Salami catering platter with different meat and cheese products

SALUMI – Italian Cured Meats: A Guide

antipasta-trayThe preparation and serving of salumi (cured meats) is a staple in Italian cuisine. Born out of necessity, the tradition of salting, smoking and air drying has been alive in Italy for over two thousand years. It began as a practical way to preserve meat to be consumed at a later date. Today, the tradition of curing meat continues… because it’s delicious.

First, let’s do an overview of the two categories of Italian salumi. Prosciutto, Pancetta, Coppa and others are taken from whole cuts of meat such as a boneless thigh or shoulder, while salami and sausages are formed from meat that has been ground or minced and then stuffed into casings. Then to take it a step further, within these two distinct categories, there are variations in size, shape, flavor, texture, color, and production methods.

Let’s explore some of our favorites that you can enjoy here at Alpine. Capitola, Salami, Ham, Prosciutto, Pepperoni and Sausage are among the most popular types of cured meat or salumi, but represent only a fraction of preparations.

Salumi , Salami, Salame: Sorting out the Names

Salami is not what you or we, as Americans, think. The word “salami” is an Italian word, the plural form of salame, and not the “one” type of meat commonly referred to in America.

Now let’s run though some common preparations and highlight the differences.

Salami – Many variations make up Salami. It is commonly flavored with garlic, peppercorns, paprika, fennel and wine. Types include Finocchiona, Pepperoni, Fegatelli, Felino, Genoese, and Milanese. Each is unique and very flavorful.

Prosciutto – is the Italian word for “ham,” although once again, most people outside of Italy associate this word with a specific type of cure for ham. Proscuitto is made by salting the ham and then air drying for up to two years. After curing, it’s sliced into paper thin, slightly transparent pieces. Typically it is eaten uncooked, wrapped around fruit and vegetables, or in salads. In some cases, prosciutto may be lightly cooked, as is the case when it is tossed with pasta.

Capicola – is a type of cured Italian meat that is frequently used like a lunchmeat on sandwiches or in dishes such as pasta and antipasto. It is distinct from cured ham because, while curing, it is coated in either black pepper or hot red pepper powder making it either hot or sweet.

Panncetta – This salt-cured pork belly is seasoned with nutmeg, pepper, fennel, dried ground hot peppers, and garlic. It is served thinly sliced or chopped after a three month drying process.

Rotola – Mozzarella, prosciutto, fresh basil, sun-dried tomato and hot salami are spun into a small wheel to create this uniquely Italian delicacy.

Come in to Alpine Bakery & Trattoria where the Italian Salumi offerings are alive and well. Try one of our incredible sandwiches, antipasti or on your pizza. We used a wide variety of salumi in all sorts of delicious and traditional ways.

Alpine Bakery Opera Torte

Tortes, Tarts and Pies: Three Delightfully Different Creations.

We thought we’d take this opportunity to explore precisely what distinguishes tortes, tarts and pies from one another. We will begin with pie because after all, February is in fact Great American Pie Month.

Coconut Pie from Alpine BakeryFirst, a pie is generally baked in a shell or a crust of some sort, with one or two crusts. However crusts can vary. A pie can have bottom crusts only, or top and bottom crusts or, as with DEEP-DISH pies, only a top crust. Also a pie can be sweet or savory. Typically a pie is made with a filling. The filling can be fruit, pudding, meat or vegetable. Sweet pies are generally served as dessert and savory pies as the main course or appetizer.

So even among pies, there are many variations. However, the authenticity of a pie is established by the following definition: “anything surrounded on at least one side by pastry–or, in a pinch, yeasted dough.”

Fruit Tart from Alpine BakeryNow on to tarts. Simply stated, a tart is defined as a pastry crust with shallow sides. This short crust is made from butter and eggs and often sweetened with sugar. These ingredients make the pastry rich and crumbly rather than flaky. A tart is baked in a shallow, rimless, straight-sided tart tin with a removable bottom or in a tart band positioned on a baking sheet. When baked, the once fragile pastry develops enough strength to form a pastry shell that can support its filling without the help of the tart tin.

Also, with tarts fillings can be sweet or savory. Some do call a tart a type of pie. Generally tarts are conceived to serve one individual… mini pies ones that resemble little pies. However, there are bigger tarts, and they can be one-layered open-faced, or covered.

Hazelnut European Torte from Alpine BakeryA torte on the other hand is authentically defined as a rich, layered cake-like confection whereby the cake is leavened only with eggs. It uses none to very little flour, but instead ground nuts or bread crumbs, sugar and flavorings instead. Tortes are often multilayered and often have fillings like jams or buttercreams. Tortes are not as light as cake.

Well there you have it. We hope we’ve shed some light on the differences for you! If you would like to see for yourself, we suggest you come in and explore. Alpine’s Tortes Include Banana’s Foster European Torte, Classic Opera Torte, Hazelnut European Torte, and Raspberry Dark Chocolate Torte. Pies include Coconut Cream Pie, Chocolate Banana Cream Pie, Banana Cream Pie, Key Lime Pie, Peanut Butter Pie, Chocolate Cream Pie, Fresh Fruit and Custard Pie, Apple Pie, Blueberry Crumb Pie. Our Tarts include our yummy Fruit Tart with Custard.

So where should you start, Torte, Tart, or Pie? Anywhere you want!

Couple having dinner in a restaurant

Love is in the Air

Plate of Chocolate TrufflesFebruary 14th is Valentine’s Day. People (typically couples) exchange cards, candy, gifts or flowers with their romantic special someone or “valentine.” How did the tradition begin? Valentine’s Day is named for a Christian martyr, St. Valentine and dates back to the 5th century. However, it also has origins in the Roman holiday Lupercalia- a raucous, ancient fertility festival. Later, the Christian Church chose mid-February for St. Valentine’s Day in an effort to Christianize the rowdy Roman holiday.

How you may ask did St. Valentine become associated with love and romance? It is a little vague and uncertain as it turns out there was more than one Christian Cleric named St Valentine. However, the one in Roman Times is a great story. He was caught secretly marrying young Romans, who were forbidden to get married because it was believed their single status made them better soldiers. He was sentenced to death after his actions were discovered. Later, in honor of his soft hearted disobedience, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th, St. Valentine’s Day.

tuxedo-strawberriesThe romantic connotations around the holiday were further solidified when in the 1300’s, February 14th was thought to be the beginning of the official mating season for birds. Later in the 1800’s, Valentine’s went main stream, and we saw the beginning of mass produced cards and the Holiday took off like wildfire.

Here are some interesting fun facts to ponder about what we like to give and receive on Valentines’ Day.

  • One Billion – The number of Valentine Cards exchanged each year…the largest seasonal card-selling occasion of the year next to Christmas.
  • 83% – The percentage of the one billion Valentine’s Card purchased by women.
  • 50% – Number of people who prefer to receive a humorous Valentine.
  • 31% – Number of people who prefer to receive a romantic greeting.
  • 8.2% – Number of people who prefer to receive a risque card,
  • 32% – Percentage of total annual sales for florists,
  • 73% – Percentage of total number of people (and they are male) who buy flowers to send on Valentine’s Day.
  • 110 million – The number of roses sold and delivered within a three-day time period during the Valentine’s Day celebrations.
  • $95.00 – Average amount of money men spend on Valentine’s Day gifts.
  • 3% – The percentage of pet owners that will give a Valentine’s Day gift to their pet.

We would love to be a part of your Valentine’s Celebration. We make a special dinner that we are serving the entire weekend, fill our dining room with the soft sounds of live piano music, and get creative in the bakery with Long Stemmed Tuxedo Strawberries and Cheesecake Truffles that we can box up for you to take home to “taste the love” with your Valentine. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Alpine Bakery Cheesecake

Cheescake: A “Rich” History.

The sweet, creamy, cool cake with a crushed cookie like crust that is Cheesecake is a legendary dessert staple for a reason. Today, Cheesecake is synonymous with New York, but it turns out it’s been around much longer than the beloved New York or American version…4,000 years longer to be precise.

The first “cheese cake” is believed to have been created on the Greek island of Samos. It was simply made from flour, wheat, honey and cheese. Considered a good source of energy there is evidence that it was served to athletes during the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C. It was also used as a Greek wedding cake.

Alpine Bakery Turtle CheesecakeWhen the Romans conquered Greece, the cheesecake was also pillaged. The Romans put their own spin on the cake by including crushed cheese and eggs. It was then baked under a hot brick and served warm. As the Romans expanded their empire, the cheesecake expanded its reach. Soon, individual European countries created their own variations using ingredients native to each region.

It was not until the 18th century that cheesecake would start to look like something we recognize in the United States today. Beaten eggs were incorporated instead of yeast and the removal of the overpowering yeast flavor made cheesecake taste more like a dessert. And when Europeans immigrated to America, so came the cheesecake.

The American Cheesecake…A Happy Accident.

Cream cheese was an American addition to the cake. In 1872, by sheer accident, a New York dairy farmer was attempting to replicate the French cheese Neufchatel. Instead, he stumbled upon a process which resulted in the creation of cream cheese. Three years later, a new product was born, packaged in foil and distributed to local stores.

New York Style Cheesecake…Pure and Unadorned.

Alpine Brownie CheesecakeThe Classic New York style cheesecake is served with just the cake – no embellishments. This famously smooth-tasting cake gets its signature flavor from extra egg yolks in the cream cheese cake mix. By the 1900s, cheesecake popularity was at a peak. New York Restaurants would actively compete on which had the best cheesecake.

At Alpine, we have respect for those of you who are purists and prefer your cheesecake straight up New York Style. But we are also committed to providing our customers with more exploratory palates a multitude of cheesecake options.

Please come in and explore all you want. We serve Chocolate, Pumpkin, Chocolate, Strawberry, Lemon, Butterfinger, Apple Crumb, Oreo, Fan, Peanut Butter, Rocky Road, California, Brownie, Key Lime, and Butterfinger. Choose (if you can) your favorite.

fireworks in Florence Italy

Happy New Year…in America and Italy.

fireworks in Florence ItalyPeople celebrate the New Year all over the world, but that celebration varies based upon country, and culture. In America, New Year’s Eve Celebrations featuring champagne toasts, midnight kisses, rousing versions of “Auld Lang Syne,” and “ball drops” are staples… with a New Year’s Day synonymous with parades, football, and maybe a meal of black-eyed peas, cabbage, and pork. That meal, superstitiously enough, is thought to bring good luck throughout the upcoming year. New Year’s in Italy is also a holiday filled with tradition… and other complex and interesting superstitions.

Superstitions: Out with the Bad Luck and In With the Good.

New Year’s Eve is the time to throw out lots of the old. In southern Italy, particularly in Naples, the tradition is to rid yourself of past bad luck and unhappiness by throwing old pots, pans, clothes, appliances, even furniture out the window. It’s meant to symbolize “letting go” of past unhappiness in order to successfully prepare yourself for the future.

As for New Year’s Day, it is a common superstition that if a tall, dark-haired stranger (called the First Footer or Lucky Bird) is the first to walk through your door, you’ll have good luck all year.

Also, it’s considered bad luck to let anything (people being the only exception) leave the house on New Year’s Day. You shouldn’t take out the trash or anything else. If it must leave the house, take it outside the night before. These practices apply in other areas as well—avoid paying bills, breaking anything, or shedding tears.

Final Burn of the Yule Log

Another tradition is to fire up the Christmas Yule Log on the last day of the year. The thinking is

that it will scare evil spirits away…they don’t like fire. Also, it’s an invitation to the Virgin Mary,

who can use the fireto warm newborn Jesus. Ashes are sometimes used as charms to protect

the house from damage.

Wear Underwear…and make it red.

Men and women both wear red underwear for luck in the New Year. Enough said.

Certain Foods brings Wealth

In Italy, a traditional New Year’s Eve meal is full of symbolism to attract abundance in the New Year. Different regions serve different foods to represent similar concepts and here are a few.

In Piedmont, rice represents coins—so traditional dinner is risotto in bianco (white risotto). Elsewhere in Italy, lots of dishes feature lentils (which symbolize wealth) and raisins (for good luck).Various Pork Sausages are served in many regions. When sliced the pieces look like coins… symbolizing wealth in the New Year.

Serve Sweets for a Sweet New Year

To guarantee a sweet new year, ancient Romans gave each other jars of dates and figs in honey, along with a bay branch for good fortune. In Naples, this tradition continues people exchange figs wrapped in laurel leaves.

Come in and start your own tradition by trying our specially created New Year’s Eve menu, or chose your favorites from our regular menu. You’ll also find dozens of sweet choices to finish your meal. And if you want to wear red underwear for extra luck, who are we to judge?

Traditional Yule Log and Alpine Bakery's Delicious Yule Log

Yule Log or Yule Log? Ours Tastes Better … and Doesn’t Require Matches.

yule-log2The original Yule Log is a Christmas tradition that dates back for centuries. During the Iron Age, the Yule Log was a wooden log that was burned indoors during the Winter Solstice. Yule is the name of the old Winter Solstice festivals in parts of northern Europe. Originally it was more than just a log, but rather an entire tree that was carefully chosen and brought into the house. The largest end of the log would be placed into the fire hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room. The burning symbolized a cleansing of the air from the previous year’s events and a way to usher in the spring. Everything, from carrying the tree in to lighting the tree with remains of the previous year’s log was part of the elaborate ceremony. The custom of the Yule Log spread all over Europe with different kinds of wood used in different countries. Often, different chemicals were sprinkled on the log to create a variety of colored flames.

So how did we get from a wood burning Yule Log to what we know as the yummy traditional Chocolate Yule Log or ‘Bûche de Noël’? The edible Yule Log was created in response to a new law in Paris in the early 1800’s due to Napoleon outlawing wood-burning fireplaces. He was convinced that the flues to the outside let in cold air and contributed to ill health. Denied their hearths for traditional Christmas Eve log burning, cooks celebrated the season by baking Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) cakes instead.

Although there are subtle variations on the Yule Log with regard to flavor of sponge roll, filling, and icing, the Yule Log is always decorated to look like a bark-covered log. Some people, including us, like to add extra decorations such as marzipan mushrooms.

At Alpine, we start with French Vanilla Sponge Roll filled with Raspberry Jam, Fresh Whipped Cream and Dark Chocolate Shavings and an icing of Chocolate Mousse. We then decorate with Meringue Mushrooms and White Chocolate Shavings.

So make our Yule Log part of your family tradition as we celebrate the season. We promise our version is a lot tastier, and you won’t have to drag it in the house and light it on fire! Although if you’d like to flambé it… vive la difference!

Macaron at Alpine Bakery

A Macaroon is NOT a Macaron

Maybe you grew up with the American chewy, messy, probably chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons. And maybe you did a bit of a double take when you encountered the “new” almond macarons, which look nothing like the traditional macaroons you remember. Well not to worry, they are two different things. The words macaron and macaroon are not interchangeable, nor are they remotely alike. A macaroon (\ˌma-kə-ˈrün\) is NOT a macaron (\ˌma-ka-ˈroh\

Let’s take a moment and examine the difference. As we said, the macaroon is the messy coconut cookies of our childhood — a baked confection of egg whites, sugar and shredded dried coconut. Light but with a very dense consistency.

Macarons from Alpine BakeryOn the other hand, the macaron is the crumbly almond confections from France. Delicate and airy, the French Macaron has an almond, sugar and egg whites-based shell. The shells have a light, crunchy texture on the outside and are slightly chewy on the inside. These shells are held together by a filling, typically made from a ganache butter-cream, meringue or jam.

We’ve recently mastered the macaron in our very own bakery and have learned firsthand, macaons are delicate blends requiring technical finesse, especially when it comes to getting the cookies right. After the meringue is whipped, a combination of powdered sugar and finely ground almonds gets folded in…very CAREFULLY. Once the meringue is deemed perfect, the semi-liquid batter is piped into exact rounds and baked delivering a perfect uniformed creation.

The cookies are then paired with a flavored buttercream filling, and here’s where it’s fun to be creative. We are currently filling ours with Vanilla, Pistachio, Lemon, Chocolate Ganche, Raspberry and Salted Carmel Buttercream. I mean really, why not? They are then perfect, bite sized, refined little works of art. Incredibly fun to look at, and fabulous to eat.

Come in and try all our exciting, delicious flavors. No matter what flavor you like, you’re sure to Taste the Love. Vanilla, Pistachio, Lemon, Chocolate Ganche, Raspberry or Salted Carmel.

Mozzarella Ala Caprese Now With Grilled Portobello

The Rich, Earthy, Dramatic Pleasures of The Portobello

Portobello mushrooms on a cutting boardPortobello, pronounced [por-toh-BEHL-loh] is simply a brown crimini mushroom that has been allowed to continue growing up to 4″ – 6″ in diameter. As for the often heard variance in pronunciation between “Portobello vs. Portabella”; it turns out it has nothing to do with dialect, but instead is a reflection of a marketing decision that attempted to create a much needed brand.

The mushroom needed an identity, and an image makeover because growers couldn’t sell them. So the name was elevated in attempt to popularize what was an unglamorous mushroom that was typically thrown away because it was deemed too big, earthy and woody in flavor. That was then.

Today, Portobello’s can be found in gourmet produce markets, supermarkets, and starring on the menus of some incredible restaurants like Alpine. The preparations are plentiful including everything from oven roasted, sautéed, and grilled. Also, every mushroom part can be utilized. The stems are very woody and are perfect for soups or stocks. The caps can be used chopped, as with most mushrooms, but the Portobello is much more dramatic used whole. It’s fantastic grilled and served whole, or cut into thick slices for a salad or entree. Many vegetarians love the big, meaty, robust flavor that a grilled Portobello has and consider it a hearty, satisfying replacement for steak.

If you care to experiment at home, first make sure they are firm and solid. Avoid ones that are limp or dried looking. They should not be shriveled or slippery (which indicates decomposition).  Finally, they should have a nice earthy smell. When storing, remove the mushrooms from any wrapping and spread on a tray and cover with paper toweling.  Don’t moisten the toweling or the mushrooms and place them in the refrigerator in an area that allows the air to circulate. Avoid placing any other items on top of them. The mushrooms should keep about 5 – 6 days.

Mozzarella Ala Caprese Now With Grilled PortobelloPlease stop by Alpine and try our Mozzarella Alla Caprese. We’ve swapped out the seasonal Heirloom tomatoes and made the Portobella the star.

Mozzarella Alla Caprese grilled portobello, torn basil, sea salt, cracked pepper, fresh burrata mozzarella, aged balsamic. Delicious and remarkable, no matter how you pronounce it.

Alpine Bakery Pumpkin Roll

It’s Thanksgiving … And We Baked.

Alpine Bakery Pumpkin RollThanksgiving, an American tradition that dates back to the first harvest meal in 1621, began with a few pilgrims and a simple table with modest food. That was then. Today, it has turned into what can only be described as a day of feasting, family, and football… punctuated by thankfulness for our many blessings.

Let’s talk about the feast. As for the main course, turkey remains the star, and is about as traditional as it gets. Preparation of Tom Turkey, however, is open for lengthy and passionate discussion, and debate. To brine or not to brine, to bake or not to bake upside down (breast down) or “right side up”, or perhaps the latest trend in preparation technique, fried, outdoors in a specially purchased fryer just for the occasion. Joining the turkey on the table there are the usual sidekicks… green bean casserole, dressing or stuffing (depending on which side of the Mason Dixon line you reside), mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce and a wide variety of other sides that could literally feed a small army.

Now let’s move on to dessert. The sweet flavors synonymous with Thanksgiving include, but are not limited to Pumpkin, Pecan and Apple. Well, as we’re known to do and in keeping with today’s widely varied choices that encompass today’s Thanksgiving, we’ve baked up some unique and varied choices.

alpine thanksgiving pies-smWe would love to make the feast easier for you and help finish your meal with a bang. Order one, two or all of our specially prepared desserts made with real cream and butter and worthy of ANY Thanksgiving Feast. Your family will be grateful. Very grateful.

Choose our freshly baked Apple, Blueberry, Pumpkin, Chocolate Cream, Maple Pecan, or Coconut Pies, or may we suggest our colorful Fruit Tart, visually bright and delicious. You can always go for something more quintessential Thanksgiving like our specially prepared Pumpkin Pecan Roll, filled with pumpkin mousse and decorated with fresh cream and pecans or our yummy Pumpkin Cheesecake. Whatever your fancy, and however many guests are at your table, we’d be happy to make our desserts part of your special day.

On behalf of all of us at Alpine, Happy Thanksgiving.

Some Like it Hot

Chili peppers in burlap sacksNo, this is not a post about Marilyn Monroe, or the iconic film Some Like It Hot starring Monroe along with actors Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. It’s a post about something hotter, spicier, and more delicious… Alpine’s Arrabbiata sauce.

Arrabbiata sauce, or sugo all’arrabbiata in Italian, is a spicy sauce for pasta made from garlic, tomatoes and red chili peppers cooked in olive oil. “Arrabbiata” literally means “angry” in Italian, and the name is a reference to the heat of the chili peppers.

When it comes to chilies and peppers and other spicy ingredients, some people like a little, some like a lot and others aren’t happy unless their tongue is practically ablaze. Interestingly enough, there have been some scientific studies regarding those of us who are drawn to hot and spicy foods. A study presented at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting suggests there’s a correlation between preferences for spicy food and risk-taking personalities. Well while we can’t say that’s true for certain, we do know people have been putting chili peppers into food for years….at least 8,000 years to be accurate. Also, while delivering the heat factor, and literally being the ingredient responsible for spicing up the food, chili peppers are also thought to be a preservative, to have medicinal properties, and serve as an anesthetic.

Ravioli dish with Arrabbiata Sauce at Alpine Bakery & TrattoriaSo whether you have a palette drawn to heat, or are a confirmed risk taker with an adrenaline habit, our new Penne with Arrabbiata Sauce is calling your name. Although Penne with Arrabbiata Sauce is the most frequently found pairing; at Alpine we encourage you to add Chicken, Shrimp and /or Fresh Mozzarella to mix it up a bit and balance the heat beautifully. If you like your seafood with heat, try our Shrimp Ravioli with Sautéed Bay Scallops and Arrabiata Sauce.

As always there are plenty of non spicy alternatives on our menu, but for all you heat seekers and/or adrenaline junkies, we’ve got what you’re craving.