It was a fun dinner - the first one held in an open restaurant, which was an interesting experience. Not unpleasant - we were tucked in a corner of the restaurant, so we were separate from the other diners. It was a smaller group than normal, too, so we all fit at one long table and we didn't have to shout to be heard.
Here's what we ate and drank:
fried almond cursted cheese fritters, celery, hazelnut oil and grapes
paired with Lantieri Franciacorti, Method Champagnoise
Vitello Tonnato and house-made focaccia
tender veal medallions in creamy tuna sauce with capers
paired with Cantine della Valtenesi e Della Lugana and Averoldi Filaruni
Bollito Misto with Mostarda di Cremona
robust meat broth with braised lamb, pork and beef and sausage with root vegetables, fresh rosemary and sage, roasted garlic and braised greens
Paired with Montelio Costarsa Pinot Nero
Braised Venison and Risotto Milanese
creamy carneroli rice in the traditional style with saffron, marrow, shallots and gremolata
paired with Spia d'Italia Garda Classico Superiore and Don Lisander Monte Cicogna
paired with Dante Rivetti Moscato (which was actually from Piedmont)
Food highlights for me included the casera fritto, which looked like a Rice Krispie treat and was soft and crunchy and even fresh, thanks to the celery and grapes, and the venison with risotto, which was rich and intense and, well, marrow-y. Most of the table loved loved loved the vitello tonnato, which was served cold, but since I'm not really a fan of canned tuna or mayonnaise, it wasn't my thing. The focaccia that came with it, though, was my thing. It was warm and crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and just about perfect.
On the wine front, there was a lot of disagreement at the table. Everybody liked the green appley sparkling wine we started with, but after that, there was much debate. During the second course, everyone was back and forth about which was better - the full, rich, suntan lotion-scented Averoldi Filarun or the lighter Cantine della Valtenesi, which had a distinctly "drink in warm weather" vibe. In the end, I think the lighter wine "won," but only just barely.
Our first sniff of the pinot nero served with the bollito misto was a doozy - straight alcohol. It opened up quickly and ended up being soft and jammy, but that initial scent made everyone rear back from their glasses and laugh. Speaking of smells, the Spia d'Italia Garda Classico Superiore was super structured and excellent with food, but at first, everyone got some Play-Dough notes (not my favorite smell). At this point, we hit a collective wall, like we do around the third or fourth course every month. It's hard to taste anything at that point because we are just so stuffed (I even try to pace myself, but it never seems to work out).
Everything was delicious as usual, of course, and the pairings and packet of information were fantastic, especially considering that Lombardia doesn't produce a lot of wines and the ones they do produce are tough to track down. The group was fun (of course) and we had a great time. The only sad note of the whole evening was when Nick, who works at Dogwood and had been leading the dinners, announced that it would be his last dinner, since he was moving to New Orleans to pursue his film career.
It's hard to begrudge him that, of course, but I do know that we'll miss him. He knows a ton about wine and Cooper and I always had fun hanging out with him. So hopefully we'll see him again soon or, at the very least, we'll see his name in the credits of Treme.