I was sitting in Sea-Tac airport waiting for my very delayed flight to Maui to board when I got an email inviting me to a press event* for Cucina Fresca, a Seattle-based gourmet food company. I’d had their tasty butternut squash ravioli a while back and thought, why, yes, I would like to be wined and dined at a private event by your owner. Count me in.
Executive Chef Brad Glaberson prepared dishes using his incredible array of sauces, pastas, and raviolis, plus two souped-up mac-n-cheese dishes and a delightful clam chowder using Cucina’s pomodoro sauce. Between samples, we chowed on bread rounds dipped in various sauces, pesto, and artichoke dip.
While we ate, Chef Brad told us about his company. It’s clearly his baby, as evidenced by the fact he used “awesome” to describe his products. He called it “Seattle’s dirty little secret” because several restaurants use his products. As impressive as everything tastes, I think I’m most amazed at the growth of the company (they offer 130 products in over 1,000 grocery stores around the country) as it’s stayed true to its mission of providing great food from fresh ingredients. Every product is made in small batches that require lots of work by hand: picking fresh basil, chopping whole garlic, grating obscene amounts of cheese, simmering tomatoes, and sourcing first cold press extra virgin olive oil. The ingredients list is surprisingly short and free of fillers, preservatives, and lab-created crapola. They peel the annoying stickers off individual pears, people. I get annoyed when I have to do that a handful of times a week in my kitchen, but I can’t imagine doing it over and over, with countless bazillions of pears.
It was interesting to get a behind-the-scenes insight into how this stuff is made. Though I enjoyed the ravioli I bought years ago, I took it for granted that fresh, delicious food had somehow appeared in my neighborhood co-op’s refridgerated food section. I hadn’t thought about the massive amounts of fresh squash that is hand cut and roasted and pureed to fill the pillowy pasta squares I had scarfed. This food writer is suitably impressed.
*That counts as a disclosure. I got free stuff, but I decided to write this of my own volition, because Cucina Fresca is cool and the food is delicious.