The sauce clung to the gnocchi, thickened by the potato starches as the clouds of potato dough hit the citrus brown butter sauce. I wasn’t sure if I was happy about it or not. I imagined spooning the sauce over the cooked gnocchi. But then I tasted one…mmm pure happiness. When making the sauce we added whiskey to the browned butter to flambé and it tasted even more caramelized then I could have imagined. Sage was added to the butter making it fragrant. I loved the sound of the fresh herbs crackling in the molten butter, bursting perfumed bubbles upward.
We paired the hazelnut gnocchi with a braised oxtail. Originally we wanted wild boar to make osso buco but decided that we’d try that another time. The oxtail we purchased were the perfect size, just small enough, not too big for a single small serving. And I was delighted to use the meat, it isn’t used very often kind of a forgotten cut of the beef but my mother used it often as well as my grandfather Fred who was the cook of the family long ago, and he cooked old school Italian food. The oxtail was braised overnight in red wine and tomatoes with aromatics, it braised for hours! It took so long we were starting to get worried but finally the the strands gave way and the meat around the bone had soften. And just in time. Dinner was served.
Cicchetti is way of eating, typically in Venice, Italy. It is small plates or side dishes served in bàcari, cicchetti bars if you will. The theme was perfect! We served 8 freaking courses so the dishes needed to be small. This was the biggest courses out meal I’ve ever prepared and thankfully Dave was there! And thankfully we had back up! Anthony, Mike, Laura, Jen and Paul helped make this dinner happen. It was fun and stressful and totally worth it. The food was as beautiful as it was delicious.
During the chaos of these dinners it’s hard to remember all of the details but a few blurry images and thoughts linger. I always forget to take pictures of at least one dish and never remember to set up additional lighting to capture the third course on. The sun goes down, Kristen and you will not have natural lighting to get the job done! Maybe I’ll remember next time. Doubt it.
As the guests start to arrive the excitement builds, as do the “shit, shit, shit!” of things forgotten. It always happens. I remembered, I still needed to make the squid ink pasta! Thankfully we had a lot of capable hands on deck. Delegating is truly a wonderful thing! I got the pasta made in time for it to rest, to be rolled out and then cut. The pasta was gorgeously black! Less than one tablespoon of ink made the pasta as dark as midnight on a moonless night, incredible! And I didn’t even get any on my clothes. Amazing!
We started with the stuffed burrata that we made fresh! Dave, bless his heart, worked his ass off, perfecting the art of making mozzarella. It seemed simple enough but once you try to form the elastic balls into stuffed burrata all while working in nearly boiling liquid to keep the cheese soft and pliable…well it was a hectic process, as you can imagine but we made it through. They didn’t look spectacular, we ended up calling them purses but the creamy, tomato confit filling was to die for and the texture of the mozzarella was soft and delicious. This was probably the most challenging dish to date. Thanks Dave for going through the trial and errors. You rock.
As the courses went on we all fell into a routine and really had a good time. The tables looked beautiful, thank you Laura and Jen. The weather was perfect. People we getting sauced and we were too a little. Then we had two courses left. The hazelnut gnocchi with braised oxtail.
pane fresca, salumi, insulate, formaggio, polpette
Negroni, Moretti Rosso
gorgonzola, roasted garlic, crouton, pork
braised rabbit, smoked provolone, ricotta fresca
pasta nera, wild mushroom, roasted tomato gastrique, neri
Big Fred’s Red
pappardelle, bison & beef, prosciutto
san marzano red wine braised, hazelnut gnocchi, citrus brown butter
vanilla bean gelato, espresso
A special thanks to all who attended Cicchetti. And thanks to all who helped behind the scenes, you all rock!
Check out Table by Destination’s website for future pop-up dinner dates in the San Diego area.