Saturday, September 9, 2017

A Scottissimo Summer Experience, Dinner with the Stars, Il Flauto di Pan, Ravello (Sa)

It was an invitation to dinner that I could not refuse. Executive Chef Crescenzo Scotti asked his close friend and fellow Ischian,  Chef Nino Di Costanzo to join him for the second night of his Dinner with the Stars, his four hands dinner series at  Il Flauto di Pan, Villa Cimbrone, one of the most beautiful and romantic places on earth. 

We’ll have dinner in the crypt instead of the dining room, the chef had written me a few days before the big event. 
The crypt?  I thought.  I had visited it months before. I remembered it as a large empty place with plain, but impressive arches dating back to the Gothic era.   That memory was soon forgotten as I walked into the crypt last Monday evening.  The staff had transformed the space into something out of a fairy tale.

I took a silent tour as the chefs met with the dining room staff for the pre service briefing.  I then followed Scotti and Di Costanzo into the hotel’s garden for an aperitif paired with sparkling wine and a spectacular September full moon.

Eggplant parmigiana

The chef’s stuffed pepper

Braided zucchini stuffed with white fish and fresh mint

Seared scallops with watermelon gazpacho

Time for dinner, so I, along with about forty guests, headed to our seats.  There we were greeted by music, a glass of Monte di Grazia Bianco IGT white wine and the first appetizer of the evening.

Lobster cappuccino with potato cream and black ink squid powder, Chef Scotti’s classic signature dish.

The next plate that arrived was accompanied by a mesmerizing aroma of fresh dill.  Scotti prepared scampi, burrata and basil with pork cheek together with a celery sauce, lemon tarallo and toasted almonds.

The next dish that left the kitchen was a familiar one.  One that I had tried for the first time while sitting at Di Costanzo’s chef’s table at Dani Maison in Ischia a little over a year ago.  His risotto with lemon, zucchini and shrimp

To be savored slowly.

Between dishes, I had the pleasure to discuss the wines served so far with sommelier Arturo Terminello and Event manager Baldo Durazzo.  Terminello chose to stay on the Amalfi Coast with the wine list for the night.  Wines such as Vigna Grottapiana by Ettore Sammarco and Tramonti rose’ by Tenuta San Francesco.

It was at this point that the chefs entered silently and set up shop table side to prepare the next course – Le Fumarole.  

Chef Di Costanzo and Chef Scotti

This dish is Di Costanzo’s homage to his island, his Ischia, where there are geysers on the island – fumarole- that some islanders use the heat to cook with.  

The chef steamed cooked cod over hot rocks and herbs.  He then delicately placed the fish on the serving dish inside a colorful crown of crunchy seasonal vegetables such as zucchini, peppers and tomato confit, and topped it with a double sauce starring corn on the cob and cauliflower.

From delicate to hearty- the next dish served was Laticauda lamb topped with a foie gras sauce.  

Chef Scotti had explained this dish to me earlier in the evening.  He noticed that I was admiring the mini apples at the pass during one of my many visits to the kitchen.  The chef actually had diced up Campania’s tasty Annurca apples and cooked them in red wine, sugar and cinnamon.   Some of the cubes are then shaped into tiny spheres, wrapped in plastic and frozen. The rest of the cooked apple cubes are placed into a red wine reduction along with a gelling agent.  

The frozen apple spheres are then added to the gelled mixture giving it a shiny glassy look. The apples,  lamb, and a Modica chocolate sauce and a glass of Borgo di Gete by Reale.

It was impossible to resist the urge to clean my plate with bread!

It was time for dessert – well, predessert.  The tomato, which is not a tomato at all.  But a delicious burst of passion fruit.  

This followed by a plate of strawberry, milk cream and dark chocolate and a glass of Passion dessert wine by Cantina Apicella.

The arrival of dessert usually marks the end of the meal, the end of the evening.  The guests go home, and the chefs along with the brigade prepare something to eat for themselves.  Usually a plate of spaghetti with garlic, extra virgin olive oil and red chili peppers flakes.

Chef Scotti had every intention to keep this casual tradition alive, but he added a twist.  He invited his dinner guests and members of the dining room staff into the kitchen. I’m not sure how many were there…Fifty or so?  

It felt like a big family – pasta – sparkling wine, and in the end, a sugary chocolate-topped bomba!

It was an invitation to dinner that I could not refuse. Executive Chef Crescenzo Scotti asked his close friend and fellow Ischian,  Chef Nino Di Costanzo to join him for the second night of his Dinner with the Stars series at  Il Flauto di Pan, Villa Cimbrone, one of the most beautiful, romantic and friendly places on earth. 

Grazie, Chef!

Friday, September 1, 2017

#Ischiaddicted - Ischia Safari 2017

September means back to school….and back to Ischia, the island that has practically adopted me this past year.

Yeah, I'll be hopping on the ferry in just a few weeks- I’ve had  these dates marked on my calendar or some time – September 18/19 IschiaSafari.  This is the third year for this fund raising event held on the green island.  Behind the event are  two of Ischia’s shining stars, Chefs Nino DiCostanzo, Dani Maison and Pasquale Palamaro, Ristorante Indaco.  The chefs, alongside others, founded the Associazioneculturale Ischia Saperi e Sapori - Centro Culturale ed Artistico.  This association’s scope is to promote enogastronomic culture – particularly cuisine.  So where does Ischia Safari fit in?  Two days on the island featuring events to help raise money for scholarships for students who are interested in  food and wine industry.  In addition, funds will also go towards helping families who have suffered during the recent earthquake in Casamicciola, a small fraction of the island.

Here’s a quick look at what to expect.

Monday, September 18th, 7:30 pm, Negombo ThermalGardens
Over 70 chefs, pizza makers, and pastry chefs will be on hand throughout the park with food, fun, laughs and so much more!  Check out the video from last year !

More info and tickets here.

Tuesday, September 19th, 4 pm, Hotel Regina Isabella
Master Class Trento Doc Wine Tasting led by Sommelier Maurizio Fillipi, Italy’s Sommelier of the Year 2016. More info here.

Tuesday, September 19th, 8:30 pm, Ristorante Indaco, Hotel Regina Isabella
Gala Dinner starring some of Italy’s top chefs alongside Di Costanzo and Palamaro will treat about 120 guest to a glamorous gourmet dinner in the restaurant that includes appetizers and pizza by the pool.

Some serious names include chefs such as Andrea Migliaccio, Salatore Elefante, Anthony Genovese, Francesco Sposito,  Gaetano Trovato, Cerea Brothers, Giuseppe Ianotti, Vittorio Fusari, and Antonino Maresca.

Info here

So, the countdown is on!  Ready? Ci vediamo ad Ischia!


Friday, August 11, 2017

Fantastic Firsts, Chef Lino Scarallo, Palazzo Petrucci, Naples (Na)

I didn't know what to expect that afternoon at lunch as I sat down at the table.  Actually, that's not really true.  I did.  I knew that I by placing my appetite in the hands of Chef Lino Scarallo- and that's not a bad place to be.  Here's a look at the primi piatti portion of his Lino, fai tu tasting menu - Palazzo Petrucci, Naples.

First up,
Cannelloni bean soup.

Yes, a summer bean soup served with caromate prawns, pork snout, and lime.

A creamy creamy zucchini risotto,

a melt in your mouth scampi,

and crispy, crunchy pork toppings.

And them-

One of my favorite pasta formats - spaghettone!

Served with octopus and fresh spicy chili peppers.