Car candy

Mi.To from Alfa RomeoIs small the new big?

Meet Mi.To from Alfa Romeo, the little car that could change your mind. Sounds like “Me, too!” but it’s actually named after two Italian cities: Milan, the city that created the car’s style, and Torino, which is responsible for its production.

Leave it to the Italians to take a car this tiny and make it sexy.

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Gnocchi nirvana

Crackers and a Coca-Cola.

That’s all I really wanted. Something to settle my stomach. Hugging the occasional guardrail, crawling along the exceedingly narrow roller-coasterlike roads that twist through the tiny towns dotting the shore of Lake Como had left me feeling lightheaded and somewhat queasy. But it’s Sunday, and essentially everything is shuttered: groceries, gelaterias, even gas stations.

As fate would have it, the torturous ride was worth the wait. My reward: the most memorable gnocchi I have ever wrapped my lips around. A sumptuous sauce of Camembert, studded with walnuts and enriched with truffle. That dish will haunt me for years to come. Eventually, I will succumb to its siren song, returning to Nuova Capannina for yet another taste of the plate that rescued me from the drive that almost put me over the edge.

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Sniff this

giant-truffle.jpgThe uncontested title of Top Dog goes to Rocco, who unearthed a tuberous treasure near Pisa, Italy. The record-breaking 3.3-pound white truffle fetched $100,000 per pound at a charity auction, selling to Macau billionaire Stanley Ho, who paid $330,000, outbidding British artist Damien Hirst. Bidders from three sites linked by satellite in Macau, Florence, and London competed for the magnatum pico prize.

Ironically, it takes less than a sliver of this magnificent mushroom to elevate a humble dish like risotto to celestial heights. Fresh white truffles will turn moldy within three weeks, so Ho must have thrown one heck of a party.

Truffle lovers will want to ferret out one of these fabulous presentation sets from Gump’s. Made in Italy, the wenge-wood serving tray is designed with a recess for mortal-sized truffles and includes a delicate brush to dust off sediment, as well as a horn-handled shaver and glass display dome.

White truffle season is fleeting, but Black Diamonds will be coming to market later this month. Scrambled eggs, anyone?

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Shake some action

fa07_193837_w.jpgChristmas is coming, the catalogs are arriving, and I’m already making my list for Santa.

Red Envelope has a fabulous artisanal salt sampler that I’ve been drooling over. A pinch of this and a smidge of that and your culinary creations are sure to sing. I’ve been on the prowl for sel gris—gray salt hand harvested on France’s Brittany coast—and this collection has it, along with 23 other salts from more than a dozen countries. Salt of this stature is tres cher, so having smaller jars to play around with is a definite advantage. Reorder your favorites from SaltWorks.

Here’s what’s shakin’:

Aguni, Premium Japanese Sea Salt: Extracted by filtering sea water through bamboo branches to produce this delicious mineral-dense salt.

Alaea – Hawaiian Sea Salt (coarse grain): Traditional Hawaiian Sea Salt. Hawaiian Red Clay adds nutrients and flavor.

Bamboo Korean Roasted Salt: Produced by roasting sea salt in clay-sealed bamboo stalks, allowing the salt to absorb minerals from these natural elements while being purified.

Bolivian Rose Salt (coarse grain): Harvested at the heart of the Andes Mountains, its natural rose color makes it one of the most beautiful salts available.

Cyprus – Mediterranean Flake Salt: A favorite among professional chefs, its unique pyramid-shaped crystals have a fresh ocean flavor and a satisfying crunch.

Cyprus – Cyprus Black Lava Flake Salt: Mediterranean Sea salt combined with activated charcoal, its dramatic color and delicate texture make this finishing salt ideal for tableside presentation.

Durango, Hickory Smoked Sea Salt: Flaked sea salt, smoked over genuine hickory wood, this salt adds an authentic smoked flavor to any dish.

Fleur de Sel de Guérande – French “Flower of Salt”: Accepted by many chefs as the best finishing salt in the world, its young salt crystals are skimmed from the surface of salt ponds in France.

Flor de Sal – Portuguese “Flower of Salt”: Premium hand-harvested sea salt from Portugal.

Flower of Bali – Tropical Sea Salt: Delicate sea salt crystals that form on the surface of tropical salt beds, this salt is hand harvested and only available in limited quantities.

Fum̩e de Sel РChardonnay Oak Smoked Salt: Premium sea salt that has been slowly smoked with oak wine barrels used for Chardonnay production. Prized for its gentle smoke flavor with a hint of wine.

Hiwa Kai – Hawaiian Black Lava Salt: Solar-evaporated Pacific sea salt, combined with activated charcoal to provide added health benefits. Stunning black color and silky texture.

Himalayan Pink Salt – Fine Grain: Pure, hand-mined ancient sea salt found deep inside the pristine Himalayan Mountains. Crystals range in color from sheer white to varying shades of pink to deep reds, reflecting 84 trace elements and iron.

Kala Namak – Indian Black Salt – Fine Grain: An essential ingredient in authentic East Indian cuisine, this salt has a distinctive aroma and flavor of egg yolks. making it unforgettable.

Murray River – Australian Pink Flake Salt: Prized for its gorgeous apricot color and delicate flaky texture. Melts quickly and evenly—a perfect finishing salt.

Peruvian Pink – Mountain Spring Salt: Sourced from a natural spring 10,000 feet high in the Peruvian mountains where the warm spring water seeps into terraced salt ponds. Hand-harvested for over 2,000 years, its strongly-flavored light pink crystals have a high moisture content.

Pure Ocean, Kosher Flake Sea Salt: Unique, pyramid-shaped crystals with stair-step sides give this salt a superb ability to adhere to food—and make it a fabulous choice for garnishing libations served in a salt-rimmed glass.

Salish – Alder Smoked Salt (fine grain): Naturally smoked over Northwest Red Alderwood, giving food a genuine smokehouse taste on or off the BBQ.

Sel Gris de Guérande (fine grain): Hand harvested from the prestigious salt ponds of Guérande, France, this healthy replacement for ordinary table salt is stone ground to make it easier to dispense from a shaker.

Sel Gris de Guérande (coarse grain): An unrefined whole mineral sea salt, hand harvested from the prestigious salt ponds of Guérande, France.

Sel de Mer, Mediterranean Sea Salt (coarse grain): Solar-evaporated Mediterranean Sea Salt, its naturally white, dry crystals are ideal for use in a salt grinder or as a roasting salt.

Trapani, Sicilian Sea Salt: Hand harvested from the salt pans along the famous salt road that runs up the west coast of Sicily from Trapani to Marsala. Delicate crystals, full of flavor.

Velvet, Grey Sea Salt: Stone ground to a fine powder, this hand-harvested French sea salt has a buttery mouth feel, making it a terrific choice for topping savory noshes.

Yakima, Applewood Smoked Sea Salt: Smoked over Yakima Valley applewood, this salt adds delicious natural smoked flavor to foods.