As I mentioned in a previous post, I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in Tuscany in November with Filippo Berio, to learn more about their brand and the wonderful olive oil they produce. It was absolutely fascinating to hear about where the olives come from to make their oil (for their regular oil it's a mixture of mainly Spain, Italy and Greece) and see the production process, as well as sampling the new olive oil from November's harvest. I'm very excited that I'm going to be using the Filippo Berio Gran Cru olive oils, which are a range of three extra virgin olive oils each made with olives from just one Italian region (Puglia, Sicily or Tuscany), at my pop ups next year. The difference between the classic extra virgin and virgin olive oils and the Gran Cru range is that the Gran Cru oils have a stronger flavour, with a more peppery, grassy taste, which I'll pair with specific dishes for some of my events.

To celebrate the new olive harvest and the 'Olio Novello', which is the first Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the November 2015 harvest, Filippo Berio hosted an intimate dinner at La Cucina Caldesi, which was a four course feast cooked by Valentine Warner. The oil had been flown in especially for the event from Lucca, where Filippo Berio are based in Italy, and Val had prepared all the dishes to complement the oil.

We started with heavenly bits of bread, topped with goat's curd and a salsa verde made from the Olio Novello, capers, shallots, parsley and garlic. I had to really restrain myself around these as they were so good - salty from the capers with the peppery oil, I ate way more than I should've before the meal even started!

Starters proper were octopus salad and huge plates of just cooked langoustines for dipping in the Olio Novello. Simple, clean flavours which sung of Italy and the sunshine. Again, I piled huge portions on to my plate, while also dunking more of the Italian bread into the peppery, green Olio Novello.

For mains we had rabbit that had been confited in Filippo Berio oil, which was juicy and meaty, served on top of polenta, drizzled with more oil, and roasted chicory, as well as a raw, shaved fennel salad which lifted the plate of food to another level. If you ever get the chance to eat Val's food, then do. He's all about championing fantastic produce and elevating it to something really special with straightforward, yet clever, cooking.

Pudding was incredible, and slightly hazy, due to the vast amounts of delicious wine we'd consumed before and during the meal..... Apple fritters with a grappa cream. I loved the crisp batter contrasting with the soft apple inside.

A huge thank you to the Filippo Berio team for a wonderful night, and an excellent trip to Tuscany, and watch this space for info on the pop ups I'll be doing using the Gran Cru oils in 2016!

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