Posts Tagged ‘Carluccio’s’
Christmas in July? Yes, it is too early to see anything on the shelves yet (thank God) but shop managers, magazines are already working on it, finding the right trends, wondering what will make you dream, seduce your imagination this year, stocking up, photoshooting… These are the real Santa’s Elves, trying to make the christmas shopping experience sparkle with glitter.
I will be going to a number of press days in the coming weeks but to me the real treat is Carluccio’s. Always a privilege, always a feast from the decor to the dolce vita atmosphere. I finger-cross for my favourite sweets to still be on the top list, long to discover the new ones, to walk from one range to another with a succulent piece of cake or nougat.
This year, the collection found inspiration in Napoli. Right outside the door, the landscape had already changed to an impressive orange tree loaded with fruit. And surrounded with snow. It’s Christmas, after all. On the side sat a giant panettone, encouraging the visitors’ appetites. And yet, it was ever so nice, in this sunshine, to sit down on the stone benches and sip a citrus granita.
The tasting soon begins and believe me, you can’t help but smile. The favourites are still there: Clementine in camicia, clementine quarters dipped in rich chocolate (a must have!), baci di dama (a biscuit known as the ladies’ kisses), meringues wrapped in gianduja, stelle di natale, star shaped biscuits presented in jars. Panettones (classic or chocolate, yes two of them, dark and milk shavings) boxes are covered with gold letters, the pandore with Venitian style marbled paper. Both can be topped with a flame fountain if you want to put a show on (and yes, you do. Or you should. When else can you wow people with such things?).
On my love at first sight (or bite, depending on the case) list… Two hampers particularly caught my attention – one celebrating lemon (includes amongst other rewards a divine lemon olive oil), another chocolate (with surprising cacao parpadelle). At £30 and £25, you will struggle to find a better quality/price ratio for a foodie gift! The lovely glass biscuit jars are back too and there are tin boxes too for biscotti and coffee, an irresistible vintage touch.
If you have a sweet tooth, you will fall for the Perle di Mandorloto (torrone, almonds, honey rolled in caramel and white chocolate balls), the pistachio torrone, the fichi al rhum (figs, walnuts, candied citrus and rum – this will make your cheeks go slightly pink), limoncello rum babas (although you probably will have devoured them before they reach the friend or relative they were meant for).
Also, as addictive as popcorn, a Napolitan specialty, stuffoli. Deep fried tiny pieces of dough, rolled in honey, hundreds and thousands and candied fruit. Delicious. Sadly, I’ll have to wait until November for these to reach the shelves… But it’s first on my list and I’m not sharing!
Easter, in my family, is quite unique. When I was a child, we spent a couple of years in Mauritania. A stork stopped by – this fired my imagination and voilà, the Easter bells were replaced by the Easter stork. The story remained and each year, we would prepare fancy nests and place them in the garden, ready for sweets.
And so I kept a love for slightly different celebrations and a certain mise en scène. The kids get a mix of sugary treats, books, little treasures. I much prefer to choose one good quality egg than 10 supermarket ones: it’s never to early to educate the tastebuds. This season, I have fallen for Carluccios’ dark chocolate version. Nice crunchy shell and then overwhelming, voluptuous dark chocolate, melting very slowly. Like super-luxurious smarties, concluded my 8 year-old daughter, stealing what I’m sure was originally my candy. Look at these pastel colours, aren’t they splendid? You could easily think they’re real. They make a gorgeous effect on a table with a simple arrangement. Go on. Go crazy.
And to compensate for the chocolate feast, why not try a Paloma Cake? This dove shaped dessert is the Easter equivalent of the pannetone. You will find the same brioche texture, a specific tenderness only egg yolks can bring, candied orange peels. The tops remind me of a nice meringue, sprinkled with crunchy almonds and sugar confetti. It’s simply perfect for a festive breakfast or teatime. I wrongly thought this would work well for French toast… There wasn’t a crumb left after a few hours!
The night is falling earlier now. Halloween ahead, then straight line to December. Cocooning. Need sweet treats, candles, garlands of lights twinkling everywhere. Carluccio’s too is thinking of festivities – soon will be launched the Christmas treats in store and oh, my, friends, pure decadence. Self indulgence has never tasted that good.
On the chocolate side, I felt like a kid. I usually am happy with just a square of two of really a good one but I just could help trying everything. Rich textures, really wrapping the palate. Clemente in camicia, Carluccio’s favourite by the way – tangerines wrapped in chocolate, much more refined than the orange kind and always one of their best sellers. Lingotto di Fichi – gorgeous figs matched to citrus peels and rum to warm you on chilly days… And so many biscuits, adorably packed in reusable jars. From the very famous baci di dama (the ladies’ kisses) to lovely Piedmont masserinis, via finger-licking good meringhe di gianduja… All are meant, following the Italian tradition, to be dipped in a cup of hot, thick, chocolate. And look at these adorable treats in the advent calendars – for kids, really? Let’s be selfish for once.
Artist Malika Favre has designed perfect gift boxes for you to fill – red, gold, adorable details of daily life. As much a present as the inside, makes you want to collect them. What will you add? Nougat rich in grilled hazelnuts? Chocolate pannetonne, melt-in-the mouth? Panneforte, enchanting with its notes of honey and cinnamon?
There also will be perfect assortments – some dedicated to pasta and trust me, the latter are beautiful. Others to tastes of the south of the country. Even the simple vin santo with honey cantucci will make friends go wow.
I loved that the jars, the boxes are so lovingly thought. As for choice, really, you’ll be spoilt. There is something for everyone in your family, every single loved one on your list. Well. If you can resist opening the treats before going back home, that is. I have had a few failures in that field…
The festive treats will be on sale end of October at Carluccio’s.
I love April skies. Indecisive, tortured. A ray of sunshine, a shower of rain, the sudden music of hail. Of course, it may lead to a certain surcharge (shirt, scarf, hood, sunglasses - be prepared for everything. In the same day.) But as dusk approaches, clouds take a velvety appearance, get painted with even brighter colours if only for a minute, like a luxurious marble… Get your umbrella and scroll down to discover ideas for your week-end in London!
That’s art baby!
* Rediscover London through photographs of its past at the Wandworth museum
* Be amazed by Cate Blanchett, on the stage of the Barbican for a few days only.
* Fall for the “Afternoon tea in the park” hampers by Bea’s . Ah, if only we also could order some sun!
* This week-end, the Southbank market celebrates India.
* Dine as on the Titanic - the final menu is recreated at Hix for the centenary.
* A mobile tea-room – love it! Follow it in Soho.
Take the little ones along:
* A delicious idea from Carluccio’s: a biscuit workshop for bakers-to-be.
* Take them to see the newborn ducklings - nothing could be cuter.
Out of the ordinary:
* On Thursday, shop rock’n’roll at a cute themed vintage market.
* Abracadabra, have a look at the Magic Circle Museum.
* On Friday, indulge in a free concert at the V&A, a mix of jazz and Indian music.
* Every Sunday until the end of August, the Spitafields City Farm proposes an outdoor “eco-chic” market - worth a detour if you are around Brick Lane.
* Did you know you can swap your books on Carnaby street?
* On Sunday, to celebrate the Olivier Awards, the place to be will be the Covent garden Piazza with performances from top West End shows.
All year long, Carluccio’s team travels around Italy to meet with local producers and find the most exquisite products. Some are available all year long in the restaurants’ deli, others are very special treats for Christmas. And yes, although we are only in July, brands are thinking about this already.
The idea, this year, is to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. Not so much giving than being together and sharing laughs and delicious times. So why not put bowls of cakes around the house? There is so much to choose from: crunchy nougat, chestnut dolchettis, chocolat gressinis, honey slices… The table will look even more festive if you sparkle it with gianduja filled chocolate stars, add a few crakers hiding a truffle instead of the classic useless toy. Or you could add nocciolinis (mini hazelnut meringues) on top of your desert. Or all of those, really.
It does not stop there. Place a grappini close to a cute cup of coffee – wow effect guaranted as this chocolate is filled with grappa and is more drunk than eaten. Gourmets will also fall for the figs filled with chestnuts and dipped in chocolate… or the exotic candied tangerine quarters also in a layer of cacao.
There will be gifts, sure. The wrappings have already been thought of with touches of orange and gold or beautiful jars. You barely need to add anything but a card to them. For someone more savoury than sweets, try one of the hampers with the very best of Carluccio’s: we particularly love the risotto one with truffle fondant and a special wooden spoon.
The following morning, everyone can linger around a café au lait and indulge in a slice of pannetone with jhazelnut icing or some pandolce, a traditional died fruit cake from Genoa.
Add a chimney, candles, oranges planted with cloves. Happiness is sometimes so easy to achieve…
Baci di mama, hazelnut biscuits with a chocolate hazelnut filling, £15.95 for 875g