Does a night full of beautiful Italian dishes, paired with delicious wines and made by some of the top chefs in the area sound like a dream come true to you?
Well good news! The Italian Chamber of Commerce of Ontario, in collaboration with many local chefs and top culinary establishments are creating just that, with The Authentic Italian Table event.
Taking place today (May 2nd) or May 10th, the tickets go for $100 for five courses paired with wine and take place at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto and the Barrel Cellar at Ravine Vineyard in St. David’s, in partnership with Centennial College. Last week, I attended one of the Authentic Italian Table events at Ravine Vineyard – and what a magical night it was.
The meal was set in Ravine Vineyard’s Barrel Cellar, a basement room flanked by barrels filled with wine, and meat curing rooms.
A massive communal table was set, with candelabras and shared dishes like: bread, grissini breadsticks, pickles and antipasto. The Italian culture is all about sharing, so these dishes were shared family-style – which I find is rare to see at an event like this, but lots of fun, imho. On the table, sat the dinner menu. Our stomachs grumbled in anticipation for the meal that awaited us, created by Chef Ross Midgley and his team. Chef Ross explained that the creation of the meal was inspired by his food trip to three regions in the North-West Italy, with Chef Ugo Mura from the IFSE Culinary Institute in Torino as his guide. When planning his menu for the event, he wanted to represent all three provinces throughout the meal – planning courses inspired by each region and featuring products with the DOP and IGP designations. (Read more about the DOP and IGP designations HERE.)
The biggest takeaway Chef Ross found from the Italian food tour was just a reaffirmation of what he has learned in the Niagara region, to take time to enjoy great things made by local farmers, chefs, and artisans in the industry. It’s all about the slow food movement, with Italy “doing Niagara-style” for more than 2000 years.
Served up that evening was:
First Course: Vitello Tonnato, Caperberries, Hazelnut crumb with Sand and Gravel Sauvignon Blanc.
Vitello Tonnato is a Piedmontese dish of cold sliced veal covered in a creamy tuna-flavoured sauce. This was a dish I was unsure of (not a huge fan of tuna), but the flavours were light and balanced perfectly. I also loved trying a caperberry for the first time – it was sharp and strong and may be my new favourite food.
Second Course: Ligurian Fish and Potato Stew, Taggliache olives, Lemon, Tomato, Herbs with Ravine Vineyard Pinot Noir
A classic dish in the Liguria region, but with the Ravine Vineyard spin – this stew focuses heavily on the ingredients rather than fancy bells and whistles. It really showed off the quality of the fish, the produce and the Taggliache olives.
Third Course: Risotto of Mixed Mushrooms, Tessa and Fontina, and Spinach with Ravine Vineyard Pinot Noir
Chef Ross knew he had to include some Arborio rice into the mix with this menu, as this rice is harvested just off the Po river, which flows through Northern Italy. Thus – this Mixed Mushroom Risotto was born! With the addition of Tessa (unsmoked bacon made from pork belly) and the Fontina cheese, this was a heartier dish that just felt like comfort food. Being a cheese guy, the addition of the fontina was also a great way for Chef Ross Midgley to impart some of his newfound knowledge on the outstanding quality of cheese discovered on his Italian tour.
Fourth Course: White Ragout and Gnocchi, Jerusalem Artichoke chips with Ravine Vineyard Cabernet Franc.
When I think of ragout, I usually think of a darker dish flavoured with tomatoes – but this White Ragout was inspired by a pairing of Piedmontese Gnocchi and Italian Sugo Bianco (a slow cooked pulled poultry), which was reminiscent of a turkey dinner.
Dessert: Chestnut Panna Cotta, Espresso Ganache, Almond Brandy Snap with Ravine Vineyard Botrytis Affected Riesling
My absolute favourite dish of the evening, featuring the flavours of Torino Italy’s chestnuts and almonds. Everything about this dish melded perfectly, and it was the ideal amount to finish off a decadent meal.
With these dinner events, both the chefs and the Italian Chamber of Commerce hope to show people that Italian food is more than just tomato sauce and pasta (though they do that really well) – the Italian products with DOP and IGP have a wide range and stand for the highest quality, authentic ingredients they can find. They want to put more of a focus on the quality of the ingredients, taking time to enjoy what humans have for years – not overly processing the food and enjoying the true flavours of the dish.
Though this began as a single event for Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery, demand for the event was so great they decided to do another! Chef Ross Midgley hopes to continue to partner with the Italian Chamber of Commerce with plans in the works to collaborate with Italian chefs, hosting them in the Niagara region.
Interested in attending one of their upcoming events? Visit HERE for details.
Thank you to The Italian Chamber of Commerce, Ravine Vineyard, and all involved for inviting me to be a part of this event.
*Food was provided for free, thoughts and opinions are my own.