Ciao Ciao everyone! 2013 is off to a great start at Upper Midwest Gourmet. Bethany and I traveled to Italy last month. Our first stop was Riccione where we met up with everyone from Fabbri in order to attend the SIGEP show. SIGEP is the largest gelato and pastry show in the world! While it’s a bit chilly in this NE coastal region in the winter, it was really warm compared to what was going on in Minneapolis, so the timing couldn’t have been better. We spent three days touring the show and eating (and drinking) our way around the town. SIGEP is always a great time and we were impressed with all the presentations put on by some of the best pastry chefs in Italy. Fabbri presented a number of new items that we’ll be able to start importing sometime this Spring that we’re really excited to show everyone. The pistachio and amarena cherry gelato pops in particular are going to be a great addition to many cafes in the USA. Fabbri hosted a large banquet with top notch entertainment and the Italians really know how to put on a party! Fabbri took that opportunity to present awards to some of their staff and distributors from around the world. To my surprise, Upper Midwest Gourmet was presented with the award for Best Distributor in North America in 2012! It was a complete shock, but we were honored to receive the award. No distributor has ever won the award more than once so now I have a new mission for the future.
There are a bunch more pictures from the show at the end of the blog post.
There’s really nothing like Italy when it comes to eating great local traditional food. So with our little trophy in tow, we packed up our luggage and hopped on the train. We always pick a different region to “gastro-tour” after the show and this year we decided on Tuscany. With our new Cafe, UP, just opening, we were motivated to come back to the Midwest with some Tuscan secrets for the menu. Bethany and I spent a week eating (and drinking again) at some of the best Ristorantes, Trattorias, Osterias, Gelaterias, and Cafes in the city. Some that have been in business for more than a millennium. We immediately start snapping photos and quizzing shop owners and chefs for their secrets. As usual, our favorite things were always the most simple. The fried zepoli with ricotta cassata cream were amazing and you’ll find our rendition of it, Cassata Cream Scones, being served already at UP.
We brought back many great ideas for Panini sandwiches. You’ll see us fuse local Midwest ingredients and Italian tradition together as we put out the Panini menu each month. We even put on aprons and took a traditional Tuscan cooking class at the local culinary school. The cooking class was definitely a highlight of the trip. There wasn’t a day that went by when gelato wasn’t on our radar, and with some tips from the local chefs, we were steered in the right directions. There’s a lot of gelato in Florence, so if you go, make sure to ask around because the best shops are usually not the most obvious. Whether it was Maron Glace Semifredo or Pistachio Gelato, I was never disappointed. Our favorite gelato flavor, (another item you’ll see featured at UP once the weather warms up) was the Fior D Latte with honey coated toasted sesame seeds. Think peanut brittle but with honey and sesame seeds, yum!
The use of Sriracha sauce is making a statement worldwide and even Italian chefs are taking notice. Sriracha was used as an amazing condiment in a number of places we visited. It paired wonderfully with honey on a cheese and olive platter and made the famous sandwiches even more amazing at Nerbone, in the Florence market. We’re already planning some menu ideas based on those dishes. We had an amazing time and now that we’re home, we’re so happy to start sharing our trip with you all, whether it’s through new products for UMG or the menu at UP.
…..in case you were wondering, we did see a lot of great architecture and artwork including but not limited to: Florence’s Cathedral (see Flamenco on top of the Duomo) and the Medici palace, Michelangelo’s original David, the Uffizi Gallery, an amazing Da Vinci exhibition, and more art than I can describe in one post. I wouldn’t be able to do justice trying to describe Renaissance art so I’ll just stick to the food.
If you ever felt you couldn’t leave your business or family behind to take a trip like this, forget about it. Face time and Skype were amazing for keeping in contact with everyone back in the USA. No more renting euro phones or waiting for email replies, no more paying huge WiFi rental prices at cafes. Free WiFi is now abundant in Italy and live video chatting made checking in with the office and family a breeze. Next year you should come with us! SIGEP 2014, Saturday 18 January to Wednesday 22 January 2014, Rimini Italy
David and Bethany
Upper Midwest Gourmet
Here are some more great pictures from the SIGEP show (just click on them to enlarge):
(For more information about the show or David and Bethany’s adventure, please Contact Us. Thank you.)