It is 12:30 and my guests will be here at any moment.
Christophe is coming with his wife Esty, and Arnaud with his Sous Chef Patrick Lopez.
The table is set and I have my flowers.
(Yes Lisa, I didn’t forget my flowers!)
First to arrive is Arnaud with Patrick.
Soon after, Christophe and his wife Esty.
They are ready for the challenge!
Did somebody forget to shave this morning?
We briefly take in the view and a group photo to mark the occasion.
My husband Robert is taking the picture, but he will also join us for lunch.
It is time to start, and while sipping a glass of Ferrari Prosecco my guests attentively read the menu, wondering what is in store for them!!
It looks like they are somewhat bemused!
Not a good sign...
We take our seats.
Some seem ready to eat, others just won’t stop talking!
We start with
- Baked Purple Aubergine Pizzas with Silana Provola Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes and Capers.
They are served immediately on single plate as soon as it comes out of the oven.
On the buffet table we have:
- Baby Potatoes with Calabrese Curcuci and Silana Provola Cheese
- Baby Potatoes with Tropea Shallots and Silana Provola Cheese
- Grilled Purple Aubergine Pizzas with Rucola, Parmesan Cheese and Mussels
Why Calabresi Ingredients?
As I was in Tropea for a good friend’s birthday celebration (...and I will not talk about age!!!), I took the opportunity to buy some typical Calabresi products and get some inspiration from my uncle Nicola Zerbi.
Most are his recipes and I am sure they will be a success.
Even if he has now retired and taken on the grandfather role, his cooking is still renowned within the region.
He is My Guardian Chef!
Includes the more exotic parts of the pig (such as neck, cheek, tongue, nose, ears, and kidneys) cooked in pork fat.
Did they eat it? Yes they did, and with great enthusiasm!
Christophe has cooked it a couple of times!
Silana Provola cheese is a sweet nutty cheese that runs when melted, similar to the scamorza.
The shallots from Tropea, outstandingly sweet.
You will not find anything like them in any other region.
Why, I don’t know?
If they cannot be re-produced elsewhere, it must be because of the type of soil.
The room becomes exceptionally quiet.
Christophe and Esty start to eat and Patrick is checking the wine, while Arnaud is looking for the definition of “Curcuci” on his IPhone .....
Christophe finishes his first bite and comments with a smile:
“There is no dough in the aubergine pizza; the aubergine is the pizza base!”
In a flash Christophe gets up and goes for more.
Is it for the shallots, the curcuci or the aubergine...?
We will find out from his verdict!
Arnaud soon follows, and it is definitely the curcuci he is after!
I don't see olive oil in the Grilled Aubergines, did I forget to season it?
The atmosphere instantly becomes more relaxed.
Probably thinking: “Thank god, she is not actually feeding us pizza”.
We proceed with the Primo Piatto:
- Saint Paul de Vence Chayote Mousse with Mussels and Cime di Rapa.
The wine served is: G. Milazzo, ‘Terre della Baronia’ Bianco Sicilia IGT, Sicily, Italy, 2014
While the Chayote is grown locally in Saint Paul, by Pascale et Gillies Fenocchio at ‘Les Legume de St Paul’….
…I had to go to Ventimiglia to find the Cime di Rapa.
A typical Italian product from the South, it looks like broccoli yet has a bitter taste.
The meal proceeds nicely with lots of lively conversation.
I discreetly take some pictures, trying not to break the flow.
While everyone is chatting, I get the meal going.
- Scallops, Shrimp, Salmon and Cod Fish Pie with a Mediterranean twist
- served with Basil Mashed Potatoes, but at the last minute I decided not to mash them!
Before we move to the cheese platter, I serve a lime sorbet to cleanse palate from the fish.
Homemade sorbet of course, lime, sugar and drop of Vodka, ....to help the digestion!!
I quickly set up the cheeses and also take out the dessert.
Arnaud had a meeting to go to and I don’t want him to miss any of the courses, especially not the dessert.
P.S.: To whomever Arnaud had the meeting with, sorry if he was late, it was for a good cause: Dessert!!
The cheese platter was made of:
- Fresh Pecorino, matured Pecorino, and matured Caprino Calabrese Served alongside a Red Pepper compote
Wine served: ‘L'Oro di Casa Milazzo’ - Vendemmia Tardiva, Sicily
- Cow and Goat Ricotta cheese swirled with ‘Nduia.
'Nduja (pronounced [ˈnduːja]) is a spicy, spreadable pork sausage from Italy. It is typically made with parts of the pig such as the shoulder and belly, as well as tripe, roasted peppers and a mixture of spices. (from Wikipedia)
I couldn’t miss the opportunity to use Esty Cocktail picks in sterling silver.
As I did not have a cocktail to pick, I used the cheese.
I love them, and if you are looking for Christmas presents ideas, there are plenty on her website:
When we started eating dessert, silence dropped in the room to honour the...
- Almond Meringue served with Butter Sauce and Berries
I must confess, to have some fun, I was planning to make Cars shaped dessert cake, but they did not come out as expected.
Arnaud & Christophe, sorry, but I didn’t have the courage to go ahead with this.
I saved you the pain!
Patrick and Arnaud were concentrated!!
Christophe was thinking.....
What’s the verdict....?
I had to wait and see...
To thank the chefs for courageously accepting the challenge, I offer them:
A copy of L’Editoriale of Monaco; where I had published my challenge call.
And a tub of ‘Nduia, for them to use and experiment with.
I offered a Doggy bag and Christophe did not reject the offer.
Cheese, ‘nduia, sesame seeds biscuit and 2 Tropea shallots.
And if a French Michelin Star Chef is taking home the cheese, it must be a GOOD CHEESE!
We had a good relaxed 4 hour meal.
And it was not just about eating; it was the talking, the laughing, the food and the good wine.
This is the Mediterranean lifestyle British cardiologists recommend so much:
The New York Times: The Mediterranean Diet: Is It the Food or the Lifestyle?
I very much enjoyed their company and the whole experience, and I think my guests did too.
We said goodbye with a selfie by Arnaud!
Whatever their verdict is...I will definitely do it again.
Arnaud, Christophe, Patrick, Esty and Robert,
Thank you for the fun!
...... I am still up for my next challenge!
Any Michelin Star Chefs want to join me for lunch?
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