Italian Wine Dinner

Ahoy there mateys!

Last Wednesday me and my crew put on a four course prix fixe dinner at work, each course being paired with an Italian wine. We’ve been wanting to do one of these for a while as they used to be done successfully in the past, and we really never get the opportunity to work together at the same time like this. It was refreshing. The evening went really smooth and we were all very happy with it.

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For those of you who don’t know, I actually work at a gourmet food bar located inside of a Whole Foods Market. It’s quite quirky and casual, but we can really throw down some high quality upscale cuisine. Since we aren’t a traditional restaurant setting, the prices are on the low end. This wine dinner was an amazing value! Only $30 a head for 4 courses each one paired with wine. Granted we undercharged on purpose to draw a big crowd and build hype for the next event. Most restaurants an evening like this would’ve set you back at least $100, so keep an eye out for our next event; perfect date night! (if you can sacrifice intimate ambiance)

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My crew from left to right: John, Me, Lauren, and Frank.

John is the face of The Kitchen Counter and deals with most customer interactions. I share chef responsibilities with Lauren and Frank. It’s a lot of work for 3 people so we just come together and work as at team. We create seasonal menus and operate a scratch-made kitchen in a very open environment. Our bosses Josh and Cara were also floating around and helping out, and being supportive. Josh even ate whole plates of food, which is a very rare site, as he usually just tastes things.

For the first course, we served a salad with grilled haloomi cheese and peaches topped with candied walnuts. I made a white peach balsamic vinaigrette to go with it, which made everyone happy. People go crazy over the house vinaigrettes that I make, but they haven’t been seen for awhile since we stopped serving salads off the menu. We have a huge organic salad bar already in the store with myriad options, but people do still miss the salads that we crafted.

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The second course was a pumpkin ravioli. Pretty standard fall fare, but delicious none the less. We tossed the ravioli in brown butter and sage, and Frank decided to top it with these crushed amaretto cookies. This was a delicious and surprising idea that I had never seen before, and I definitely enjoyed it as did our customers.

I love the flavors of fall and the smell of fresh sage.

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The third course was an Italian classic prepared by Frank called Braciole which consists of seared flank steak braised and rolled up with fillings like a maki roll! The filling is usually breadcrumbs, herbs, garlic and parmesan, but we added braised swiss chard as well. We served ours with creamy polenta and house marinara. Braciole is like an Italian grandmotherly home-cooked classic, but I think the pinwheel effect evokes some wow factor! Now I’m inspired to re-create my own version at home because I love anything that gets rolled up like a maki roll 🙂

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I was a little nervous for course four because I thought we would make it ahead of time, but Frank made this during service. It was a lot of pressure…for him anyway; I was really just there for plating design and taking pictures 🙂

Course four was a zabaglione, which is a sweet custard made from egg yolks, sugar, and usually a sweet wine (we used marsala) whipped over a double boiler. A LOT of eggs went into this! The zabaglione came out perfectly creamy and sweet with just the right amount of spirit. We served this with fresh berries and mint. In retrospect we should’ve served this in wine glasses to go with the wine theme, but oh well.

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Everyone seemed to have a good time. I really want to do another one next month, but I think it’s not going to happen until sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I don’t have the wine pairings handy, since I don’t drink;  I didn’t pay much attention to the wine. I was told they were good. Haha sorry about it.

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Cheers! (Landy, I see you, good job spotting me in the corner)

One of my customers suggested the other day that I create a prixe fixe menu of my own and only feature seafood. I would love that, but I wouldn’t want to alienate customers who don’t like seafood either. I would love to do something with some exotic flair though that’s less traditional than what we usually do.

Until next time,

May the fish be with you!

~Maki Zavelli

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