Just before the Winter Solstice Amy and I made our way out to West Hartford to check out Penzey’s, the most awesome spice store I’ve ever been in! Our fabulous friends Patti and Ana recommended we check it out and I’m so glad we did. After buying nearly one of every spice and dried chili on the shelf at Penzeys we decided to linger about with a quick meander around the neighborhood. Oh it turned out to be a beautiful day to meander indeed! Just around the corner from Penzeys we discovered Bella Gusta, an olive oil and balsamic tasting room and it was their second day open no less. It was a true serendipity! Bella Gusta is owned and operated by Lynda and Alan Przybylski a couple who simply fell in love with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Their love is evident in the way they share their knowledge and joy with each and every customer who walks into their tasting room (especially the customers who bring their friends).
As you open the door of Bella Gusta you first hear a little welcoming jingle and then friendly, warm voices float over you pulling you helplessly towards the most unusual tasting experience I dare say you’ll ever have. Bella Gusta offers an extensive range of olive oils from their very specific organic olive oils to their very delicious fused & infused olive oils. Take the tasting tour and indulge your palette in an array of flavors from Hirrisa to Porticini Mushroom. And once you’re giddily intoxicated on olive oil you may then swirl over to their balsamics and continue your flavor party. Oh the balsamics are to DIE for with flavors from Dark Chocolate to Red Apple!
Needless to say I fell in love with Bella Gusta that day.
So naturally we went back this past Sunday with Ana and Patti of course. Did we girls ever buy some oils and vinegars! I now have a range of olive oils from Persian Lime to Butter. The Butter olive oil is lactose-free too for those who long for that oh-so-wonderful flavor but must resist because of lactose intolerance. Oooh it tastes just like butter too — look out Paula Dean! We also definitely picked out the Red Apple Balsamic. It is a must have that I could just eat with a spoon. Oh and I can not forget about the Grapefruit Vinegar! My new favorite! Oh so light and delish! Yum-freaking-o!
Oh you know you want some. So head over to Bella Gusta and taste a few flavors of your own. But beware — once you go Bella Gusta, you can never go back.
Check out their website: http://bellagustaoils.myshopify.com/pages/about-us
Caprese Crostini with a drizzle of Bella Gusta Koroneiki Olive Oil & Traditional 18 Year Balsamic Vinegar
2 Plum tomatoes, sliced (I used fresh Farmer’s Market ugly tomatoes this go around at Ames’ special request)
fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced or rough torn
fresh basil leaves, stems removed
ciabatta bread, sliced
1 tablespoon each of a good olive oil & balsamic vinegar such as Bella Gusta Koroneiki Olive Oil & Traditional 18 Year Balsamic Vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
Slice ciabatta bread into crostini size pieces, about a half inch think or so. Either toast the bread in a sauté pan with a little olive oil or butter or toast them in a 350 degree oven on a lightly oiled roasting sheet until just toasted about 10 minutes, flipping the bread once. Place crostini on a serving platter. Drizzle the sliced ciabatta with a little oil and vinegar and then layer the tomato, basil leaf, and fresh mozzarella. Continue layering until you run out of ingredients. Sprinkle the crostini’s with a bit of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. To finish drizzle reaming oil and vinegar over top of crostini and serve.