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Posts Tagged ‘Campagnolo Roma’

Last night, Campagnolo Roma hosted another one of its famed Quinto Quarto dinners, an offal-themed culinary extravaganza inspired by the Roman “fifth quarter” feasts of yore.  I was flying sort of solo as Akemi had bowed out on account of the far-too-late-for-her 8:30 p.m. seating. That and the emphasis on liver.

Like I said, I was flying “sort of solo” because, even though I didn’t have a date, I had plenty of company in the form of some adventurous friends.  There was Robert of course, a mainstay at these events (in fact, we met at one of Roma’s Whole Hog dinners) who was, in turn, joined by his buddy, Dave.  Longtime dining companions Jodi and Steve also put in a surprise appearance.  And, since the meal was family style (meaning you’re sharing a table with strangers), we ended up making some new friends as well: Barbara (whose husband used to work in the local t.v. industry and was also flying solo), Rosita (an accountant with a taste for adventure) and Su (who runs a catering company).

Now, the last Quinto Quarto dinner I attended was full of surprises (most of them good) so I wasn’t expecting this one to beat it.  But, damn, if the gang at Roma didn’t surprise me yet again.  The meal broke down as follows:

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Beef tendon, honeycomb ripe, tongue.

That’s the way it was listed in the menu.  Rather uninspired, I thought. And I was thoroughly prepared to be underwhelmed given how much I loved the appetizers (spleen sliders!) from the last Quinto Quarto dinner – and how much I don’t like tripe.  But this dish turned out to be one of the highlights of the night, an outstanding combination of textures and flavors.  The addition of parsley and mint brought it to a whole other level.

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Cavatelli all’anatra with duck gizzard sugo and crispy sage and chicken skin.

Speaking of outstanding – I could have eaten a double portion of this and the appetizer and gone home singing the praises of “My best meal in recent memory!”.  The pasta was perfectly al dente (can’t tell you how important that is).

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Sauteed calves liver, sauteed onions, aceto tradizionale.

Okay, let me start off by saying that this was, without a doubt, the best calves liver I’ve ever eaten – sweet, tender, but intense.  No second helpings for me.  Growing up, this was one of my father’s favorite meals, and mom would prepare them the same why: fried with onions.  It took me back.

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Roasted brussels sprouts with cured pork.

This is the only way to eat brussels sprouts = with bacon!

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Pork kidneys, mustard greens, and extra virgin olive oil.

Hmmm.  This one didn’t do it for me.  The salad was interesting, the mustard greens possessed of a nice little kick, but those kidneys were akin to oversauced mushrooms.  Not my thing.

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Sweet black pudding, pannetone, marsala zabaglione.

As much as I applaud the courage and creativity that goes into an offal-inspired dessert, I can’t really say I’ve ever had one that made me say: “Wow!  They’ve got to put this on the regular menu!”.  Not the black pudding and chocolate ice cream I once had at Refuel with Marty G. and Jewel.  Not the ricotta and pig brain cream in the cassata siciliana served at the last Quinto Quarto dinner.  And, to be truthful, not this sweet black pudding with pannetone and marsala zabaglione. Nevertheless, it WAS good.  The hazelnut black pudding and chocolate cake was reminiscent of fruit cake – but in a good way.

Overall, I quite enjoyed the meal and, based on those first two dishes (appetizer and pasta) have to give the edge to last night’s Quinto Quarto dinner over the previous one I attended.  Can’t wait for the next one!

Jodi and Steve

Jodi and Steve surprised me by joining me – and genuinely enjoying the dinner.  Didn’t realize they were such culinary daredevils.

David and Robert

David and Robert enjoyed the meal as well – but weren’t quite as enamored of the liver.

Rosita and Su

Rosita and Su = new foodie friends.

Barbara

Barbara.  Since everyone else but the two of us were paired off, that made her my date for the evening!

Special thanks to the gang at Roma – especially the two individuals who created the menu and cooked the food: Chef Nathan and Chef Ted…

Chef Nathan and Chef Ted

Chef Nathan and Chef Ted

Thanks, guys!

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Planning a visit to Vancouver and looking forward to sampling some of the city’s finest – but not looking forward to playing hit and miss?  Well, relax and allow me to guide you through some of the city’s tastiest treats.

Here are the Top 11 Things I’ve Been Eating in Vancouver:

PEACEFUL BEEF ROLL AT  PEACEFUL RESTAURANT

Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, its five-spice, hoisin-laced beef rolled in crispy onion flatbread.  The restaurant focuses on northern Chinese dishes, more robust and intensely flavored than their southern counterparts.  Lots to like on the menu but the peaceful beef roll leads the list.

CACHETA AND LENGUA TACOS AT La Taqueria

Vancouver’s best taco place (Sorry.  Nowhere else comes even close.) offers up a varied and delicious selection.  My favorites are the tender and tasty cacheta (braised beef cheeks) and lengua (braised beef tongue).  If you’re feeling less adventurous, go with pollo con mole or pescado (grilled fish), then wash it down with a horchata or Mexican coke.

SALTED CARAMEL CREAM PUFF AT Beta 5

This place specializes in chocolate, but they do so many other things well – like their irresistible salted caramel cream puff, a perfect marriage of sweet and salty, crisp and creamy.

ABURI SALMON OSHI SUSHI AT Downtown Vancouver Japanese Restaurant – Miku Restaurant

Local salmon pressed and dressed with Miku special sauce, topped with jalapeno then grilled topside using a blowtorch and charcoal. Whenever I go with first-timers, I always order two rolls (at least) because I know that one won’t be enough.

SOFT SERVE ICE CREAM AT FAT DRAGON BAR-B-Q

The greatest soft serve I’ve ever had available in a variety of inspired daily flavors.  My favorite (surprise surprise) = the delightfully refreshing cucumber!

CHOCOLATE PUDDING AT Fable Restaurant | From Farm to Table

Former Top Chef Canada contestant Curtis Luk makes some amazing desserts (including kick-ass macarons), but his chocolate pudding is my go-to after-dinner treat.  A brilliant balance of tastes and textures.

CHOCOLATE ZEPPOLE AT Giovane cafe + bakery + deli: a stunning cafe & retail emporium …

A chocoholic’s dream bomb: cream on the inside, ganache on the outside.  Bring back-up!

PORCHETTA AT Meat & Bread

Juicy slow-roasted pork, crunchy crackling, and salsa verde served on a ciabatta roll.  We’ve gone so many times of late that Akemi has declared a temporary moratorium on near future visits.  I’ve already got a plan to work around the embargo.

BANANA CHOCOLATES AT Beta 5

The impressively-thin shell possesses a great chocolaty snap, giving way to fantastic banana interior.  I’m a huge fan of this particular flavor combination and have tried many variations.  My all-time favorites are those offered at Le Chocolat de H in Tokyo (ル ショコラ ドゥ アッシュ_) and Beta 5′s version.

SPAGHETTI AT CAMPAGNOLO ROMA

Having grown up in an Italian household, I’m incredibly picky when it comes to pasta, especially spaghetti, so the fact that Campagnolo Roma’s version is on this list says a lot about the dish.  Perfectly cooked to a toothsome al dente and served with luscious tomato sauce and a touch of fresh basil.

CARROT CAKE AT cadeaux bakery

I’m a sucker for carrot cake and, after an in-depth (and thoroughly delicious) search, I’ve found my favorite.  But Cadeaux Bakery in Gastown offers more than just carrot cake – which is why, every time I go, we end up sitting down to a good half-dozen heavenly creations.

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“In the cuisine of modern Rome quinto quarto (literally the “fifth quarter”) is the offal of butchered animals. The name makes sense on more than one level: because offal amounts to about a fourth of the weight of the carcass; because the importance of offal in Roman cooking is at least as great as any of the outer quarters, fore and hind; and because in the past slaughterhouse workers were partly paid in kind with a share of the offal.

Until modern time the division of the cattle in Rome was made following this simple scheme: the first “quarto” was dedicated to be sold to the Nobles, the second one was for the clergy, the third one for the Bourgeoisie and eventually the fourth “quarto” was for the soldiers. The proletariat could afford only the entrails.”

Quinto quarto – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Well, whaddya know.  Just the other day, I was discussing adventurous dining and my fruitless attempts to acquire duck hearts for a dish I was looking to prepare (September 22, 2012: Heart of Duckness).  Five days later, I’m sitting down to one of my most unique meals of 2012. Last night, Campagnolo Roma hosted their annual Quinto Quarto dinner with Chefs Ted Anders and Nathan Lowey serving up a Roman style feast highlighting “the odd bits”.     The menu…

The dinner was served “family style”, so Akemi and I ended up sharing a table with three other diners, some friendly fellow foodies (two of who happened to be big Stargate fans).  The meal started with the antipasto:

Arancine al sugo (risotto balls stuffed with fifth quarter sugo) and  stioghiola alla griglia (charred intestines).

Akemi quite enjoyed the former (Of course.  She’s Japanese!).  The charred intestines I thought lacked the headlined charring and were possessed of an underlying gaminess that I, well, didn’t love.

Vasteddo piccolo (spleen sliders).

Similar in flavor to liver but, I found, far less intense.  Also, somewhat chewier, but served slider-style, these small bites were utterly delicious.  I ended up eating four in all.

Rounding out the antipasti was some very good sfincione con nduja (sicilian flatbread seasoned with soft liver sausage).  Akemi and I were never actually served this dish but our table mates had been given a plate and they were more than happy to sure (Ah, the perils of family-style dining). 

spaghetti con le cuore de salmone
nass river salmon hearts, garlic confit, saffron

Now THIS dish was the highlight of the night.  The pasta was a perfectly prepared al dente, the accompanying sugo sweet and smokey from the shaved salmon hearts.

A whole salmon heart we brought back home as a keepsake – and, later that night, dog snack.

polpette quinto quarto
pork meatballs with everything, lemon zest, mint

The “everything” included heart, liver, and kidney.  If you had served up these meatballs to someone like, say, my unadventurous buddy Carl, and not told them what they were eating, they would probably declare them the best meatballs they’d ever eaten.  And they were: incredibly moist and utterly delicious.

il caponata bianca
vinegared celery, eggplant, pine nuts

I’ve never been a big fan of anything marinated but thought this was a nice change of pace for the meal.  Akemi particularly enjoyed the pickled celery.

pomodoro misto e orecchio fritto
milan’s tomatoes, crispy pig’s ear, basil

Also a nice little detour.  The crispy pig’s ears offered a nice, crispy textural contrast.  That being said, I still prefer them sliced thicker and served with salsa verde like Refuel used to do back in the day (and I believe Fat Dragon still may do).

cassata siciliana
marzipan, ricotta & pig’s brain cream, marsala

Yes, the inclusion of pig brain gave me pause as well.  I’m not a huge fan of brain (I’m not a fan of its metallic aftertaste), but it was inoffensive here.  So inoffensive, in fact, that it felt a little unnecessary but for the simple fact that it maintained the dining theme and, hey, diners could tell their friend that they’d had a pig brain dessert – and liked it.  Which I did.

Dining opportunities like this one are a rarity and, while I’m sure that’s a-okay for many more conservative diners, I, for one, would like to see more of these daring dining events.

A huge thanks for a job well done to Ted, Nathan, and the gang at Campagnolo Roma.

This morning, Paul swung by and we worked through the day -stopping only for tacos – to finally finish that outline.  Well, more or less.  More in terms of structure and less in terms of detail, but I’m sure all the minutiae will work itself out in the next couple days when I get it all down on (virtual) paper.  It’s a pilot for a fantasy series and, while I have high hopes it will go to series, I’m being realistic as well.  In this business, everything is a longshot.  It and the potential Dark Matter series are purely speculative at this point and, even if they do come to fruition, production wouldn’t get underway until well into 2013.  This is why I’m not giving up my day job (a.k.a. focusing on winning the lottery).

Paul gives the outline a thumbs up.

Continuing our trip down Stargate Atlantis memory lane…

KINDRED I (418)

According to the trailer that the network ran for this episode: “You won’t believe the last five minutes”.  These words were uttered as viewers were shown the deceased but very much alive-looking Carson Beckett looking up as someone says: “Carson!”.  My question was: “Why won’t they believe the last five minutes.  You’ve already ruined it for them.”  It was reminiscent of the network trailer for SG-1′s The Curse that showed Osiris, eyes glowing, blasting members of the team – effectively ruining our end of episode reveal.  Which was, in turn, reminiscent of the TV Guide blurb for SG-1′s Solitudes: “Jack and Sam are stranded in the Antarctic”, an episode in which Jack and Sam believe they’ve been stranded off-world until they discover they’re actually been on Earth all along.  In the Antarctic!  Surprised?  No?

At the SGA season 3 wrap party, I informed a glum Paul McGillion that I had a great idea to bring Carson back.  It involved cloning, Michael, and a shocking and unexpected appearance by the beloved Scot.  Well, in the end, cloning and Michael anyway.

The placeholder title for this episode was “Rise of the Googlions”.  Why? Because that’s the title fellow Executive Producer/writer Carl Binder suggested and it stuck.  From a former blog entry: “Oh, dear. This is what happens when you hang on to a gag title a little too long. Sooner or later, it makes it onto the schedule, the Art Department starts using it in their design updates, and producer John N. Smith can be heard uttering the words: ‘We should check out that location. We might be up there for Googlions.’ For all of you who have been racking your brains trying to come up with the hidden meaning behind the ‘Rise of the Googlions’ title, allow me to reveal it for you. … ‘Rise of the Googlions’ was nothing more than an inane title Carl came up with off the top of his head. To all those who wasted any amount of time searching the Internet for clues about the googlions, blame Mr. Binder who unwittingly sent you all out on a wild goose chase.”

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What’s cookin’?

Last night, I had THE perfect meal.  And, by “perfect”, I mean perfect for me.  And no wonder given that my dinner was planned and prepared by Chef Rob Belcham.  No one knows my culinary likes and dislikes, leanings and particulars better than Rob and the gang from Campagnolo/Campagnolo Roma/Fat Dragon.

Fellow owner Tom Doughty texted me earlier this week to let me know they had some very special pork in and would I be interested in having dinner at Campagnolo?  Would I!

Chef Rob Belcham, the master of ceremonies on this night.

So, last night, Akemi and I showed up at Campagnolo where we were greeted by Chef Belcham who had that glint in his eye, the look of someone who was about to spring a surprise.  As it turned out, several them over the course of our meal.  No menus for us on this night.  But I wasn’t worried.  We were in infinitely capable hands.

First up, the corn soup.  Not just any corn soup.  This is THE corn soup, the corn soup they used to serve at Refuel, available only during peak season.  The corn is pressed through a cheesecloth, several times to achieve its thick, rich consistency.  My favorite soup of all time.

It was served chilled with melon and a touch of chili.  I told Akemi that, back in the day, when it was on the menu at the old location, I used to have two bowls – one to start the meal and one to end it.  It’s that good.

The salad included sungolds from Stoney Paradise, the sweetest tomatoes you’ll ever eat (contrasted with the slightly tarter heirloom), along with some fresh basil, mozzarella, and a little something from the charcuterie. 

We were presented with the piece de resistance, the star of the evening: The Pork Belly Rack

Bar Director Giovanni Giardino heard I was a fan of the Moscow Mule and asked me if I wanted to try his take on the classic.

Instead of ginger beer, he uses a ginger syrup that packs quite the wicked throat punch.  

It is accompanied by the same concentrated syrup with overproof.  One single drop will blow away your tastebuds.

The rack was served with polenta, peas, radish…it was unbelievable.  The meat was tasty and melt-in-your-mouth tender, the skin crisp and delicious.  Unforgettable.  

Then, it was time for dessert and I was presented with…

Another serving of corn soup, this one topped with peaches and dill.  Just like old times!

For Akemi, a fabulous butterscotch trifle.

What a great dinner.  Thoroughly satisfied, we – WAIT!  THERE’S MORE!  Onto our second round of desserts -

Akemi loves cheesecake and this mascarpone cheesecake with fresh cherries didn’t disappoint.  Even I was a fan!

“Didn’t think we would let you go without some chocolate, did you?”asked Chef Belcham.  Corn soup, sungold tomatoes, crispy pork, more corn soup, AND a chocolate dessert!  Valhrona Chocolate Pudding with Nutella cream and crushed hazelnuts.  Best Dessert Ever!

I don’t eat out as much as I used to but the dinner made me wistful for the good old days at Fuel/Refuel – and, quite frankly, eager to come back to Campagnolo to sample the incredible-looking pastas and pizzas that passed our table over the course of the evening.

The meal was nothing short of perfection.  A huge thanks to Rob, Tom, and the rest of the gang!

CAMPAGNOLO RESTAURANT

CAMPAGNOLO ROMA

FAT DRAGON BAR-B-Q

Hey, Cos & Effect (Cos & Effect) kicked off on Friday and continues through the weekend.  Akemi and I dropped by this afternoon and I snapped a few pics – which I’ll be posting as part of tomorrow’s blog entry.  Here’s a sneak peek:

Captain Jack says: “A con? I love cons. Drinks all around!”

Carl’s faves: The ladies of Final Fantasy

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White truffles, a.k.a. white diamonds, are one of the most highly prized and expensive of foods.  Rare, only available a few months of the year, and limited to parts of Italy and Croatia, the Alba Madonna are notoriously difficult to locate.  Experienced truffle hunters use dogs to sniff out these rare gems hidden underground, near the roots of certain trees.  Pigs are also used because the scent of the mushroom apparently resembles that of the porcine sex hormone.  It seems like a lot of trouble to go through but, at up to $2000 a pound, sourcing them can prove quite lucrative.  And delicious.   They’re admittedly an acquired taste.  Some adore their heady, earthy aroma.  Others don’t (like my girlfriend, Akemi, who likens it to “old man’s pillow”).  I’m a big fan, but the white truffle is something I enjoy on only the rarest of occasions, usually shaved over a nice risotto.  I had the opportunity to do a white truffle-themed dinner several years ago at Chateau Joel Robuchon in Tokyo but, at about $650/person, it was a little rich for my blood given that I was on the tail-end of my annual two-week Japanese culinary excursion.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a text from my fellow foodie and occasional dining companion, Denise, wondering whether any local restaurants were offering up truffle-themed menu items.  An online search turned up nothing but, refusing to be discouraged, I picked up the phone and contacted the one person I knew could get us that white truffle fix: Tom Doughtery, owner of Refuel, Campagnolo, and Campagnolo Roma.  Sure enough, he got back to me right away.  He needed to know the number of diners in my party, the number of courses on my dream truffle menu and, of course, my budget. According to Chef Ted, who would be doing the honors designing the special menu, it would change my life.

And so, Saturday night, Denise and I went to Roma for our life-altering truffle dinner:

Chef Ted, the culinary mastermind behind Trufflepalooza.

Plate #1: Vermouth-poached oyster with white truffle Hollondaise and white truffle shavings.

Despite the presence of truffles, the meaty oyster, redolent of the sea, was the spotlight flavor.

Plate #2: Raw goose and goose fat with daikon, chives, and shaved truffle in goose brodo.

Another surprisingly delicate dish.  The heat of the brodo cooked the goose to a nice rare.

Plate #3: Risotto with shaved truffles finished with goat butter.

Simple but nothing quite brings out the flavors of the truffle like the subtleness of a creamy risotto.

Risotto #2

Ted shaved two different white truffles onto the risotto.  Denise and I both preferred the lighter version for its more pronounced flavor.

Truffle shaver. For the man who has everything.

Plate #4: Nova Scotia lobster poached in truffle butter with fingerling potato chips and lobster-braised leeks with beurre monté.

A luxuriously rich dish with some lovely textural contrasts.  The crunchy fingerling chips were a nice touch.

Chef Ted stops by to check up on us. I assumed he was there to take my plate and made sure to hold on with both hands.

Plate #5: Veal rack with onions in a red wine reduction, spinach, Hunter Sauce and shaved white truffles.

Damn.  Was this not the best preparation of veal you’ve ever had?  Oh.  You weren’t there.  Well, yes.  It was!

Plate #6: Parmigiano-Regganio with Boreale Honey and shaved white truffles.

A surprisingly nice combination, but a little Parmigiano-Reggiano goes a long way.  I was done after my third piece.

Plate #7: Chocolate custard atop a layer of white truffles with crumbled amaretti and house made maple syrup sorbet and caccierre.

A very subtle use of truffles – and thankfully so as I’m not at all sure I would have enjoyed it as much had the flavor been any stronger.  A terrific dessert.  That maple syrup sorbet on its own should have a place on the menu.

Chef Ted bids us a fond farewell.

What a meal!  A huge thanks to Chef Ted, Chef Rob, and Tom for making it happen.

Today’s entry is dedicated to Tom Dougherty.

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