Bacchanalia d'Italia

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I recently attended a dinner billed as a Cal-Italia Caper. It was part of an event-filled weekend called Boca Bacchanal, which focused on all sorts of delicious food and wine. The Boca Raton Historical Society sponsored it.

We have all heard of the Cal-Ital label that has been used for over 20 years. In essence, it refers to a blending of California and Italy cultures. It can refer to a type of cuisine or a type of wine. This dinner intensified the meaning to a whole new level.

Chef Donna Scala led the team that represented the California influence. She has had extensive experience in California wine country and San Francisco, cooking in fine restaurants, while currently the chef-owner of Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa Valley.

The Italian part of the equation was provided by the Masi winery from the Veneto region of Italy. This winery dispatched Tony Apostolakos to educate the evening's diners about the appassimento method of making wine that is extensively used in the Veneto.

When discussing the appassimento method of drying grapes on mats (a.k.a. grape raisining), one does not usually think of a white wine. However, Apostolakos chose Masi Masianco to pair with Chef Scala's Beet, Haricot Vert, Avocado, and Fennel Salad with Roquefort Vinaigrette. This wine, a blend of pinot grigio and verduzzo, uses the appassimento method on the verduzzo grapes to produce a white wine with more complexity than most pinot grigio wines that are on the market.

The next course was called Asparagus Saltimbocca. It was comprised of Prosciutto di Parma, Fontina, Sage, and Parmesan Cream. Since we were going to be tasting some Amarone wines this evening, Apostolakos eased us into them by having us first taste Masi's Brolo di Campofiorin with the asparagus. He said that the Venetians like to refer to this style of progressive tasting as "Venetian Foreplay"-- a term that I can assure you I have never read in any wine-related research matter!

The parade of Amarone then began with Masi's 2005 Costasera Amarone that was matched to Chef Scala's Pappardelle Bolognese that used wild boar as the basis for the meat sauce. The Costasera was able to tame the spicy wild boar perfectly.

Bollito Misto is a dish that includes long-simmered vegetables and meat. Scala's version was served with three different traditional sauces. Masi's 2001 Serego Alighiere Vaio Amarone paired beautifully with it. This wine is made in a vineyard that has been cultivated by descendants of the poet Dante since the mid-1300's.

The final Amarone of the evening was Masi's 2001 Mazzano. This very limited production Amarone is made in a very austere and classic style that has been known to age well for 35-40 years. It was a beautiful accompaniment to the artisanal Italian cheese course that Chef Scala served.

An evening filled with excellent wines from Italy's Veneto region; a menu designed by one of California's foremost chefs; an opportunity to share it all with old friends and newly acquired ones--- a real recipe for a Cal-Italia success! I'm so happy that I was there!

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