Among the handful of chefs you can trust in Delhi for authentic Italian food, Chef Ritu Dalmia (pictured left) is one of the best. The key to her food she says is ‘great ingredients and simple cooking’. EAT (European Art of Taste) kicked off a series of events in India with a dinner at her restaurant Diva, on June 20, to showcase their products and celebrate the launch of the EAT cookbook by Ritu, writes Isheeta Gupta who was present on behalf of Sommelier India.
Several of the recipes featured in the book are dishes served at Diva. “It wasn’t hard to prepare a book for such wonderful products since I already use most of them in my cooking,” Ritu said. “When you see how simple the recipes are, some of you may decide to cook at home instead of coming here so I might lose business at this rate!” she jokingly added.
The EAT campaign is an initiative by the EU along with the Italian state (promoting its products) focusing on quality pasta, olive oil (of certified origin), the delicious Provolone Valpadana PDO cheese and wines of certified origin from Italy. Provolone is a full-fat cows’ milk cheese, with a smooth skin. ‘Provolone Valpadana’, has been conferred the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin). Like the title suggests, the entire sourcing, production, and processing takes place only in that defined geographical area – Northern Italy, in this case.
The dinner featured wines from the Instituto Grandi Marchi, an organisation of some of the most important wineries in Italy, which are committed to spreading quality Italian wines across international markets. Of the 17 Instituto wineries, we were served wines from Lungarotti (Umbria), Pio Cesare (Piemonte), Antinori (Tuscany and Umbria) and Michele Chiarlo (Piemonte).
We started the evening with some pass around snacks such as a simply delicious mushroom bruschetta before we were seated for dinner. For the first course, I opted for the ‘Pumpkin walnut provolone valpadana DOP torta’ paired with the Antinori Bianco 2009, a blend of Trebbiano, Malvasia, Pinot Bianco & Pinot Grigio. A fairly easy to drink wine, with flavours of citrus, apples and pears, it is crisp and refreshing making it a good match for cheeses and tarts but can also be enjoyed alone.
Next up was the Langhe Arneis DOC Pio Cesare 2008. The Langhe refers to a province in Piedmont and is famous amongst other things for the mighty Barolo and Barbaresco. Made from 100% Arneis grapes from the hills of Barolo and Barbaresco, the Langhe Arneis is a young wine with notes of lime, pear, apricot and a slight toastiness to it, it was paired with a ‘duo of arancine’ – beetroot and provolone DOP and carrot and orange.
The Michele Chiarlo Gavi DOCG was paired with seafood of course since seafood is the best match for any Gavi. A vegetarian option was available but I picked the prawns marinated in extra virgin olive oil along with fennel salad. The clean, fresh flavour of the dish matched perfectly with the Gavi, bringing out the ‘minerality’, typical of this wine.
We then moved on to the Lungarotti Rubesco DOC, a red made from 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo (both local Italian grapes) with aromas of pepper, sweet tobacco and violets. The Spaghetti tossed in crab meat and clam sauce was excellent but truthfully, I wish I had had the Ravioli al papa al pomodoro con pesto since I’m partial to pesto.
The main course was light and delicious – a grilled fillet of fish with a fresh citrus sauce served with Parmigiano. I also had a taste of the pork fillet rolled in provolone. It was paired with the Giubilante IGT Lungarotti 2005. Giubilante (which means jubilant and joyful) lived up to its name as well as the label, an oil painting by Piero Dorazio, known by some as the father of Italian abstract painting. A blend of Syrah, Sangiovese and Merlot, the wine displays a broad range of aromas and flavours including berries, cherries and sweet tobacco. An absolute delight!
For dessert, we had two options – a tasting of chocolate desserts and a tasting of citrus desserts. In the spirit of the evening and all the wine I had consumed, I decided to try both. My dessert platter arrived (and thankfully I wasn’t the only gourmand who had opted to try both) with six little desserts – a dream come true for anyone with a sweet tooth.
Sadly, with dessert this deliciously delightful evening of fantastic food, wine and conversation drew to an end.