Chef Olivia Hayo of Beautiful Food Inside + Out re-creates her culinary memories of the Mediterranean using inspiration, and local, seasonal ingredients, from her home in San Diego's Little Italy.
In the fall of 2013 I was studying in Italy. That time in my life felt like a culinary dream. In that dream, school field trips meant visits to local artisan food producers, wineries, and restaurants.
One such trip brought me and my classmates to the village of Barolo, home to “The wine of kings, the king of wines.” It seemed to me a mythical place—quiet, mist-covered streets lined with welcoming storefronts and majestic castles nestled amongst vineyards heavy with grapes.
After a morning of touring wineries we gathered for lunch at a local restaurant run by Brezza Winery. There I found an even deeper level of beauty, beyond the picturesque town. The dining room, our meal, the food itself, was revealed to be an extension of the stunning landscape.
The walls of the dining room were painted soft green, yellow and orange, enclosing a dining room filled with simply set, white-clothed tables. Beyond, a large terrace overlooked rainbow-colored vineyards and Castello Falletti.
Each dish we were presented with seemed to coordinate perfectly with the setting, like edible decorations. Especially memorable was a simple dish of deep purple and green-tinged chicory dressed with shavings of Grana Padano cheese and lacquered with olive oil and lemon. I was spellbound by the colors and bold, confident flavor combinations.
The vibrant hues and picture-perfect composition of that day inspired me to make a salad of seared ahi tuna atop a bed of gem-colored lettuces, sweet fennel and mandarins, drizzled with a mouth-popping dressing of toasted sesame, sharp balsamic vinegar, and Meyer lemon. It is a celebration of San Diego’s own kaleidoscopic, seasonal ingredients, and a perfect accompaniment to the gorgeous diversity my new view affords.