Photos from top to bottom: Looking down at the main dining room; 30-month Prosciutto di Parma; Chef slicing the leg of Prosciutto di Parma; Cheeses served Grana Padano & Montasio; Prosciutto San Daniele
Last night I was invited to the Legends from Europe dinner at the beautiful, historical SD26 at one of the restaurant’s private dining rooms. Despite SD26 would be about 5 years old, mind you they have a long legacy with restaurant scene in NYC. Tony May (the co-owner with his daughter, Marisa May) started and owned the Rainbow Room in the late 60s to the 80s. Eventually what changed the Italian restaurant scene in NYC, he opened San Domenico in the mid-1980s on Central Park South up until 2008. To understand the impact of San Domenico, without it, we wouldn’t have the fine dining Italian restaurants we have in NYC.
This evening was fun yet informative. The food is deeply rooted on Italian tradition with slight modern twists, as you’ll read soon.
We started with an aperitif hour with this glasses of wonderful Zonin prosecco, hand carved 30-month old proscuitto that’s delicately sweet with a touch of salt, melt in your mouth sliced San Daniele ham. We also nibbled on a relatively rare (in the U.S., that is) Montasio cheese that is creamy and mild, the famous crumbly, slightly salty Parmigiano Reggiano, and the delectable Grana Padano. These ingredients are what the dinner menu is based on.
Our first course was Prosciutto di San Daniele wrapped with cantaloupe, Grana Padano spuma and watercress pesto. It’s a very good, familiar dish. The lightness of the Grana Padana spuma kept the dish from getting too monotonous. The Becco Lambrusco pairing worked nicely but adding gentle effervescence but adding a touch of dryness.
The second course was incredibly sensual (to think of it in hindsight, pretty appropriate for Valentine’s Day) Montasio cheese fondue topped with poached egg and Prosciutto di Parma tuile. Creamy, mild flavored, cheesy fondue but when you stir in oozy egg yolk, it’s sublime. The touch of salt and crispiness from the proscuitto chip, it rounds out the dish wonderfully.
The riso canaroli “acquerello” with Parmigiano Reggiano Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale is essentially a very well executed risotto topped with an amazing aged balsamic wine that tied to the wine pairing of Tenuta Sant Antonio Ripasso della Valpolicella Monti Garbi 2010 perfectly. This particular moment was my miniature epiphany of how a wine can elevate a dish when it’s done right. On its own, the Valpolicella had wonderful bright tannins that made me want to buy a bottle and serve it for dinner.
My favorite dish was Prosciutto di Parma wrapped rabbit, wild mushrooms, Montasio gratin. The rabbit was tender and flavorful while the prosciutto added a subtle sweet-saltiness. The escarole added delicate earthy bitterness and crunch that cuts the sweetness of the meat. The 2012 Abbazia di Novacella-Stiftskellerei Kloster Neustift Lagrein Alto Adige, Trentino-Alto Adige wine pairing was good but it didn’t sing as well. The wine has very clean, focused nose and flavors of cherries and a bit of herb.
For dessert, we had Grana Padano mousse, red wine poached pear and Grana Padano chip. The dessert was overall tasty but the cheese mousse had an unusually chewy texture rather than being a silky, ethereal mousse I was expecting.
I’ve capped the evening with a lovely shot of smooth, bold espresso and a plate of petit fours of cookies. The food was great, being based on the five legendary ingredients – Parmagiano Reggiano cheese, Montasio, Grana Padano, San Daniele prosciutto and Prosciutto di Parma and paired with Italian wines – it makes sense and it’s simply great.
To view more photos of this dinner, please view the slideshow below (or CLICK HERE):
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Legends from Europe