Vittorio was fortunate that he didn't have only one hour to prepare his dishes, but it is a challenge nonetheless. How do you showcase the tomato in five different yet interesting and delicious ways? It would be simple to make a red sauce but then that would not be a challenge. Vittorio also wanted the dishes to be visually appealing and to engage the diners, to make them feel as if they had just come in from the garden. In my eyes, he clearly won this Iron Chef-like challenge.
I have long been a fan of Chef Vittorio and Bistro 5, and have dined there during previous Heirloom Tomato events. In 2010, Bistro 5 was awarded my Favorite Suburban Restaurant, its third consecutive year in that position. I also interviewed Chef Vittorio for my Culinary Creativity series. So I had high expectations for this dinner, and I was not disappointed in the least.
A great presentation, this dish also had plenty of compelling layers of flavor and textures. The Cloud seemed creamy and rich yet there was no dairy added to it at all. The thin scallop slices were silky smooth while the chopped veggies added a nice crunch. The heat of the jalapeno was muted to some degree by the chill of the sorbet. What a fantastic way to begin the dinner, and it was enhanced by a glass of the Villa Sandi Prosecco Brut which was light and crisp with pleasant fruit flavors and a hint of sweetness.
With this dish, Chef Vittorio also gave us leaves from a tomato plant, to run between our fingers and smell. He wants his diners to gain a sense of the garden, to imagine themselves there. Far too often we get removed from the source of our food and that is a mistake. We should make that connection, to better comprehend exactly what we are eating, to better respect the farmers producing our food. Kudos to Chef Vittorio for taking a positive step in that direction.
With this dish, we sipped a glass of the 2011 Cantina Santa Maria La Palma Vermentino Aragosta from Sardegna. I found this wine to be intriguing, with an almost smoky taste, with nice mineral notes and some subdued green apples flavors.
I might not have chosen a Malbec to pair with this dish, but the 2010 Ruta 22 Malbec, from Argentina, actually worked well. It was a milder Malbec, with pleasant but restrained spice notes, and appealing black fruit flavors. It did not overwhelm the risotto as I worried that it might.
With the duck, we drank a a 2010 Gran Sasso Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, another good choice. A nice, easy drinking red that was not too tannic and had pleasant flavors of cherry, vanilla and raspberry which complemented the duck well.
The Tomatina is made with Organic Peach Mousse & Cinnamon Basil, as well as Basil Yogurt Gelato,Vanilla Bean Crème Anglaise and Sweet Pistachio Pesto. He also uses a spun sugar tomato which actually resembles a glass container, and which can be a surprise when he tosses it into your bowl. Yes, it looks like a mess but it was delicious to eat, with a great blend of flavors which fill your mouth with an enticing melange. With the dessert, we enjoyed a glass of the 2010 Elio Perrone Bigaro Bachetto d'Aqui. A fine bubbly with great red fruit flavors and only a mild sweetness, nicely balanced by its acidity.
Our server, Jodi, did a great job, and she was attentive and personable. Overall, this was a fantastic dinner, an excellent showcase of the culinary creativity of Chef Vittorio. He truly made the tomato the star of each dish, but made sure as well that each dish was complemented by other flavors and textures. During this month, the dishes might change, dependent on the availability of certain ingredients and the inspiration of the chef, but I am sure you will greatly enjoy whatever he prepares. Rush down to the Heirloom Tomato & Basil festival and experience an Iron Chef moment.