Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Game of the Stars, October 11, 2015, Collona Stadium (Na)

Love for children, for sport and  cuisine  is the Neapolitan golden trio that is the backdrop of a very special event, "The Game of the Stars", which will be held on October 11 at 17:30 at the Collona Stadium in Naples.

Two teams will hit the field for one great cause- to raise money for the patients and families of Santobono Pausilipon Children's hospital in Naples and the Golden Dreams Project. A project designed to improve conditions in the hospital and make the environment more suitable for children.
Chefs versus sports journalists. Chef Lino Scarallo will lead a 'brigade' of big names such as Edoardo Trotta, Gennaro Esposito, Michele Deleo, Mario and Francesco Sposito, Andrea Migliaccio, Tonino Mellino, Alfonso and Ernesto Iaccarino, Puccio and Nicola Fischietti, Paolo Barrale, Renato Martino, Salvatore Elefante, Pasquale Palamaro, Alfonso Caputo, Salvatore Bianco, Peppe Aversa, Peppe Guida, Luigi Tramontano, Paolo Gramaglia, Vincenzo Guarino, Mimmo Iavarone, Salvatore La Ragione, Antonio Dipino, Maurizio Somma, Franco Ferrara, Raffaele Vitale, Giovanni de Vivo, Gli Amici per Padelle: Rocco de Santis, Marco Laudato, Cristian Torsiello, Antonio Petrone, Cristoforo Trapani, Riccardo Faggiano, Michele Martino, Mirko Balzano, Enzo and Cristian Piccirillo. Sport figures include Raffaele Auriemma, Carlo Alvino, Carmine Martino, Paolo Del Genio, Mimmo Malfitano and Gianfranco Lucariello. 
        The event is organized by SOS Hospital supporters Santobono Onlus in collaboration with Wstaff, Millestampe Ltd. and Work Wear, with special  participation by the City of Naples, the SPorts Department, the Italian Red Cross Provincial Committee of Naples and the Firemen  Command of Naples.
        To inflame the audience of fans an exceptional star, Daniel "Decibel" Bellini, the voice of the Sanpaolo, which will lead the evening.
      To participate, ticket donation of 10 Euro is required.  For more info, click on the website La Partita Delle Stelle.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Amazing Appetizers - Home Cookin' and Southern Hospitality - Osteria Famiglia Principe 1968 , Nocera Superiore (Sa)

It's almost impossible not to feel right at home when you sit down at one of the rustic, yet polished tables at Osteria Famiglia 1968 in Nocera Superiore (Sa)  I sat down and and just knew that this would be a lunch that would feature quality local products served with a smile - southern style.
I was right, beginning with the appetizers.

I had two that were just, well, amazing...

Il peperoncino verde friariello..
A green sweet pepper which was lightly sauteed, potato  Robertina style with caciocavallo podolico cheese, and a flavorful slice of pancetta bacon.

Il vasocottura...
This dish, cooked in a vacuum sealed glass jar was presented to me on a plate so that I could see and appreciate all that it had to offer.  Bounty from the Principe family's garden such as basil, eggplant, and tomatoes that they bottle themselves.  Nonno Ernesto's sausage played an important role as well.

We had only just begun...

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Cheese, Please - Caseificio Aurora, Sant'Egidio del Monte Albino (Sa)

When I pulled into the entrance of Caseificio Aurora that Saturday afternoon, I had no idea what the next couple of hours had in store for me.  There was no way, or so I believed, that a visit to a cheese factory would be a gastronomical life changing moment.
But yet, there I was, standing quietly inside, slightly to the right of the entrance observing a small, orderly line of customers awaiting their turn to be served by a smiling helpful staff at the counter. Behind the counter - a large window with a full view of the backstage area where the Aurora team was just finishing up the days production of mozzarella and fior di latte.

It was there when I spotted Paolo Amato, owner of the factory and the gentleman who would be my cheese guru for the morning.  I quickly hopped in line to announce my arrival.

A few minutes later, I found myself in front of stainless steel tubs of young warm mozzarella cheese.

Paolo Amato

 And after a quick lesson on mozzarella making, Amato reached into one of those tubs and pulled out a small mozzarella ball known as bocconcino and handed me one.  Made with the milk of our Jersey cows, he told me.  His herd that graze in the nearby hills of Tramonti overlooking the Amalfi Coast. These boconcini, braided mozzarella, as well as balls as large as 1.5 kilos ( a little over 3 lbs) are popular not only for walk in customers, but many of Campanias top restaurants.

I noticed another tub of what from a distance looked like mozzarella.  Fior di latte, Amato shared,   which does not have the same amount of moisture as mozzarella.  It is often used in cooking, such as on top of pizzas, for example.

A few snapshots, then Amato suggested we head to the storefront so that he could show me a few of his other specialties.  His aged cheeses which have been gathered here, in one place after being aged in small grotte/caves in the towns of Tramonti ( where his father is from) and Nusco ( where his mother is from).

But first, Paolo offered me  a cold blast from the past - spumone gelato dating back to the Bourbon period.  I chose one that featured the flavor of hazelnuts from nearby Giffoni and chocolate, and sat at a comfortable stool in the corner as Amato went to help out at the counter.

The stream of customers that I had witnessed earlier continued.  It was soon clear to me that I was sitting at a popular destination for many.  Up to 800 customers a day from all over the region.  And not  just cheese, but other milk products such as fresh sugar free yogurt. Yes, Amato handed me a cup of some as well...

Some clients knew what they wanted, having been here many times before.  Others sought out advice, suggestions from Amato and other members of the staff.

It was then my turn to choose a few cheeses.  And since I knew next to nothing, I put myself in the capable hands of Amato.

It was exciting to watch Paolo as he chose a provolone cheese aged in walnut leaves, slowly and carefully unwrapped the plastic wrap and slice it open for the first time.  A slight smile as he breathed in the aromas, then allowed me to do the same.

Or as he sliced gingerly into a blue veined cheese that had been aged in Fiano di Avellino grape marcs from Feudi di San Gregorio winery's dessert wine.

Or even as delicately picked up a small caprino cheese which had been aged with a sprinkling of herbs and dried flowers form nearby Montoroerbe.

You've got to try this one, Amato said, as he unwrapped a piece of pecorino cheese with black truffles from Norcia.

Each cheese had a story, a history.  I just knew it - I could see it in his eyes as he sought out another, then yet another cheese for me to try....

Erborinato di capra a latte crudo, a blue cheese made with unpasteurized goat's milk...

pecorino dei grotti di monte lattari, pecorino cheese aged in Mount Lattari...

crosta fiorita di capra al timo affumicato, flowery rind goat cheese with smoked thyme...

This should hold us over for awhile, I thought as Amato tenderly placed each little flavorful bundle into a bag. A bag of goodies which would open up new world for me with each bite, taste, and swallow.

On my way to the car, I was already thinking of my next visit.  The one where I would visit the other side of the counter and try some more mozzarella, pick up some ricotta, and other specialties that I saw other customers walking away with.  Maybe show up a little earlier to see the cheese making in progress...And then I was curious to see what progress Amato had made on his new cheese caves...

When I pulled into the entrance of Caseificio Aurora that Saturday afternoon, I had no idea what the next couple of hours had in store for me.  There was no way, or so I believed, that a visit to a cheese factory would be a gastronomical life changing moment.
Maybe that is what made it so special.

Definitely a family business.  Amato with his mom.

Caseificio Aurora
Via Albanese 11
Sant' Egidio del Monte Albino (Sa)
080 917298

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Octopus Summer - Polpo e Linguine, Chef Giacomo De Simone, Punta Scutolo Ristorante, Seiano (Na)

It's official.  Octopus  played a key role in my list of favorite dishes/summer 2015.  Like this one by Chef Giacomo De Simone of Punta Scutolo Ristorante in Seiano *Na).  A fantastic first served right on the beach.  Polpo e lingiuine/Octopus and linguine.

The chef first cooked the octopus vacuum packed at a temperature of 85 degrees Celsius/185 degrees Farenheight for about and hour and a half.  He conserved the juices, added some water and used that to cook the pasta.

Notice the pasta's color?  All octopus.  After the pasta was cooked al dente, he drained it, added some extra virgin olive oil, and the cooked octopus which he had cut into small pieces.

A first course that was....


Monday, August 31, 2015

A Summer Serata with the Ragosta Hotels Collection - Hotel Raito, Raito (Sa)

Save the date, Karen...22 August.
Those were the words spoken to me by Chef Francesco Russo a few months ago after an early spring lunch at Il Golfo Ristorante in Raito (Sa) He continued by explaining that the Ragosta Hotel Collection chain of 5 star hotels would be hosting the third evening of  three part dinner series  there at the hotel.
It sounded interestingly tasty, so I penciled the date into my agenda...

The date arrived - a late summer Saturday evening.  The six hands dinner which showcased the talents of three chefs from three separate hotels in three separate regions.  Six hands that worked well together thanks to not only their professionalism, but also to a  strong friendship that ties them together.

From left to right -Chef Francesco Russo of Hotel Raito on the Amalfi Coast, Chef Simone Strano of Palazzo Martemartini in Rome, and Chef Giovanni Grasso of La Plage Resort in Sicily.

The meal began with a light breeze and Neapolitan music on the terrace of the hotel.

I was given  glass of spumante and a  welcome from the chefs featuring fried anchovies, anchovy butter, foccacia bread, and tomatoes.

Each chef personally accompanied their dishes to every table and spent time with the guests to explain their dish and wish a sincere Buon Appetito...

First up was the host of the evening, Chef Russo whose dish represented his region, Campania.

Chef Francesco Russo

A sfogiatella pastry appetizer filled with eggplant parmigiana. This sat on a ragu sauce that was made with moscardini which are baby octopus.  The wine served with this dish was from Campania as well. Tramonti Bianco Costa D'Amalfi Doc 2014, Cantine Giuseppe Apicella.

The next course was a pasta dish presented by Chef Strano.

Chef Simone Strano

The chef's plate represented the region of Lazio  and starred an oxtail stuffed ravioli with an oxtail and tomato sauce. This dish was paired with De Notaris Malvasia Lazio IGP 2014.

The secondo, or main dish was presented by Chef Grasso who put together the flavors of Sicily.

Chef Giovanni Grasso
That included a swordfish flan which he stuffed with sun dried tomato confit, clams and mussels.  He served it on top of crushed potatoes.  A Sicilian rose' wine was chosen from this dish; Pietradolce Etna Rosato DOC 2014.

Time for dessert. Cannoli, lemon, zabaglione, and ricotta cheese formed a tight friendship on this dessert plate... like the chefs who prepared them.

Right after dessert,  I decided to stroll around the terrace and take a look at some of the works of art on display.  Paintings, or better yet, Food Paintings produced by Chef Russo himself.  The chef joined me and pointed spoke with me about several...

For example, his World Wine painted with tinted extra virgin olive oil and wine.  The world map is changed by the presence of the Americas on the right and not the left.  He also pointed out  that between Asia and North America there is a profile of female face, inspired by Caravaggio's Magdalene

Or this one entitled Tumeric which is exactly what he used along with oils and acrylics and the help of a fork, not a paintbrush.

World Coke features real coke cans and melted plastic forks.

Salmon and Spinach was painted on 170 wine bottle corks.

The evening was over.  I made a quick trip to the upstairs bar for a quick caffe' for the road, a few minutes of fireworks, a few words with the chefs before I hit the road.  

But not before mentally adding two future dinner dates in my agenda...

Sicily and Rome.
Why not?