Friday, June 8, 2012

A Night of Passion with Rocco & Adam (at Di Bruno's)

South Philly Sushi (actually it's proscuitto and smoky blue cheese, with a surprising membrillo paste center)

Many others have tried it, but it was my first night at a Di Bruno's after hours, private tasting.  I'm now smitten.  Our hosts for the evening, Rocco and Adam, talked us through the nuances of olive oil (virgin olive oil is a misnomer, it's actually the number of pressings that counts, they explained) and unfiltered first pressed oil tastes like nothing else. 

Imagine the smell of fresh cut grass.   Now convert that smell into a taste.   Wow.

The olive oil we tasted was buttery, peppery and smelled and tasted just like freshly mown grass.  Dress a salad with this stuff, some North African 'wet' salt from Di Bruno's (Rocco informed us that the higher moisture content in the salt results in a completely different crunch) and a few twists of fresh ground pepper and you're transported!

The evening kicked off with an invitation to dip in and try any of the appetizers in the store - my faves were the stuffed vine leaves and stuffed artichoke heads.

There was an abundance of olives in all shapes, colors and sizes. 

I had to hold back on the bread, which is driven in every morning fresh from a bakery in New York, or I knew I'd get too full, too fast!

Rocco's colleague, Adam, a former mixologist, and serious foodie, showed us how to make this appetizer in less than five minutes. 

Take some marinated west african pepadews (these little firecrackers are  akin to scotch bonnet peppers, but the pepadews mellow somewhat because they are pickled in sugar brine).  Mix up some fresh ricotta with cherry shiraz jam and stuff the peppers with this mixture.

Procure two bottles of fruit vinegar from Di Bruno's (they used mango and also strawberry, but there are plenty of other flavors to try.)  Arrange the mango on a square plate then pour a small circle of darker colored fruit vinegar in the middle of the plate.  Take a cocktail stick and drag stick out from the center of the plate to create this spider's web effect (see photo).  Splatter with a few drops of premium balsamic vinegar then arrange the stuffed pepadews around the edge of the plate. This creates a stunning melee of tastes - sweet, sour, sharp.....  A flavor explosion.

Subsequent tasting courses included:
  1. A meat platter comprising jamon iberico (Spain's answer to proscuitto); melt in your mouth duck proscuitto and surryano ham (a play on serrano from Surry County Farm in Virginia);
  2. A mustard tasting, featuring a black truffle dijon and a coarse grain.  This was paired with a plate of cold meats (cooked and thinly sliced kobe beef at $20 a lb and di Bruno's own house soppressata, cubed rather than sliced...) and a sensational cheese;

 None of us had much room for "dessert" - a decadent goat's cheese with a dusting of cinnamon and chocolate and nuts.  Now, as I write this, I wish I'd tried it!

I did walk away though with a quarter pound of pecans roasted in salt, cinnamon and chocolate powder.  These will grace my cheese plate tomorrow night.

This is a great night out for Philadelphia foodies. The cost is extremely reasonable - $200 for you and seven of your friends -but it's difficult not to go mad in the store exploring the exquisite gastronomic treats (I left the store with the pecans and two flavored fruit vinegars); others were less restrained.

For more information on Di Bruno's products and events such as this food tasting, stop by their website.

And if you have any last minute cancellations, we'll be happy to round out your octet.

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