I was invited by the Sheraton for a preview of their Italian Food Festival – ‘Delizioso’ last Friday. Their signature Italian restaurant Bene, was playing host to celebrity Chef Enrico Fiorentini from 9th -18th Nov. (That’s the duration of the festival by the way!). Last year Bene did a Truffles festival, but this year because of the weather in Italy (No good rains), availability of good quality truffles was a dicey affair. Hence they decided to showcase ‘Lombardy’ cuisine. Now when we say Italian food, the two things that immediately spring to mind are Pasta and Pizza. But that’s not all Italian food, is about. (Same as Indian cuisine is not equal to Garlic Naan and Chicken Tikka Masala!).
Milan is the major city of the Lombard region and is bordered by Switzerland to the north. Lombardy cuisine primarily consists of hearty fare with rice being a foundation. (South Indians rejoice!). Apart from being famous for its fashion, gastronomically the region is associated with Risotto. Now does Risotto ‘Milan’ese, ring a bell? Dairy products also rule the roost (close to Switzerland darlings) and you can find the best Gorgonzola cheese here as well.
(L-R: Prosecco, Warm Bread, Barley Salad with Vegetables and Pan Seared Scallops)
We were promised a tete-a-tete with the chef himself and the evening started off with a glass of Prosecco (Italian Sparkling Wine) and some wonderful antipasti that the chef had laid out. (The Barley salad with garden vegetables and pan seared sea scallops were brilliant!). Its true – the Italian men have a charm that can’t be beaten and Chef Enrico played the role to the hilt J He talked about Lombardy, Italian cuisine, his stint in Korea and coming to Bangalore for the first time. Did you know that though the popular way of finishing risotto is with Butter and Parmesan cheese, in Southern Italy they finish it off with Olive oil?! Or that a dish prepared in India and Italy with the SAME ingredients can taste vastly different, just because the water you use is different?! He expertly wielded questions on Italian produce, cuisine and techniques before finally relenting that he liked ‘Mama’s cooking’ the best. Awww… ! We probably would have sat there the entire night being regaled by his stories, if not for Excutive Chef Bela Rieck gently escorting us inside for dinner. Chef Bela has been key in planning and coordinating the event which took three months to put together and finalize! Phew.. I couldn’t wait to dig in!
Another glass of prosecco arrived and I followed it up by chatting with the Sommelier that’s on board for the festival. He’s French, but don’t let that stop you from letting him pick out beautiful Italian wines to pair with your food. (It’s discounted as well for the festival, so make use of this!). Another way to have a fashionable night is to try their Roberto Cavalli Vodka Martinis…sounds decadent!
(The Lentil Antipasti)
I on the other hand was indulging in my own decadence by stuffing my face with the warm bread they bought out. (Must. Stop. Now.) Thankfully our first course arrived and I was saved the embarrassment of finishing the bread basket! Timballino di lenticchie stufate e zucca, vellutata di mandrole e ciladine di Grano Padano. No, I’m not reciting poetry in Italian…that was the name of our first course. Quite a mouthful I assure you! Now in English – A Timbale of stewed lentils and roasted pumpkin served with almond cream velloute and a Parmesan cheese crisp. There…that’s not so intimidating now is it? And don’t worry, they have the English translation of dishes on the menu! This was a pleasant way to start the meal. Who would have thought lentils would taste so refined? Lentils. (Again, please note the South Indian connection, maybe we are related in some way!)
Now I need to apologize in advance, because I don’t have a picture of what I’m going to be talking about next. The sublime Seafood Ravioli! I was busy chatting away with someone I met after 5 years and have known since I was a kid. So between mouthfuls of the brilliant ravioli and reminiscing about life 15 years ago, my camera lay forgotten. The ravioli was see through and hints of lovely pink glistened from inside. Seafood tastes sweet my friend, not salty, if cooked right. And this was! Served with a dash of pesto I was left longing for more. But maybe it’s a good thing I din’t ask for seconds because what came next was a revelation.
(The Lamb Chops with Pumpkin Risotto)
There are Lamb Chops and then there are LAMB CHOPS. I have never eaten such perfectly cooked Lamb Chops. Period. The picture does not do justice to their perfection. Caramelized on the outside, firm to the touch but when you cut it still moist and glistening pink. Oh joy, joy joy! The sauce served with it complimented it but wait… was that Risotto, that he had gently placed the lamb chops on? Hmm… the acid test begins!
This was a Pumpkin Risotto. The chef had used Carnaroli rice (other types can be Arborio or Vialone Nano) to prepare it. The risotto looked creamy and oozy, not runny. Check. The grains were separate, not lumpy. Check. The grains looked shiny, not dull. Check. When I bit into it, it was al dente. Check. And the pumpkin flavor combo? Double Check. Chef Enrico had passed with flying colours!
(L-R: Poached Pears with double cream, Chocolate and Mascarpone Mousse, Apple Charlotte)
Finally the desserts arrived. Tasting portions of four. (Yipee!). For obvious reasons there was no Tiramisu because the chef had decided to enthrall us with more exotic combinations. Double Chocolate and Mascarpone Cheese Mousse with hazelnut biscuit, Red Wine Poached Pear (got it right again!) with double cream, Apple Charlotte and Vanilla Ice cream. Vanilla Ice Cream?… Ho Hum. I decided not to eat that till I sampled the rest. After polishing off the mousse, I attacked the apple charlotte and realized it need something creamy. Ok, Vanilla Ice cream you get your turn. But..surprise surpirse …this was a Parmesan Cheese Ice Cream. I am telling you it was insane! Insanely Brilliant. The flavor of the cheese is unmistakable and though it seems savoury, it was a wonderful way to end a fabulous Italian meal!
The Italian Food Festival is on till Sunday the 18th. I know its Diwali and all…but if you get an overdose of mithai in the first three days, you know where to go, to balance out your tastebuds. The menu comprises of other signature dishes like Tartare of sautéed cepes Mushrooms with a herbed ricotta quenelle, Sweet water fish three ways, a Turkey Osso Bucco and even a Pasta with Rabbit ragout and Coffee flavoured Oil! I generally don’t fawn over someone’s cooking this much, but Chef Enrico has something up his sleeve 😉
SHERATON BANGALORE at Brigade Gateway
26/1 Dr.Rajkumar Road,
Bangalore – 560055.
Ph: +91 80 4252 1000
Parking: Valet Available
Price Point: Antipasti Rs.295/- onwards, Soups Rs.395/- onwards, Pasta courses Rs.445/- onwards, Risotto Rs.595/- onwards, Seafood courses Rs.1125/- onwards, Meat dishes Rs.995/- onwards and Desserts Rs.425/- onwards. Excluding taxes and Service charge .
Finally some good Italian Cuisine in Bangalore from my friend Enrico!
Thank you Deepika… mission accomplished 🙂
Lovely article, it really made me salivate 🙂 You have rare combination where your snaps and portray the food so wonderfully.