Monday, October 20, 2014

#kitchentalk - Cooking Gourmet with Chef Roy Caceres, Metamorfosi Ristorante, Rome

 I was an hour ish late for Michelin star Chef Roy Caceres's (Rome's Metamorfosi Ristorante) two day cooking class at Dolce e Salato Scuola di Cucina e Pasticceria in Caserta.
I tried to enter without being noticed, but as I opened the door the room was silent, except for the whirr of the mixer that the chef was using to mix  pasta dough.

Buongiorno...scusa Chef...was all I could whisper as I headed to the back of the class.  Caceres nodded, watched me sit down and then picked up with his lesson.

I sat down in the back, but it wasn't long as I made my way to the front row so as not to miss a beat of the chef's lesson.  I was assai curious as to what made this Colombian born chef tick.

The  small recipe book in front of was like a scorecard.  Caceres skipped from one page to the next and then back again, checking off  recipe items as he went along. The chef was preparing six dishes at once.

Many required a Thermomix, like his anchovy mayonnaise, black olive oil, and turnip green sauce to name a few.

Many ingredients needed to be vacuum packed such as his beef fillets and  bananas.
All dishes required his  his attention, expertise, and patience.

Minutes turned to respect for Caceres turned to admiration, especially when he put aside the Thermomix for awhile and started rolling out the pasta he had prepared earlier.

This is gourmet cooking.  And gourmet cooking takes not only know how..but time.

And It was time to put these pieces together. Like his Foglia di 'grano', leaves of 'wheat' with red tuna and herbs and creamy chick peas....

Or his "Pomodori vestiti" 'dressed' tomatoes with anchovies, burrata and turnip greens...

Mozzarella and Spinach with olives and bread...

I looked at my watch.  Caceres hadn't finished, but it was time for me to leave.  I tried to leave without being noticed.
I tried...but as I got to the door, I caught the chef's attention , waved and  mouthed a ciao...
ciao and grazie...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fantastic Firsts - Risotto with Quail, Chef Vincenzo Guarino, Ristorante L'Accanto (Na)

One of the first dishes that I ever had at Ristorante L'Accanto was a mean risotto with baby eggplant, a mozzarella di bufala mousse, and red shrimp.  That was over a year ago, but I still remember the presentation, the flavors, and the rice - cooked to a perfect al dente by Chef Vincenzo Guarino.

Chef Vincenzo Guarino
That's probably why there was a silent excitement when this particular dish was placed down in front of me.  Another risotto creation by the Michelin star chef.  One that I was sure would not disappoint.  Risotto with quail.

Simple colors...the white of the rice.  Creamy white with a tint of brown.  Brown from a beef reduction drizzled carefully around the plate.  In the middle, quail topped with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese which let out an incredible aroma.  An aroma that blended with with the grated apples that not only decorated the dish, but served to give, what I believe a tarty flavor to the dish.

I'll have to ask Chef Guarino next time...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Indian Summer - Seafood by the Sea- Chef Vincenzo Guarino, L'Accanto Ristoranto (Na)

It's this time of year that one is ready for the fall season.  But sometimes in Campania, the thermometer does not jive with the calendar.  Here we are experiencing an Indian summer which has extended the tourist season in many beach towns.  Especially last weekend in Seiano di Vico Equense (Na), a small town on the doorstep of the Sorrento Peninsula.   There, at L'Accanto Ristorante located in the spectacular albergo Grand Hotel Angiolieri, I sat down at a small table on the terrace overlooking the sea and almost forgot that it was least for a few hours.
One of the first dishes I was served by Michelin Chef Vincenzo Guarino was a super size seafood appetizer.
 No one leaves my restaurant hungry, Guarino told me later.
So what was on this dish that was not only a joy to look at, fun to photograph, but packed with flavor?

Bite sized pieces of slightly sauteed red mullet, fresh fennel, shrimp, mandarin oranges...

Beet wafers...

Homemade Greek yogurt...

Bite sized pieces to enjoy slowly, one at a time...
while looking out over the terrace...
out to the sea with a perfect view of Mt. Vesuvius...
and a glass of wine...

Indian Summer...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A New Season - A New Menu Continues - Cannellone with Ricotta and Squid - Chef Salvatore Bianco, Il Comandante Ristorante (Na)

Our conversation began in the Beluga Sky Bar and Restaurant located on the 9th floor of Hotel Romeo.  A chat over a caffe' in which I learned quite a bit about Chef Salvatore Bianco's culinary background, his love of  Campania, and his respect for quality products and attention to detail.  The conversation moved from Beluga to the kitchen  and then the dining room of Il Comandante, the hotel's gourmet restaurant where Bianco prepared four dishes  for me that would appear on the Michelin star restaurant's menu very very soon.  (I wrote about his pasta with beans and mussels here)

So as the sun was setting, I ignored the spectacular view outside the window and concentrated on the plate in front of me.  A primo piatto - a first course pasta dish.

Cannellone, I was told.  Moving in closer I noticed that there was a lot going on in this plate,  and I had the chef by my side to answer my questions about every tasty forkful.
Cannellone - a single piece of handmade pasta stretched across the plate packed with flavorful buffalo milk ricotta cheese. lemon and spring onions.

Bianco added squid which had spent several seconds in a hot skillet.  Just enough time to curl up, remain tender and maintain it's salty sea flavor.  He even used the squids liver to make a creamy paste to accompany the dish.

The black disks?  A gelatin  that he made with a broth containing  the squid's black ink.

Dried peas were used to make the creamy sauce that the cannelloni sat upon.

A fantastic first sure to brighten up any autumn evening.
Certainly enough to draw your attention away from the bay of Naples...even if just for awhile.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A New Season - A New Menu - Pasta with Beans and Mussels, Chef Salvatore Bianco, Il Comandante Ristorante (Na)

The seasonal shift from summer to autumn  is always an interesting period - at least for me.  The temperature drops a few degrees Celsius, harvest season begins, and chefs add new items to their menus.
A couple of days ago I stopped by to visit Michelin star Chef Salvatore Bianco at Il Comandante Ristorante located in 5 star luxury Romeo Hotel for a chat and to see what his plans were for the fall.
Chef Bianco gave me a sneak preview of four dishes that ready to hit the dining room. Here's one.  A classic Neapolitan dish with a twist.  Pasta e fagioli con le cozze.  Pasta with beans and mussels. 

At first glance, I couldn't help but be taken in by the colors displayed in the ceramic dish placed down in front of me- white, purple, orange, green.  An extremely stark contrast to the sleek black interior design of the hotel's restaurant.  Bianco described his dish.  

Fresh mussels which rested in a delicate Controne bean soup.  Red lobster roe, purple potatoes, and dried tomatoes.  Ok, I get it...but the pasta?  I wondered.  Here's where it got more interesting.  On the side was a small bowl with Il Commandante's puffed pasta.  Puffed pasta made with red hot chili and toasted sesame.  

Puffed pasta which, Bianco instructed, was to be carefully added to his colorful creation.  To mingle, blend, meld with the heat of the dish to become a delicate but powerfully flavorful re-visitation of a classic dish that has been prepared in his family for generations.  

A new season...
A new menu...
A new look...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tomato Soup and Then Some - Don Alfonso 1890 - Sant'Agata Sui Due Golfi (Na)

I had already placed my order.  I had already discussed with Chef Ernesto Iaccarino my menu choices for the day - a combination of something old, something new...but all items that I hadn't tried before.
While waiting for my benvenuto - I strolled around the kitchen to see what was going on.  Then I spotted it.  It was a few feet away on one of the prep tables waiting to be placed in the oven.
What's that? I asked out of curiosity.

Sous Chef Nicola Pignatelli responded by smiling and  by adding it to my menu.
I'd have to wait and see for myself.
I didn't have to wait too long.

I was at the Chef's table, a small table for one  in the corner, right next to the pass when Raffaele brought me Chef Iaccarino's Tomato Soup.

Raffaele helped me break into the crispy crust - the bowl was scorching hot.

It was almost a shame to break it open - but that was the only way to taste what was awaiting inside.
Tomato soup prepared with San Marzano tomatoes from the family's farm in Punta Campanella.

Tomato soup with king crab, the catch of the day.

Tomato soup with a chunk of prosciutto cotto.
Tomato soup and then some...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Amazing Appetizer - Shrimp and Potatoes, Chef Eduardo Estatico, J Kitchen, Capri (Na)

I had just finished my first glass of wine and an awesome conversation with Martino Acampora, general manager of J Place in Capri.  My lunch at J Kitchen, the hotel's restaurant was off to a promising start.  A brief pause as we both looked over the railing of the hotel's terrace as my second appetizer was brought to my table.
Ah, this one is my favorites, shared Acampora...Buon Appetito, he added with a smile as he left me to my lunch and went back to care for his guests.
Well...he left me with a plate of colorful comfort food prepared by Chef Eduardo Estatico.

Fresh local shrimp...

creamy potatoes...

an amazing combination of extra virgin olive oil and basil...

shrimp eggs also known as corrallo di gambero...