by: Lisa Concepcion (LisaTakesMiami.com)
We are thrilled to feature Lisa Concepcion on our blog! She is a New Yorker who recently moved to Miami and has A LOT of opinions and never holds back on saying what she is thinking. So without further ado here it is. Lisa's take on the Italian Culinary Experience. Enjoy!
My blog has totally taken on a life of its own. I know this because brands of all sorts are reaching out to me and I LOVE IT. Now if only a producer can check out my you tube videos and give me a reality show. Soon…patience…sooooon.
Two weeks ago the lovely PR manager for Zonin Prosecco, Ingrid Savain sent me an invitation to a spectacular event. I had to read it twice to fully understand that what I was reading came completely free. First I would have the opportunity to enjoy a full meal prepared by Ezio Gamba Chef de Cuisine at Cioppino at The Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne. Second there would be wine pairings for each dish served. It took me about 42 seconds to RSVP.
So much wine so little time…
This Italian Culinary Experience was held at the very impressive Miami Culinary Institute. This month’s focus was the Puglia region of Italy and the following five wines were served.
Zonin Prosecco (Amazing! I would drink the whole bottle by myself.)
Masseria Altemura Rosato (delicious a glass of perfection)
Masseria Altemura Fiano (fantastic, one of the best whites I’ve tasted in a while)
Masseria Altemura Sasseo Primitivo (red wine, I took a sip but red isn’t my thing so I had more Rose)
Masseria Altemura Primitico Di Manduria (heavenly with cheeses yum)
My hope is that the Zonin folks keep me on their media list and invite me to more events. I have been drinking Prosecco for the past 8 years. I love it. It’s sparkling wine, very drinkable and festive and goes great with chocolate and cheeses and is the perfect choice for parties that are too casual for champagne.
Enjoying a juicy delicious glass of the easily drinkable Masseria Altermura Rosato
The food was crazy delicious INSANE. I have been jonesin for some really great Italian for a while but few Italian restaurants that meet my standard are up on the whole social media thing. Take for example Macalusos. I love that place the food is amazing, meatballs from the heavens and pasta that tastes like Sunday dinner for my soul. But the chef/owner needs to show me some love, let me do a tasting and blog on them frequently so all my New Yawkaz know where to go when they are in Miami beyond 72 hours which is about the length of time NY Italians can go before wanting pasta and salsa. I find that in Miami there are two camps of restaurants, those who use social media strategically and those who miss the plate. Anyway, the super smart and savvy PR dynamo at Ritz Carlton, Tatiana C. Lora quickly reached out to me inviting me for a visit to experience Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne so I can blog about the property and all its amenities. It’s all about people who know people and in this day in age an article from a blogger in Miami can spread like wildfire. Ok so back to the yummy goodness and the Chef who oversaw this feast.
Chef Ezio Gamba rockin it out at Miami Culinary Institute’s Italian Culinary Experience. Check out the food at Cioppino at Ritz Carlton. I personally cannot wait to do so.
Chef Ezio Gamba grew up in a small village in Bergamo. He’s totally obsessed with fine ingredients. He was interested in cooking as a kid and helped his mother in the kitchen all the time. He’d got to the markets and shop for the freshest food and meat. Even as a kid he’s experiment adding in his own twists to ordinary dishes. He’d watch American TV and aspired to someday cook in the gargantuan kitchens with a staff. His dream materialized.
Chef Ezio studied at the San Pellegrino Hotel School and then at 21 left Italy for Fresno California. He embraced the American lifestyle and worked with a friend at Il Forno. After his talents started catching the attention of industry greats at age 26 he was off to Las Vegas. Chef Ezio would be named Executive Sous Chef at the renowned Valentino Restaurant at The Venetian Hotel. Here he was mentored by James Beard Award-Winning and fellow Bergamo boy Luciano Pellegrino. This was pretty much like being taught to throw 50 yard passes from Joe Montana in his prime. Here Chef Ezio learned how to execute fine dining on a large scale. This explains how the large pot of oricchiette, portioned out and served to over 50 people, were perfectly al dente.
He’d go back and forth America to Italia and each time would bring new tastes and flavors to his dishes. Miami has many many Italians. Being married to one for 12 years and in his Italian family for 20, I will say Italians are picky pain in the asses when it comes to their food.
I get it. I respect it and being in this family took me from a girl who grew up on a very limited menu that included awful over-cooked beef, dry chicken and mashed potatoes from a box to a total food snob who appreciates different tastes, is open to trying anything and wouldn’t dare eat meat cooked beyond medium rare. With that I share with you the amazing dishes prepared and served with authentic Italian flavors and love. LET THE FOOD PORN BEGIN…
We begin with Grilled Ciabatta, Heirloom Tomato, Garden Basil with Aged Pecorino.
THEN comes the Insalatina Di Seppe, Burrata e Carciofi (Artichokes, Cuttlefish which is like a brother to calamari, Lemon Zest, Micro Celery and Buratta). The lemon flavor was perfection and the buratta cheese was total hip spackle. Meaning I may as well take it and directly apply it to my ass. It is so amazing and delicious that if there were more and more I would have eaten it like a little happy mouse.
This salad was so delicious that I keep thinking about it.
Oricchiete Con Salsiccia e Rapini (Fresh Oricchiete, Pork Sausage, Broccoli Raab) Ok cooking pasta al dente is something I have mastered. I don’t care what kind of pasta it is I can rock it out. Orichette for me means about 9 minutes of boiling. Most pastas can be cooked perfectly al dente between 9 and 11 minutes the exception angel hair (capellini) pasta which is done in about 6 minutes. Here’s the thing, restaurants have problems making large quantities of pasta. Ever been on a cruise? The pasta is always crap. It takes a very hard core pro to make oricchiete (pasta shaped like little ears) perfectly al dente. This simple dish was absolutely foodgasmic.
Orecchiette by Chef Ezio Gamba
In legit Italian dining you have an antipasto, pasta, then a meat or fish, then fruit or cheese. So you need to pace yourself and this also explains why Italian dinners are a 4 hour experience. Now, I’m American and on Sunday’s it’s football, then there’s awards season and TV in general. We’d start Sunday dinner at my mother in laws house (12 houses away from my house for 12 years, hello) at 6:30pm. It can easily go until 9:30. I would be ready for sofa snuggling by 8:00pm so you can see the drama about to unfold. So yes Sunday Italian dinner is about sitting at a table talking, no TV, just FOOD.
The meat course at this event was Sella D’Agnello (Lamb Saddle, Zucchini Blosson, with Figs). First of all I never really ate lamb. I have issues eating cute animals. I was seduced by the plate, the smells, the fig sitting there winking at me. Without any hesitation I dug in. The lamb was like buttah and when you cut a piece of the zucchini add the fig on the fork with the lamb you achieve the perfect bite. WOW! So good.
Lamb by Chef Ezio Gamba of Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne
The meal closed with Formaggi (cheese aka more hip spackle) more of my favorites ricotta and the other resembled a brie. YUM!
This cheese was divine.
I tweeted and facebooked all about the event. The Miami Culinary Institute offers such a wonderful space for tastings. It’s as if you are on a Food Network set with stadium seating and a table in front of you. You see the full view of the kitchen, the plating, all of it. It’s cool. I suggest going to events they host for sure. I’m also very curious about their restaurant Tuyo. I’ve never been and would love to go because after all it’s mine.
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