There's excitement in the air whenever Asha is cooking—it means something new and delicious is about to hit our plates (and our palates). Asha Loupy, Market Hall Foods online sales extraordinaire, is also our our resident recipe writer.
Asha's passion for epicurean excellence first drew her through our doors in 2009. During her eight years here, she’s done it all—from working in our retail shops and behind our cheese counter to writing our weekly newsletters and creating recipes from our specialty ingredients. We sat down with Asha to talk all things food—her favorite products, how she develops recipes and what inspires her.
I have loved food and cooking for as long as I can remember. When I was five years old, I would watch cooking shows on Saturday mornings instead of cartoons. I learned a lot of my basic cooking techniques from those mornings spent with Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, Martin Yan, Lidia Bastianich and the team at America’s Test Kitchen. This was before every recipe was available online, so I would frantically try to copy down the ingredient lists and instructions as I watched. Eventually, I would shake my mom awake to help (and after a long week at work, I am sure that made her love me even more).
On my 11th birthday, my neighbors took me to the Bay Area for a birthday trip and it was a day of enlightenment—I visited The Pasta Shop (now Market Hall Foods) in Berkeley, saw my first play at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and ended the day with a walk through Rockridge Market Hall and dinner at Oliveto in Oakland. There, standing in one of the first market halls in the country—seeing the towers of cheese, displays of extra virgin olive oil and shelves of ingredients I had only dreamed of—I told myself that someday I would work here.
I am inspired by great ingredients, and all the time and effort that goes into making them. When I worked behind our cheese counter, our cheese program director, Juliana Uruburu, told us to think about honoring the cheesemaker when we were taking care of and selling the cheese. The same can be said about any ingredient—think about the farmers who harvested the farro high up in the Apennine mountains, the olive oil producers in California and abroad, the fisherman catching anchovies at night off the coast of Campania and so many more people behind ingredients that we sometimes take for granted. I find inspiration in honoring these farmers and producers’ hard work and using the fruits of their labor to create really delicious food.
It’s hard to choose one thing that I like to cook the best! I love a challenge, so I enjoy cooking things that are new to me—experimenting with a new ingredient, cooking up a traditional recipe that I have never tried before or trying to master a new technique.
I was lucky enough to spend some time in Italy last summer with our friends at Rustichella d’Abruzzo, so right now my favorite thing to cook is pasta! You would think that after five pasta-filled days in Abruzzo, I would be tired of it, but eating good pasta just made me want more. One of the best parts of the trip was getting to spend an evening with Stefania Peduzzi of Rustichella d'Abruzzo making traditional fresh chitarra pasta. We ate it with a classic ragù Abruzzese made with lamb and polpettine (tiny meatballs the size of peas). This pasta is on my list to recreate in the very near future. Who’s coming over for dinner?
To me, food is one of the key ingredients in many of my fondest memories. I love to eat things that evoke a certain moment in my life—peak-season corn salsa will always remind me of hot summers growing up in Sacramento, a bite of crèpes stuffed with gruyere cheese and jambon immediately transports me to my first time standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, a twirl of Spaghetti alla Vongele (pictured right) takes me back to an unforgettable meal overlooking the Adriatic on my recent trip to Abruzzo, Italy . . .
That's a tough one! My favorite right now is one of my most recent ones—Salted Mocha Sandwich Cookies (pictured left). The combination of melt-in-your-mouth, intensely chocolatey shortbread and light, airy coffee buttercream is pure bliss (my secret ingredient: instant espresso powder). I dare you to eat just one.