I must say that I was overjoyed to receive a call from the folks at Sheraton to be a part of their Italian Food festival at 'Bene'. Our culinary wizard for the evening was Chef Paride Noviello who flew in from the Sheraton in Bangkok. The evening started out with an assortment of Amuse-bouche.
The first was a Modern Bruschetta with burrata cheese, anchovies, basil sauce and a peeled cherry tomato. What stood out was the peeled tomato which gave it a fresh flavour quite contrary to what I was expecting considering I’m not a fan of tomatoes. The chef explained that it is normally the skin of the tomato that puts off a lot of people.
Our second entry for the evening was a concoction of tomato (peeled of course), roasted onions, shaved artichoke and bocconcini mozzarella cheese. I don’t particularly like artichokes, so despite the colourful presentation, I wasn't moved. Blame it on the artichoke.
The best entry in this category for the evening was a slow cooked beetroot with orange pulp, walnut and goat cheese. The beetroot was cooked to perfection and lost none of its flavour – something that happens very often while using beetroot. The sweet taste of beetroot along with the contradicting taste of goat cheese was a delight. The taste lingers on for hours. I do wish I captured a better picture for this beauty.
The marinated pachino tomato with buffalo mozzarella, beetroot pesto and olive was an interesting combination. It was unfortunately dominated by the taste of buffalo mozzarella.
The final entry was an assorted mushroom salad with shaved polenta and scamorza cheese. The shaved polenta was a very pleasant addition and something new that I had not tasted before. The mushrooms were very fresh and worked really well.
We moved on to Chef Paride Noviello’s signature soup for the evening. The soup was a “Tuscan” artichoke soup with 24 month aged parmesan. The thought of artichoke had me slightly disappointed, but the end product was sheer genius. I could have this soup every day.
The soup was a fabulous concoction of bay leaf, artichoke, leek, mushroom, fresh white butter and celery (which gave off a fresh mouth watering aroma while cooking). The touch of vermouth (yes, the same one in Martini’s), white French wine and the most minimum amount of salt gave a zing to the soup. Once the soup was ready, it was topped off with parmesan cheese made into a whipped cream and basil. As the chef mentioned, traditionally, he would use nitrogen to make the topping absolutely ice cold giving a lovely contrast to the soup. When it came down to taste, the soup was sheer brilliance. I loved the slight kick it gives at the end while it heads down your throat...definitely a master piece!!!
FYI - Chef Paride Noviello's father was a chemist, so he knows all too well about blending different elements together. This soup was a perfect example of that.
After the soup, we moved on to the Risotto with tropea Onions and apple sauce. If ever there was a disappointing note played that evening, it was probably the apple sauce in the risotto. Call me uncouth, but apple sauce will always be something I associate with baby food. Barring that anomaly, the risotto was alright.
The main course consisted of a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian dish. The vegetarian dish was a Thousand foil carasau Sardinian bread with zucchini, mushrooms and bell peppers. Besides being presented very well, the dish was lovely. As a hard core non-vegetarian, I actually enjoyed this dish more than I did the non-veg one. That’s saying something. My sentiments were echoed by the others at the table too. Kudos to the chef. It’s not very easy to make me love a vegetarian dish over a non vegetarian dish.
I chose the tender chicken breast with olives, roasted bell peppers and soft polenta. The high point of this dish was the tenderness of the chicken that made it so easy to cut through and eat. The olives and bell peppers gave a very familiar taste something that one is very used to when it comes to Italians main courses. If I hadn’t had the vegetarian dish, I would have given this a favourable rating. But alas, in comparison, the chicken left a a little bit more to be desired.
The crowning glory of the entire evening was the Fisherman fresh panna cotta with chocolate espuma. The combination of cold mint and chocolate was divine. It was the perfect closing to a great meal. Words cannot do justice to describe the awesomeness of that dessert.
Chef Paride Noviello was a joy to listen to as he spoke about the various combinations of food. It was almost like being in a ‘Breaking Bad’ episode of cooking Italian cuisine. Overall, it was a fabulous evening. It’s the next morning that I’m writing this blog and I cannot get the taste of the Artichoke soup (Chef Paride Noviello signature soup) and the dessert out of my head. The food festival is on till the 24th of the month.
Highlight of the evening - The “Tuscan” artichoke soup with 24 month aged parmesan. and the Fisherman fresh panna cotta with chocolate espuma.