Friday, July 16, 2010

Premium Products That More Than Deliver

I have always thought that the quality of ingredients or products represents at least 60% of what it takes to execute a perfect dish. This ratio , in my opinion should apply equally to amateur cook and professional chef.

Over the last 18 months I have had the pleasure of meeting and sampling an amazing new dried pasta from Gragnano , a really phenomenal Irish Smoked Salmon as well as tea that is so good that I actually started drinking the beverage again at least once a day.

In all three cases I actually met the passionate people behind these products before tasting them and, saw them in full flow both educating their audience as well as going into detail about their respective products, points of difference.

Giuseppe di Martino is co owner of the established Gragnano pasta maker Di Martino as well as being President of the Gragnano Pasta Makers Association . Giuseppe and his sister created Pastificio dei Campi using the finest durum wheats and dried pasta making process.

The pasta is finished by hand and gently passed through bronze dies before being slow dried at low temperatures creating exquisite pasta. Every box of pasta can be traced back to what day that batch of wheat was sown, what field it was grown in and when it was harvested - directly linking the sourcing of the best limited supply grain back to the farmers. Gambero Rosso Magazine recently featured this amazing pasta under the title "Pasta Grand Cru"

Guiseppe explained to me over several meals involving this amazing product that his pasta when cooked al dente expands it's protein (Gluten)to circa 15-17% which explains why it seems so easy to digest and feels so light on the stomach. Inferior industrial dried pastas can expand to over 50%. It is not really a surprise that so many top Italian Chef's both in Italy and beyond are using this pasta in dishes that require the use of a top quality dried pasta.

Frank Hederman is in my view producing the finest smoked salmon in the world at his Belvelly Smoke House near Cork . I met Frank at of all places a male only steak fest orgainsed by Simon Majumdar where in my opinion the Irish stole the show with bothe the Salmon and Beef. In what was one of the best presentations on food that I have seen Frank made it clear it was not only the smoking and curing but the quality and selection of the salmon that makes the difference. He illustrated this by showing us the industrial dyes used by most salmon farms as well as sharing a few alarming facts about how many fish per cubic metre, some of the fish are farmed in.

Henrietta Lovell is a remarkable woman who has not only created a great company and premium tea business but is (re) educating this nation of tea drinkers into both making and drinking proper tea, both through personal appearences and through these charming videos. What is tea ? and How to make a cup of tea are a must watch.
On the rare days I don't have at least one cup of Lost Malawi Tea I feel a sort of emptiness and lingering listlessnes.

The products are all beautifully packaged and Giuseppe , Frank and Henrietta are passionate and knowlegeable gastronomes in their own right but, as always what really counts in the end is does the product deliver on the promise and, justify the premium. Well for me they certainly do !

In the UK Pastificio dei Campi can be purchased via the excellent FoodintheCity

Frank Hederman Smoked Salmon can be tasted at Goodmans and purchased from Wright Brothers

Rare Tea Company sells online and here