. With this ARBEQUINA NO MALAX, there is no malaxation. The paste is sent directly through to the centrifuge which centrifuges out the oil. The downside to this production technology is that the quantity of oil extracted is much lower than with malaxation. The upside is fresher and more flavorful oil.
I was made aware of this experiment done at Pacific Sun, an oil making facility in northern California, in the 2011 harvest, by their oil consultant, Pablo Voitzuk, who produced a trial oil using this technology. I liked the oil, but there was very little of it. The harvest of 2013, however, allowed for the production of a small lot of some fifty gallons, and Corti Brothers bought the lot. To my mind, this is a fresher, more aromatic version of Arbequina oil than probably any other produced in California.
CORTI BROTHERS ARBEQUINA NO MALAX $18.99 500ml (#3324) $102.00 cs/6 (#3324C)
HONEY, as a fermented beverage has gotten short shrift. It used to be the most sought after beverage in the world and now is practically forgotten. MEAD, once the drink of kings became relegated to "Renaissance" Fairs and the like, almost a symbol of the late 1960s-70s counterculture. But things have changed in the last several years and mead is making a comeback. Known also as Honey Wine, there is an entire vocabulary of products made using honey, water or fruit juice, yeast and aging. The base is always honey. In fact MEAD should be called "an alcoholic beverage made from the fermentation of honey." As a matter of fact, Mead can be made as dry as a dry white wine or as sweet as any great dessert wine--and everything in between.
To produce mead--fermentation can take place anytime-you basically need good honey and good water. Aging also improves it. In the Mead world, there are Cysers, made from apple juice and honey; Melomel, made from other fruit juices and honey: Pyment, made from honey and grape juice; Metheglin, made with honey and spices; Braggot, made from honey and malt.What you must do, however, is forget about its base being honey and enjoy the characteristics of the fermented combinations. MEAD is not just about honey, but about another fermented beverage that just happens to have a honey of a base! Here are some Meads that I think are particularly lovely:
MOUNTAIN MEADOWS MEAD (This production is closing down and stocks are very limited)
Honeymoon Nectar 10.7% sugar (sweet) Bottled October 2009 $15.99 375ml (#3325) (One bottle per customer)
Moonlight Magic 4.6% sugar (semisweet) Bottled June 2011 $15.99 375ml (#3326) (One bottle per customer)
RABBIT' S FOOT MEADERY
Melia Orange Blossom 9.5% ale. 9% residual sugar (sweet) $29.99 375ml (#3327) $161.00 cs/6(#3327C)
San Geminiano Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale Oro
We have been made an offer we couldn't refuse! The Violi family who own San Geminiano, the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale production we have imported since 1982, is changing the legal set up of the estate. This means a change in the wording of the estate's label. The Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, bottled in the Consortium bottles with the old labels, cannot be used any longer in Italy. So they have offered a quantity of it to us at a reduced price. This is the "Oro" label, the "batteria" which was started in 1855.
The retail price of this Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale was $139.99 the 100 ml bottle. With the new cost, the bottle price is $109.00. We will be able to offer this price for the stock we will have until it is sold out. If you enjoy Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, this is your opportunity to buy a splendid product at substantial savings. But this offer is only good for the product on hand. We do not know what a new price will be, but a word to the wise should be sufficient. Here is your opportunity to stock up for coming holiday gift giving or just for your own enjoyment.
SAN GEMINIANO ACETO BALSAMICO TRADIZIONALE ORO (1855) $109.00 l00ml (#3328)
Americans really eat a lot of canned tuna. But, essentially, it is rather bland and sometimes "rope-y" textured and eaten out of gastronomical boredom. The U.S. has no real high quality tuna. Spain and Italy do have a quasi monopoly of really fine tuna. In those countries, and also Portugal, tuna is required to be silky textured, firm, flakey meat and usually packed in good oil. It is eaten for its own sake and not out of boredom. Corti Brothers direct imports what I think is possibly the best tuna in the world. Or at least, the Italians who know a great deal about tuna, think so. The brand is CONSORCIO, which I have written about before. But the sublime part of tuna is VENTRESCA, TUNA BELLY, which is expensive, silky, fragrant and just delicious.
Since we are moving towards milder weather and lots of fresh vegetables, Ventresca tuna may just be the answer to simple, flavorful meals, or at least dishes, made with tuna's sublime part. Recently, at the home of a friend, I managed to devour, almost singlehandedly, an appetizer which was made from thinly sliced baguette, lightly spread with good mayonnaise, topped with ventresca. So simple and so satisfying. (I'm waiting for another invitation!)
If you have never tried VENTRESCA, you owe it to yourself to do so. We have two different types, and I suggest that you try both. The specific tuna are BONITO DEL NORTE, White Tuna, and ATUN, Yellowfin Tuna. Both are line caught, one by one, in the Bay of Biscay at the northern end of Spain, processed in Spain and packed in olive oil. The only problem with ventresca is that it is addictive and once tried very difficult to return to other kinds of tuna. It really is the sublime part of tuna.
CONSORCIO BONITO DEL NORTE VENTRESCA $12.49 112 g tin (#3329) $134.00 cs/12 (#3329C)
CONSORCIO ATUN VENTRESCA $7.19 112g tin (#3330) $77.00 cs/12 (#3330C)
TIMILiA, or Tumminia, is a Sicilian landrace durum wheat, developed over centuries on the island. With the genetic changes in wheat over the last 50-60 years, the autochthonous varieties from what was called the "breadbasket of the Roman Empire," have been relegated to minor importance if not outlawed. Due to the work of a third generation Sicilian agriculturalist, Giuseppe Li Rosi, who has grown these ancient wheats, as he says, "as if they were marijuana" unknown to the government, we can now experience them. With his organic production of flour and pasta from these grains, Li Rosi is allowed to sell the products of his labor.
These wheats, TIMILiA, in particular, produce delicious pasta using only the semolina made from this organic production and water. What is extremely different is that these ancient wheats grown on Sicily have less strong gluten compared to the products of new wheat growing genetics. Thus, with lower gluten indices these wheats are more digestible for humans. TIMILiA has a gluten index of 4.70 compared to the 14 or more of the new wheat genetics used by the pasta industry. Other varieties Li Rosi grows are Strazzavisazz, (also known as settecentanni) the oldest durum wheat present in Sicily, and the soft wheat Maiorca and Margherito or Bidi. These varieties produce 50% less than the modem cultivars. High gluten content makes wheat easier to use with industrial methods or rapid drying in pasta making.
Although most of the ancient varieties grown in Italy are either now outlawed or extinct, they are all relics of traditional agriculture, that until the beginning of the twentieth century, was based on landraces selected over time by local farmers, adapted to specific situations and are not able to satisfy requirements of intensive agricultural systems. They have survived through "on farm" conservation and traditional agriculture. Consumer desire for more authentic foods have brought these almost forgotten plants to the fore. Varieties of bread wheat, Triticum aestivum, and pasta wheat, Triticum durum, could have a new life and a new chance for survival.
I have often wondered how western man could have developed and lived for so long eating wheat and other grains with gluten given the rather elevated numbers of gluten intolerant consumers today. Perhaps the answer is in these ancient grains with more digestible gluten. It is certain that man didn't develop overnight, but food reactions might.
From the production of Terre e Tradizioni, we offer three pasta cuts made from TIMILiA, the ancient Sicilian durum wheat. We have PENNE, SPAGHETTI, and FIORI (gigli). All are in 500 g bags, cook in 5-6 minutes and are deliciously fragrant and light tasting. This is a new pasta experience. All cuts are $7.99 per bag.
TERRE e TRADIZIONI PASTA di TIMILiA
Just north of Sacramento, on the banks of the Sacramento river is Yuba City, in Sutter County. There, a family, the Brubakers, pickle some delicious vegetables and peaches, using local produce, in a spicy pickle with wonderful crunch. One word of caution: If you are sensitive to "hot" flavors, perhaps these pickles are not for you. On the other hand, the heat does not detract from the actual taste of the pickles. It is more of a back note but present.
These pickles are the fond memories of eating a grandmother's pickled produce, with a present day spicy note. There are green beans, asparagus, carrots and beets. Yuba City is famous for its peaches and these get the same treatment, just not so spicy. With an Easter ham, they would be perfect. The veggies, used by themselves or in drinks and as the heat for composed salads, would be luscious. Just remember the heat factor! All are $8.99 for a 16 oz jar.
BEAN ME UP SCOTTY (Spicy pickled green beans) (#3334) BUNNY PICKLES (Spicy pickled [Nantes]carrots) (#3335) JUST BEET IT (Pickled beets) (#3336) SPICY SPEARS (Spicy pickled asparagus) (#3337) PEACHY KEENS (Pickled peaches [quarters]) (#3338) A tasting case, one jar of each: $40.00 (#3339)
On Thursday, 27 February 2014, I attended a tasting at Davis put on by the group called "The Nebb Gang." This group of California winemakers produces nebbiolo wines. They have been invited to numerous tastings in Italy to compare their wines with the Italian versions of this variety. Sometimes they win, most of the time they lose. But the Italians have grudgingly given them the benefit of the doubt and have recognized their nebbiolo wines as true to type if not just to one type (Barolo.) It appears that Barolo is what is to be emulated and that nebbiolo should only make this character and style. But we know this is not the case, (sometimes not even in Barolo!)
Among the wines tasted were vintages of Cantine Nervi in Gattinara, with the presence of its new owner, Erling Astrup. His Gattinara wines were duly presented and showed very well. They were wonderful Gattinara, that wine from eastern Piemonte which was so sought after before WWI and was also the object of Thomas Jefferson's attention in the early 19th century. The California wines were presented and showed well. Some showed California's vaunted power, others too much oak, others a certain rusticity. For me, one wine stood out above all the others, the CA' DEL SOLO NEBBIOLO 2007. It was simply perfect nebbiolo. Perfume, color and flavor-wise, it reminded me very much of another Nebbiolo wine I wrote about in these pages: the Nebbiolo Martinenga of di Gresy, also of 2007.
Curiously, I never tasted the Ca' del Solo 2007 before. It has that nebbiolo character which I like so much. It has a very pretty color, not a very dark one, but a good red. The scent is very perfume-y, with excellent varietal expression of flowers, berries, and not tar. Silky textured, everything seems to be in balance: Color, aroma and flavor. In fact, it was very much like the best of the Nervi Gattinara wines in color and structure. Randall Grahm, the producer, explained that this wine was from a vineyard which no longer exists in Soledad, Monterey County. Randall commented on the various vicissitudes of growing grapes in Soledad and that his having sold the vineyard, the new owner promptly pulled out the nebbiolo and planted pinot noir and chardonnay. I asked about the quantity available and was told "enough." The original amount made was 765 cases, sold mainly to the Bonny Doon Wine Club. I bought a nice amount of stock!
The wine is bottled in screwcaps, so there should be no problems with cork. There should also be no problem of this wine living a nice long life. The producer says it should last for ten years from release which was September 2010. Provided you can keep your hands off of it, it should last even longer than that.
What I think this shows is that there are wines that are made that need time to develop. They need time to blossom. Nebbiolo is really not your "make today, drink tomorrow"wine. I think we are finding with this variety that it likes bottle age, does not like oxygen, and is probably better if allowed to make itself and not be forced into a mold.
Randall Grahm has expressed it this way: "Nebbiolo is perhaps the most challenging grape to produce ...[This vintage we really didn't mess with this wine much, opting to let the intelligence of the grape find its own direct path, with excellent results...[w]ith a great mineral core and a pinot noir-like ability to grow and evolve in the glass...this is a fabulously elegant wine..."
CA' DEL SOLO NEBBIOLO 2007 13.7% $29.99 750ml (#3340) $323.00 cs/12 (#3340C)
Fourty years ago I found AMARO BRAULIO in Italy's northern Lombard region of Valtellina. It was not found outside of the area. Rarely found in Milano, it was unknown in Florence. A Valtellina secret, it was delicious. AMARO, is the Italian word for bitter. The class of after meal drinks called "digestivi" include these traditional herbal "bitters." BRAULIO was always a lodestar for me. Now, BRAULIO has finally come to the U.S. Not a lot is imported, but if you want to try the best AMARO made, you should try BRAULIO. You might find it addictive!
AMARO BRAULIO 21% $35.99 750ml (#3341) $194.00 cs/6 (#3341C)
TERMS OF SALE: This list supersedes all others. All taxable items, such as wine, beer, or spirits will be taxed at the rate of 8.5%. This is for all sales since we sell in California. Foodstuffs are not taxable. Shipping will be charged at prevailing rates. PLEASE NOTE: In extreme weather, either hot or cold, please give us a shipping address where your order may be properly received and stored. Corti Brothers cannot be responsible for items left without protection.