Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Exploring the Summer Dishes of Toscana at Il Fornaio

Every month, in addition to the regular menu, Il Fornaio features a different region of Italy with a two-week Festa Regionale Menu.  From July 5-18, you can experience the food and wine of Toscana,  created by Chef Vicente Mendoza.  Vicente's menu was inspired by his tour of Toscana with Executive Chef Maurizio Mazzon, where he spent several days exploring the region.

Last night, John and I were honored to join an intimate group of invited guests for a Tuesday Night Tasting of the Toscana menu.  Kristine Familia, Event Coordinator, was our vibrant and beautiful hostess for a most delectable time.

For our Antipasti e Zuppe, I chose Insalata di Farro e Fave and John had Pappa al Pomodoro.  My salad was lovely, light and healthy. I like lots of goodies in my salads, for added flavor and texture, and a larger version of this salad would be an ideal summer lunch or dinner on its own.  This salad is a tribute to Chef Vicente's favorite place in Toscana, the city of Florence.  The cheese is a mild semisoft cheese, a blend of sheep and cow's milk, laced with white truffle bits - heavenly.  

Insalata di Farro e Fave - Fava bean and farro salad with asparagus, baby arugula, Belgian endive, yellow pear tomatoes, and lemon-olive oil vinaigrette, topped with boschetto tartufato cheese.  

Pappa al Pomodoro - Tomato and bread soup with fresh basil, sage, onion and Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil

Panzanella, Il Fornaio filone bread salad with heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, celery, and fresh basil, tossed with red wine vinegar and Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil, is also offered as an Antipasti.

For our Pasta course, I couldn't resist the Messelune Cacio e Pere.  John normally goes for the pasta with cream sauce, but he politely ordered the Chestnut pasta so we could sample both.  Il Fornaio's ravioli dishes are so decadent, and this one rivals the Cappellacci di Zucca (fresh ravioli filled with butternut squash and walnuts; tomato sauce, brown butter, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and crispy sage).

The Pappardelle di Castagne was very interesting with the sweet, roasted flavor of chestnuts in the luscious, homemade pappardelle.  You can't go wrong with either of these pastas!

Mezzelune Cacio e Pere - Half-moon ravioli filled with grilled pears, mozzarella and Parmesan, topped with asparagus-crescenza cream sauce and sprinkled with toasted walnuts

Pappardelle di Castagne - Fresh chestnut pasta with Italian sausage, porcini mushrooms, tomatoes, crushed red pepper and Trebbiano wine

Two additional pastas are offered, Paglia e Fieno ai Gamberetti, fresh spinach and egg fettuccine with bay shrimp, garlic and cherry tomatoes, seasoned with anchovies and Trebbiano wine; and Risotto al Chianti, beef tenderloin and porcini mushroom risotto with shallots, pecorino Toscana and Chianti Classico.

Moving on to Secondi,  John chose Pollo al Mattone alla Diavola and I ordered Merluzzo alla Livornese.  We both preferred the chicken, enhanced by the  slight heat of the peperoncino sauce.  A similar sauce is used for Il Fornaio's Pizza Fradiavola, another hands-down favorite, best enjoyed at the bar visiting with Johnny.

Pollo al Mattone alla Diavola - Partially deboned half chicken marinated with herbs and peperoncino, grilled under a brick, served with Tuscan salad and roasted Yukon Gold potatoes

Merluzzo alla Livornese - Baked wild cod filet in filone breadcrumb and basil crust, roasted with olives, capers and tomato sauce, served with roasted Yukon Gold potatoes and fresh sauteed vegetables

Also offered is Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a grilled 22 oz. porterhouse steak served with sauteed organic spinach, uccelletta beans and roasted Yukon Gold potatoes.

The Dolci arrived as we finished off the bottle of Super Tuscan, Mazzoni, 2007 - "big and ripe with aromas and flavors of plums, cherries, smoky herbs and licorice." 

My other favored wine of the evening was a white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Teruzzi e Puthod, 2009 - "crisp and delicate with a floral fragrance and flavors of almonds..."

Bongo Gelato - Housemade profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream, served on a bed of creme anglaise and topped with warm chocolate sauce.  

A sole survivor, floating in swirls of melting ice cream, creme anglaise and chocolate...

A warm thank you to Il Fornaio, Kristine, and Chef Vicente!  As always, the food and wine were fabulous and we will continue to be a fixture at the bar for our weekly "Chill at the Il" dinner and wine!

No comments: