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Food & Wine Festival
Food & Wine Pairings
L'Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante
October 10, 2004
di Verdure e Gamberi
Fresh mixed greens with arugula, shrimp and green apples,
served with an arugula yogurt sauce
Wine: Banfi Principessa Perlante
Potato dumplings served with a
savory meat sauce
Wine: Banfi Centine
A delightful combination of panna cotta,
profiterole, and strawberries dipped in Gianduia chocolate
Wine: Banfi Rosa Regale
by Debra Martin Koma
Senior Editor, ALL EARS®
Although I'd attended a Lunch and Learn program at last year's Food & Wine Festival, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the smaller Food & Wine Pairings that are being offered at a number of Epcot venues this year. I'll say up front that I enjoyed this program thoroughly!
Our group of about 40 was shown to one of the back rooms at the gorgeous L'Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante on this sunny Sunday afternoon. Long tables were set with linen napkins, sparkling silverware, baskets of fresh rolls, decanters of olive oil, and, most importantly to me, three glasses of wine at each place. We were greeted by Peter Vossenberg, who manages the restaurant on the weekends (during the week he's a professor of food & beverages at the Orlando Culinary Academy). After a few opening remarks about the program we were about to participate in and acknowledging the waitstaff, he introduced Marilyn Vogel, a representative of Castello Banfi, the Montalcino, Italy-based winery whose wines we'd be sampling.
Vogel kicked off the program with an explanation of the origins of Castello Banfi, whose 7,100 acres are located in the southern Tuscany region of Italy. Run by the Mariani family, the winery is not even 20 years old, yet it has already become well-known for its state-of-the-art facility and its planting of single vineyards.
Vogel also spent some time explaining the heavy restrictions placed on Italian wineries to ensure quality. Among the rules governing Italian wines are conventions for naming their products. Wines may be named in three different ways: for the region from which they come, for the grape from which they're made, and for a fantasy, or story.
Our first wine was named by the latter method. Banfi's Principessa Perlante (about $20/bottle), named for a legendary Italian princess ("principessa"), was light and crisp, and slightly effervescent, designed, as Vogel said, to wake up your tastebuds and create more of an appetite. (Note: This wine, and all the wines mentioned in this review, were available for purchase at the Festival Welcome Center.) It was the perfect complement to our first course, Insalata di Verdure e Gamberi -- mixed greens and arugula topped with a creamy yogurt dressing and several succulent shrimp that had been blanched in hot water, white wine and lemon juice. The greens were enhanced with chunks of green apple, which not only added a crunchy texture, but also brought out the hints of apple in the wine. As we were enjoying this course, Alfredo's Chef Sasha Marchese joined us to talk about the salad's preparation, as well as to share some insight into the Italian wine culture. (Perhaps he noticed my 12-year-old son when he noted that "any age in Italy can drink. We start gaining the wine knowledge at an early age.")
Our second course produced the most wonderful gnocchi I've ever had in my life -- and I've had more than my share. These little potato dumplings were so light, not the lead sinkers you sometimes get, I thought they were going to hover a few inches above my plate. Served with a rich veal-based (as opposed to the traditional ground beef) bolognese sauce, this hearty dish was a fine match with Banfi's blended red wine called Centine (about $15/bottle). The wine, 60 percent Sangiovese, 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20 percent Merlot, was an intense red, slightly spicy with a hint of berries, and it stood up well to the pasta dish. When Chef Marchese came out to talk about this course and the painstaking process of making gnocchi and the veal demiglace needed for the sauce, he noted that he had topped the gnocchi with Pecorino Romano cheese. Pungent Pecorino, made with goat milk, rather than regular Parmesan, which is made from cow's milk, further accentuated the character of the wine.
The third and final course was actually three mini-desserts. There was one large ripe strawberry dipped in Gianduia chocolate, a type of chocolate from Italy's Piedmont region. It shared the plate with a small square of creamy panna cotta and an amazing profiterole floating in creme anglaise. I could have licked the plate. The desserts were paired with a bubbly rose called Rosa Regale (about $25/bottle), which is actually Banfi's branded name for the wine produced from 100 percent Brachetto d'Acqui grapes. Sweet but not too sweet, flowery and fizzy, this dark rose-colored wine was exceptionally good with the chocolate that coated the strawberry. Mmmmm...
For $35 and about 90 minutes out of your life, I think the Food & Wine Pairing is an exceptional value and experience -- you can talk to a winemaker and a chef in a relaxed setting without breaking the budget, while getting the chance to sample some great foods and wines. And, as Chef Marchese noted as he sent us on our way back out into the Epcot sunshine, "It's always a good time to drink wine!"
October 6, 2004
spring roll with a honey and ginger glaze and peach slaw
Wine: Zaca Mesa Viognier
with asparagus risotto
Wine: Z Cuvee
rare tuna over a grilled mushroom tart with carmelized onions
Wine: Zaca Mesa Syrah
by Cathy Bock
featured winery was Zaca Mesa from California -- they had two
representatives there to talk about their business and their wines.
Then Chef Brian Piasecki from Le Cellier explained the foods
he chose to go with each wine. We had three courses with three different
The first wine selection was Viognier, a very light white wine which was paired with a
spicy lobster spring roll with a honey and ginger glaze and peach slaw. The spring roll was absolutely scrumptious -- if they'd put that on the menu, I'd go to Le Cellier just to eat it. It was a little too spicy for the wine, in my opinion, but I admit to not being a big white wine fan.
The next course was Z Cuvee wine, a smooth red blend, with a mild, earthy aftertaste.
Chef Brian chose beef confit with asparagus risotto and a sauce made from the wine. Again, the food was good, but the beef was very salty (which he explained comes from salting the beef and cooking it in duck fat for an entire day). The risotto was perfectly done and the sauce was quite tasty.
The third selection featured a Syrah wine, much fuller tasting than the cuvee, but not as good, in my opinion. The food selection was seared rare tuna over a grilled mushroom tart with carmelized onions. YUMMMY!!!
All in all, we liked the foods better than the wines, but it was a lot of fun and we will definitely try another wine pairing if we get a chance. The set-up at Le Cellier could have been better. We were at two long tables in the center of the room, and at 3:00, there were still a lot of folks eating lunch. We were at the end of a table so couldn't hear some of the conversation with the winemakers.