Tag Archives: Italian food

San Lorenzo Dinner at the Symposium Quattro Stagioni – After

We sat around for a while and drank more wine (Alessandro, Enrica, and Ernesto shown above), and played with a new gadget that my boss Fabrizio invented (Carlo came up with the wine glass trick). I had brought along prototypes to give everybody, as a market test to see how they liked it. They loved Read More…

We sat around for a while and drank more wine (Alessandro, Enrica, and Ernesto shown above), and played with a new gadget that my boss Fabrizio invented (Carlo came up with the wine glass trick).

I had brought along prototypes to give everybody, as a market test to see how they liked it.

Rossella aka Ninna
They loved it. Pity I didn’t think to use it myself – my photos would have come out a lot less blurry. You’ll be hearing more about this from me soon – in the meantime, head over to Alessio’s site to check out the contest!

night

Eventually we moved outside to sit by the pool, where Lucio brought glasses of shaved ice over which he poured grappa. Cooling and warming at the same time!

And, can you believe, there was still more food?!?

nibbles

We actually did not manage to finish all these, although they were delicious.

San Lorenzo Dinner at the Symposium Quattro Stagioni – Dessert

Alessio and Enrico The dessert was also amazingly complicated and took a lot of time to prepare (the staff certainly earn their keep here!). The woman above filled little glasses with a coconut sorbet-and-liqueur. Lacy chocolate cups were filled with ice cream (I wasn’t quite sure of the flavor), and then warm little chocolate muffins Read More…

Alessio and Enrico

The dessert was also amazingly complicated and took a lot of time to prepare (the staff certainly earn their keep here!).
dessert chef
The woman above filled little glasses with a coconut sorbet-and-liqueur.

waiter Danilo

Lacy chocolate cups were filled with ice cream (I wasn’t quite sure of the flavor), and then warm little chocolate muffins with soft insides were added. These tenerezze (tendernesses) were delicately flavored with Szechuan pepper, which tastes very like coriander seed (there was a big jar of the dried pepper sitting on the counter and we were invited to try grains of it).

dessert

The dots were a bitter orange sauce ideal for dipping bits of muffin in.

San Lorenzo Dinner at the Symposium Quattro Stagioni – Secondi

For the secondi (entree course), Sara had decided to challenge her guests with a Degustazione di Frattaglie. Degustazione means “tasting” or “sampler”. Frattaglie are… innards. (I believe in English they are sometimes called euphemistically “sweetbreads”.) This used to be considered peasant food: the parts of the animal left over after the nobles had taken the Read More…

For the secondi (entree course), Sara had decided to challenge her guests with a Degustazione di Frattaglie. Degustazione means “tasting” or “sampler”. Frattaglie are… innards. (I believe in English they are sometimes called euphemistically “sweetbreads”.)

This used to be considered peasant food: the parts of the animal left over after the nobles had taken the choicer muscle meats (haunch, shoulder, filet, etc.). There are traditional dishes based on organ meats in probably all Italian regions. Next-door Abruzzo, for example, features la mazzarella, a mix of organs including (I’m pretty sure someone told me) lung. Trippa (tripe) is traditional in Rome, the Veneto is famous for fegato (liver).

It was clear from the menu that Symposium’s recipes would take these “poor” foods and dress them up in grand style. I still wasn’t sure I would like them, but I decided to be brave (those who chose not to try the frattaglie were served rabbit).

Shown above is the first sampler plate:

  • left: Fegato di vitello con aceto balsamico e uva passa (veal liver with balsamic vinegar and dried grapes) – I usually like liver, so had no trouble with this although it was cut into largeish chunks that were still pink on the inside, instead of the thin, brown-throughout slices that most of us think of when we imagine eating liver. The sweet-sour sauce was a perfect accompaniment.
  • right: Trippa alla Canapina con pecorino di fossa e vellutata di fagioli bianchi (tripe alla Canapina – I don’t know what that means – with aged sheep’s milk cheese and a velouté of white beans). Nope, sorry. I tried it, but I just can’t take tripe. It’s intestine, after all, and it tastes to me like what’s been in it. Others at the table loved it, in fact my seat mate Carlo was happy to finish my portion.

palle

Then came:

  • left: Palle di Toro fritte con salsa di paprika dolce (fried bull balls with a sweet paprika sauce). I was most curious about these; I’d heard of “Rocky Mountain Oysters” and such but never had occasion to try them. In this case, they mostly tasted fried, and had a rubbery texture in the mouth that wasn’t particularly pleasant. And these couldn’t really be bull balls, could they? Surely no self-respecting bull has testicles that tiny? More likely these are calf balls, leftovers from early castration (yes, I know my male readers really wanted that mental picture…well, you’re stuck with it now).
  • right: Rognone con mele e calvados (kidney with apple and calvados). I’d never had kidney before, and can now testify that it doesn’t do much for me. The sauce of apples, cinnamon, and apple brandy was yummy.

Once again I donated to my neighbors, though we were all getting very full by this time.

This course was served with a very good Pinot Nero Alto Adige doc 2002. I don’t have particular skills in describing wines, but I know what I like: heavy, complex reds like this one. It was nobody’s fault that one bottle was corked; in fact, this provided an opportunity to demonstrate what Enrico and I learned years ago in a Slow Food wine-tasting course: women’s noses are far more sensitive to corked wine than men’s.

It was also the occasion for Chef Lucio to talk about how he loses 5% of his stock this way, and synthetic corks would be better for everybody, but market tests have shown that customers make the snobbish (and wrong) assumption that real cork is more elegant. (In our wine course we learned that the most effective way to seal wine would actually be a cap like you find on a beer bottle – I can just imagine the howls of outrage from wine snobs about that!)

There was plenty of time between courses to digest, and watch the preparation of the next course, which reminded me of demonstrations in a science museum as it involved liquid nitrogen.

This was used on a dish called Gorgo: Gelato al gorgonzola malghese, granita di sedano, pere calde padellate con la sua acquavite, salsa al porto: ice cream made of gorgonzola cheese, with a celery granita (the liquid nitrogen was used to instant-freeze celery liquid for this), pan-sauteed pears with pear liqueur, and port sauce. There were also granules of port gelatin and slivers of celery. (I didn’t manage to get a comprehensible photo of this creation, in spite of trying three different camera settings.)

If you approached this dish expecting dessert flavors, it would be a rude surprise. If, instead, you prepared yourself for a cheese course perfect for a hot summer night, it was wonderful. I ate it with bread.

With this we had a rather wonderful passito (a sweet dessert wine made from dried grapes) called Ramandolo docg 2003. It was a lovely amber color (see below – that’s Susan hiding behind), and was not cloyingly sweet as passiti often are. Must arrange to have more of that one of these days…

glasses

We also had a mini-sampler of two local cheeses, one goat and one sheep, each served with a dollop of well-mated fruit sauce.

San Lorenzo Dinner at the Symposium Quattro Stagioni – Primi

The starter was panzanella di pomodoro con scampi di Fano – tomato and bread with local scampi on a bed of arugula. As chef Lucio explained, this is a recipe inspired by the “fishermen of the hills” – those who, while owning a fishing boat down on the coast, live up in the hills, where Read More…

The starter was panzanella di pomodoro con scampi di Fano – tomato and bread with local scampi on a bed of arugula. As chef Lucio explained, this is a recipe inspired by the “fishermen of the hills” – those who, while owning a fishing boat down on the coast, live up in the hills, where they also have enough land to grow their own produce. Because they are farmers as well as fishermen, their cooking combines the flavors of the sea with those more traditionally associated with the countryside.

Whatever the inspiration, it was divine. I crave more of that stuffing-like panzanella bread, and would like to explore uses for it in other formats. If memory serves, with it we drank a Gavi di Gavi docg 2005.

penne

Then came Pasta di farro Latini con Sugo di Scorfano
dell’Adriatico
: penne made from spelt flour with a sauce of local scorpionfish. Sara told me that Latini brand pasta is supposed to be the best in Italy. I was sitting next to Sara’s French husband, Patrice, who agreed with me that he couldn’t really tell the difference between one pasta and another. Several of the Italians at the table stated categorically that there is a difference, but you have to be raised on pasta to appreciate it properly.

It was served with tiny sides: the rolled-up things on the left seemed to be sort of piadine (the Italian version of “wrap” sandwiches) with ham and cheese inside. On the right you see three strips of delicately batter-fried fish filet – I would have been happy to eat a lot more of that.

tartufo

Next came Carnaroli Gran Riserva con Pecorino e Tartufo
Nero
risotto with sheep’s milk cheese and black truffle (that’s the black-edged stuff you see in slices over the top). I have not in the past been crazy about truffle, and feared this dish would be wasted on me. It was not. It was the best risotto I’ve had in my life, and two of the Italians in the group said that, as natives of regions specializing in risotto, they could testify that this was “un risotto come si deve” (risotto made the way it’s meant to be).

Wine with the pasta and risotto was Vernaccia di San Giminiano docg 2005.

San Lorenzo Dinner at the Symposium Quattro Stagioni: Aperitivi

Much of the action at Symposium takes place behind the large, curved bar in the dining room, where patrons are welcome to lean over, watch, and ask questions. From the time we arrived, Danilo was busy preparing five different nibbles for the aperitivi di benvenuto. The spoonfuls shown above, designed to be reminiscent of “an Read More…

Much of the action at Symposium takes place behind the large, curved bar in the dining room, where patrons are welcome to lean over, watch, and ask questions.
barFrom the time we arrived, Danilo was busy preparing five different nibbles for the aperitivi di benvenuto. The spoonfuls shown above, designed to be reminiscent of “an American cocktail of the 70s,” were an orange cream enclosed in a liquor-flavored gelatin resting on a strawberry cream.
danilo
Above you see on the left vetrines containing truffle broth and slivers of sea urchin (the fishiest seafood I have tasted to date). These were later topped with an onion cream.

The bowls on the right later contained fried quail’s eggs with an olive topping; I don’t remember what the orange sauce was.

Not shown is a vetrine of venison with a watermelon sauce, a most interesting combination of flavors (not so surprising to me – I often serve meat with fruit, though watermelon wouldn’t have occurred to me!).

We washed all this down with San Lorenzo’s Franciacorta docg Brut Millesimato 2003 – a nice dry bubbly.