Sizzling in DC

Outside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C. summer was coming on, full-on, with combined temperatures exceeding 120 degrees. Inside the center things were heating up as well, thanks to visitor response to new RITROVO SELECTIONS™ Introduced at the SUMMER 2011 FANCY FOOD SHOW.

We had been anticipating a warm reception. According to the Abruzzo Chamber of Commerce (a supporter for the RITROVO® booth, in the Abruzzo section of the Italian pavilion), there would be increased visitor traffic during the show, reflecting an increase in food and wine exports to the U.S. In fact, reception to our new offerings was crazy-hot from the start, ignited by contributions to the WHAT’S NEW, WHAT’S HOT showcase from Abruzzese Nicola DeLaurentiis.

DeLaurentiis, our long-time friend and trusted, ‘can-do’ producer, again proved his ability to collaborate, innovate and succeed in the U.S. specialty food market. Together with talented and dedicated California almond farmer Kent Miller, of Miller Farms in Modesto, California, DeLaurentiis showcased the versatility of CASINA ROSSA TRUFFLE & SALT, A RITROVO SELECTION™ with a sizzling new show-stopper, TOASTED ALMONDS WITH TRUFFLE & SALT (our 2011 sofi award™ candidate for OUTSTANDING NEW PRODUCT). This inspired Miller to partner with super contadino Michelle Ferrante, from the village of Controne in Campania, to co-create another ‘instant classic’ for the showcase, SPICY ROASTED ALMONDS WITH CONTRONE HOT PEPPER. DeLaurentiis’ final co-contribution to the showcase, 100% ITALIAN PINE NUTS, wowed the crowds with flavor, authenticity, and congruence with RITROVO SELECTIONS™ credo, think locally, eat globally™.

Back at the RITROVO® booth visitors were warming up to up to a number of new RITROVO SELECTIONS™. Abruzzo-born Francesco Giovanelli, master producer of locally-sourced, fruit-based products, was causing quite a stir with his tantalizing new offering, MOSTO COTTO WITH AMARENA CHERRY. In addition, our new, Veneto-produced snack cracker, TAVALOZZE AL TARTUFO (‘Flavor Palettes’ with Truffle), impressed visitors with its clean, bakery-fresh flavor (reminiscent of Sardinian pane carasau), crispy-light texture and diamond shape, and mouth-watering aromatics.  TAVOLOZZE AL TARTUFO were an immediate hit among visitors! To ‘top’ things off, we topped our new snack cracker with last year’s sofi Gold-Winner for OUTSTANDING CHEESE, MT. TOWNSEND CREAMERY-RITROVO SELECTIONS™ ‘TRUFFLESTACK’ CHEESE, then gave it a drizzling of MOSTO COTTO WITH AMARENA CHERRY. An exquisite combination! The temperature soared as visitors re-visited, time and time again, to have yet another taste… we can hardly wait for these incredible new crackers to arrive in our warehouse, just in time for Labor Day.

Customers were also applauding the sexy-hot redesigning of a long-time Casina Rossa best seller, TRUFFLE TRIO (candidated for sofi OUTSTANDING FOOD GIFT), this along with the debut of two new Mediterranean taste sensations, GREEN OLIVES WITH LEMON  and GREEN OLIVES WITH TRUFFLE (due Fall 2011). Happy hour will never be the same.

As a stunning new addition to our RITROVO SELECTIONS™ inventory, we introduced an exciting new line of premium Slovenian salt products. PIRAN SALTS are easily identifiable by their compelling flavor, packaging, and fascinating promotional material, this line attracted continuous crowds of quality-conscious buyers, members of the press curious about our expanded reach, “beyond Italy”, and enthusiastic, first-time customers ready to make their orders.

And when it came time to relax and chill out at the end of the trade show day, we leaned on longstanding Ritrovo customers, conveniently located not too far from our DC hotel. At CORK Wine Bar, we ate fabulous crostini with avocado, pistachio oil, and chopped pistachios and a luscious chicken liver crostino with a chutney not unlike our own balsamic onion jelly.

It was also a delight to reconnect personally after many years with Chef Fabio Trabocchi and his wife Maria at their new restaurant, FIOLA, just off the Capitol Mall. There we dined on incredible crudo of tuna, and egg spaghettini with seafood in a red sauce seasoned with Michele Ferrante’s CONTRONE HOT PEPPER.  An astonishing array of desserts followed, from passion fruit covered lemon ice cream with strawberries, and grapefruit panna cotta, to the most delightful ricotta frittelle. The experience was heightened by Maria and Fabio’s graciousness as hosts, including presenting us all with signed copies of Fabio’s opus, Cucina of Le Marche.

And we made a new friend – originally from Seattle – Chef Roosevelt at URBANA, of Hotel Palomar. He prepared for us a tantalizing cast-iron mushroom bake, topped with a sous vide egg, and lamb merenguez sausage over a chestnut puree.

Later in the week, at the end of a long and successful Fancy Food Show 2011 we sent our newly found chef friend Roosevelt home cradling in his arms a cornucopia of RITROVO®’s leftover and opened sample jars and bags. With a wide smile on his face, he left the Convention Center promising to send us his own innovative RITROVO®-based recipe in the near future. Proving that even in a DC Summer, nothing could be warmer than our relationships and partnerships with the people of RITROVO®: our suppliers, staff, customers and devoted chefs.

To all of them and to you–Buon Appetito!