Thursday, June 30, 2016

An Octopus Goes to Sea, Chef Alfonso Caputo, Taverna Del Capitano, Marina Del Cantone (Na)

I arrived a little early for lunch, like I usually do, to try to get a sneak peek at what Chef Alfonso Caputo might send my way.  But Caputo, Taverna del Capitano, is always full of surprises.  Like this dish - An Octopus Goes to Sea.
A boiled octopus gingerly wrapped in the chef's own homemade dried pasta, then tenderly fried.
A zuppa starring a blend of squid ink and octopus juices given off during the cooking process.
And if you look closely enough, I'm sure you can see tiny tiny pieces of octopus splashing around in the sea.
Look closer...
Or better yet, pay the chef a visit.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Guinea Fowl with Pistachio Stuffing, Chef Ernesto Iaccarino, Don Alfonso 1890, Sant 'Agata Sui Due Golfi (Na)

It's been nearly a month and a half since I sat down in that bright sunny dining room in Sant'Agata Sui Due Golfi.  Don Alfonso 1890, 2 Michelin stars, owned  and operated by one of Campania's most respected families, the Iaccarinos.
Over a month has passed but the exciting dishes that I had the chance to experience are still fresh in my mind.  Like this new creation for 2016 - Guinea fowl with pistachio stuffing.

Before the dish arrived to my table, I strolled into the kitchen to say hello to Chef Iaccarino and  his brigade....

The dish arrived to my table and it was nearly impossible to ignore the colors...the energy...the  vibrancy on the plate.  I took a  closer look before my first bite.

A long look at this guinea fowl gently stuffed with pistachios.

On a bed of velvety potatoes and saffron....crunchy fennel seeds.

A bell pepper sauce - one spicy, one sweet.

Sure, it's been a month or so.  But I haven't forgotten.  I mean, would you?
Not this one, or any of the dishes I've tried, no...experienced together with the Iaccarino family at Don Alfonso 1890.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Snapshot of the Day, In the Kitchen, Maxi Ristorante, Vico Equense (Na)

Sous Chef Gioacchino Attianese and Chef Domenico Iavarone
It was the end of a long day for the kitchen staff of  Michelin star Maxi Ristorante led by Chef Domenico Iavarone.  It  was a little after midnight, the last guest had been served their coffee and dessert- but the night wasn't over in the kitchen.  Sous chef Gioacchino Attianese pulled out a folder and began the end of service briefing with the chef.  Subjects such as shopping for the upcoming week, the next day's breakfast, an upcoming wedding reception.  Business as usual for the brigade in the 5 star Capo La Gala Hotel.  
Quiet but crucial moments that you don't see on tv.

Marvelous Main Courses, Chef Domenico Stile, Enoteca La Torre, Rome (Rm)

My eyes  light up whenever I take a look a lunch menu a see a main courses featuring fish since I didn't eat much pesce as a child. So when I was in Rome last weekend at Enoteca La Torre, the choice was easy.  One, no, make that two main courses where fish is the star.
Two main courses by Chef Domenico Stile...let's take a look...

Cod with beans, celery, and a cool tomato soup made with 5 varieties of tomatoes.

Snapper in an eggplant parmigiana and coriander.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Snapshot of the Day, Pasta 1-2-3, Chef Domenico Stile, Enoteca La Torre, Rome (Rm)

Give a young chef from Gragnano a half kilo of pasta and three ingredients then stand back and watch him go at it.  Chef Domenico Stile of Enoteca La Torre presented this eyepopping plate at Cooking For Art - Chef Emergente last evening.  The rules were simple...but challenging.  Create a pasta dish using only three ingredients.  The chef chose rigatoni and paired it with parsley, salt cod, and black garlic...

One of the reasons the chef was recognized as giving value to agricultural products.

Congratulations, Chef Stile!

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Fumarole, Chef Nino Di Costanzo, Dani' Maison, Ischia (Na)

1001 memories flooded my mind the moment the preparations for  final step  of Chef Nino Di Costano's Fumarole.  Location -  Ischia.  An island famous for its beaches, its spas...and its fumarole/geysers.  Particularly the ones located in Maronti.  My last visit  was several years ago - a weekend of relaxation, massages, and pampering. This time? This time my travelling companion was Sommelier Nicola Loiodice began to speak as my excitement rose.

He discussed the chef's inspiration for this dish, inspiration from the nearby beaches where the sand's temperature can reach up to 100 degrees Celsius!  Inspiration derived from the sea as he prepared a cod fillet ringside complete with steam, aromas, and emotion.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Amazing Appetizers, Chef Cristian Torsiello, Osteria Arbustico, Valva (Sa)

Another Saturday Stellato, and I found myself back on the highway for the hour and forty-five minute drive to Valva.  I wanted to pay another visit to Osteria Arbustico and put myself back in the hands of  Chef Cristian Torsiello and the entire team at this small Michelin starred restaurant located in a tiny corner of Campania.  Here is one of the reasons why.  

Sweetbreads glazed  with a bell pepper sauce.
Cubes of green apple.
Foamy smoked provola cheese.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Amazing Appetizers, Chef Nino Di Costanzo, Dani' Maison, Ischia, (Na)

The scene - a sunny Saturday afternoon on the isle of Ischia.  I followed Chef Nino Di Costanzo down the small trail through the garden that led to his brand new restaurant Dani’Maison.
Dani’ Maison, an exclusive restaurant in the chef’s home – one that he opened up less than a month ago after ten years at Il Mosaico – where he earned 2 Michelin stars.

A total of six tables-two located right in the kitchen.  And it must have been my lucky day since one of them was set for me.  It was there in the kitchen where I was handed a glass of champagne...

and given strict instructions for the day from the chef…

Divertiti! Enjoy yourself!

Chef Nino Di Costanzo
And with a quick smile, Di Costanzo joined his young brigade and went to work.

It wasn't long that an exciting array of dishes took the short trip from the pass to my table.  Beginning with Di Costanzo's corral reef filled with crunchy color.  

Snacks such as basil chips and fried red shrimp - the head only, though, because that's the best part!

To crunchy color - I'll think I'll also add cool . Imagine this tray being set before you.
Divertente !

Cool  courses like braided zucchini stuffed with a bonito tartare...

Or a mini caprese...

Fake mozzarella including instructions such as pick them up with your fingers and pop them in your mouth...divertente!

Beetroot  sponge with creamy tuna and sprouts...

Purple potato chips topped with a pizzaiolo tomato sauce...divertente!

Next up - Di Costanzo's crudo...his fresh seafood platter. A giant puzzle packed with color, coolness, and complex flavors. Each piece of this seafood platter puzzle  was placed down in front of me in a particular order.  An order which I should so all the pieces would play perfectly on my palate...

The first piece - scampi, lemon pasta, and mini micro vegetables...

Next,  white shrimp with ginger wrapped in a clear cool cornstarch sheet...

Red shrimp, frisella, mandarin, and a cream made with buffalo milk...

Caramote prawns, black olives, caper powder and tomatoes cooked at a very low temperature...

Cuttlefish with squid, lime, chives with crunchy carrots...divertente!

Bonito with cesar sauce, black croutons, parmigiano cheese and cucumber...


and as confirmed by the paintings the carnevale characters on the particular the one behind me...divertente!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Snapshot of the Day, Chef Nino Di Costanzo, Dani' Maison, Ischia (Na)

It was just what I needed.    After a series of long, and at times, stressful days as a teacher as the school year draws to an end, I needed that visit to the island of Ischia.  I paid a visit to the isola verde  to have lunch at Chef Nino Di Costanzo's brand new restaurant, Dani' Maison.  
And it was there that Di Costanzo, one of the hardest working chefs I know, taught me how to do one very important thing...

Grazie, chef. In bocca al lupo!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

2 Fantastic Firsts, Chef Alfonso Caputo, Taverna del Capitano, Marina del Cantone (Na)

My love affair  with pasta lunga is not a secret.  I confessed it years ago.  So that is why my heart skipped a beat or two when I got a chance to try these two dishes recently at Taverna del Capitano.  Chef Alfonso Caputo sent out this dish first -

an assaggino/ taste of spaghetti with zucchini and fresh shrimp.

Then a surprise.  A dry pasta that the chef made himself using coffee!

He placed it gingerly on top of a flavorful tomato sauce with black olives and capers.  A swirl of ricotta cheese on top...


Friday, June 10, 2016

Amazing Appetizer, Chef Domenico Iavarone, Maxi Restaurant, Vico Equense (Na)

Part one of this story takes place about a week and a half ago.  I stood in front of Michelin starred Chef Domenico Iavarone's table at Festa a Vico to try his appetizer that he brought for the event.  His clear table.  The chef's dish was sold out.  I was too late.

And now? I asked.
Now, the chef said, now you'll have to come and try it at Maxi.
He didn't have to ask me twice.

Part 2.  Monday evening, back in Vico, but this time in the kitchen next to the chef at the pass as he plated and discussed this dish right before my eyes.  His candele spezzate alla genovese...

Il piatto della genovese ormai in carta fissa al Maxi è un po una mia filosofia cioè quello dei due opposti che si attraggono nel senso di cucinare in piatto che non ha nulla a che vedere con il contesto che ti sta intorno mare !!!!!! Li nasce la sfida di renderlo quanto più curioso possibile restando sempre legato ai parametri della tradizione e quindi pensai di renderlo più fresco con la strepitosa ricotta di Vico e queste e poi il croccante delle cipolle fritte rende tutto più armonico e simpatico. Nel caso di Festa a Vico invece confrontandomi con Jack e Leopoldo pensai che visto il tema dell'edizione 2016, ovvero il gioco delle mani amiche, non potevo non portare un qualcosa che ci legasse alla memoria al concetto di festa. Quindi quale cosa più giusta ricordare le tavole della nostra amata Napoli nei giorni delle feste quando tante mani si aiutano in cucina e non solo è poi l'appartenenza al nostro territorio ci porta verso questa moda che a Napoli e sempre esistita il cibo da strada .....e allora riprendemmo in mano il piatto della nostra tradizione cioè le candele spezzate alla genovese e le abbiamo riprodotte in versione cibo da strada, ovvero ripiene del sugo classico fatto con carne di manzo e maiale con le cipolle cotte per lungo tempo a bassa temperatura come si usa dir oggi!!!! A questo punto le impano e le friggo per poi servirle con la ricotta e le cipolle marinate che danno quella freschezza nello sgrassare il tutto .

Pasta all Genovese has been part of the Maxi menu for awhile and represents a bit of my philosophy, that is, that in cooking, opposites that have nothing to do with the environment around you attract on a plate .....this environment is the sea !!!!!! So there came the challenge - to make the dish as interesting as possible while remaining tied to its traditional parameters. I thought of making it fresher by adding an amazing ricotta cheese from Vico Equense and crispy fried onions to make it more harmonious and friendly. In the case of Festa a Vico instead, after discussing ideas with Jack and Leopoldo (members of the chef's brigade) I thought about the theme for 2016,- mani amiche/ helping hands. I thought about bringing something that binds our memories to the concept of celebration the dinner tables of our beloved Naples during the holidays when so many hands help out in the kitchen. Add to that a trend that has always existed in Naples -street food. So, getting back to our traditional dish made with broken candele pasta alla Genovese and we made a street food version filled the classic genovese sauce made with beef, pork with grilled onions which had been cooked for a long time at a low temperature. It was then breaded, fried, and served with ricotta cheese and pickled onions that gave the dish a freshness that cleans the palate.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Fantastic Firsts, Chef Salvatore Bianco, Il Comandante Ristorante (Na)

At Festa a Vico, I also ran into the Michelin starred chef Salvatore Bianco serving up his chicken soup. All chicken, totally chicken featuring a kefir hemp ravioli and a parmigiano cheese chip. Delicate and delightful served just before a summer sunset.