Thursday night under a beautiful fall evening was the perfect setting for an event celebrating Italy’s most iconic pork product: Prosciutto di Parma. Underground Eats put together a roster of some of New York’s top chefs along with legs of this ham for a Parma-palooza at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn in order to highlight the 50th anniversary of the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma. The evening culminated in one chef being crowned “Prince/Princess of Prosciutto di Parma.” For those attendees brave enough to get inked with a tattoo heralding their fandom for this meat, they walked off with their very own leg of prosciutto, not a bad goodie bag item.
Before heading into the main event space to visit each of the chef’s tables, guests could stop by an sample 24-month and 36-month-aged prosciutto, allowing their tastebuds to savor the saltiness, fat content, and flavor development of each level of the process. The beverage station, with wine and drink choices offered by Vinissimo, had a garnet-hued Lambrusco, perfect for cleansing the palate after eating the rich ham, or maybe to pick up an Aranciata Twist, a spin on a more traditional aperitivo made with Aperol and orange bitters.
Then, it was on to try the creations put together by the chefs. I definitely had my favorites among them. The prosciutto was showcased in a number a versions of salty-sweet-fatty combinations. I really like the idea of shaking up the typical cataloupe-and-prosciutto pairing, as several chefs did at this tasting. There were also some other presentations that I thought might be interesting to try the next time I treat myself to a bit of prosciutto at my local Italian market.
Massimo Carbone – Brio
Ryan Hardy – Charlie Bird
Elizabeth Falkner – Corvo Bianco
Danny Bowien – Mission Chinese
Sam Mason – Oddfellows Ice Cream
Sean Rembold – Reynards
Francis Derby – The Cannibal
Ann Redding & Matt Danzer – Uncle Boon’s
While I really enjoyed everything that I tasted, basically because there was ample prosciutto on almost everything, there were a few stand-out items. Although you might have given a “ick” or “eww” when looking at the photo of the Prosciutto di Parma-Cantaloupe-Red Wine Ice Cream, you would be cheating yourself out of trying one of the most creative dishes of the evening. I’d had prosciutto ice cream before at another anniversary event for the consorzio back in May, so I knew that this combination could work. It did here, too, with the sweetness of the fruit and cream melding beautifully with the funky, meatiness of the ham. Another dish I saw tackled, literally, every time a server came around with it was the Autumn Squash and Prosciutto Saltimbocca with Honey Mayo. It took me a few passes to get my hands on one of these nibbles. One bite, and I understood completely why they were in such demand. Salty, fried, hot, earthy, creamy, with hint of sweet, they hit every flavor, taste, and texture note that you could want in a party dish.
So, who was crowned “Prince/Princess of Prosciutto di Parma”? The dish that won over the most tastebuds and hearts was the Octopus Saltimbocca with Prosciutto di Parma by Ryan Hardy of Charlie Bird. The octopus was cooked perfectly and sat on a bed of puréed chickpeas with additional soft, tender chickpeas on the side. The dish was bathed in a sauce of sage, butter, lemon, prosciutto, chick pea liquid, and octopus braising liquid and then topped with a slice of crispy prosciutto. The combination not only hit every point on my palate with layer upon layer of flavors melting together in harmony, it also left me wanting to eat several more plates of this dish and to dip a mug into the sauce just to drink that on its own. More that a few folks told me that they ate several plates of this item, and as I walked back to the subway to head home, two woman passed by me still raving about the tastiness of the sauce.
Thank you so much to the folks at PadillaCRT for inviting me to attend this event. It was a pleasure to meet all of the chefs and sponsors and to have a chance to highlight the wonderful work of the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma.