Sunday, March 7, 2010

Secret Pickle Dinner Party 2: with 6 courses, in 12 pictures

Oh gawd it was good.
To celebrate each other's birthday, Sandy and Betty and I take each other out. It's usually a surprise to the birthday girl where we're going to go.
Last night, we started with martinis at a cute little bar on Parliament with lots of pairs of traditional furniture and a trio of chandeliers.

Given the setup, it is obvious that this isn't where we are going to eat. Sandy and Betty check several times to see if I know where we are going... I confess I have no idea. I knew of a couple of restaurants in the area, but nothing really birthdaylicious springs to mind. So we sip our martinis, slip on our coats, then sally forth to the Fair Trade Jewellery Atelier, where dinner #2 of the Secret Pickle Supper Club is about to begin. (You'll have to ask Alexa about the name!)

We open the door, and are met with chef Matt Kantor of Little Kitchen at his serving table, right in the front window. Beyond him is a table set for, oh gosh, at least two dozen people. Cloak room and aperitifs in the back.

We go to the back, doff our coats, and pick up a Campari and soda (it's been a while since I've had one of those: I had forgotten how much I enjoy them). And I snap this picture, which looks to the front of house. Drinks in hand, we mill about, meet people, and eventually sit down.

At each table setting is a booklet for us of the night's adventures in eating Piedmontese food and drinking suitable wines.

Oh, this looks good.
It's going to be a very good evening.

I confess I miss one photo, and that's of the yummy breadsticks (Grissini del Olio) that we have to go along with the aperitif. Beautiful crunch, right amount of salt, nice herbacious flavours, probably the best breadsticks I've ever had.

On a flatscreen TV behind me, there are Flickr pictures of Piedmont showing the entire evening, except for when it's decided we have to see this bizarre Russian lounge lizard TV act from what looks like the '80's.

Next, it is on to the antipasto: I grab a couple of shots while Matt plates things, but realize half way through the evening that my battery is low low low, so there are only a few shots of food-in-progress.

This is Vitello Tonnato. Delicate beautiful veal tenderloin, buttery soft, with a tuna sauce. What an amazing complementary pair: the delicacy of the veal, and the stout flavours of the tuna sauce work really well together. The wine for this course is Demarie Roero Arneis 2008 (thanks, Alexa, for MCing and the awesome booklets that you put together!)
Here's an up-close look at my plate: delicate pieces of veal with sauce, capers, and some tarragon.

Our next appetizer is a tart of artichoke and goat cheese with bagna cauda: a sauce I am truly in love with!
Bagna cauda is made of anchovies, garlic, parsley and olive oil (and some recipes use butter, too). Matt's recipe uses some butter. In the same way that veal and tuna work together, this little tart and bagna cauda function as a team. The arugula salad on top adds some contrasting bitterness, and it is a great combination.

The accompanying wine is Ascheri Fontanelle Barbera D'Alba 2008.

So where do we go after these delicious appetizers? To a stunning risotto: Risotto di Barolo con fungi (although we have a Via Collina Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba wine instead of a Barolo).

It is a bit of a surprise when we first get it, because we're not used to seeing risotto made with a red wine, which makes a pink dish. It is totally scrumptious... smooth, with a bit of a bite at the middle of the rice grains. Lots of flavour.  Wonderful marriage of flavours of rice, wine, and mushroom.

This dish is paired with the Dolcetto, the same wine used to make it.

Next is the main course, the serious meat course. And Matt takes his meat courses seriously, as I discovered when he cooked an amazing dinner for four for Sandy. This course is described as Bollito Misto — mixed boiled meats. Imagine meats from different animals all slowly braised together, so none of the meat is tough, and all of it is flavourful, and flavoured with the other meats and vegetables that are also cooked in the same pot. We are given a variety of tongue, veal, capon, pork feet, and brisket, too, I believe. Veggies are potatoes and carrots. The two tasty sauces in the upper right corner are roasted pepper puree and anchovy spread. Rawr!! The paired wine was Tenuta San Mauro Barbaresco.

Where do you go after this? for a stretch, and give the chef a little break maybe (did you get a break, Matt?).
After these dishes, two more courses remain: first, the cheese course with Testun al Barolo (which has a strange connection for me: that was the last food I had in mid-December that tasted good, before I was struck by pine mouth {caused by a problem with pine nuts which lasted a couple of weeks). Alex Farms was selling it as a Christmas cheese, so I bought a hunk for my parents. It's a great cheese, on the mild/medium side, and packed with grape must from the wine fermentation process. This is matched with a salad of arugula and shaved fennel, a truly scrumptious combination. The matched wine is Cantina Parroco Nebbiolo Langhe 2007.

And then, on to dessert! If you know me, you know that I'm really not a big dessert fan. This dessert, however, is really yummy. It isn't over sweet (which tends to be my prob. with most 'serts). Tarta di Nocciole with poached pears in red wine.
A thin slice of a hazelnut cake (which has some flour and whole eggs as well as lots of ground hazelnuts) reminds me of a flourless, unleavened almond Passover cake my Dad bought... oh, gosh, must have been around 1972. The cake is wonderful. I could gladly eat it for breakfast every day. The sauce drizzled around and under is based on Nutella, and in the ramekin are some delicious poached pears with some ginger, to add some brightness to the dish.
This dessert is accompanied by a sparkling red wine, Piemonte Cantina San Pancrazio Brachetto 2008. Really good pairing.

There is yet one more thing to happen. Joey, the Accordion Guy was there. I didn't realize that he had brought his accordion to sing me a happy birthday!

5 comments:

  1. I used butter in the Bagna Cauda.

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  2. Risotto paired with the Dolcetto. :)

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  3. Dessert pastry had flour in it, but alot of the floury base was ground hazelnuts.

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  4. As Matt has already said the Risotto was paired with the Dolcetto it was made with. The Bollito Misto (mixed boiled meats) was paired with the Tenuta San Mauro Barbaresco.

    It was wonderful to have you join us and to be included in your birthday celebration!

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  5. Thanks, Matt and Alex. Have made corrections, and had a wonderful time. Thank you for your time and idea to make The Secret Pickle Supper Club!

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