Yesterday we arrived here at the serene hilltop overlooking the Mediterannean in Menfi, the southwest corner of Sicily. Planeta, is one of the biggest wine producers in Italy, and they have 5 separate operations in Sicily, but here in Menfi, they have a small comfortable "inn" with an amazing restaurant and chef Angelo truly impresses from his cooking, to cooking classes, to his stories about why Sicilian food looks like parts of the body!
Dinner is served on the open patio facing the glass enclosed kitchen where you choose to watch the chef and team, the ocean or just the grapes and olives growing.
Our amuse was a local apple caponata with duck breast, but for Sam ricotta cheese. We started with a Planeta Tereninto Grillo 2016 which is a new varietal for them from the nearby vineyards in Sambuca, where we shall visit for a tasting today. Our red was the Cerasuola di Vittorio from the east of Nero d'Avola/Frappatto DOCG "Dorilli" and since they have so many vintages library options, we chose the 2006 for a couple of euros more' well worth it for the aging.
Sam started with Uovo de Cavaliere which was a poached egg on mashed potato/EVOO puree and Will opted for the "Parmigiana" which here was a novel and exciting eggplant dish with Parmesan-Salted Ice Cream and Kamarino (local) cherry tomato sauce & basil,
I had the Crunchy Silver or ScabbardFish (Spatola) here served in a crispy bread crust and made even more fun with caviar-looking Balsamic-gel. The fish was divine and we all decided the chef was having fun with his preparation while pleasing us as well.
Capola was a new dish as it is risotto-like, but made with vegetables and red basil, but here served with raw oysters....a totally new take on a Sicilian tradition we did not know.
Will had the Mediterranean Red Snapper & Vegetable Soup, while I opted for the superb Baked Sicilian Grey Rabbit with Sea Snail Ragout, Herbs and Raisins. The delicate meat was wrapped in peppery bacon and I only wish I could finish the three huge roulades as they were superb. The vegetable with it was like chard or rapini and was called senape selvatica...which google says is rape or mustard. No matter, it was superb.
Dessert was split by all three of us and Will chose Terra di Etna smoked flower Ice Cream with ricotta, raspberry and black sesame, but we all swore the fruit was cherries?? A llight Brance Menta Granita with Meringue sent us off for the night.
But we needed bed and the next day woke to a super cooking class with Chef Angelo.
Today's cooking class was awesome and we learned not only how to make many traditional Sicilain dishes, we had a premier entertainer in Chef Angelo.
Caponata in the US is often a dull boring tapenade-like paste, We fried the local eggplant and mixed it with huge fresh olives, celery, onion (the size of your head) as well as toasted almonds and a red wine vinegar/sugar mix to temper. Out came the best caponata EVER (check FB). Pasta making is not easy and Busiati are curved and difficult, but we persevered and also matched it with the local Pesto Trapanese (tomato/basil/almond.
The main course was a simple thin veal chop breaded with crumbs and herbs and grilled served with a melon salad that was so superb, I though I could eat Sicilian fennel forever. We actually made the Canolo rolls and fried them, but ours were sad, so we got ones made superbly by the kitchen filled with ricotta that is delivered warm and fresh daily to the kitchen here. Again, I am in love with a dish which has often heretofore bored me. Making it was fun, eating it was better; but the experience is a memory we shall all cherish.