Friday, September 30, 2011

Bertolli, Fabio Viviani, Meal Soups & Me

If you follow me on Twitter (and I hope you do, if not, click the little birdie on the right. I am a prolific tweeter for better or worse), you'll know that earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend a really wonderful event sponsored by Bertolli to promote their new Meal Soups with special guest, chef and two-time Top Chef contestant, Fabio Viviani. This was my first invitation to attend a food related event by a major company, so I kinda felt a little special. Cue the "Jeffersons" theme song (Movin' on Up....).

I thought I was going to be in a large room full of lots of press and wall-to-wall people where I could retreat into a corner and shove food into my face. Instead, I walk into this small, intimate wonderfully lit room full of bread, antipasto and friendly people. You guys, I met such wonderful bloggers at this event (more on them later), and I was just a feet away from Fabio Viviani, who is probably one of my top ten favorite Top Chefs ever (I think my favorite of all time is Carla Hall, who is probably the long lost sister of my friend, Big Mitts).

Of course, there was plenty of great antipasto for noshing and meeting people.

Amazing bread and wine....
Focaccia & Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio

After a speech from a rep from Bertolli/Unilever, we saw a little introductory video about the Meal Soups. Chef Michael Christiansen, who essentially develops many of Bertolli's products from the chef's perspective, takes us through how they created the soups. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and is actually a really nice, down-to-earth guy from New Jersey. We had a great conversation that evening.

Essentially, these soups are the frozen componets of what you would make homemade except now you just add some water, bring to a boil, then let it simmer until all of the components are hot. Pretty quick and easy.

After the video, we proceeded into this lovely kitchen and had a demonstration of how the hearty soups really work and learned a little more about the production process. Fabio & Chef Mike tried to do a cook off to see who could make an actual soup in the time allotted. Of course, Chef Mike's Bertolli version won.

Chef Mike showing us the frozen version of the soup. It's essentially all cubed at first.

Here's an actual video of both Fabio & Chef Mike speaking about the soups. I will say that Fabio does give a decent explanation for why people skeptical of frozen anything should try the Meal Soups. Fabio is a VERY good salesman. BTW, excuse my camera angles! This was taken with my Iphone.

After the short talk, we were able to try some of the soups with wine pairings.

Chicken Rotini (roasted white meat, pasta, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots and celery in chicken broth)

Tomato Florentine (Cheese filled tortellini, white meat chicken, spinach and tomatoes in a tomato bisque) I think this one was a big hit. I was too busy scarfing to take a pic earlier.

So, I'm sure you all want to know my opinion, right? I will start by saying that you all know that I don't shill for anyone, so this is really my opinion. You guys, this stuff is actually good! Like I cleaned my bowl good. I wouldn't have been able to tell that it came from anything frozen. I know sometimes in the winter, especially, I am scrambling to find something to make on a weeknight, or I've run out of groceries. I could totally see me having one of these soups for a quick meal. While I am a proponent of eating things that are made from fresh veggies, etc., I don't mind taking short cuts when I need to. I also read the ingredient label, and I could pronounce everything. That's a good sign.

There was even someone serenading us with Italian opera favorites.

Luckily, dessert was not left out. Woo hoo!

I LOVE a good cannolli

You know that I was too happy to see some tiramisu.

As I mentioned before, all the bloggers there were sooo nice. It was really great to connect to food bloggers, especially those that cook since I am not a cooking blogger. Bloggers are really cool people (If I do say so myself). :)

from left to right: Rachel of Laptops & Stovetops, Dana of Dana's Food for Thought & me

Finally, the honored guest, Fabio and I actually had a few conversations during the night. I asked him about the whole Domino's thing. He mentioned that they wanted him as a consultant and that his role was to teach them about sourcing ingredients and how to make pizzas in a more authentic way. Hey, I'm not mad at Fabio for working for the big guys like Bertolli and Domino's. Do you, buddy! I can actually say that Fabio is exactly like he is on Top Chef: very genuine, charming, funny and the accent is totally real. Just kidding, Fabio. ;)

What a night! I'm waiting for New York City to finally cool down, so I can make the soup I got to take home.

Happy Weekend!

Disclosure: As usual, I didn't get paid for this post or links in any way, but a stomach full of good soup, meeting nice people, and hobnobbing with Fabio was payment enough.


Lauren said...

How cool that you had the chance to meet and talk with him! He is one of my favorites from Top Chef too! I also love Carla :)

Daphne said...

*Adding Tomato Florentine to my weekend grocery list*

The Duo Dishes said...

How amazingly fun! The Bertolli team always creates interesting ways to incorporate bloggers into their food programs. You had a blast obviously!

Sarah Wu said...

That's pretty cool you get to talk to him. Also those pictures makes me feeling hungry already :)

Hannah {Culture Connoisseur} said...

That Fabiano is a bit of a looker. :) *grin*

Katie said...

Oh my goodness, what an amazing experience!!! I am so jealous that you got to meet Fabio: he is one of my favorites. And those soups sound pretty good!!!


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