Tag Archives: italy

Divino – A new kind of gelato!

Lauren Weiss is an alumnus of Columbia whom I met at the media networking night a few weeks ago. She is currently working for Divino, a unique gelato start-up. Divino’s trademark is gelato-stuffed fruit coming in five different flavors: amalfi lemon, black diamond plum, ciaculli tangerine, roman kiwi, and apulian peach. Each of the names points to the place in Italy from where the fruit comes, in an effort to transport you to these locations when eating the gelato. Lauren was kind enough to give me her two highest recommendations, the ciaculli tangerine and the apulian peach.


The packaging of the gelato is very nice. The colors are bright, and each fruit is placed in its own box with a spoon and a paper holder for the fruit. Once the fruit is taken out of the box, it is meant to be opened along the pre-cut lines so that you can eat out of each half. Divino is trying to put its own spin on gelato, working in competition with the many other gelato brands that have recently become popular.

Gelato means ‘ice cream’ in Italian. In Italy, there is a standard amount of butterfat that an ice cream must have to be considered gelato. However, the FDA has not issued any requirement for gelato so most frozen ice cream or sorbet treats can be considered gelato. Gelato is usually healthier than ice cream, because it often times contains fewer calories, sugar, and fat than ice cream. The Italian city of Varese is where gelato gained much of its popularity during the 1920s and 1930s. Today, it is very well known and widely loved.

Varese, Italy http://www.orangesmile.com/common/img_final_large/varese_sightseeing.jpg

The flavors of Divino that I tried were not creamy, but very refreshing and light. They resembled sorbets, since they did not have the creaminess usually associated with gelatos. The tangerine was tangy and sweet with a slight bitter after taste, which helped to balance the sweetness. The apulian peach had a smoother texture than the tangerine, which was more icy. The flavor of the peach gelato tasted fresh, and not as if it were from concentrate. It was very sweet, for me a bit too much so, but my friends did not mind. The fun part is that the gelato is in the skin of the fruit, so you can scrape around the edge to get even more flavor. The skin of the peach can even be eaten, but, be warned, it is cold and can chill your teeth!

It was a treat to get to try these gelatos. They were both delicious and refreshing. The sizes are quite small, about the size of a small scoop of ice cream, so make sure to have your own.


Espresso from Crema to Caramel Brulée Latte

Espresso took root in the early 1900s, when Luigi Bezzera patented a machine that consisted of an upright, gas-heated boiler that used steam pressure to force hot water through ground coffee held in clampable filters.  This steam-pressure based design is still widely used today in espresso machines for the home market.  The original intent was to prepare coffee more quickly, by the cup, on demand.  Hence the name, espresso, as the beverage was prepared “expressly” for the customer – but that still doesn’t mean call it expresso.

Desidero Pavoni acquired the patent from Bezzera in 1903 and brought the machine through the rest of Europe.  He created the first commercially-produced espresso machine, the Ideale, in 1905.  But these machines were far from cranking out the lattes we know today.  Due to steam contamination, high temperatures, and low pressure, the coffee lacked crema and tended to taste burnt.  Essentially, espresso was prized for its speed and convenience, rather than its taste.


The espresso revolution came in 1947, after the coffee shortages of World War II.  Achille Gaggia, a bar owner with a passion for coffee, registered a new patent with a lever operated piston.

In fact, today the act of making espresso is often referred to as “pulling a shot,” because of Gaggia’s machine, which required pulling down on the lever attached to a spring-loaded piston.  The piston meant that extraction now resulted in the emulsion of oils and colloids to create a mousse, or crema, on top of the espresso.  Today we recognize crema as one of the defining traits of espresso, but at the time, Gaggia renamed his new beverage caffè crema for the specific purpose of differentiating it from the existing espresso.


These developments led to the growth of the Italian coffee industry and the rise of the Italian coffee bar.  However, beyond Italy’s borders, espresso was far from being known as a quality beverage thanks to poor quality blends.  In the 1980s, all that changed with the second espresso revolution.

In 1982, the Specialty Coffee Association of America formed, and campaigned to raise standards rebranded espresso as a gourmet product.  They encouraged gourmet retailers to promote espresso by serving it in stores.  The idea was to allow customers to sample espresso, but they soon found out that using espresso as a base for other beverages like lattes added greatly to its appeal.

From there, a perfect storm took hold as Seattle, the home of Microsoft, boomed, and the later spread of laptops and wi-fi built the culture of the coffee shop, a model that Starbucks branded and reproduced across the world.

Lost in Translation – Italy

Well, with my last post on bread, I pretty much exhausted my foreign language capacities.

But the way I see it, a romance language is a romance language, and it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out an Italian recipe, even if the only Italian I know is mamma mia. When I started looking up recipes though, I realized just how difficult it could be.  With the weather getting colder, I settled on a classic recipe for pasta e fagioli, reasoning that it would be hard to mess up too badly with a bean soup.

Ingredients for Pasta e Fagioli
All (or most) of the ingredients

Half of the ingredients seemed pretty simple.  Fagioli borlotti had to be borlotti beans, carota was an easy one, and brodo vegetale didn’t take too long to interpret.  I also figured out that sedano was celery because I had seen other recipes that called for a gambo of it, which I took to mean leg.

Other ingredients gave me pause.  Scalogno?  Salvia?  Prezzemolo?  I just hoped they weren’t too important and moved on.  My proudest moment was figuring out what a spicchi di aglio was; the website I was using was actually called Lo spicchio d’aglio, and after a few moments of puzzling, I realized that the icon was actually a stylized picture of a clove of garlic!  Of course!  How could I embark on an italian recipe without garlic?!

Am I doing this right?

What I hadn’t anticipated, in the glow of my triumphant interpretations of the ingredienti, was the difficulty in translating the actual instructions.  I was lost after step four, so while I managed to drain my beans, chop my vegetables, boil my broth, and brown my garlic, I was left to guess on what exactly “Aggiungere un mestolo di brodo” meant, and ended up adding ingredients incrementally, spooning broth back and fourth between two pans, and then cooking the pasta separately before tossing everything together at the last minute to boil.

In one particularly lost moment, I glanced over my recipe with chopped vegetables in hand, and realized there was not a single mention of carota or sedano after the second step.  I threw them in after the beans but before the pasta, hoping for the best and reasoning, for the hundredth time, that it’s pretty hard to mess up soup.

Less of a dish, more of a collection of ingredients

It turns out I was right.  The soup came out just fine.  It was just very, very bland, like drinking broth.  I couldn’t help feeling helpless the entire time, entirely lost and wondering if I was doing anything right.  It was not my finest hour.


  • 250 g di fagioli borlotti già cotti (peso sgocciolato)
  • Mezzo costa di sedano
  • Mezzo carota
  • 1 scalogno
  • 1 l di Brodo vegetale
  • 2 cucchiai di olio extravergine di oliva
  • 2 spicchi di aglio
  • Timo
  • Origano
  • Maggiorana
  • 4 foglie di salvia
  • Sale
  • 120 g di pasta
  • 4 rametti di prezzemolo
  • Pepe nero macinato al momento


  • Sgocciolare i fagioli e passarne la metà al passaverdure.
  • Tritare molto finemente sedano, carota e scalogno.
  • Scaldare il brodo vegetale.
  • In una pentola da minestra far soffriggere il trito e l’aglio spellato nell’olio per qualche minuto, a fiamma media, fintanto che non assume un aspetto dorato. Unire un cucchiaio di brodo e proseguire la cottura per 4-5 minuti.
  • Aggiungere un mestolo di brodo, mescolare, unire i fagioli interi, un pizzico di timo, origano e maggiorana, la salvia e lasciare insaporire qualche minuto a fiamma vivace.
  • Stemperare i fagioli frullati con mezzo mestolo di brodo e versare il composto nella pentola. Girare e lasciare insaporire qualche minuto.
  • Versare quasi tutto il brodo e portare ad ebollizione. Regolare di sale.
  • Buttare la pasta e cuocere mescolando spesso con un cucchiaio di legno, secondo il tempo di cottura del formato scelto. Aggiungere qualche mestolo di brodo se la minestra tende ad asciugarsi troppo. Tenerla piuttosto liquida perchè a fine cottura tenderà ad addensarsi.
  • Nel frattempo lavare il prezzemolo, selezionarne le foglie e tritarle con la mezzaluna su un tagliere.
  • Spegnere il fuoco, regolare di sale, profumare con  una grattugiata di pepe ed il prezzemolo tritato.
  • Lasciare intiepidire 5 minuti con il coperchio e servire con un filo d’olio a crudo.