Monday, July 6, 2020

Hello Mr. White - Kresios, Telese Terme (Bn)

Chef Giuseppe Iannotti
A little less than a month ago, I was watching an IannottiLAB IG stories live and thought to myself  - when was the last time I saw the chef face to face?  I was curious if he, Iannotti, had decided to change his style after the restaurant reopened post Covid 19 lock down.  His unique style, one that has earned Kresios a Michelin star. I typed in my question and hit send.  A few minutes later, Chef Giuseppe Iannotti answered my question.  No. was his response, and it really didn't surprise me.  Though many experts in the field had declared that Italy's fine dining restaurants would suffer because diners would want to return to more traditional menus, Iannotti has held his ground.  Why change?  If anything evolve.  Move forward - as Kresios has been doing year after year after year..  And with that, I went to the restaurant's website and reserved a table for lunch for 3 July - one month after his the restaurant reopened.
It had been awhile since I hit the road for Kresios, a mini oasis located in the heart of Telese Terme, in the Benevento province.  Awhile...yikes - nearly 3 years!  The drive was familiar and relaxing. I must have changed my mind about what to order as often as I changed the radio stations during my nearly 55 minute drive. A visit to Kresios is what I like to describe to anyone who asks me as an experience. An experience in the form of two tasting menus - Mr. Pink and Mr. White. Two menus who get their names from the 1992 Quentin Tarantino movie Reservoir Dogs.  

Two names, two menus - blind tasting menus.  Meaning that though you decide the menu, the chef decides what leaves the kitchen - what arrives at your table.  And like Tarantino's movie, which I have seen over a dozen times, though a menu item may look familiar - there is always something that hits you.  And hits you hard.

I arrived, was greeted at the gate by Maitre Sommelier Alfredo Buonanno

and put my mask on the table.  

I couldn't help but notice the small subtle changes in the dining room since my last visit - new tables to begin with - and of course, the masks.  Masks that we all have grown accustomed to over the last few months...masks that may have been uncomfortable for the Kresios dining room and kitchen staff, did not take away from the quality of service that I was expecting.

So, Karen...Mr. Pink or Mr. White?

Mr. White, I thought.  Bring it on.  

At that point, my lunch began with a series of 30 + items poring out of the kitchen one after the pairings?  I left myself in the hands of the very more than capable Bounanno - one of the best young sommeliers in Italy. 

Alfredo Buonanno

There were familiar items, favorites, surprises..
Let's take a look, in random order....

bread made with  two kinds of  flour type 1 and type 2, 72 hours of leavening and fermentation,  and baked  in a pan to keep the humidity higher !!

cannelloni with tomato ice cream, tomato powder, basil powder and parmigiano cheese.

Ooops!  Here is a fav!  Roasted chicken chip...

and a creamy creamy creamy potato bite....


ssshhhh...part 2!

 There were dishes, such as Iannotti's classic spaghetti allo scoglio. A pasta dish featuring 50 different fish in the sauce.  Fifty! A dish that I love and  could not help but think back to when Iannotti's right hand man Eugenio Vitagliano prepared it for me back in 2017.  This time with a mask.   

And a white wine paired especially for this dish!!! How cool is that!!!



Then a pastina for the little child in all of us...

Dessert....starting a kick off fantasticaaa!  A dish that I named Snow in July..featuring snow and falanghina del sannio cooked must.

As usual the arrival of the petit fours, the piccoli pastries signal that the meal, the tasting menu, has terminated.  That, however, does not mean that the experience is over.  A coffee, a stroll through the garden, a walk through the vineyards, a chat or two with the chef...

I took advantage of my time and discovered exciting plans that Iannotti has in store and will reveal soon - so stay tuned!

Oh, and in case you are asking why I didn't put many descriptions next to the pics...well.  Like a trailer to a film...there should be just enough to make you curious. And like any Tarantino film - Mr. White should surprise...and in some cases, shock matter how many times you may have seen it.  Like it did for me.  

Hello Mr. White...and buon pranzo!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Field of Dreams - Giuseppe Rea, Azienda Agricola Rea, Somma Vesuviana (Na)

Giuseppe Rea
I first met Giuseppe, a.k.a Peppe,  Rea back in February (here). Peppe Rea, Azienda Agricola Rea - also part of the coop Officina Vesuviana. He didn't speak much, but his tomatoes did.  His Pomodorini del Piennolo del Vesuvio.  Those feisty tomatoes that grow in the fertile soil thanks to past eruptions by Mount Vesuvius.  Those spunky little  pomodorini which carry a PDO  (Protected designation of Origin) classification can and will only make their way to vegetable stands and markets thanks to the hard work, dedication, and passion of  farmers like Peppe.

    Last week I decided to back and take a tour with Rea.  This time Peppe had a lot to say.  Not only with his words, but in his eyes.  Eyes of a young farmer who nearly seven years ago decided to turn his passion into a profession.  Not an easy decision, he confessed, as he drove me through the narrow back roads of Somma Vesuviana.  Not easy, but one that makes him happy despite the day to day challenges of growing this demanding labor intensive tomato.  

    Rea parked his piaggio and we hopped out.  From a distance, I could only see rows and rows of green vines with the occasional wooden pole for support.   It was around 5:30 pm, the sun had lowered a bit, but we still felt the late June/early summer heat.  But that didn't slow Rea down.  He led me along the rows of his tomato plants with a sparkle in his eye and pride in his voice. 

    We stopped  at one row, Rea bent over and pointed out the elongated pear shape with that familiar tip.  These tomatoes were still green, but I could almost imagine how they would be in just a short bit of time.

    Yes, in just a bit it would be harvest time, where after months of daily attention,  Peppe and his small team would come back and pick the tomatoes by hand.  Pick them by hand, then transport them to his home where he would select which ones would he would like to hang on hemp string in bunches anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 kg.  Bunches that would hang comfortably and cozy in a dry area as their flavors and fragrances deepen.

    It seemed like every row had a different story.  This particular stop also had the red Pomodorini del Piennolo, note any differences?  

    Another part of Rea's field of dreams produced Peppe's  Pomodorino giallo del Monte Somma, his yellow tomatoes.

    Final stop?  A look at Rea's Pomodorino arancione dl Monte Somma, his orange tomatoes.  These tomatoes, hanging on the vine, close to the ground, yet protected by the sun by the plant's leaves were just waiting.  

    And Peppe's eyes watched it all, observed everything as we took a last stroll through his field of dreams, campo dei sogni, which would soon be ready for the 2020 harvest.  His tomatoes would soon be ready to be grouped in those picturesque bunches, or maybe in jars as preserves, or used to make some pretty fantastic pâtés.  


Last week I decided to back and take a tour with Rea.  This time Peppe had a lot to say.  Not only with his words, but in his eyes.  Eyes of a young farmer who nearly seven years ago decided to turn his passion into a profession.