Thursday, March 4, 2010
20th Anniversary Dinner
We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary recently by visiting what was one of our favorite eating places in all of Italy, dating way back to the early issues of Osterie d'Italia, the SlowFood "bible". Ristorante Enoteca La Torre www.enotecalatorrevt.com was familiar as a place when we went in, but not as a ristorante. The old place was great but this was another level of enjoyment for us. A local boy from Caprarola has taken it over along with his friend, a Japanese chef. They've both worked in restaurants the world over but Luigi wanted to be back home so they've opened this place here in Viterbo. We asked for the five-course "surprise menu" which didn't start, of course, until we had enjoyed two other "welcome" courses. The first was "beer and cheetohs" as it appeared to us -- a miniature beer stein filled with a consomme gel and topped with mozzarelli di bufalo foam next to a cheese puff with a very taste cheese inside though I can't remember the name of it. After this they brought a little taste of chickpea and chestnut soup, a very traditional dish here since chickpeas and chestnuts are locally grown products. Drizzled on top was some heavenly olive oil. We needed at this point to decide on wine as our glass of complimentary Langhe Favorita was gone. The wine list comprised two volumes, including some of the most famous bottles in the world--with prices to match! We decided on a "surprise" tasting from three bottles, letting Luigi, the master sommelier choose what best to go with our food. He started us with a Trebbiano from Frascati, usually a light white from south of Rome, but this one was complex and fragant - and wonderful with our first "official" antipasto, a Taleggio cheese mouse with a puree of artichoke topped with a sprinking of ground black olive. Next we enjoyed a long, narrow dish of ravioli, each of which had two fillings inside! One was fish-based, the other beans, both in a sauce made with clams and cherry tomatoes -- they were outstanding and stay on the seasonal menu while other selections change, according to one of our waiters. Next wine was a syrupy Valpolicella made with grapes dried a bit before making them into wine. The result was structured, fragant and 14.5% alchohol-- as well as a perfect match for the lombrichi - local hand-made pasta with wild boar ragu. Now we were ready for the "second" plates and another wine, this time Aglianico, the "Barolo of the South" which was a bit of a letdown after the other two wines were so great..but our letdown ended there as a plate with two tiny patties of stewed beef cheek in a port wine reduction arrived along with a little scoop of pureed carrots in the center with a sprig of fresh oregano. A small cheese course was next and the Aglianico went better with this. Now we were ready for dessert but of course some dessert antipasti had to come first -- a tiny panna cotta cup with pineapple bits and an apricot topping that looked like a candle, complete with tiny rosemary "wick". The real dessert was (for Heather) a "desert" of hazelnuts - a square plate covered in sweet ground hazelnut "sand" with two little pudding pyramids along with an oasis of liquor and a palm tree made by dipping hazelnuts into molten sugar. Larry enjoyed "Monte Bianco" made with chickpeas - a little round of cheesecake covered with a meringue and candied chickpeas to garnish. We added another wine to the program by requesting a Moscato d'Asti and Luigi didn't let us down, producing an excellent version from his amazing cellar. An "after" dessert came next, little nibbles of raspberry marshmallow, a saffron cream cookie and a brownie with pine nuts along with a sugar glazed berry. All this went well with our caffe and after thanking Luigi and meeting the chef, we wandered back the 200 meters this place is from our apartment, very satisfied we'd made an excellent choice to celebrate 20 wonderful years!