I invited two dear friends/clients to dinner last night at James Beard House for a truly unique experience as the Beard Foundation flew in a team from Florence University of the Arts's TuttoTuscana team to promote local foods and more. They were assisted by many students from both Italy and the culinary schools in NY that team up with this University in Italy. This exchange has been going on for 12 years with the foundation!
I came right from the Met Opera where the matinee was cut short by a white powder scare and I happened to be seated in seat L2 which was right in back of seat K4 which had a plaque that is was donated by James A Beard!
We arrived and walked through the small kitchen which was more cramped than I have ever seen it with dozens of chefs (FB foto) and trays laden with the hor's d'oevres:
Tuscan Carabaccia soup with red onion, cinnamon and almonds was a revelation in a shot glass
Deep fried Cresepelle Nests with Parmegiano Reggiano were sugar dusted as well and a bit too sweet for my palate at the start of a meal.
White bean and pecorino frittata were superb and flavorful
Ricotta stuffed with smoked leeks and dehydrated Prosciutto was a truly decadent and rich cream-like soup with luscious leeks and a crunch from the prosciutto chip.
The novel Cinque e Cinque with Shrimp tartare comes from a Tuscan tradition of "5&5" meaning that the street food from Livorno on the coast was made from 5 lire worth of chickpea and 5 lira worth of schiacciata bread, here topped with shrimp tartare and these tiny treats were indeed irresistible!
Two wines were poured with these:
an unexciting but nice Vermentino di Sardegna DOC 2015 from Olianas and a superb
Macari Vineyards 2015 Sauvignon Blanc from Long Island's North Fork (their son attended the school in Florence!) that was an excellent wine full of flavor and a perfect pairing to boot.
We sat down to dinner and started with some superb breads and breadstickts with a trul superb Azienda Agricola Pruneti extra virgin olive oil that was also used in the Antipasto entitled "Pitti Palace":
"Boboli Garden" Renaissance style sald of mixed field greens, pecorino, caper(berries), anchovies, sultana raisins, walnuts, olives and EVOO foam with citrus-tomato drops (fotos on FB of all courses) which was not only gorgeous to look at it was truly one of the most exciting salads I have ever had. The wine was an ever so smooth Barco Reali di Carmignado DOC 2014 Capezzana made from 70% Sangiovese, 15% Cab and other wines.
Primo I was called "Castello del Trebbio, Scapera e San Piero" after a fortress-like castle built by the Medici outside of Florence and was a Ricotta & Black Cabbage Gnudi on a light Corazon & Paterno pecorino, garlic & sage sauce that was simply divine, The wine was called Lastricato from Chianti Rufina Reserva DOCG 2011, Castello del Trebbio and was another super smooth fine 100% Sangiovese.
Primo II was called "Villa di Cafaggiolo, Barberino di Mugello" for another medieval villa in Mugello and was a Rustic Borlotti Bean, Farro and Mushroom Soup made from Oyster mushrooms and chanterelles! The wine again was the same superlative Lastricato.
Our Secondo or main was Anatra all'arancia, a duck dish with breast, foie gras, celeriac, chesnuts, honey, Brussels sprouts leaves and candied orange zest with drops of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP "extra vecchio"(25 years aged) from Acetaia Malpighi which looked superb, but my duck was a bit overcooked and dryish (they were not all this way). A 20%cab, 80% Sangiovese Villa di Capezzana Carmignan DOCG 2010 from Capezzana was again simply smooth and beautiful.
Our pre-dessert was called "Camugliano (Pisa)" for another Medici villa and was a Honey rosemary mousse with pine nut crumble in lingue di gatto shell, which literally means "cat's tongue" but is a simple almond tuille.
Next came Dolce II called "Seravezza (Lucca)" fir a palace perched in the Apuan Alps and was a contemporary Sponge Cake with Orange sauce and nuts. The amazing Vin Santo del Chianti DOC209 was from Castello del Trebbio.
Of course biscotti di Prato and petit fours (called ovis mollis, ancioni & ricciarelli) arrived with more Vin Santo....
We waddled home very happy.