Tuttofood Milan Chatter, New Recipe Grass Fed Wors, Chocolate Talk and Coconut Ice-Cream……

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Hello There!
Oh my goodness!
So much news, where to start?
So clearly I’m back from Tuttofood 2015 Milan, altered in many respects through interacting in that space.
The more I age, the more I believe that it always serves me better to trust the process of life and interact with what comes my way with the intent to be affected by it, rather than what I did when I was younger, running around forcefully imposing my will on the world. I
‘ve learnt that any vision I have for life pales in comparison to what is achievable if you connect to the ‘whole’. That God energy is powerful beyond measure and ultimately I think, larger than any ideas we can construct from our limited view which can only ever come from what we have learnt to know through other peoples limited beliefs imposed on our thinking.  Not what is truly possible.
So I set off to Milan, trusting the process – not clear about why I was invited being such a tiny player in the overall food space, but knowing that there would be a reason and if I stay open to that and engage authentically in the space, I can let what needs to unfold work its magic. Boy, did it.
I  met some fantastic characters in the South African food space that although work and live in very different contexts to me, and most in the conventional food space had a lot of advice and support to offer. Much of it not relevant to the food revolution but some of it very beneficial especially when it comes to the challenges of importing food which I have no experience in. I relished everything I learnt there.
Then what I learnt from spending so much time with some inspirational, committed, spirited Italian artisans – oh wow. I will never quite forget some of those experiences, some of those tastings, it was  3 full days of one great artisan and tasting after the other. It was overwhelming and it was beautiful. I will forever have gold gilded memories of that trip framed in my heart.
It’s time to look at importing some of these treasures. I met with some utterly remarkable Italian family artisans who just through living the strong food culture they have for so much longer than we have, are years ahead of us. You don’t need to explain about a connection to life that occurs through a connection to great food to an Italian, it is their language. It’s as inherent to them as their identity and they value quality of life over commercial stuff and nonsense. I saw this over and over again.
There are things they have that I don’t think we’ll firstly ever see in the South African space or if so, not for decades to come unless we import.
It struck me how different being an organic customer is there. If you are an organic consumer here, you are very limited in terms of the range of what you can eat and most especially finding alternate versions of ‘normal’ food products that make feeding children clean food exponentially easier when you don’t have time to cook everything from scratch. Yet in Italy, you can easily feed your family a range of easy to cook foods that are both certified organic and gluten free.
That was another huge surprise to me. Never in a million years would I have believed that gluten-free would ever feature in Italy, let alone that they would do it just as well as they have done pasta. It’s huge there! They are leaps and leaps ahead of us and have responded to the changing dietary needs that have come about as we’ve learnt more and more about the relationship between health and what we’re eating. I would never have thought of Italians as flexible like that, I’d have imagined them deeply wedded to their traditional food, yet they not only have responded but have done so with the same unyielding commitment to taste and quality.
You can find organic, gluten-free biscuits, rusks, pastas of all shapes and sizes, cakes, panforte, pannatoni – pizza bases – anything and everything comes in an organic and gluten-free version – I just kept thinking about how that would change the harried Jozi Mum who has little time but wants clean, easy options for lunch-boxes, it’s a cinch over there, really.
So I have come back with a wish list of some incredible organic produce connected to the artisans I most favoured which were always the family owned businesses with long years of tradition behind them. The thing is too, that far from being lesser in taste than conventional counterparts, the gluten-free versions of things – even the pastas were fantastic – you would not even miss gluten with them – everything is done so well – I didn’t have one taste experience there that wasn’t less than exceptional. Ok, I had one – after tasting some of the most aged beautiful balsamics in the world – I became something of an expert at tasting balsamic – and at one of the stands – there was a producer who had caramel in his so I already had my reservations that it was a contender and then when I tasted it – it was so vile and acidic – I collapsed into a coughing fit – I’m not sure who was more embarrassed him or me:) I swiftly moved on coughing and spluttering away:).
Anyhow – I could write reams about what I found there, the next stage is getting to the challenging part of trying to get it here. We have labelling law issues to get around – all the Italian labels, even the ones with English writing will have to be altered to conform to our labelling laws which I kept hearing over there, are unreasonable, they aren’t close to the EU or US regulations so it becomes quite a nightmare to import because fixing the labels is costly. Lucky for us, most of the produce I’m looking at is from small artisans who print their own labels so designing private labels for us is far easier than what the large food companies face. I don’t want to get you too excited just yet – I have a road to walk to get ready for this. As with every challenge I much expect it will be difficult but not as tough as I originally imagine.
My top wish list includes a range of utterly delicious – gluten-free bronze cut pastas made from stone-ground organic flours -like amaranth and quinoa and buckwheat – and they are so well done – they taste just incredible. No child is going to turn their nose up at these, they are cut as beautifully as normal bronze cut pastas, they are textured just right so the different flours aren’t too dense and something children have to get used to.
Then there is a range of truffle products from Tuscany from a certified organic truffle farm that made such an impression on me. That was my top experience. I will never forget it. The dopamine rush I had from that taste experience made me want to challenge any heroine addict to replicate – truly – it exceeded what I thought I knew about taste, a profound experience. I tasted their truffles in butter, in an organic raw honey with figs, in a sauce for salad and more – and fell in love with that family. A proud yet so humble hard working family who have worked so hard to get organic certification which is no easy feat in Italy and now have this utterly superior range of products with their white and black truffles. I tasted truffles from older, more organized, richer truffle companies and nothing, nothing compared to the Tuscany truffles from this beautiful family passionate silly about what they do and what they bring. That’s just a fun, lovely thing but there’s a lot more daily things that I need us to get that we won’t see in this country for some time.
Balsamic vinegar is now a big deal for me. I travelled all the way to Italy to learn that for the most we’re not getting real balsamic vinegar here at all and I want to mend that. I didn’t know that most of the balsamics here are thickened to mimic the natural thickening that happens for true balsamic aging in oak barrels. I learnt that most of the vinegars we know have added sugar, thickeners, added caramel and too many are merely red wine vinegar with a ‘balsamic’ flavouring added to them. A true balsamic vinegar – doesn’t contain anything other than red wine vinegar and grape must – and turns to balsamic through that fermentation process that happens in wooden barrels – much like wine – when its real. A true real balsamic doesn’t taste anything like what we’re used to. It is thick with a rich sort of unmistakable taste that grabs you by the soul and drags you upright! 🙂 The longer the ageing, the thicker and more concentrated the taste and obviously the more expensive. The oldest I got to taste was a 30 year old aged balsamic. Too beautiful, then a 20 year and the youngest of theirs is a 6 year and that’s considered their table vinegar! I’m going to try my level best to get these in – this is another certified organic balsamic vinegar family – they also have an organic apple and organic pear balsamic – both only reduced organic apples and pears. That on a good cheese can drive you crazy, truly. I will move heaven and earth to get this to your palette. It’s not a commercial product though – anything that needs to age for 20 years is going to get a traditional retailer running for the hills – it isn’t commercially viable and considering that our entire eating experience in Jozi has been shaped by a tiny monopoly of large retailers – we haven’t interacted with a lot of real, traditional, artisanal food. It’s the small alternative guys like us carving a new road with a growing group of conscious consumers that will make the roads open for us to have access to real food like this again.
There’s so much more but I’ve got to get on to store news, obviously I’ll keep you updated as and when I get in what I can but I’m confidant that this range which will be an exclusive Jozi Real Food Revolution Italian certified organic line will make living an organic lifestyle a far easier feat to complement the fresh food we find. There are incredible organic and gluten free biscuit and cracker ranges too with clean ingredients that we’d all feel comfortable giving to our children. It will change and enrich the space and our options. When the first shipment arrives –  I might throw a party – it’ll be a big day for us:)
Before I leave the Milan experience, I need to share one more massive realisation I had there, on day one actually because its important.
I was so blown away by the way the tastings affected me, by how much I learnt through interacting with those artisans and seeing how to cook and work with their ingredients and it seemed crazy to me that food ‘buyers’ got to have that experience but the end consumer doesn’t.
That’s just all wrong. There you have hall upon hall of food producers interacting with buyers from all over the world and it’s the buyers who make the call about what for the most the consumer is only going to interact with by seeing it on the shelves. You can’t connect to food like that – you end up choosing based on how effective the label is or on price – and what’s there is only a reflection of what the retailer decided was worth buying based on their agenda. That’s wrong for me, an inherent flaw in our conventional food system. Going forward i am adamant that we will have not only  more tastings in store but I have to start a Jozi Real Food Revolution tasting and cooking demo regular evening so that I can get you to have the same sort of experience I had there – and also help you with recipe ideas, I am desperate to do that because I know I can then deepen your connection to the great food finds contributing to The Jozi Real Food Revolution. 
Ok, enough said about that, just for now. There’s quite a bit to cover on the store front too.
The Free Range Food Company’s farm size family chickens are in. They arrived yesterday,
Orders for Aldersyde Farm – Tarkastad Karoo lamb close on Thursday, they will arrive on the 22nd – please e-mail Michael@organicemporium.co.za for the order sheet.
We will be getting Aldersyde Farm lamb now in packs for the store for those of you who just want to purchase a packet of chops rather than order a half box. They will all be frozen as they’re coming from far and have a short shelf life but I might challenge to find better lamb. It’s just beautiful and this allows us to give those that don’t have freezer space an opportunity to taste this lamb. If you’re new to us, we have so many new subscribers each week so I have to repeat information quite a bit – click here for details for my story of Aldersyde Farm.
Another big news piece for the moment is the Le Chocolatier chocolate. As expected demand has outstripped supply. Daniel, the passionate silly Swiss chocolatier responsible for this world class exceptional chocolate, told me yesterday that he had prioritised an order for us and that it was being sent this morning, so it’ll be back in stock any time soon. Keep checking our twitter feed @DebbieVLogan and FACEBOOK, I’ll yell the moment it is in. Alongside our order we will be getting copies of a certificate from UCT confirming that this chocolate is what it says it is – only cocoa butter and cocoa powder. We’ve had to do that because it is so good that it has evoked much suspicion. I have checked and double checked and treble checked the certificates. It happens to be coming from a Swiss company that has the best reputation for dealing in organic and fair trade cocoa. I have spent much time on the phone to Daniel and heard the most incredible story about the 6 year process it took him – from finding the right bean which ended up being a wild harvested tiny cocoa bean to get this right. Daniel is a passionate creature with a philosophy about food and values that is generally responsible for the start of a loyal and long friendship for me like I have with my farmers. Now its been tested by an independent laboratory to verify that it does not contain any sugar other than what you’re tasting in the natural cocoa bean.
I have to be in Cape Town next week as I’m speaking at the very exciting Food For Thought 2015 seminar alongside some of SA’s greatest voices for topics of sustainable living so I’m taking the gap to go down a day earlier so that I can drive down to Paarl and go and meet Daniel, get this incredible story down in writing and connect with the man so that I can connect you to him.
He has a very special shop in Paarl and is bouncing off the walls with excitement about other pure chocolate bars and treats he can do for us. The thing is – we can hardly call it a ‘treat’ when actually this is an entirely healthy thing to eat – not a cheat food! Chocolate and cocoa butter are insanely good for you – and that’s all it is – this range changes the way we interact with chocolate altogether.
Anyhow, every time I get on the phone to him it’s a half hour excited, passionate conversation minimum so I’m going to have a time of it tasting his other ideas and getting to the heart of this story and bringing you the essence of this man next week. I simply can’t wait. Driving back, I shall of course stop in at Bread and Wine on the Moreson Wine Estate and connect to my favorite charcuterie chef in SA – the darling Neil Jewels who makes me burst out laughing every time I speak to him.  The man is a character and a half – and another person – driven by heart, soul and values, not commercial interest. We’re getting such appreciation from the charcuterie he is making us with Glen Oakes pastured pork – it’s just been another great joy for us meeting Neil and getting this exceptional range in-store and into your kitchens. I hear over and over again that once you’ve eaten the Jewell & co bacon, you can’t much handle anything else. It’s a game changer and from the most beautiful truly pastured pig farm I know of. I’ll walk miles for that farm and that farmer and the chef who values it this much and does it the most justice, as Neil does.
Sjoe. Overflowing with passion for what I do and this journey, I am! Every time I think I can’t possibly get more committed – I do. The other day my daughter who is doing a thing on careers at school, said ‘Mum, if you could do any job in the world, like your dream, dream job and anything, anything, anything – what would it be? To which I answered ‘exactly what I’m doing now darling, exactly what I’m doing, I am living my dream ‘job’.’  
Blessed indeed. I am, though it’s been a long and tough road. My passion for this revolution gets me through all the tough stuff, it gives me an energy that can overcome most challenges. That has much, much to do with you and your ongoing support and appreciation for the gems we bring to the store and the beautiful farmers we stand for and behind.
One other big thing – we finally what I believe to be the best 100% grass fed beef – dry wors recipe down pat. Heaven knows it has taken us much trial and error to get there. Much. Other guys take beef and fat and add packet spice mixes that all have thickeners and sugars in of some sort and its done. We don’t do that so we have to make it work with only Keith’s grass-fed beef, fat, organic coriander, organic pepper and himalayan salt. I think we finally have it right. We had tasters of the new thinner version yesterday with the spices, I think finally just right – and you loved it! Wow – that took us a while – we had a bad attitude butcher in the mix who didn’t help matters – now we have a passionate customer incidentally who runs a deboning plant – yet drives all the way to us to get Keith’s beef because he says it is the most superior he has ever seen – this from a man who buys and sells beef for a living – anyhow – he’s gotten it just right for us – so grateful. I’ll keep tasters of that out all week for you to try.
Ok, I really must dash now. Oh heavens – there is one more very important thing! The initial feedback on the Caralishious Coconut Milk Ice-Cream was that it was too icy. So Cara went back and changed the recipe – it is now much thicker, less icier and creamier. If you brought from the first launch batch and didn’t like it – please let me know – mail me debbie@organicemporium.co.za so that I can give you a taster of the new recipe – I think you’re going to find it much improved. I had one yesterday of the new batch and it was lovely, much creamier, a more rounded flavor and less icy. We’ve sold out again but expecting our new batch any day now.
Give Sam, Cassandra or Michael a call for any ETA’s on new things – 011 514 0958.
The new batch of Jewell & Co charcuterie is in – he’s sent us the bacon, the Italian squashed salami, the Spanish style salami and more of the ham – the herb cured loin. I’m begging him to send us more coppa and the saucisson sec.
I’m getting used to shamelessly begging that incredible culinary genius for stock for the shop and he just loves your appreciation.
Remember – he isn’t a commercial guy, there is no factory or store to order from – this is a passionate chef working in one of Franschoek’s greatest kitchens making his own charcuterie from scratch – by himself – dedicated to Glen Oakes pastured pork which he refers to as up there in some of the best pork in the world. So I don’t ‘order stock’,
Neil gives us whatever he feels he can best make each week from what Charlie brings in and I never want that to change. He works from his heart – not from pressure or from any need to keep a backed up supply chain – that is what adds to the ‘x-factor’ of this charcuterie too – it’s a very special chain of events, the most beautiful pig farm in the country with pigs being respectfully reared in a beautiful setting in the Hemel en Aarde Valley – farmed by Charlie Crowther, a farmer who cares so much for pigs and understands so much about them, this going to the country’s finest charcuterie chef in Franschoek who will only use Charlie’s pork because he is so inspired by it, committed to Charlie’s philosophy and also the best quality pork in the land. There’s a lot of heart in this process – then you connect one crazy food activist from Jozi who drove deep into the valley to connect with Charlie and visit this farm and then got introduced to Neil – and now we have it on Bryanston shelves – the type of alchemy that occurs when passionate people who believe in heart, value and the collective – make something work.
There is soul in this food. There is magic in this store. There is.
Right, I duly will shut up now, lovely to be back, crazy fulfilled to be chatting to you like this again.
Let’s get this revolution moving forward, stay nourished, stay connected.
Much love, as always, Debbie Logan
Yours in the Jozi Real Food Revolution,
The Organic Natural and Whole Food Emporium
Organic Blog – www.organicblog.co.za
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