Astor Center has got to be one of the most spectacular places to experience great wine and cuisine. Created by Astor Wine and Spirits President Andrew Fisher as a special place to “educate customers in all things related to wine, spirits, and food.” The center has a perfectly clear slogan which is, simply, “Eat. Drink. Think.” I like that.
It was a very fitting place to experience the exquisite wines of Gianni Zonin and family’s Casa Vinicola Zonin and the legendary cuisine of Sirio Maccioni and family’s restaurants Le Cirque and Circo.
The occasion was Italian Culinary Experience! Casa Vinicola Zonin featuring "Le Cirque" which featured wines from the Zonin estates, Castello d'Albola and Rocca di Montemassi.
Of course the event began with generous sips of Zonin Prosecco. I was not surprised to learn that Prosecco was originally created as a morning drink. How perfect. It has been in America that it evolved to one for afternoon, evening and even into the wee hours of the morning. All contributing to the wine’s vast popularity.
The Zonin Prosecco, which we enjoy frequently, pairs as well with light morning pastries and espresso as it does with rich and complex dishes like our Apertivo, a Pappa al Pomodoro with Zucchini Flower stuffed with Salt Cod alla Livorno in a Light Batter.
And our Antipasto, a salad called Insalata di Farro della Garfagnana of Heirloom Tomato, Farro, Artichoke, and Pecarino Giovane Toscana cheese. The Prosecco gently intertwined with these dishes accenting and enhancing in a exciting collaboration of flavors.
Of course there was a pasta course, after all as Frank Bruni said in his NY Times article, In Defense of Decadence, “at Le Cirque you will indeed eat too much food.” This was a Pappardelle Delverde with a Ragu Ossobuco Di Vitella and Zabaione di Midollo.
I must pause for a moment and mention that Delverde is one of Italy’s most perfect "artisan made"pasta producers, they were a sponsor of the event. I mention this because it is truly remarkable pasta. I would have staked my life on the fact that this was freshly homemade pasta. No, it comes in a bag that you can buy at your local Shoprite in Nutley, or as they say, other fine stores. Which you must do because it so good.
This dish was exquisite and a worthy partner to a sensual Vermentino from the Zonin Estate, Rocca di Montemassi in Maremma. On the coast of Tuscany, Maremma has a Mediterranean climate with frequent sea breezes and a mineral rich soil that contributes to the sheer beauty of this wine. We have long been a promoter of Vermentino, a wine that you most often find from Sardinia or Liguria. This one has richer flavors that excite the palate.
As the meal progressed the next wine we savored was Rocca di Montemassi’s Maremma Toscana IGT which is a varied blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Syrah. You might expect this wine to taste like a Boudreaux. And yes Denis Dubourdieu, French winemaker and Professor of Oenology at the University of Bordeaux did participate in the creation of this wine. But, this wine is made in Italy, in Maremma. Which creates a whole other story.
You might be surprised to see this rich red wine served with a fish course, but why not? It was amazing with a Branzino Alla “Isolana” as it was with the prior pasta, I sneaked an early sip.
Branzino Photo Compliments of the Restaurant Fairy read her post on the event.
Ok it is not over yet, the Pesce was fulfilling and the wine sublime but we have another course, the Carne and a Chianti – Classico Riserva, from the Zonin Estate, Castello D’Albola in Radda In Chianti. I know this wine and the estate well, having visited there this past October. See Castello D'Albola Estate, Radda di Chianti, Under the Tuscan.
The dish was Coniglio Ripeno Di Cecina, Rabbit, with Artichokes, Black Truffle, White Bean Puree. My was this delicious, a perfect pairing to the Chianti. Which by the way, is not your father’s straw bottled wine, no this juice is so much more.
The grand finale was two amazing treats. A Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina, I’ll let the photo be worth a thousand words.
Do the Italians have to do everything so well?
And last, but certainly not least, a glass of Castello d’Albola Vin Santo. If there is a “Nectar of the Gods” this is certainly it.
As i relaxed, I thought about the three men whose passion and everlasting work were the true source of this unforgetable event - their common commitment to the quality and integrity of their pursuits, their engagement of family both their offspring and their family of inspired employees, their devotion to providing a superior experience to their consumers. And most of all a deep respect for nature and the people of their past. This is Greatness.