Category Archives: Did You Know

A Celebration of Cheeses from Tuscany

Tuscan Cheese: High Quality and History-Rich

Did you know that Italy is the third largest cheese producer in the European Union, behind France and Germany? Italy is one of the most productive cheese regions, with over 450 varieties.

Tuscany alone, small as it is, produces a plethora of local cheeses artisanally. Artisanal meaning made from scratch, by hand, minimal machinery, with local raw materials. Their cheesemakers put in some passion while respecting the history and identity of the cheese. It’s an arduous task making cheese and, hence, its hefty price.

Pecorino, the most popular cheese in Tuscany, is a hard cheese made from whole sheep’s milk between September and June. It can be eaten fresh when still soft and creamy, or it can be aged until firm but crumbly, nutty and sharp in flavour. Aged for at least 18 months, mature Pecorino can be grated over pasta sauce. There’s Pecorino with black truffles or walnuts inside, and wrapped in leaves during aging.

There are parts in Tuscany where Pecorino is produced with unpasteurised milk or where the oval-shaped maturing cheese is rubbed with olive oil, tomato paste or salt according to a local style and flavour. Pecorino is also served with honey or fruit conserves, a tradition during pre-Roman Etruscan period.

Another Tuscan cheese is Caprino, soft, creamy and made from goat’s milk. It is often rolled in herbs or ground pepper for extra flavour. It is produced in Maremma and the Mugello. Tuscan Stracchino, also known as crescenza is a soft, creamy cheese with a mild, slightly sweet flavour. It is made in the south west of Tuscany in Maremma also and is used in delicate egg dishes or with vegetables.

Another cheese produced in Maremma and in some areas of Massa Carrara and Pistoia is the Ricotta. It is high-quality fresh sheep cheese, low in fat and slightly sweet. It is a soft, fresh whey cheese made from ewe’s milk, used for many pasta fillings and desserts. Usually eaten fresh, it can also be found smoked or salted.

These cheeses are not the only ones Tuscany has to offer. There are more than 30 types of cheeses recognized as traditional Tuscan products.

Great Cheese Flavors in Seattle

Il Bistro in Seattle brings Tuscan cheeses to your dinner table whenever you dine with us. Find it in your pasta, insalata, and our Late Night Happy Hour.

The Amazing Red Wines of Tuscany

Great Wines and A Small Place

Italy is so very diverse in climate, it is also diverse in wines. Different varieties of grapes are produced from region to region. Some of the most important red wines in the world are produced in Tuscany. It is unique in a sense that it is home to a number of different types of soil, yet the region is so small. For example, rocky soils produce excellent Sangiovese wine, similarly for Montalcino. Vernaccia grows well in the higher altitude areas, and below that is soil comprise of sand and clay that produce Super Tuscans.

Some of Tuscany’s well-known wine areas produced the prestigious wines we know today, in particular about 70% is red wine. For example, Brunello di Montalcino is produced in the hilltop town of Montalcino, in the hills surrounding a lovely town south of Siena. The quality is outstanding; a wine made with 100% Sangiovese grapes that becomes softer and more harmonic with age.

Between Florence and Siena lies the countryside of Chianti. Chianti is made from the robust Sangiovese, which has grown in the area for centuries and has a revered tradition. It’s the best wine to accompany Tuscan food, from meat to soups and cheeses. Top quality Chianti Classico is more expensive than the everyday Chianti varieties, but both are known for their quality and excellence.

In the Montepulciano area two great wines are produced: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Rosso di Montepulciano. The first one is a fine wine with a long history, medium-bodied and elegant, and worthy of ageing. The second one is a dry red, easy drinking and fresh. Bolgheri, in the Livorno hills, is where the Super Tuscans come from, considered to be among the best wines in the world, with outstanding quality and inventiveness, born out of modern Tuscan wine making. Using different grapes and traditional Sangiovese, Super Tuscans are produced in small batches and fetch prodigious prices.

Morellino di Sansano is the famous wine from the Maremma area, near the sea. It’s 50% Sangiovese and the rest a mix of white and red grapes. It’s slightly tannic and dry, full-bodied, and goes well with meat and meaty sauces. Then there’s Carmignano, with a long history and differentiates itself from the other traditional wines in its use of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with the local Sangiovese and Canaiolo. It has an intense wine, with a harmonic taste, and a whiff of floral bouquet.

Tuscan wine is special due to the passion of the winemakers’ art mixed with centuries of experience.

Tosting Tuscan Wine in Seattle

IL Bistro in Seattle impresses you with its red wine list, world-famous varietals of Tuscany. Come and enjoy an evening of great Italian fare paired with only the best of Tuscan red wine.

Live Longer with Olive Oil in Seattle

Olive Oil: What Makes It Healthy

olive-oilFrom olives, the fruit of the olive tree, come the naturally extracted oil, which is olive oil. 24% is saturated fat and omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. 73% is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that is ultra healthy.

Oleic acid is by far the most widely distributed and abundant fatty acid in nature. Extra-virgin olive oil, the tastiest cooking oil, is the chief source of oleic acid.

Extra-virgin olive oil has beneficial fatty acids, contains modest amounts of Vitamins E and K, but more importantly, powerful and active antioxidants. Antioxidants fight inflammation and prevent oxidation of cholesterol in the blood, both of which are contributory to heart disease process.

We know that chronic inflammation is the road that leads to multiple adult disease states like, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and even obesity.

The antioxidants in olive oil can reduce free radicals, believed to be one of the leading drivers of cancer.

How about the relationship between olive oil and the risk of stroke?

This has been extensively studied and has already been proved that those who consume olive oil have a much lower risk of developing stroke, the second biggest killer in developed countries. In fact, people of the Mediterranean who consume foods prepared in olive oil have a lower risk for heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower ‘bad cholesterol’, and lower premature deaths. Include also, lower risks for cancers.

Look at the other amazing wonders of olive oil – a couple of studies showed beneficial effects on brain function, though more studies on Alzheimer’s disease are needed. There are studies on its beneficial effects on blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, hence, reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Here’s another – olive oil and fish oil in one study significantly reduced joint pain, handgrip strength and morning stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

And finally, the bacterial H. Pylori, the one that causes stomach ulcers and stomach cancer, can be eliminated by olive oil in a percentage of people in a matter of weeks.

Living Healthy with Olive Oil

Just remember that a diet rich in olive oil tend to make you live healthy and live longer. Olive oil is a natural staple in Tuscan dishes. Have one with us at IL Bistro, your Seattle Italian restaurant.

A Lesson in Lentils by Seattle Italian Restaurant

The Many Benefits of the Tuscan Lentil Diet

Lentils are legumes along with other types of beans. There are about one or two round, oval or heart-shaped disk seeds per pod in brown and green varieties. They are easy to cook and available year round in all markets in Italy. Tuscans love their lentils especially, adding them to soups and stews as they readily absorb the flavors of other foods and seasonings. Lentils also pack a punch of nutritional values that many of us don’t know. Let’s see.

Lentils provide good to excellent amounts of seven important minerals, B-vitamins, and protein, and virtually no fat. A whole cup of cooked lentils is just 230 calories. You can eat lots and not gain weight. They also are a rich source of cholesterol-lowering fiber and prevents the rapid rise of sugar levels after a meal. As a dietary fiber source, lentils have both soluble and insoluble fiber. The soluble form captures cholesterol-containing bile and carries it out of the body, while the insoluble type helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation.

The heart, too, benefits from these little beans. Lentils have significant amounts of folate and magnesium. Folate helps lower homocysteine, an amino acid and a risk factor for heart disease if their levels increase, while magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker, normalizing fluctuating blood pressure in the arteries. In addition to its beneficial effects on the digestive system and the heart, lentils’ soluble fiber are good for diabetics also. They help balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy.

Truly, you can get a lot of nutritional goodness with the Tuscan lentil diet. The Tuscan way is via lentil soup or stew, delicious and filling, such as the ribolita. The beans also combine well with vegetables like kale, cabbage or tomatoes. Sausages pairs well also.

Lentil dishes at IL Bistro Seattle

Conscious about your weight and diet? Have healthy lentils at IL Bistro, your Seattle Italian restaurant in Pie Place Market. Savor other Italian classics and dine and wine Tuscan-style in our soft, romantic setting.