Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Eighty-Seven Years feeding a nation. The D'Arrigo Bros and their Andy Boy brand set an example for us all. A company with a "Societal Conscience"

Salinas (pronounced sah-lee-nahs) Valley received its title as "Valley of the World" from famed author and native, John Steinbeck. This fertile valley is world renowned for its agricultural produce. Artichokes, lettuce, strawberries and wine grapes are among the crops that are grown in the Salinas Valley and the surrounding area. Large tracts of grazing lands also border the farm lands as well.

The Salinas Valley is the center for Monterey County’s 3.8 billion-dollar agriculture industry. Due to its temperate, Mediterranean-like climate and fertile soils, the county has become the number one vegetable-producing region in the nation. The area supplies 80 percent of the nation’s lettuces and nearly the same percentage of artichokes. Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, strawberries, peppers, squash, carrots, asparagus, celery, tomatoes, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, garlic, onions and flowers are also grown in large tracts.
In the early days of farming in The Salinas Valley, farm workers piled lettuce on tractor beds then trucked them to nearby packing plants. Once processed the produce was packed in ice and shipped by trucks or trains. Today lettuce and other produce are picked much more efficiently by doing most of the processing in the fields and placing the produce directly into shipping boxes, then shipped out in refrigerated trucks.
The Valley’s local growers and shippers lead the industry worldwide in all phases of crop growth including seed technology, planting and irrigation, harvesting and marketing. Pre-packaged salads and precut fresh vegetables that a very popular today were created in the Salinas Valley, and this innovation has changed the way consumers buy vegetables.

In addition to feeding the United States, Monterey County is also continues to be a leader in agricultural exports with over 570 million pounds of produce exported annually. Top importers of Salinas Valley produce include Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mexico and the European Union.

Stefano D’Arrigo

The Salinas valley with its history and agriculture has attracted us to the area often. Over the years, we have had the opportunity to spend so time with one of the largest growers and producers in Salinas , The D’ Arrigo Brothers and their well known Andy Boy Brand; A true American success story

Andrea D-Arrigo

 It is hard to imagine today  that when Andrea and Stefano D’Arrigo brought broccoli seeds from their native Italy in 1923 it was virtually unknown in America. These immigrants came to America looking a better life, similar to the Latino immigrant today. When they arrived, they and their fellow countrymen couldn’t find broccoli so they had their father ship them some broccoli seeds. 
These brothers also brought passion for growing fresh vegetables and are credited with starting the commercial broccoli business with the first transcontinental shipment of broccoli from the West Coast to the East Coast.

Andy "Andy Boy" and Margaret D'Arrigo Martin

Today, D'Arrigo Brothers Co., of California (Andy Boy) is still a family-owned company specializing in Romaine, Romaine Hearts, Iceberg Lettuce, Green Leaf, Red Leaf, Butter Lettuce, Broccoli Rabe, Broccoli, Shrink-Wrap Broccoli, Cauliflower, Nopalitos, Cactus Pears and Fennel.

John D’Arrigo

Andy, “Andy Boy” D’Arrigo remains Chairman of the Board and is very involved in the daily operations and long term planning. John D’Arrigo serves as President and CEO, and his sister, Margaret D’Arrigo-Martin is the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Andy, John and Margaret farm over 30,000 crop acres annually throughout the growing districts of the Salinas Valley, Yuma Valley and the Imperial Valley.

Their Mission Statement “ To continually strive to be a premier grower, packer and shipper of quality fruits and vegetables, while encouraging excellence in leadership and management and creating an environment of opportunity, innovation, growth and constant improvement”  is in good hands with  The  third generation D’Arrigo family members and  carried out by their dedicated family of almost 2000 employees.

The D ‘Arrigo’s are unique within the industry and have created a completely vertically integrated company. From the time the seed goes in the ground to the time they close the doors to their customer’s truck, they control the entire process; there is no third party involved.

They opend a new state-of–the-art 100,000 square foot facility that began development in July of 2005. Culminating in October 2008, the project merged several Monterey county based facilities, allowing for all facets of the business to operate out of one main location.

Stephen and Andrew knew there was only one way to control the quality of their produce: Grow it from the ground up. They maintained their varieties of Fennel and Broccoli Rabe for nearly 40 years. In the mid 1970's, Andy D'Arrigo began variety improvement programs for his specialty vegetables and in 1994 established a Seed Research and Development Department under the direction of a full-time plant breeder. This department currently houses two PhD scientists and operates its own research laboratory and greenhouses. The primary responsibility of the Seed Research Department is to develop new varieties of Fennel, Broccoli Rabe, and Cactus Pears.

They are more involved with seed development now more than ever. The in-house research team is continually pushing the envelope of crop improvement. The goal is straight forward: To provide better tasting, more consistent, high-quality vegetables that are worthy of their Andy Boy® brand. Combining decades of tradition with today’s technology to produce high quality vegetables to feed a nation is what this family is owned company is all about.

Andy Boy Broccoli
Andy Boy Broccoli :

Broccoli has been around Ancient dating back to BC. The son of Roman Emperor Tiberius was so infatuated with broccoli that he forsook all other foods except broccoli ala Apicius (with a mixture of cumin, coriander seeds, chopped onion, oil and sun-made wine) for an entire month.

Legend has it ,his broccoli binge turned his urine bright green, making him a standout among all the gladiators. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research this is a good way  for fighting off both recurrent and secondary cancers in cancer survivors. Andy Boy Broccoli contains the cell protective agent Sulforaphane that detoxify carcinogens . Broccoli is a TRUE health food.


Andy Boy Broccoli Rabe
Andy Boy Broccoli Rabe:

Broccoli Rabe has a unique, sophisticated taste. Sharp and flavorful and spicy, Broccoli Rabe is slightly bitter, a perfect pairing with lush olive oils, fragrant garlic, shallots, herbs and any dish you may use Arugula in. Andy Boy has perfected many of the heritage vegetables that were sent as seeds from Italy to try to cultivate here in the U.S.

Their Andy Boy Broccoli Rabe is a direct descendant of wild mustard plants that grew along the hillsides around Messina, Sicily. Sometimes in recipes you may see it referred to as Rapini. In 1964, it was officially named "Broccoli Rabe” and the D’Arrigo Bros Co actually hold 4 patents for growing Broccoli Rabe.

Andy Boy Cactus Pears

Andy Boy Cactus Pears

We learned from Margaret D ‘ Arrigo the most extensive cactus pear production in Europe is in Sicily, right from where D’Arrigo Bros founders, Andrea and Stefano D’Arrigo, emigrated and where there are close to 10,000 acres planted . The fruit of the cactus plant has a number of different names cactus fruit or cactus pear, tuna or Indian figs. The Indians have the juice of the cactus pear to make fermented drinks such as colonche wine and brandy.
Andy Boy Cactus Pears

 Mixologists nationwide are creating  all sorts of  new ways to use prickly pear in their cocktails  .Cactus Pear martinis, cactus pear mimosas, cactus pear margaritas, cactus pear daiquiris are just a few of the cocktails you can prepare but only your imagination can limit what you can do with this delicious fruit.

To eat a cactus pear you should use a small sharp knife and slice off each end and make a single slice from top to bottom then peel back the thick purple-red skin to reveal the luscious fruit. The flaming fuchsia color is stunning and mouthwatering and you can even eat the small seeds inside .

Andy Boy Cauliflower
Andy Boy Cauliflower :

Margaret D Arrigo Martin  explained that cauliflower is actually a flower growing from a plant. Andy Boy Cauliflower gets its pure, creamy-color, naturally. As the plant grows, heavy, green leaves shadow and protect shy undeveloped flower buds.

Without sunlight, no chlorophyll develops, so Andy Boy Cauliflower remains white. The tender large bouquets are full of wonderful flavor, contain Vitamin C Folate, Fiber and complex carbohydrates.

White cauliflower is not the only type produced but Green, Orange and Purple Cauliflower provide an array of interesting palate pleasing colors. Harvested fresh, year-round from farms in California and Arizona, these varieties are all natural with no artificial colors or dyes added. Green cauliflower is credited with having significant amounts of beta carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin A and is slightly sweet. The Orange cauliflower is especially high in beta-carotene, with a slightly nutty taste and creamy texture. The Purple cauliflower is recognized for anthocyanins, also found in red cabbage and red wine.

Andy Boy Romaine

Andy Boy Romaine:

Romaine is the most popular vegetable in America, after the potato. Margaret D’ Arrigo gave us a history lesson on how this very ancient beginning of one of our most popular vegetables began . The ancient Egyptian tombs reveal paintings of lettuce with elongated and pointed leaves.

Cleopatra the Queen may have used it as a diet staple and she shared her secret with General Mark Anthony who brought it to great popularity in Rome. His nephew, Augustus Caesar, who later ruled the Roman Empire was said to have constructed a statue of Romaine Lettuce to honor its healing abilities after being cured of a serious illness. Can we say Caesar salad?

There is a very big problem in the United States right now and that is Childhood Obesity. It is never too early for kids to learn and embrace healthy eating habits. Kids love to experiment with new tastes and textures, just as long as they are presented with a kid’s palate in mind.

Andy Boy Colorful Cauliflower Dish

D’ Arrigo Bros. are doing their part to educate today’s adults and children alike.  Their Andy Boy Colorful Cauliflower is an easy way to add colors (and nutrients) to your child’s plate without the groaning, the “do I have to eat this?” or the infamous “moving around” the plate method that kids tend to use said Margaret D’ Arrigo . 

Margaret and her company enjoy creating recipes kids can enjoy preparing as well as eating. Margaret  also conducts local cooking classes to educate parents and children on using fresh colorful veggies in a variety of ways that provide an interesting and healthy diet.

In markets nationwide Andy Boy products can be recognized by a pink ribbon that adorns the labels of Andy Boy® products.. This is one of the ways this amazing company is helping to raise awareness for breast cancer and the shared goal to achieve prevention, and a cure for breast cancer.  Andy Boy’s  generous donations to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation of nearly $910,000    go a long way  to  support innovative breast cancer research. 

Margaret D' Arrigo Martin

This large company has a “Societal Conscience”   that is refreshing to see.   The D’ Arrigos keep most of their employees employed year around, support local charities educate young and old alike on healthy eating and have raised large amounts of money to support a cure for breast cancer.

They care about people .  The next time we are in our market, we will look for the distinctive Andy Boy label and know the decades of passion and hard work that went into bringing these fresh vegetables to us coast to coast.
ple and they feed a nation.  Only in America could this happen and we should all be proud. 

The Cactus Pear is very unique and is only limited tohow creative you are in the kicthen or behind the bar.  We spoke with Margaret D'Arrigo and she shared a few special recipes for a refeashing drink and a spicy salsa just to get you started .

Enjoy !

Cactus Pear Smoothie


2 6 oz containers of vanilla fat-free yogurt or 1/2 pt frozen vanilla yogurt
2 small ripe bananas, peeled
2 Andy Boy Cactus Pears, peeled and quartered
1 1/2 C orange juice
1 cup of ice cubes


1. Using a blender, puree the banana and cactus pear.
2. Add yogurt, juice and ice cubes and blend until smooth.

Serves 4

Chili Marinated Grilled Prawns With Cactus Pear Salsa

An unusual combination of avocado, red onion and cactus pear cools the spicy twang of chili infused prawns. A great Saturday night kind of dinner.


12 jumbo prawns (8-10 count) cleaned and deveined
1/4 C olive oil
1 T ancho chili powder
2 garlic cloves minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 skewers
2 Andy Boy cactus pears, peeled and diced
2 Haas avocados, diced
1 small bunch cilantro, leaves removed from stems and chopped fine
1 medium red onion, diced
1/4 C olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon
3 green onions, cleaned and sliced


1. Preheat grill.
2. In a bowl, mix 1/4 C olive oil with the ancho chili powder, garlic, salt and pepper. Add prawns to the oil and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
3. For the salsa, combine the Andy Boy cactus pears and avocado in a mixing bowl, and add onion, cilantro, green onions, olive oil and lemon juice Season with salt and pepper.
4. Skewer and grill the prawns for 3 minutes each side. Serve over cilantro rice and salsa on the side.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Food & Wine All-Star Weekend hosted by Gail Simmons brings out the Top Chefs for 4 days of Food , Wine and Cocktails in Las Vegas at the Bellagio and Aria Resorts

Once again Las Vegas takes center stage when it comes to Food and Wine. FOOD& WINE Magazine came to town for  an All-Star Weekend and Cast hosted by none other than Gail Simmons.

The “FOOD WINE All-Star Weekend brings together all of the elements that make Las Vegas a top epicurean destination: talented chefs and wine experts, world-class luxury resorts; and lavish dining experiences at some of the leading restaurants in the country,” said FOOD &WINE VP/Publisher Christina Grdovic. "We are thrilled to partner with MGM Resorts International on this dynamic event.”

“Bellagio is known around the globe for its extraordinary dining and hospitality,” Chief Marketing Officer of MGM Resorts International Bill Hornbuckle said. “ARIA and Vdara at CityCenter, the hottest new destinations in Las Vegas, opened late last year and are wowing visitors each day with their remarkable accommodations and food and beverage offerings. We’re thrilled to partner with Food & Wine to create an event that couples the best of all of our brands and provides visitors with an unrivaled epicurean experience.”

The celebrity chef-filled weekend included events featuring Bravo’s Top Chef cheftestants Fabio Viviani, Carla Hall, Jennifer Carroll, Hosea Rosenberg and Stephen Hopcraft, Top Chef Masters Rick Moonen and Hubert Keller and FOOD &WINE Best New Chef Vinny Dotolo

Kick-off party was  hosted by Gail Simmons, Anthony Giglio and Fabio Viviani at Bar Vdara, featuring a star-studded lineup of celebrity chefs and Top Chef Alumni and music from DJ Bree Cohen aka DJ88. The evening then progressed to the  Deuce After Dark: After-party featuring Gail Simmons chefs Shawn McClain, Julian Serrano, Rick Moonen, Jean-Philippe Maury, Fabio Viviani, Carla Hall, Jennifer Carroll, Hosea Rosenberg, Vinny Dotolo and Stephen Hopcraft each hosting their own blackjack tables at ARIA’s Deuce Lounge.

Elaine Harris and Gail Simmons

 At the Luxe Lunch guests  enjoyed a three-course lunch, prepared before them by Bellagio chefs Marc St. Jacques of MICHAEL MINA and Pastry Chef Philippe Angibeau of Le Cirque as well as Top Chef fan favorite Fabio Viviani. Hosted at Bellagio’s Tuscany Kitchen by Gail Simmons and Bellagio's  Director of Wine, Jason Smith, M.S. who paired each course with  wine.

FOOD & WINE Contributing Editor and Wine Expert Anthony Giglio teamed up to  host a cocktail seminar in the afternoon  at ARIA’s CafĂ© Vettro featuring fare from award-winning Bellagio and ARIA Chef Julian Serrano.

The much anticipated  Main event  was All-Star Tasting poolside at ARIA featuring Bravo’s Top Cheftestants and showcasing the signature restaurants of ARIA: Jean Georges Steakhouse, AMERICAN FISH, Sirio Ristorante, Julian Serrano, Bar Masa and Sage.

Many of ARIA’s award-winning chefs and restaurateurs were in attendance including Masa Takayama, Shawn McClain, Jean-Philippe Maury and Sirio Maccioni as well.

The ARIA Resort's pool provided a beautiful venue for guests to stroll around and enjoy great dishes from these celebrity chefs. Looking up into a clear evening sky  , the ARIA and its next door cousin VDARA  seemed to join up with the stars as they glistened brightly above us.

Chef Jennifer Carroll

Of course you cant have an event like this with out some Champagne to get things started off right.  The first stop of the evening was at Nicolas Feuillatte to enjoy Nicolas Feuillatte Brut and the Rose as well. It was now time to start our culinary "walkabout" with these celebrity chefs and we knew right where we were going to start.

Jennifer Carroll Spanish Rock Octopus

Top Chef contestant who went very far in the competition Chef Jennifer Carroll is now at 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge by Eric Ripert. She was all smiles and serving her Spanish Rock Octopus
Eggplant , Chickpeas and Lemon that we feel was one of our top picks of the night.

Jean-Philippe Maury  of his namesake Patisserie in Las Vegas was pool side as well and had guests coming back again and again for his
Cream Filled Beignet, Greek Yogurt Pannacotta , Farmers Market Strawberry and his very decadent Intense Dark Chocolate Cream, Coffee Emulsion , Dark Chocolate Pearl.

Jean-Philippe Maury Cream Filled Beignet

BARMASA has always been a favorite stop of ours when we are in the ARIA. We just had stop by and see what Chef Masayoshi Takayama had for us to enjoy.  His Peking Duck , with Foie Gras in Moo-Shu Skin  and Toro Mizore showed us why we enjoy stopping in so often. Next  to BARMASA in the ARIA you will find  Chef Shawn McClain's SAGE. This amazing young Chef was serving a delicious  Dungeness Crab , Cauliflower Panna Cotta , Taylor Gold Pears and Orange Chili Pearls and a 48 Hour Beef Belly , Smoked Potato Puree, Horseradish Gremolata, Fennel that was another stand out of the evening.

Chef Carla Hall, Vegetable Tagine

Chef Carla Hall came all the way from her Washington DC restaurant Alchemy to show off her artistry to the guests.  Chef Carla's Vegetable Tagine with Za 'tar Pita Points provided us with a delightful , interesting dish that was one of the most creative we have seen.

For the Carnivores amongst the guests strolling around the pool, Chef Jordan Hoffman of Union was worth a visit.   Chef Jordan's Wood Grilled 30 Day Dry Aged Porterhouse  Steak with Green Peppercorn sauce and his Crispy BBQ Pork Belly, Grilled Flat Bread , House-made Pickles, Vinegar Mustard sauce made many very happy.

With all of these great Chefs around it was easy just to indulge in their great dishes they were eagerly serving, But wait  !  there was much more. Cocktails were being served as well.  Courvoisier is name that needs no further explanation.  Their mixologists were creating the classic Sidecar and Courvoisier Ginger that were very refreshing. In addition to Courvoisier one could also enjoy a Maker's Mark Manhattan a Patron Silver Savory Paloma and could even visit the Patron Muddle Your Own Mojito Bar for those who enjoy a more hands on experience.

Chef Sven Mede at Michale Mina's American Fish set the bar pretty high with a lovely Ocean Water Poached Ruby Red Shrimp , Sea Beans , Shiso , Ginger-Lime Vinaigrette and some very interesting Hudson Valley Foie Gras "Poppers", Brioche , Plum Gelee.

One of our last stops on our culinary stroll was to visit Chef Hosea Rosenberg of strEat Chefs in Boulder Colorado. We are always a little  weary of Pork Bellys but her Pork Belly with Pomegranate and Brussels Sprouts did not disappoint .

A weekend like this should finish on a high note. A  Champagne  Caviar Brunch was just they way to do it.  The weekend came to a close with a lavish brunch set against the backdrop of the breathtaking Fountains of Bellagio. Guest host Anthony Giglio presented a specialty Bloody Mary Bar and Fabio Viviani  put a modern spin on the classic egg sandwich to send the guests on their way on a beautiful Sunday Morning in Las Vegas.

The Bellagio , Aria and Vdara Resorts  along with FOOD&WINE  put on a weekend that any foodie and wine lover would salivate over.  Hosted by the very gracious Gail Simmons , this inaugural event shows once more that Las Vegas has taken its place among the world's greatest culinary cities.