I’d never fully appreciated the make-up of an authentic Italian dinner, nor did I know how difficult it is to finish eating one, until I attended “A Tuscan Evening in BLU,” at the Louisville Marriott Downtown.
The five-course experience held inside the exquisite BLU Italian Grille featured delicious, beautifully-crafted Tuscan-inspired dishes paired with the finest wines from Marchesi Antinori, which can trace its history back to 1385 and is one of the biggest wine companies in Italy. The group’s national wine educator, George A. Foote, offered a brief presentation throughout the evening, educating attendees on the Antinori varieties and how they paired with the five-course meal. Additionally, Westport Whiskey & Wine afforded guests the opportunity to purchase at a 15 percent discount the wines tasted throughout the meal.
BLU Italian Grille Chef Graham Weber developed the menu, which began with a grilled peach and caprino cheese crostini served with a typical Italian aperitif, the Blu Brioso Aperitivo. As Foote – who joked he suddenly becomes “Giorgio Pierre,” during a wine discussion – explained, the white wine elixir is a traditional beginning beverage in Italy and most of Europe. “When the Italians sit down and they eat a meal, they don’t start with a heavy, big, buttery oakey, Chardonnay,” he said. “They start with wine that will cleanse the palate with the acidity and start the stoic juices in order to manipulate the rest of the courses that are coming.”
The white wine definitely awakened my taste buds, preparing me for the rest of the feast and the three other wines about to be delivered. For the second course, Pane Per La Tavola was served. The fresh flat bread with pecorino cheese, soppressata, rosemary olive oil and Parmesan oregano focaccia was a chewy, buttery, garlic-flavored appetizer, perfect for an Italian evening. As I described, rather simplified, that night at the dinner table, it tasted like pepperoni pizza on top of grilled cheese – who could dislike that combination?
As we dined on the starter, Santa Cristina Campogrande Orvieto 2011 arrived. The red vino mixed well with the l’antipasto course of Tuscany grilled prawns, citrus risotto and micro arugula salad. Before I could finish my glass, a pour of Villa Antinori Rosso 2008 made its way to the table for the fourth course – Stufato alla Sangiovannese, a fresh tagliatelle pasta reminiscent of beef stroganoff. A somewhat surprising choice in pasta dish, the course included juicy pieces of meat combined with warm vegetables and wide, flat noodles.
After the room had worked their way through each plate, the main course, known as Il Secondo in Italy, appeared. I sat in awe of the massive Florentine pork T-bone with white bean cassoulet, veal sage brodo and sun-dried tomato butter, enhanced by a Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico 2007, aged in an oak barrel as well as its bottle before
At this point, my stomach was becoming a bit full and I began to contemplate how Italians manage to stuff all this decadent fare down their bellies. But despite my slowly expanding waistline, I ensured I left room for dessert, an arrangement of Formaggio E Dolce, walnut, ricotta cheese and honey, fresh mozzarella and tomato jam with chocolate pate and a bold red wine, Il Bruciato Tenuta Guado al Tasso 2009. The mozzarella and tomato jam concoction was a bit too bitter for my tastes, but the pate was one heavenly edible. The petite slice of thick, rich chocolate topped with a slice of strawberry was a superb conclusion to a larger-than-Thanksgiving feast.
By the end of the five-course meal nearly three hours had passed, pretty typical of a true Italian dinner, and now I realize why – it’s nearly impossible to eat all of that food, plus sip four to five glasses of wine in a typical hour-long sitting! But, when you’re with great company and devouring exceptional cuisine, the time flies by quickly; and with a day or two of rest, you’ll be ready to pick up the silverware and toast to another Tuscan-inspired evening.
For more information on BLU Italian Grille, 280 W. Jefferson St., visit www.blugrille.com.
Contact writer Ashley Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org, 502.498.2051.
Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune