On Invitation

Flavors of Tuscany - Cubbon Pavilion ITC Gardenia

Saturday, December 08, 2012Me! In words

Its December, the festive season and there is little we need as an excuse to celebrate. And celebrate I did when I was  invited to the preview of an Italian Tuscan festival at the ITC Gardenia. The idea of hand rolled pasta, creamy risotto and interesting twists on bruschettas is hard to pass up. I also had a lot of questions for Chef Vittorio Greco and without doubt he was one of the most gracious hosts I have met yet. Passionate about his food, generous with his recipes and an ardent fan of all things fresh. 

The afternoon meal which despite being a preview stretched on for a good three hours began with a Zardetto Prosecco, a sparkling wine. With sparkling being a personal favorite among wines, I was happy to begin with this. It does take a while to register home, but half way through the glass, it will. 

Zardetto Prosecco

As we sipped on the wine, Chef Vittorio joined us and spoke of all things food. In India for the first time, after a decade long stint in Australia, where his family is now based, Chef spoke about how he was unsure of the produce available here in the country. His firm belief in great food can only be made with great produce however got a boost once he saw what he would be working with in Bangalore. "The tomatoes, actually taste like tomatoes here", he explained, remembering how at times he was not able to get even the basic flavors out of everyday ingredients in some places.

An observer of people, Chef Vittorio also finds numerous similarities between the food cultures of Italy and India. We love our vegetarian and so do the Italians he says. We love to eat with our hands and several of the antipasti and breads that form an integral part of the Italian cuisine are also eaten by hand. We Indians love an elaborate meal with lots of dishes on the table, little doubt that the Italians love it to. And we love to take our time cooking and not always give in to short cuts to make a great meal and that he says is the same with the Italians.

There is so much more we could have talked about, but Chef had to get about presenting our meal and what a meal it was.

Chef Vittorio Greco

We started with the antipasti platter, a collection of signature from the Tuscan region. The bruschettas were all served on ciabatta bread.

What you see here is the Spinaci pinoli e uvetta - Spinach tossed in olive oil with sultanas and peanuts. The spinach was slightly bitter but this was balanced with the peanuts and the squishy sultanas. Next is the Pomodoro e basilico or the classic bruschetta with tomato concasse and last the Caviale di Melanzane or the eggplant caviar. My order of preference was the Pomodoro e Basilico followed by the Eggplant caviar and then the spinach (yes I have this thing about greens and have not yet grown out of it)

This was followed by the non-vegetarian antipasti

This is the Tartara di salmone atlantico al limone e olio extravergine toscano con ciabatta croccante which translates into Atlantic salmon tartare in a lemon and EVOO dressing with crispy ciabatta. My advice, for the complete experience, place a tiny forkful of the tartare on the ciabatta, a dash of the mustard and place in mouth. Follow this with a bit of the paper thin zucchini. I could eat this forever. 

This was followed by what you see up here. Fichi freschi ripieni al gorgonzola con prosciutto di parma su insalata mescolina e salsa e balsamico, which means if you haven't got it from the image - Fresh figs, stuffed with gorgonzola wrapped in prosciutto with a balsamic dressing. Sweet from the fig, tartness from the gorgonzola, saltiness from the prosciutto and a sip of the wine. Little wonder the world loves Italian food. 

From here were moved on to the zuppa or the soup. This was a Zuppa do Cavolfiori e tartufo bianco con crostini di pane integrale - a cauliflower and white truffle soup with whole meal croutons on the side. Despite loving the plating of this soup, I dug in pretty quick. The soup was creamy, slightly grainy and delicious. The croutons were extra crispy and I preferred having them as is.

Zuppa do Cavolfiori e tartufo bianco con crostini di pane integrale

And take a look at this beauty - Ravioli d'aragosta con pomodorino leggero e basilico - a lobster ravioli in a basil and fresh tomato sauce. Also added to the dish in the center was a generous serving of lobster meat. The ravioli was cooked al-dente and retained its bite, making it a pleasure to eat with the shavings of cheese all around it.

Ravioli d'aragosta con pomodorino leggero e basilico

Next was the Risotto con asparagi bianchi mascarpone e profumo di limone - Creamy risotto with a white asparagus mascarpone and lemon zest. While the risotto itself was nice, it was the mascarpone and the lemon zest that elevated it to a whole new level. That's two meals in a row where I have found mascarpone used in such delicious ways.

Risotto con asparagi bianchi mascarpone e profumo di limone

Now came round two (yes, my tummy had that same look of astonishment!) and this was the seafood round. Pesce persico della di Chennai con sedano o capperi e pomodorini freschi - Ocean Perch infused with capers, celery and some fresh tomatoes. And that broth below was a lovely lemony one, again an absolute winner for a lemon lover like me.

Pesce persico della di Chennai con sedano o capperi e pomodorini freschi

The next was the meat main course and this was a Galletto alla diavola marinato al peperoncino ed erbe fini con pepperoni gialli profumati al basilico - Spatchcock steeped in italian herbs rendered in olive oil and lemon juice and placed on a hot lava stone. This was served with a yellow pepper and garlic basil compote and zucchini. The spatchcock has a slight chewy quality to it, but then that's the feature of the bird. With the accompaniments, it makes for a nice main course.

Galletto alla diavola marinato al peperoncino ed erbe fini
con pepperoni gialli profumati al basilico 

And can the meal be complete without something to sweeten the palate - and in this case there was the Tiramisu which I opted out of since I don't like coffee (ain't I glad am hiding behind my blog and not in the line of fire of all those who may have just yelled out about me being crazy! But yes, I don't like anything coffee). For my Dolci I had a zuccotto alla fiorentina, which is a layered dessert, a specialty of Florence which comprises of a sponge cake soaked to the hilt in liquer and icecream with a layer of Italian meringue in top. Now tell me I was missing out on a Tiramisu... I sure didn't feel it.

 Zuccotto alla fiorentina

The Flavors of Tuscany Festival is on at the Cubbon Pavilion ITC Gardenia from December 7th to December 16th as part of the dinner buffet. The menu is cyclical and each day will have its selection from  Chef Vittoria's recipe book. 

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