On arrival, our guests were treated to a welcome drink of prosecco mixed with Crème de Mûre - a homemade liqueur using wild blackberries. Accompanying canapés were little puffs: puff pastry topped with either ricotta and spinach or porc rillettes, honey mustard and crackling (everything was homemade including the ricotta and mustard). In addition, we had made grissinis (thin bread sticks that are always served alongside Italian meals) flavoured with oregano, sea salt and poppyseeds and served with a basil joghurt butter. Once our diners got to know each other, we moved on to the dining table and as antipasti, served mixed leaves topped with buttered wild girolle mushrooms, honey-roasted fig, roasted hazelnuts and thin slices of lardo, an ingredient that we brought with us from Italy. This was followed by a traditional dish of the region called Seupa à la Vapelenentse that makes use of the local cheese fontina (Thanks Nick & Nicky from the Porter Brook Deli for sourcing it!) and leftover dark rye bread. A meaty beef stock is poured over layers of stale slices of bread, blanched white cabbage and fontina cheese before the dish is baked in the oven thereby creating a golden cheesy crust. Whilst very simple, this dish was very comforting and generated the highest interest amongst our diners. Moving on, we had to serve the most local dish of Aosta, a Carbonade Valdostana , which consists of cured beef, braised in red wine and flavoured with spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Whirlow Farm provided us with a beautiful silverside that we cured for 6 days before marinating it over night in red wine and braising it slowly for several hours. For an extra treat, we included dried porcini mushrooms in the sauce and served creamy polenta and caramelised onions alongside. We were delighted to provide second helpings of meat and sauce, which were mopped up with our homemade rye bread.
It was time for a break and a chat with our diners, which is always a great opportunity to escape the kitchen for a while and receive some invaluable feedback from our diners. For dessert, we made Cogne Cream (a set chocolate custard originating from the town of Cogne that is often flavoured with rum) accompanied with pear sorbet and tegole biscuits. Whilst the pear sorbet was deliciously smooth and refreshing, we will have to adjust our recipes to make the Cogne cream more boosy and the biscuits sweeter! Nonetheless, a very successful supper was concluded with single origin coffee from the Foundry Roasters, which went down a treat and sweets of elderberry and apples fruit pastilles and honey nougat with candied chestnuts and hazelnuts.