I never knew that all the Italian stuff we like is mostly from south of Italy and northern Italian food is more rustic and used unsalted butter and cream in their food. Much of a revelation it was for me when I interacted with Chef Gaurav Anand at The Park. He told me how Italians are so proud of their cheeses that there is a ban on moving cows and buffaloes of one region to another as the variety of cow determines the flavor of the cheese of the region. All the cheeses of Italy are cow milk cheeses apart from the mozzarella and they keep their cows well tagged with metal plates on their chest, with strict quarantine measure for moving them. He told us about graded tomatoes to get different flavors of sauces and top chefs carrying their own cream and butter to get the flavors right. Yes, any local cuisine tastes best with it's local ingredients, be it butter or cream of fresh green produce. Growing a few greens and herbs in my garden has made me learn this much.
The best thing I like when we go out eating in known places, that I can interact with the Chefs and talk about food and intricacies of cooking good food. Chef Gaurav told me about the cheeses used in north of Italy. The Bitto cheese, Gorgonzola, Asiago, Montassio and of course Grana padano, mascarpone and ricotta. How they use wild mushrooms a lot, Chef Gaurav has lived in North Italy to train and has seen families cooking, using fresh produce form their own garden, even wild mushrooms grow in some gardens. How they cook Polenta in wooden vessels for hours and serve themselves with a large wooden ladle. Nourishing food is always fresh and simple. He admitted it tastes different from the food if you eat in north Italy, just because of the ingredients used, but he has created the flavors quite well.
I never knew a Knodel like pasta dumpling existed in Italy too. Wiki says it is called Canederli in Italy but is a central element of central European cuisine. I couldn't stop myself form trying the dish and asking the recipe from Chef. He got the dish made for us and I loved how the three varieties of mushrooms brought magic to the sauce. Portobello, Oyster and black fungus and loads of cream, some Cheri tomatoes, herbs and this sauce brings alive a complex yet simple bouquet of flavors.
I will tell you the recipe of the Knodel and it's three mushrooms sauce before writing more about the north Italian meal that we had.
Bread freshly crumbed 200 gm
onion chopped 30 gm
white butter 80 gm
egg yolks 2
herbs (oregano, parsley and thyme) 5 gm
Parmesan cheese 100 gm
portobello 20 gm
Oyster mushrooms 20 gm
button mushrooms 20 gm
Ricotta cheese 5 gm
white wine 100 ml
procedure for the dumpling..
- Saute half of the onion in 20 gm butter till soft, add breadcrumbs and saute for a couple of minutes. Keep aside for a while.
- Mix this mixture with Parmesan and egg yolks and half of the herbs, knead into a dough with a sprinkle of water.
- Cook the dumplings in to boiling water till they come to surface, fish them out and let them cool or till required.
Procedure for the sauce...
Saute the remaining onions along with mushrooms and butter til a little soft. Add white wine and reduce till half. Add the Cheri tomatoes, cooked dumplings, herbs and cream or remaining white butter. Simmer with the dumplings for a couple of minutes and serve with a topping of ricotta cheese.
You can get this made at the live counter if you go to the ongoing north Italian fest at The Park.
There are more pastas and pizzas to be enjoyed. Fresh Zucchini flowers to be tossed up for you, made to suit your taste.
We already had had a nice chicken soup with broccoli and Brussels sprouts that was so light and yummy we sipped it slowly, anticipating good things to come. But that was not before we rejected the insipid Asparagus soup. There are a variety of soups being served everyday, so have a taste and then decide which one you like.
Don't forget to pick up the fresh salads and cheeses form the beautiful display. Crisp Brussels sprouts, fresh Asparagus, pickled onion with raisins and various leafy greens. The way I like to load up my plate. I liked the Caponata as well, it tasted great with a few raisins into it. The presentation of Caponata could have been better as I didn't see many people picking up Caponata, I did because I love it. And didn't regret.
The Crap insalata (crab salad) was dull and insipid though I had high expectations form it. It was not fresh crabs just that. All vegetables were superbly crisp and fresh though I haven't taken many pictures of them. Stuffed artichokes, cheesy mushrooms, beets salad and many more choices are there if you want to explore. Lamb Carpaccio was a good salad tossed up with greens and peppers etc. Chicken on sticks was something mothers cook as an evening snack for kids with leftovers Chef Gaurav told us. It was good with the olive oil drizzle and fresh salad on the side.
A salmon (Atlantic salmon) stuffed with creamy risotto was my favorite on the list too. Isn't it great when you find a few great tasting dishes on a buffet. You can always discard the ones you don't like and have second and third helpings of the ones you are enjoying. A good selection of cured meats like Portadella, Prosciutto, Tuscan salami, Brisaola and salami milano are there to choose from. I don't fancy cured meat much so I skipped.
In the mains there were a few comforting flavors for me. Like this Polenta e fungi all griglia, salsa al Gorgonzola Basically a polenta with a white creamy mushroom sauce with Gorgonzola cheese flavors. Do not miss it if you love polenta and mushrooms both. I relished it.
The Cappelotti de porcini, a stuffed pasta with porcini mushrooms was great. Freshly made pasta has it's charm and that shows here.
An unusual risotto served with shank of Veal was interesting. Much like an Italian biryani that the sticky risotto I have had till now. Chef Gaurav told me how this risotto was different as it was not cooked after adding butter, no cream used in it.
Parmigiana de melanzane, the aubergine slices baked with layers of provolone and Parmesan was great tasting. Melt in the mouth and cheesy.
This was so much food to be devoured, though both myself and Arvind just had a tasting bites of everything we tried. A baked fish with stewed potatoes is worth mentioning. It was river sole cooked to perfection. I am so going to cook it at home very soon.
The meal over, Chef Gaurav brought a Tiramisu for us. There are all the desserts on display in small portions but the Tiramisu on display is kid friendly as Chef told us. So he decided to treat us with the real thing and claimed that he does the best Tiramisu in town. We dug our spoons into it and it really was the best we have tasted till date.
Don't miss to enjoy this Tiramisu if you are at the Cafetaria insideThe Park. Ask for the real Tiramisu and not the kid friendly alcohol deprived tiramisu on display and you will be treated with aromatic Kahlua and dark rum flavors in the creamy layers of the real Tiramisu.
Very lightly sweetened as I like it.
Go for some more great desserts if you like. A good variety is on display. I liked a soft Ricotta tart with blueberry topping (see bottom left in the collage below).
Arvind liked the Mascarpone stuffed eclairs.
A hearty meal, new flavors discovered as it was the first time I tasted Veal. Distinctly different for beef and very flavorful, nicely cooked too. Pickled onions with raisins was a discovery too, something I will be recreating and the Knodel recipe off course. Do let me know if you try this Knodel recipe with mixed mushrooms sauce. Chef Gaurav wanted to acquaint us with North Italian cuisine as he wanted to share what he has learned there. It was an enriching experience for sure.
We had a cup of espresso before we left for home. I work late in the night most of the days, so this was required after a heavy meal.
I will be trying a few of these foods and would definitely share it here on Healthfood desivideshi. After all we run after the flavors so the food is satiating and refreshing both at the same time. Creating good food is simpler when you know what flavors to go for.