Sunday, May 23, 2010

Into the Heart of L.A. with Rocco DiSpirito - from the heart

And so the day has to come to an end. Still sated from Scoops, our "Into the Heart of L.A." Culinary Group poured out of the limo (I could get used to saying that) and immediately hit delectable, pungent air. You knew immediately that this cheese store would deliver. What good is a cheese store if it does not boldly announce itself?

The aromas did not disappoint. Inside was a world of cheese, a world of flavor and the exploration began. Wines, earthy olive oils, crackers, a myriad of vinegars and condiments filled the shelves. But the cheeses took center stage. The gracious owner, Norbert of the Beverly Hills Cheese Shop had set up a test for us - similar to a Bertolli's Webisode "Into the Heart of Italy." Three cheeses are produced and you need to guess which one is from a cow, a goat and a sheep. The bloggers did very well. I had had only one sample thus far and was clueless. Although I certainly devoured the taleggio (cow) right after, accompanied with some shaved, salty prosciutto. The velvety cream in the taleggio really enhanced the sharpness of the prosciutto - it was mighty fine. My appetite returned.
Purchases later, we were off to our final destination: The wine/food pairing with Rocco DiSpirito.
At the Four Season Hotel's new restaurant - Culina.

The group: All with grand photos (check their websites): Amanda from, Jenny from, Mandy from, Pat from http://www.millefiorifavoriti.blogspot/, Briana from, Brittney from, Shelisa from and and Sarah - our guide from and the scrumptious-looking Visit them. Their enthusiasm and talents are contagious. Except for the food photos, today's blog photos are from Patricia Badolata of Seeing L.A. through her eyes is a visual delight of riches. Do visit her. And let your eyes feast.

The group: I ate so much that day my buttons popped - but we were all game for more.

We all had copies of Now Eat This! from Bertolli Foods.

Ready to be signed by Rocco.

Rocco came during our tasting session. Our first plate was Involitini Di Manzo (Kobe A-5 beef, Delta asparagus, enoki mushrooms and some Parmigiano Reggiano. Accompanied by a light red wine: Nebbiolo d'Alba, giacosa fratelli; 2007 Piedmont) - the first taste melted slowly into my mouth beginning with the soft-as-butter Kobe beef and ending with just a touch of the poetical asparagus.

This was followed by Caponata di Carciofi (baby artichokes, Castelvetrano green olives, San Marzano tomato) accompanied by Pinot Bianco, haberle, alois lageder, Alto adige 2007. This is a heartier white wine than your sipping Pinot Grigio and enhanced the piquant olives, rich artichokes and the sweet tomatoes. I am playing with this combination in Minnesota. Baby artichokes are hard to find. Maybe some tangy artichoke hearts to replace it?

Our last plate was Suppli al Telefono (Saffron risotto croquette, mozzarella di bufala, tomato sugo) accompanied by Mamertino cru timpanara, Vasari, Sicily 2006 - a full-bodied deeply flavored red wines typical of Sicily - hearty enough to hold up the rich tastes of saffron, buffalo mozzarella and the summer-kissed tomato sauce.

Rocco spoke of his recipes. "Did you try the meatballs?" he asked again and again (you definitely knew he was proud of his make-over-lower-the-fat-cut-the-calories meatball recipe!) He posed with all of us (above with Sarah Gim from www.theDeliciousLife and Sarah was instrumental in planning our trip. She helped create an agenda where we would would experience L.A.'s freshest and finest food finds.
Rocco was definitely enamoured by the Kobe beef. At $250/lb. this is not your average grocery store beef. He wanted us to see the marbling that created the velvet texture and a huge hunk was brought to the table - to admire and to photograph. In the end, Rocco found himself upstaged by a slab of beef!

He didn't mind.

And he graciously returned to signing books and being photographed.

We spoke of Jamaica, Queens (his birthplace and mine). After a winter of cooking, I only had to look at the L.A. photos before I went into shock. Hence, my decision to "cook his book." Two weeks later, four pounds shed.

Brimming with the goodness of L.A., we soared into our the waiting limo for one last ride back to the hotel. Mandy serenaded us with "O Sol Mio" as we quietly sat soaking in the events of the day. It was a touching ending to an extraordinary event.
Bertolli Foods wanted us to experience local, fresh, artisanal and care of foods. Without going to Italy, they wanted to convey that what we experienced in L.A. is what Bertolli experiences as they create their frozen dinners - from prime ingredients, artisan products and respect and love of food. And this is what they\hope you will experience in a superior prepared food product. That is for you to judge.
Their generosity shone in that trip by supplying us all with the an experience for the memory bank. And while Bertolli paid for all my expenses, my subsequent reporting is my own. From my heart. Why do otherwise? Every meal prepared is personal. Every glance, every moment, every exchange - it's always personal. Why not let the personal be from the heart?
We all went our separate ways - but Pat and I would meet up later (ostensibly for dinner - but who wanted to eat after our ten-hour feast?) and wound up on the rooftop of the Thompson Hotel, taking in the sights, sounds and aromas of L.A. at night and talking of family, friends, foods, art, history and more. We bought each other a round of drinks, chattering, glancing, sipping, laughing and all the while I am thinking, "You know, Pat - I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." And that, my friends, is from the heart.


Whats Cookin Italian Style Cuisine said...

wow Claudia such great experiences, your a lucky ladie, I would love to taste all that wonderful food and that cheese omg!!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

What a great, great trip. I love the way it ended, with you and Pat sharing drinks and chatting and forging a new friendship.

OysterCulture said...

What a great trip, sounds like a feasting fantasy come true. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Beautifully written, Claudia. It was a wonderful experience and the begining of our beautiful friendship! I'm so happy I shared it with you!

Angie's Recipes said...

Claudia, that's a really cool experiences! Amazing the cheese shop....I guess it gathers all the cheeses from the world! Rocco looks a bit like young John Travolta. :-))

Mister Meatball said...

So, did you try the meatballs?

Claudia said...

Ahh the meatballs. When the thermometer dips below 80 degrees, I shall try the meatballs. Meanwhile, we are in salad weather.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

What an amazing exoerience, definitely one for the memory books.

Anne said...

Truly a wonderful experience. Something you will never forget!

Fresh Local and Best said...

I'm still looking at the kobe beef! It's like a block of gold!

The Suppli al Telefono looks amazing, it's a recipe I'm going to have to find so I can recreate it.

Thanks for the links, I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's experiences.

Barbara GF said...

What a wonderful tale to share, Claudia. What a fun and amazing trip you had. But that saffron risotto croquette, mozzarella di bufala, tomato sugo dish really caught my eye, as did that handsome Rocco! Bertolli is definitely looking good.

Kait said...

What an amazing experience. Thank you for sharing it. The marbling on the beef is mouthwatering.

janet said...

Sounds like your trip is lots of fun and I really like the photo of you and Rocco:)

Juliana said...

Oh Claudia...what a nice experience...enjoyed all the pictures...thank you so much for sharing it ;-)

Jen_from_NJ said...

I loved reading all about your trip. Thanks for sharing with all of us!

Heather S-G said...

So awesome, Claudia!! I'm super jealous...but super thrilled that you had this fabulous experience! Looks like a great time :) And Rocco...yum.

Mary Bergfeld said...

Even with the economy a problem, they went out their way to make your visit memorable. That is really nice.
It is great fun to get to see some of the bloggers we read about. I hope you are having a wonderful day.o

Kim said...

Wow - Rocco is so good looking! I think I would break out in a sweat if I got to sit next to him;-)

I am so happy for you Claudia. How great it must have been to have such a wonderful and indulgent day. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Jeannie said...

I can only echo the comments made....great conclusion to a wonderful food adventure.

3 hungry tummies said...

I can't get my mind off the kobe beef now :) Help!!!

Reeni said...

What a fun experience Claudia! And great memories you will keep from it. Rocco seems like a really sweet guy - I had an opinion about him that wasn't the best - but I think this changed it.

Anonymous said...

An incredible experience! That kobe beef is something for sure!

joe@italyville said...

Loved it Claudia... one of your best posts! Glad you had a wonderful trip to LA. PS - Happy belated anniversary!

My Little Space said...

Oh gee, you ladies are just so lucky! I'm so envy! I'm glad you all had such a great time there in LA.
Regards, Kristy