Tag Archives: Creamed Potatoes

A 3 Star Lunch at Le Calandre – June 23, 2009

So, after spending a morning with Giotto and his magnificent frescoes, Sasha and I grabbed a cab to Sarmeola di Rubano, just outside of Padua, to visit Le Calandre. Run by brothers Massimiliano (in the kitchen) and Raffaele Alajmo, Le Calandre is a 3 star Michelin rated performance art experience hiding out as a restaurant. Only 28 when he received his third star, Massimiliano is a true artist, whose surface is the palate instead of the canvas.

Chad & Sasha with Massimiliano and Raffaele Alajmo

Chad & Sasha with Massimiliano and Raffaele Alajmo

Lunch began with a collection of amuses. The first was three tastes: a mini pizza margherita, cod fish salad encased in fried polenta and sprinkled with curry power, and an amazing little ball of Fassone beef carpaccio on a stick topped with shrimp crudo, chive and pink Peruvian pepper. There was something inside the Fassone ball that gave it a Rice Krispie-like crunch; I have no idea what it was but it was delicious.

Three Tastes...All Delicious

Three Tastes...All Delicious

Along with the three tastes, we were served a mozzarella tagliolini atop a pomodoro and caper sauce. The skinned tomatoes were garden fresh, just bigger than cubed and perfectly complimented by the low salt, eel-like mozzarella tagliolini and the salty, big Italian capers. It was at this point that I ordered a glass of Flor di Uis 2006 Via di Romans.

Mozzarella Tagliolini with Pomodoro and Capers

At the same time, we were presented with the following bread basket.

Bread anyone?

Bread anyone?

For our first course, we split the Antipasto, which is a tomato garden on a plate. It consists of chopped, just picked fresh, red and green tomatoes fava beans, green beans, ricotta, basil, chili pepper and extra virgin olive oil.

A tomato garden on a plate

A tomato garden on a plate

For our pasta course, I had maltagliati (a double wide noodle) with white asparagus, botarga, butter and parmesan. It was served in a huge stone bowl. Although everything about this dish suggested that it would be heavy, it was surprisingly light, hearty, creamy, salty and delicious.

Maltagliati and botarga anyone?

Maltagliati and botarga anyone?

Sasha was treated to Lasagnetta with a lamb ragu. This dish is one of the finest lasagna’s you will every eat. The round noodles were perfectly cooked and had a light texture to them. The lamb ragu, sweet and savory, was topped with creamy bechamel and complimented by subtle ricotta. We were again amazed by the lightness of the cooking for what is traditionally a heavy dish.

Little lasagna, BIG taste

Little lasagna, BIG taste

My meat course was a real treat; roast suckling pig with cream of potatoes, and amatriciana sauce. The pork was tender with a crunchy top, sweet and flavorful. The amatriciana was the best I have ever had; rich tomato flavor with the savory taste of bacon and just the right amount of spice. A forkful of the pork all’amatriciana combined with the creamiest, silkiest, smoothest potatoes I have ever eaten, brought my tastebuds to foodie heaven.

Calandre Roast Suckling Pig

Sasha had a perfectly cooked and tender medallions of beef over broccoli with puff potato crisps, egg sauce and basilica peppers. The kick off of those peppers combined with the rich sauce really made this dish shine.

Calandre Medallions of Beef

Although we passed on the cheese carts (yes, there are 2 of them!), but I thought I would capture it so I could share its treasures with you.

Cheese Cart 1
Cheese Cart 2

But we did finish the meal with some nice petite fours.

Calandre Petite Fours

If you want to see more about the menu, you can download it here, but you’ll have to be able to read Italian. Also, Massimiliano has produced a beautiful and artful cookbook, titled “In.gredienti”, which was awarded the 2007 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for the best cookbook in the world. If you have $350 to spend on a cookbook that you probably can’t cook anything from, but want something that will look spectacular in your home, click here.

Calandre Cookbook

Il Ridotto, Venice, Italy, June 22, 2009

Chad and Sasha with master chef/owner Gianni Bonaccorsi

Chad and Sasha with master chef/owner Gianni Bonaccorsi

Il Ridotto is a little restaurant located on a precious square (more of a triangle) behind Piazza San Marco, located here. There are a few excellent enotecas nearby, including one catty corner to the restaurant also owned by Bonaccorsi called Aciugheta (it means “anchovies”). Sasha and I ordered the Chef’s testing menu (which had a wonderful description that I wish I had written down); at E50, it’s a feast and a bargain. The amuse bouche was potato wrapped roasted prawn on a bed of creamed potatoes, extra virgin and chive. The prawn was succulent and full of flavor and the crunch of the julienned potato wrapping combined with the cloud-like creamed potato was a winning combination.

Amuse Bouche @ Il Ridotto

Amuse Bouche @ Il Ridotto

Next up, I had a “fantasie di pesci” appetizer of warm and raw crudo. This included razorfish in a pepper salsa, cuttlefish with potatoes, mackerel with pickled beet, tuna, and one other fish that I can’t recall.

Crudo Delicioso

Crudo Delicioso

Sasha’s appetizer was a tower of beef tartar. The layers of tartar are presented on top of perfectly crisp and round toast and aretopped with a hard boiled quail’s egg. Accompanying this dish was a light salad of arugula with extra virgin and balsamic. The tartar was silky and flavorful.
Tartar

For the pasta course, I was treated to a seafood risotto featuring branzino and octopus. The risotto was a perfect al dente and the flavor was rich and yet subtle. What really made this dish was the raspberry in the center. The berry was perfectly ripe and just a bit cooked so that when I touched it with my fork it easily came apart. The fruit cut each bite of risotto and added a wow factor without overpowering the delicate flavors of the pasta.

Raspberry Hurrah

Raspberry Hurrah

Sasha was treated to a luxurious tagliolini with Piedmontese “Fassone” meat ragu. Fassone beef, rasied in Piedmonte, is renowned for its lean and delicious flavor. Again, the freshly made pasta was perfectly cooked and the ragu expertly seasoned. The Fassone was not only amazingly tender, but its delicate, sweet and savory flavor made this ragu very light.

Fassone  - You Can't Touch This

Fassone - You Can't Touch This

We were so focused on enjoying our meal that we forgot to take pictures when the next course arrived and just started eating (which accounts for the state you see in the following photos). Up next for me was a breaded Dorade with asparagus puree and roasted carrot and zucchini. I was again amazed by the maestro’s ability to make what I expected to be a heavy dish taste so light. The puree was soft and sweet and perfectly complimented the fish. The breading did not taste fried, but almost as if the fish were born that way. The texture was as if the fish were steamed.
Il Ridotto - Dorade w Zucchini Puree

Sasha’s beef braised in red wine was served with creamed potatoes with extra virgin and chives. Another hearty dish prepared with a light touch. The beef bowed tenderly to the slightest touch of a fork and melted with each bite. Combined bites with the cloud-like potatoes produced a rich, sweet and savory experience.

Are you drooling yet?

Are you drooling yet?

We were already screaming for mercy, but Bonaccorsi would not stop. From Sicily came the Cassata Cheesecake with Cassata Gelato and a chocolate flan with vanilla gelato. I don’t think I have ever tasted anything like the Cassata Cheesecake with its tiramisu texture. Coffees were served along with four kinds of sugar.

Ever seen pink sugar?

Ever seen pink sugar?

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