Category Archives: Random Thoughts

MURMURATION and Murmurings from IL Fiorello

 

January is here, and amazingly so. The olive harvest and milling are complete. This year was a more than bountiful year, and we made some awesome oils, for IL Fiorello, and for all our milling clients. We are now hard at work planning all our events and gatherings for 2018.

We will host many fabulous cooking classes, great private events, wine tastings, and delicious food. Our back patio is completed, and is a lovely place to sit and sip wine, taste oil, and celebrate friendships.

 

A happy student at one of our cooking classes after successfully making his first omelet topped with, of course, our olive oil!

 

 

Soup, generously garnished with oil for the perfect finishing touch and flavor.

 

 

 

Bruschetta, a thick slice of warm toasted bread drizzled with oil, with any topping you desire. Beautiful vegetables and oil, mushrooms and oil, beans and oil, or delicious simple roasted garlic and oil.

 

My personal favorite, beans, all kinds, warm and fragrant, drizzled with oil add a few seasonal vegetables and enjoy the taste and the good health.

 

On the Farm, we are working on drainage systems.  Planning the garden, and cleaning the mill. We are still working in the mill completing the decanting of all of our oils, assessing oils for competition, and planning bottle runs.

But really, we are lost in watching the birds. The European Starlings are putting on a show with their graceful movements called murmurations.  As they swim through the air, we can hear the wings of thousands of birds flying in symphony.  Wonderfully distracting when you are supposed to be working on spreadsheets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of murmurings, Cornell University Ornithology has a great web site for bird information. Here is some information about our starlings. First brought to North America by Shakespeare enthusiasts in the nineteenth century, European Starlings are now among the continent’s most numerous songbirds. They are stocky black birds with short tails, triangular wings, and long, pointed bills. Though they’re sometimes resented for their abundance and aggressiveness, they’re still dazzling birds when you get a good look. Covered in white spots during winter, they turn dark and glossy in summer. For much of the year, they wheel through the sky and mob lawns in big, noisy flocks. The picture is from Scotland, near where my friends live, but so like here in Suisun Valley, only very much warmer.

 

Christmas Blog 2017

Twas three weeks before Christmas, at IL Fiorello’s Olive House.
All creatures were stirring, in the little hen’s house.
The barrels were stacked, with love and great care,
In hopes that more olives, soon would be there.
The gift packs were nestled, all snug on the shelves,
With dreams of great feasts, and gifts for the elves.

Now with Mark in his hat, and Ann ready to rally,
They awaited more fruit, this would be the finale!!
When out on the pad, there arose a huge clatter,
We sprang to the door, to see what was the matter.
When what to our wondering eyes should appear?
But a truck with more olives…Oh my….Oh my dear.

 

 

 

The bright sun, on the crush pad, was lovely and warm,
And gave escape artist hen, Henrietta, no worry of harm.
Olives are coming, she cackled to warn,
Get to the mill, be ready! Raise the alarm!
Away…. Nick to the forklift, to trucks he does dash,
EJ opens the mill doors, and Aroldo the sash.

 

 

 

The trucks come a-plenty, with lots of great fruit,
From Larry our friend, in a red Santa suit.
Yet another with oranges, lemons, limes, and hot peppers,
To mill with our olives, great gifts…n’better than sweaters!
Then amazed, we did watch! Another welcome surprise!
A brigade of bright elves, with very sharp knives.

With Ron and Gen in the lead, Steph, Mary, Joe in a line,
All came to the mill, to help manage the limes.
Followed by elves: Libby, Paul, Gabe,
Alie, Bella, and Jess, Marisell, Nik, and Dave.
And last, but not least, our dear Magic Mark,
With a huge joyful wave…yay, we’ll be done before dark!!!

 

 

The fruit is well cut, the olives a-plenty,
Co-milled oil is flowing, from out the Valente.
The malaxers are full, the centrifuge spinning,
And green Christmas trees, the elves are a-trimming.
And then in a twinkling, harvest season is over.

Can this really all happen, so fast and so quick?
Our thoughts are now turning to greeting Saint Nick.

May your holidays be happy, with a great jolly laugh!
And Cheers!!
To all of our patron’s, our friends, and our most wonderful staff.

Merry Christmas to all with hopes of blessings and honour, glory and power, riches and wisdom, happiness, and strength, and health.

Thank you for 2017, and cheers to a wonderful 2018
Ann and Mark

November Musings from Il Fiorello

Thanks for all the olives

We are swimming in olives thanks to all the growers bringing in tons and tons of olives. Our goal is to make wonderful beautiful oil.

We wish everyone could see the process, revel in the olives, hear the machinery run, and taste delicious Olio Nuovo.  But for those who cannot come, we are making a film of our process from Olive to Oil, with Epic Flight.  What a treat that will be for us to share it with you all!

Here are a few still photos of the magical process of making oil.

 

 

Thousands of olive waiting to be milled.

 

 

 

 

They begin their journey in the outside hopper after being weighed and graded. The temperature is taken to ensure the best method to mill the olives.  Cool olives make better oil.

 

 

 

Up the elevator into the blower and washer. Beautiful green ripe olives make delicious oil.

 

 

 

 

Newly washed olives going into the crusher, pits, tissue, skins. Then into the malaxation tanks, the centrifuges, and out comes new oil.

 

 

 

 

Fresh oil out of the centrifuge. Bitter, pungent, fragrant and delicious for your Holiday table.

Enjoy the newly made Olio Nuovo at your Thanksgiving table. Here are a few suggestions from IL Fiorello to enjoy.

 

Six great ways to use olive oil for Thanksgiving!

Rub your turkey with oil to help in the browning and flavor.

Make a golden puddle of fresh Leccino Olive Oil in your mashed potatoes, for taste and fragrance.

Roast baby vegetables with fresh Pendolino oil and your choice of seasonings.

Fresh co-milled lemon olive oil drizzled over vanilla gelato, with a sprinkling of sea salt.

Thick slices of warm toasted bread, with fresh robust Frantoio olive oil, dark chocolate shavings, and a sprinkle of salt.

Olio Nuovo, new fresh oil, on the Thanksgiving table, a seasonal gift for your guests

May you enjoy your Thanksgiving with family and friends. Give thanks for the bounty of the harvest.

We are very grateful.

Ciao

Ann, and Mark, and “Olive” our family and staff.

October Musings From IL Fiorello

OCTOBER MUSINGS FROM IL FIORELLO

As the events of the past two weeks, the Great Fires of California, have affected all of us, I want to take a minute to pause and thank many people for all their efforts.  Staff who drove down the vineyard dirt paths to come to work.  Staff, who even though they were evacuated from their homes, still managed to be online to try to keep the business working.  When you come to our Visitors Center, please say hello to our staff and tell them thank you for their efforts.  Kindness is powerful.

Thank you also to our neighbors, who posted pictures of our home so we knew it was safe, even though we were evacuated ourselves. A huge thank you of course to all the thousands of people who helped quench the fires, and kept thousands safe. I know it is their job, their passion, but let them hear us all say thank you.

As we enter the milling season this year, the olives are abundant.  We hope to make great oil, and enjoy the company of so many wonderful growers.  Some have lost their crop to fire, which is tragic, but the olive tree is hardy, and will regrow, and again be productive.  Many people are calling in to schedule milling appointments, and we greet them with happiness that they are safe.

The mill is improved this year thanks to much work by our milling staff.  We look forward to milling tons of olives for IL Fiorello, and many, many returning and quite a few welcome new clients.  Soon, we will film a movie about how olive oil is made,   focusing on the perspective of an olive from harvest to oil.  Just think if you were an olive, what would happen to you to become international award winning oil.  This will be fun for us, and help our visitors understand the milling process.

We are harvesting from our organic garden, and have gallons of tomato sauce and dried tomatoes to make sun-dried tomato pesto with new oil, Olio Nuovo. (The recipe is below) Because of the bounty of the garden, this great pesto will be our signature crostini for entire coming year. We also have been preserving tomatoes in olive oil. Just delicious.

Delicious sun-dried tomato pesto with fresh, warm crostini!

The back area of our Visitors Center is expanding to accommodate more events.  It will be the perfect place to sit, taste Olio Nuovo, and have a glass of wine with a charcuterie board.  A lovely covered area open to the Olive Grove…you can sit in peace, and watch the olive trees grow.  We look forward to many events this Fall season at IL Fiorello Farm, and hope you will be able to join us in the celebrations.

Ciao!

Ann and Mark

 

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

Ingredients

2 cups sun dried tomatoes

⅓ Cup pine nuts

2 cloves garlic (optional) raw or roasted

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup of IL Fiorello’s Green Valley Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • Blend all the ingredients except for parmesan together.
  • Slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the pesto cannot absorb any more.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.
  • Process until smooth or leave slightly chunky if you prefer.
  • Stir in Parmesan.

How to Oven Dry Tomatoes

  • Preheat oven to 225°F.
  • Slice cherry and plum tomatoes (Roma, Juliette, or San Marzano are best) in half lengthwise. (For larger tomatoes cut into ¼ inch-thick slices.)
  • Place cut-side up on a baking sheet with a wire cooling rack or lined with parchment paper.
  • Dehydrate for 4-6 hours or to desired dryness.
  • When finished drying, let cool before removing from pan.
  • Dried tomatoes can be stored in the refrigerator, freezer, or packed in a jar with olive oil and seasonings.

Cooking is Simple * Eating is Rewarding

 

At our Visitors Center people are always interested in why and how we prepare food, create recipes, and match oils with food. Here are some of my simple tenants for IL Fiorello.

 

  • Use good, clean, and fair ingredients. This is also the hallmark of Slow Food and sensible eating
  • Don’t complicate your life by making complicated dishes every day
  • Use only certified extra virgin olive oil, enjoy the wonderful aroma, bitterness, and pungency
  • Try all the different varieties of our Extra Virgin Olive Oil, expand your palate
  • Don’t combine lots of ingredients as this tends to muffle each one
  • Use ingredients that are simple, clean, and fresh
  • Organic if possible
  • Seasonality is very important, eat with the season
  • Shop at farmers markets, as much as you are able
  • Plant a garden in your backyard, on your back porch, or in your window sill.
  • Eat lots of vegetables and fruits
  • Eat with color – red, orange, yellow, green, and purple
  • BALANCE – acidity, sweetness, savory, bitter, salt
  • BALANCE – grains, proteins, fruits, vegetables, and oils
  • Ignore the current food fads
  • NO pre-packaged foods or pre-prepared foods
  • NO fast food
  • Enjoy well prepared fresh foods
  • Let fresh food speak for itself
  • Use your garden as your pharmacy

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 

 

What People Say

 

What do people say? What questions do they ask in an olive oil tasting experience?

The other day, a group of visitors were talking with me about the experience of running a tasting room for olive oil. They asked me what questions we get during our olive oil tasting events.

Last year we presented over 4,300 tastings at IL Fiorello. Granted tasting olive oil is a new experience for most people and we try to give accurate, but fun, information about olive oils, growing olives and food pairings. Sometimes the questions are spot on and sometimes they take my breath away. Most often we all end up laughing together, which is even more fun.

Here are some fun questions and facts about olives and olive oil that our tasting room staff is prepared to answer.

 

Q: Do you grow green or black olives?

A: All olives begin green and mature to black. This is the natural ripening process, just like most apples turn from green to red.

 

Q: How do you grow the olive with the red thing in the center?

A: Those olives are brined salt cured olives and the pimento is grown separately and placed inside the olive at the Factory.


Q
: What does extra virgin mean?

A: That is a standard of quality which requires that only olive oil is in the bottle and nothing else.  This means each oil has passed both a strict chemistry analysis and has passed a master taste panel taste test. This is a yearly certification and each production of oil is required to pass this test.  In California, oil cannot be labeled Extra Virgin without passing this certification. Look for the seal of certification.

 

Q: What is this? A woman at the Farmers Market was holding a fresh lemon. She asked “is this an olive?”

A: No, That is a lemon……

 

Q: Can you eat an olive off the tree?

A: Only once. Fresh olives off the tree are impossibly bitter. Not a good taste…

 

Q: First Cold Pressed is only a PR term now.

A: Long ago and far away in an ancient land with donkeys and oxen, olives were ground up by stone wheels and pressed between mats. Today we use large mills and huge centrifuges to mill our oil.

 

Q: Can you cook with our extra virgin olive oils?

A: Of course, just use lower heat to preserve the flavor and health benefits of our oils. This is true for all oils. We make our oils with a big flavor, called finishing oils. Pour on the oil at your dining table.

 

Q: What is olive oil wine?

A: We have two flags in the front of the main driveway. One flag says olive oil and the other says wine. We make olive oil from our olives and we serve and sell bottles of wine made from grapes.

 

 Q: Where is the bread?

A:  We do not serve bread, ever. Bread masks the flavor of oils. Our motto is expand your palate to beyond bread and salad. Look for our recipes for crostini and bruschetta online. A beautiful presentation for our oils.

 

Q: At a tasting event in Southern California, a lady tasted our Award winning Leccino Organic Olive Oil and said: “This does not taste like Chardonnay!”

A: I could not utter a response.

 

Q: When do you add the pepper to the oil?

A: No pepper is ever added to our extra virgin oils, the sensation you are feeling is pungency. That is an important part of tasting early harvest robust olive oils.

 

At IL Fiorello we are all about enjoyment and education but you really can’t make some of these things up.  We all have our moments.

Come and taste our oils and ask any question you want. We are sure to have some answers.

 

Ciao,

Enjoy the certified extra virgin olive oil

Ann

 

 

 

All About Tomatoes

 

August is tomato season in Suisun Valley and let me tell you- It is Everything Tomato at IL Fiorello! We have a lot here at the Farm. We’ve had to chase the mockingbirds away from them! Our chickens love the little red and yellow cherry tomatoes. They chase each other like little kids to catch the sweet ones. Hilarious to watch.

Tomatoes from the garden, tomato cooking class, dried tomatoes in the kitchen to pair with oils, Tomato Festival Cooking Contest and the Fairfield Tomato Festival! Did I mention Everything Tomato?

Our suggestion? Pair fresh tomatoes with our Mission Olive Oil or Green Valley Blend-beyond wonderful! The fresh tomatoes are perfect, the oil divine, the combination even better.

At the 26th annual Tomato Festival VIP tent, IL Fiorello will serve house made Polenta and organic Sun Dried Tomatoes with our Green Valley Blend organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which won a Silver medal at the State Fair. It will be an honor to present this pairing.

Last Saturday, we hosted our Everything Tomato Cooking Class. Executive Chef Gloria Ciccarone-Nehls and Sous Chef Genevieve Upp presented an outstanding, delicious, marvelous, fabulous menu. Larry Balestra, from Larry’s Produce, was kind enough to provide us with some heirloom tomatoes to round out our supply of large size tomatoes for “The Stack”.

 

Photo of “The Stack” courtesy of Michael Morris, Vacaville Reporter Sunday August 13, 2017

Our guests were greeted with Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts, they made the stacks of mozzarella, zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes. It was finished with our oils and balsamic vinegar reduction. We had Tomato Tini’s, Tomato Water with Signature Balsamic Vinegar Reduction. We finished with Tomato-Basil Sorbet, a sweet and savory concoction from Chef Gloria and a delicious finale to the cooking class.

That same day, we also had 30 food and wine writers from San Francisco taste our oils and tomatoes and there was a resounding shout of joy at the pairing! They were a wonderful group to speak to and lots of good questions and discussions.

Last month I presented our oil with food pairings at UC Davis Olive Oil Sensory Class. One of our presentations that our Chef Gloria and I developed were tomatoes and olive oil. We presented both store bought tomatoes and our garden tomatoes with a beautiful oil. It is no wonder consumers are confused because the store bought (most likely green house) tomatoes tasted bad, and the garden tomatoes tasted brilliant with the oil! Food pairing is about balance and knowing your products.

This Saturday, August 19,  we will host the Cooking Competition for the Fairfield Tomato Festival in our Kitchen in the Groves. Judges will be judging from 10-12 am. Finalists are announced and the overall winners will be presented on Sunday, August 20th at the Tomato Festival. We will also serve tastes of garden tomatoes with Mission oil and Green Valley oil in our Kitchen in the Grove as a comparative tasting experience from Friday August 18th-Sunday, August 20th.

So stop by anytime from 1 to 5 to experiment with tastes.  Come and enjoy!

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 

 

Nocino

Making Nocino, Italian walnut liquor, usually this is made on June 24th, St John’s day.

But as you can see these walnuts got a little large very early.

The alcohol turns bright green from the walnuts, as do your hands. Cut the walnuts in quarters and soak in alcohol for a few weeks or longer depending on the strength you want.

I add a few flavor elements but pure walnuts are fine. After they are finished extracting, drain and mix the liquid with simple syrup to taste. Simple syrup is usually a 1:1 combination, one cup sugar and one cup water.

Nocino is an acquired taste but wonderful. Enjoy. I will post a picture of the finished product in a couple of months.

 

 

Cut the walnuts into quarters and add to a very clean mason jar. Fill with Everclear liquor.

 

 

Cut walnuts with seasoning, cinnamon, lemon, and coffee beans.

 

 

After 3 weeks showing the dark green color

 

 

 

 

 

Nasturtium Capers

Capers come from the Caper Bush, Capparis spinose and we are growing these at the Farm. But until the bush becomes large enough to produce capers, we are using Nasturtiums seed pods, by the thousands. The Nasturtium flowers are edible and are on our tasting plates, the leaves are delicious and hold little zucchini tastes. But the Nasturtium pods are delicious when pickled and taste very similar to brined capers.

 

Recipe for Nasturtium Capers

2 cups water
4 tablespoons salt
1 cup green nasturtium seedpods
1.5 cup white wine vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
4 fresh laurel leaves
4 springs of fresh thyme

 

Prepare the brine, the brining process

  1. Bring the water and salt to a boil
  2. Pour the boiling brine over the seedpods in pint or quart canning jars.
    1. Make sure the jars are freshly cleaned and hot
    2. Cover the jars and let sit at room temperature
  3. Soak the seed pods for at least 3 days

Prepare the pickling

  1. Drain the seed pods through a sieve and return them to a freshly washed hot jar
  2. In a small non-reactive sauce pan, bring the vinegar, sugar, bay, and thyme to a boil
  3. Pour the vinegar mixture over the seedpods and allow to cool to room temperature
  4. Cover the jar and refrigerate for at least 3 days, before using
  5. These prepared pods will keep for 6 months in the refrigerator
  6. Use brined capers with charcuterie or mixed into mayonnaise for salads or sandwiches

 

Fresh capers just in a salt brine (L)   Capers after brining and infused with seasonings (R)

 

 

 

Fresh capers

How we Change Palates & Minds at IL Fiorello

 

IL Fiorello grows and produces international quality, certified extra virgin olive oil. We also help our guests to expand their palates. This is called edible education, and palate expansion.

We host our guests with a comparative tasting of our extra virgin oils and present a tasting plate of healthy food. Much of the food for our tasting plates are grown on our organic farm. We also discuss fraudulent oils and just plain bad or adulterated oils.

We are changing minds by explaining the importance of comparative tastings. By using our own motto: “beyond bread and salad” we attempt to change habits, a very difficult but interesting task. We do not serve bread with our tastings, often we use plant based healthy foods. Everyone knows that you can use extra virgin olive oil and good balsamic vinegar on salads, but think beyond this premise. An example, extra virgin olive oil drizzled on warm asparagus soup. The aroma is enchanting, the health benefits fabulous.

 

 

By presenting oils with food pairings, guests can enjoy aromas, flavors, bitterness and pungency. Then they better appreciate differences in our oils, and differentiate from generic oils, that may not even be olive oil.

 

 

Most people understand and appreciate this idea, but do they change their habits?  Do we really change their attitudes or palates? We don’t know. Our business growth has been exponential, people come back time and time again to taste and buy our oils.  Our olive oil club has increased 200% from just two years since its inception. People love our products and hopefully this means we are slowly and carefully educating customers to use better oils and eat better foods.

Our culinary classes emphasize good, clean, and healthy food, the motto of Slow Food. Our Chefs are exploring wonderful ways to pair oils and foods for our tasting plates and our events.

One of our goals is to help people understand what good food really is. If our oils cost more than generic oils, it is because of the intense flavor and purity of the product. Better flavor; use less oil, enjoy it more.

Change is difficult and hard and causes people to question and sometimes distrust. I often hear, but this is what “grandmother” always used to do. Well, Grandmothers are always right but this is a different time and we are faced with different food challenges.

Food used to come from the backyard family garden plot.

 

 

Today, you cannot be sure where your food comes from. Let’s go back to that premise of the family garden plot.  Some people do not understand that a radish grows in the ground, and that artichokes are huge plants. That tomatoes are really deeply red and sweet and delicious. Food choices are important, chose an apple not chips and a “health food” bar.  Don’t eat pre-packaged foods. Read labels and contents. Make good healthy decision. Pair good food with excellent oil. Food is your sustenance and your pharmacy, use it well.


I just listened to a presentation by Marion Nestle PhD who said that, eating is an agricultural act. If farmers don’t grow consumers do not eat. This is really simple and so powerful.

Hope this blog is food for thought and action. Speak and eat in a powerful voice.

 

 

Ciao

Ann