Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Italian Food and...French Wines?

Last night I braved the cold winter winds (they're always worst when they first appear) for the "Great Wines from France" Slow Food Philadelphia dinner at Penne, close to Penn's campus. I was slightly skeptical of the decidedly Italian menu accompanied by-duh!-French wines. Having just returned to the States from Italy less than one week ago it is especially painful to eat some of the "Italian" food available.

This was certainly no the case. The classics were executed brilliantly, mushroom risotto and porcini sauce for instance. And the twists had just enough innovation, while retaining their age-old wisdom. The Orange Olive Oil Gnocchi were perhaps the best example of this. The gnocchi had that perfect pillowy texture indicative of quality (I should know considering both of my attempts at gnocchi were so gummy they were perhaps closer to Jell-O) with the intrigue of orange. The orange flavor was decidedly distinctive, so much so that I spent many of my bites trying to figure out exactly how it was accomplished. Orange flower water? not assertive enough. Orange zest? but there were no specks, though towards the end I found one. Potatos boiled with orange peel? possibly...

After all that guessing, after re-examining the menu today, I think that it was literally orange olive oil that did the trick. Not orange and olive oil as I had originally read it. In any case it was delicious. The rest of the meal was equally successful the wines perfectly complementary much to my skepticism. The wine highlights were a Chateauneuf du Pape from Chateau La Nerthe, 2002. It was spicy with the richness of stewed plums, cloves and caramel. Eqully delightful was a Vendanges Tardives Gewurztraminer from Trimbach, 2002. The aroma was unlike any other I've had, and the taste was unparalleled. Because it was preceded by four wines my memory of its precise organoleptic qualities is blurred. All I remember is it was delicious.

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