Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Snapshot of the Day - Un Bicchiere di Baccala' - Chef Michele Grande, Roof and Sky (Na)

It's been my experience that when Chef Michele Grande sets a small glass down in front of me, it is definitely a piccolo package filled with powerful flavors.  It was that way last September with his Vodka and Mussel shot and it was definitely that way last Saturday afternoon at Roof and Sky.  This time the featured fish was baccala', codfish.  Grande marinated his and added onions, red chili peppers, and puple basil.  Paired with a cool breeze and a spectacular view of Lake Miseno.
Summer is off to a great start!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Anteprima Malaze' - The Faces of a Territory #Tipicamenteflegreo

Among my appointments over the last couple of weeks, I had the opportunity to attend a press conference forthe upcoming edition of Malaze'.  Malaze' is a privately funded  now in its 10th year which focuses a spotlight on   treasures such as  art, archeaology, tourism, food and wine found in Campi Flegrei.  I've lived at the doorstep of Campi Flegrei, the Phlegrean Fields for over 20 years and it has always been a territory that has not only fascinated me with its secrets, but welcomed me as one of their own.
Back to Malaze'  and the press conference held on breezy summer evening at Blu Yachting Club in Lucrino.  A press conference where Rosario Matera (il presidente) spoke briefly about the series of events in September and  also gave an opportunity for the territory to speak.  A territory that spoke from the heart from those who know it best.  Those who have toiled the land, the sea, and produced what many of us take for granted.  They spoke of their struggles and their succeses.  How things have changed over the years and their hopes and desires for the future.

Nicola Pascondolo - sailor. The seas haven't changed so much...just the way of sailing.  Technology, sign of the times.

Nicola Pascondolo

Antimo Vallozzi - boat maker.  A tough but satisfying career.  A career that has pratically disappeared.  He hasn't made a boat in 20 years - the new generation isn't interested in constructing boats like he used to.

Antimo Vallozzi

Maria Cristina Di Palma - cook/chef/restaurateur.  A familiar face.  I've seen Signora Maria Cristina on numerous ocassions at her home - in her restaurant La Bifora.  She spoke humbly about her role in Campi Flegrei - to interpret the magnificent flavors and recipes of her territory.  Her son, chef Michele Grande, overcome with emotion/admiration/respect for his mom hopped in and shared stories of their restaurant.  Their winning recipes, old and new.  Touching.

Maria Cristina Di Palma

Michele Grande

Nicola Apa- farmer.  Apa spoke specifically about a product that he has grown for years.  The famous mela annurca, annurca apples found only in Campania.  As he spoke, I thought back to a house that I lived in from the period 2000-2005.  My house was next to an empty field own by farmers who also produced this fascinating fruit.  An apple, that once picked, is placed on the ground covered in sawdust in what seemed like edless rows.  The sun kissed the apples and over time, one by one, the apples were turned over so that the sun can caress the other side.  They aren't the best looking fruit on the fruit stand.  They are not shiny, sometimes they are dotted with bird bites  But, man, they are the tastiest and the only apples I buy.  Unfortunately they can't compete with the shiny perfest apples available on the shelves year round.  Apa has pratically abandoned the fruit on the trees.

Nicola Apa

Gennaro Moccia - wine maker.  I couldn't help but smile when I saw Signor Gennaro.  A familiar face who I've only seen in the vineyards.  His healthy smile and tanned skin are evidence of his healthy lifestyle.  I met Sig. Gennaro a few years ago in his stubborn vineyard on the hills of Agnano.  Hs vineyard where he and his son Raffaele perform evrrything by hand.  Sig. Gennaro, 84 years old, who can sling a heavy hoe and carve the volcanic terrain into terraces that make some of the most interesting Piedirosso dei Campi Flegrei and Falanghina dei Campi Flegrei around.

Gennaro Moccia

Vincenzo Di Meo - winemaker.  Don Vincenzo or Nonno Vincenzo.  When one thinks of Campi Flegrei wine, it is almost impossible not to think of La Sibilla.  Nonno Vincenzo, grandfather of the winery's current enologist and namesake, Vincenzo Di Meo, with straw hat placed on his knee spoke of how it used to be.  How he used to deliver wine from his humble home in Bacoli to the homes of the nobility in Vomero, Posillipo, Santa Lucia, etc etc.  Not by courier...but by horse back.  We all sat entranced as Don Vincenzo spoke.  Respect and admiration filled the small room.  Earlier in the evening, before the press conference began, Di Meo mentioned to me how he was honored to have the opportunity to speak.  I told him that it was the contrary.  What an honor for all of us to have a chance to learn about his history. His Campi Flegrei.

Vincenzo Di Meo

Giacomo Illiano - fisherman.  Illiano is a fisherman who is going through a rough period.  Illiano fishes for mussels.  Cozze.  The famous Cozze di Bacoli.  Mussels, which for many are a Sunday staple.  I remember how we used to stop by the cozze stands on our way home from the beach.  Mussels are inexpensive, at times a pain to clean, but quick to cook and full of flavor.  And the mussels from Bacoli are historically known as some of the best.  Unfortunately, due to sanitary concerns in respect to the areas were they are cultivated, the Bacoli mussel trade has come to a standstill.  No sales means no income to many families who depend on this savory seafood   to make a living.

Giacomo Illiano 

A press conference divided with stories of success, stories of challenges, and stories of hope.  Moderated expertly and with ease by journalist Ettore De Lorenzo.

After hearing these stories from the super heroes of the Phlegrean Fields, De Lorenzo introduced us to one last guest.  Chef Pietro Parisi, also known as the chef contandino/country chef.

Pietro Parisi - chef.  Parisi, who has travelled the world, has never lost the love and respect for his territory and the recipes that he grew up with.  He openly admitted that it is not easy for one to stay home after working in other parts of the world.  His restaurant is located in Palma Campana (Na), outside of Campi Flegrei, but he can surely relate to the issues that were brought up that evening.  His desire is to focus on the men and women who continue to produce quality products.  His hope is to bring back the recipes of his childhood.  The simple, yet, hearty healthy foods that brought up earlier generations.  Km zero works, he strongly believes and is proud to be a voice that bridges the gap between what was, what is, and what will/should be.

Pietro Parisi

An anteprima or preview is supposed to be a look at what is to come.  Create a bit of buzz about an event.  Not only did this Monday evening do that for me,, but it created an admiration for those who live in a territory that is beautiful - but full of struggles, challenges, wins, losses, and satisfactions.

Forza, Malaze' ---see you in September.
In the meantime, thanks for opening my eyes once again on a territory that is right outside my door.
A territory #tipicamenteflegreo.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Serendipity - Apertif in Vigna with Cantine Astroni and Friends

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

It had been a long day.  To be honest, the last couple of weeks have been pretty busy. Wednesday, for example, I  delivered a graduation speech in shoes with heels that were probably too high and I was ready too go home and crash.  But I had one more appointment.  A quick drive by appointment with winemaker Gerardo Vernazzaro of Cantine Astroni (Na).  I sent a message to Vernazzaro saying I'd swing by the winery around 5...he suggested I stop by around 6.  

Some friends are stopping by, dai...we'll visit the vineyards and have a quick aperitif on the Astroni crater wall.  
It had been awhile since I'd visited a vineyard.  Probably too long.  So, sure...why not.

A white knuckle ride with Vernazzaro at the wheel who lead us through a busy metropolitan Neapolitan city to two breathtaking vineyards - which I'll write about in detail soon- then back home to the winery's headquarters in Agnano (Na).  

Winemaker Gerardo Vernazzaro
There we set up camp with a dozen or so friends including amico Claudio Tenuta.  Claudio, sommelier and man with a grande passion for good food was in charge of the snacks.  As Vernazzaro prepared the wine, opening up a young fresh Colle Imperatrice Falanghina Dei Campi Flegrei DOP 2014, Tenuta prepared his first appetizer of the evening.  

A thick slice of crusty bread topped with fresh ricotta cheese. He placed  chopped arugula salad and a slice of fresh yellow bell pepper.  Right before handing it to me, Tenuta sprinkled a bit of pepper on top.

A cool breeze, light conversation, a glass of Colle Imperatrice and a bruschetta was just what the doctor ordered...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Fantastic Firsts- Chef Francesco Fusco's Pasta and Peas, Il Moera-Ristorante -Orto (Av)

A relaxing afternoon in Irpinia.  Green Irpinia as it's lovingly nicknamed.  And anyone who has been there understands why. The territory in the spring and summer is rich, lush, verde.
Halfway through my meal at Il Moera -Ristorante -Orto in Avella (Av), Chef Francesco Fusco brought this dish to my table.  Colorful, flavorful, rich in fresh ingredients, many from the restaurant's garden.

Pasta mista- mixed pasta enveloped in a creamy pea sauce.  The chef added carmelized ramata/copper onions from nearby Montoro.  Fusco sprinkled crushed pistachios on top as well as dried edible flowers.

Pasta is a girls best friend...

Friends Lounge - Il Bikini - My Three Nights in Vico - Part 2

Night two of Festavico included a special evening at Il Bikini.  The Friends lounge was owner Giorgio Scarselli's idea to highlight some of the areas chefs and local products.  A picture perfect  evening  with good food and great company.  Here are just a few highlights of the evening...

il pomodoro del contandino...
the farmer's tomato..a dish that looks a lot simplier than it reall is.  A ton of work was put into this tomato, including a little molecular magic to give it an omg amazing flavor and texture.  Courtesy of Chef Mimmo AlbaCantina San Teodoro (Na)

Chef Marzia Buzzanca's "Mezze maniche alla margherita" Percorso di Gusti

spaghetti madness - lemon, extra virgin olive oil, provolone del monaco cheese...Chef Peppe Guida, Antica Osteria Nonna Rosa

shrimp, provolone del monaco cheese, broccoli greens, and bread crumbs...Chef Giacomo De Simone, Punto Scutolo

ragu and fior di latte ice cream - Simone Bonini, Gelateria Carapina

eggplant parmigiana sandwich...Chef Danilo Di Vuolo, Scrajo Terme

Il Bikini's sweet ending starred this dessert featuring annurca apples and a custard with a hint of rosemary.yum-my ...Chef Mimmo De Simone

delizia di limone...Chef Michele Maresco, Villa Chiara

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Party with a Purpose - My Three Nights in Vico - Pt 1

Last week in Vico Equense (Na), the party to end all parties came, saw, and conquered the heart of hundreds of chefs and great food lovers alike.  I was part of that crowd of foodies who headed towards the sleepy Sorrento coastal town at the tip of the peninsula.  I wrote about Festavico a couple of weeks ago here.  I wrote about how this party with a purpose's goal was to raise money for 3 charities.  I'm happy to report that over 140,000 euro was raised over three evenings beginning with night one.  The Food Republicwhich was  held in downtown Vico, consisted of nearly 100 chefs doing cooking, tasting, and sharing with the thousands who stopped by that evening. 100 chefs means 100 dishes, which was nearly impossible for me to even think of trying.  So here's a look at what caught my eye and palate that evening...

Let's begin with this plate, which I will definitely say wasone of my favorites of the evening. Chef  Ciro de Marino  presented his slow cooked pork layered in soy sauce, honey and topped with nuts. He placed this cube on top of a fondue of fior di latte cheese alongside Neapolitan escarole. Tempo di cottura? I asked, Cooking time?  
48 hours was his response.
It paratically melted in your mouth.  Tenderissimo!

I bumped into executive chef Eduardo Estatico We hadn't seen each other in a few months, and one of the first questions he asked was 'come stanno i ragazzi?/how are your students doing?" this chef, like many who are participating in this event, have a deep desire to 'give back' to the community any way they can, spending what little 'free time' they have to raise money for charity. we chatted for awhile about the new season, his new menu - and this...his shrimp bon bon (from capri - of course), ricotta, hazelnut, peaches and bergamot from Calabria

Moving along, I ran into a fantastic pair.  Chefs Maurizio De Riggi and Faby Scarica.  Together to present De Riggi's dish...an escarole soup (served cold) with  citrus-marinated salmon, raisins in maraschino, parmigiano cheese and saffron reduction, and crispy bread chips...

Chef Francesco Fusco  presented his baccala'/cod mousse with a wild garlic/aglio orsino infusion, bell peppers and hazelnuts

Chef Giacomo de Simone's dish : tubetti pasta with lucerna and squid...

Chef Giovanni Sorrentino's vesrsion of stuffed pasta with beans and  mussels...

Chef Giulio Coppola, fresh back from Milan, presented a tasty country dish.  Hunter style chicken with a big chunk of bread to soak up the sauces.

Chef Lorenzo Montoro's dish received its own blog post a while back.  His jazzed up tomato tartare with all kinds of summer goodness featured here in his dish called 'Un Estate Fa'...

Chef Michele De Martino's parmigiana di alici fredda..a parmigiana made with marinated anchovies...

Mimmo De Gregorio had one of  the hottest dishes of the night.  This homestyle cannelloni sold out fast. A favorite with the kids as well!...

 And speaking of tradition, it was hard not to pass up this ragu cart.  Chef Mimmo De Simone prepared one of Il Bikini's top dishes...past with a ragu sauce featuring Riccardo Scarsellil's secret recipe...

I lived in Japan in the arly 90s, so this plate brought back memories...Chef Kotaro Noda's potato spaghetto with biutter and anchovies... 

Chef Saul Halevi of Phoenicia Hotel Malta was also in town last week...I met him in a cake shop where he presented this dish: a shrimp tenderly wrapped in kadaif with a capsicum sauce, and an emulsion of butter and white wine. served with olive powder and wild strawberries..

Sunday evening also had its share of stars out that night.  Michelin stars like Chef Salvatore La Ragione with a hearty dish of pasta with meatballs.

I had just enough time and space for dessert, so I hoped over to see Carmen Vecchione and try one of her light fruit tarts....

What an evening...what a party...a party part 1 of 3...