Monday, December 12, 2016

Nights In Italy At The Saltbox Café.

Pretend it's Thursday, December 1, 2016,
and you're going to one of The Saltbox Café's
wine-paired dinner series.

 I am anticipating this event.

I'm ready. 
I'm good to go.

Really, I was good to go,
looking forward to having wonderful eats,
and writing about this event.
But I tried for 12 days and couldn't do it.
I couldn't write and get it right,

So this is about ME.

I'm writing about a dinner event I went to
and I'm writing about ME. 

Let's make up a story.

Once upon a time,
Mama Hawthorne died on November 30, 2009.

Then there was December 1.
Of any year.
It is always an emotionally difficult day for me.

 And then, 
second upon a time,
on December 2, 1987,
there was born a Little Thunderstorm.
This child's 22nd birthday 
was marked by Mama's graveside event.

So for reasons unbeknownst to me,

December 1 is a hard day, personally,
petty as that may be.

It's an in-between day.
In between death and life. 

Thankfully, on December 1, 2016,
the Hawthornes had a lovely wine/dinner event to attend.

I always write down what the wine guy, Kerry, and Chef Randolph say. but I'd rather just show you the pictures, give you the courses and paired wines, and let it go at that.  For me, it's December 1.  Of any year.

 Here's our wine lineup for tonight.
Rosie, later.
Just kidding...

Our first course is poached halibut with potatoes in parsley gremolata, 
paired with Sommariva Prosecco di Congeliano-Valbobbiadene Superiore.

Rosie's Ramblings:  Well, roll me in sugar, sprinkle me with cinnamon,  dip half of me in chocolate, and call me a doughnut!  Chef Randolph overcooked my halibut!!    We shall not speak of this again.
Loved the potatoes with the greenery and the sauce.

As for the wine, Mr. Hawthorne sipped  and announced, "This wine just probed me!"
Rosie:  "Excuse me?"
Mr. H.:  "I was probed by the wine."
Rosie:  "Are you sure you weren't prodded?' "
Mr. H.:  "No, It was definitely a probe."
Rosie:  "Sprites are dancing on my tongue.  Who do you have to probe to buy a bottle of this wine around here?"

I bought a bottle and I'm saving it for a favorite niece for Christmas who SOMEBODY at Saltbox Café thinks is my DAUGHTER.  I was an aunt at a very young age and she was a niece in her later years.

I see gremolated-potatoes and a zabaione sauce in my very near future.

Pick me!  Pick me!
Loved the flavors.

Our second course is a roasted artichoke pizza bianca with pancetta and spinach with Rivera Castel del Monte DOC Preludio No. 1 Chardonnay.

Rosie's Ramblings:  I would have expected a bitter combination between the artichokes and the Chardonnay, but there was none and  I enjoyed the saltiness from the pancetta and feta.

The wine is my new Bestie!  Best drunk from a paper bag on a curb, if there were a curb in Colington, on a Friday or Saturday night, shared with a partner in crime.

I loved this.  Whenever I want to go home and try and recreate a dish I've had, then you know it's a successful offering at a restaurant - a winner in my book.
Because, you know, I have impeccable taste.

As I write this, it's been 10 days since this particular dinner.  I've already made one big dough, separated it into 6 balls, refrigerated them, and I made one type of pizza one day and Mr. Hawthorne made a totally different pizza the next.  These pizza offerings will be up soon on .

And between us, we have four balls left.  

That's a drizzling of a balsamic sauce around the outside.

One must appreciate this pizza from all sides.

Our third course is braised veal tortellacci in a veal reduction with toasted pumpkin seeds and sundried tomatoes, paired with Vignamaggio "Terre di Prenzano" Chianti Classico DOCG.

 Vignamaggio is the producer, a century old estate in Tuscany, and Terre di Prenzano is a traditional Chianti Classico made exclusively from Sangiovese grapes.  It's very dry and it has beautiful fruit flavors to it - strawberry, raspberry, and cherry.  And more interesting, the Vignamaggio estate was at one time NEAR the home of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa.  Villa Vignamaggio likes to claim the estate as the birthplace of Mona Lisa, but it ain't so.  She may have walked the woods around there, but that's as far as it goes.

Chef Randolph:  We decided to go with a veal tortellacci with this Chianti.  Basically, a tortellacci is a giant tortellini.  The veal was braised and the braising liquid reduced.

 Rosie's Ramblings:  What, Chef Randolph?  No liver or fava beans with the Chianti?

 Did you know that Dr. Hannibal Lecter was making a medical joke here in Silence of the Lambs?  Being a bit of a psycho, the good Doctor may have been treated with antidepressants called MAOIs - monoamine oxidase inhibitors.  People taking MAOIs have certain diet restrictions.  They should avoid foods or beverages containing tyramine, else they may suffer a potentially fatal hypertensive crisis.  Liver, beans, and alcoholic beverages contain considerable amounts of tyramine, so in essence, Dr. Lecter is making a joke saying that he's off his meds.  Now, in the book, Lecter said Amarone, not Chianti, the Amarone being a better wine to pair with liver, thus showing off both his wine sophistication and his psycho-ness.  Movie executives switched out Amarone to a wine everyone had heard of.

I think this might have been my favorite course, as in plate-lickablygood.

One suggestion:  Serve this with some bruschetta or a seared polenta cake or something so I can sop up every bit of that divine sauce.  I get disapproving looks from your customers when I have to lick the plate.  This is another dish I will be recreating.

As for the wine, I enjoyed the Chianti, although now I'll have to lay off  beans, liver, fermented foods, cheeses, chocolate, and a bunch of other stuff.  Dang it all!

Our fourth course is lamb and Italian hot sausage meatballs over roasted tomato basil crudo.  This was paired with Pietradolce "Archineri" Etna Rosso DOC.

Action shot!

Rosie's Ramblings:  Rosie is a people-watcher.  So I'm a-lookin' around the room and a find a couple of "Super Swirlers."  They've got their red wine and they are intense.  They're looking at the wine this way and that way.  And then they start swirling their glasses.  We're talking violent swirling.  No inside surface of that wine glass was not coated with grape juice.  The wine was so expertly swirled that there were freakin' wave tubes in their glasses.  To put a barrel in a glass commands some kind of talent.  Seriously, I was impressed.  It must be all in the wrist.  If I tried this, the crisp, white tablecloth would look like a crime scene.

Our fifth course is Tuscan roasted tenderloin with Sicilian Caponata  served with Fantino Barbera d'Alba.

Rosie's Ramblings:  OK.  Here's the thing.  Rosie loves red meat.  Eggplant?  Not so much.  I loved the meat. Period.  The caponata I could do without.  It's a personal thing.  I don't like eggplant except in Mama Hawthorne's Eggplant Casserole which has a sleeve of Ritz crackers and a ton of cheddar cheese so you know it's good.  AS in DOG-gone good.  Winkwink.

As for the wine, I could guzzle this all day and be a happy camper.

Is that truffle oil?

Our sixth and final course is a lemon and olive oil cake with lemon curd and mascarpone, buttercream frosting topped with a tart berry jam, served with fresh ricotta cheese and orange blossom honey, paired with Moretto Pignoletto del'Emilia Bianco Firzzante Secco.

Dessert is always my favorite.
All butter and fat in the cake
were replaced by olive oil.
This was amazing.

 Thank you, extraordinary Saltbox Crew,
for yet another wonderful dining experience.

For a recap of our wonderful on-going dining experiences at The Saltbox Café
please click on the links:
October 2014, we visited Spain.
November 2014, we visited Argentina.
December 2014, we visited Paris.
February 2015, we visited Chocolate. (Why yes, Chocolate is a country.)
March 2015, we visited Italy.
October 2015, we visited Germany.
December 2015, we visited Japan.
Also in December 2015, we enjoyed a Réveillon Feast.
And again in December 2015, we visited France.
February 2016, we took a road trip to California.
Also in February 2016, we visited Italy
March 9, 2016, we had a lovely visit to Chile.
March 29, 2016, we visited the Pacific Northwest.
April 20, 2016, we explored the vineyards of Oregon
September 2016, we enjoyed South Africa
October 2016, we experienced Madrid
October 2016, we traveled the Loire Region in France. 
November 3, 2016, we got to Fall In Love With Wine.
November 14, 2016, we enjoyed a Taste of Northern Italy.

The menu is the creation of Chefs Amanda and Randolph Sprinkle.
Special Guest Chef Josh Naser was on hand to assist.
Kerry, of Tryon Wine Distributing, introduced our wines,always advising us to enjoy the many facades of wine, with and without the food to see how the flavors meld and marry. 
Our servers were the extraordinary DinkleWolf Team, Mike and April.
And please check out Saltbox's website for these special events.  Reservations only and seats are limited.  252-255-5994.   I know I've had to tackle a few old ladies who were coming in to get MY SPOT.  And I'm an old lady myself.  Oh, I take that back.  Nobody ever accused me of being a lady.

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