If you’re like me, straight out cooking demonstrations have become very boring. Very “nineteen ninety-ish” a good friend recently told me. Fast forward to the present! Last fall we did the first of our dinner/seminars and everyone really enjoyed the concept. Basically I played host and the folks who came were treated to dinner with a twist. That twist was that I featured unique and sometimes hard to get cutting edge ingredients.
Along with presenting each course, I gave some background about each course, how I came up with the menu items and why they were different or new. I took familiar ingredients and prepared them using unfamiliar techniques and sometimes the ingredient were new on the market or at least new to the general public.
…And so it is with our upcoming dinner; Spring Along the Amalfi Coast. If you’ve ever been to one of my dinners you already know I’m a food historian and storyteller. My philosophy – the more interesting your food, the better it tastes. By explaining the history of dishes and why certain ingredients are used enhances one’s dining experience; at least I hope it does! As Anthony Bourdain says; “you can’t truly understand a culture until you’ve tasted their food”.
Let’s talk about the upcoming dinner…
Last September my wife and I checked-off one of our “bucket list” items; a Mediterranean cruise with stops in Spain, Italy and the Provence region of southern France. While others toured museums or went shopping, we focused in on the food and wines aspects of each region. Hey, what did you expect, I’m a chef!
I used that newly gained knowledge to craft this menu and I also incorporated spring ingredients into the mix.
We’ll start with roasted asparagus crown bisque served in a Parmesan bowl. I’ll show you how to make this simple and attractive presentation. Nothing signals the arrival of spring like the crowns of an asparagus fern poking through the still cold soil. Rare extra virgin Italian olive oil I personally selected for this course will be used and the bisque will feature a garnish of Alaskan Copper River Smoked Salmon. Ruby red Copper River salmon are the most luxurious salmon in the world.
Our salad course features special micro greens and aged strawberry vinaigrette.
I’ll demonstrate how to make fruit vinaigrettes out of almost any ripe fruit.
Here in Michigan we’re blessed with nature’s bounty. Whitefish, firm fleshed from the icy waters of Lake Superior, outstanding! Baked in a savory tomato based sauce and served in a manner I observed in Barcelona, Spain. By the way, if you enjoy food, Barcelona is a “must” culinary stop. Black quinoa is an ancient grain used by the Aztecs and Incas. Used in sacrificial ceremonies, the Europeans banned its use for several centuries. It has a distinctive nutty flavor and is one of the hottest “new” old items on the culinary scene.
Limón cello, an intense citrus flavored liqueur, is found everywhere in southern Italy, especially around the medieval city of Sorrento where lemon trees share the land with 100 year old olive trees.
You’ll get to taste its unique lemon flavor and cleanse your palate at the same time with our sorbet. The gelato/sorbet shop in Sorrento carried 40 flavors. Did you ever taste sweet pea and thyme sorbet?
Our main entrée is veal scaloppini with porcini mushrooms and petite peas. Still can visualize the afternoon we ordered this dish in the shadow of the Vatican. Our waiter could be Robert DeNiro’s twin brother.
Finally, the ricotta cheesecake! You won’t believe how the intense sweetness of 40 year old balsamic vinegar enhances its flavor profile. Barrel aging for that long a period of time reduces the volume by 50% and creates a thick syrupy nectar. Plus, using ricotta instead of cream cheese fundamentally changes the flavor and texture in a dramatically wonderful way.
Price is $45, complete. Don’t wait too long! Reservations are limited. Call 800-863-7999 for reservations or for more information.
Ciao! Adios! Au Revoir!
Hope to see you on March 28th!
Chef John Zehnder