I recently was privileged enough to be invited to attend the media launch for the Accento Italian Cooking Master Classes, which is a series of six different cooking classes organised by the Italian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ICCI). This is the second year of these classes, which are held at the Accento Showroom in Claremont and feature chefs from restaurants in Perth such as Perugino, Galileo Buona Cucina, Maurizio, Maretti and the like.
Since my mother is the reason I am so unbelievably obsessed with food, it seemed only fitting that I bring her with me to my first foodie event as a blogger. She was really touched to be invited instead of me bringing Jeremy or a girlfriend, and I was happy to have her with me because I knew she'd enjoy the food on offer.
We arrive at 6.30pm and are met with wide smiles by the ICCI organisers and the PR rep, Dianne Bortoletto, who is another food blogger - Travelletto. A beautiful fizzing glass of La Montina Fanciacorta Brut (85% chardonnay, 15% pinot noir) is in hand as we look around at the beautiful interior options that Accento have on display. There's a particularly gorgeous bathroom set up that I'm making mental notes for the future.
In the show kitchen there's a flurry of activity taking place with chefs Giuseppe Pagliaricci (Perugino) and Egidio Squillace (Event Style) taking the lead, as an absolute feast of food is prepared for everyone present. I have to admit, my stomach is rumbling so I'm pretty excited for what's to come!
CanapesThe dishes circulate the room, a magnificent selection doing the rounds with swoons of happiness and the shutter clicks of all the food bloggers present. What is it about Italian food that can make people so damn happy?! It is so homely and yet so beautifully crafted. It is easily one of my favourite cuisines.
The first dish that comes our way is the Scallop Carpaccio with Mango. It's pretty as a picture, and tastes just as good. The scallop is silky and fresh; the mango fresh and zingy. I would have loved a kick of chilli in there (the red present made me think there would be), but that's if I were to change anything at all, and really it is great as it is.
Prawn with pesto sauce
Next up comes a little wooden spoon with fresh prawn, pesto sauce and a sliver of tomato. The prawn is mild but screams great produce; the pesto bursting with flavour. I like the addition of the tomato, it adds freshness and an almost acidic like profile. My second dish in and the second bit of seafood - I am a happy camper already!
I particularly like the set up of this media launch with everyone milling about, socialising and smiling in appreciation. The atmosphere is really relaxed and I myself feel at ease - especially since I don't need to worry about whether taking photos is allowed, everyone's doing it!
Prawn with pesto sauce
My wine flute is topped up with an introduction to Chef Maurizio Di Ciano from Maurizio Restaurant. There's definitely some laughs in there as he kisses the back of my hand and tells me he sees no ring. Watch out Jeremy!
I'm completely enamoured with the wine, which he explains to me is imported in to Perth and sold at only limited venues. I am definitely going to be picking up a few bottles of this, it tastes wonderful and crisp and does all the right things to my tastebuds.
The next dish that comes our way is the Bacala Fritters. There's two types - with and without potato. We try both, and they're nice though a little cold. The cod inside is soft and moorish, and I am particularly fond of the one with the mashed potato throughout - it's like eating a delicious cloud!
Pumpkin and smoked cheese dumpling
The mashed pumpkin and smoked cheese dumpling is a deep golden brown ball of crunchy goodness. The inside is soft, the cheese added some saltiness to the sweet pumpkin filling. They have this really rustic appearance; but are a little on the hard side to eat as they fall apart after one bite.
Pumpkin and smoked cheese dumpling
Scallop with caper berry
There's two different crostini circulating - one with italian sausage and cheese, another with truffle and cheese. I don't manage to try the latter but the former is just wonderful. The sausage is salty and has a pepperoni like quality. It's rich and when combined with the oozy cheese underneath, it's almost like eating the world's best toasted sandwich.
Crostini with sausage and cheese
One of the best courses for the night is the canape of Prawn in Pancetta with a Balsamic Glaze. It's still steaming hot when it comes past me, and one bite in I'm hooked. The prawn is succulent and juicy, the pancetta having caramelised slightly to release it's salty, fatty goodness. I particularly love the use of balsamic, which adds that sweet and sour like quality.
Prawns and pancetta with balsamic
Though I got to try it, I didn't manage to snap a photo of the Deep Fried Mozzarella Balls. They're perfectly crumbed mini-mozzarella balls that are fried to perfection. Inside they're slightly gooey but intense in flavour.
I don't think I could love cheese anymore than I do. It's almost embarrassing how much I wanted to steal the tray of these and eat them all! So much so that I didn't even think of taking a photo, I was too busy munching!
I also forget to snap a pic of the lovely herbed foccacia bread which is soft, moorish and salted just enough. Since I don't usually eat bread during the week (the woes of being a girl), it's a bit of a treat to have it tonight.
Live kitchen demonstration
Soon enough the canapes start to slow down and everyone gathers around the kitchen to watch some live demonstrations of dishes. This is the best part of the night since it showcases what to expect from the actual Accento classes. I have to admit, I am highly considering signing up for a couple of these.
Chef Giuseppe Pagliaricci's gnocchi smells amazing; the fragrance of his gorgonzola and apple sauce filling the room. We watch as he goes through the entire cooking process with us. I'm particularly interested in this since I am an avid gnocchi consumer and cooker. When it comes our way to try, I am basically swooning. There's a good serving of parmesan throughout and it's a decadently wicked dish. Incredibly rich!
Gnocchi with gorgonzola and apple
The viewing of cooking continues as the chefs move on to the Ravioli filled with Potato, Cheddar and Proscuitto di San Daniele. It has a velvety pumpkin sauce and a small dash of bechamel on top plus a couple scattered pine nuts.
The ravioli is cooked al dente (as you would expect from chefs of this calibre), the sauce sweet but not overpowering. I love the filling inside, it's flavoursome and perfectly seasoned. The small addition of bechamel works in harmony - I am in glutton's heaven.
I wash it down with a glass of the Olivi Orhora wine which, like the La Montina before, is just wonderful.
Ravioli with pumpkin sauce
To my surprise, the food doesn't stop there. Three more courses come out to us, though I only manage to snap one of them with my camera.
The lamb cutlets that come out are cooked in the pan with olive oil, lemon and oregano. They are tender and perfectly pink inside; the fat rendered just so. Such a seemingly simple dish and yet it can't be faulted, it is so great.
Another meat dish is chicken with olive oil, mint, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Plus there's rabbit with black olives and white wine. I'm getting full by that stage so I give them a miss but my mother tells me they are succulent and delicious. They're a great show of how Italians treat their proteins.
Fig and amaretti tart
Fig and amaretti tart
On one of the tables is a scattering of what look like traditional Italian desserts. There's a fig & amaretti tart, rice and apple cake (gluten free) and a quince & chestnut cake. My mother is completely enamoured with the chestnut cake, which is something I've eaten many a time. It's moist, soft and rich. A lovely end of meal dessert that would be perfect with a steaming cup of tea or coffee (for those who are coffee drinkers).
Quince and chestnut cake
Our final dish of the night is panna cotta two ways. There's a pistachio panna cotta with berry sauce and a macadamia panna cotta with white chocolate sauce. I give my mother the first to try, which is sweet and milky. For myself, I can't get past the white chocolate one. The macadamias throughout are crunchy and add some texture to the silky custard. The white chocolate on top is a great addition that cuts through and offers a sweet flavour.
The Accento Italian Cooking Master Classes have a great program and cost $90 per class or $500 for all six classes. Here's the schedule:
- Monday, 20 May 2013: Chef Guiseppe Pagliaricci of Perugino Restaurant
- Monday, 10 June 2013: Chef Vincenzo Soresi of Galileo Buona Cucina
- Monday, 1 July 2013: Chef Maurizio Di Ciano of Maurizio Restaurant
- Monday, 29 July 2013: Chef Matteo Maretti of Maretti Restaurant
- Monday, 19 August 2013: Chef Luca Galaverna of Italians
- Monday, 9 September 2013: Chef Egidio Squillace of Event Style
For more information on the classes, visit www.icci.asn.au - you'll also be able to see the class menus which sound delicious! I'm loving the sound of the last class in particular's menu though they all sound great.
All up, I have to say I had a really great time at this media launch. It was an opportunity not just to sample the food on offer, but also to meet some of my fellow bloggers.