Yearly Archives: 2013

Brooklyn Uncorked 2013 by Edible Magazine

Wineglasses at entrywayWineglasses at Brooklyn Uncorked 2013

One of my favorite events on the NYC culinary calendar each year is Brooklyn Uncorked, put on by Edible Magazine.  Local-area restaurants and New York State wineries, many from the Finger Lakes and Long Island, set up for an evening at a former bank building in Brooklyn to show guests the breadth of vintages and variety of small plates that they can create.  I really enjoy tasting the developments in the wine industry of this state, and, each year, I find more and more wines I’d like to add to my non-existent cellar (or maybe I can find some closet space for them).

Edible Magazine displayEdible Magazine display table

As with most events of this size, I didn’t quite get to make it around to every table before the food was gone, but I tasted quite a few wonderful pairings.  In some cases, the wineries worked hand-in-hand with the restaurants to create a dish, but in others the matches were done a little bit more on the spot, as I discovered.  Some of these worked for me, and some didn’t.  Here’s some of the more memorable match-ups of the evening for me, and some of the combinations that I wish had been put together.

Favorite Food & Wine Pairings:

Marco Polo Ristorante - Wild Boar RavioliMarco Polo Ristorante – Wild Boar Ravioli

Scarola Vineyards signScarola Vineyards – 2010 “Masseria” Merlot

It’s really difficult when one of the first food + wine taste of the evening basically knocks it out of the park for me.  The bar for everyone else is then set really high.  The Wild Boar Ravioli (ok, so they pretty much had me a “wild boar”) by Marco Polo Ristorante with its amazing aromas coming from the pan in which the portions were being reheated matched with a 2010 “Masseria” Merlot from Scarola Vineyards was the best savory bite I had all evening.  The fresh pasta filled with tender, succulent meat dressed in a sauce made with a reduction of the Merlot just hit every right note.  A sip of the wine revealed round full tannins and deep red berry and cherry flavors that balanced out each element of the pasta.  I thought about going back for more, but then I realized I was only at the start of the evening.

Rosewater - salmon w puff pastry, dill cream, rampsRose Water Restaurant – Smoked Salmon with puff pastry, dill cream, capers, ramps, and ramp oil

Wolffer Estate VineyardWölffer Estate – Classic White 2012

Another food and wine combination that I thought just worked really, really well was the Smoked Salmon nibble by Rose Water Restaurant with the Classic White 2012 by Wölffer Estate, who always turns out amazing wines year after year.  The acidity and crispness of the wine beautifully highlighted the buttery richness of the smoked salmon.  The citrus notes in the wine and the tartness of the capers and ramp oil pulled this whole bite together.  The only other wine I would like to have tried this with, perhaps, is my current pick for Summer 2013 quaff, which is the new 2012 Social Club White, another perfect seafood wine, by Brooklyn Oenology, who was also at this event.

Cleaver Co - Rhubarb Brown Butter Cakes & Dark Chocolate TrianglesThe Cleaver Co. – Rhubarb Brown Butter Cakes & Dark Chocolate Triangles

Macari - wine pairing for dessertMacari Vineyards – 2010 Block E

I am so not a fan of sweet wines, and it has taken me quite a bit of time in my wine education to appreciate the subtlety and nuances that many dessert wines can have and how, with the right food, they can actually be delicious and partner very well with food.  My favorite dessert pairing of the evening was definitely the Rhubarb Cupcake by The Cleaver Co. with Macari Vineyards 2010 Block E.  The tartness of the rhubarb and richness of the brown butter cake were an ideal match for fruit and sweet notes of the wine.  The wine itself is done in the ice wine style which gave it a lightness and clean finish that I don’t usually experience with dessert beverages.

Great bites that I wanted to see paired with beer:

Gramercy Tavern - Smoked Kielbasa w Tarentaise & Country MustardGramercy Tavern – Smoked Kielbasa with Tarentaise and Country Mustard

I know, I know, this is a wine event, not a beer one.  Good Beer Month is still a few weeks away (in July).  Still, when I tasted the porky goodness of Gramercy Tavern’s kielbasa dressed with creamy slaw, spicy mustard, and a pop of caraway, I really just wanted to sit down with a whole plate of these around a big table of family and friends, glasses of lager in hand.  I mentioned this to Chef Michael Anthony, who was manning the station at the event, and he agreed completely; however, he told me I’d have to talk to the organizers about that.  Coincidentally, Brian Halweil, the editor of the magazines, was standing right there.  He didn’t comment on my remarks, but we took some time to compare notes on what we’d eaten and drank so far.

The Vanderbilt - Rampwurst w Spring Pea SlawThe Vanderbilt – Rampwurst with Spring Pea Slaw

Another dish that was just begging to be matched up with beer as well was the Rampwurst with spring pea slaw by The Vanderbilt.  I had to give them major creativity points, too, for coming up with another use for ramps, which are now heading out of season, that I’d never tried before.  The garlicky-herbal green was perfect mixed into the sausage meat.  The cool, crisp slaw with the grassy freshness of the peas was a wonderful combination.  This was definitely more of a beer-appropriate than a wine-friendly dish.

Pairings I would have like to have seen:

Watty & Meg - Tuna Tartare Taco with Pickled Spicy VegetablesWatty & Meg – Tuna Tartare taco with Spicy Vegetables

Bedell Cellars wine bottleBedell Cellars – 2011 Taste White

As I mentioned above, some of the pairings this year just seemed a little bit off to me.  The tuna tartare taco from Watty & Meg (of which I could have had a few), needed a great, crisp, aromatic wine to balance out the buttery tuna and the spicy mixed vegetables.  When I asked one of the wineries nearby to their table, they didn’t have a beverage that they’d paired up with this dish.  My pick would have been the 2001 Taste White from Bedell Cellars with its tropical flavors and slight sweetness to tame those spicy notes and make you go back for bite after bite of the taco.

Cookshop - Olive Oil Cake w Strawberries & MascarponeCookshop – Olive Oil Cake with Strawberries and Mascarpone topped with Pistachios

Macari Vineyards - pouring dessert wineMacari Vineyards – 2010 Block E

Another match-up I would have made at the event was to take the dessert wine by Macari Vineyards that I enjoyed so much and tasted it alongside the Olive oil cake with strawberries and mascarpone by Cookshop.  I’d heard raves about this dish so even though it was towards the end of the evening, and I felt I’d reached my saturation point on the food and beverage front, something that does happen at these activities, I picked up a plate and walked away to a table to eat it.  Moist cake, tart berries, creamy cheese, crunchy nuts all came together in a perfect bite.  Unfortunately, many of the stations had been broken down by this point, and they were no longer serving wine, so I couldn’t put my theory to the test.

Most-used seasonal ingredient:

Palo Santo - Ramp Taco w cheesePaolo Santo – Ramp Taco

I have to give a special nod to the most-used seasonal ingredient.  You guessed it: Ramps!  By my count, this product turned up in no fewer than three dishes I tried and was used twice in one of them.  It might even have been stealthily included in a few others as well.  Next year, I’m expecting to see it in desserts – kidding, really, I’m kidding.

ALC Italian Grocery - all goneALC Italian Grocery – all finished for 2013

This is a terrific event that continues to bring great food and wine to us each year. The folks I talked to as we nibbled on our dishes and sipped local beverages all seemed to be having a great time and were really impressed by the variety of the wines and the caliber of the food offerings. The only dissent that I heard was that there seemed to be few vegetarian options this year as well as there being lots of dishes containing pork.  I sampled so many delicious dishes and drank lots and lots of great wine.  I’m already looking forward to next year’s event to see what new vintages New York State wineries will produce.

Buon appetito!

Thank you to Edible Manhattan for providing me with a press pass so that I could attend this event and cover it for this website.  The opinions and tasting notes are mine, as unrefined as they may be, and were not influenced by any of the food or beverage partners or by the magazine and its staff.

Chocabaret by The Diva that Ate New York

Chocabaret.Now_.On_.Kickstarter_.588px_Support Chocabaret! (from The Diva That Ate New York website)

Artisan Chocolate + Cabaret Show?  Really?  What is this all about?  This upcoming live spectacle is the creation of friend, fellow food blogger and community-builder extraordinaire Jackie Gordon (aka The Diva That Ate New York).  You’ve read about Jackie’s wonderful food events like Pie Party Live and Cookie Swap, which bring together bakers and bloggers in real life to eat, drink, and network.

Fine & Raw ChocolateFine & Raw chocolates

Now, she’s launching a new venture: “CHOCABARET: Where An Artisan Chocolate Tasting Meets A Cabaret Show,” combining her love of food, her marvelous singing voice, and her talent for hosting fabulously-delicious events.  It will be taking place at the Metropolitan Room in New York City on October 20, 2013.  To fund this, she’s reached out to her community, like this website, to help get the word out about her Kickstarter project which will make this “eatertainment” (her description) evening possible.

Roni-Sue ChocolatesRoni-Sue Chocolates

Set to music and intertwined with stories, anecdotes, eating tips, and lots of chocolate, Jackie will be walking attendees through a tasting of artisan chocolate bonbons and bars made by New York chocolatiers.  The mouth-watering list of participating companies includes: Bond St. Chocolates, Fika Chocolate, Fine and Raw Chocolates, Fruition Chocolate, Oliver Kita, and Roni-Sue’s Chocolate.  In addition, Jackie will also be exercising her own confectionery skills by crafting a signature chocolate for the show.

Oliver Kita chocolatesOliver Kita Chocolates

CHOCABARET will introduce its audience to:

  • The making of chocolate – from bean to bar
  • Tales from the deliciously sordid history of chocolate
  • Tips for tasting chocolate like a professional
  • Ways to select a great chocolate
  • The stories behind the chocolates in the tasting

FIKA 7 Deadly SInsFIKA Choklad

For chocolate fans and lovers of live entertainment, this will be an amazing evening, I have no doubt.  To make it happen, Jackie needs folks to support her Kickstarter project, which you can do by clicking here.  At each level of support, there are incentive offerings for your donations.  The website also gives more information about Jackie herself and describes her past “eatertainment” events.  If the project is fully funded by the deadline on the website, then the event can take place as planned this coming October in New York.

Buon appetito!

Ramps Roundup!

Ramps at Moutain Berry FarmMore ramps at the Greenmarket

These piles of ramps at the Union Square Greenmarket might represent the last of this year’s harvest.  I spoke to one of the vendors who told me that there’s really only another couple of days they’d have this seasonal green at the market.  I know, sad tears are flowing down your cheeks at this news.  While you can still get your hands on them, here’s a few recipes to try with ramps.

Greenmarket Fritatta

 

Looking for ways to incorporate lots of great, seasonal produce?  Try this Greenmarket Fritatta with ramps, peas, asparagus, goat cheese, and basil.

 

 

Asparagus, Ramp, Goat Cheese Tart

 

 

Asparagus are now coming in to the market in NYC, how about this Asparagus-Ramp-Goat Cheese Tart to show them off?

Sauteed Asparagus & Ramps

 

 

 

Sautéed Asparagus and Ramps are a simple side dish to throw together and another terrific way to show off seasonal produce.

 

 

Ready to eat

 

Looking for something unique and special to bring to a summertime gathering?  How about these Ramp and Jarlsberg Gougères?  These have been a huge hit with everyone who’s eaten them.

 

Ramp Pesto 1

 

Hang onto the vibrancy of spring and the arrival of these greens by whipping up a batch of Ramp Pesto.  So easy to make, and it’s terrific to add to all sorts of dishes.

Labeled Butter

 

 

Another way to extend the season’s bounty is to put together a batch of Ramp Butter.  It’s a wonderful thing to keep on hand to add to vegetables, put on meats, mix into rice or try with other dishes.

 

Ramps in a bowlRamps ready to use

Hopefully, this post has given you some great ideas for how to use ramps.  I’m already getting my thinking cap on to figure out what to do with the rest of the ones that I have in my fridge before they go bad.  That may mean I set some time aside for recipe testing over the holiday weekend!

Buon appetito!

Asparagus-Ramp-Goat Cheese Tart

Aparagus in GreenmarketAsparagus at the Greenmarket

With all the hoopla about ramps, it’s hard to forget that we are also heading into prime asparagus season.  When I was shopping for food last week at the Greenmarket, I saw row upon row of bundles of purple-tipped New Jersey asparagus all standing at attention as though they were ready to be marched into our kitchens.  I plucked the heartiest bunch of the ones that I saw, paid for my purchase, and headed home with them, not quite sure how I’d prepare these springtime gems.

IngredientsIngredients for tart

I’ve been trying to eat my way through the things I’d stored in my freezer until I’d finished with culinary school, which is quite a bit of soup, stocks, bread, and meats.  Rummaging around, I also found a batch of puff pastry I’d frozen.  Then, there were still some of those ramps to be used up.  They really do go a long way.  For years, I’ve wanted to come up with a great asparagus tart recipe to have on hand.  So, I decided to fiddle around with making an Asparagus-Ramp-Goat Cheese Tart, just to be able to use up everything.

Plated tartAsparagus-Ramp-Goat Cheese Tart

The recipe is really very easy to make.  First, you bake the pastry shell.  Then, while it cools, you prepare the asparagus.  Next, mix together the ingredients for the cheese.  The final step is to put all the components together and then bake it one last time, basically to warm it all the way through.  The tart is fragrant, gooey, and feels healthy with the bright green asparagus nestled on top.  It would be a perfect side dish for dinner or maybe the centerpiece of a luncheon or tea party.  Any way you decide to serve it, the asparagus and ramps won’t be around for long, so now is the time of year to make it.

Asparagus-Ramp-Goat Cheese Tart

Prep time: about 45 minutes (including baking time)

Serving size: makes one 12″ x 8″ tart, although you can make it larger if you like

Ingredients:

1 sheet Puff Pastry

1 Egg, large

1/2 tsp. Water

4 oz. Goat Cheese (regular Chèvre is fine)

4 oz. Cream Cheese

4 Ramp leaves, finely chopped

1/4 tsp. Salt

1/8 tsp. Nutmeg, ground

1 pinch White Pepper, ground

1 tsp. Butter, unsalted

1 Shallot, small, minced

4 Ramp bulbs, minced

7-8 Asparagus, ends peeled and trimmed

1 pinch salt

Assembly:

Adding strips to tart shellAdding strips to tart shell

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Roll out the dough very thinly to about a 12″ x 8″ rectangle.  You can make this a bit larger if you like, but you’ll need to be careful not to stretch it when transferring it to the baking sheet and you need to have a bit extra dough with which to make the edges.  Cut out strips of dough about 1/2″ wide and as long as the length of the tart.  Add them on top of the long edges of the tart and press down to seal them.

Egg wash for doughDocking and applying egg wash to the dough

With a fork, gently poke holes in the base of the dough, avoiding the edges.  This is called “docking” and will prevent the dough from rising too much during baking.  Mix together the egg and water and with a brush, lightly apply the egg mixture (or egg wash) to the base of the dough and the sides, taking care not to spread too thick of a coating.  You’ll have lots of egg wash leftover.  Put the dough in the oven and let it bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Cheese mixtureMixing together cheese layer

While the tart is baking, combine the ingredients for the cheese layer.  Mix together the goat cheese, cream cheese, ramp greens, salt, nutmeg, and pepper until thoroughly combined.  Set aside until the tart has finished and is cool.

Cooked AsparagusCooked asparagus

These asparagus were so fresh and tender, I didn’t really have to do much to them.  I peeled off the tough outer layer and cut off the rough, stringy ends.  To cook them, melt the butter in a skillet.  Add the shallots and ramp bulbs and cook for about a minute, until they soften.  Then, add the asparagus.  Toss to coat the vegetables in the butter mixture.  Add 1 teaspoon of water to the pan and cover it with a lid, letting the asparagus steam for a minute or two until the water has evaporated.  Take care not to burn the asparagus or the shallots and ramps.  Remove the lid and toss to coat the asparagus in the remaining liquid in the pan.

Cooked tart shellBaked tart shell

When the tart shell has finished baking, remove it from the oven and turn the temperature down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  As you can see from the photo, mine did rise and the strip on the edge shrunk up.  This is why I need to continue to work on my cooking skills.  I still make these kinds of mistakes.  Allow the tart to cool for about 5 minutes before working with it.

Spreading cheeseSpreading the cheese

Spread a thin layer of the cheese mixture over the base of the tart.  This will help to smooth out the bumpy bits that rose during baking.

Tart ready for ovenReady for the oven

Place the asparagus over the cheese in a neat row.  The asparagus should be about the same length.  Spread the cooked shallots and ramp bulbs over the middle of the asparagus.  These will add a touch of sweetness to the herbal-savory cheese and grassy asparagus.

Finished-TartFinished tart

Place the tart in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, until the tart has heated through and the cheese is soft and slightly melty.  The asparagus will still be a bit crisp.  If you’d like your asparagus to be softer, add a touch more water to them when you cook them on the stovetop and let them steam in the pan for a few minutes more.  Serve the tart out of the oven or at room temperature.

Buon appetito!

New York Culinary Experience 2013 at the International Culinary Center

Creme Brulee at NYCECrème Brûlée at the New York Culinary Experience

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of assisting with several of the classes that were given as part of the New York Culinary Experience held at the International Culinary Center, as sponsored by the school and New York Magazine.  Even though I’d finished up in culinary school a few weeks ago, I’d promised one of the event coordinators that I’d be available to help out with the weekend, as I knew from volunteering at the NYC Wine & Food Festival back in October that it would take many extra hands to have it all go smoothly.  That, and one of my instructors had also asked if I could assist with one of the classes for which he was the sous chef.

Day 1

Deans-Sailhac-Soultner-making-Saumon-en-CrouteInternational Culinary Center Deans André Soltner & Alain Sailhac

The participating chefs, each renowned in the culinary field, walked the attendees through a series of recipes that they were to prepare during the course of the two-plus hour class.  In each kitchen, there was a chef-instructor from the school plus several “kitchen elves” (i.e., student assistants) helping out, making sure that the equipment and the ingredients were there for the guests to have available to complete the dishes.  As part of the program, the participants each received a bag with an apron and a chef’s knife to use during the classes.  The recipes they would be working on were handed out in the class itself.

Chef Alain DeCoster taking sauces with participantsChef-instructor Alain DeCoster talks about making a sauce with the chicken drippings

Being one of these assistants meant that I didn’t really get to take many photos of the activities taking place on Saturday and Sunday.  I was usually poking into the neighboring kitchens on the floor, looking for extra sauté pans, half-sheet trays, and cooling racks or running upstairs to the storeroom to get supplies like extra side towels to have on hand.  I was around, however, for some unique moments, such as on Saturday morning, when Chef Jacques Torres bounded into the classroom where his fellow International Culinary Center deans André Soltner and Alain Sailhac were trying to get ready to show students how to make a Saumon en Croûte (fillet of salmon cooked in puff pastry) and a Roasted Chicken with Spring Vegetables.

Chef Michael Lomonaco demonstrating Ragu BologneseChef Michael Lomonaco demonstrating making Ragù alla Bolognese

Then, in the afternoon, Dean of Italian Studies, Cesare Casella popped on over from the classroom next door to offer Chef Michael Lomonaco a refreshing beverage that he’d whipped up in his class.  Unfortunately, there weren’t enough of those glasses on hand to offer to the class, which might have been just as well, as they still had to tackle making Ragù alla Bolognese (bolognese-style meat sauce) and meatballs in tomato sauce from a recipe of the chef’s grandmother.  First on the stove was the ragù, which needed to simmer away for a couple of hours, then the class tackled the proper way to make meatballs.

Meatballs in Sauce at NYCEMeatballs cooking in Homemade tomato sauce

The binder for the meatballs, the chef explained, was plain, regular, sliced white bread moistened with a bit of milk.  Then, add the meat and combine it all by hand.  Breadcrumbs make the meatballs too tough, so he doesn’t use them to hold the mixture together.  The power of good home-cooked Italian food, like the kind that Chef Lomonaco was teaching everyone to make was unleashed in the corridors of the school on Saturday afternoon, Several of the black-garbed events staff dropped by, ostensibly to see if we needed any assistance or for them to fetch any needed supplies for us, drawn in the direction of the class by the enticing aromas wafting down the hallway.

Day 2

Sunday morning started off again bright and early, with the volunteers’ roll call taking place at 8:00 a.m. again in the kitchen at L’Ecole, the restaurant of the International Culinary Center.  Coffees in hand, we received our assignments and headed upstairs to prepare the kitchens for the day’s lessons.  Our job was to set up each of the stations with cutting boards for two people along with all the pots, pans, utensils, and ingredients that each student would need to use during the course of the class.  We also did the small things like make sure the burners worked and that the ovens would heat up (where needed).

April Bloomfield - Green Pean & Ham SoupGreen Pea and Ham Soup with Mint and Crème Fraîche

My morning assignment on Sunday was with Chef April Bloomfield.  I was really intrigued to hear her talk about how she approaches cooking and putting together her dishes.  It was very interesting to listen to her walk through with the students how she composes each plate, building layers of flavors into every component and then putting them all together to create something that makes your mouth say “WOW!” when you eat it.

April Bloomfield - Carrot, Avocado & Orange SaladCarrot, Avocado, and Orange Salad

Some of these dishes aren’t ones that she serves in her restaurant, she said, but they all show some of her culinary influences and attention to tastes and combining flavors.  I saw that some of the students were a little bit skeptical when they started making the Carrot, Avocado, and Orange Salad on the recipe list.  Chef Bloomfield explained that orange and carrot really work well together as do citrus and avocado.  Then, some toasted spices and fresh cilantro tie all of it together.  Once I can get my hands on some of those colorful carrots that they used in the lesson, this dish is first on my list to try to make.

Chef Michael Anthony talking chickenChef Michael Anthony talks about chicken

On Sunday afternoon, Chef Michael Anthony, of Gramercy Tavern, walked his class through the de-mystification of the perfect roast chicken.  He said that there’s “a bit of a Barbie complex” surrounding The Perfect Roast Chicken, getting the skin all crispy and golden while the breast meat stays plump and moist and the legs and thighs are tender and juicy.  By starting the cooking process with a trussed bird placed in a hot sauté pan, coated with a little bit of oil, on the stovetop and then finishing cooking it in the oven, chicken perfection can also be achieved in the home kitchen.  After following his step-by-step instructions, all the participants were able to achieve just that.

A quiet kitchenA quiet kitchen

At the end of the lesson, as with all the previous ones, the other kitchen assistant and I collected all of the items that we’d put out on the stations.  We worked with the chefs from the restaurant to round up everything that they were going to take back with them, gave the items that the dishwasher could clean, and started to hand-wash the other, smaller cooking items which we were responsible for returning to the team of organizers.  Then, after wiping down and sanitizing all the stations and making sure the burners and ovens were turned off, we were free to head to the locker rooms to change out of our uniforms and into civilian gear.  It was a hectic, energetic two days filled with lots of food, amazing chefs, tons of information and cooking tidbits, and some very, very lovely people who took part in this event.  I hope that the attendees enjoyed taking part in the weekend’s activities as much as I did in working them.

Buon appetito!

50th Anniversary of the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma

46-month-old Prosciutto di Parma

Tuesday evening, I was invited to attend the 50th Anniversary gathering for the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma (the association of producers who safeguard its brand and quality) held at Osteria Morini on the edge of Soho.  Now that my evenings are not occupied with culinary school courses, studying for exams or taking on extra kitchen shifts to practice for practical tests, my schedule has opened up so that I can get out and enjoy some of the food events taking place in the city.  Having lived and studied in Bologna, Italy for several years, Prosciutto di Parma has a special place in my heart and in my belly, so I was really excited that my calendar was open for me to be there.

Prosciutto e Melone Cocktail

The evening was a celebration of all things prosciutto, with the meat incorporated into each of the dishes that was served.  To start off, I couldn’t resist trying a cocktail version of that standard dinner party appetizer Prosciutto e Melone (melon – usually cantaloupe – served with paper-thin slices of prosciutto).  As you can see from the photo, this adaptation was a fizzy melon-based drink with crunchy prosciutto crumbs dusted around the rim.  This concoction took a bit of getting used to, seeing solid food in liquid and alcoholic form, however, it really, almost perfectly, captured the bite of ripe, juicy fruit paired with salty meat that makes the dish a summertime favorite.

Selection of Prosciutto di Parma

What I was really there for was to sample some prosciutto, so my next stop was over to the display table where they had samples aged for various time periods: 12-, 18-, and 24-months.  This was a cured meat-lovers dream with platters of rosey-pink ribbons of pork edged with glistening white fat piled high, waiting to be served to the guests.  There was a small plate to the side of the display with some sliced mortadella and other salumi, but the real belles of the ball that evening were the varieties of Prosciutto di Parma.

Trio of Prosciutto di Parma

Trying each of the selections side by side opened up my understanding of just how the aging process works to create this product.  Every one of the different types of prosciutto has a distinct texture, taste, and mouthfeel, depending upon how old it is.  My favorite had to be the 24-month, where the meat was delicate, yet full of deep flavor, and the fat had a lusciousness that made it just melt on my tongue.  This is the kind of combination that can make you swoon and pine for more.

Sliced-leg-of-Prosciutto-di-ParmaLeg of 46-month-old Prosciutto di Parma

To complete my culinary exploration on this topic, I headed over to the table where a representative from the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma was slicing pieces of meat by hand for everyone to try.  Again, there were some distinct differences from the previous samples I’d eaten.  The color of the meat had deepened into a light brick color.  The fat was even more meltingly tender and the flavor of the meat seemed saltier and crisper somehow.  It reminded me more of a Virginia country ham than of a prosciutto.  I think my favorite of the ones that I tried was the 24-month-old.  That meat was still delicate and fragrant with the fat so beautifully soft and tender.

Prosciutto Ice Cream with Balsamic-Berry Sauce

After all those samples of salty, fatty meat, I was ready to see what else the chef had created using prosciutto.  Fortunately, a server was walking by with some tempting Prosciutto Ice Cream Cones with Balsamic-Berry Sauce.  I was intrigued to try these sweet-savory combinations, to see if it would all work together.  While I didn’t get a lot of porky flavor in the ice cream, it was terrific-tasting and the sauce was a great match for it.

Prosciutto Panna Cotta with Apricot Jam and Prosciutto Crumbles

Wondering if there should be a bit more prosciutto represented in the dessert that I’d just eaten, I didn’t hesitate to take one of the Prosciutto Panna Cotta with Apricot Jam and Prosciutto Crumbles that was offered by another server who was passing them out.  This dish definitely captured the essence of prosciutto in the panna cotta.  The dollop of apricot jam provided a balance of sweetness to the pork undertones of the creamy panna cotta, much like the pairing of melon + prosciutto, with an extra pop of meatiness from the crumbles sprinkled on top.

Trio of Pastas

In case anyone was hungry or hadn’t yet had their fill of prosciutto-themed dishes, there were also some other stations with other items that demonstrated the wide variety of uses for this food and showing that it doesn’t always have to take center stage on the plate. There were rich, pillowy Cappelletti filled with hearty truffled ricotta, melted butter, and prosciutto.  Next on my plate were Tortellini Zingara creamy, meat-filled pasta served with peas, red peppers, and asparagus.  Rounding out the trio were delicate, light Farfalle with Asparagus and Prosciutto.

Prosciutto di Parma display

Because one of the things I miss so much about living in Italy is the incredibly delicious handmade, housemade pasta, for me, this was the perfect way to end the evening.  I couldn’t leave, however, without a last look at the star of the evening, the beautiful leg of Prosciutto di Parma that was on display by one of the carving stations.  After the prosciutto tasting sessions at this event and after munching on several dishes made using prosciutto as an ingredient, I left with a greater appreciation than ever of the work and craftsmanship that goes into making this product.

Buon appetito!

Thank you to CRT/Tanaka for inviting me to take part in this event.  For more information about the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma, please visit their website.