When is a brewery more than a brewery? When it hosts an Italian wine dinner.
Such was the case Sunday night when Mike Tourville, owner of River Rat Brewery, hosted seventh-generation Master Sommelier Roberto Angelini and his family for an evening of limited-production Italian wines paired with assorted tapenades; salami and ham; pasta; beef tenderloin with roasted vegetables; and a selection of pecorino cheeses.
The Angelini family operate Enoteca Properzio in Spello, Umbria, Italy, a wine store specializing in small-production Italian vintages (2,000 to 5,000 bottles), fine olive oils and other wonderful foods ... including truffles (mushrooms, not chocolate). During the slow winter months, the family tours the United States presenting the items available for sale during the dinners and online through their market. Tourville and his wife, Summer, met the Angelinis during a Conde Nast tour of Italy a couple of years ago. Impressed by the quality of wares sold at the Enoteca and wanting to set River Rat apart from other breweries in the area, Tourville asked the Angelinis about the possibility of adding River Rat to their tour. The first visit was last year and was such a success the family returned this past Sunday.
Roberto Angelini does not speak English so his children – daughter Irene and son Luca, both themselves sommeliers – acted as translators and answered questions from me and the other 48 diners in attendance. Daniella Angelini, Roberto’s wife, acted as chef, preparing and overseeing the pop-up kitchen.
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The dinner was along the lines of a traditional Mediterranean feast, – light yet filling, fresh and satisfying.
The meal started with a tasting of two olive oils, presented simply on toasted slices of a baguette. The first was an extra virgin olive oil from Spello, very mild and fruity, that could be used in cooking and dressings. The second was an extra virgin olive oil produced by Dottor Alberto Cipolloni, using 100 percent Moriaolo olives in a limited production of 5,000 bottles. This light, bright, green oil is said to be a favorite of renowned French chef Alain Ducasse and is used mainly for drizzling or dressings. I was able to taste this olive oil in the kitchen alongside a commercial grade olive oil regularly used by caterers. Believe me, there is a huge difference in taste!
Next were slices of ham and salami, followed by a series of tapenades: white and black truffle versions spread on slices of baguette – one made with sun-dried tomatoes and another with arugula (rather than basil) was delicious and peppery.
Pasta was the first course. Daniella’s version of a carbonara did not use bacon but cubes of zucchini that had been sauteed in olive oil and grated pecorino cheese to create the creamy sauce. “No more than three ingredients!,” Irene said. The mantra here is fresh, light and use the best ingredients you can afford.
The main course was a filet of beef tenderloin served with salted and roasted fingerling potatoes and roasted red and yellow peppers. Again, simplicity was key in the food preparation. The filet was a perfect medium, tender and juicy, and served sliced atop the vegetables.
The dessert course was a variety of pecorino cheeses with aged balsamic vinegar. There was Fossa pecorino, a cave-aged cheese produced between the towns of Faenza and Forli; “drunk” pecorino, a cheese aged in the skins of Brunello grapes; pecorino aged in walnut leaves; a Gran Reserva, close to taste and texture to a Parmesan; spicy pecorino made with red chili pepper; and a young cheese made with truffles that was a perfect way to end the meal.
All of the food courses were paired with wines from the region and, although I was working, I did sample the Kurni 2011 Oasi degli Angeli. This wine is supposedly the top-Googled red wine in the world and, according to Irene, was found listed on a Scottsdale, Az., restaurant menu at $600 per bottle (it’s listed at 78 euros (about $92) at the online Enoteca). Not being a true wine conisseur, I can still say that I was surprised by the rich, fruity, smooth taste, and it was certainly one of the best winesI’ve ever sipped.
I’m hoping that Tourville does more events like this in the future as the crowd, and the Angelinis, seemed to really enjoy themselves. So, salud!
With apologies to Daniella, here are my attempts to recreate some of the recipes presented.
about one cup
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup finely chopped arugula
4 tablespoons chopped olives
kosher salt and ground black pepper
In a bowl, mix the olive oil, lemon juice, arugula and olives. Season with salt and pepper and serve on toast. For a smoother spread, place ingredients in a food processor and process to desired texture.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara di Zucchine
makes 4 to 6 servings
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 pound medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
12 ounces spaghetti
6 large basil leaves, torn into pieces
Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until pale golden, about 1 minute. Add zucchini and saute until begining to color, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, discard garlic.
Whisk eggs and Parmesan in large bowl to blend.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain pasta, add to egg mixture and toss to coat (The heat from the pasta will cook the eggs).
Add zucchini mixture and half of the basil to pasta, stir gently to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining basil and serve.