Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Katie's Passport Dinner: Tuscany

Two of my favorite things, STLwinegirl, Angela Ortmann, and Katie's Pizza and Pasta got together to create a "Passport Dinner" series featuring different areas of Italy. Each dinner consists of five courses paired with Italian wine, of course.

Even though I am a long-time lover of all things Italian, I had no idea there the were so many different areas of Italy with unique dishes. Katie has really challenged herself with this dinner series, and it has to be one of the best meals I have ever had in St. Louis.

Since this was the first in the series, I didn't know what to expect. Here is a short video of what the evening was like: http://vimeo.com/116987663

Unfortunately, my Katie's film debut didn't quite happen, so we'll go with how things looked from my point of view. And my view was pretty much nothing but large amounts of food and wine!

We were all spread across three separate tables, which made it easier to converse with your new friends for the evening. Each setting had a "passport" and a course listing on paper from the Tuscany region. On the other side (not shown) is a "postcard" picture - so beautiful. Even some of the ingredients had to be shipped over from Italy. Talk about going all out and paying attention to detail. I was really blown away.

Each course was introduced by Katie herself and the wines were explained by the STLwinegirl, Angela. My table mates were shocked at the level of service at a casual restaurant located in a strip mall. It was like fine dining...but at your friend's house.

Passport and Menu
While we waited for everyone at our table to arrive, we were served an appetizer of three crostinis, Now when I think crostini, I think small...like the size of a silver dollar. These crostinis were the size of my hand and there were three of them.

Crostini Trio - Liver, Bean & Sage, Pecorino Toscano & Pear
My favorite was the chicken liver in the middle because it was not that far off from my step-grandmother's chopped liver. I could have just eaten a bowl full of the liver and ended my night there.

Yet, another favorite was the Pecorino cheese paired with the sweet pear. This Pecorino came from Italy and was much softer than any version I had ever tasted. I actually pulled out the cheese just so I could taste it by itself. OK...chicken liver and a plate of the cheese and that would have been enough.

The second course, Cacciucco, was another huge favorite and another huge portion. This reminded me a lot of a cioppino, a fish stew, but in a creamier broth. It came piled with mussels, clams, and shrimp and I ate every single one of them!

Cacciucco
At this point in the evening, I was feeling full and would have loved a nap, but the party was just getting started.

I'm sure you're wondering where the pasta is, right? Well, instead we had hand-rolled farro pici covered in a wild boar ragu. Katie turned the farro into long, thick noodles to hold up against the heavy sauce. It will be hard to go back to regular spaghetti after this. And do you see the cheese shaved on top? I learned from Katie that they don't sprinkle Parmesan on top like us Americans.

Hand Rolled Farro Pici, Juniper Berry Wild Boar Ragu
At this point, I probably should have hoisted a white flag because the next dish was a very heavy Bistecca Florentine, but the beef was perfectly cooked and covered with shaved Pecorino and I couldn't stop.

Bistecca Florentine, Shaved Pecorino, Lemon
You can't have a Tuscan wine dinner without a Chianti and it was perfectly paired with this beef dish.

The last course, dessert, was a Castagnaccio or a chestnut cake. The cake was dense and crunchy and reminded me a lot like holiday fruitcake. Since it was a little dry, I enjoyed spilling the dessert wine, a Vin Santo, all over the gelato and cake and eating them together in one bite. Not that I could have that many at this point.

Castagnaccio (Chestnut Cake) with Gelato
Forgive me for not going into more detail about the wine as they were all wonderfully paired with each course and let the food shine. Of course, I preferred the white wines and shared most of my reds with my new friends at the table.

In addition to losing out on my fifteen seconds of fame, I also failed to write this in time for you to register for the next dinner in February featuring the Veneto region. If nothing else, you will be prepared for the announcement for March, and according to the "passport" I received, there are still many more regions to eat your way through.

Resources:

Katie's Pizza & Pasta = http://katiespizzaandpasta.com/

STLwinegirl = http://www.stlwinegirl.com