In Fall 2008 my life took an unexpected turn when my husband and I reversed Columbus’s journey, sailing from the New World to the intrepid explorer’s (likely) hometown in the Old—Genoa, Italy.
As two New Yorkers trying to acclimate ourselves to unfamiliar surroundings and a much slower pace of life along the Mediterranean, we quickly found a new home through our kitchen, eagerly incorporating fresh and local Ligurian flavors into our meals. Above all else, Genoa is renowned for its pesto. As my skills in the cucina improved (how could they not in Italy?!), I embarked on an experiment, colliding that pesto essence—basil, Parmigiano and Pecorino cheeses, extra-virgin olive oil, and pinoli nuts—with classic baking techniques. The original Biscottini al Pesto that resulted many test batches later intertwined on the palate with a sweet cookie crunch, culminating in the perfect, sharp blend of tangy–sweet indulgence. I eagerly shared them with friends and wider tasting audiences and even won some fans among discerning gastronomes!
Life took yet another twist in 2011 when we returned to the United States, finding a new home in Texas—first Houston, then Fort Worth—which allowed me to set up a proper microbakery (with the help of Houston’s Kitchen Incubator and Fort Worth’s Elixir Kitchen Space), selling my sweet-savory cookies locally and online. I continued to develop new Italian- and otherwise-inspired flavors of sweet-savory cheese cookies, from Cherry Cheddar Cinnamon to Gouda Bene (smoked Gouda, apple butter, pistachios) to Bruno (Mascarpone, Mission Figs, molasses). The cookies were great as part of an hors d’oeuvres spread or served later in the meal as dessert alongside favorite cheeses, and they paired beautifully with wine, beer, coffee, or tea, depending on the flavor.
“Fianco a Fianco” means “side by side,” and evoked the partnership between the cookies and the wine or other beverage they are meant to be savored alongside as well as the unique intermingling of flavors within the cookies themselves.
In Summer 2014 my family returned to Italy and then relocated to Los Angeles a year later. Sadly, Fianco a Fianco was not able to make the journey. If you just can’t believe that the cheese cookies are gone and want to talk, contact me.