“Life offers you a thousand chances….all you have to do is take one.”
– Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun.
A long time back, we had seen this movie (never read the book), Under the Tuscan Sun. That day we had wished for an opportunity to visit Tuscany, experience its rich history and culture and above all, bask in the Italian sun and enjoy the glorious food from the region.
Did not get the chance to visit Tuscany yet, but when we got invited for the Tuscany Food Festival, at Afraa, City Centre Kolkata, despite our busy schedule, we did not let go of the opportunity to experience the food. Except that there was no ‘sun’. It was dinner and the menu was splendid.
Chef Arnab accompanied us for dinner and took us through this journey of the cuisine from Tuscany, how they like to keep their flavours simple, using fresh ingredients and plenty of olive oil. We started with the ‘olive oil tasting session’. Much like a wine tasting or tea tasting, there were three shot glasses provided to taste the three qualities of olive oil. Although there are several more grades, what we tasted here was the extra virgin olive oil, used in salads and as dressings, 100% pure olive oil, little less bold in flavour than the previous one, yet is quite nutty and finally the refined olive oil used for bulk cooking. To help with the tasting of the olive oils, we were given an array of breads and 4 kinds of homemade pickles- the eternal basil pesto, the rich sun dried tomato pesto, olive pesto and of course some garlic infused olive oil. This tasting session tantalised our taste buds to look forward for the rest of the courses.
We selected the Barbanera Orvieto DOC white wine, which is a white wine made in the region of Umbria, at the border of Tuscany (researched from http://www.wine-searcher.com ). It is a bend of Procanico (from Tuscany), Verdello, Grechetto and Malvasia (from Tuscany) grapes and has a bright, crisp and citrusy taste with some underlying mineral notes to it. While we were enjoying the wine, the Chef sent a platter of Antipasti of both vegetarian and non vegetarian selections. It had chicken mortadella, Parma ham, salami, pickled fish, a bruschetta of boconcini cherry tomatoes and mozzarella, pepperoni and all of these served with the various pesto and pickles. The pickled fish in beetroot juice was the surprise here. It had both the tanginess from the vinegar and the sweetness of the beetroot juice without losing the flavour of the Bhekti. The pepperoni had very similar taste to the Spanish Chorizo. We had to hold back from filling ourselves up with just the antipasti.
For mains, we selected Panelle al Frono, which is basically baked potato gnocchi tossed in nutmeg flavoured cheese sauce with parmesan and mascarpone. It was Madhushree’s blind love for gnocchi in any form, which made us order this dish. We were not disappointed. The gnocchi was like soft pillows melting in the mouth with the distinct aroma of the nutmeg. Chef Arnab showed us the ‘bat’ on which the gnocchi were rolled.
The second main ordered was Risotto con funghi ragu and pollo. This Risotto is available in either ragu of mushroom or with chicken in white wine. However, Chef Arnab, knowing we are hard core non vegetarians, presented us the risotto with both the mushroom and the chicken. Although the flavour of the white wine was shining through, I realised my search for the perfect risotto still continues, perhaps since I was taking some time to take the pictures of the risotto, it had become a bit clumpy and had cooled down.
The final main that we ordered was a bombshell. It was Agnello Brodellato or in simple English, a Lamb Shank doused in egg sauce and Michele Chiarlo Barbera D’asti, another imported Italian fruity and dry red wine. The lamb was falling off the bone without losing its texture and had a strong flavour of rosemary. This dish came with a variety of textures from some crispy fried onions, cherry tomatoes, crispy sweet potato chips, a few potato wedges and a stack of roasted bell peppers, zucchini and aubergines. The serving was also quite a handful, good enough for at least two persons. For both of us, this was a super hit and we could come back again and again to relish this dish.
In the dessert section, there was a choice of three very interesting items, but the Affogato caught our attention. Even though the chef suggested that we try the Mango Zabaglione, which is a classic Italian custard, made here with some addition of Mangoes (to add to the local flavour), we thought we should try out something lighter, especially after devouring the lamb shank. The affogato is more of a beverage than a dessert. It was a scoop of vanilla ice cream, served in a cocktail glass and a shot of espresso and Baileys poured at the same time at the table. It provided the necessary theatre and formed a sort of a palette cleanser after a heavy meal.
The ‘Taste of Tuscany’ at Afraa Lounge and Restaurant at Salt Lake City Centre is going on from the 14th till the 30th of August 2015. It is only on A la Carte basis at dinner. Pocket pinch for two would be approximately Rs.1200 plus taxes.
We were invited at Afraa Lounge and Restaurant on behalf of Kolkata Food Bloggers.