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Limoncello

Limoncello

We all know what Limoncello is.  It’s that awesome deli/bistro/cocktail bar on Mill Road.  The place you go for a genuine taste of Italy.

No wait, it’s that funky yellow stuff you get given free shots of in Italian restaurants.  Perhaps just because your bartender likes you;  or maybe because you gave the place a great review on Tripadvisor; or perhaps simply because your waiter is flirting with you.

But seriously, what is Limoncello?  And what else can you do with it?

 

Limoncello

Simply put, Limoncello is a liqueur of Italian origin whose primary ingredient and flavour is lemon zest.  The lemon zest is soaked in neutral spirit – a very high % pure alcohol with no inherent flavour.  This leaches all of the lovely essential oils which give lemon zest its taste and smell out of the zest and into solution.  The zest is then discarded, and this solution is diluted down by mixing with sugary water until we end up with Limoncello.  A typical alcohol level is ~30%, but this varies considerably.  Especially with the homemade stuff.  And it never seems to taste that strong.

This makes it sound deceptively easy to make.  Because it is.  Homemade Limoncello is very common in Italy and increasingly in other countries too.  The only trick to it is getting the correct balance of zesty alcohol to sugar to water to suit your own personal taste.  Well, that and sourcing high quality lemons, of course.  And it also allows for experimentation and individuality in your recipes.  Feel like making a Limoncello using not just lemon zest, but also lime and mandarin too?  Go ahead.  Want to dilute it with milk instead of sugar syrup?  Why not try it?

As with most things Italian, it is the intensity of the experience that marks out top quality stuff from a cheap knockoff.  Which makes homemade Limoncello some of the best around as it can be made as intense as you want it.  So when choosing the commercial brands to stock, we at Limoncello try to select the zingiest and most intense Limoncellos on the market.  The ones than taste most like they were made in rural Italy.  Because most of them were.  Come in some day and check out our selection.

 

What do I do with Limoncello?

Besides the obvious?

What makes Limoncello unique is that it’s lemon, without the drawbacks.  This is best illustrated talking about cocktails.  Cocktail bartenders routinely use sour citrus juices like lemon or lime juice to balance out the sweetness of other cocktail ingredients.  And that’s great as it opens up whole worlds of cocktail options.  But what happens if you want to impart a lemony flavour without adding a sour element to a drink (or dessert, or whatever)?

You use Limoncello.  And this makes it a very special and versatile ingredient, valuable to any level of cocktail bartender or cook.

When talking about homemade desserts, Limoncello is a clear winner.  From the classic Limoncello cheesecake to a lemon drizzle cake and even a Limoncello tiramisu.  Though that last one may offend some purists.

And as for drinks, Limoncello is prominent in the alcoholic cheesecake that is the New York Tart and our very own take on the Amaretto Sour, the Nut Buster.  Plus of course the ever popular Limoncello Spritz.

 

The Best Pasta Sauce!

The Best Pasta Sauce!

Here at Limoncello people are always asking us “what’s the best pasta sauce?”  We believe that there are two approaches to answering this question.

The traditional Italian answer to this question is that their own grandmother’s pasta sauce is THE BEST IN THE WORLD!  And that anyone who dares to disagree should be mocked and taunted with stale grissini.

A slightly less confrontational approach is to admit that there’s no such thing as the definitively best pasta sauce.  Because it’s an entirely subjective question.  It changes based both upon personal taste, and which of the dozens of types and styles of pastayou’re talking about.  But we can tell you…

 

What Makes a Great Pasta Sauce?

This is what we should all aspire to.  Making a great pasta sauce.  And then letting everyone else worry about whether it’s “the Best” while enjoying it.  So what does it take to be great?

Like with all cooking, using the highest quality of ingredients is a must.  It doesn’t matter how good a cook you are, if your tomatoes aren’t ripe, don’t even bother.  However, when cooking at home this does mean that some dishes are going to be seasonal treats rather than year-round staples.  This can be a shame, but we all have burdens to bear in the pursuit of excellence.

 

The consistency and texture of the sauce is also of vital importance.  And depends heavily on the style of pasta you want to serve it with.  While some pastas may appreciate a thick, lumpy, rustic style of pasta sauce, others may prefer a smoother and more refined approach.

But remember that classics are usually classic for a reason.  And sometimes simplicity is best.  An amazing marinara can be made with just slivered garlic, crushed tomatoes and olive oil.  Overcomplication for the sake of it may sound good in your head.  But it often falls short of the refined elegance of the classics.

 

Limoncello Pasta Sauce

So how do we do it?  How do we provide excellent pasta sauces benefitting from a proper concentration of flavour?  By going back to the source.

As much as we’d love to make our own brand sauce in house, we simply have to admit that we are not your grandmother.  The quality of ingredients needed to produce the intensity of flavour we demand is typically not available locally.  Who knew that Mediterranean foods would grow far better and tastier in Mediterranean climates?

Instead our pasta sauces are made with love by real Italians in Italy.  With access to the kind of fresh, ripe and succulent ingredients that don’t travel well.  While we can’t guarantee that they’re better that your grandmothers’, we believe they are the next best thing.

Our selection of Limoncello brand pasta sauces include: tomato & basil; porcini mushroom; golden vegetable; and Arrabbiata.  And if you’re curious about which style of pasta to serve with which sauce…come over and ask us the next time you’re down Mill Road

 

Credit: Thomas Farley

Diamonds of the kitchen

Diamonds of the kitchen

 

Diamonds.  They’re rare and sparkly and very expensive.  A status symbol like no other.  We’ve all heard the cliches about diamonds.

 

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.  Diamonds are forever.  Diamonds in the rough.

 

But as elegant and stylish as diamonds are, we tend not to associate them with food.  Trying to eat a diamond al dente is guaranteed to be bad for your teeth.  But when top chefs, foodies and pretentious bankers the world over refer to something as “the diamonds of the kitchen”, you know they mean business.  And here at Limoncello, we specialise in bringing these diamonds to your palates in a myriad of different ways.  Or, as we prefer to call them…

 

Truffles

The comparison with diamonds is apt.  Truffles are rare, expensive and used to elevate a plain dish into something outrageously delightful.  They are so full of flavour and bursting with aroma that only a bare few shaved slivers of truffle is all it takes.  And, like diamonds, they have achieved an iconic status far beyond their intrinsic value.

 

But what actually are truffles?  And where do they come from?

Simplest way to think about truffles is to consider them a cousin of mushrooms.  They’re also fungi.  And like mushrooms they are the fruiting body of fungi living under the surface.  But while mushrooms poke out onto the surface of the ground, or log or whatever they’re growing on, truffles remain underground.  Associated with the roots of certain trees.

This makes them far more difficult to locate and harvest.  Usually requiring specially trained sniffers like dogs or truffle pigs to ferret them out of their subterranean lairs.  It also means that commercially farming truffles is extremely difficult.  Requiring instead the old hunter-gatherer approach we mostly abandoned millennia ago.

Truffles can be found all across Europe, and have influenced regional cuisines for centuries.  Eight truffle varieties are native to Italy, including the famous white truffle.

 

Fresh is Best

But for truffles, just like all other great superheroes, their greatest strength is also their greatest weakness.  What makes them so special and exceptional in Italian cuisine is the depth and intensity of their flavour and aroma.  Without that, they are mere mortal mushrooms.  And unfortunately, truffles can lose their superpowers of tastiness very easily.

Too much exposure to heat, light and air cause truffles to rapidly lose their flavour.  Which is a serious problem since the places we humans live in tend to have plenty of heat, light and air.  And even with the best of conditions, a fresh truffle may only last a couple of weeks before its magic has faded.

What to do about this?  Well, at Limoncello we believe there are two solutions.

The first is to treat fresh truffles like a seasonal luxury.  Not a standardised commodity.  As different varieties of Italian truffles come into season we use them as seasonal treats in our bistro menu.  So you’ll want to drop into Limoncello regularly to see what we’ve come up with this month. 

The other is to capture the essence of this intense truffle flavour into another product with a significantly longer shelf life.  So you can enjoy it whenever you choose.  At Limoncello we’ve gone a little truffle mad, stocking dozens of truffle products including: truffle oil; truffle honey; truffle crisps; truffle paté and many more. 

So next time you get that craving, come on down to Limoncello and get your truffle on!

 

Credit: Thomas Farley