One of my favourite things about food is how it brings people together. My colleague and friend Vanessa Bianchi, is a fellow food lover and shares my passion for creating and curating beautiful things. Vanessa was kind enough to answer some questions for Just-a-Smidge and partake in a little foodie feature!
What is your favourite dish to make and why?
My favourite dish to make is lasagna. Lasagna is for me, a representation of all things great; passion, patience, simplicity and balance. I like that the process is drawn out and that it cannot be done in a hurry. Finally, I like that it usually means that my family is coming over and that we will all be together. It’s a nice way to celebrate my family’s heritage surrounded by the most important people in my life.
Do you have a go-to kitchen gadget you love?
My Creuset pots are my go-to kitchen staples. I like that they can go from the stove top to the oven and then to the table. I use them to make almost everything and because the food stays in the same pot, they provide such a rich layering of flavours. I’m also currently loving my magic bullet as I’m on a smoothie kick right now. It allows me to prep all my ingredients in the cup and blend in the morning for a quick, to-go breakfast.
What is your earliest food memory?
My family has a deep and rich history with food. From curing our own meats to preserving tomatoes and vegetables, I’ve been surrounded by food my entire life. The two memories that stand out for me would be my Dad making me something he liked to call, “uovo crema”. This is beaten egg yolk with sugar, a zabaglione of sorts that translates as egg cream. I used to eat this for breakfast, it was so fluffy and rich. My Dad would use a hand blender to get it as pillowy as possible, something my Grandfather would probably not have approved of, he is a purist and likely would have scoffed at doing anything with a machine that could have been done by hand with a fork. I also remember sitting on the counter watching my Mother cook dinner every night. I remember trying to memorize the size she cut vegetables as they were carefully being added to sauces or how much salt she would pinch into her fingertips (or throw into water). I remember being in awe of how natural she made cooking seem; as well as how loosely she would (and continues) to follow recipes. These early memories really did shape who I am both in and out of the kitchen today and I feel so fortunate to have been exposed to food and cooking for as long as I can remember.
Local or international, what is the best dish you have ever eaten?
This was a really hard question to answer. Some standouts have included: Ravello which overlooked the Amalfi coast, Mission Chinese in San Francisco, Bouchon in Napa Valley, Lupa in New York and I cannot remember the name of the restaurant but it was in Chianti Tuscany where we had a family style meal with my entire family. But my favourite is Chantecler in Toronto. This tiny restaurant had excellent food, pretty plates and a great atmosphere. Shout out to Bar Isabel for my favourite tiles and cocktails in the city.
Who are your favourite celebrity chefs?
Oh boy, get ready for a pretty long list! Mario Batali has been my long time favourite since he had his show, Molto Mario in the 90s. I was enchanted with the simplicity of his dishes and that he did not calculate or measure anything. I think I feel most “at home” or comfortable with a Batali recipe because he cooks in a way that I am familiar with. Martha Stewart has been another celebrity chef that stands out for me. I like that Martha focused on all things related to food as an experience. From setting the table, plating, flowers and lighting – Martha made entertaining look just as fun for the host as it is for the guests. I bought into this idea and now really focus on the details when planning a gathering. Jamie Oliver, I mean how can one not like Jamie Oliver, am I right? I loved watching Jamie travel through Italy making food with locals and getting to understand the variety and different methods of preparation dependent on region. Recently, I have been really inspired by his Food Revolution, a movement aimed at teaching children the importance of eating and preparing real food.
Shout outs go to:
Nigella Lawson for making everything look so sexy in the kitchen
Rob Gentile for his innovation and for representing the Toronto restaurant market
Chuck Hughes for reminding me that it’s important to cook food that pushes you out of your comfort zone (for me that was anything that was not Italian)
Describe your ideal culinary adventure? Where would you go and why?
For me it would be anything that was farm-to-table or sea-to-table. I would like to see the process through from beginning to end from local craftsmen and women. I’m a purist when it comes to food and while I admire chefs who work within the realm of molecular gastronomy, I really believe that simple, local ingredients yield the best tasting results.
Thanks again Vanessa for participating in the very first Foodie Feature! Be sure to check out her blog The Evolving Educator!
Have a great week friends!