Sunday, March 31, 2019

Fantastic Firsts, Chef Lorenzo Cuomo, Re Mauri' (Sa)

Chef Lorenzo Cuomo
And there I was...the first weekend of spring.  Destination Amalfi Coast.  Excited about the sunny Saturday, but even more about lunch.  I was returning to Re Mauri', the Michelin starred restaurant located in Vietri sul Mare.  Radio blasting I almost did not hear my phone ringing. I pulled over to answer it.   It was Chef Lorenzo Cuomo checking in.  Cuomo wantd to make sure everything was okay.  That I remembered the way (It had ben over a year since my last visit).  I assured him that tutto was appost'...fine.

Twenty minutes later I was sitting at my table looking over the menu.  It wasn't easy to  choose, especially since I hadn't been in over a year - but after speaking with the chef, I decided on the tasting menu, with the addition of a second pasta.  So, after a vodka martini, an aperitif, and amazing appetizer (soon on the blog), the fantastic firsts arrived.

Cuomo's pasta and beans arrived first.

This is the chef's twist on a classic Campania pasta and beans dish.  A poor man's dish that the chef made regal.  Pasta and beans is usually made with pasta mista - mixd pasta formats.  Cuomo, instead, opted for seven different varieties of beans.

Different sizes, different colors, each cooked seperately.  For the pasta, he chose a type of tagliatelle produced by Gerardo di Nola.  He broke the pasta by hand.  Instead of mussels, the chef choose goose neck barnacles and chantarelle mushrooms.

Next a dish that I picked out from the a la carte menu.

Minestra di Mare or Seafood minestrone.

This is also a play on a classic Campania dish - Minestra Maritata  or wedding soup. A dish dear to the chef that he crated alongside his maestro Chef Oliver Glowig.

Instead of chicken and beef, Cuomo uses the treasures from the sea.  Tesori such as redfish, mullet, cuttlefish, octopus, sea truffles and cod tripe..  Vegetables include escarole, toasted fennel, and red algae.

Note to self - don't wait a year to head back to Re Mauri!


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Saturday a Scuola, Chef Marco C. Merola, I Cook You Food Academy (Ce)

Chef Marco C. Merola
Saturday afternoon, about a quarter to 3.  It was my first day of school and I didn't want to be late.  I didn't want to be late for my first cooking class with Chef Marco Merola of I Cook You Food Academy in Caserta.  The school is located in a quiet parco just minutes from the Caserta Royal Palace. I sent Chef Merola a message when I arrived (just a few minutes late) and he came out and opened the gate.  It was my first visit to Merola's school.  A visit that was long overdue, so Merola gave me a quick tour of his school that has been around since 2010.  The school offers professional and amateur courses-like the one I was about to participate in.  A class on pies and flans. 
My apron and recipe book was on the counter - I introduced myself to my classmates, and the three hour class began.  First up?  Merola patiently led us in making a very tasty anchovy pie. Here's his recipe for this amazing appetizer.

Anchovy pie, potatoes and tomatoes x4

For the potato cream

100 grams of mashed potatoes
125 gr of vegetable broth
  20 gr of extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste.
pepper as needed.

For parsley oil

40 gr of extra virgin olive oil
  5 grams of very fine garlic
  6 grams of parsley

500 gr of anchovies (8 anchovies per pie)
  40 grams of cherry tomatoes to concassé
  80 grams of mashed potatoes seasoned with salt and pepper
  30 gr of provola cheese
  80 grams of potato cream
    1 tablespoon of parsley oil
breadcrumbs as needed

Clean the anchovies well and deprive them of the central bone, the spine and the small spines at the height of the belly, taking care to leave the tail attached.

Oil the molds and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Lay the anchovy fillets, overlapping them so that they all converge with the belly at the center of the base of the molds.

Put 10 grams of mashed potatoes on the bottom of each pie, then the cherry tomatoes, provola, potato cream, aromatic oil and finally the remaining 10 grams of mashed potatoes.

Fold over the anchovy tails towards the center and sprinkle lightly with breadcrumbs.

Cook at 180 ° for 11 min.

I can't wait to try it at home!

Friday, March 22, 2019

Osteria La Lanterna, Mugnano Del Cardinale (Av)

It was a refreshing afternoon. Perfect for a lunch out.  I wasn't sure what to expect that day.  Wasn’t sure what to expect because it was my first visit to Osteria La Lanterna in Avellino. I must admit the desire to visit this home-style restaurant has been on my mind for quite a long time. I'm talking years. When I met  Chef Luisa Evangelista nearly 10 years ago and more recently bumping into Chef Stefano Parrella at various events around Campania. However, good things come to those who wait they say and I must agree that in this particular case, I totally agree.
Saturday afternoon March 9, the drive on the autostrada all the way on the exit of Baiano. What do you do the first time you visit an Osteria for the first time?  There is the desire to try everything.  I mean everything! At this point, self-control must step in.  I glanced at the menu – chatted with Parrella and we both decided to go for the tasting menu.
  Any allergies? 
No…Bring it on!
 First stop the mandatory and appreciated aperitifs.  Aprtifs such as escarole and navybeans...

fried stuffed anchovies...


 Then appetizers -the first and exciting play on the artichoke. As an American, though I've adopted Campania as my own; living here for nearly 26 years, I have fully integrated artichokes into my diet. Here is La Lanterna’s version. 
Like this one - 'roasted' and flipped upsidedown. 

Next step - codfish. Codfish wrapped in potatoes. A warm little package. A package that would be a preview of what was to come.  A parade of warm comfortable comfort food without all the frills.

So then, it was time for the first courses. Osteria La Lanterna’s tasting menu that afternoon provided two. Risotto. I stood at the pass while Parrella put the final touches on this particular dish. What a pleasure to experience the various combinations of seafood and fruit that made this dish not only nice to look at but a pleasure to my palate as well. Risotto with shrimp, pear, and pecorino cheese...

Then it was time for a spaghetti. I needed to be there at the pass as he plated up. 

 Spaghetti with amberjack, frutti di mare, wild fennel pesto and toasted pine nuts.

The meal continued, this time for the second course. Tuna known also as the pork of the sea. As well as lard.  Lard from pork and who doesn't love that???

 After the second course it was time to take a break.  A break that a take often at this point in the meal…
A break to not only walk off what I had tasted before, but to reflect on what I had experienced until that moment.  Here- at La Lanterna – there was no boss in the kitchen.  No superstar.  Instead a blend or fusion if you will of the talent and experience of Luisa Evangelista and Stefano Parrella.  Two personalities – two schools of thought – who have developed a working relationship that is not only exciting but tasty.
Time for the pre dessert. That small moment dining table designed to clean a pallet this one in particular up as one of my favorites. 

Cucumber, rosemary, lime and xtra virgin olive oil  sorbet...fantasticaaa!

Then time for the dessert. I dipped my spoon into the middle to grab a bit of everything. I did not expect the warm"love"from  this particular dish. A melannurca apple pie, english cream, and buffalo milk ice cream.

A perfect example of how a desert should bring memories not be intimidating and just be the perfect way to end a meal.
Meal over.  I looked at my watch.  4 pm??!!!.  Wow!  But the dining room was still full.  Only time for a quick chat with Parrella and Evangelista at the friendship table.  

Then they headed back to work.  They headed back into the kitchen; I headed out to the gravel parking lot…towards the autostrada…towards home. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

In the Kitchen, Chef Alessandro Tormolino, Sensi Restaurant, Amalfi (Sa)

Chef Alessandro Tormolino

I can still remember my first visit to Sensi Restaurant located in Amalfi - the beautiful Amalfi Coast. It was November 2nd 2017. I had no trouble finding the town- since I’d been several times before, but I must admit that I did have quite a bit of trouble finding the restaurant.  Google Maps was not much help though it did lead me close. At one point, I got so frustrated that I sent a quick message to the chef with a picture of where I was standing.  At the foot of Il Duomo, a beautiful church that is a not to miss location. As I was waiting for a response, I looked up and there was a small sign Sensi Restaurant and an arrow leading me down a small alley, up a quick flight of stairs and around the corner met Chef Alessandro Tormolino for the first time.

A lot has happened since that visit, in fact I returned last December to see what was up.  This time the staff seated me away from the terrace and views of the port, led me down a flight of stairs and into the kitchen - to a long wooden table that Sensi calls the chefs table.
An aperitif with the chef, a glass of sparkling wine, a few appetizers and it was time.  Time for my favorite part of the meal.  The fantastic firsts!

I headed towards the pass to check out going on the first was risotto. 

 Risotto with baby squid, tomato water, lemon and anchovy paste caviar black garlic. 

Back to the kitchen back to the pass. 

 Spaghetti with mantis shrimp, roasted artichoke and bottarga.

 Then the last was a linguine pasta with codfish cannelloni beans and a sprinkling of coffee powder.

One of the advantages of visiting a chef a year later is an opportunity to see growth. That was quite evident here.  If you read my posts from last year you learn that this restaurant is young – about to go into its third season.  Sensi restaurant quite a challenge for a young chef to present a gourmet menu in a town often hit with day tourists who may not have luxury of time to sit down and enjoy long leisurely lunch like I had that afternoon.

A side note, the day after I visited Tormolino, he hopped on a plane to Paris but not for a vacation. He had been chosen the acclaimed restaurant guide La Liste as one of four chefs worldwide for the Young Award.  Quite an achievement!  A few weeks ago, taking advantage of the restaurant, which is closed for the winter season, flew to Japan where he represented the Amalfi Coast and Campania at various dinners and events.

In a couple of weeks, Sensi will open its doors again.  What does this new season
has in store for Tormolino and his guest? Surely a new menu and some surprises. We’ll have to wait and see!