Friday, May 9, 2008

More Fun Playing Slowly with Bar Cento's Appertivo

Last Wednesday, we joined about a dozen members of the Slow Food Northern Ohio Convivium at Bar Cento. The event was billed as a two hour service of appertivo and a glass of Chianti Montespertoli from Castello Sonnino ($20 for the general public, $15 for Slow Food members). Barone De Renzis of Sonnino attended, and seemed to enjoy how much we enjoyed his wines (everyone at our 8 top ordered a very reasonably priced flight of tastes of several other varietals in addition to the Chianti). Our table fully expected to stay for dinner after enjoying the appetizers.

Well, Slow Food has attended a previous event like this at Bar Cento, so we should have known better than to think we wouldn't be completely sated after the appertivo (that one was so crowded, I didn't take any photos, but you can see Stuart's photos of it here). Once again, on Wednesday, Chef Jonathon Sawyer and his wonderful crew fed us a magnificent meal of light (and not so light) bites. I would appreciate if Chef Sawyer, or anyone reading this who knows more about the specific types of olives, salumi, cheese, or anything else, would please jump in with comments identifying the goodies better!

The spread included no less than six varieties of olives. Before I became involved with Slow Food, and the only olives I knew came from cans, I despised them. Now, even though the green ones still don't really float my boat - I appreciate the real thing, and I tasted them all:

Figures - the ones I liked the best photographed out of focus

And there was so much more!

Almonds with Sliced Dates

And of course, a large and varied selection of Salumi. Not all of it was to my taste (but my husband took care of any slices I tasted and didn't care for), but it was all clearly top quality:

This was my favorite - with almost a pastrami-like peppery crust

Whew - that was a lot of pork fat!

Date Bark with Almonds

Sort of an inside-out take on the dish of almonds and slices dates - a lovely sweet foil for the oily salumi.


Three varieties of cheese also graced the serving area; I'd love to know what the second two were:

The Amarelo was a little too strong for my taste, but a lovely cheese nonetheless.

This was my favorite cheese (favorites did not fair well with focus this night).

The third cheese, a hard cheese, is in better focus behind this lovely plate of eggplant (was it grilled or sauteed?) and scallion.

This assortment of bread was lightly toasted

I believe that these breads came from Mediterra Bakehouse in PA - the one to the right was lightly toasted, and delicious served as Chef Sawyer suggested, with the prosciutto wrapped around it. I'm not a huge prosciutto fan, but the suggested combination was heavenly!

These crisps had a mild cheese (or was it lardo?) melted on them, together with a bit of ramp. Yum!


Spring Peas

My first peas of spring - fantastic. And again I ask - sauteed or grilled (both the peas and the eggplant had a smoky aroma and flavor, so I think the latter - but what do I know)?

White Beans Sauteed with Ramps

Another simple, yet extraordinary dish.

Local Beef Tartare with Olive Oil and Basil


Tempura'd Broccoli Rabe

Light, crisp and warm - and not a bit greasy! This was a table favorite.

Ramp Pizza

With ramp season nearly over, we marveled that Chef Jonathon had three items on the buffet containing them. This pizza was every bit as amazing as I'd heard - the spiciness from the ramps is so very close to chili pepper! And the creamy garlic - this was a seasonal treat that I am glad I did not miss.

Close up of the Ramp Pizza

Braised Lamb Pizza

Unfortunately, I did not get a photo of a whole pie. Chef Sawyer brought these around to the tables as they came out of the oven - around 6:30pm - just as people were saying that they couldn't eat another bite. Oh yes you can - don't pass this lovely up (a couple of us practically begged Chef to put this on the regular menu). Tender, melt-in-your-mouth morsels of lamb resplendent atop a crunchy crust, accompanied by scallion and gooey cheese - food just doesn't get any better than this.

Prunes aka "Dried Plums"

Chestnut Cake

I was too full to try this Chestnut cake, but it looked wonderful.

Olive Oil Pound Cake

I did taste a bit of this, topped with a few of the liquor-soaked Italian cherries pictured below.

These fabulous appertivo constituted a complete dinner for all eight of the Slow Food folks at our table - the best kind of dinner - the kind where you get to play with delicious slow food, in the company of wonderful friends and a friendly staff, then go home happy until it is time to play with your food again!

1 comment:

  1. YUM! I really wanted to go to this, but I had to work--clearly I missed a fun night.