World's Best Food:
(Monks Pick: we recommend some of the favorite food products served in our monastery.)
On this Page...(in our opinion)...The World's Best:
1.Salt 2.Honey 3.Olive Oil 4.Cheese 5.Onions 6.Pasta 7.Pasta Sauce 8.Vanilla 9.Maple Syrup 10.Olives 11.Dates 12.Hot Peppers 13.Snack Almonds 14.Orange Marmalade
1. The World's Best Salt:
Fleur de Sel
Fleur de Sel is considered the best salt in the world by us, and also by the Chefs of France.
Best Fleur de Sel: Le Tresor Fleur de Sel de Guérande
Premium Gourmet Sea Salt from Brittany, France.
Fleur de sel ("Flower of salt" in French) is a hand-harvested sea salt collected by workers who scrape only the top layer of salt before it sinks to the bottom of large salt pans. Traditional French Fleur de Sel is collected off the coast of Brittany, and is slightly grey due to the sandy minerals that are collected in the process of harvesting the salt from the pans.
Le Tresor organic sea salt is
an exceptional Fleur de sel. It is "certified" organic.
This requires the Plaudiers (salt rakers) to use only Celtic
traditional wooden tools to
gather the salts. Recommended for use as a finishing salt on roasted
vegetables and grilled meat; we use it on
everything---especially good on pastas, soups, potato dishes, and
We get ours from: Saltworks, an Importer in Redmond, Washington. (Guérande, Brittany, France)
2. The World's Best Honey:
An amber colored honey, neither very dark nor very light, it is the favorite of most Beekeepers, and as such is known as "The Champagne of Honey".
Fireweed honey is light in color and comes from a perennial herb that affords wonderful bee pasture in the Northern and Pacific states and Canada.
"I first heard about fireweed honey when an old-time beekeeper told me that, of all the honeys he had in his nearly fifty years of apiary activity, fireweed was his favorite. 'It's the champagne of honeys' he said. A fascinating plant, fireweed is one of the first signs of life to appear after a forest has burned off.
The flavor of this honey...lives up to its romantic origins: it has a light, delicate nose, a satiny smooth texture, and surprisingly fruity flavor."
Warning: we have had honey marketed as "Fireweed" that was only partially so, and tasted like it. The real thing is incomparable. Obtainable from many different producers.
3. The World's Best Olive Oil:
Frantoia Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Made in the antique Sicilian oil pressing tradition. Used by Chef Mario Batali on "Molto Mario".
The Barbera family has produced Olive Oil in Sicily for over 100 years. All of the olives for this oil are grown on Sicily. The Frantoia oil is a blend of Biancolilla, Ogliarola, and Nocellara varieties. Rich and full flavored Frantoia is loaded with olive notes and hints of herb. First-time users often comment it is deliciously more "fruity" than what they had been using previously.
Top-shelf extra virgin cold-pressed, first pressing olive oil. A must for any food enthusiast! Characterized by a greenish-gold color, fresh fruit aroma, and a delicate ripe olive flavor that leaves you with an aftertaste of sweet almonds. Rich and buttery, this unfiltered oil produced by the Barbera estate in Palermo, Sicily, is the closest you can come to fresh pressed olive juice in a bottle!
We get ours locally (PastaWorks, Zupan's). Or obtain from: Salumeria Italiana or several other websites. (Palermo, Sicily, Italy)
4. The World's Best Cheese:
America's favorite cheese is Cheddar, followed closely by Mozzarella. Italy's favorite cheese is Parmigiano-Reggiano ("the undisputed King of cheeses"), and the best of this comes from the Parma Region, and a few nearby bordering regions. It is a hard texture cheese, cooked but not pressed. Cows have to be fed only on grass or hay. Concentrated feeds have to be prepared with a list of specific ingredients. Only natural whey culture is permitted as starter, together with calf rennet. The only additive permitted is salt. Ageing lasts on average two years.
It is at this stage that the real difference between Parmigiano-Reggiano and other cheeses appears. The imitations so often lumped together under the generic term "parmesan" are industrial, mass products turned out in vast mechanized plants using technical processes which cut production costs at the expense, as every gourmet knows, of the "heart" and flavor which only the artisan's respectful handling and nature's patient maturing can guarantee.
American "Parmesan" cheese doesn't taste even vaguely like it. Comparing the two is like comparing a bowl of Haagen-Das Vanilla Ice Cream to a glass of skim milk.
The producers of
Parmigiano-Reggiano are reconciled to the fact that this means that
economic considerations must in part be sacrificed to the excellence of
the product. The milk is of course subjected to modern hygienic control,
but the role of science goes no further. Tested but unspoiled, the milk is
used with its natural flora intact. No foreign bodies (i.e. anti-fermentatives,
etc.) are added. Parmigiano-Reggiano is a "whole food", of a
flavour that is unmistakably "old world".
We get ours locally (Whole Foods). Or obtain from: World's Foods or several other websites. (Parma, Italy and nearby regions)
5. The World's Best Onions:
The best and sweetest onion in the world, you can eat one like an apple with no onion "bite" whatsoever. Those who don't like onions, and those who used to like them but have found their stomachs have with age grown too sensitive and so can no longer eat "standard" onions (like one of us), find they can eat Vidalia onions without limit.
The other world favorite sweet onions: Maui, Chile, our own Washington Walla Walla, Oregon Hermiston onions (when the Vidalias are out of season and unobtainable, we rate the Hermiston onions as the 2nd best in the world) and several favorites from Texas---all have a slight onion "bite" and are less sweet than the Vidalias. Attempts have been made to grow Vidalia Onions in other parts of the country, but they have never come out the same.
Available In Season Only: Approximately June-July.
6. The World's Best Pasta:
"Barilla Plus" Multigrain Pasta (All Shapes)
The Barilla Group is headquartered in Italy, where Barilla Pasta is the number one selling Pasta in the country. It was our number one favorite, too, until we tried their Barilla Plus Multigrain Pastas. Not heavy like whole-wheat pasta, its as light as the regular Barilla pastas.
Ingredients: Semolina, Grain & Legume Flour Blend (Lentil, Chickpeas, Oats, Spelt, Barley, Egg Whites, Ground Flaxseed and Wheat Fiber), Durum Flour, Niacin, Iron (Ferrous Sulfate), Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid.
We get ours locally (Wal-Mart, Safeway). Or obtain from: Barilla U.S. (Bannockburn, Illinois) (Barilla Group, Italy)
7. The World's Best Pasta Sauce:
Francis Coppola Mammarella Porcini Marsala
I know, you're thinking, as we once did---Pasta sauce is something you make from "scratch". You would never even consider using sauce from a jar! And you're right, of course, in all cases except this one. Neither we nor you can equal what Francis Ford Coppola has done with this particular one of his sauces: Porcini Marsala. Not even close!
Ingredients: Imported organic Italian tomatoes, organic extra virgin olive oil, organic onions, water, Marsala wine, dried porcini mushrooms, sea salt, organic garlic, organic parsley, and organic black pepper.
Porcini mushrooms grow wild on the mountain behind the Coppolas' house and are used frequently in their own personal recipes. This sauce is made with 100% vine-ripened Italian organic tomatoes and a generous helping of Porcini mushrooms.
We get ours locally (World Market, Safeway). Or obtain from: Francis Coppola Mammarella Foods (Napa, California)
8. The World's Best Vanilla:
Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla (Nielsen-Massey)
Made from beans grown on the island of Madagascar, Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla is the king of vanillas. Its creamy, sweet flavor blends beautifully with a variety of foods. Used by Martha Stewart.
We get ours locally (Fred Meyer). Or obtain from: Nielsen-Massey.Vanillas, Inc. (Waukegan, Illinois)
9. The World's Best Maple Syrup:
100% Pure Maple Syrup Grade B
We like it much better than Grade A. Usually recommended for cooking, it is actually much better (much more flavorful) than the Grade A on Pancakes, Waffles, French Toast, Ice Cream, and for all other uses, also. Grade B is made from the last days of the sugaring season. It has the darkest color and strongest maple flavor. Available from New England and Canada.
10. The World's Best Olives:
Musco Black Pearls Pitted Ripe (Large)
We prefer the Large, which in our opinion reign supreme over the Small, Medium, Jumbo, and Colossal sizes. Years ago we learned that a side by side taste test will shock you. We had tried all of the canned olives and it was obvious that it came down to two, which, when tasted separately seemed to be indistinguishable. In the side by side taste test we found that the nearest competing company's olives tasted like they were served in a partial spoonful of salt, compared to the wonderful Large Black Pearls. In reality, there was no comparison whatsoever.
The Musco Family Olive Co. is the leading maker of canned and brined olives in the U.S. The company primarily sells its products under the Pearls brand; it also sells olives under the Early California brand and numerous private labels. Musco's products, which include black, green, and Mediterranean olives in sliced, chopped, pitted, and whole varieties, are sold through retail outlets; it also distributes olives to restaurants and other food service providers. The family-owned and operated company was founded by Nicolo Musco, who immigrated to the US from Italy in the 1920s to start a food distribution company.
From the Label: "My Grandfather, Nicolo, the founder of Musco Family Olive Co., brought his olive expertise from Italy to California with the ambition of making a good thing even better. We continue this tradition by offering only those olives with the finest texture and taste. Whether in your favorite recipes or on the tips of your fingers, you will not find a richer olive than our Pearls."
From the Website: "You will not find a richer olive than our Black Pearls. Add Black Pearls to your favorite family recipes -- from tacos and enchiladas to salads, pasta dishes and breads. Enjoy the firm texture and rich taste of Black Pearls during those Special occasions, when you're searching for the perfect snack, as a compliment to every Holiday meal..."
We get ours locally (Carried by many stores). Learn more about all types of olives by visiting the Musco family website: Musco Family Olive Co. (olives.com) (Via Nicolo, Tracy, California)
11. The World's Best Dates:
Holland America Cruise Ships offer all diners leaving their most prestigious dining areas a Medjool Date as a sort of "final dessert". The Medjool Date is far richer, moister, and tastier than any "regular" or "typical" Date you may have tried in the past.
From the Website: "Originally from Morocco, the Medjool Date was reserved for royal hosts and other dignitaries. Centuries later, in the 1920's, disease threatened the existence of the Medjool Date in Morocco. In a radical move to save the Medjool, the Chariff of Morocco gave the United States 11 immature palms to replant.
One place in particular that serves the palm very well is the Bard Valley. The palms flourish in the dry heat and low rainfall with an enriched farmland from the passing Colorado and Gila rivers. The proximity to these rivers allows abundant irrigation for the trees root structure. Bard Valley now produces 70% of the Medjool dates in the United States market.
"Nature's Candy" has been used to describe this delectable fruit, but it does not adequately describe the care and patience that is necessary to grow the Worlds Finest Fruit.
Pollinated and picked by hand, from start to finish, the Medjool is cared for like no other fruit. Sun dried and hand packed to unyielding quality standards, only the Medjool demands such attention."
We get ours locally at Trader Joe's (carried by many stores). Order from or learn more about all types of Dates by visiting the Western Date Ranches (and others') website: medjooldates.com (Bard, California) __________________________________________________________
12. The World's Best Hot Peppers:
Mama Lil's "Kick Butt" Peppers
If you love Italian Calabrian peppers, you will also love these! Extremely flavorful and "buttery". This is the "Hot". They also make a "Mild"; the same great peppers and fantastic taste but with the seeds removed.
Pickled Hungarian Goathorn Peppers in Oil. Pickled and packed by hand in Washington State. Perfect on pizza, pasta, sandwiches, rice, couscous, soups, salads---in fact, just about everything! In our monastery pizza and pasta are now truly unthinkable without these peppers. In fact, you will want to put them on almost everything! Changes even a ho-hum blah meal to one of incredible gourmet! Use the savory hot oil to cook with (yes, wonderful!), or marinate with.
Ingredients: Hungarian Hot Goathorn Peppers, Expeller Canola Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Garlic, Spices, Hot Chiles, Vinegar, Lemon, Salt.
We get ours locally at PastaWorks; or you can order from the "Mama Lil's" website: mamalil's.com (Mama Lil's, Seattle, Washington) __________________________________________________________
13. The World's Best Snack Almonds:
Blue Diamond BOLD Jalapeño Smokehouse Almonds
Blue Diamond Growers is the largest tree nut processing and marketing company in the world. Intense taste. Ecstasy. Its almost torture to have to stop eating them. We only allow ourselves 5 almonds each per night, and this is so hard to do that it perhaps qualifies as a new "spiritual discipline"! What amazes us is that we usually can't stand "smoke-flavor" in anything.
Available in supermarkets/grocery stores pretty much everywhere, or order from several websites, including bluediamond.com (Blue Diamond Growers, Sacramento California)
14. The World's Best Orange Marmalade:
Bonne Maman Orange Marmalade
We have tried about 15 types of Orange Marmalade. This one is much more flavorful than the next best one and all of the others.
Bonne Maman is the #1 imported line of preserves and jellies in the U.S. Its name means "Grandmother" in French and that means they are as close as you can get to homemade.
We get ours at Safeway; or you can order some from several websites, including worldfiner.com (Bonne Maman, Biars, France)
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