Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mamma Mia, Mamma Mia!

The day began with pasta making...

Mama Angie transforming dough into pasta!

Ollie the octopus thawing nicely...

Ollie the octopus now tenderised and chopped up, ready to be dressed.

Shreya preparing the aubergine...

Sofia prepping the beans ...

The "chefs" just before the guests arrive!

Campari on the terrace lit with dancing candle light.

The table is set, the magic begins...

The beautiful Song collection of dinnerware donated to us for the night by Latitude21

Guests take their seats, ready to eat!
What's on the menu?

Antipasti of tender squid dressed in lemon, olive oil, anchovy and capers served alongside marinated peppers.

Homemade limoncello, crisp and zesty, clears the palate and prepares the belly for more!

Elisa captures the attention of guests with her descriptions of the wines matched with each meal.

Alla Norma with homemade fetuccini, topped with salted ricotta and pecorino shavings.

Rich, flavourful Osso Bucco ready to be platted and sprinkled with zesty gremolata.

Delicate, homemade semifreddo topped with salted roast-nut praline & balsamic marinated strawberries.

If I imagine the quintessential Italian table I can hear the rhythmic sing-song of banter amongst friends, their laughter rising over the clink of wine-filled glasses. I can smell an array of delectable aromas that subtly shift throughout the evening every time a new dish is laid on the candlelit table. The guests become animated and cheer as each course arrives, and the mama smiles in her kitchen, satisfied at their appreciation. I can taste the fresh, intense flavours in every bite, flavours imbued with the Italian countryside – the just-torn herbs, the squeeze of sun-ripened lemons, the warmth of baked grains smothered in golden olive oil. The air is filled with a natural generosity and passion: passion for the sharing of food and good times – passion for life.

Recreating the true magic of the Italian table can be a little challenging. It often comes off as contrived, especially when you’re 8,000 miles away from the heart of Italy and you fill the table with veritable strangers. But we like challenges! So, for Once Upon A Table’s third secret supper, Mamma Mia, we sought to transport guests to an authentic Italian tavola by recreating recipes from our off-the-beaten-track adventures in Italy. Recipes for meals that once captured our imaginations and left our taste buds enticed.

In the hours before the guests arrived, the apartment we’d hijacked felt like a real mama’s kitchen. Angie – a true Italian mama (in her heart) – kneaded solidly for 3 hours and then magically transformed balls of pasta dough into incredible threads of delectable eggy-fresh fettuccine. Shreya, (in between reducing fresh tomatoes and pan-frying sliced aubergine to a juicy crispness) grated ginger and shelled pistachios to go into our homemade biscotti. Argha, meanwhile, created a zesty dressing for Ollie the octopus whom he had gently simmered to succulent tenderness for over 3 hours the night before – periodically making sure his homemade limoncello was just cold enough. And I patiently stirred the Osso Bucco, wooing the richest of flavours from its depths.

Somehow, by 7.30pm the kitchen had transformed into an Italian casa. The table was beautifully set with crisp linen and jars of fresh-cut flowers, and the terrace was alive with dancing candles ready to welcome our 15 guests.

An aperitivo of Campari with freshly-squeezed orange juice and soda kicked off the night as guests got acquainted on the terrace overlooking one of Hong Kong’s magnificent city views.

With appetites piqued we asked our guests to take their seats at the cosy table. Jesse and Julie of Latitude 21 then introduced their “Song” collection of dinnerware which guests would be dining off for the evening. The fascinating story behind the design and hand-craft of this collection is underpinned by passion and love, aptly matching our Italian theme.

And then the food came… but not without the wine, of course. Our dear friend Elisa, who is in finance by day, but ponders wines of the world by night, was our elected sommelier for the evening. Each dish was matched with a carefully selected Italian wine, and Elisa captivated guests with her descriptions and anecdotes of the grapes, as well as the flavours and aromas that they could expect.

A Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene, DOCG millesimé 2007 accompanied the Antipasto di mare: Insalata Di Polpos – a zesty antipasto of tender baby octopus & pepperoncino served with three choices of extra virgin olive oil & homemade rosemary focaccia.

For Primi, guests were whisked to Sicily for Pasta Alla Norma. Here the homemade fettucini was brought to life by a sensual tomato-eggplant sauce dolloped with salted ricotta cheese and pecorino shavings. To enhance the flavours of this dish Elisa selected a Soave Classico, 2007, Antonio Fattori DOC. This counterbalanced the strong aroma of the fried aubergines, leaving a fresh but medium-intense palate in the mouth.

From the bottom of the boot we travelled north to Milano for Secondi where the Osso Bucco was served. Shanks of veal slow-cooked to a rich intensity were lightly dressed with a fresh gremolata of parsley and lemon-zest. We encouraged our guests to eat this the traditional way, sucking out the marrow from the bones. From the kitchen we smiled as we heard the slurping goodness across the table. To match the intense flavour of this dish, Elisa selected a Lagrein, Cantine Terlano, 2008 DOC – an elegant, full-bodied wine.

Our satiated guests welcomed the Digestivo of homemade limoncello – a distinctive, lemony liquor with crisp, smooth flavours known to clear the palate and prepare the belly for the grand finale!

At last, Dolci was served – delicately sweet, homemade semifreddo flavoured with salted hazelnut and roast almond praline. Velvety smooth and surprisingly light, this divine dessert rounded off the meal beautifully.

After a few more glasses of wine and seconds of the semifreddo, coffee was served. As a final “thank you” each guest was given a little bag of homemade biscotti in two flavours – ginger and pistachio, and orange – so that they could continue their Italian adventure at home.

A few guests lingered after caffé, and it was great to mingle with them and hear some of their feedback:

“Dinner was wonderful, thank you so much for inviting me. I thought the atmosphere was so convivial, and the food was particularly unique as we were able to taste Italian home cooking. I really felt like we were transported to an Italian kitchen.”

“The wine pairings made the food very special and went excellently together. I really enjoyed meeting some great people at the dinner party.”

“Mamma Mia, the 3rd supper club so far and my first, was exceptional. The ambience, from the moment I stepped through the door till the secret surprise as I was leaving at around midnight, made up a very memorable evening. I loved the attention to detail, not only with the 6-course meal, but also with the decor. In short it was brilliant, amazing and very yum!"

“It was a fab evening and we absolutely loved it!”

“The food was incredible and I cannot stop thinking about that squid salad and antipasti... wowowowowow. Everything was outstanding. Loved the music too, and I think the group dynamic was awesome.”

So Mama Mia has bid us arrivederci, but next on the table is: ‘
Twas the Night before Christmas’ on the 11th of December!

Watch this space…

Once Upon A Table

No comments:

Post a Comment