Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reunion of our Museo Cooking Class!

One of the best courses I ever took was a course on Italian cuisine given in Italian at the Museo ItaloAmericano in San Francisco during the Spring of 2006. Our class met once a week for 8 weeks – one week we would meet at the Museo to talk about some culinary topic, and the following week we would meet at the home of Paola Bagnatori, the Museo’s Managing Director, to cook! Apart from having a lot of fun, our class became very close and since the class ended we have met periodically to reconnect and explore our favorite topic further.

Last week a number of us from the class got together for dinner at the home of Dawn (aka “Alba” in our class) and Michael Isaacs for a pot luck dinner. It was great to see each other and catch up, and needless to say there was a good deal of excellent food and wine....

For our antipasti, we enjoyed:

~ Bruschetta with an eggplant caponata from Karlena and John;

~ A couple of salumi from Fra’Mani that Nancy and I brought along -- our two favorites, their Salame Gentile and Salame Rosa – per the Fra’Mani website:

Salame Gentile: A traditional salame whose origins date back to the 18th century in the province of Parma, Italy. Coarsely ground and encased in the budello gentile, with a pronounced pork aroma.

Salame Rosa: A salame cotto (cooked salame) with origins in the city of Bologna, Italy. Made from prime cuts from the shoulder, coarsely chopped to create a distinctive mosaic face and speckled with small cubes of plate fat cut from high on the hog. Dry roasted with a hint of natural fruitwood smoke. Mildly seasoned with coriander, white pepper and mace, and studded with pistachio nuts.

~ Our favorite Castelvetrano olives; and

~ Mozzarella from
Bubalus Bubalis, Inc., as far as I know the only maker of mozzarella in California that is using water buffalo milk.

I had picked up the Bubalus Bubalis mozzarella at Cowgirl Creamery in the Ferry Building earlier that day. The company is named after the Latin name of the Asian water buffalo which was long ago introduced to Southern Italy where its milk is used for the production of real mozzarella cheese. I was skeptical about the quality of the product, given the need to consume mozzarella as fresh as possible (Antonio, my friend and Italian tutor from Salerno in Campania, claims it must be within hours of production) and the fact that the Bubalus Bubalis buffalo herd is near Oroville in Northern California while their production facility is in Gardena, in Southern California. However, it was very good and there were no complaints by our dinner companions, who certainly are a discriminating group when it comes to Italian food!

Reidun and Angela had brought along a beautiful mixed beet salad with blood oranges for the evening, inspired by the cooking lessons from Giovanni della Renta at the now-sadly-closed Ristorante Mezzo Mezzo in San Rafael that Reidun and I had both taken.

We also enjoyed some wonderful asparagus that Barbara had prepared.

Our salad course was followed by a very tasty Zuppa di Vino that Alba had prepared, a Northern Italian soup using beef broth, white wine, cream, cheese and croutons

We then moved along to our main course, again care of Alba, a tender chicken marsala served with polenta and mixed vegetables.

Finally we capped off the meal with two torte care of Melva and Veronica, served with a ricotta sauce, and some tangerines.

Wine flowed throughout the evening, including some Sorella Bronca prosecco at the start, followed by Cantina Valle Isarco’s Kerner, Ca’ di Pian Barbera d’Asti from La Spinetta, and Valle dell'Acate’s Cerasuolo di Vittoria during the course of the meal, and a touch of Moscato d'Asti to end.

A wonderful evening, and we are already plotting our next outing!

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