An Evening of Feasting with Adriano Cavagnini and Terry Giacomello at Massimo:
The Perfect Italian Pair! Well, that could apply to a number of the things happening at Massimo the other night. For starters, before we ever got to eat dinner, a line up of aged Parmigiano Reggiano PDO and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena PDO to taste. Which pairing worked best? Logic might suggest the older Aceto (25-year-old aged) would work best with the oldest Parmigiano.
But, a quick tasting showed quite explicitly that the older, richer Parmigiano paired best with the young Aceto, while the youngest sharper Parmigiano benefited from the treacly sweetness of the 25-year-old aged Aceto.
We learnt that the older Aceto is best used as a dressing while the younger (12-year-old) Aceto works well for cooking. And, we learnt a little about the production of this unique product. Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena PDO is produced by fermenting reduced grape juice and gradually transferring the must into smaller and smaller barrels for at least 12 years. The result is a slowly acidified liquid, rich, dark brown and shiny.
By comparison, the Parmigiano Reggiano is a baby, with a minimum maturation time of 12 months. It takes a full 14 litres of milk to produce 1kg of cheese – and the older cheeses, aged for 36 months are richer, crumbly and almost sweet in flavour.
To cook for us, using this Italian pair, what could be more appropriate than a pair of Italian chefs. Adriano Cavagnini who is the new(ish) Executive Chef at Massimo and Terry Giacomello, the Executive Chef from Michelin Starred Ristorante Inkiostro in Parma.
We were lucky enough to be eating in the unique and exclusive setting of the chef’s private dining room at Massimo – a space where the chefs cook in front of you, with no glass, no other dishes being prepared and a total focus on the private dining experience.
Our menu started with white asparagus with ‘beurre blanc’, Aceto Balsamico and a bay leaf reduction. I was fascinated by the plating process and amazed by the delicacy of this dish.
Next, what I believe is one of the signature dishes from Inkiostro – a delicate egg white tagliolino with Parmigiano Reggiano DOP and truffle caviar. Actually, I would happily have stopped at this point and just eaten more of this light, fragrant dish.
Risotto Fragole with Aceto Balsamico could have been my undoing, but the risotto itself just had a touch of cooked strawberry and my version came without the pretty garnish of fresh strawberries.
I have no idea why I can eat cooked strawberries but have an allergy to the raw kind and was grateful for my personalised version, even if it didn’t look quite as pretty as my neighbour’s (in the photo).
Veal medallions with Parmigiano Reggiano DOP, Tomato and Marjoram was a richer, delicious dish.
I loved the marjoram ‘pesto’ topping on the veal medallions and the rich melted cheese. The tomato mixture complemented the marjoram perfectly and added a soft and mellow flavour.
Pear Tarte Tatin was delicious of course but came with a crumble of walnut and Parmigiano Reggiano. It only took a moment of inspiration to add a little of the 25yr old Aceto Balsamico and perfect the dish.
By the end of the evening, it felt as if we were best friends with the chefs and the producers of Parmigiano and of Aceto Balsamico. And, having watched the kitchen team in action, I had tremendous respect for them.
It’s one thing to produce immaculate dishes from the privacy of a restaurant kitchen, another to do the whole thing ‘theatre’ style and just a few feet from your audience at that. I have Parmigiano in the fridge and two bottles of Balsamico on the shelf. Somehow I don’t think I’ll come anywhere close to making dishes so special. But, I’ll have fun trying.
I was a guest of Parmigiano Reggiano PDO and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale de Modena PDO at Massimo
The Corinthia Hotel
10 Northumberland Avenue,
London WC2N 5AE