Some people tote home T-shirts or snow globes from vacations.
Me? I’m prone to do that on occasion, but more often than not, my souvenirs involve food.
I love nothing better than scouring supermarkets or specialty food stores to bring back a real taste of the place I’m visiting.
When I walked into New York’s Eataly last month, I knew I’d hit paradise for edible memorabilia.
The multi-restaurant food emporium brims with the flavors of Italy. Bringing back some of the wondrous gelato, cheeses and specialty beef would be out of the question, of course. But dried pasta was definitely do-able. I scoured the plentiful pasta aisles there to find one that would withstand being shoved into my carry-on without getting badly crushed or crumbled. I hit upon the Alta Valle Scrivia Trofiette ($4.80). The sturdy Ligurian durum wheat pasta is a slender, tightly twisted 1 1/2-inch sliver that has a hand-rolled look to it. Traditionally, it’s tossed with pesto sauce.
So, I thought it would be perfect for the can of Urbani Cream & Truffles that I spied one aisle over. The small 6.1-ounce can is not cheap at $12.80. It’s a concentrated mix of fresh cream, Grana Padana, cornstarch and summer truffle bits.
When I opened the can at home, it looked like the world’s most expensive cream of mushroom soup. It’s that thick, but loosens up when heated in a pan. I tossed it with half the bag of cooked trofiette for a decadent dinner that took all of 10 minutes to prepare. The creamy, rich sauce coated every noodle. While the flavor wasn’t as assertive as fresh, shaved black truffles, there was still a definite pronounced truffle earthiness to the sauce.
For dessert? I didn’t have to look farther than the container of Italian gianduja spread I also bought at Eataly. Crema Novi, made in Piedmont, Italy, is considered the ultimate hazelnut spread among connoisseurs.
It’s $9.80 for a 7-ounce container. And it’s 45 percent hazelnuts. Just consider: On the back of your well-known Nutella brand, hazelnuts is third on the ingredients list, after sugar and palm oil. On the Crema Novi container, hazelnuts is the very first ingredient listed.
One look and one taste will show you the difference. Nutella is super thick. It won’t drip off a spoon. But Crema Novi, which doesn’t have the emulsifiers that Nutella does, will cascade off a spoon like melted chocolate. Nutella is quite chocolatey tasting. Crema Novi is unbelievably glossy looking, and tastes first and foremost of hazelnuts. It will floor you.
Oh sure, I could have used the Crema Novi in brownie batter or cookie dough. But why? When something is this good all on it’s own, why fuss with it? Just grab a spoon, dunk in and swoon, swoon, swoon.