"You can't have wine without a little something to eat," says Alisa Barry as she rummages through her fridge. Four of her girlfriends have gathered in her kitchen for wine and conversationand to get a head start on the holidays. They will prepare spice blends, flavored salts and other concoctions to bag, box, bottle and wrap as edible gifts. Barry, who runs the award-winning Bella Cucina Artful Food in Atlanta, is in her element. This is what she does for a living.
Barry dollops a spoonful of Bella Cucina's lemon-pear marmalade on a platter for her guests, then adds slivers of goat gouda, sliced fennel-sultana bread and marcona almonds. The garnish: a branch snipped from one of the olive trees that, surprisingly, not only grow but bear fruit in Barry's garden.
Barry lives a few minutes from Bella Cucina's downtown production plant and retail shop. The company's artisanal pestos, preserves and sauces are now a familiar presence in specialty food stores as well as national retailers like Whole Foods Market. These conserves are so good they are quickly put to good use rather than being pushed back into the nether regions of the pantry. The clear, curvaceous jars and the natural flavors of Barry's walnut-sage pesto, Meyer lemon spread and farmhouse sun-dried-tomato pasta sauce with capers all reflect her love of Italian culinary traditions and her refined-in-California sensibility.