Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Tour of Italy: Il Fornaio's Festa Regionale

As you've probably gathered by now, travelling is a great love of mine. I wish I could indulge in it more often, but until I win the lottery or someone pays me to travel around the world, I'll have to stick with cheaper alternatives. Such as culinary journeys.

For nearly two years now, my mother and I have made the trek at the beginning of each month to Il Fornaio. For the first two weeks of each month, this authentic Italian restaurant features a revolving regional menu with dishes and delicacies from the various regions of Italia. Each region you "visit," you receive a stamp in your passaporto and a take-home gift such as risotto or chili-infused olive oil.

Last month featured cuisine from the northern Italian region of Piemonte (or Piedmont in our Anglicized version). The dinner menu featured several dishes with white truffles, a specialty of the region. A genuine treat, as truffles are quite expensive, requiring a painstaking process to find and harvest.

We started off our supper with freshly baked bread and a generous dose of olive oil and Balsamic vinegar for dunking.

I usually opt for their Taste of... choice, which allows for a 3-course meal of appetizer, first course and second course. 

To start off, I chose the Insalata Bianca, a unique salad of Belgian endive, Bosc pear, garbanzo beans, Italian farro, and boschetto al tartufo cheese, drizzled with a lemon-olive oil dressing. This green-less salad was light but full of protein to help quell a rumbling stomach.

The prima piatti consisted of a Gnocchi con Brasato di Coniglio, housemade potato dumplings with a braised rabbit ragu, sage, onions, tomato and parmesan cheese. The rabbit gave a richness to this dish that I especially enjoyed. This was my first experience with gnocchi -- the potato dumplings are filling so a smaller serving was good.

The Medaglioni di Vitello ai Funghi Porcini e Tartufo of the secondi piatti was phenomenal. The veal medallions were drizzled with a sauce composed of roasted garlic, porcini mushrooms, white wine and white truffle oil, and served alongside a grilled Roma tomato, sauteed green beans, and roasted Yukon gold potatoes. It was a hearty dish, well-suited to filling Piedmontians who live in the high-altitude area of this region. Also good for satisfying a cold, starving Californian.... ;)

The dolci to cap the evening was the Bonet Classico, an amaretto-coffee custard with caramel sauce and coffee-creme anglaise, accented by powdered sugar and coffee beans. Normally, my mother eats only a bite or two of the dessert, but this time I was compelled to keep up the pace as she was quickly devouring every delicious bite.

They also include regional wines which they pair well with their dinner selections.

Il Fornaio's upcoming Festa Regionale menu in December (5-18) will be a "best of" this year's regional dishes, a wonderful sampling of their fabulous dishes and a great way to fuel up between Christmas shopping trips. For the restaurant nearest you, see this listing of their locations.

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