When it comes to taste, there’s really not one right answer. Taste is entirely individual. Because of this, at Pasta & Co our goal is to prepare dishes and offer products that will invariably taste good to a lot of people. All, thanks in great part to our sagacious Culinary Council. A talented hodge podge of palates – from our store managers to our executive chef – responsible for sourcing, producing, tasting, scrutinizing and carefully selecting every single item before it is deemed worthy of gracing our shelves or being presented in our deli case. That means every single item - without exception. Every deli item and every pantry product. Having varying palates tasting and commenting on different foods, condiments and seasonings makes Pasta & Co a place where you can trust that everything you discover will delight you and your family, your friends and your guests.
But we set a high bar. For something to be served or sold in our stores, 80% of our Culinary Council members must absolutely love it. The Culinary Council is all about choosing the best-of-the-best food products out there. It’s a meritocracy of flavors and products. Vast quantities of products don’t make it through our screening filter. It doesn’t matter if a company is big or small, or if they already have another product on our shelves. We’ll taste and select products to find the best whether it’s interesting, new, or a tried and true classic.
After the Holidays, when we’re all looking for lighter fare but still crave some sizzle and spice, we turned to the lighthearted Caribbean for inspiration. Stop by to taste and take home our exciting choices for colorful and flavorful Caribbean-style deli dishes and pantry products. We guarantee you’ll agree that the best cure for your January blues is a little island whimsy to tickle your taste buds!
Yours in good taste,
Balmy breezes and beautiful beaches. Vivid colors and fragrances. Sizzling music and warm hospitality. Memories of an idyllic bare boat chartered sailing trip. The Caribbean has always beckoned as a winter vacation destination. Thousands of islands scatter the turquoise seas between Florida and South America. They may be large, like Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, or small, like Aruba, the Cayman Islands, Virgin Islands, Martinique, Trinidad and Barbados. Linked together by geography and lush tropical vegetation, abundant seafood and sunshine, colorful fruits and vegetables, and spicy seasonings, the Caribbean is a complex mixing pot of lively cultures and culinary traditions.
Some say Caribbean cuisine is the most exciting in the world. A mélange of flavors and tastes sparked by chiles, hotter than hot jerk seasonings, roadside barbecues and curries, and lavish use of fruit and seafood, inspire this enthusiasm. As do the region’s rich historical and cultural traditions. Each island’s cuisine reflects its past or present colonial rulers such as Spain, France, Great Britain, the U.S. and the Netherlands. Many Caribbean ingredients, dishes and cooking styles also have African, Asian and East Indian roots. Exotic ingredients such as okra, yams, coconut, chiles, mangos, molasses, plantains, bananas, cassava and tamarind are commonplace. Reliable and affordable chicken and pork are mainstays in many dishes. Small gardens grow in the backyards of every home, fishing boats pull up to quayside markets, and “fresh, fresh, fresh” is the Caribbean cook’s mantra, a legacy from the time before refrigeration became widespread. As Americans increasingly enjoy zesty flavors and spicy foods, Pasta & Co’s Caribbean-inspired deli dishes and pantry items are just the thing to brighten Northwest winter menus.
Sweet and spicy with a kick! We’ve adapted Caribbean seasonings, flavors and ingredients to create some zesty dishes on the lighter side. You can take home a complete meal and dream beachside dreams as you taste tender, shredded PICKAPEPPA PORK made authentic with jerk seasoning, the classic Jamaican-style spice mix used to prepare highly seasoned meat. We used Pickapeppa Jerk Seasoning to rub roasted pork loin. It’s the same terrific product that flavors Beecher’s No Woman cheese. (A tip: We’re also stocking it in our stores so you can try it at home.) Serve our jerked pork with STEEL DRUM SALSA to enjoy Caribbean-style sweet-spicy flavors of fresh pineapple sparked by cilantro and habeñero chiles.
You’ll find bona fide Caribbean flavors in other deli items, too. A standout on the list is BLACK-EYED PEAS AND MUSTARD GREENS, an original Pasta & Co salad recipe featuring black-eyed peas in a honey mustard tarragon dressing tossed with fresh mustard greens. Or choose ISLAND FRIED RICE. Its tropical combination of garam masala seasonings, red onions and fresh okra guarantees an instant island mood. Either dish is a great side with PRAWNS IN RUSTIC CORN SAUCE. This entrée combines seasoned sautéed prawns with sweet kernels of corn in a traditional island coconut milk sauce. In zesty Caribbean style, there’s also KICKIN’ COCONUT CHICKEN. With gentle heat from jalapeño peppers, the sweetness of honey, and a crunchy coconut topping over roasted chicken breasts, it’s already a staff favorite.
Choosing pantry items with Caribbean style was a challenge - only because we wanted to include them all! In the end, the Culinary Council pared the selection to the best of the best. To describe some of the winners, there’s PICKAPEPPA JERK SEASONING, made by the legendary Pickapeppa Company Ltd., based in Jamaica since 1921. Made with a unique blend of concentrated spices, it’s what we use to give Beecher’s No Woman cheese its distinctive flavor with a little heat. There’s also EARTH & VINE PASSION COLADA, a beverage elixir that’s a concentrated blend of passion fruit purée, coconut cream and pineapple juice. Imagine smoothies, milkshakes and daiquiris made with refreshing tropical fruit flavors! NEERA’S GINGER PINEAPPLE CHUTNEY, a pineapple-based, sweet-spicy conserve prepared with honey, brown mustard seed, fennel seed, green ginger, and the kick of fresh jalapeños, also received unanimous approval. Take some home for a novel dipping sauce, a condiment with curries, or brush on grilled or roasted meats to complement their taste with sweet-spicy flavors. Finish seafood, vegetables or lamb with a sprinkle of URBAN ACCENTS TROPICAL HIBISCUS BLEND SEA SALT. Its subtle taste, fragrance, and soft magenta color is from real, ground petals of hibiscus flowers.
If you want to learn more about Caribbean cooking styles and typical dishes, plus try your hand at this flavorful regional cuisine, we’ve decided there’s no finer source than Virginia Burke’s new cookbook, Eat Caribbean. It’s wildly colorful in true Caribbean style with gorgeous photographs of food, people and island landscapes. For the contents, Virginia taps her native Jamaican heritage, her restaurateur’s experience, and her culinary connections with Walkerswood Caribbean Foods. The result is a comprehensive and accessible collection of contemporary and traditional recipes along with a wealth of background information about Caribbean cuisine.
If dining out in a restaurant on Valentine’s Day with dozens of other couples isn’t your idea of a romantic evening, we have a fabulous alternative. Order Pasta & Co’s elegant dinner for two and enjoy a relaxed, intimate evening at home on February 14th with your significant other. Our PRIX FIXE SURF & TURF DINNER is available January 23 through February 13 for February 14 pick-up. We’ll prepare a superb meal for two that’s easy for you to assemble, heat and serve. The dinner menu includes Beef Tenderloin and Scallop and Prawn Brochettes accompanied by Potatoes Fleuron and Snap Peas with Roasted Butternut Squash. Our seductive Pyramid Cake – chocolate cake layered with raspberry mousse and glazed with rich chocolate – makes a sweet finale for a special meal. Say the word and we’ll also include a Loire Valley Bouvet Brut ($14.75 per bottle; available at all stores except our Bellevue location) to add extra sparkle to your Valentine’s Day dinner.
Jerk seasonings are traditionally used in Jamaica to prepare pork cooked slowly over open pit fires. A legacy of the island’s indigenous cooks where everyone had his or her own secret jerk blend, jerk seasoning became commercially available and widely popular in the 1970s. The legendary Pickapeppa’s Jerk Seasoning is a cousin to Pickapeppa Sauce, produced since 1921 in Shooter’s Hill, Jamaica. Concentrated flavor is packed into a dry rub that’s used here to add sweetness and a subtle kick to a Caribbean-inspired barbecue sauce.
In small bowl, place all ingredients and use a fork to blend well. Brush on ribs, chicken breasts, pork loin, hamburgers, or other meats before roasting or grilling in oven or on outdoor barbecue. Makes about 1-1/2 pints or enough to marinate 5 pounds meat.
Note: Tamarind paste can be found in most Asian grocery stores.