True crime confession: before last Thurs., I’d only been to Barolo Grill for a bite at the bar. But I’d long hankered to go full splurge—& now that I’ve had the opportunity on someone else’s dime, I’m gung-ho to repeat the process on my own major chunk of change. Though what follows is a photo essay, not a review (which I’ll save for said return trip), that should tell you what I thought of the luxe northern-Italian longtimer.
The occasion: a visit from Marcello Lunelli of Ferrari, which makes traditional-method sparkling wines from the Trento DOC. As fellow guest Claire Walter of Culinary Colorado has pointed out, most Americans don’t realize Italy has a tradition of bubbly outside of Prosecco & Asti, but indeed it does, mostly in northern regions where the climate is best suited to its production—including that of sparkling reds like Lambrusco & Brachetto d’Acqui. Unlike all those examples, which contain indigenous grapes, Trento wines follow the Champagne model: only Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier & to a lesser extent Pinot Blanc are allowed. (For more on the appellation, you can purchase a copy of the article we at Sommelier Journal ran back in Feb. here.)
What many casual wine drinkers also don’t realize is that bubbly is not just a celebratory aperitif—on the contrary, it’s got major pride of place on the table, as my piece on summer sparklers for Imbibe explains. I mean, you might not want to serve an extra-brut blanc de blancs with BBQ brisket, but there’s a style for virtually every dish you can think of. And if you’re used to classic profiles marked by brioche, lemon, pear, apple, chalk & so on, you might be surprised to discover they can possess notes that run from smoke & herbs to truffles, Parmesan rind, brine & salted caramel: I detected all that & more (in various permutations) both in Ferrari’s 2006 Perlé bottlings, the Rosé & the Blanc de Noirs, & in its tremendous Riserve del Fondatori Giulio, especially the 1994 & 1993. Those were just 4 of the 10 wines we sampled throughout our 7-course dinner, preceded by an amuse bouche of house-smoked salmon with crème fraîche & caviar
& continuing apace with a truffled egg custard so silken & intensely pure it was like I was eating an egg for the first time. I don’t think I’ll be able to put another anywhere near my mouth for some time.
Equally gorgeous was the foie gras terrine with peaches so ripe they were practically papayas, as well as dots of pistachio cream.
And quenelles of baccalà—salt cod pureed with olive oil—accompanied by tempura artichoke, pea puree & black-garlic aioli.
An eloquently minimalist salad of raw crimini, chanterelle & royal trumpet mushrooms.
Plin, a ravioli-like pasta from Piedmont, stuffed with rabbit sausage over cardamom-spiced carrot puree.
The main event: chef Darrel Truett’s take on cassoulet starring cabbage, white beans, seared halibut cheek, grilled prawn & a disk of wonderfully delicate seafood sausage—primarily scallop, it seemed, surrounded by a pretty vegetable confetti.
All around, a superb experience. Now I’m on a quest to determine if it’s this good on average.