Saturday, July 23, 2011

Feed Your Eyes

It was 1pm on a Wednesday afternoon, and I had just traveled for an hour along windy coastal roads to get to Quattro Passi a restaurant in Massalubrense, Italy. I was with two chefs who were friends with the family who owns the restaurant (this turned out to be a key factor in the experience), and when we arrived we were taken first to see the kitchen, and then to the dining room where we were the only guests for lunch.

This is the (ceiling of the) dining room:

This is our table, and the two chef dudes I was eating with
(the white chair is where I was sitting):

This was our view:

And this is just the bread:

After a few minutes of looking at the menu, we decided to go all out. We each ordered the tasting menu (“Menu Degustazione”), and before I knew it, the meal had begun. At the time I knew that we had ordered two bottles of wine between the three of us, and had only just opened the first one. I could not have imagined that there would be 10 courses, 5 deserts, and 4 hours before we would be heading home.

It all started with a little fried pizza and some homemade calzones:

Plate 1. Fried pizza, and homemade calzones stuffed with mozzarella

And after that, as the plates just kept coming, I quickly realized that we were being served far beyond what had been listed on the tasting menu. Matt noticed this too and told me, “Sometimes it pays to eat with chefs.”

(I've tried to recall some detail about what was on each plate. Unfortunately my food induced coma caused a lapse in memory about the specifics of each course, and the descriptions get less and less descriptive.)

Plate 2. Calamaretti (baby calamari), and fried onions

Plate 3. Gamberi (shrimp) pounded flat and wrapped around a mixure of tomatoes, bread, onions and spices, served in fish broth with fresh clams

Plate 4. Triglie (red mullet) with a bread crust served with asparagus, asparagus pudding (!), and black Hawaiian sea salt

It was around this point that I began to discover I would need stamina and endurance to eat this meal. It was kind of like I was playing the sport of eating. And it was fun.

Plate 5. Polipetto (baby octopus) braised with in a tomato wine sauce, served with basil on a garlic crostini

Plate 6. Homemade linguine with pesto and shrimp

Around here I realized that I could not even remember everything I had eaten already, and I actually thought that I might be eating this meal for the rest of my life. That the plates might just keep coming and never stop. It was somewhat disconcerting.

Plate 7. Homemade ravioli stuffed with smoked provola cheese, in a fresh tomato sauce

Plate 8. Spaghetti with cannolicchi (razor clams)

At this point I considered, for a fleeting moment, that I might not physically have room to finish every last bite, especially since it seemed like there was no end in sight. I quickly overcame this feeling and realized what a ridiculous thought that was (as in, I cleaned each plate with a piece of bread to mop up every last morsel of deliciousness).

Plate 9. Dentice (red snapper) served over mashed potatoes and fresh tomatoes with fresh celery on top

Plate 10. Meat with green beans, cauliflower and dried plums


Then of course I called upon my trusty second stomach, my desert stomach, to help out with this:

Vanilla custard topped with a sweet rum and pineapple goodness

And this:

Caramel custard, ricotta cake mouse deliciousness, fruit tarts, lemon meringue fruity yummy

Just as I was delirious and full enough to start imagining a button I could push to turn my chair into a bed, this coffee saved my life:

And before we left (four hours after arriving), we got a tour of the coolest wine cellar I have ever seen:

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