Ok, here goes, from start to finish. I'll give you all a rundown of both what we ate and what I experienced & I'll break it down in to two sections, so you can read the parts you would like.
The dinner I attended, was at the end of last year. The event was held inside a major chain hotel, outside on the deck of one of the rooms. It was a little squashy, but there were roughly 18-20 people. Once we were seated it was fine.
When we first arrived, a dapper young bloke met us in the lobby, he was wearing his Sunday best.. and gave us a sly wink as we approached. I knew then, he was our man.
He accompanied us in the lift, up to the floor.. requesting that we turn around when we got in, so as to not see what floor number he pressed. I don't know why he did that, but I think it was so we couldn't sms or call people to tell them where we were.
Once we got up to the floor, he walked us to an unmarked door... we were obviously in the residential part of the building, as none of the 4 doors had numbers on them.
Before he let us in, he asked that we show him identification, and asked exactly who had referred us. He checked our license, and said "Welcome to Zingara Cucina".. and opened the door.
The apartment.. was spectacular, within a few steps, a sweet young lady asked us if she could take our coats, which we obliged. She then asked, which would we prefer, Mint or Lavender? We kind of shrugged, and said.. what do you mean? She just said again.. which scent do you most prefer.. 'Mint or Lavender'
She thanked us, took our jackets & then disappeared down a corridor. What I didn't really notice at the time, but made sense after the event, is that she put my jacket, and my wifes jacket, in two seperate rooms, across the hall from one another. Could there be two cloak rooms, for 20 people? Surely not? I'll get to that later.
We stood in the main living area for about 5 minutes, which was just enough time for a smallish gentleman with a very thick 'off the boat' Italian accent, to say.. "Benvenuty.. Zingara Cucina.. Voi qoulcosa per bere'?.." We looked a bit dumfounded, but lucky enough.. those years my wife studied basic Italian for paid off... she giggled and told me he was asking us if we wanted something to drink.
He then said t in english, and rattled of half a dozen drinks that they had on a list.. which, I only remember two.. which were the ones we ordered.
A Proseco from northern Italy for my wife (dont ask me the brand, it looked expensive) & a Campari Soda for me.
It seemed we were the first to arrive, though within 5-10 minutes, an entire hustle of people arrived. All equally as intrigued by the question at the door as we were. Mint? or Lavender?
After about 20 minutes, everyone had a drink in hand & were anticipating where we were going to eat.. as from the room we were standing in, you could not see the dinner table.. it was like a theatre room of sorts, with all the furniture removed.
Finally, after everyone was on to their second apperitives, the same dapper gentleman that escorted us came up with the final lot of guests. It seemed we had been waiting for somoene else to arrive. And who was it? I wont mention his name.. but he is a rather popular sporting celebrity... that plays for a team I despise. I'm a collingwood supporter, so take a guess?? anyhow...
The nameless dapper fellow, motioned that we all follow him, down a somewhat dark corridor.. all the lights had been turned off in this part of the apartment I guess.
We followed him, and my eyes begun to adjust to the dim lighting, at which time I was able to see a pretty amazing table setting outside on a largish outdoor deck. The view of the city was lovely, and I knew then.. that these guys had all their cards in a row... Flowers, nappery, glasswhere.. everything was perfect, and matching. We could have been at a very small high-society wedding..
Two by two, he motioned for us to take our seats. Everyone had namecards & a specific seat, it was sort of starting to feel like a wedding or corp function, which if it was my place.. I probably wouldn't have name cards or the like. (just adding my two cents).
The somollier then came out, and welcomed everyone to the restaurant, and mentioned that due to the fact that they are a very small operation.. that their wine list was very small.. though had been chosen specifically for the nights dinner. He asked if anyone had any alergies, or there was anything in particular that people did not like the taste of.
One person put up their hand and said "Cheese Burgers".. which got a bit of a laugh.. and from that point in, everyone relaxed and started to chat.
The other guests were from all walks, we were probably the eldest.. and the youngest being an early 20's couple who were either on a first date, or a blind date.. it was funny to watch.
A moment later, the same somolier / chef / host came out & explained the menu in great detail. It was a very interesting little talk, as he explained where all the ingredients had come from, even down to the farmers name & what they are famous for. He also explained a little bit about the chefs family, why they put on these events, and asked us all to swear to secrecy.
finally.. The first course..
I dont know what the Italians call there courses.. but each had a specific name.. like Antipasto and Dolce.. I can not recall what he called them all, but I will just list them in order which they were presented.
A single glass came out, kind of like a frozen brandy glass, filled with a syrupy orange mixture. The host asked us all to take a glass, raise it & he made a salute to "Good Food, Wine & Company" or something like that.
He said for all of us to keep it in our mouth for a moment, and then chew & swallow?. At the time, I thought, chew? It is liquid?.
Once it hit my tounge, I let it sit there for a moment, and sure enough; the bitter liquid begun to form a solid on my tounge. At which time I chewed, and with each press down of my teeth.. more bitterness prevailed.
It tasted like a very bitter grapefruit, with the texture of an apple. Bizzare. It didn't taste bad at all, but was a little strange.
The chef mentioned it was a special recipee from the south of Italy, that the chef had altered. It was supposed to completely clean your pallate, and get your enzimes in your stomach ready for a large meal.
I must admit, my mouth felt like I had just brushed my teeth for an hour. It was pretty neat.
Poached egg with shaved black truffles, which supposedly had been flown out a few days before. The egg was poached perfectly, just the right amount of runny yolk. It was balancing on top of two home made mushroom grisinni sticks. Then it was covered in black truffle shavings.
The idea was to use a fork in one hand, and grisinni in the other, to soak up the egg yolk and crunch down on it.
The pungent scent of the truffles, gooiness of the egg & the textured crunch of the perfectly salty mushroom grissin, was nothing short of expert. This was a 5 start dish.. made so simply.
Green Tomatoes sliced as thin as paper, rocket, barley & very thinly sliced onion. All sitting inside a crusty italian bread roll.
The salad was dressed with fantastic peppery extra virgin & salt. The green tomatoes were suprisingly sweet against the bitterness of the rocket leaves, and the onion gave the salad a perfect amount of bite.
Basil & lemon sorbet
I have seen this done before, so it was nothing new, but basically they bought out a small plate with a 'palette cleanser'. The basil and lemon sorbet went suprisingly really well together. Just enough freshness, but still maintained a savoury element with the inclusion of Basil, so it didnt feel like a desert in the middle of the meal.
Arguably the best dish of the night.. The handmade ravioli, filled with ricotta and spinach, with a sauce of cherry tomatoes, baby spinach & italian sausage.
The ravioli were cooked perfectly, and the cherry tomatoe sauce was brilliant, I can not say I have ever tasted pasta this good. From what the host told us, it is an old family recipee, 4 generations old.
By this time, everyone was pretty full. Even though the servings were quite small, after a few glasses of wine.. never ending san pellegrino mineral water & a constant supply of perfectly warm mixed herb focaccia.. I was pretty full.
They gave us a break for about 20 minutes, then they brought out "Involtini di Vitello e Porcini". Bloody brilliant I tell you..
The veal, had been soaked in the porcini mushroom liquid for a few hours before, then lightly salted & rolled with layers of porcini mushroom. It was divine, completely fell apart in your mouth.
It felt like you were eating the most amazing porcini mushroom you had ever tasted, but with the texture of meat, very very good.
The involtini sat on a small pool of pale yellow polenta, which was made thick, but not heavy.. it didnt really taste like much, but I am guessing that was the idea, as it would have taken away from the involtini.
The desert was a shortbread crust tart, filled with home made fig jam & aniseed. It was very good, but by this stage I was completely full, and really only tried a mouthfull.
My wife ate it all, and then ate mine, she raved on about it for weeks after, so I can only say that it was probably very good.
A round of coffees with some sort of alchohol in it, they said that they did not make late's or cappucino & that in Italy.. they are breakfast drinks.. hehe it was espresso or nothing.
A big platter of fresh watermelon, that although I was so full.. due to the warmth of the night, probably a bottle of red & all the conversation and laughter, the freshness of the watermelon went down so well.
Little did I realise, that the watermelon had been soaking in a Lemon flavoured alchohol..& then frozen.. no wonder it tasted so good. It was like eating an alcholic lemony-watermelon iceblock!
Thats it for the food.. other than the rounds of italian liqours and coffees that everyone tried, it was really very good.
After about an hour, everyone was requesting for the chef to come out and meet everyone, but the host informed us that due to the risk of being outed, he was very sorry to say that he could not come out & had in fact already left. That was a bit of a disappointment.
When we got up to leave, the lovely young lady came back with our coats & a gift bag each. Inside the gift bag was a bunch of recipees, some olive oil & small thank you card written by the chef. He apologised personally for not coming out to say hello, but explained that he must keep his identity unkown, I guess at that point I forgave him as it was a beutiful bottle of olive oil from southern Italy.
When we put on our jackets, and walked in the lift.. we both realised something.. Our jackets had such a beautiful and fresh scente, it was really amazing. One of mint, and the other of lavander.
What I learnt after, is that lavender & mint are both digestives.. very very smart! The cab smelt beautiful the whole ride home..!
wow what a long post! _________________ I may not live like a king, but I eat like one!
Last edited by Oldgrey on Sun Sep 09, 2007 12:17 am; edited 1 time in total
What a wonderful evening Oldgrey. Thanks so much for sharing in such great detail. It was like reading a book where you want it to keep going...and I was sorry not to be able to read about your meeting the chef! How sweet to leave everyone with little take-aways. Plenty of good hostess ideas there.
Sounds like it was a magical experience. Thank you!
Oldgrey, that is one of the most interesting accounts of a meal that I've ever read! Thank you for the detail that made me feel like I was there. I'm not sure if even my best company manners would suffice for such an evening, but I'd love to give it a go.
Wow Oldgrey! What an evening--and so ably described! (when I was in Melbourne I barracked for NOrth!! I was a good friend of a wonderful woman who became Mrs. B..........) _________________ Vivant Linguae Mortuae!!
Thank you, David! It's always so nice to read a "Joy of Meeting.." report!
Maybe Erin didn't come come because of the lack of hot ham water @ Starbucks?
Judy and Greg spending the night out and about in NYC--seems to me they make movies about experiences like that!
How strange! All a fake? I wonder if Oldgrey has profited from this in some way? But what if the hoax is a hoax, just an attempt to drive the place further underground.
Regardless, a good story is amusing but it's never comfortable to find out you've been had.
Joined: 23 Mar 2005 Posts: 159 Location: San Francisco
Posted: Tue May 27, 2008 9:24 pm Post subject:
I was re-reading this thread and was into reading Oldgrey's description of the meal and the evening. I like well-written articles or posts but feels a big let-down after finding out that I was completely fooled.
Barbara, thank you for finding out about this hoax! _________________ "A man hath no better thing under the sun than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry."
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