Smith and Brock Supplier Trip

Joe and Nick are the brothers behind Smith and Brock, our trusted fruit and veg suppliers and a key part of our organic supply chain. These guys put in the graft, searching far and wide to find the best quality produce from passionate growers. Sicily is an especially abundant region for sourcing the goods, so that’s where we sent our Sous Chef, Piero Tiddia, to visit some of the Smith and Brock growers in person. A lovely little jaunt and study trip for him! This is what he got up to…

We flew into Catania early one morning in April, stepping off the plane into the wonderful sunshine that Sicily is famous for. Driving up to the village of San Giacomo on the southern slope of Mount Pic, we met with olive oil producers, Frantoi Covato. They kindly offered us a tasting of the different olive oil varieties, while explaining how they cold-press the crop using cutting edge technology. As water is not used during processing, it makes the oil much more full-bodied and aromatic. We then went to admire the trees themselves in the centuries-old groves. Crucially, they are protected by the dry stone walls which were originally built to divide the land on the Iblean Mountains. 

The next stop on our tour was the Sicilian Passion Project in Licata. We made our way there – getting a bit lost en route – and met with Antonino Moscato, the only passion fruit grower in Sicily. Walking through the farm, we learned about their organic, sustainable farming methods and how the local microclimate and soil favour this crop that is traditionally tropical. 

Having packed a lot into my first day, we went back to our hotel in Modica, a Unesco World Heritage town full of stunning Baroque churches and a rich history of chocolate making. Our evening was completed with dinner at Accursio Radici – a cosy restaurant which I can highly recommend if you are ever in the area. Ragusano cheese with fried tomatoes and mint, deep-fried pasta with bechamel and ragù and Sicilian cannoli went down very well.

The next day, we went to visit a tomato farm in Modica. The owners took us through all the spectacular varieties they grow, such as Datterini, Marinda, San Marzano, Piccadilly and even an experimental breed called Zebrino. They explained their processes, from planting in tunnels in the rich volcanic soils through to the careful harvesting. We were then lucky enough to be cooked a memorable banquet by the matriarch of the family using products from the farm. 

Next stop was Vittoria to meet with the biggest aubergine distributor and grower in Italy. This was a larger scale production, but still a family company at its heart. They also welcomed us with a feast of different aubergine varieties and showed me everything they do, from scratch growing to packing and delivering. 

After another long day of eating and learning about our fantastic suppliers, we decided to walk it off around the city as we were all  so stuffed! We flew back to London, returning the next day to the Murano kitchen full of inspiration and feeling extra grateful for the exceptional produce we get to work with every day. Smith and Brock, what would we do without you guys?!

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