Monday, September 1, 2014

Fantastic Firsts - Pasta and Potatoes with Anchovy Sauce and Bottarga - Chef Michele De Martino, Ristorante Evu (Sa)

Andiamo in cucina, let's go into the kitchen.  Those were the words spoken to me by Chef Michele De Martino after I'd eaten several appetizers during my lunch at Ristorante Evu earlier in the summer.  De Martino was ready to share with me a series of primi piatti, first courses that he guaranteed I would enjoy.
Chef Michele De Martino

Pasta e Patate - he announced.  Pasta with potatoes.
My heart sank just a bit ish.  Sure, I have learned to love this pasta dish, but I always thought of it as a recipe for late fall or even winter.  When the temperature was a tad bit cooler.  Definitely not during the summer.  But I remained silent.

I remained silent and watched as he prepared one of the most delicious first courses that I have tasted in a long time.
De Martino diced up previously boiled potatoes and added them to a pan which he had sauteed a  little garlic and Italian parsley in extra virgin olive oil.

In the meantime, a  serving or two of pasta mista (delicata) was boiling away.
A splash of anchovy sauce to the potatoes instead of salt for that Evu touch.  The chef doesn't leave home without it...

When the pasta was about 2/3 cooked, he added it to the potato mixture.  He stirred and tossed and stirred.

A couple of minutes later, a fistful of shredded potatoes were added then he was ready to plate.

Sprinkle a little bottarga..
and here we are.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vineyard Hopping - Lapio (Av) - Feudi di San Gregorio

Our appointment was on a Wednesday morning at 10 am.  And at 10 am sharp, Pierpaolo Sirch, agronomist and administrative delegate, Feudi di San Gregorio,   opened the door to the waiting room where I was...waiting. He shook my hand, led me to his car in the parking lot and we were on our way.  We were headed towards Taurasi, as I had a grande desire to  visit their Aglianico vineyards for a possible photo exhibit in the future.  Sirch shared with me quite a bit about Aglianico, Irpinia, and the problems and challenges that the winery has faced this year thanks to the unusually cool and wet July. And though the focus of the day was Aglianico, somehow the conversation led to Fiano.
Sirch, originally from Friuli in Northern Italy, has a deep love and respect for Irpinia.  He has been with Feudi di San Gregorio for around 10 years, and he shared with me a story which peaked my attention as well as my admiration for my tour guide.
When Sirch first arrived in Irpinia, he toured the territory getting to know the land.  Feudi di San Gregorio's Fiano di Avellino vineyards are in Sorbo Sepico and Santo Stefano, but on one particular day, Sirch found himself in Lapio, a county in Avellino known as the heritage of Fiano.

Sirch, new to the area, and his new jobm took some mental notes of a particular vineyard.  One that had a fig tree, a huge pine tree, an elderly woman who owned the land...and grapevines that were at least 100 years old.

Sirch continued with his story throughout the morning, sharing a tidbit at a time. Eventually we finished our tour of Taurasi, and decided to head towards Lapio.  On our way, he spoke about the difficulty he had to find the vineyard again. It wasn't on a main road, or any map.  He did remember, however the fig tree, the pine tree, and the elderly woman.

Over time he rediscovered this historical treasure, a little different due to a fire that changed the landscape, but luckily didn't touch the vines.  Unfortunately, the woman that Sirch met a few years earlier had passed away.  The vineyard was basically abandoned.  It didn't take Feudi long to decide to adopt this vineyard which not only contained a historical Fiano vine, but an Aglianico, Piedirosso, and Sciacinosso. as well

We arrived in Lapio, and after several minutes driving down narrow roads, we needed to park the car and continue the rest of our adventure by foot.  The width and condition of the path made it impossible to do otherwise.
Five minutes later I saw with my own eyes what Sirch had been sharing with me the entire morning.  A piece of territory that the winery has been caring for for the past five years.
I saw the pine tree, the fig tree, the elderly woman's home.

I, along with Sirch, admired this century old Fiano vine.  I listened carefully as explained how he and his staff would carefully prune the vine and replant the cuttings elsewhere in a loving attempt to preserve the vine...its history...its heritage.

After awhile we headed back to the car.  Sirch excused himself while he spoke on the phone, I instead reflected on the morning, this quick stop in Lapio to see a hidden piece of history.
I thought about the vines I had just seen, impressed  with the labor of love, time, and dedication needed to care for a vineyard such as this one.  I thought about how many other hidden treasures like this one and how many  caretakers of a territory there may be out there.  

Campania never ceases to amaze.

Fantastic Firsts - Vermicelloni with Shrimp -Cotto e Crudo - Chef Luciano Villani - La Locanda Del Borgo (Bn)

I'm a big fan of long pasta, my favorite being spaghetti.  But at times, a dish calls for something a little thicker to support the sauce and compliment the overall pasta experience.
Like vermicellone chosen by Chef Luciano Villani for his pasta with shrimp -cotto e crudo that I enjoyed during my visit to La Locanda del Borgo.
Cotto in Italian means cooked.  So this pasta nido/nest was swaddled in a savory sauce that the chef prepared using fresh shrimp.

Crudo means raw.  Villani decided to place his pasta nest on a bed of shrimp carpaccio.



Fantastic First

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Snapshot of the Day - Il Sannio in a Package - Chef Luciano Villani -La Locanda del Borgo Ristorante, Telese Terme (Bn)

I can't resist a plate of pasta, especially one done right.  Like this one placed in front of me last week during a relaxing lunch in the peaceful oasis known as Aquapetra Resort and Spa.  Three little packages arrived at my table prepared by Chef Luciano Villani of La Locanda del Borgo Ristorante.  

The pasta dough was  prepared  the old fashioned way using 30 egg yolks.. Wow.  And inside?  A filling made with Marchagiana beef (Sannio) and onions from Alifie.  A filling that practically melted in your mouth.  Drizzled around my little presents was a sauce made with pecorino di Laticauda Sannita cheese.

Il Sannio in a package...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Snapshot of the Day - A Summer Serenade - Gianfranco Iervolino (Na)

A cool summer evening in Vico Equense (Na).  Michelin star restaurant L'Accanto located in  5 star Grand Hotel Angiolieri.  My host?  Chef Vincenzo Guarino who   invited pizza maker Gianfranco Iervolino to  present several of his gourmet pizzas and serve them to an intimate crowd on the terrace and in the  garden with a breathtaking view of the coast.  Iervolino, recognized this year with Gambero Rosso's prestigious Tre Spicchi as well as one of his specialties voted Pizza of the Year, shared three specialties for an intimate pizza loving crowd.  His margherita, his pizza napoletano, and one that blew me away - his pizza with a velvety zucchini sauce, provola cheese from Agerola, shrimp, and Sfusato lemons from Amalfi.
I took my time with this slice, enjoying the blend of ingredients as well as the beer selected to go with it, Syrentum, Birrificio Sorrento.
Iervolino left the pizza oven and got out his chittara.  You see, Iervolino is also known for his love of Neapolitan music.
 Our dessert was paired with a beautiful serenade of classics performed by Iervolino and his amico da sempre, Paquale Panico.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Snapshot of the Day - Talento Sannio Aglianico DOC 2007, Az. Agricola Capolino Perlingieri , Solopaca (Bn)

Ciro, I don't know alot about wines form the Sannio, quindi sono nelle tue mani..I'm in your hands.
These are the words that I spoke to Ciro Sannino, Maitre D and Sommelier of Aquapetra Resort and Spa.  I was there to enjoy a long end of of summer lunch at La Locanda del Borgo, the spa's ristorante located in Telese Terme (Bn).  The heart of Il Sannio.
So I watched silenty as Sannino opened a bottle of Talento  Sannio Aglianico DOC 2007  from  Az. Agricola Capolino Perlingieri.
Aglianico, I thought as I watched him avvinare, season the glasses, as he placed it to his nose, then tasted. Then poured me a glass.
I decided to wait a bit, due to the variety-due to the vintage.  It needed time to relax, breathe, get comfortable.
I waited quite awhile over conversation as this red wine from an underrated  territory began to express itself.  The strong legs that clung to the side of the glass.  The intense deep aromas of mature cherries.  The slightly tannic feel on the palate perfect with my main course served that afternoon the terrace.
Ciro, I don't know alot about wines form the Sannio, quindi sono nelle tue mani.
Why don't we go and visit the winery?

Monday, August 25, 2014

L'Oro di Napoli - Chef Eduardo Estatico - J Kitchen, Capri (Na)

It was time for dessert at J Kitchen and he brought it to my table.
He, Chef Eduardo Estatico,  came out of the kitchen to see how I was doing and  gently placed down a colorful  narrow rectangular dish in front of me.
 L'Oro di Napoli, he said.  The Gold of Naples.

The Italian film from the 1950s of the same name instantly came to mind.  A classic which starred some of the top Neapolitan actors of the era such as  Toto', Sophia Loren, Eduardo De Fillipo, and Vittorio De Sica.  This dish in front of me had some  Neapolitan stars as well. Three to be exact and I took awhile to decide where I wanted to begin as Estatico and I made some small talk.
Decided. I reached for my fork and dove in.
Ah, you chose the baba' to begin with, Estatico noticed.

I smiled and  nodded, my mouth full of tiny fragoline strawberries..
Next up, I went for the small sweet zeppola di San Giuseppe or Saint Joseph fritter. Sure you can save a few calories if you have the baked version, but the fried version, like this one was so good!

The film is divided into short episodes- 6 in the original Italian version, 4 in the version released in the states.  Each part of the film has its own storyline, its own message, its own flavor.
Exactly like the chef's dessert.  And I was about finish it off.
The last episode so to speak was presented in a miniature mason jar.  The sfogliatella riccia. The delicious gorgeous cream of the Neapolitan star was not enclosed in the shell shaped curly filo pastry that it is famous for.  That was sprinkled on top.

No, for this dessert, all I needed was a spoon.  The chef added a strip of candied lemon peel.
The chef...the chef?  I looked up and he was on his way back to the kitchen.
In fact, thinking back, I remember a quick smile,  hearing him  say buon appetito at one point somewhere between my  zeppola and my sfogliatella.
Along with my view of Marina Grande.
Of a distant Mt Vesuvius.
And of The Gold of Naples