Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Homage to Anna

I've often said how much I enjoy the cookbook club events at Blueprint Café (see here, here and here!). How could I not? The merest casual observer to this blog would know I love cookbooks and I love to eat, so what more could I want? Tonight was extra special though, many turned out to pay homage to Anna Del Conte and her latest tome “Amaretto, Apple cake and Artichokes”. This isn't surprising as her books, her food and her writing have influenced so many. I saw Antonio Carluccio, Ruth Watson, Rose Prince and an unconfirmed sighting of Simon Hopkinson. I believe Nigella was due to be here but unfortunately wasn't. Anna spoke about some of her inspiration for the menu we had tonight and she mentioned that the two most referred to recipes in her book were the plum dessert we were due to have and her infamous lemon risotto. Now I know I've made at least two references to the latter on this blog so I guess she's spot on!

Tonight's menu was:


Scarpazzone Lombardo

Prosciutto di San Daniele, grissini di Torino


Minestra di pasta e ceci


Brasato all'aceto


Pure' di patate


Gelato di crema alla vaniglia, prugne sciroppate al rosmarino Cornetti alle mandorle


Pecorino Stagionato con Miele

Lametably my Italian is very poor but one menu item leapt out at me Pure' di patate. We are having Italian mash potatoes, heaven! And it was, creamy and with Parmesan. That means the Blueprint Café has earned a place on the Mash Hall of Fame leader board. Well done Jeremy Lee et al, I'm sure you're very proud!

The Scarpazzone Lombardo were cubes of nuts and egg custard & nice little canape. The Prosciutto di San Daniele was introduced by a nice Italian man from Negroni and was very fine indeed. The ham was exceptional as well!

The Brasato all'aceto is the tenderest beef cooked in vinegar and I had somehow mislaid my knife but as you could have easily eaten it with a spoon it wouldn't have mattered (just like one of my favourite boeuf au daube). One of the reasons I really like these events is that you dine with different people on each visit. This time I was sat with the delightful F and D. They seemed considerably less eccentric than some of my former dining companions but no less entertaining. F calls herself a recovering vegetarian; recovering in the fact that she can now eat fish and intends to move on to meat in the next few years. Her reason behind this was as a foodie she felt she was restricting herself to a too limited choice. Hmmm, maybe I need to consider such an attitude to my food black list. With that in mind I did have a few mouthfuls of Minestra di pasta e ceci to see if I still can't abide tomatoes. I can't! Maybe I need to work on this. My foodie credentials have been questioned recently because of my black list and my answer was that the avoidance of the things I don't like encourage me to be more creative with the things I do. But I can see the point I guess, how can I say I love food if I want to run a mile in the presence of tomatoes? All I can think it that the flesh of a tomato makes my flesh crawl, actually so do the seeds and the skin and even the feint whiff of them! I think I may be a lost cause!

The much lauded Gelato di crema alla vaniglia, prugne sciroppate al rosmarino was incredibly good. The plums were so tasty though personally I would have preferred them stoned as they would have been easier to eat. The Cornetti alle mandorle - melt in the mouth rosemary biscuits were just delectable. I am very keen to recreate this dessert for myself and I can see why so many have commented so favourably about it.

To accompany the very fine Pecorino Stagionato con Miele which is the gorgeous ewe's milk cheese often confused with Parmesan, we had a glass of Il Moscato Grappa Nonino Monovitgno which if I hadn’t already mistaken it for my water glass of water and knocked it back in one, I probably would have enjoyed much better! The Grappa was introduced by the Italian daughter of the family who revolutionised Grappa production. When her mother fell in love with her father and then Grappa she realised that Grappa was often relegated to the kitchen and not considered good enough for the table. She went about changing this and this is the resultant drink. I’m sure it was very nice but knocking back believing it was water made me cough somewhat!

It was another fabulous evening, Jeremy Lee and his team produced some stupendous food even though Jeremy is somewhat incapacitated after an adventure on a push bike which has left him rather wrist-ally challenged! Glad to see you back though, Jeremy! And Richard and all the staff out front made sure everything went swimmingly.

I also got a brief audience with Anna, the great doyenne herself. I was able to tell her that I’d been on the photography course with Roger Stowell (who'd shot the photos in his Classic Food of Northern Italy book) and she remembered him most fondly.

And I look forward to seeing everyone again at the next event on Monday 4th December 2006 for Tom Parker-Bowles – ‘The Year of Eating Dangerously’ and I believe the subsequent evenings scheduled are:

Thursday 25th January 2007 - Sue Lawrence – ‘A Cook’s Tour of Scotland

Thursday 22nd February 2007 - Sophie Conran – ‘Sophie Conran’s Pies’

Wednesday 16th May 2007 - Skye Gyngell – ‘A Year in My Kitchen’

Please check the Blueprint café site for details; I do think they can be a tad shy about advertising these events and they are slightly tricky to locate but here is the link when they are updated.

I’ve tried to include a couple of photos of the food from the night but it was quite dark (sorry, I mean ambient!) and I haven’t really done it all justice. After my photography course, I feel I should arm myself with at the very least a miner’s helmet and a few large white reflectors when attempting a little restaurant reportage. I am sure I’d be very popular!

At least thanks to Roger, I’ve been weaned off using flash; so unflattering for a white plate!

1 comment:

dd said...

Dearest J,

The pics are fine - that little trip to the French countryside sure has been valuable.