Monday, April 1, 2013

A Night of Surprises at the Batasiolo Wine Dinner at Canaletto

545 Newport Center Dr.
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Almost everyone that knows me, knows that I am not much of a wine drinker. I profess to know next to nothing about wines. I know that red wines go with meat and whites go with fish and poultry, but that is about the extent of my knowledge. After attending the Batasiolo Wine Dinner at Canaletto, I feel my wine appreciation has grown immensely just in this one night.

The great people over at Canaletto invited us to their monthly wine dinner this past week. To be honest I was a little intimidated walking into this event. Not only is Canaletto one of the nicest restaurants at Fashion Island, but I was also walking into a wine dinner with people I did not know, and people who I assumed had way more wine intelligence than me. In other words, I half expected to make a fool out of myself.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. We arrived right on time for the 6:30pm wine dinner. For those of you that do not know Canaletto, they are located between Neiman Marcus and Whole Foods Market. When we walked in, the bar was predictably busy. Canaletto is very well known for having one of the best happy hours at Fashion Island. They offer pizzas, appetizers, artisan cocktails, and wine, all for $5, while serving up $3 draft beers. Great prices for a restaurant where you pass by Lamborghini's and Ferrari's at their front door.

The Batasiolo Wine Dinner was being held in a private room of the restaurant. We were immediately welcomed by the staff, and made to feel at home. I was relieved there was no stuffiness in the room. In fact these people were very fun, not like I had anticipated at all. For this wine dinner there were about thirty of us at the two tables. Our wine expert for the evening was the very nice Stefano Poggi. He was the one to tell us about all the wines that we were about to drink, and gave a novice like me a bit of history about Italian wines. For this I will be forever grateful. I was also grateful for the food that was coming out, so let's take a look at what we consumed on this wonderful evening.

The antipastini course would be first. These tray passed appetizers included Assorted Crostini, Tomatoes Stuffed with Crab Meat Salad, Mini Assorted Pizzas, and Cerignola Green Olives. You will not see an olive in these pictures because I am not a big fan of that fruit. The other appetizers were very good though, with the tomato stuffed with crab being the best. I am no fan of raw tomatoes, but I could not keep myself from having about five of these. The crab salad was very fresh, and kept my texture issues with tomatoes to a minimum. The mini pizzas had a nice chewy crust, with just enough cheese and prosciutto to keep this pizza on the lighter side, without sacrificing taste. A very nice start to the meal, and it really got us excited for what was to come.

Here is a quick shot of the bread that was placed on the table. Looking at these pictures I can almost smell this bread again. It was very well made, came out warm, and again I had a hard time sharing this with my table mates. This bread was made even better by adding the provided olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Very addicting.

Talk about starting with a bang. This was my favorite dish of the night, the Vitello Tonnato Con Capperi Fritti. This was roasted veal served cold with fresh herbs and a wonderful house made tuna and caper sauce. The tuna was actually from Italy, and it was great with this dish. I am not much for mixing seafood and beef together, but this worked perfectly. The veal was fork tender, the celery on top added some nice crunch, and the smooth tuna sauce reminded me of tuna sandwiches I had when when I was younger. The entire plate came together very nicely. The Gavi Batasiolo 2011 that was paired with this course was very light and crisp. I was supposed to taste a light citrus with this wine, but it did not come through for me. I guess my wine palette is still evolving. I was sorry to see this course leave the table.

The pasta course was up next, and we were given two pasta dishes to try. The Ravioli Con Salsiccia E Verze Brasate was a very mellow ravioli filled with sausage, savoy cabbage, caramelized onions, and ricotta cheese. The light butter sauce used here was nice, and this was one of the lightest sausage raviolis I have ever had. The Risotto Alle Rape Rosse E Caprino Fresco looked like raw hamburger, but became a favorite of Katie. This red beet risotto came with Parmigiano and goat cheese crumbles. I am by no means a risotto connoisseur, but this was one of the best made ones that I have had. It was cooked perfectly, the beet flavor just poked through enough to interest the taste buds, and the cheeses brought everything home. I thought the serving size of this would be too much for me, but I had no problem polishing this off. The wine for this course was the Batasiolo Sorvana 2010. This wine comes from a single vineyard in Barolo, Italy. It was very smooth and paired nicely with the ravioli.

Main course time, and both Katie and I strategically picked the opposite of the two choices. She went with the Pesce Bianco Avvolto Nel Prosciutto Con Salsa Di Tartufi. Yeah, my Italian is pretty good when I just have to type these words, saying them would be the real hard part. This white sea bass was wrapped in prosciutto with black truffles. I should have chose this main course, because it was delicious. First off the serving size of this was phenomenal. A very big piece of bass, that was flaky and light, with the flavor of the prosciutto hanging around. Very well cooked. This was served with some green beans and a very good potato cake. The potato cake was like a very large scalloped potato. The wine pairing with this fish dish was predictably a white wine. The Batasiolo Gavi di Gavi Granee 2009 was much like our first wine of the evening, but this time I did get the slight citrus taste. This was Katie's favorite wine of the night.

If you have noticed, I have talked about the food here first before mentioning the wine. Not out of the norm since I am way more partial to food than I am wine, but this Batasiolo Barolo Cerequio 2006 was very special. First of all it is very rare. Stefano told us that there are only ten cases of this in the US right now. The grapes used to make this wine are only grown on one hill. This wine was very smooth, had a great fragrance, and is just coming into its prime right now. Stefano told us that this wine will continue to improve with time, as the peak drinking years for this wine is from now til 2028. Maybe I will have some for my 56th birthday. This wine came with Costicine Di Manzo Brasate Al Barolo E Pastinache. Wow, I really should have taken Italian in high school. Anyways, this boneless short rib was braised with barolo wine and parsnips, and served with the same potato cake Katie got with her entree. As usual with beef short ribs, these were fork tender. You could almost see the meat fall apart when I just lifted my fork to them. I liked that the sauce was very subdued with this dish, so the meatiness of the short rib could be the star of the show. Very hearty meal.

Dessert was of course our final act, and man were we full by this point. I still did manage to finish this Torta Di Chocolato E Nocciole Con Gelato Alla Vaniglia. I must be learning some Italian because even I did not have a hard time translating this one. This warm chocolate and hazelnut cake was joined by a vanilla gelato. The cake was not overly moist, but when mixed with the gelato it really made a nice combination. With the hazelnut and the chocolate, this was like Nutella in cake form. Very solid dessert. I might have found my favorite kind of wines, dessert wines. They are a little sweeter, and go down real smooth. With this dessert we had two different varieties of Moscato. The Batasiolo Moscato d'Asti 2011 and the Batasiolo Moscato Rose. Both of these were fruity and sweet, without crossing the overly syrupy line.

To say that the Batasiolo Wine Dinner exceeded my expectations would be an understatement. Not only was it not pretentious and snobby, but it was a lot of fun, we met a bunch of great people, and the food and drink were very well done. We will definitely be back for their monthly wine dinners and regular meals here too. Looking at Canaletto's regular menu the Veal Scaloppine and the Chicken Cannelloni really caught my eye. I am also intrigued by the passport dinners that Canaletto, and their sister restaurant, Il Fornaio offer. For two weeks every month they feature items from a different region of Italy. Three course meals for $29.99, plus you get a gift. If you get your passport stamped six times, you are then entered into a drawing for a trip for two to Italy, to experience fine Italian cooking first hand. Even if you do not win the trip to Italy, you can definitely experience great Italian cooking at Canaletto in Newport Beach. You do not even need the hassle of going through the security lines at the airport to eat here.

We would like to thank all of the servers, bussers, kitchen staff and the management at Canaletto for making our experience so great. We also need to thank all the people at our table for making this such a wonderful event. You all made this a very pleasant night, and one that both Katie and I will not soon forget. Thanks also to Stefano Poggi, Export Manager for Batasiolo for taking the time to explain his great wines to a novice wine drinker, such as myself. Lastly, we would like to thank Lindsey Gaines, the Event Coordinator at Canaletto for the invite, and for putting on such a great night of food, wine, and new friends. Thanks for everything Lindsey, we look forward to seeing you, and everyone at Canaletto again real soon.

To find out more information about Canaletto, click here or here

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