By Sharon Wilson
Sabrina Damiani is hanging out of the window of her top floor flat in the West End. She has a curly-haired pooch under one arm and greets me with a sunny smile. It is as close as you will get to Sicily in Edinburgh.
Like all Italians, Sabrina loves food. She spent her childhood in Palermo and when knee-high to her Nonna learnt the joy of cooking. She believes that food is always a gesture of care and love, and this shows in her exquisite gastronomic dishes.
I am here today to collect a grazing box and an afternoon tea. Both boxes will be launched next week but I am getting a sneaky privileged preview.
Sabrina does not cut corners. Doing so would be to betray her heritage. So expect the finest of everything from bright green Sicilian pistachios to seasonal fruit to Mariage Frères tea as served in chic Paris salons.
My savoury platter is a colourful celebration of Italy containing cheeses, charcuterie, black grapes, plump raspberries, Gordal olives, honeycomb, purple figs, and tomato, caper and olive pâtés bursting with the Sicilian sunshine. Razor-thin crispbread studded with fruit is perfect for heaping on cheese. The ebony coloured box is secured with a classy monochrome striped ribbon and adorned with white roses. It's impossible to pick a favourite food here, but Italian cold cuts which are by turn delicate, chunky, spicy, aromatic are deliciously satisfying and flavoursome.
For the Afternoon Tea box, Sabrina has teamed up with Argentinian baker Barbara who runs Zest online. I meet her in Sabrina's living room, and she tells me how Argentinians yearn for the treats of their country when they move away. Dulce de leche plays a starring role here. I learn about biscuits, cakes and pastries, many of which are filled with the milky toffee. As Barbara chats, I am sure my pupils dilate. I challenge you to look at her website and resist ordering. The giant ricotta tart is mine!
Barbara's delicacies are in the Afternoon Tea box alongside Sabrina's cannoli, pistachio and cherry scones, tiramisu, coffee pannacotta. Mr Bite and I delve in the next day starting with sandwich fingers filled with slim cucumber; thick slices of premium smoked salmon, cream cheese. The bread is homemade as is the croissant which spills open revealing intoxicating pesto, rocket, Parma ham and sweet cherry tomatoes.
These boxes are perfect for an endless variety of occasions; picnics, gifts, indulgence, placating Aunt Maude, asking forgiveness, currying favour, Christmas eve. Forget limp bread and stale scones crack open some wine, brew a pot of tea, and indulge in the very best.