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Chef Michael Voltaggio’s kitchen essentials inspire culinary innovation

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When award-winning chef and culinary visionary Michael Voltaggio was remodeling his West Hollywood home, he purposefully selected kitchen essentials that facilitate restaurant-level culinary innovation in a residential setting. Chef Voltaggio’s home kitchen couples superior functionality with style, integrating handpicked fixtures and tools of the trade necessary to establish an environment that inspires an elevated culinary process.

Mindful mise en place

One of the most important lessons a chef learns is the concept of mise en place — French for “everything in its place” — to streamline organization and enable efficiency. With expert forethought and understanding of the importance of countertops as a prep canvas, Michael incorporated creative cabinetry and storage solutions into his home kitchen, creating a clean, structured environment. To maximize space, he used his favored methods, such as a vacuum pack machine to clear freezer space, and stackable containers to organize ingredients and increase efficiency. Infusing versatility wherever possible is also key to a high-functioning kitchen. Michael incorporated a rolling cutting board island to provide more prep space when needed, and to be used as a serving station while entertaining.

Tools meet technique

Seamless integration of carefully selected everyday essentials will ensure an at-home chef is set up for success in the kitchen. Michael’s personal kitchen is no exception, being fully equipped with must-have tools such as a customized knife set made to ensure comfort and secure handling, an immersion circulator for commercial-style sous vide cooking, and a Japanese mandoline to slice consistently sized portions for a professional meal aesthetic. Each tool should serve a purpose, enhancing individual technique and empowering the user to cook at restaurant-level quality.

Sophisticated functionality

As an anchor fixture in the culinary process, the faucet serves as a key essential for function and design in Michael’s kitchen. The Solna Articulating Kitchen Faucet with SmartTouch Technology by Brizo is inspired by a sleek, Scandinavian aesthetic, bringing crisp lines and beautiful simplicity into any kitchen. Akin to the industrial feel of a commercial kitchen, the faucet’s design offers a full range of motion, a magnetic docking system and innovative touch technology that allows simple water activation ideal for fast-paced kitchen environments. Merge functionality of this caliber with sleek design elements to create a contemporary, commercial-inspired setting in the comfort of a residential kitchen space.

Ceaseless inspiration

Maintaining a source of creative inspiration will ensure at-home cooks are constantly evolving and refining their culinary skills. A must-have essential for Michael is the ever-present stack of cookbooks, offering new and unexplored recipes of classical chefs and contemporaries alike. A dedicated place to take notes also enhances a chef’s ability to ideate while experimenting in the kitchen. Build in space for a chalkboard or whiteboard to plan and curate recipes, enabling real-time improvisation and setting a foundation for restaurant-worthy culinary creativity.

Gastronomy

A Hidden Cavern for Cheese Lovers

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Down the illuminated walkway under Czech crystal chandeliers, past the ornate Chinoiserie banquettes and the bustling activity of the open kitchen, and through a weighty glass door, lies a hidden temple for cheese aficionados. Decked in warm wood furnishings and cool marble, the Caprice cheese cellar at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong is a decadent home where 25 to 30 cheeses nestle together on a bed of straw amid jars of homemade jam. The history of French cheese can be found in a deep inhalation revealing myriad aromas from earth and mushrooms to flowers to grass.

When it was founded in 2010, the Caprice cheese cellar was the first of its kind in Hong Kong. Today it is perpetually stocked with a collection of cow, sheep and goats’ milk cheeses, almost exclusively unpasteurised. It is believed that unpasteurised, or raw milk, makes the perfect nurturing ground for probiotics. These living tiny allies endlessly evolve, contributing to the unique nuances of the curds – the same cheese could taste different from one day to the next.

 

To ensure cheeses mature properly, a highly-controlled environment to maintain a specific temperature and humidity is essential to create a fine habitat. At Caprice, a team of three are dedicated to keep the cheese vault under 10°C and between 66 and 70 percent moisture level.

Stephane Rabot, Director of Caprice, believes not all cheeses are created equal. To build a gourmet haven with local specialties, Caprice flies in artisanal cheeses from France twice every week. Contrasting with milder-flavoured mass-manufactured cheeses, every handcrafted cheese served not only offers more complexity in taste and variety, but also embraces a story behind each cheese.

Among the mimolette and brillat-savarin rests a noble variety: the comté matured for at least 36 months. Made in wheels and discs, only the premium can continue to mature beyond 24 months, a rare 5 out of 1000 wheels. In hard and flexible texture, the maturing period fills each bite with crispy calcium crystals. Sweet and nutty with notes of dried fruits gives each bite a sharp and long lasting aftertaste.

The art of a complete cheese tasting experience demands further skills beyond the quality of cheeses. In Caprice, diners can expect a knowledgeable team for a personalised sensory journey. The only challenge is to decide between pairing with a drizzle of sweet honey or a yellow wine gelée.

Whether it is a tangy roquefort or a crumbly comté, who can resist?

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Gastronomy

3 Things You Didn’t Know About Chocolate – And Why You Should Care

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As you stand in the chocolate aisle of the grocery store, have you ever stopped to think about the story behind each bar?

Knowing that your choice of chocolate has a positive impact on the farmers who cultivated the cocoa beans can sweeten the entire experience. When choosing your favorite treat, make sure it is one that combines pleasure with purpose. Here are three things you might not know about chocolate, and how each one could impact your decision in the candy aisle:

1. The cocoa industry affects over 5 million small holder cocoa farmers around the world. The majority of cocoa is grown on small farms operated by independent farmers in developing countries in West Africa, Southeast Asia and the Americas. Your choice in the chocolate aisle can go a long way toward supporting these households: DOVE Chocolate partners with CARE, an organization dedicated to fighting global poverty. This partnership powers the development of Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs): savings-led, community-based programs that allow members, such as cocoa farmers and their families, to support each other with low-interest loans and savings plans. The loans help cocoa farming households access capital to improve their farming practices, expand and diversify their businesses, and invest in education and health for their families and enrich their local community.

2. Fifty percent of cocoa farming activities are completed by women, yet women rarely benefit from cocoa-related income. While women play a key role in cocoa farming, many of them do not receive the income benefits they deserve. The VSLA initiative provides women with ways to save money and access small loans. In turn, women in cocoa farming communities can increase productivity on their cocoa farms and even achieve greater equality with their male counterparts. Within the past year, female representation in VSLAs has risen to 80 percent, and many members have increased their initial investments by 58 percent since joining a VSLA.

3. Cocoa is produced by farming households in developing African countries who often lack affordable financial services, according to CARE. Rural Africans have been forced to use whatever high-cost lenders are available in their area. By choosing chocolate that supports VSLA programs, you’re helping women in cocoa growing communities find a safe and community-supported way to access loans and put their money into savings. What’s more, these programs have further evolved with the linkage of many VSLAs and their members to formal Micro-Finance Institutions (MFI). This linkage gives VSLA members opportunities to access more modern financial tools that can increase profitability.

“Today’s consumers are savvy in that they are increasingly conscientious about their impact on the world based on their purchase decisions,” says Leslie Philipsen, Brand Director, DOVE Chocolate. “For example, we are finding that people appreciate knowing that their favorite brands stand behind real commitments to the people who create the products they know and love, and are doing what they can to help them succeed. That’s why we continue to partner with CARE to positively impact thousands of women in the cocoa growing communities of Cote d’Ivoire through the VSLA program.”

“We know when a woman joins a VSLA, her involvement creates ripples of positive change that extend past herself to include the people in her community,” says Marcela Hahn, Executive Director of CARE’s Strategic Partnerships team. “VSLAs are about more than giving women financial opportunities. They are about transformation. We are honored to stand in partnership with DOVE Chocolate, changing the lives of thousands of women and their families in Cote d’Ivoire.”

From now through August 18, DOVE Chocolate will donate $1 to CARE for every purchase of specially marked DOVE Chocolate PROMISES at CVS Pharmacy locations. To learn more about the effort, visit www.dovechocolate.com.

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Gastronomy

5 reasons to snack on strawberries

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The perfect snack needs to check off three boxes: It should be filling enough to get you to your next meal, provide nutrition that fits into your balanced diet, and satisfy cravings, whether sweet or savory. Not an easy task, but juicy California strawberries are up for the challenge.

“Strawberries are an ideal snack because not only do they taste great, they’re also heart-healthy and an anti-inflammatory food,” says Manuel Villacorta, registered dietitian and author of Flat Belly 365. “I love to pair strawberries with yogurt, peanut butter on rice crackers, or cottage cheese. Strawberry smoothies are also a favorite.”

Naturally sweet, yet low in sugar

Many people get the urge to graze around that 3 o’clock slump. By reaching for something that has natural sweetness, you can fulfill that craving without excess calories and sugar. In fact, one serving of eight strawberries has only 50 calories and eight grams of sugar.

Bursting with nutrients

Another reason to love strawberries? “The combination of flavonoids, antioxidants and fiber can help reduce cholesterol levels,” Villacorta says. “Plus, strawberries are full of potassium, which can help manage blood pressure and prevent strokes.” Strawberries don’t stop there; a single serving has more vitamin C than an orange.

Boost your brain

According to a study in the Annals of Neurology, eating strawberries at least twice per week may delay cognitive aging by two and a half years, which includes improvement in memory and motor function. Add in a daily sudoku or crossword puzzle and you’re on your way to a sharper mind!

Great for diabetes management

Nutrient-packed strawberries are a great option for those with diabetes. In fact, the American Diabetes Association lists strawberries as a top superfood for diabetic meal plans. “The anthocyanins found in strawberries may help improve insulin resistance, which means you can regulate blood glucose better,” according to Villacorta.

Snacks anyone will love

Both kids and adults love a good strawberry snack. Try a strawberry oat bar, peanut butter yogurt dipped strawberries, strawberry almond butter snackwich or even strawberry turkey pinwheels to switch things up in your afternoon routine. From quick and kid-friendly to fancy appetizers, visit CaliforniaStrawberries.com for snacks perfect for all ages and occasions.

Snacking can be fun for the whole family with bright colors, simple recipe ideas, unexpected flavor combinations and a little creativity. And if your snacks are full of vital nutrients and health benefits, even better!

What are you waiting for? Pick up some strawberries and get snacking today.

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