Tonight I’m dining with Greek Goddess and Mrs P at Vini in Surry Hills. I’m not usually out late on a Tuesday night but every Tuesday night Vini puts on a regional dinner and I’ve had this one marked in my diary for a while – well that and the fact we’re all too busy to find another time to get together.
Vini’s regional dinners are four courses for $50, each week focusing on a different region in Italy (their sister restaurant Berta offers something similar with their Sagra dinners on Wednesday). Greek Goddess and I are taking up the wine flight option ($26) and we question Mrs P about possibly being pregnant when she declines a drink – she was famous for wearing long winter scarves in summer trying to hide her first pregnancy – but she assures us she’s not. Tonight we’re taken to Marche, the region form the eastern seaboard of central Italy with the regions of Emilia-Romagna to the north and Abruzzo to the south. Cooking in the Marche is deeply rooted in peasant tradition. Here the home cook rules and they seek to produce food just like nonna used to make. Dishes are based on tradition using local produce, fresh, quality ingredients, all simply put together.
*I’ll apologise now for the shoddy photos – we’re in a very dimly lit room and you know how I hate the flash (it just ams pesky ‘food blogger’)* To start it’s an antipasto of ‘Calamari e moscioio’; ‘Sardoni’; ‘Stoccafisso e patate’ and we’re drinking a Offida Pecorino ’10, C. Marcelli.
Our ‘Calamari e moscioio’ is breaded calamari and steamed mussels deep fried and arrives in a little paper bag with a lemon cheek. I’m not usually a fan of mussels but these little morsels covered in golden crumbs look most appealing – it’s all lovely and tender. The ‘Sardoni’ (sardines) the have been lightly pickled in a warm bath overnight and come served with a crunchy salad of zucchini, green tomatoes and mint… I love green tomatoes – why do they taste so red? Stoccafisso (or stock fish) is based on dried cod; a dish that was once a mainstay of the inland Italian diet and popular amoung sailors in Marche. Tonight our ‘Stoccafisso e patate’ is a lovely stew of dried cod, with potato, tomato and onion. Greek Goddess and I “mmmm…” in unison, it’s so simple and so delicious. I’m interested in the next course ‘Fregancce’ that’s described to us as a simple pasta dish prepared by covering sheets of pasta with peccorino cheese and lots (and lots and lots) of fresh black pepper, then rolled in to a cannelloni of sorts and served in a broth… sold!
Tonight our fregancce sits in a lovely chicken and rabbit broth that I can smell upon arrival to our table… amazing, like a warm comforting bowl of everything I love – this could be my new ‘chicken soup’. The pepper gives it real punch, without being overpowering and the stock balances out the heat as does the creaminess of the Verdicchio Dei, Castelli di Vesi ’09, San Brenzo we’re drinking with it. Next it’s ‘Conglio in porcetta’. Conglio is rabbit and to cook a meat ‘in porchetta’ is to cook it as if it were a roast pig. Tonight our rabbit has been braised and then roasted – the meat is served shredded with some braised fennel and homemade bread in its own juices. Then on another board the loin is served sliced and the liver wrapped in prosuccito then fried (the girls tell me this is all mine…).
Mrs P admits to having never tried rabbit before. The tender meat is full of flavour with lots of fresh herbs and I’m mopping up the beautiful juices with the bread that’s really quite plain – heavenly soft inside and thick and crusty on the edge – it’s perfectly lacking salt. I give the liver a try… but I’ll leave it there.
I love the side dish of pulses (barley and lentils) with sautéed zucchini, tomatoes and fresh herbs. With this we’re drinking a Ciararro Rosso Piceno ’09, Pongelli that Greek Goddess and I aren’t too keen on… it’s a bit to dry and peppery (maybe I had too much in my fregancce) for me. Feeling delightfully full, we still have dessert to come; ‘Casciotta e frutta’.
Traditionally in Marche, dinners end with seasonal fruit and a bowl filled with nectarines, figs, red grapes, plums and baby cucumbers is delivered. We’re also treated to some fresh oozing honeycomb and a lovely cheese (80% sheep’s milk, 20% cow’s milk) and a fruit and nut bread.
Ok, now I really can’t fit anymore in.
Trave; across the globe for some delicious education without having to leave home; this week Sicilia and next week, Abruzzo.
Vini – 118 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills – 02 9698 5131