Taste of Calabria Italian Food Festival

I always enjoy Italian food, and over the years, my interactions with a number of Italian chefs and winemakers has been a treat. I love the passion they bring to their craft, their (unfailing) reference to their Mama and Grandmama in whose kitchens they first began their culinary journeys, and their charm. And of course, the wonderful (and rich) food they always feed us! And this interaction with Chef Luigi Ferraro, on loan from Shangri-La Delhi, was no exception. He has created a special menu which is available until March 24th, for the From Capri to Calabria southern Italian Food Festival at Caprese, Shangri-La Bangalore’s Italian fine-dine.

We made our way over the weekend, and got to meet and chat with Chef Luigi, and try some of the dishes off the special festival menu. From Calabria himself, the menu is his interpretation and a modern take on southern Italian fare. Employing touches of molecular gastronomy, sous vide cooking, and deconstructed dishes, Chef Luigi presented us with a delicious multi-course meal, each course plated like a work of art.

Apart from a la carte (which will run you around INR 2000 a head), there is also a pre-fix menu, available paired with wine at INR 4500 all inclusive, or just the food at INR 3500 all inclusive. Considering you get three wines as part of the wine paired option, it is a great option for those who enjoy wine with their Italian repast. We sipped on a mellow and medium bodied 2013 vintage Soave Allgrini Corte with our meal. And now, here come the visuals!

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The Amuse Bouche that started us off: Potato croquette on a bed of Pecorino cheese that was somewhere between humus and foam in texture with microgreens and olive oil.

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Antipasti 1: Tomato tartare, buffalo Mozzarella, basil. Dehydrated capers and artichoke cream were the surprise elements, and that bell pepper sauce at the bottom went so well with the Mozzarella.

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Antipasti 2: Free-range chicken with bell peppers and Pecorino Romano cheese ice cream. Thinly sliced chicken and cubed beets, bell pepper sauce, and indeed, a cheese ice cream. Rich and decadent!

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Primi Piatti 1: Ravioli stuffed with parmigiano reggiano 24 months, sauce with morel mushrooms, green peas, asparagus and modena balsamic (in the form of pearls). Do I really need to say more? Just read that list of ingredients!

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Primi Piatti 2: Fagottini with burrata and lobster, green peas and amalfi lemon. Oh lobster heaven was achieved, though I overall found the dish rather salty.

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Secondi Piatti 1: Chicken breast and thigh, spinach, wild mushrooms, pumpkin with rosemary sauce and saracena moscato. Perfectly cooked chicken; diced pumpkin added great flavor and some texture to the dish.

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Secondi Piatti 2: Sea bass with saffron potatoes, amalfi lemon and black olives. Fantastically cooked sea bass with crispened skin, and look at that gorgeous two-toned potato crisp!

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Secondi Piatti 3: Involtino of vegetables with Fontina cheese. The obligatory eggplant vegetarian course.

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Dolci 1: A gorgeous citrus tart, deconstructed with the lemon curd and meringue pieces, and fresh strawberries for an extra pop of tartness!

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Dolci 2: Tiramisu parfait – another deconstructed dessert, which the coffee lovers at the table enjoyed. I contented myself with picking out the chocolate pieces and dust and stayed away from the coffee cream in the center.


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Chef Gary Mehigan’s 7 Culinary Wonders

What does one do when one gets an invite to partake of a 7 course dinner conceptualized, curated, and cooked by Gary Mehigan, MasterChef Australia judge and restaurateur? Well, one says yes with alacrity! Grab the friend for whom meeting Gary is akin to meeting Amitabh Bachchan for a Bollywood fan (his own words!), get ready and head over to The Ritz Carlton Bangalore in anticipation of a great meal and an exciting Thursday evening.

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The one off event was the launch in India of the CEO Series 2016, presented by American Express in association with BMW and Etihad Airways. Held across three cities – Bangalore, Mumbai, and Delhi, we in Bangalore were the first on the list. In attendance were well-known CEOs including Nandan Nilekani and Chetan Maini, a few of us from the food blogging community, and other influencers. The premise of the event was to bring together folks from technology, media, business, and finance, and have them interact over a sit down dinner presided over by a favorite celebrity chef, Gary Mehigan.

_vds6008Chef Gary created the Seven Wonders of the World Menu inspired by his travels and focused on seven different countries, and even though we traversed India, Peru, Italy and more, the meal came together like a pitch perfect song – there was not one discordant note to be found. I am honestly not one to be bowled over by someone’s celebrity status, but I sure was bowled over by this man and this meal! It was a spectacular dinner, one none of us in attendance will likely forget in a hurry, with every course making an impression.

dish-inspired-by-peruWe started in Peru, with Scorched Salmon, caramelized miso mayonnaise, ceviche pickles, edamame. The salmon was out of this world, and so was the miso mayo. Peruvian cuisine has influences of Japanese alongside its South American roots, which made the ceviche and salmon dish a beautiful representation of the food culture. Staying that side of the world, the soup course was a gorgeous Brazilian Moqueca, a fish soup that literally brought the aroma and taste of the ocean to the table.

For our third dish of the evening, Chef took us to Jordan – and I think a lot of folks who were there that night would agree, this dish was the Dish of the Day, though that itself is like picking a first among equals! Compressed Watermelon, that was served as a block, had been infused with spices, citrus and a touch of rose, and served with Jordanian almonds and labneh. The latter two ingredients added some interesting crunchiness and softness to the textures, and the flavor of rose and watermelon worked oh-s0-well!

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Now there just had to be an India inspiration on the menu, and this was the Butter roasted cauliflower, a deceptively simple sounding and looking dish that had a depth of flavor. The addition of green fennel seeds and golden raisins gave this a slightly sweet taste, the lovely crunch of the thinly sliced cauliflower on a bed of mash cauliflower worked brilliantly. I also liked the way Chef set up the courses – two seafood, two veg, followed by two non-veg. The Glenlevit Founder’s Reserve was served with this dish, and smooth and just that little bit fiery it was.

Chicken from China was the next to appear, and he elevated a simple White cooked chicken into a gourmet dish. Served with garnishes of spring onion, celery, ginger jelly, and black sesame, and seasoned with soy sauce, ginger and garlic, this was comfort food at the highest level. Our second meat course was Slow cooked lamb, served in a tagine. Shoulder of lamb, toasted grains, daal and pine nuts and kohlrabi made this dish exotic and familiar all in the same mouthful. The lamb had been slow cooked for 14 hours and was suitably tender and delicious. Chef mentioned that biryani was an inspiration for the dish, and it certainly was a one pot wonder! Glenlevit 15 was the scotch to accompany this course.

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Conco d’Oro, the Italian dessert, was what we finished with. Given the reference to gold in the name, Chef had used edible gold leaf atop each of the meringues, turning them “golden”. I love all things citrus-y, and especially after a big meal, this dessert of lemon curd and olive oil semi freddo with an orange syrup and both candied and fresh citrus, was the perfect ending to a wonderful meal, and the glass of Jacob’s Creek Sparkling brought it all together beautifully.

Unlike when I met and watched Gary in action during his last visit to Bangalore a few months ago, he was visibly more relaxed, enjoying himself and having fun. We were seated close to the kitchen entrance and he would keep popping his head out to check on the proceedings, as well as interacting with the diners. He offered to pose for photographs, and went a step further, taking people’s phones and orchestrating selfies! I came away from the event marveling at the food, the Chef, and what a fun evening it was…