Sunday, September 2, 2018

Ischia Safari 2018 -A Lot of Good Hearts and Great Cuisine!

Chefs Nino Di Costanzo and Pasquale Palamaro
The 4th edition of Ischia Safari is just around the corner.  Safari - as I call it is the ambitious undertaking of two of Ischia's top chefs; Nino Di Costanzo and Pasquale Palamaro. This year promises to be bigger than ever with nearly 200 chefs, pizza chefs, and pastry chefs participating in two grande evenings on the isle of Ischia.(take a look who here) The objective of this fabulous fund raising event remains the same---raising money for students to attend hotel and restaurant management school. 

Here's a quick breakdown of what to expect...

Sunday, 16 September an exclusive Gala Dinner at  Ristorante Indaco featuring some of Italy's top 1 and 2 Michelin starred chefs.  Tickets can be purchased online here

Monday, 17 September a grande festa at Negombo.  A fantastic opportunity to mix and mingle, drink and dine.   Tickets can be purchased online here.

For more info check out the website!  For a quick look at what went down last year, take a look at my report.

Ci vediamo a Safari!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Two Friends - Just One Hand, Chef Angelo Borghese and Chef Gian Marco Carli

August 4th around 9 pm…
A quick exchange on WhatsApp between Chef Angelo Borghese (Osteria Al Paese) and myself.
Karen, buonasera, com stai?  Listen, on the 23rd of August will you be in the area? I, along with Gian Marco Carli will be hosting a dinner at Il Principe in Pompei….
Hi Angelo.  I’m fine, thanks.  The 23rd I should be around…even if Pompeii is about an hour’s drive.  Remind me! Ciao!

Well, the chef didn’t need to remind me -as the weeks went by, the date remained saved on my mental calendar like a post it note.  A post it note with a half a dozen question marks scribbled on it. Questions and curiosities that motivated me to arrive a little early for the sold out event.
Since I was the first to arrive, I headed straight to the kitchen where I found Borghese and Carli adding the final changes to dishes that were to be prepared in little less than an hour.  Borghese handed me the menu for a quick look.  A menu rich with brand new dishes prepared by the two chefs specifically for evening. 

Together they picked out the ingredients, tried, tasted, tried again and finalized a full menu. I could almost imagine the two young talented chefs working together tied by a special bond of amicizia/friendship. A friendship which began on a boy’s night out some time back. 
Two friends, just one hand, a dining room that was filling up. 
  Guys, do we have time for a quick brindisi?  Certo!
Chefs Gian Marco Carli and Angelo Borghese

A glass of sparkling wine – and forza ragazzi! Then I took my seat with the diners to see what that boy’s night out so many months ago would produce at the dinner table. 
After our aperitif, three appetizers headed our way.

The first, Babba’
The classic Neapolitan dessert?  No!  This one was instead of rum the chefs used tomato water.  Other ingredients to make this dish savory included chantilly cream (made with provola cheese), lime and basil.

Second – Gambero.
Shrimp, fennel, anchovies from Cantabrico, escarole, raspberry vinegar, almonds and oranges. 

Third – Totano
Totano is flying squid in English.  The chefs served it filled with Campania’s Provolone del Monaco cheese, yellow bell peppers, salicornia (glasswort) and bottarga.

Our aperitifs and appetizers were paired with two wines from the winery chosen by the chefs for the evening - Tenuta Iovino.
Their Pompeiano Frizzante 2017. (Caprettone, Falanghina, Coda di Volpe, and Cacamosca)

 followed by their Coda di Volpe. 

When it was time for the primo piatto, it was also time to change directions.  As the sommelier poured me a glass of Terra del Gragnano 2017....

I was served their Tortello

Handmade tortello pasta filled with a Campania favorite – Genovese sauce. Genovese is a pasta sauce made by slow cooking beef and onion together.  The chefs chose the sweet coppery Montoro onion.  Layered on top a veil of Bluefin tuna belly that practically melted in my mouth and soy sauce air.

Moving right along.

Octopus prepared in a cacciatora estiva sauce.  Cacciatora means hunter style – a sauce prepared with onions herbs and tomatoes.  The chefs made it estivo…summer style, so light and delicate.  Alongside the octopus?  Celery root. 

 Wine paired for this dish? Piedirosso 1890 – which I must admit that after only 2 sips (I was my own designated driver) I decided right then and there that I needed to discover this wine again.

The evening went by smoothly…beginning around 9 pm…every now and then a chance to stand up, stretch your legs, and go outside for un po di aria fresca/fresh air. 
Then time for dessert – beginning with a predessert to clan our palate.  

A ginger granite with matcha tea poured on top table side. Refreshing!
Then dessert – Fichi

A dessert made with figs, milk chocolate and topped with foamy foamy buffalo milk mozzarella.
And so, an evening that began with a simple audio message concluded.  Or did it?  I could add the hour or so of after service chitchat that I had with both chefs.  The tons of info that I l learned about the original Il Principe Restaurant dating back to 1986 (!!).  The plans that both chefs have for incorporating the dishes into their own menus. Plans for the future, etc etc.
I could…and I will.  Soon. Very soon!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Fantastic First, Jose' Restaurant, Torre Del Greco(Na)

The last week or so hasn't felt much like summer.  Just about every afternoon about 3 pm or so, the sky has turned from a sunny bright blue to a menacing dark grey accompanied with a quick thunderstorm.  
A taste of autumn in the summer.  

Like this first course dish that I had for lunch on Jose' Restaurant's patio.  Looking over Chef Domenico Iavarone's summer menu I found a first course that grabbed my attention.  The chef's signature dish of pasta mista with flying squid, potatoes, and a green olive/parsley pesto sauce.

When I think of pasta and potatoes, my thoughts instantly go towards the cooler months.  For me it has become a comfort food that I usually prepare at home on the weekends for my son and I.  My version is no where near the gourmet version of Iavarone's so I decided to order it as part of the liberta' tasting menu.

The dish arrived to my table around 2:45 pm.  Just as the clouds in the distance were turning grey, just as a few rolls of thunder were picking up. 

The dish arrived - a simple plain white ceramic bowl to not distract from the fantastic colors on display.  Fork to the left, spoon to the right. That silver spoon was my utensil of choice.  A perfect choice to ensure that I could scoop up pasta along with soft warm cubes of white and purple potatoes and flavorful flying squid without leaving any of the super sauce behind. 

A few minutes later, I'd finished.  A few minutes after that, the clouds came closer and I decided to move inside before the afternoon shower - a quick light rain actually.  A touch of the summer.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Zi Nannina A' Mare, Ischia Porto Ischia (Na)

Chef Enzo David

Ciao Enzo! See you for dinner at 9? 
My message to Chef Enzo David, Zi Nannina A' Mare one steamy August evening. 9 pm may seem late - but no!  I'm in Italy, it's the summer, and this is how we roll.

My recent visit to Ischia included a summer dinner in the garden of Zi Nannina a Mare, in perfect view of the class, with a bellissimo soundtrack of summer lounge music.  And though it was hot and quite humid that evening, it didn't distract me tanto from the chef's summery degustazione/tasting menu that David had in store for me.  Let my serata stiva/midsummer night  begin.

After a quick look at the wine list, I decided on a white wine from Ischia - Forestera from Cenatiempo...on of my favorite wineries on the island.

Then the meal began.  A summer parade of dishes that not only balanced flavors and territory, but were pleasing to the eye as well as the palate.  
Chef David's benevenuto...

Spaghetto, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, red chili , and with grue dl cacao from toasted fava bean and raw shrimp.

Then David treated me to two appetizers;

Curly thin zucchini stuffed with burrata, amberjack sashimi, and little bursts of salt, lime, and olive oil courtesy of the chef's mojito cocktail pearls.

Then the chef pushed the envelope with his next appetizer presenting  flavors that were a little, well, piu forte/stronger.

Raw and cooked red prawns  marinated in ginger with a cream of provola di Agerola cheese, and crispy artichokes on top.

David's fantastic first stars classic Campania flavors suited up for the summe.  Pasta alla genovese features beef that has been slow cooked alongside yellow onions. Chef David's version for 2018?  

Fresh tortelli pasta filled with mascarpone cheese, spring onions and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  On the side tender  slow cooked beef (7/8 hours) and Provolone del Monaco cheese. 

Moving back to the sea, David decided to take me to Sorrento.  Tonno a Surriento, the name is a twist on a classic Neapolitan songTorna a Surriento/Come back to Sorrento.

Tonno means tuna and that is the star of this dish.  But it also features products from the peninsula including roasted daterini tomatoes, lemons, and basil.

Bellissimo!  Ready for the desserts!
First stop a predessert with predessert - spicy strawberry - with a syrup which includes  schzeuan pepper, lemon, campari. 

 All of this on a matcha green tea meringue crunvle and homemade vanilla ice cream.

The end...or almost.

The main event- creamy pistachio ice cream, ground cocoa,  Cervia salt, and  passion fruit.

Before the night was over, before I headed back to my hotel, I had a chance to chat with the chef...about his dishes, his  past,  present and future.  A chance to hang out while he plated up  a few little desserts to tie me over...

Desserts, though despite their size, still combined the passion, attention and dedication that I noticed during the entire evening...

Grazie, Chef!  A presto!