Thursday, September 01, 2016

Magnum Force

As with Magnum Force, the movie, Magnum Ice Cream is another force to be reckoned with, and once tried, you will not be forced to take a second bite. They can be found in food shops, markets, and refrigerator cases all over Western Europe. If you can't find them at home, my travel tip is to try them during your vacation.

With all the ice cream shops and gelaterie in Europe, who could imagine settling for an ice cream novelty product? All across Western Europe you can find Magnum products and wouldn't consider it "settling" if you bought one. They're delicious and are now giving Dove bars a run for their money in the U.S. Perhaps that is why they seem smaller in size here, to compete also in size with the Dove bar, so the comparison will be inevitable between the two

The classic is the closest in comparison with the Dove bar, but the chocolate tastes richer and the vanilla ice cream itself compares well with Dove. The Almond also takes its cue from Dove's Milk chocolate and Almond bar. Which came first is a mystery to me.

The superiority of the Magnum seems obvious with the Double Chocolate or Double Caramel bars, with their duel layers of hardened chocolate encasing the soft chocolate, caramel  filling or the buttery, caramel filling.

The Magnum line is extensive in Europe, but imports to the U.S. have not kept pace.

A pale pink chocolate shell surrounds the raspberry and vanilla swirl ice cream on the Pink bar, while the Gold Bar is swirled with caramel.

The Gold is covered by a  thin, buttery looking,  white chocolate shell. Besides the rich tasting vanilla ice cream with a caramel swirl, the Gold bar also has a layer of dark chocolate on the inside of its shell. The taste of both bars is enhanced by the interior, dark chocolate layer.
The White is pretty much just that, white. Plain vanilla at its very best.

Pistacchio helps round out the line in terms of ice cream flavors, but, sorry to say, this is not their best product. It is hard to top an artisan made pistacchio gelato, and the nuts don't improve the concept of this particular bar.
For the last item in this post, you see before you the Magnum Sandwich, a not  quite clear on the concept, ice cream novelty. Sure, the Almond Magnums are good, but they do not belong piggy backed onto an ice cream sandwich like an odd appendage. San Francisco's native ice cream sandwich, the It's-It   made it better decades ago, by simply covering the entire sandwich with chocolate. This version makes the sandwich half look like a mechanism for holding an Almond Magnum that had lost its stick.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The New Testaccio Market

It's been at least 4 years since the residents of Testaccio in Rome have had their daily market moved to an indoor venue 6 blocks from its former location on Via Luca della Robbia. For many years the old outdoor market suffered during inclement weather for lack of customers and discomfort for the vendors. The new building changes all that and even offers underground parking. Although this market has long hosted residents from all over the city, it is now easier for non locals to shop there. I'm pleased to be part of that group.

The primary purpose of the mercato is to supply fresh poultry, fish, pork, beef, cold cuts and produce to the neighborhood. The poultry can be quite varied as seen in this photo.

Now that the stalls have a roof over them, vendors are upgrading methods of keeping their products in better condition. For example, the fish monger can keep flies off his seafood by covering it with parchment paper that will not blow away in the wind. 

Most of the meats are now in permanent, refrigerated cases that keep them at optimum temperatures. This provides not only for preserving  freshness, but eliminates any worry one might have about contamination from insects and bacteria. That's a big improvement.

When renting apartments in Italy, I have occasionally cooked more than breakfast. This rib roast caught my eye, but the fantasy of a full dinner diminished as I imagined trying to clean an oven. If I was convinced it was Chianina beef, the fantasy may live on, but I'm not certain that it's sold outside of Tuscany.

Rome, like most of Italy, is pork centric, so you see it in many forms while you stroll through the mercato.
In this photo, there appear to be a combination of pancetta, the Italian, non smoked bacon; ham, and guanciale. The round, fatty piece is guanciale, the cured pig jowl that is  traditionally used in a traditional  Carbonara recipe.

Fruits and vegetables abound in the market and are interspersed with many of the other items sold there. It would be easier to shop if all products of a like kind were in the same area.

As things stand, there is a loose affiliation between food groups along with prepared foods. But you are bound to find exceptions with general merchandise in the mix.

Prepared foods are putting in a strong showing too. Today I saw a white Veal Ragu that looked every bit as good as those I've seen in restaurants. It was so entrancing, I failed to take a photo. 

Prepared, although not precooked, the polpette (meatballs) in these photos are at the very least a convenience food in Italy. Those below are actually cooked and ready to heat and serve.

Plenty of vendors are prepared to part with  baked goods including pastries, biscotti, rolls, breads and the ever favorite, here in Rome, Pizza Bianca, the Roman answer to focaccia. Even better, are the pizze with various toppings.

I highly recommend that anyone who has never tried a squash blossom nor a porcini mushroom "bianca" style pizza (without tomato sauce) give it a try here. They're two of my favorites, even though I still like the zucchini, as well as the potato and rosemary versions.

The typical pizza bianca, as well as the other pizze, may appear to have a cracker like exterior, but there's a factor of chewiness inside that raises them to another level. Pizza Bianca with its drizzled olive oil surface is delicious on its own, but even better when paired with any of the cold cuts and cheese sold at the mercato.

Gourmet shops selling these types of panini abound in Testaccio. So buy your own ingredients at the market or let someone else make one for you, but don't miss trying some.

Mercado Testaccio is also home to many shops selling clothing, shoes and handbags. Some are vintage, others sell only accessories, jewelry or leather goods. All live happily under one roof. 

On my most recent trip, I discovered Bee Joux, a shop selling women's accessories, including Italian leather purses and French jewelry. Even though I try to buy locally made products, the jewelry was too tempting, so I succumbed and bought a set, deluding myself into thinking it was still okay, since I had been to France on the same trip.

The tables with clothing piled high on top, with a bargain basement appeal, attract many customers, no doubt hoping to find an under priced treasure, but I couldn't bring myself to memorialize them with a photo.

If American vintners are willing to sell wine in boxes, how can I criticize Italian wine served up in plastic bottles? Whether bringing their own bottles, or purchasing a plastic bottle at the wine shop, Italians can satisfy their love of wine locally by paying for it by the liter. Casks of wine from all over Italy can be found at wine shops in Rome.