Kitchen garden at Chatham Bars Inn is really a farm

Chatham Bars Inn Farm picnic tables
Chatham Bars Inn stays Cape Cod’s gastronomic top dog because it grows its own food in Brewster on the north side of the Cape. The entire operation covers eight acres. Crops grow on four acres, with about a third of the crops in massive hothouses.

lettuce grows at Chatham Bars Inn Farm “It’s tricky to grow on Cape Cod,” says farm manager Josh Schiff. “The weather is unpredictable and the soil is poor.” As a result, the farm grows some of its most temperature-sensitive crops inside greenhouses, including a forest of tomatoes that fruit from May into December. “We start everything from seed,” Schiff explains.“We grow tomatoes and lettuce in compost with hydroponic irrigation.” More sprawling crops, such as cucumber, summer and winter squashes, and pumpkins spread across plowed fields. The farm supplies the kitchens of the inn. By getting a headstart on the usual Cape Cod growing season, the farm produces at its peak from late June through mid-October, the inn’s busiest months. The farm’s 75-member CSA program spreads the bounty around the community, and the farm runs summer gardening workshops for area residents.

salad niçoise at Chatham Bars Inn Farm picnic On a perfect late May afternoon, picnic tables set up beneath a canopy of oak trees made a regal setting for an outdoor meal served family style for Lexus Gran Fondo participants. Plate after plate showcased Cape Cod provender and the Inn’s culinary chops. A deconstructed salad niçoise featured locally caught yellowfin tuna with purple potatoes, white anchovies, haricots verts, and greenhouse tomatoes. Slices of roasted farm pork pâté sat amid pickled cauliflower and green tomatoes. A jar of the inn’s own beach plum preserves completed the board.

In fact, Chatham Bars Inn meals benefit from the myriad of pickles, relishes, and preserves made on the premises. Here’s the inn’s recipe for sweet-hot pickles for hot-water processing.

PICKLED GREEN TOMATOES AND CUCUMBERS

Yields seven 24 oz. mason jars

Ingredients

24pickles16 1/4 cups water
3 1/4 cups white vinegar
1 lb. honey
3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/3 cup salt
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
farm fresh herbs to taste (tarragon, thyme, dill, etc.)
3 1/2 lb. pickling cucumbers
3 1/2 lb. green tomatoes

Directions

Clean and sterilize all jars and lids before beginning.

In a large pot, combine all ingredients through black pepper, bring to boil. Reduce heat to bring pot to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

As spices steep and bloom, wash and slice cucumbers and tomatoes. Quarter the cucumbers lengthwise, and cut green tomatoes into eight wedges each. Pack the clean and sterilized jars with the vegetables and herbs of your choice.

Pour the pickling liquid over the vegetables to fill the jars and cover with the lid to close, but not tightly.

Place jars on canning rack in a canning kettle with enough hot water to reach base of the rings. Hot-process jars by bringing to a boil and holding at simmer at least 15 minutes. Remove from hot water bath, tighten the lids, and cool jars on racks. You’ll know the pickles are properly sealed when the center of each lid snaps down.

Because the jars have been hot-processed they can be left out at room temperature for up to 6 months. Once opened, they should be refrigerated.

23

07 2016

Lexus Gran Fondo speeds onto Cape Cod

Chatham Bars Inn chefs at Lexus Gran Fondo
“Think of it as a party on wheels,” said Chatham Bars Inn general manager John Speers. He was speaking over cocktails on the inn’s wrap-around front porch. “Our kind of gran fondo always incorporates food and wine.”

Cyclists finish 100-mile ride at Lexus Gran Fondo The Lexus Gran Fondo launched in high style on Memorial Day weekend. The cycling and gastronomic events all centered on the historic inn at the elbow of Cape Cod. The luxury car brand has long supported other cycling events. But Lexus pulled out all the stops for this first Gran Fondo under the company name.

A team of Lexus-affiliated professional riders led the 100-mile ride on Saturday from the XV Beacon (xvbeacon.com) hotel in Boston to the Chatham Bars Inn (chathambarsinn.com). Less ambitious riders could opt for 50-mile and 28-mile loops entirely on Cape Cod. Even the shorter rides worked up everyone’s appetite.

 Lexus Culinary Master Cassidee Dabney, executive chef of Blackberry Farm , serves her soup at Lexus Gran Fondo Those who elected to spend Friday night in Chatham rather than Boston enjoyed an outdoor buffet. Lexus Culinary Master Cassidee Dabney, executive chef of Blackberry Farm (www.blackberryfarm.com) in Walland, Tennessee, did a star turn with a turbocharged soup. She served a bowl of smoked chicken broth with a soft boiled egg, grits, and chicken skin cracklings and chopped peanuts on top.

Lobster roll at picnic spread for Lexus Gran Fondo But Cape Cod bounty drove most of the gastronomic events. Executive chef Anthony Cole of the Chatham Bars Inn laid out a seafood extravaganza. In addition to a raw bar of local oysters and littleneck clams, his staff served chopped razor clams in a citrus mignonette. A dab of caviar topped the de rigeur lobster rolls served on heavenly brioche rolls. The inn also served roasted beets with Bluebird, an organic blue cheese made on the nearby island of Martha’s Vineyard.

Cole’s kitchen also prepared a rock crab risotto with baby fava beans and walnuts. It was a gutsy choice, since risotto for the masses can be hit or miss. While we didn’t get the recipe for a 60-serving version, we’ve come up with this smaller recipe for home consumption. We missed the window for fresh baby fava beans, so we’ve substituted baby limas.

CRAB RISOTTO WITH WALNUT PISTOU AND BABY LIMAS

Serves 4 as a appetizer course

Pistou
3/4 cup Italian parsley leaves
Crab risotto with walnut pistou and baby lima beans 1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil

Process parsley and walnuts in small food processor until finely chopped. Add salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Purée. Add olive oil and purée until smooth. Reserve for later step in risotto.

Risotto
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups seafood stock
3/4 cup crab meat
3/4 cup baby lima beans, steamed until just tender
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (plus more for table)

In 2-3 quart pressure cooker, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add minced shallot and cook until translucent. Add rice and stir until well-coated with oil. Raise heat to high and add white wine. Stir to keep from burning until wine is absorbed. Add 1 1/4 cups of stock, stirring well. When pot begins to simmer, tighten lid and cook on medium pressure for exactly 8 minutes, turning down heat to keep pressure steady.

Remove from heat and run pot under cold water to decompress. Remove lid and place pot back on low heat. Stir in crab, precooked lima beans, and a little remaining stock. Cook for 1 minute and test rice for doneness. (It should be al dente in the middle but rather creamy.) Add more stock as needed. When rice is desired texture, stir in pistou and continue to heat. Add grated cheese and stir to incorporate. Serve in bowls and pass more grated cheese.

19

07 2016

Pioneering pairings of food and beer

cover of Food & Beer Chef Daniel Burns is on a mission to bring beer pairing into the fine dining conversation. Burns runs the kitchen of the Michelin-starred Luksus (www.luksusnyc.com). It shares a space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with the bar Tørst (Danish for “toast”) operated by Danish brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø. (Jarnit-Bjergsø is also the brewer at cult favorite Evil Twin Brewing.)

Between them, they have put craft beer on a par with wine for fine dining. And they have collaborated on a fascinating new book called simply Food & Beer. Part manifesto, part cookbook, part a dialogue on gastronomic philosophy, it’s a perfect addition to the bookshelf of anyone who cares about the cutting edge in contemporary restaurant cuisine.

As part of the book’s launch, Burns did a star turn at Harvest restaurant (harvestcambridge.com) in Cambridge, where he and Harvest executive chef Tyler Kinnett adapted some of the recipes from Food & Beer to pair with craft beers. All the drinks were served in wine glasses. This kept the individual portions fairly small, while giving each beer more head room to express the complexity of aromas.

Burns believes that beer can be more flexible than wine for food pairings. “Wine is a pure expression of terroir,” he explains. “Beer is not. You can take ingredients from all over the world and add any flavors you want. So as a chef, beer gives me a vast spectrum of flavors to choose from when I’m pairing beer with food.”

The meal Burns and Kinnett served at Harvest was a demonstration. A couple of dishes also hint at how to go about the beer-pairing process at home (beyond serving Bud with chili).
.

Licorice gravlax and a blonde


licorice cured trout for beer dinner Gravlax is a style of curing raw fish or meat using salt and sugar. To demonstrate how a panoply of flavors can be enhanced with a beer, Burns and Kinnett served a plate of licorice-cured trout with pickled beet topped by dandelion greens.

Burns was René Redzepi’s sous chef at Noma in Copenhagen, and the experience shaped his palate to favor Nordic tastes. It doesn’t get much more Nordic than gravlax, beet root, and licorice. Yet the cure was light enough that the dish turned out to be surprisingly subtle. The trout was cured with sea salt, Demerara sugar (a coarse, raw sugar), and licorice powder. Slightly bitter dandelion greens and toasted rye crumbs provided crunchy contrast to the soft trout and beet. The beer pairing was Blackberry Farm Abbey Blonde, a light ale made with a Pilsner malt. The beer has a slightly sweet, earthy flavor profile and a rounded mouth feel. One sip brought out the Demerara sugar in the trout cure and the earthy toast of the rye crumbs for a completely altered taste experience.

When Burns is choosing a beer to pair with a dish, he explains, he looks for the secondary flavors of the food. “I might put four or five flavors together on a plate,” he explained. “I want the beer to highlight maybe the third or even fourth flavor.”

Sea bass with an IPA


sea bass with beer dinner Burns prepared a small portion of sea bass with a few pieces of grilled salsify and two purées on the plate—one of fennel, the other of the minty Asian vegetable shiso. The fish and the salsify (which tastes like mild artichoke heart) were both mild. Their flavors were almost secondary to the intensity of the two purées. But it was the beer pairing that accomplished that gastronomic bait and switch.

Burns and the Harvest team picked Evil Twin Citra Sunshine Slacker for the pairing. It’s a beer we’d usually serve with bar snacks instead of real food. It’s an acquired taste, we think, because the Citra hop is so astringent. Drinking it is a little like biting into a grapefruit. But with this dish, the low-alcohol IPA expresses its secondary herbal notes nicely. It assumes a lemon-y quality that provided some punch to the anise of the fennel and the grassy-minty quality of the shiso. Call it the battle of botanicals, but it works.

With a new craft brewery opening up a few blocks from our house next month, we think we’ll get our growlers filled and see what summer bounty might benefit from being served with a little malt and hops. It’s kind of like deciding the wine to drink before picking the menu.

15

07 2016

Paso Robles wine comes into its own

tasting at a Paso Robles winery
Paso Robles has a frontier spirit. Located about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Central Coast community lends its name to California’s fastest growing wine region.

wine signpost Paso Robles Known since Native American times for its thermal hot springs, Paso (as locals call it) had only 35 wineries in the late 1990s. But this district of limestone bedrock and huge day-night temperature differential has caught the eye of winemakers large and small. Located in the foothills of the Santa Lucia mountain range about a half-hour drive from the Pacific Ocean, the region boasts more than 250 wineries and 26,000 acres planted in more than 40 wine grape varietals. The power of Paso Robles goes well beyond the numbers. The palpable air of experimentation and possibility is so infectious that even short-term visitors get a lift.

Upscale boutiques, Western-style clothiers, restaurants, cafes, and more than 20 wine tasting rooms give a bustling air to the tidy downtown around City Park. While downtown is the best place to taste across the whole region, many vineyards are nearby. On Highway 46 alone, 25 tasting rooms dot the roadside within a five-mile stretch.

Coy and Sarah Barnes founded the first wine tour company in Paso. Their Wine Wrangler (the winewrangler.com) offers both half- and full-day tours.

“Wine has been grown here for as long as in Napa,” says Coy, “but the area is not as well known. There are only about one-third as many vines as there are planted in Napa. But it is an area that is young, growing, full of people who like to experiment.” Even a short tour gives a sense of the proud history and dynamic growth that give the region its unique character.

J Dusi shows Zin is no sin


Janelle Dusi of J Dusi Wines in Paso Robles Janelle Dusi is the fourth generation of a grape-growing family. She grew up on 100 acres planted in old-vine Zinfandel. “We’re farmers. My great grandfather began growing Zinfandel in the 1920s,” she says. “It’s Paso’s heritage grape and the vineyards are still intact and family-owned.”

Her grandfather taught her the basics of winemaking and she is now both winemaker and proprietor of J Dusi Wines (1401 CA-46, Paso Robles; 805-226-2034; jdusiwines.com). True to her family roots, Janelle makes a medium-body Zinfandel.

“I restrain the jam and alcohol. I’m not embarrassed to do a more restrained style with a little more finesse,” she says. “I don’t need to come out of the gates with a chewy meal in a glass. My wine is more food friendly.”

While she is proud of her Zinfandel, Janelle has become increasingly interested in some of the most full-bodied Rhone grapes. She produces single-varietal bottlings of Grenache, Syrah, and the Rhone-like Petite Sirah.

SummerWood strikes a French pose


Shayne Kline of SummerWood in Paso Robles Shayne Kline, general manager at SummerWood Winery, agrees that Rhone grapes are a good fit for Paso Robles. “This area is known as the ‘Rhone zone,’” he says. He points out that the weather and the soils in the two regions are comparable, while noting that the night-time cooling is the most important aspect of the climate.

SummerWood (2175 Arbor Road, Paso Robles; 805-227-1365; summerwoodwine.com) is known for its limited-production American Rhone and Bordeaux wines and for Cabernet Sauvignon, a favorite of winemaker Mauricio Marchant.

“I’m originally from Chile, and I love Cabernet,” Marchant says, He spent time working in Napa Valley where “it’s Cab and Chard all day long. Here we’re still learning, trying to figure out what will work. Trying new things all the time. I love Syrah—powerful, inky black, manly man wine.” He also makes a huge, intense Rhone-style Mourvèdre.

Villicana shows a spirit of its own


Alex and Monica Villicana of Villicana Winery & Vineyard (2725 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles; 805-239-9456; villicanawinery.com) share that sense of adventure.

Alex and Monica Villicana of Villicana Winery & Vineyard in Paso Robles “We were the 17th winery in the area in 1993,” says Alex. The couple has planted their 13 acres in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot from Bordeaux, and Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah from the Rhone. “It’s Bordeaux meets Rhone,” Villicana says. He could add Puglia as a footnote, since Villicana also grows a lot of Zinfandel.

As winemaker, Alex stems the grapes and removes 30 to 40 percent of the free-run juice. “We change the ratio of juice to skins to get richer red wines,” he notes. In the process, “we stumbled on the fact that you can make vodka out of grapes” in place of the more traditional potatoes or grains. In fact, the Villicanas opened Re:FIND (refinddistillery.com), the area’s first craft distillery.

During the harvest, Alex saves their own free-run juice and buys this “saignée” from other winemakers. He makes vodka and gin by fermenting the juice and triple distilling the product.

“Twenty years of winemaking helped me in distilling.” Alex says. “I use the same sense of smell and taste to decide what to keep and what to get rid of.” He considers the venture to be “the ultimate in spirit-making sustainability.”

12

07 2016

Ocean meets wine country in Pismo Beach

sunset and the pier at Pismo Beach
California beach country is often also wine country. On the Central Coast, wineries nestle in the foothills of the Santa Lucia mountain range only about five miles from the ocean. The San Luis Obispo wine country comprises about thirty wineries squeezed into the hills between Arroyo Grande in the south and San Luis Obispo in the north.

Pelican preens on Pismo Beach pier Over the hills in Pismo Beach, Lissa Hallberg of the Tastes of the Valleys wine tasting bar and bottle shop was eager to introduce me to their products. The coastal village just over the mountains from Arroyo Grande boasts a long strand of soft sand. The town resists modernization, preferring to embody the classic, low-key beach getaway. In the morning, fishermen cast for Spanish mackerel off the 1,200-foot pier where seagulls and pelicans also perch. A gentle surf usually accommodates boarders and everyone can find enough sand to spread out a blanket. Dog walkers and joggers follow the shore south to wander among the undulating dunes. Shorebirds touch down in little lagoons, taking turns flap-flap-flapping to shake out their wings once they land.

Waiting for the sun to go down


Lissa Hallberg of the Tastes of the Valleys purs a sample in Pismo Beach As befits a beach vacation, Pismo Beach boasts plenty of arcades, salt water taffy pullers, ice cream parlors, and retro souvenir shops. But when the sun sinks low in the sky, all eyes turn to the pier. Local custom dictates buying a bottle of wine, pouring some into a Solo cup, and strolling down to the pier before sunset. I selected a bottle of Laetitia Vineyard and Winery Estate Chardonnay. Hallberg grimaced a bit at the thought of the plastic party cup adulterating the honeyed, mineral-driven taste of the wine from the Arroyo Grande Valley. (The region resembles Champagne in its soils and growing conditions, and the best wines are simple and unoaked.) Hallberg needn’t have worried. Watching the sun set, the taste of terroir came through fine without a crystal glass. I could get used to the ritual.

Tastes of the Valleys is at 911 Price Street, Pismo Beach; 805-773-8466; www.pismowineshop.com.

09

07 2016

Endrizzi ecological stewardship inspires great wine

Endrizzi vineyards in San Michele
Vineyards can be some of the most beautiful places on the planet, but few have charms to rival the original family vineyards of Endrizzi. Located in San Michele all’Adige (locale Masetto; tel. +39 0461 650 129: www/endrizzi.it), the winery launched in 1885. Masetto is also the name of the name of the family homestead. In those days, the area was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Endrizzi operated wine shops in Vienna, Prague, Belgrade, and Switzerland. After World War I, Trentino reverted to Italian control. The wine, however, has always been bilingual.

Trilingual, if you count the origin of some of the grapes. Founders Francesco and Angelo Endrici (the Italian spelling of the family name) pioneered Trentino plantings of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Those French grapes complemented their native teroldego and lagrein as well as riesling and gewürztraminer. In more recent decades, Endrizzi has also added chardonnay, pinot bianco, and sauvignon blanc.

The range of grapes isn’t even the most striking thing about Endrizzi vineyards. When I stepped out of the car at the Masetto facility, blooming flowers scented the air. Birdsong was everywhere. Amber sunshine spilled down the vineyard rows, reaching to the Dolomites in the background. Rarely have I arrived somewhere that exuded such health and harmony.

There’s an apropos quote from Goethe near the door of the winery: “Nature and idea cannot be separated without destroying both art and life.”

Lisa María and Paolo Endrici of Endrizzi Dr. Paolo Endrici is the fourth generation to operate the company. His wife Christine, a German architect, designed the winery. Their daughter Lisa María recently concluded wine management studies at Geisenheim in Germany with graduate work in Bordeaux. (Paolo and Lisa María are shown at left.)


The family also operates Serpaia di Endrizzi in La Maremma in Tuscany. I have written elsewhere of the elegance and intense fruit of their Morrelino di Scansano, so it was a pleasure to taste through the Trentino production. For brevity’s sake, I’d like to focus on just a few of the Masetto wines. They are just barely available in the U.S. I’d be thrilled if a broad-based importer were to pick them up, since they offer extraordinary quality at modest prices.

Masetto di Endrizzi


Masetto Bianco from Endrizzi If I had my druthers, I would drink Masetto Bianco at dinner several nights a week. This is a complex white blend of chardonnay, pinot bianco, riesling, and sauvignon blanc. All the grapes come from vineyards that are either biodynamically farmed or tending that way. The traditional pergola vineyards are being retrained to guyot wire. While a tiny amount of phosphate is added in mineral-deficient portions of the vineyards, none remains in the juices. Endrizzi vinfies most of the must in stainless steel, but ferments about 20 percent in oak. The winery employs powerful air-splitting machinery. The nitrogen provides a neutral atmosphere for bottling and capping off fermentation tanks. The ozone takes care of almost all sterilization within the facility, drastically reducing sulphites.

Masetto Nero is the red version of a daily table wine. This blend of native and French grapes spends just a short period in barrels to meld the flavors without adding strong oak flavors. Blueberries, raspberries and cocoa are the dominant flavor notes, with a slight undertone of vanilla.

Gran Masetto

Gran Masetto from Endrizzi The pride and joy of the family, however, is Gran Masetto. This wine shows the potential of the local teraldego grape for making an important wine. The must comes from two pressings. Grapes from a vineyard where the fruit has been reduced 50 percent by a series of green harvests make up the first pressing. The second pressing squeezes passito, or raisined, grapes. These are ripe grapes stored in small baskets under refrigeration until around Christmas. This cold desiccation concentrates the flavor, sugar, and acids. It keeps the aroma intact and avoids the marmalade qualities of grapes dried with sun or heat.

The color is extremely deep—almost black. The wine spends about 18 months in old oak barrels, and often several years in the bottle before release. Paolo poured verticals of the Gran Masetto from 2006 through 2011. Each displayed some caramelized fruit on the nose along with a characteristic teroldego spiciness. The younger wines also showed a hint of black pepper. Consistently ranked among Italy’s top 100 wines, this striking red retails around 45€. It could easily fetch twice the price.

Endrizzi’s Vinoteca is open daily except Tuesday for tastings and sales. Hours are 9am-noon, then 2-7pm. Slightly shorter hours prevail in October and November, when the winery commands everyone’s attention.

07

07 2016

Mezzacorona proves big wineries can make fine wines

enologist Mateo Covazzi at Mezzacorona
Not all Trentino wine producers are modest family affairs. Established in 1904, the Mezzacorona cooperative (www.mezzacorona.it/en-us) comprises 1,600 members. Their vineyards stretch across 3,000 hectares (about 11.6 square miles). They grow a third of the grapes in Trento province—about 30,000 tons per year. And they make surprisingly good wine.

Three-quarters of the grapes grown by Mezzacorona members are white. The most important are pinot grigio and chardonnay. Mezzacorona pinot grigio is certainly well-known in the U.S. and Germany, where it is a nationwide top seller in both countries. Wine Enthusiast magazine gave the 2014 a score of 87 and rated it a “best buy.” Annual production reaches about 50 million bottles. In the U.S., it sells for as little as $8 at a discount wine supermarket to $12 at a convenience store.

According to winemaker Mateo Covazzi (above), 2014 was a very challenging year. The cooperative had to lower its ripeness standards for the members, as late rains put a literal damper on the harvest. But Covazzi and his winemaking colleagues work with truly state-of-the-art tools and equipment. Pinot grigio is the flagship of the cooperative, so it must be consistent from year to year. Drinking the 2013 and 2014 side by side in a blind tasting, I detected a little more acid and fewer floral notes in the 2014. Otherwise, I found it hard to tell the two vintages apart.

Sparkling wines carry Rotari label


Mezzacorona facility The sheer size of the Mezzacorona facility is hard to fathom. It is several wineries under one undulating roof at the edge of town in the shadow of the Alps. Built of local wood, the roof echoes the structure of the pergolas traditional in local vineyards. In addition to varietal still wines—pinot grigio, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot nero, and moscato—the same company also makes 2.5 million bottles of sparkling wine under the Rotari label. (The cooperative also makes and bottles smaller amounts of other varietals for local consumption.)

riddling cages at Mezzacorona Rotari Mezzacorona sorts its grapes carefully, grading them for their final use. The best of the chardonnay grapes are reserved for Rotari sparkling wines. The sparkling wines spend a minimum of 20 months on the lees. Riservas sit on the lees for three to four years, flagship wines for six years or more. Although production of sparkling wines is more fragmented than the still wines, the volume of production permits some considerable economies of scale—like the 360-bottle riddling cages shown here. The standard Rotari Brut is comparable to a good entry-level Champagne. At $12-$16, it is half the cost.

Mezzacorona offers guided tours and tastings Monday-Saturday 8:30am–12:30 pm and 2–6pm. Call for an appointment. The Cittadella del Vino (“Citadel of Wine”), as the company calls its new cutting-edge facility, is 300 meters off the A22 at Via del Teroldego, 1/E in Mezzocorona; tel. +39 0461 616 399; www.mezzacorona.it.

05

07 2016

Scrigno del Duomo serves food fit for a treasury

exterior of Scrigno del Duomo in Trento
From the outside, it would be easy to think that the restaurant called Scrigno del Duomo is at least as venerable as Le Due Spade (previous post). The building dates from the 14th century and has some faded frescoes to prove it. It was built as the treasury for the cathedral across the plaza. The restaurant, however, is much more recent. It opened in 1999 and quickly became one of Trento’s favorite establishments. The strategic location on the main plaza helps, no doubt, but the kitchen stands on its own merits.

Many diners at Scrigno del Duomo opt to eat at the wine bar. The bar menu focuses on the local sausages and cheeses, as well as some small pasta dishes. The local wine list is exhaustive, but the restaurant also carries an extensive collection of fine French wines, especially Champagnes. Honestly, I’d rather drink a local sparkling wine than a Champagne with the cuisine, but Scrigno del Duomo clearly hosts many family and business celebrations.

Diners who elect a full dinner generally order from the a la carte menu. Count on spending between 35€ and 70€ per person, including two glasses of wine. Portions are modest but the flavors are sensational.

Dishes that surprise and delight


whimsical beef tartare at Scrigno del Duomo in Trento I started with one of the more inventive tartares I’ve ever encountered. When it appeared I thought the waiter had brought the wrong dish. It was smiling at me! The beef was patted into a neat block, faced on two sides by thin, lightly toasted bread. The assemblage sat on a small salad. Chef Mattia Piffer deconstructed the raw egg that customarily accompanies tartare. He dotted the dish with dabs of aioli (the egg white) and a carrot puree (with the egg yolk). When I realized that, I smiled too.

spaghetti with juniper berries and trout caviar at Scrigno del Duomo in Trento My pasta dish was also full of surprises. Simply described as “spaghetti,” it was a plate of well buttered, perfectly al dente egg noodles. They were tossed with chopped chives and trout caviar. Piffer had sauteed juniper berries in the butter before tossing the mixture with the pasta. The combination of the resinous juniper with the umami-laden caviar was truly inspired. I’m thinking that it should work equally well with smoked mackerel or fresh bluefish.

carrot cake at Scrigno del Duomo in Trento My dessert was the least unusual, but it made a nice conclusion for a light meal. Piffer served a slice of a simple olive-oil cake with a tangle of candied ribbons of carrot and a rich vanilla ice cream. It worked well with a glass of Rotari sparkling rosé.

The most prized tables at Scrigno del Duomo (Piazza Duomo 29, Trento; tel. +39 (0)461 220 030; www.scrignodelduomo.com) are outside, but the interior rooms have a lovely late medieval ambiance. Meals this good deserve to be in a treasury.

03

07 2016

Le Due Spade in Trento serves creative seasonal fare

Osteria a Le Due Spade in Trento
Batted back and forth between Italy and Austria over the centuries, Trento developed a cuisine informed by both traditions. Osteria a “Le Due Spade” (or “the two swords”) claims to have served pilgrims since the 14th century. An attendee at the Council of Trent wrote in his diary on December 11, 1545, that he ate at the sign of the two swords and found the landlord “merry company.” So the restaurant simply claims “dal 1545” on its sign.

The restaurant’s creative local cuisine flashes forward nearly five centuries. Chef Federico Parolari and his staff make everything on the premises, including pasta and bread. They also use highly seasonal ingredients. I ate at Le Due Spade on the third week of May when I attended the Mostra Vini del Trentino. The appetizer plate below demonstrated the dual culinary traditions and the kitchen’s commitment to seasonal local products.

appetizer at Le Due Spade in Trento

On the left stands a cheese puff—essentially a popover with cheese sauce and a trickle of basil oil. Four delicious slices of veal carpaccio make up the middle offering. A small drizzle of balsamic vinegar provides a sweet-and-sour complement that enlivens the flavor of the meat. Dairy farms dot the hillsides of Trentino that are not covered with vineyards. Free-range veal is plentiful, mild, and delicious.

The third appetizer was yet another variation on canderli, the bread dumplings of northern Italy. They are kissing cousins of Austrian knüdeln. Parolari gave this dumpling a delightful twist. Hop shoots—not the flowers that go into brewing, but the new spring shoots of the plant—were the primary component of the dumpling. They tasted slightly bitter, intensely green, and rather nut-like. Parolari wrapped each soft dumpling in shredded phyllo dough and baked them in the oven. One bite through the crisp crust reveals the oozing soft dumpling inside.

pork plate Portions at Le Due Spade are much more Italian than Austrian. Since the dishes boast bold flavors, a small amount suffices. My main dish of roast pork came as small pieces with explosive flavor accompanied by colorful, equally diminutive vegetables. The sweet carrot was balanced by even sweeter roasted onion. The braised radicchio supplied a touch of bitterness countered by the artichoke stem. The rich flavor of the pork itself supplied the salt and umami. The plate nodded to tradition but seemed utterly up to date/

Osteria a “Le Due Spade” (Via Don Arcangelo Rizzi, 11, Trento; tel. +39 (0)461 234-343; www.leduespade.com) offers two tasting menus and a full a la carte menu, along with local wines. Nearly 500 years of satisfied diners can’t be wrong.

01

07 2016

Chefs can win 10 weeks of free black truffles

shaving black truffles on pasta
Australian black truffle season has begun. Chefs who want to get a little inventive also have the chance to win an entire season’s supply next summer—a pound of premium black truffles per week during the roughly 10-week season.

I was dubious about the Aussie product until I went there, saw how they were grown, and spent a few weeks experimenting with them. We tend to think of truffles as a fall and winter product. They are. It’s just that fall and winter in Australia are flipped from fall and winter in the northern hemisphere. Thanks to speedy air shipment, it’s feasible to serve freshly shaved black truffles with sweet corn, tomatoes, and all those other great summer crops. Available June through August, they’re not just for steak or mushroom risotto anymore.

To read the article on black truffles that I wrote for the Robb Report, visit this link. If you’d like to see the recipes that Pat and I developed for black truffle tamales, corn ravioli, ultimate and decadent grilled cheese sandwiches, and more, please hit this link.

The black truffle sweet corn tamales were among the most inspired ways to make a truffle go a long way, but sometimes it’s just nice to shave one over buttered pasta (above).

Contest for chefs, pastry chefs, and bartenders


The Truffle and Wine Company is encouraging culinary creativity with Australian black truffles. They are running a contest for chefs, pastry chefs, and bartenders (black truffle Manhattan anyone?) to create new dishes. Contestants should make a truffle creation and photograph it with an Australian winter truffle in the picture. Post the image to social media with the hashtag #makeitrain. Before posting, you need to follow the Truffle and Wine Company at one or more of its social media accounts. They are https://www.facebook.com/truffleandwineusa,
https://instagram.com/trufflewinecous, and https://twitter.com/trufflewinecous.

All chefs, restaurants and bartenders are eligible to enter the social media competition. Chefs with the five highest scores based on social media hits will be visited by the company to try out the dish. The winner gets the ultimate prize of a season of free truffles. For more details, see the website of the Truffle and Wine Company at www.truffleandwineusa.com.

29

06 2016