Guam Diner Bytes: Culinary tour of Tuscany
Not everyone has the opportunity to go to Italy on a moment’s notice, however, you can do the next best thing and have a taste of Italy come to you when you visit Al Dente Ristorante at the Hyatt Regency Guam. Al Dente’s talented Chef de Cuisine, Cristiano Pozzi, is delighting palates with his current promotion, A Culinary Tour of Tuscany, which launched in March with a special Chef’s Table event (which I’d missed due to illness). We were able to make on Wednesday night and were again extremely impressed by Chef Pozzi’s amazing ability to deliver exquisite cuisine based on traditional Tuscan recipes.
The tour is a set six course menu (priced at $60 per person, and $75 per person with wine pairing). Once seated you are greeted by Al Dente’s signature pizza bread plate with that delicious aioli and marinara dipping combo.
This irresistible starter is just one of many extravagances yet to come, put away your dietary qualms and just enjoy yourself! The Villa Antinori Toscana helped to release these qualms so we could enjoy this feast!
The first course is the King prawn with a white bean salad with bottarga. Once delivered, Chef Pozzi came out and with a small grater explained that he was grating bottarga (a condiment made of salted fish roe - a Mediterranean delicacy).
We marveled at this simple presentation and let our palate register the flavor notes of the bottarga, olive oil, and balsamic. While some of the white beans were al dente, we were pleased with the natural simplicity and freshness of this dish.
Next to come was the Tuscana soup, sausage, Swiss chard, red potato in a creamy chicken stock. We were surprised by this dish as the broth was not thick, rather it was appreciably thin and richly flavored. Fresh was the operative word! The house-made Italian sausage was formed into mini meat balls that exploded on the palate with each bite.
The potato wedges worked to give this egg yellow soup a rustic feel. It was apparent that this meal would be having a consistent theme of using fresh, simple, and natural ingredients that you could taste with each bite.
We welcomed the next course with delight-filled sighs (we love pasta)! Chef Pozzi’s Homemade pappardelle with duck ragout and mushrooms was another homerun!
People who love pasta can really taste and feel the difference between fresh made and pre-made pasta. The ragout had a sweetness from the marinara with bits of tender duck interspersed. This was something you could eat all by itself as a meal! Bravo, Chef Cristiano!
The Pan-fried cobia alla livornese was yet another treat to our palates. True to its Tuscan origins, the Cobia is an ideal firm-fleshed fish that can be fried in olive oil and served in zesty marinara. Chef Cristiano has perfected his methods for serving Cobia, ascribing a premium quality to his preparations of this relatively new farm-raised fish. We marveled again at the unpretentious simple nature of this dish with its fresh ingredients registering in our tastebuds.
The main course was a Braised beef cheek in chianti sauce alla fiorentina, which is a classic Tuscan preparation, using spinach. We both fell in love with the flavors of this dish and found the polenta to be nothing short of perfect! The tender flavorful beef cheek was a good choice over a denser cut of beef or beef steak, especially in view of the number of courses we’d already eaten. The balance of flavors and fresh ingredients prevailed again. The portions of each course were just right.
The dessert course was just magically delicious. It was Panforte di siena, one of the oldest sweet desserts in Italy with a centuries old legacy.
Panforte literally means strong bread. It is essentially a spiced fruit and nut cake and my first impression was the taste of Christmas! This dessert had distinctly dense squares (likened to a famous plaza or square in Florence) that was coupled with a shot glass of a decadently rich chocolate sauce and a bowl of dreamy vanilla bean gelato topped with a blueberry sauce.
You know something is fantastic when it rocks you to your core! That was how good this was!! I had to stabilize myself with a cappuccino!
If you haven’t yet taken the tour of Tuscany at Al Dente, you need to hurry as it they will be travelling to the region of Lazio soon. This will introduce a new menu of Tuscan delights. Grazie, Chef Cristiano!
We also wish to thank Executive Chef Mirko Agostini who joined us for a chat while eating! We had him and Chef Pozzi pose with me and their talented kitchen team in a group photo.
Ita dake masu!!
Ken the Guam Food Guy
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