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ImageLAGUIOLE KNIVES

The Laguiole knife is a high-quality Occitan knife, originally produced in the town of Laguiole in Southern France.

The Laguiole, with its slim and sinuous outline, was first designed in 1829 by Jean-Pierre Calmels and his concept of the knife became the pattern for this style, with the forged ‘bee’ symbol emerging as a distinctive trademark.

Traditionally the handle was made of cattle horn, however, nowadays other materials are sometimes used, including French woods, exotic woods, fossilised ivory, steel or more recently, plastic.

There is much mythology about the iconic insect depicted on the catch. Some say it represents a fly or a horse-fly, something familiar to peasants in the rural Laguiole area, known for cattle breeding. Another legend identifies the design as that of a bee, an imperial symbol, claiming that the design was granted by Napoleon in recognition for the courage of local soldiers.

The name Laguiole has since been used as a trademark designation for various other implements, including corkscrews, spoons, cheese and butter knives and steak-knife sets.

ImageTRUFFLES

A truffle is the fruit of a subterranean fungus and is highly prized as food. Called the “diamond of the kitchen” by French gourmand Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, truffles are held in high esteem in Middle-Eastern, French, Spanish, Italian and Greek cooking, as well as in international haute cuisine.

The “white truffle” is usually found in various regions of Northern Italy and Tusany, as well as in Croatia and the Drome area in france. The flesh is pale crane or brown with white marbling and are the most valuable on the market. As of December 2009, white truffles were being sold at over 14,000.00 USD per kilogram!

The “black truffle” is usually found in the Perigord region in France and grows with oak and hazelnut trees. Black truffles have their highest perfume in the month of January and can be sold for up to €1000 per kilo.

Truffles were rarely used in Europe until the 17th century when French cuisine abandoned “heavy” oriental spices, and rediscovered the natural flavour of foodstuffs. Truffles were very popular in Parisian markets in the 1780s and were imported seasonally from truffle grounds, where peasants had long enjoyed their secret. A great delicacy was a truffled turkey.

Looking for truffles in open ground is almost always carried out with specially trained pigs or, more recently, dogs which are easier to control and less likely to eat the truffles they find.

Because of their high price and pungent flavour, truffles are used sparingly. Fresh truffles are generally shaved over steaming buttered pasta, salads or fried eggs, or sprinkled over a risotto, stirred into polenta or used to flavour butter. Paper thin truffle slices may be inserted into meats, under the skin of roasted fowl, in foie gras preparations, in pates or stuffings.

Truffle oil is often used as a convenient substitute for truffles to enhance the flavour and aroma of truffles in cooking. Black truffles are also used for producing truffle salt and truffle honey.

The Essential Ingredient stocks various truffle based products: white or black truffle oil, truffle polenta, whole preserved black truffles amongst others.

ImageLE CREUSET COOKWARE

Le Creuset is a French cookware manufacturer best known for its colourful enamelled cast iron French ovens, also known as casseroles or dutch ovens. The manufacturer also makes many other types of cookware, from sauce pans to tagines.

Le Creuset was founded in 1925 in the French town of Fresnoy-le-Grand in Picardy by Armand Desaegher, a casting specialist, and Octave Aubecq, an enamelling specialist. That same year, the first French Oven was produced, laying the foundation for what is now an extensive range of premium cookware known around the world.

Taking advantage of their new ability to pigment the enamel glaze, Desaegher and Aubecq took inspiration from the intense orange hue of molten cast iron inside a cauldron when they created the classic Flame orange pieces.

In 1995 Le Creuset began exploring new product categories: stainless steel, stoneware, silicone, enamel on sleel, textile and forged hard-anodized aluminium.

They have also experimented with beautiful ranges of colors, from a bright Cherry hue to the more muted Dune tone, as well as Cobalt, Black Onyx, Kiwi, Granite, Cactus and Citron.

Currently, all Le Creuset cast iron cookware is still manufactured using standard sand casting methods in the company’s foundry in Fresnoy-Le-Grand, where workers employ a 12 step finishing process implemented by 15 different pairs of hands to ensure that there are no flaws or imperfections in the final product.

ImageBALSAMIC VINEGAR

The original traditional product (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale), made from a reduction of cooked white Trebbiano grape juice and not a vinegar in the usual sense, has been made in Modena and Reggio Emilia since the Middle Ages. Today, the traditional balsamic vinegar is highly valued by chefs and gourmet lovers around the world.

Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Aceto Balsamico di Modena) is a less expensive version of the traditional product and is widely available, commonly used for salad dressings together with oil.

True balsamic vinegar is made from a reduction of pressed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes. The resulting thick syrup, called mosto cotto in Italian, is subsequently aged for a minimum of 12 years in a battery of successively smaller sized barrels. True balsamic vinegar is rich, glossy, deep brown in color and has a complex flavour that balances the natural sweet and sour elements of the cooked grape juice with hints of wood from the casks.

Traditionally, balsamic vinegar was considered a medicine rather than a food product used to cure everything from headaches to serious illnesses. In fact, the word ‘balsamico’ means ‘balsam-like’ in the sense of “restorative” or “curative”.

Today, tradizionale vinegar is most often served in drops on top of chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano and mortadella as an antipasto. It is also used sparingly to enhance steaks, eggs or grilled fish, as well as on fresh fruit and on gelata. Tradizionale vinegar may be drunk from a tiny glass to conclude a meal.

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