Una Festa Italiana

by Carolan Nathan
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ImageProbably one of the best ways to sample Italian wines is in a pairing with Italian cucina especially when chefs of note are involved in the preparation and choices, and so it was one evening. To celebrate the Holiday season this very special event took place at Market City Café in Burbank, California. Together the Executive Chefs from the MCC Hospitality Group joined forces to produce a superb repast – seven courses of fabulous Italian food paired with Italian wines from Tuscany, Umbria, Asti and Friuli Venezia Guilia near the Slovenian Border.

The bustling restaurant on the edge of the Burbank Mall was bright and shiny with Christmas decorations and sparkling lights, and a lot of excited and happy people, all looking forward to a very eventful evening and willing to forget all their dietary conditions and the no-nos that many nutritionists and doctors want to place on food loving folks!

The opening course was a delightful array of three cheeses, a pressed goat’s milk Garroxta produced in the Catalonia region of northern Spain, a creamy white New York Camembert and a lovely Fourme d’Ambert which is one of France's oldest cheeses dating as far back as Roman times. Slices of bread, grapes and the slightly sweet pochettes of date preserve and onion marmalade offset the cheeses perfectly. Servers came round pouring a subtle Santa Marina Pinot Noir from Venezia and if I had not known there were many more different wines to be poured, I would have spent the evening with this!

In turn the chefs prepared with much love each different course. Starting with a seasonal ravioli dish, butternut squash ravioli - envelopes of pasta stuffed with fire roasted butternut squash, cinnamon and mascarpone cheese in a spicy brown butter and orange sauce. Chef Ambria from Market City Caffe in Burbank created this tantalizing course. Campo Al Mare Vermentino, a still relatively unknown delicate white wine from the Toscana region and produced by the Folonari family of winemakers complimented the spicy sweetness of the dish.

ImageCourse three was an artfully designed house made Caesar salad of fresh crisp romaine topped with a creamy dressing and nuggets of toasted bread. The pairing of a dry Pighin Pinot Grigio from Udine in Fruili Venezia was perfect. Having visited the region and enjoyed the hospitality of many of the winemakers there, I was happy to see a fine Pinot Grigio on the menu.

So often the Santa Margherita Pinot is hustled by restaurateurs and it is such a non-entity especially when there are good Pinots from the Friuli Venezia region as well as Lombardia and the Veneto. It takes a bit of sleuthing but you will be well pleased with the result. Besides the slightly fruity Italian version, the one from France can be more minerally and flinty if that is what you prefer.

ImageQuite yummy was the tarte tatin filled with eggplant and oven-dried tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, mascarpone to add a creamy touch and onion marmalade. Verdura is the Italian moniker for vegetable dishes and Chef Joe Navarro from Al Vino Italian Food & Wine in Las Vegas scored with this delicious dish as course four. The Villa Nozzole Chianti Classico from the Folonari Tenute winemakers of Toscana, a full bodied wine of bright red fruit cherry and plum aromas complimented the richness of this dish.

ImageBeing a fan of risotto especially when it is cooked well, I was well pleased with the fifth course prepared by Executive Chef Olivier Bouillat of Morel’s French Steakhouse & Bistro in Los Angeles. The grainy rice cooked with lobster, butternut squash, sage and marinated diced portabello mushrooms was quite superb. The Nozzole Le Bruniche from Toscana again produced by Folonari Tenute and full of bright, ripe fruit flavours and aromas was well suited to the intense flavours of the risotto.

My rather full tummy took pleasure in the next course, Bistecca, a prime tenderloin of beef served with pesto mashed potatoes, foie gras butter and wilted green bean bundles with a delicate chanterelle and black mission fig sauce. It reads voluptuous and it was. Compliments to Executive Chef Jose Luis Carrera from Morel’s French Steakhouse & Bistro in Las Vegas. The Tenuta Setti Ponti Crognolo wine from Toscana being a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot grapes is lushly filled with rich dark fruit tastes and aromas but I wonder if the Merlot was an afterthought as so many winemakers now are adding Merlot grapes in an effort to create a new taste treat.

To end this feast a resplendent Tower of hazelnut and gianduga chocolate with peanut butter crunch and home made strawberry, pistachio and café macaroons prepared with love by Chef Gustavo Salazar of the Market City Café in Burbank and accompanied by a sparkling Nivole Moscato d’Asti from Michele Chiarlo of Asti.

Many wine dinner events are sponsored by the MCC Hospitality Group in their various locations. All you have to do is call them and they will be happy to give you the information. Dining at both the Market City Cafes and Morel’s Steakhouses & Bistros in Los Angeles and Las Vegas is always a treat… so be sure to treat yourself!

Market City Café
164 E. Palm Avenue
Burbank, CA 91502
Tel: 818.840-70-36

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