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Francine Segan, one of America’s foremost experts on Italian cuisine, is an engaging public speaker, author, TV personality and consultant. A noted food historian and James Beard-nominated author of six books including "Dolci: Italy's Sweets" and "Pasta Modern: New & Inspired Recipes from Italy" (both published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang).

Her many TV appearances include "Today" and "Early Show," and she has been featured on numerous specials for PBS, the Food Network and the History, Sundance and Discovery channels.

She is the U.S. spokesperson for several distinguished Italian companies including Lavazza, Felicetti, Amedei and Garofalo. As spokesperson for Carrabba's Italian Grill, a chain of 350 restaurants, she is featured in their La Pasta Vita video series.

Francine co-edited "Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl," a 2-volume encyclopedia, which was a finalist for the coveted Gourmand World Cookbook Award given each year in Paris. She contributed the chapter on Ruth Reichl for the book "Icons Of American Cooking" and translated two books -- "Nutella Passion" and "The Pleasures of Espresso" -- from Italian into English for Giunti, Italy's largest privately owned publisher.

Segan writes for several magazines including Epicurious, Food Arts and Gastronomica. She writes extensively about chocolate and authored several chapters of Rutgers University’s catalogue "Bitter Sweet: The Chocolate Show" and contributed the chapter "Italian Chocolate" for the upcoming Oxford Encyclopedia of Sweets. She lectures across the country for the prestigious speaker's bureau Cassidy & Fishman and is a frequent guest speaker at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., Virginia Fine Arts Museum and Museum of Natural History in New York.

Three Italian cookies. Credit: "Dolci: Italy’s Sweets" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)

Holidays often mean cookies. Here are three unusual Italian cookies that you can make ahead for the holidays, each with a special featured ingredient.

Combine sparkling water with fruits to make your own natural fruit drinks. Credit: Courtesy of Galvanina

Bottled-at-the-source mineral water is delightfully refreshing, and with no calories or chemicals, is a drink that's good for you and a base for many

Main photo: Contestants battle with eggs last Easter Monday in the town of Fanano, Italy. Credit: Copyright 2016 Francine Segan

Each year on Easter Monday, residents of Fanano, a picturesque hill town in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, arm themselves with hard-boiled eggs to

Coffee and chocolate are an especially delicious combination found in hundreds of classic Italian desserts such as Italian Torta Nera, a dense coffee chocolate cake that is a specialty of the Emilia-Romagna region. Credit: Copyright "Dolci: Italy's Sweets" by Francine Segan (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)

Coffee actually started out as a food, not a drink. A thousand years ago in Africa, the birthplace of coffee, locals would mash the

Main caption: Gino Sorbillo, Italy's famed pizzaiuolo, holds a finished pizza fritta. Credit: Copyright 2016 Francine Seganv

Fried street foods are popular in every region of Italy, where you'll often hear: "Fried, even chair legs are delicious." Neapolitans in particular have

A mix of exotic spices and herbs gives Strega its distinctive tint and flavor. Credit: Copyright 2016 Francine Segan

Close your eyes. Take a deep breath of this golden elixir and you're transported to the raucous spice bazaars of Marrakech. A classic Italian

Main photo: A contestant prepares a cheese wheel for Panicale's Easter Monday competition. Credit: Copyright 2016 Francine Segan

Perhaps one of the most bizarre Easter traditions in Italy is a cheese-tossing contest called ruzzolone, which is popular in central Italy. A fun

Try serving a "panettone gastronomico," a sandwich tower, at your next party. Credit: Copyright Rovia Signorelli, Alessandria Italy

For simple holiday entertaining, take a cue from Italy and select a few quality ingredients that are wonderful alone, but that can dress up