Thursday, May 20, 2010

Meeting Rocco DiSpirito, and the End to a Culinary Day Into the Heart of L.A.

We are back in the limousine on the last leg of our all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles courtesy of Bertolli Frozen Foods.    (all details and part one and two can be found in prior posts)

( all photos can be enlarged by double clicking on them - use your browser's back arrow to return to post)

Our next stop was The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. Their web sites states: "The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills has been providing the widest variety and the highest quality imported cheeses to the nation since 1967. The Cheese Store is the purveyor of choice for the professional chefs and caterers of such worthy Los Angeles restaurants as Water Grill, Patina, A.O.C., Saddle Peak Lodge, Bon Appetit at the Getty Museum, and Spago, as well as legions of home cooks because of the hundreds of hard to find cheeses from all regions of France and Italy, not to mention at least a dozen other countries."

Not only was the shop a cheese lover's paradise, it also sold an array of fine wines, oils, vinegars, seasonal white and black truffles, Italian prosciutto, Swiss braesola, French ham, 6 varieties of French butter, the best pure foie gras, and the freshest Russian was a true gourmet haven!

The owner, Norbert, replicated a scene from one of the Bertolli's "Into the Heart of Italy" commercials in which Marisa Tomei, Rocco DiSpirito and Dan Cortese visited Lucca, a beautiful town in Tuscany, Italy, and while there visited a cheese shop where their challenge was to taste three samples of cheese and choose which one was made from cow's milk, sheep's milk and goat's milk.  If you'd like to watch the entertaining commercial's video you can see it on the Bertolli web site. It was one of the videos I watched on Claudia's web site Journey of an Italian Cook and then answered questions about clues given in it, in order to be entered to the contest to win this trip!  Bertolli has utilized traditional Italian artisanal culinary techniques to make their new line of frozen meals, and I was impressed to hear that their ingredients are all natural and high quality.  Their frozen pasta meals are really delicious, and a real time saver to just heat and serve on a busy night.

Here are the three cheese samples we were given to taste: cow, sheep and goat. Although Norbert gave us some hints, I think as "foodies" we were all able to taste the difference in all three without much difficulty!  Norbert also treated us to some bread and extra virgin olive oil to dip it in, and pieces of gorgonzola cheese (my favorite) and slices of salty Italian prosciutto. If you want to see some of the delicious cheeses that The Cheese Shop of Beverly Hills sells, and learn about their flavors, country and animal origin, visit this link.

Now it was almost 5 PM, and we were driven to our final stop on our "Into the heart of L.A. Culinary Tour" to meet celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito! It was a top secret location, and we were told by the Bertolli and Unilever representatives to not twitter about it as paparazzi might show up!
It was The Four Seasons Hotel of Beverly Hills and we were taken into a private room of the dining area called Culina. The Four Seasons web site states that  "Culina – from the Latin word for “kitchen” – showcases the intersection of traditional and modern Italian cuisine with a menu guided by exceptional ingredients. Guests can linger over small plates and fine Italian wines at communal tables carved from a salvaged 200-year-old magnolia tree, enjoy Mediterranean raw seafood delicacies at the crudo bar or settle in for a night of superior dining under spectacular glass chandeliers."

Rocco DiSpirito came in, joined us at our table and was utterly charming, asking us about ourselves and telling us stories about making the Bertolli commercials in Italy.  He and Claudia chatted about their mutual birthplace of the borough of Queens in New York City and I asked him if he read food blogs, which he said he did not. Now I wonder if he is visiting our blogs to see what we wrote about him? He does love to communicate through Twitter, so if you'd like to follow Rocco, you can catch up with him there! 

We were treated by Bertolli to a fabulous wine tasting and small bite pairing.  Of course as good bloggers our cameras were snapping away throughout the meal!

Plate One ( upper left corner in the photo collage) was "Involitini Di Manzo"  
prepared with  Kobe A-5,  Delta Asparagus, Enoki Mushrooms, Parmigiano Reggiano
This was paired with the wine Nebbiolo d'Alba. giacosa fratelli. 2007 Peidmont

Plate Two (upper right corner) was "Caponata Di Carciofi"
prepared with Baby Artichokes, Castelvetrano Green Olives, San Marzano Tomato
This was paired with the wine Pinot Bianco. habele. alois lageder. Alto Adige 2007

Plate Three (bottom of photograph collage) was "Suppli Al Telefono"
A Saffron Risotto Croquette with Mozzarella Di Bufala, Tomato Sugo
This was served with Mamertino. cru timpanara. Vasari. Sicily 2006

All were prepared with exquisite perfection by chef Victor Casanova.

Rocco was so impressed with plate one's imported Japanese Kobe beef ingredient and he asked the chef to bring out the entire portion to show us what this ultra expensive cut of beef looks like. It is considered to be a delicacy, renowned for its flavor, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture.  It melted in my mouth with a slightly salty, buttery flavor -- absolutely intoxicating, and a taste I will not soon forget. The Caponata and Suppli Al Telefono were equally superb. Of the three wines the Mamertino from Sicily was my personal favorite, as it was robust and full of cherries and pomegranate flavors, with a full velvety palate.

After dinner Rocco signed the copy of his new cookbook "Now Eat This:150 of America's Favorite Comfort Foods, All Under 350 Calories," that Bertolli gave us a gift.  I had also bought three copies with me, and Rocco inscribed one that I am giving away on my blog!  There is still time to enter my give away by leaving your name on this post, as I will be tallying up the numbers there and  also the ones left on my main blog, and having the Random Number Generator choose the winner on Friday evening, and I will announce the winner on my main Mille Fiori Favoriti blog in my Pink Saturday blog post.  If you wish to become a follower of my blog, and have a second chance at winning by telling me so, please do so at my main Mille Fiori Favoriti page and not on this back page review blog. Sorry this is so confusing, but Blogher ads will not allow me to blog about this trip on my main blog, as it is against their editorial guidelines, and I had to make this "back page blog" and link to it in order to be able to blog about this trip.  From now on I will be using this back page  review blog only for any promotional product reviews that I may do, or to write any contests I might be lucky enough to win in the future.

I have some wonderful photos of the shops on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, so be sure to come back to my main blog on Saturday to see them!

Rocco and I had a good laugh over the name of my blog. What was I thinking when I picked such a tongue twister blog name?  Sadly by this time of the day my hair was unfortunately a mess, as I did not have time to have to it cut it before the trip, as I found out I won on Friday and flew to L.A. on Monday morning. This trip was one of the most spontaneous events of my life, that's for sure!

I even got a nice hug from Rocco!

Back to our hotel, The Thompson, in Beverly Hills, and some views of its elegant roof top pool and bar.

The views of L.A. from the roof top were breathtaking!

This was the way Claudia and I ended our perfect day -- we relaxed and treated each other to a round of drinks at the roof top bar. It was so nice to meet Claudia on this trip, as we have been reading and enjoying each other's blogs for quite awhile. It is wonderful to make a friend through blogging and to feel a mutual camaraderie in personality and interests.  This was an experience I will never forget.  I am so happy I won, Claudia, it was a dream come true!

I also thank Unilever, Bertolli Frozen Foods and the Zocalo Group for making it all happen and Rocco DiSpirito and all the proprietors we meet at all our culinary stops for being so gracious, and our limousine driver for navigating that big SUV so skillfully.  It was also so much fun meeting all the other bloggers and their winners that were on the trip.  I give links to all their blogs on this post and it is well worth you while to visit them!

The next day I flew home to New York, saying goodbye to L.A. for now, but with a desire to return one day and see more of this beautiful large and diverse city, and to revisit the culinary delights I thoroughly enjoyed!

FTC disclosure: I received the trip courtesy of Bertolli Frozen Meals (all-expenses paid covering transportation, hotel and meals) and my opinions are independent of the paid or sponsored relationship

It's the letter "R" for "Alphabe Thursday" on Jenny Matlock's blog today, so in honor of Rocco I am linking up to join in all the fun!  Thanks Jenny!

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24 comments: said...

"I think as 'foodies' we were all able to taste the difference in all three without much difficulty!"


Pat, I am impressed- you definitely have a truly refined palate! :) I could not tell at all! All I knew is that they were all delicious! Just like Rocco said in the video... I just want to keep eating them! Why do I need to know where they're from! LOL! :)

Gorgeous pictures- love all the views from the hotel rooftop bar. Perfect ending to the perfect day. :)

Allie and Pattie said...

Oh Pat, the Kobe involtini look exactly like my Nonna's, only she used prosciutto or paper thin slices of pork or beef depending on the dish. What a fabulous, amazing day!
xoxo Pattie

The Quintessential Magpie said...

OH, this was just the most wonderful trip, Pat! And again, I think you were the perfect person to win it. I'm SO happy for you! And kobe beef... wow! What a treat to get to taste it. As I recall, the cow is fed beer and massaged to give it the flavor that it has.

And that cheese store! I would be in heaven.

I would love to enter your drawing, Pat. SO I will try to figure out how to do that. I am a follower, so I will go to the front page and leave a message and to the back to sign up. I think I did, but I will do it again to make sure. LOL!


Sheila :-)

Claudia said...

The photo of Rocco in the first blog is a winner - just put me back there. The parting short of L.A. gave me pause - it was a grand time. The opportunity to share this experience with you tripled the pleasure. What a sweet, parting entry.

La Petite Gallery said...

All I can say is wish I would have been there too. Beautiful foods. You had me at the cheeses, OMG!
WSo Glad you were able to do this trip some experince. When I get to NYC I am going to a good Deli.


Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

I'm so glad you won this trip...because now we all feel like we had a part in your win! You do the best job of 'taking us along'.

It sounds & looks like an amazing time!

LDH said...

Just having so much fun right along with you on this awesome trip!

black eyed susans kitchen said...

Pat, This had to be like a dream come true....if you could have come up with this in a dream! Just goes to prove that magical things can happen and this was definitely magical...and it happened for the most perfect person. Better than being Queen for the day!
♥, Susan

Grace said...

Oh my goodness how wonderful! I met Rocco and his mom when they had the restarsunt in NYC that was fun but your adventures look so amazing what a dream come true! I am sooooooooooooo jealous. Thank you so much for being the best blogger and taking us every step of the way. Hugs Grace
PS I would still been stuck in the cheese store! lol

Tracy @ ComfortandLuxury said...

What an amazing time you must have had! This has been a really fun series of posts, Pat.

Riet said...

Hi Pat. Did you pinch your arm now and then to see if you were not dreaming. It must have been a wonderful live dream. Wonderful photo's and wonderful food and drinks. You will remember this for years I am sure.
Have a nice weekend

Dishesdone said...

Pat, what a great trip you had and I really enjoyed your descriptions of it, so much fun, a once in a lifetime! I'd have gained a ton with all that cheese and food! What a great trip for a foodie. Perfect!

Lisa@GrandmasBriefs said...

I'm so culinarily (is that a word??) challenged that I would have made a fool of myself if I were to win such a marvelous trip. But what a wonderful time it looks like you had! And how many folks can say they got a hug from Rocco! You're one lucky woman!

Old Kitty said...


I don't know where to begin! I'm really enjoying the Bertolli video with Marisei Tomei (gorgeous woman!) Rocco the chef and this guy called Dan. It's quite fun - Marisei's mum turns up!

Awww but your trip is just too fabulous. That cheese shop is to die for (I love cheese - I love it!!! And the cheese shop site is amazing - I've bookmarked it because there is just so much to learn and all these cheeses that I've never heard of!

And you look absolutely wonderful - no worries about your hair! And it's taken me all this time to be able to write Mille Fiori Favoriti correctly! LOL!

Awww it's great that you and Claudia have met and had a great time too.

Take care and thank you for sharing your wonderful trip that you so deservedly won!

Linda Lou said...

Incredible place, incredible food, incredibly handsome chef, great wine, not more to say but I am so glad you got to experience this once in a lifetime trip Pat...your photos are unbelievable-what type of camera do you have??Thanks for sharing the memories with us.

mbkatc230 said...

What an amazing trip, I'm sure you wish it could have lasted even longer. Your photos are gorgeous as always. Rocco looks like a really nice person, and the food looks incredible. I'm so happy for you that you won this trip, I can't think of a more perfect person to receive it! I would love to enter your give a way. This looks like a great cookbook. Kathy

GardenofDaisies said...

You really did have a wonderful trip!!! I was drooling over that cheese shop.

Gracie said...

This has been really and adventure...and a real treat to yourself!

Oliag said...

I LOVE all the photos of you and Rocco:) What delicious fun...and the hotel you stayed die for!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

Great photos! WOW! What a trip! ♥

Cindy said...

those risotto balls look amazing. and i would love to try kobe beef one day! looks like it was a fun trip.


Jingle said...

Happy June!

Jingle said...

award winning images,
love the environment!

Susan said...

OH I hope I get picked, so very cool!Pat you lucky fool, what a trip of a lifetime :)

U know I am a follower but I'll add that to your main blog.