Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holiday Dinner at Perbacco

Perbacco is my favorite restaurant in San Francisco and we were there for dinner last night. We were sad to learn at the outset of the evening that our favorite waitress, Auxilia, had returned to Italy. Auxilia is one of the warmest and most outgoing individuals we have met and always added a special energy to our dinners at Perbacco. We will miss her.
Auxilia with Alex and Pat - My Birthday Party, December 2007

Although we missed Auxilia, we were well taken care of both by a waitress named Fitri, who knew the menu well, and Mauro Cirilli, Perbacco's Wine Director who is a good friend and who has never failed to lead us to interesting new wines that go well with Perbacco's cuisine. We started the evening with a bottle of the "Particella 68" Prosecco DOC di Valdobbiadene from Sorelle Bronca in Colbertado di Vidor (Treviso/Veneto). I have always enjoyed their wines and the story of the two Bronca sisters (the "sorelle Bronca"), Antonella and Ersiliana, who started the winery in the mid-1980's.

To accompany our Prosecco, Mauro helped us select a trio of Piemonese cheeses from the Perbacco cheese tray -- Castelmagno DOP, Testun al Barolo and Toma Biellese. We had not had any of them before -- the Castelmagno was the standout for me.

After our appetizers (I tried the vitello tartare with bruschette topped with lardo - yum!), we moved on to our pasta course. In addition to pappardelle with a shortrib sugo and some gnocchi, we also tried a new agnolotti that we had not had before - stuffed with fontina cheese and bone marrow. It was excellent.

Mauro helped us to select a white and red wine to go with our dinner. For the white he suggested a wine named "Enosi" (Greek for "putting together") produced by the Baron di Pauli winery located near the town of Tramin (Bolzano/Trentino-Alto Adige) and just south of Caldaro al Lago (aka the Kaltern am See). That is in the area of northern Italy where the Austrian heritage is particularly strong and most companies, towns and landmarks have both Italian and German names, which makes it even more difficult to keep everything straight. We enjoyed the Enosi wine which is made from 55% Riesling, 35% Sauvignon and 10% Gewurztraminer (in fact, the town of Tramin gave that grape variety its name) -- per the winetasting notes: "The wine presents a bright, golden yellow with green reflections. The nose is evocative of peaches and elderberry blossoms with fine citrus notes. On the palate, it reveals a lively flavor full of finesse, with subtle acidity and hints of mineral."

For our red wine, I asked Mauro to recommend an Amarone and he suggested a 2001 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico produced by Masi (Gargagnago di Valpolicella/ Verona/ Veneto) and named “Serego Alighieri Vaio Armaron". The wine is produced using 65% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, and 15% Molinara Serego Alighieri. Per the winemaker’s notes: “Fascinating garnet reflections apparent to the eye within deep ruby red colour presaging the aromas that stand out on the nose: cherries preserved in spirit, plums, Mediterranean herbs, violets and striking sensations of rosemary and sage. The aftertaste shows mint, cherries, plums, berry fruit and chocolate. Full-bodied and well-structured with shifting hints of sweetness. Long and fresh tasting on the finish.”

That wine also has an interesting relationship to Italian history and literature since the term “Amarone” may have derived from the name of the Vaio Armaron vineyard located on the Serego Alighieri estate in the Valpolicella area north of Verona. The Serego Alighieri family are decendants of the poet, Dante, and grapes have been cultivated on that estate since the mid-1300’s. As described on the Masi website: “For over six centuries the Serego Alighieri estate has been the historic reference point for Verona's winemaking and agricultural traditions. Masi has been collaborating with Count Pieralvise for more than thirty years, both in the production and distribution of products and services from the Verona estate, and, more recently, in the Tuscan-based projects. It was in 1353 that Pietro, son of the poet Dante Alighieri, purchased land and a villa in the hills of Valpolicella. The estate is still the property of the descendants of the author of the Divine Comedy. After careful restoration, part of the historic "Casal dei Ronchi" estate has been transformed into a residence with eight apartments, conference rooms, and areas for the tasting of food and wine. Over the course of the centuries the wine and agricultural activities of the estate have supported the family but, above all, they have been regarded as an art form.”

Most of those at our table had Perbacco's signature Beef Short Rib Stracotto for their main course, although I went with the roast duck accompanied by brussel sprouts and apples with guanciale. It was superb, although the touch that was most interesting was the addition of a potato-crauti (sauerkraut) puree which provided a tangy counterpoint to the duck.

Not much room for dessert but we did manage to fit in a few of the light "brutti ma buoni" ("ugly but good") hazelnut cookies.


Connie said...

What a grand time! Must visit the next time we're up; what kind of Perbacco pull do you have, Mike?!

Nancy said...

We would love to take you two.