Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Earth Day 2017

 

IL Fiorello celebrated Earth Day/Weekend, in a big way, with 650 people visiting our Farm on Passport Sunday!

Thank you to all who visited, everyone had a wonderful sunny and delicious time. Thanks to Slow Food for a display and information, to Denise Revel, Girl on the Hill for her beautiful lavender, and to the Erickson’s for their wonderful jams. Thanks also to Napa Valley College Oenology program for making great wine and pouring with such support. Chef Gloria and Chef Darren presented a wonderful food pairing of our oils, Sicilian meatballs and ancient grain salad for everyone.

Thank you also to our staff who smiled all day long.

We celebrate the actual Earth Day by working on the Farm.

 

Harvesting favas, shelling favas, cooking favas, and eating favas. Our harvest was abundant and we will be serving fava beans in many different ways.

 

We are watching for bugs in the grove, planting more trees, expanding our garden, our grove, and putting in more fruit trees. Figs, apples, cherries, pears, much more citrus, and apricots. The big girl chickens (4) and little girl chickens (10) do have a pecking order. The big girls Henrietta, Millicent, Winifred, and Hyacinth are now out in the grove in Nick’s mobile chicken coop, already eating weeds and bugs and fertilizing the grove. The little girls will now be happier in their chicken palace, and not “henpecked”.

 

 

We are watching herons, eagles, owls and quail. The ever present killdeer are busy defending their ground nests. The quail are in their usual spring panic, for food and friends.

In the grove the trees are almost in bloom. The buds are fat and tight but we are finding some blossoms that are open. A week of sun and no hail and we may have blossom. LOTS of blossoms. Even the Aglandau, which was in a heavy production last year, is loaded and very heavy set this year.

We are looking forward to our Growers Meeting this week.  We are meeting old friends and making new ones. Lots of information to share and discuss.

Eat well, be well and plant a tree, or a lavender plant, or a fruit tree for jam.

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 

The Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Great Taste and Great for You!

Certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the highest quality in California, has significant health benefits.

Antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids all mean improved taste and health. Look for the seal of certification and the harvest and mill dates. The fresher the better. The main type of fat in vegetable oils, polyunsaturated fat, encourages oxidation. Excessive oxidation increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, and general aging.  In contrast, certified extra virgin olive oil, contains a rich amount of monounsaturated fat, preventing oxidation.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil also contains a number of phenols that act as antioxidants which will lower oxidation and therefore increases the health benefits. A study from Spain, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013, evaluated the prevention of cardiovascular Disease with the Mediterranean Diet. The results of the study concluded that “in this primary prevention trial, it was observed that an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, resulted in a substantial reduction in the risk of major cardiovascular events among high-risk person. It supports the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.” The interventions were intended to improve the overall dietary pattern of the study groups.

SIMPLE:  Consider your food choices. Eat good, fresh, colorful food, with variety and balance, and use good certified olive oil. A plant based diet is best and supported in research. Avoid prepackaged foods, and “noise” from the media. There is no single magic bullet to health. But the simple action of eating good food with certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil, can make an impressive difference.

There are “foodie gurus” who are proponents of healthy nutrition. Mary Flynn, Marion Nestle, and Alice Waters.

Mary Flynn, Ph.D. from Brown University, says that Extra Virgin Olive Oil may be the one true super food. Not by itself but with a plant based or plant centered diet. The Mediterranean Diet is a subsistence diet with foods, fruits, and vegetables that you can grow in your back yard or buy at a local farmers market. Meats are usually very limited, because of the expense and availability. Flynn has taught that the cornerstone foods of the Mediterranean Diet are Extra Virgin Olive Oil, vegetables (with particular emphasis on those with deep color and those from the cruciferous family), and starches/grains, whole grains, with minimal lean animal protein.

Marion Nestle, Ph.D., M.P.H. Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, is a professor of Sociology at NYU and a visiting professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University. Her degrees include a BA (Phi Beta Kappa) a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition, all from the University of California, Berkeley.  She is the Chair of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, and has nutrition at the UCSF School of Medicine. She was a senior nutrition policy advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services and editor of the Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health. She is a very important supporter of healthy plates for children and adults, and an outspoken advocate of good balanced nutrition.

Alice Waters, from Chez Pannise restaurant in Berkeley, and her involvement in the Farm to Table movement (an ancient way of eating) and Slow Food has guided people to address the importance of fresh and healthy food in their everyday diet. A vision she presents daily at her restaurant.

Healthy nutrition with great olive oil may be one of the best recommendations from these gurus. But here are reasons to be wary when you are purchasing olive oil.  Olive oil is one of the most adulterated foods bought here in the United States. These, mainly imported oils, are refined and adulterated with vegetable oil. The vegetable oil is refined with high heat and chemicals and then added to lower quality olive oil. Most of the oils sold in the US in supermarket shelves is fraudulent oil and is rancid. My staff and I taste tested some of the “supermarket oils” and were not surprised by the rancidity of nearly all.  Follow the numbers, it costs less because of the adulteration. Usually these oils are owned by huge multinational conglomerates.

Fraudulent olive oil is a great problem in the United States. Oil that is labeled as extra virgin oil, without certification, with unknown herbs and vinegar in the same bottle is illegal and is an inferior quality oil.  Adulterated oil is bad for you as a consumer, bad for your health, and bad for your pocketbook.

Today, I tasted an oil that espoused the health benefits of olive oil but was not certified, was not olive oil and was beyond rancid. There were no harvest and mill dates, and was bottled in a clear bottle. The taste and the aroma was horrible.

Certification is an important documentation on each bottle, harvest mill date tells you when the oil is made. At IL Fiorello, we have chosen not to use “Best by” dates as each oil is different. Again fresh is best.

In summary use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for improved taste profiles, learn varietal differences, and enjoy the health benefits of certified oil.

Choose healthy foods with great taste that will result in a better you.

We challenge you to explore different food choices and Extra Virgin Olive Oil parings to expand your palate.

Ciao to good health

 

Ann

 

 

Pétillant-Naturel (Pet-Nat)

 

IL Fiorello presents a Pet-Nat made from grapes grown in the Suisun Valley, Malvasia Bianca.

Crafted into beautiful effervescent wine by local winemaker, Faith Armstrong-Foster.

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Faith says, “This Suisun Valley Pét-Nat is floral and fruity, but refreshingly bone-dry. The opening aromatics are like sticking your nose in a fermentation vat, with yeasty brioche notes and lively youthful freshness. To follow are notes of night blooming jasmine, citrus blossom, melon rind, warm Kaffir lime scones with preserved lemon…and a refreshing hint of sea air….and did I mention soft tiny delicate bubbles!”

This wine stays true to the nature of an authentic Pétillant Naturel style wine: I encouraged native yeast fermentation, which finished in the bottle, with no sugar or other juice added. This is a pure expression of sparkling wine and she my friends, is a spirited lady! 
The Pétillant Naturel is Onward’s sparkling expression of Malvasia Bianca from Capp Inn Ranch.

The wine was moved from tank to bottle by gravity. Everything to do with bottling lady Pét-Nat has to be done by hand because she is still fermenting (meaning full of CO2 gas) and needs to be handled with care. I bottled the wine with a small amount of lees, allowing the fermentation to complete in bottle and left the wine un-disgorged (with sediment) in bottle. I feel this adds purity and complexity that would be lost if removed. The bottles were aged while the fermentation finished, then labeled and left finished with a crown cap.

 

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Pétillant-Naturel (sparkling natural) is a term for sparkling wine made in the méthode ancestrale, the ancient method or traditional method. This means a wine is bottled before the primary fermentation is completed; and is without the addition of secondary yeasts or sugars. Champagne, from France, is made in the traditional méthode champenoise. This method is when a finished wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle with the addition of yeasts and sugars.

The ancient method of Petillant-Naturel, produces a simpler, more rustic sparkler than Champagne, one that is traditionally cloudy, unfiltered, and often bottled with a crown cap (like a beer) rather than a cork. The end product is also unpredictable; opening each bottle is a surprise, evocative of the time and place where it was bottled.

 

IL Fiorello Holiday Suggestions

This delicate sparkling wine is just delicious with savory foods, or on popcorn dressed with our Extra Virgin oils, and by itself on the back deck to celebrate fabulous wine and the holidays

Store cold and serve cold

Happy Holidays to all from Olive us at IL Fiorello!

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 

 

Pizzelles – A Christmas Tradition

 

When the final co-milled oil is done, the mill is clean, and the weather turns cold; I know that it is time to bring out the pizzelle maker.

Pizzelle are delicious, tiny, very beautiful cookies. Named because they are flat and sweet. Like little lady sweet pizzas.

I have been making pizzelles since 1975, yes a long time. My first pizzelle iron was given to me as a wedding present.pizzelle-iron

We make pizzelle at IL Fiorello all December for taste treats for our guests. The sweet cookies pair very well with our presentation of Italian Moscato wine. A little glass, a sweet pizzelle and life is good in the afternoon.

batter

The basic recipe starts out with a dozen eggs, 4 cups of flour and anisette. I think my family just drank the anisette in the afternoon. I personally like the flavor of lemon zest and Limoncello in the pizzelles.

You may use any flavoring you want. Orange zest, chocolate, lemon, anisette, walnut, chestnut, use your imagination.

A particular favorite of mine is to make lots of flat pizzelles, and make a “sandwich” with the filling of dulce de leche. Place the cookies over a mug of warm coffee and allow the dulce de leche to melt just a little. This is the way to begin the morning.

If you are in Italy, you may want to make a little “café correcto” by adding a little grappa in your cup to ward off the winter chills, before going into the grove to prune your olive trees.

Enjoy the recipes and if you have any questions about how to make these beautiful cookies just come on over. You will find us making them early in the morning for our staff and all afternoon for guests.

pizzelle-for-web

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 

 

A SENSE OF PLACE

FOOD PAIRING and TASTE
OIL  * WINE  * FOOD

At the Visitors Center at IL Fiorello, we present seasonal food pairings with our extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegar reductions. We are proud to source most of our food pairings directly from our organic vegetable and herb gardens.

Guests always ask what oils, what foods and what wines should be paired together. They always wonder why and how we do different pairings. There is no magic to pairing, usually if you like it together, that is the best pairing for you.

If you really look at the origin of food, wine and oil, you will recognize natural pairings.  The geographic origin of the food, wine, or oil tells an important historical story. Where food is grown, wine is grown, and olives are grown together. Climate, soil, weather, and people all impart their influences.

Consumers have, and should have, different preferences, so you should be eating food, drinking wine, and using olive oil that you love and enjoy. You all have different palates but some people have different levels of sensitivity and tolerances.  We often ask people if they enjoy coffee, and if so, most likely the expected bitterness of extra virgin olive oil will be a pleasant experience in the tasting room. The bitterness and pungency of extra virgin olive oil often astounds people but when the oils are paired with food, taste chemistry is at its best. The food and the oils shine.

Consider what food you will be serving at home and what that flavor profile means to you.

Here are some interesting food, wine and oil pairings that grow together. Something to consider that you might not have appreciated until now. We have tried to give examples of the cultural matching of food, wine and olive oil. The fun challenge is to find some of your own best matches.

Don’t allow people tell you how a wine or oil is “supposed” to taste. Taste it yourself, make a decision and then have a great discussion with your friends about your findings. Different people have different tastes and that is where the fun begins. Play with your food, that what we do every day at IL Fiorello.

This should be fun and enjoyable, and above all, the food, wine, and the olive oil should be delicious. Come and enjoy the experience of taste at IL Fiorello.

Ciao

Ann

Taste & Pairing

 

FDA Fights Fraud. Plans to Test Imported Olive Oils.

 

The House Agricultural Committee finally has taken steps to stop the fraud and adulteration of olive oil coming from big corporations predominately in Europe. As we in the industry know, much of the bulk olive oils coming to the United States from Europe contain a large percentage of seed oils.

This is blatant fraud and does present a potential health risk to consumers. Certified Extra Virgin Olive oil should be only olive oil and nothing else. Seed oils mixed with olive oil should be clearly labeled and not called extra virgin. The California Olive Oil Commission has set standards for oils produced in California. This has sent shock waves through the European big corporate olive oil industry.

Truthful producers from around the world welcome this forward step toward transparency. At IL Fiorello we are proud to certify our oils, share the results with our guests and freely discuss our farming and milling practices. Honesty and transparency in the market place is the center of our business.

 

Ciao
Ann

 

 

Weeds and Mushrooms

 

I want to pick your weeds!

A delightful lady walked into IL Fiorello’s visitor center asking if her mother could pick our weeds. My first response was, sure-we have lots! My more rational approach was “does she know what weeds are what” and will she be safe. Turns out she really knew her weeds.

Foragers are individuals who know and understand what grows, what is safe, and how to use the “weeds” that grow in the forest, in the groves, and on the side of the road. As Connie Green in her book The Wild Table, says “ the flavor of wild is sneaking back into our modern world”. What a shame, it should never have left.

When I was growing up in the Adirondack Mountains of really far upstate New York, my father’s friend would go out mushroom hunting. He would bring back 50 lbs of beautiful chanterelles. We would sauté them in butter, heap them on toasted fresh bread, eat like there was no tomorrow. All the rest we packed in containers for the freezer. He knew what he was doing both to find the mushrooms and only pick the safe one to eat. This was a truly memorable food experience. Mushrooms on toast are still my very favorite meal.

Not everyone can forage for mushrooms. Not everyone should forage for mushrooms. That is why we have a class on mushrooms, hosted with Mycopia mushrooms of Petaluma. We will all learn a lot from this class.

Maybe we should all learn about foraging for weeds also. Good weeds, tasty weeds, healthy weeds.

Be careful what you forage. Our organic garden will safely supply us with great vegetables and I am sure some good weeds.
Come visit

Ciao

weeds

 

HOW TO BUY GOOD OLIVE OIL — HONESTLY

Suisun Valley, California (January 5, 2016) – Called the Food of the Gods, olive oil, true certified extra virgin olive oil, is indeed a magical food. “This is an ancient food that deserves its place on the modern table,” say Mark and Ann Sievers of Il Fiorello Olive Oil Co. in Suisun Valley Northern California.  “It’s a shame that other countries simply haven’t enforced their standards when it comes to extra virgin olive oil.  It’s a matter of cost for them, but it’s a matter of purity and integrity for the consumer.”

A recent 60 Minutes (Sunday January 3, 2016) episode focused on the production and mis-labeling of poor quality oils in Italy.  “Guy Campanile, the producer of that segment on olive oil, should come to California during fall milling season, to smell and taste how wonderful our oils are, says Ann Sievers.  “It’s no wonder we fare very well in international competitions. Italy, Spain, France, and Greece make some good olive oils, but they usually keep the good oils for themselves. And as 60 Minutes showed, the multinational companies send adulterated oils out to the world.”

How can consumers tell the difference?  Il Fiorello offers some simple advice:  “If you find an inexpensive oil a grocery store, there’s a reason it is inexpensive,” says Mark Sievers.  “It may be old, bad, or adulterated or all three. This is indeed a buyers beware, or we like to say buyer be aware business. If the label on the oil says it is from 5 different countries you can be assured it is not good quality olive oil, and probably not even much olive oil.”

The 60 Minutes segment documented the adulteration of Italian olive oils with highly refined (read processed with heat and chemicals) vegetable oil–a silent issue that consumers are only now recognizing. “It’s too bad,” says Ann Sievers.  “If the label said olive oil and vegetable oil then consumers would know what they are buying.  But then, they probably wouldn’t buy it.”

It takes an enormous effort to make extra virgin olive oil: a whole years’ worth of growing, expensive harvesters, large machinery. And the oil must be only olive oil, and have a balance of bitterness, fruit, and pungency when it comes out of the mill. If it’s not, it is fraudulent, and that is not extra virgin olive oil. Unscrupulous makers add other chemicals to try to make up for the defects. “If you bring me good olives, we can make beautiful oil,” Says Ann Sievers. “If you bring me bad olives you will have bad oil, or none as we will not mill bad fruit. Come visit us and take a tour of our farm and olive milling, (not pressing) equipment during harvest time.  It’s an enlightening experience. The taste and aroma of fresh extra virgin olive oil will stay with you forever.”

According to the segment on 60 Minutes, because of the immense amount of adulteration and bad olive oil, consumers do not even know what good oil tastes like. Ann and Mark Sievers would like to change that.  “Certified extra virgin olive oil is truly a special product and should be paired with great food,” says Mark Sievers.  “Once you’ve tasted the real thing, you won’t ever want to go back to that stuff the big conglomerates sell.”

“It’s all about knowing your sources,” says Ann Sievers.  “Take the time to know where you food comes from, how it is made and how to protect your health and dollars.”

About Il Fiorello

ll Fiorello is one of the leading premium olive oil producers in the USA, with more than thirty gold medals won at national and international olive oil competitions around the world. They grow twelve varieties of olives—all from Italian, Spanish, French and Greek olive trees—twenty minutes from the more famous Napa Valley. Il Fiorello offers tours, tastings, and a full range of visitor experiences in their olive oil visitor center in Suisun Valley, CA.

Ciao!

Ann Sievers & Paul Wagner, Balzac Communications & Marketing

 

Happy, Healthy New Year

IL Fiorello wishes everyone a happy and healthy and prosperous New Year.

Enjoy our olive oil with good food and much happiness. Be thankful.

Doesn’t everyone make the usual New Year’s resolution to try to eat better to improve their health? I would suggest that it really is very simple. Follow some of the “food rules” by Michael Pollan- writer, author, Professor at UC Berkeley, and author of In Defense Of Food, (Penguin Press, 2008).

Pollan has three basic rules and they are:

Eat food. Meaning real food not packaged or manipulated

Not too much. Don’t over eat

Mostly plants. Consider a plant based diet, occasional meats are fine

If you are interested, watch the movie just released December 30, 2015, following his book In Defense of Food. It is a true common sense approach to the health issues (read “diabetes and obesity”) in the civilized world.

The following statements are taken from his writings:

  • “Eat food” means to eat real food — vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and, yes, fish and meat — and to avoid what Pollan calls “edible food-like substances.”
  • Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Pollan says, “When you pick up that box of portable yogurt tubes, or eat something with 15 ingredients you can’t pronounce, ask yourself, ‘What are those things doing there?’”
  • Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.
  • Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad. Just a personal note, many markets now have fresh food front and center. Stay there to shop for real fresh food. 
  • Don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot. “There are exceptions — honey — but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren’t food,” Pollan says.
  • It is not just what you eat but how you eat. “Always leave the table a little hungry,” Pollan says. “Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full. Islamic culture has a similar rule, and in German culture they say, ‘Tie off the sack before it’s full.'”
  • Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It’s a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love. “Remember when eating between meals felt wrong?” Pollan asks.
  • Don’t buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car.

 

Pollan often ends his presentation with a quote from Oscar Wilde, “everything in moderation including moderation.”

We are human and derive enjoyment from food.  So celebrate and enjoy, but be wise.

Ciao