Off to Italy

Welcome to ChopSizzlePop! My husband and I are absolutely thrilled to launch this food blog. It has been such a pleasure to bring it to life, and we hope you enjoy it.

A bit about who we are and why we are launching this blog. My name is Carole Amber and I am a food writer. My husband is Troy Amber and he is a photographer. We love food.

We have also been through a rough few years. We lost our precious baby TJ in 2009 and have been trying to figure out how to live again ever since. Earlier this year, we decided to pick ourselves up and start living again. In our opinion, living again is the best way to honor TJ and to make him proud.

After having been through what we went through, perspectives change. Suddenly the “shoulds” and “have tos” of life fall away. We decided to look at our lives as a forced do-over, with nothing to lose. So now what?

We asked ourselves, what would we do if the sky were the limit? The answer is to do what we love, together. Troy got very clear about his love of photography and I came squarely back to food. And as we talked, we began to feel an excitement that we haven’t felt for a very long time. What if we could eat the best food in the world? Oh, we have to start in Italy. What if we could actually live in Italy? With families? We could run a blog! I could write and you could shoot photographs. Oh my goodness, what if we could actually harvest olives or make wine? Can you imagine sitting around the dinner table with a festive Italian family to taste their olive oil that we helped make? On and on it went from there. Poof, the idea for this blog was born.

Now, my infatuation with food is not recent. I have been on a quest for the best food in the world since I tasted my first soft shell crab when I was eight years old. Mom, thank you! I’m not sure that my dad was as excited with my new found love. Namely because from that moment on, I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu. Actually, my dad and everyone else in my family shares my love of food. Our dinner table was where the magic happened in our family. All of the laughing fits, recaps of the day and of course “oohing and aahing” about food.

When I got older, I decided to make my passion for food my career. So, I started a gourmet dining business in Chicago back in 2003. We held 1-3 events per month. Events included Champagne tastings, 6-course paired dinners, oyster shootings, Korean BBQ and chocolate fests. They all featured exclusively prepared menus, education and intimate chef involvement—but the main goal was to taste the best food in Chicago and have fun.

This blog is similar to that concept. We are scouring the globe to find tiny ethnic joints, lavish restaurants, delicious products, recipes passed down for generations, chef secrets and anything that we can get our hands on that tastes delicious.

Our quest begins in Italy. To us, Italy is where the largest concentration of our very favorite foods reside. We decided that the best way to understand the origin and culture of this food is to work the land and/or learn directly from food experts. We found a program called the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) that matches workers with farmers. Troy and I searched 400 Italian farms and found several that met our criteria (private room, internet, nice website and food experts from whom we want to learn). We also found vineyards and cheese farms that cannot host us to WWOOF, but are happy to teach us about their food for a few days. Below is our tentative farm schedule in Italy. These farms are also shown on the map if you want to see exactly where they are located. Check out where we are going and what we will be doing:

Agritourismo due Papaveri,
This quaint resort is located between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. It is home to a gourmet restaurant and three apartments. It is operated by a couple who we look forward to getting to know. Charlotte is an accomplished cook, gives frequent cooking classes and has her own cookbook, At this farm, we will be spending several weeks cooking and working in the restaurant with Charlotte. We arrive on October 6.

Podere Gualandi,

Located outside of Florence, this organic winery is home to a family of five. We will be spending two weeks harvesting olives with Guido on this farm. I imagine we will also be making olive oil and learning about making wine.

Cascina Ca Rossa,
Situated on the sandy hills of Alba, this vineyard won the Tre Bicchiere award from the Gambero Rosso, as well as various additional awards from Slow Food (a global grassroots organization that celebrates the pleasure of slowing down, savoring food and respecting its place in the environment). Here we will be spending a few days with Giuseppe learning how he makes his award-winning wine.

Located on the slopes of the Pennine Alps, this cheese farm has been in existence for almost twenty years raising sheep and goats. At this farm we will be spending a few days learning about how to properly raise sheep and goats to make cheese.

In addition to staying on the farms above, we will be going on day trips to hunt down some of the best food we can find. We are tentatively planning to search for balsamic vinegars in Modena, ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano in Parma, Bolognese in Bologna and more. If any of you have recommendations, we would love to hear them! Just post a comment below any blog post or send us a message through the contact page.

We want to take you on this journey with us! Our hope is that through our experiences you will learn juicy details about food, how it is grown, how it is perfected and how it is enjoyed—so that you too can be blown away by its goodness.

Our trip begins tomorrow. Expect to see regular posts in just a few days. Be sure to follow us and we can’t wait to see you on the other side of the pond.

In the meantime, visit the tabs on our blog to see recommendations and recipes from some of our favorite chefs and food experts.

Carole and Troy

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