Friday, May 27, 2016

Spring Veggies on a Plate, Chef Ernesto Iaccarino, Don Alfonso 1890, Sant'Agata Sui Due Golfi (Na)

And when this dish was placed in front of me- this dish of spring veggies , it was hard not to get a little excited.  Excited?  Me? About vegetables?  Sure, why not?

Location: Don Alfonso 1890, the 2 Star Michelin hotel tucked away in the sleepy town  of Sant'Agata Sui Due Golfi - twenty minutes or so from Sorrento.

My server began to describe the plate and instantly my mind flashed memories of the several opportunities that I have shared  with the Iaccarino family over the years.  

This amazing appetizer, first introduced last spring, is chocked full of colors, flavors and vegetable goodness from the family farm located in Punta Campanella.  

Carrots, broccoli, artichokes, fennel, cauliflower-all cooked slowly at a low temperature.  Beets presented as a gelatin -   which served as the base of the dish- and also a crunchy croccante chip. 

Let's not forget the marinated onions! Oh...and last but not least-horseradish ice cream.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lunch at Ristorante Belvedere, Chef Ciro Longobardi, Hotel Tramontano, Sorrento (Na)

Sorrento.  One of Campania's not to miss tourist spots.  A visit to Italy must include a visit to this city by the sea.  And why not?  It is certainly tourist friendly.  A walk around the streets and alleyways with their bilingual signs outside and their tourist friendly operating hours guarantee that every tourist can feel at home away from home.
So when I checked into Hotel Tramontano, one of Sorrento's most historical hotels, I was curious how this hotel - complete with a breathtaking view of the sea and Mt Vesuvius, would welcome me and others in search of an amazing dining experience.
Let's begin with lunch at the hotel's  Ristorante Belvedere.   Here Chef Ciro Longobardi has been at the helmsfor  three seasons. Let's take a look...

After a glass of falanghina 2105 from Villa Raiano  we got to work.

Fresh scampi sauteed on a sea rock with fresh fruit.

Fried anchovy and vegetables


Sauteed squid and creamy fava bean
First Course....

Spaghetti, clams, tomatoes, and asparagus
Second Course....

Red mullet, creamy fennel, black olives, and tomato confit

Ice cream and cake!!

Pistachio ice cream and creamy molten chocolate cake 

And with a lunch like this,  just needed a quick nap before dinner!  Stay tuned!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Vermicello Cacio-Cavallo, Chef Antonio Tafuro, Osteria 1861(Sa)

I've always, always been a fan of spaghetti.  And though vermicello isn't exactly a spaghtetti, per se', my pupils began to dance when this plate was placed in front of me.  Placed in front of me where???
On the a table which I am convinced was set especially for me in front of a cool off-season ocean breeze, a lamppost, and sounds of various seagulls who decided to serve as background music for my lunch on the lungomare.
Osteria 1861...a tiny little secret tucked away in a small alley right off of Lungomare Perotti in Santa Maria Di Castellabatte, Cilento.
 An osteria which has recently been placed in the hands of Chef Antonio Tafuro who presented his twist on the famous cacio-pepe dish with this cacio-cavallo and pepper...

on the side?
Buffalo tartare.


Monday, May 9, 2016

A Pick-Me-Up Pizza...or Two or Three -Pepe in Grani, Caiazzo (Ce)

I remember it well. It was an early Thursday evening.  Thursday for me is usually a happy day.  One I have affectionately nicknamed joyvedi - a cross between joy and giovedi, Thursday in Italian. But for some reason, that particular joyvedi wasn't so .... well, joyful.
I knew just what I needed.  A pizza. From one of the top pizzarias in Campania, if not Italy.  A pizza prepared by the team at Pepe in Grani - located in Caiazzo in the Caserta province.  About an hour drive.  I grabbed my jacket, car keys, and cellphone as I headed out the door.
Franco? ( Pepe - owner and pizzamaker ) Ciao, It's Karen.  Are you in Caiazzo? I'm on my way....
On my way ...that familiar drive to Caiazzo.  One in which during the last 15 minutes or so I make an attempt to decide which pizza I would like to order from Franco Pepe's menu.  One that  would be my choice to get me out of that Thursday funk that I had somehow gotten myself into.
I made my choice, or choices...but that didn't matter.  Because on that particular evening, Franco Pepe turned my blah blah Thursday into a joyvedi to remember. How???

A chance to try one of his newest fried pizzas.  One that I had tried a few weeks earlier...straight from the oven,  Just for me....Sensazioni di Costeria - Sensations from the coast.  A fried pizza with granulated garlic, red pepper flakes, anchovy cream. tomatoes, anchovies from Cetara, Italian parsley and lemon peel.

Then?  Then, a pizza made up al momento...on the spot.  Using ingredients that had arrived in pizzeria just a couple of hours earlier.  Ingredients like mushrooms from Matese ( a nearby town)as well as fresh cheese similar to fior di latte.  A touch of origano...And Pepe also had some confit tomatoes form Puglia and thought...'Let's make a pizza...' OMG!

Franco knows me well.  He then asked, Karen, what pizza would you like????...One that would pick you up?  ?
I thought back...thought back hard.  Back on all the Franco Pepe pizzas that I had tried over the five or so years that  have known Pepe.
Franco - The Nero Casertano...A margherita pizza made using the famous black pig from the Caserta province...
That is, was, and always will be one of my favorites....
Grazie, Franco!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

My Pappa al Pomodoro, Chef Vincenzo Guarino, Il Pievano Ristorante (Si)

I went to Tuscany a few weeks back.  Maybe you remember.  I spent some time with Michelin starred Chef Vincenzo Guarino nearly a month after he took the reigns at Il Pievano Ristorante.  There, in the kitchen, and then at the table I had the chance to try some of his new dishes for the spring. Like this amazing appetizer - My Pappa al Pomodoro. His bread and tomato soup.  His, because this dish is a Tuscan classic but Guarino is from Campania.  So he gave his twist on the dish surely thinking about  the flavors and colors of home...his twist on the dish with different textures and his famoso hot/cold temperature play.  A Tuscan classic Guarino style.
Let's take a closer look!

Fried sardines...

yellow cherry tomato stuffed with bread and tomato soup

purple potato crisp, creamy caprino goat cheese and pappa al pomodoro...tomato and bread soup...

Also on the block - a tomato sorbet and lots and lots of flavor.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sweet Surprises in a Dolce Dessert by Chef Salvatore Bianco

Tuesday night is not usually my night to go out.  But this evening was different...designed to be a little special.  An evening of pizza and champagne - a four hands dinner put on by pizza maker and host Salvatore Salvo, Pizzeria Salvo and Michelin star chef Salvatore Bianco, Il Comandante Ristorante...

Salvo and Bianco

Salvatore and Salvatore for gli amici/friends...

And after a series of 5 pizzas and paired perfectly with 5 different champagnes chosen by sommelier Pasquale Brillante ...

I assumed the evening as over.  It was late, it was a school night, and I must admit, was a little sleepy thinking about the forty-five minute drive home. I did have one question at the back of my mind.  How were they going to close the evening? Maybe featuring  Salvo's fried zeppole?  I really wasn't sure.  I was sure of one thing, however.  That Chef Bianco was nowhere to be seen.  I mean, he wasn't strolling around the dining room speaking about the evening's creations.  That was  Salvo's job so to speak.  So Bianco???
I soon found out.  Bianco decided to surprise us all as we soon learned while sommelier Brillante spoke about a particular wine close to my heart.  A dessert  wine made with Aglianico grapes (noble rot) by Mastroberardino - vintage 2010.

My mind shot back instantly to my first vineyard visit to Montemarano in the hills of Avellino.  Then out came the dolce.  Simple spectacular  and meticulous...Like the chef himself.

He chose chocolate...white chocolate.  Strawberries ('tis the season), red wine, lime and puffed kamut.  A single flower set on top.

A sweet surprise...
Grazie, Chef!!!