Friday, December 12, 2014

Snapshot of the Day - Chef Massimo Bottura - Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef

Chef Massimo Bottura
Earlier this week my amico Maurizio Cortese hosted an invitation only book signing/light lecture/chef junkie festa in Naples featuring  Chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana. Bottura is from  Modena which is located  up north, a bit far for this Campania blogger.  So although I was familiar with this 3 star Michelin chef, I have never had the opportunity to sit down a casa sua and try any of the dishes he has become famous for.
Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef,  Bottura's book available in English and Italian (Vieni in Italia con Me) has been on the top ten lists in Italy and the states since its release last October. Honestly, I was curious.  Curious about what made this book special, different, interessante.  What made this book such an international hit.
And after 90 minutes ish of listening to Bottura (Italy's top chef...number 3 in the world!) speak  about his history, his country's traditions, his philosophy, and above all - witnessing his passion from the fourth row, I understood why.  I understood perche'.
Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef by Massimo Bottura will be under my Christmas tree this year.  Part one of a gift to myself.
Part two will have to wait until the spring.
When I finally hop on a train to Modena and have dinner at Osteria Francescana.
And ask the chef to sign my book.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Cupid Strikes Again - 'A Ren' 'e Lav' Falanghina Campania IGT 2013, Azienda Agricola Agnanum (Na)

When I met Raffaele Moccia a little over two years ago in his vineyard in Agnano I was struck.  Like cupid struck.  By his vineyard, his story, and of course his wines.  In fact his Falanghina has been a staple on my table often paired with his family's rotisserie chicken.
Last summer, during a recent visit with Moccia in his tasting room, he told me that he wanted to change the wine label on one of his wines.  His Falanghina IGT.  He wanted a label  that represented that particular wine which is a blend of Falanghina and other white grapes that grow in the family vineyards.
He wanted to use a photo  of a vine that is over 250 years old.  A vine that has been growing in that sandy volcanic clay for centuries.
He wanted to use a photo that I took.
And I'm honored.
So now when I swing by a wine shop, glance at a wine list, or swing by the cantina to pick up a few bottles, my mind will go back to that Sunday in Agnano.  And cupid will strike over and over and over again...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Snapshot of the Day - Chocolate Panettone - Le Colonne (Ce)

And here we are.  December.  Time to officially start thinking about Christmas...and Christmas desserts!  In recent years there has been a big boom in Campania centered around specialty which doesn't have its roots in the south. The Panettone.  There are many versions, usually with candied fruit - but my favorite has to be chocolate. Like this version from Le colonne Restaurant in Caserta. Chocolate panettone after dinner...chocolate panettone for breakfast, for brunch, snack...
Well, you get the, snapshot.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Welcome to My Home - Lunch at Antica Osteria Nonna Rosa with Chef Peppe Guida

I've lost count as to how many times I have seen Chef Peppe Guida since we met for the first time last April.  On every occasion, from dinners at Pastifcio dei Campi to visits to Marina Yacht Club, we always ended our conversations agreeing that I needed to visit him a casa sua...his home, his restaurant, Antica Osteria Nonna Rosa in Vico Equense (Na).
I chose a Saturday afternoon to visit the chef's home, which really was just that...a home.  A renovated house dating back to the 17th century.  Chef Guida took me on a little tour pointing out where the pizza oven used to be, for example, which now is a small corner intimate dining room/wine cellar.  My eyes, however, were drawn to the family room where among antique furniture and plants hanging from the ceiling was a comfortable couch.

I sat down for a while to relax,  discuss the latest news from Napoli, and talk about Guida's menu over a glass of spumante and a soft warm slice of casatiello with walnuts.  Menu decided, the chef headed to the kitchen and left me in the capable hands of Maitre sommelier Luigi Casciello. Casciello led me to my table, alongside a beautiful antique Neapolitan presepe.

Welcome to my home - a benvenuto arrived right away.

Meatball in ragu sauce with a ricotta mousse...

Farinata and escarole pizza with anchovies...

Fried cauliflower zeppola with anchovies and butter...

Freshly baked bread was placed on the table - begging to be tasted.  White, White with fennel seeds, Whole wheat with walnuts.  To be tasted alone, to soak up the sauces from Guida's upcoming creations, or maybe drizzled with the family's own extra virgin olive oil in nearby Montechiaro.

Time for the primi piatti - beginning with spaghetti.

Spaghetti with anchovies, red bell pepper sauce, and pecorino cheese....

One of Campania's dishes of the year - a dish known as the Delicato Sorrentino.  Chef Guida served me this one himself, wanting to ensure that my first spoonful included everything.  Not just the visible mixed pasta in a delicate yellow tomato sauce with mozzarella foam.

He wanted to make sure that I swept into the dish, so to speak, to get to the sapid basil pesto and diced mozzarella underneath.

An off menu treat - risotto with cabbage, fennel and pork shoulder blade.  a very tender pork shoulder blade.

Salted cod with fennel and friarelli greens.  Salted cod which had been vacuum packed in extra virgin olive oil then   cooked at 60 degrees Celsius for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Throughout the meal, Casciello would change my wine glass, change my wine with the goal of getting the best pairing for Guida's dishes.


Space for dessert?  Always!

Lemon sorbet pre-dessert to clean the palate.  Candied lemon peel and mint on top...

Chocolate in 5 consistencies...

A tray of jujubes, candied citron, and sugary potato zeppola accompanied me back to the couch.

That comfortable couch where I began my visit.  And over a caffe', Guido's nucillo and apricot brandy, I wound down that afternoon almost as it had began...
With the chef  discussing the latest news form Napoli. the menu, and what we could do the next time...

Welcome to my home...

Grazie, chef

Antica Osteria Nonna Rosa
Via Privata Bonea, 4 - 80069 Vico Equense (NA)
Tel/Fax: (+39) 081 8799055

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Serendipity - Vigna Lapillo Lacryma Christi Rosso DOC 2013, L'Azienda Vinicola Sorrentino

Wikipedia: Serendipity means  a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it.  

Not 24 hours earlier, a friend of mine mentioned that I should try some wines from the Vesuvius area.  My nose is often in Irpina he reminded me,with a smile.
So was it a coincidence that while trying out the new pizza menu last week at 50 Kalo', I spotted some new additions from the Vesuvius area on the wine list?  
Maybe, maybe not.

So after ordering a fried pizza stuffed with ricotta and piccante nduja, I chose a glass  of Vigna Lapillo Lacryma Rosso DOC 2013 from L'Azienda Vinicola Sorrentino to pair with it.  80% Piedirosso, 20% Aglianico blended together from this vineyard blessed with volcanic soil.  Intense ruby red colors, intense aromas and a slightly tannic flavor held its ground with my pizza of choice for the day.

In fact, Sorrentino may want to add Salvo's pizza to their pairing notes.
Just a thought...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Snapshot of the Day - Palamita Cotto and Crudo - Chef Alfonso Caputo, Taverna del Capitano, (Na)

 What makes a dish memorable?
The colors, the presentation?  
The aromas, the flavors?  
All of the above?
Let's take  this dish I tasted recently at Taverna del Capitano in Marina del Cantone (Na).  A super sunny November weekend with an amazing view of the mare was the background for this snapshot. Palamita fish - cotto and crudo (cooked and raw) is a classic here,  but this time Chef Alfonso Caputo added a special touch.  A special pizzazz to the palate which held it's own next to this tasty steamy  fish served on a hot rock and olive tree wood.  An orange marmalade prepared with sultanas and cinnamon tossed with black rice made this dish, well, memorable.
The colors, the presentation, the aromas, the flavors...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pasta is a Girl's Best Friend - Fantastic Firsts by Chef Peppe Guida

During a recent dinner at Pastificio Dei Campi's intimate insane kitchen I had the opportunity to try several pasta dishes prepared by Michelin star chef Peppe Guida of Antica Osteria Nonna Rosa. There were three in particular that caught my eye and captured my palate.  Three dishes with a few simple ingredients prepared with passion and experience.

Pasta e Ceci/ Mixed Pasta with Chick Peas

Chef Guida added super al dente pasta to to a saucepan containing  chick peas, and burnt garlic extra virgin olive oil.  After a few minutes of stirring, he plated the dish and added fried chick peas on the top.

Finta Genovese/ Penne Pasta, Onions, and Pecorino Cheese

Slow cooked onions are the secret ingredient to this dish.  The chef used onions from Montoro, Avellino famous for their delicate flavor.  After nearly two hours of cooking under very very low heat, he added al dente pasta tossed for a couple of minutes with grated pecorino cheese, a little extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of black pepper.

Paccheri Pasta Gricia con Lime/Pasta with Guanciale (cured pork jowl or cheeks) and Lime 

Probably the jaw dropping dish of the evening.  Un assaggino, taste of guanciale that was not crispy, but comfortable was tossed with paccheri pasta and pecorino cheese.

Grazie, chef...