February 13, 2013

National Eat Italian Food Day

"Piatto ricco, mi ci ficco." (Rich plate, I dive in.) - Italian proverb

It's National Eat Italian Food Day!
(Please note: I don't know if this is actually a "real" food holiday, but I'm celebrating it anyway!)

Sponsored byBasilico

The last time I had good risotto was when I lived in Spain. A very fit Valencian boy that spoke no English took me - a very freckly American girl who spoke no Spanish - out on a date to an Italian restaurant. Nothing on the menu made sense to me as it was written in a mix of Italian and Spanish, except for one thing: "risotto quattro queso" (four cheese risotto). Despite the fact that the evening was abundantly awkward - while I depended entirely on my translation book, he texted friends who spoke English to help us move the conversation along - the risotto was absolutely stunning. I don't remember exactly, but I believe it was a creamy, rich blend of mozzarella, asiago, parmigiana, and Gorgonzola cheeses.

I didn't think risotto that delicious was possible at home in Maine, USA, but I was proven wrong thanks to Basilico. They're a company that puts together and ships boxes full of thoughtfully selected artisanal and original Italian products - accompanied with detailed step-by-step directions with photos - so that you can create a delicious, authentic Italian meal right at home. And the boxes only start at $15 (plus flat rate shipping)!

They reached out to me to see if I was interested in experiencing the real flavors of "la bella Italia" in my home. How could I say no?! It seemed like such a different concept, that I was intrigued by how "dinner in a box" (which sounds frighteningly pedestrian, but is essentially what this is) could be classy and upscale.

I received the box of goodies, and was beyond impressed. It was one of the finest presentations I had ever seen.

(Wine not included.)

The three course meal included:

Crispy olive “grissini” bread sticks and sun-dried tomato sauce to dip them in as an appetizer:

The bread sticks were crispy and the dip was salty - it was a very appealing combination! I wish there had been more of the sun-dried tomato sauce, because it was deliriously delicious. I am going to dream about that stuff for months to come.

An onion, saffron, beef flavored bouillon, and traditional Carnaroli rice imported from Italy to make risotto for the entree (all you need to provide is butter):

No photo editing here - it really was that gorgeous looking. The saffron was creamy and flavorful, though it did take me longer to cook it through than the directions suggested. Thank you, Lord, for red wine and good company!

And chocolate Italian made biscuits with cocoa cream for dessert (ice cream not included):

If cocoa powder became solid it would taste like these pleasantly sweet filled cookies.

I felt like a rock star for putting together such an elegant, beautiful, extremely flavorful meal, but I did nothing more than follow the very easy to understand instructions they sent! Even if I had no experience cooking, I'm sure that it still would've come out just wonderfully. The instructions do an exceptional job at making you feel confident every step of the way. And there was more than enough food for me and my beau - and we're a couple that likes to eat! I was delightfully surprised that there was enough rice and saffron to recreate a smaller portion of the risotto the next day.

My only complaint with the entire thing (and it's really very small, and probably isn't going to affect most people ordering from Basilico) - from customer service to receiving the box to preparation to eating - was that it contained a beef bouillon cube; and, I specified to them that I was a vegetarian. It didn't offend me and it certainly wasn't the end of the world, either - I threw it away and used vegetable stock instead. But it makes me wonder: do they not have dinner boxes that are entirely vegetarian? Would a less cautious, less observant vegetarian miss that it was a beef bouillon? Would a less experienced vegetarian be frustrated because they wouldn't necessarily know how to substitute for it?

Again, a seriously minute thing - being an herbivore, I would still absolutely order a box from them. The food was that delicious.

I implore you to check out Basilico online. It's one of the best foodie finds to date!

Happy National Eat Italian Food Day!

Disclaimer: The product(s) featured in this review were provided free of cost to me by the manufacturer. Opinions expressed are totally my own and are NOT in anyway influenced by monetary compensation. Logo used with permission from company.