THE GOCHISO GOURMET: The wonderful world of the Internet

columnist-logo_ryantatsumoto_FINALLove it or hate it, the Internet is balanced with beneficial innovation as much as it’s plagued with maddening pop-ups and trolling Websites. And because virtually everyone is now connected via our smartphones, having a mealtime conversation is about as archaic as the typewriter is for writers. Diners are either furiously snapping food photos or connecting with someone halfway around the world. As they say, “it didn’t happen unless you tweet it.” Sad to say, I’m just as guilty of the frenzied photo ops when a dish is served, “but it’s for work …” Yeah, right.

But there are times when the benefits of the Internet and social media make you thankful for innovation. These moments are better than sliced bread and penicillin combined.

And I’m not talking about Wikipedia (I, for one, am very upset Wikipedia wasn’t around when I was in college.) For instance, most people know that Vino Italian Tapas and Wine Bar is one of my favorite haunts and that I consider its resident Master Sommelier, Chuck Furuya a mentor. Because of multiple Facebook posts, I get to see other people who revere Vino as much as I do, and I occasionally “friend” one of them even if we’ve never met, but simply both look forward to our next meal at Vino. It just so happens that one of these fellow Vino admirers lives almost halfway around the globe in Venice, Italy.

PALS — The Gochiso Gourmet and Isabella Zambon. photo courtesy of Ryan Tatsumoto

PALS — The Gochiso Gourmet and Isabella Zambon. photo courtesy of Ryan Tatsumoto

Via Venice
Dino Coro and his wife Isabella Zambon had a habit of spending annual vacations in Hawai‘i, mostly on the Big Island, but they also spent some shopping time on O‘ahu. And during their O‘ahu stays, they started dining with their two children at Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas and Vino Italian Tapas and Wine Bar about 10 years ago, where they met Chuck Furuya. That friendship was bolstered by the fact that Coro and Zambon also ran a successful restaurant in Venice; Osteria Oliva Nera, so there was the common bond of wine and restaurant ownership. And though Asian chefs are common place in the 50th, Osteria Oliva Nera probably was an anomaly in Venice because they had a succession of chefs from Japan, Chef Masaya Taguchi and Chef Shunsuke Toyoda who combined traditional Italian recipes with an Asian sensibility for crudo or raw dishes. Sadly, Dino unexpectedly passed away about two years ago. So for the past two years, Chuck has hosted a dinner at Vino with Isabella and her two children, Jessica Coro and Filippo Coro as guests of honor.

Is Venice just Grand Canals?
No, Venice is the home to that wonderful sparkling wine, Prosecco. Light and refreshing with a hint of sweetness, it’s the perfect wine for stir fried Asian cuisine, as the effervescence cleanses the palate between bites and fruitiness and sweetness counteracts the spicier flavors found in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. Because of its lower price point (usually in the $15 to $20 range), it also can be used for sparkling wine cocktails like Mimosa and Bellini.

Venice is also home to another food friendly white wine, Soave, which is made primarily from the Garganega grape and produces lighter bodied wines with fruity notes that pair nicely with soft cheeses and seafood. And once again, you can find good Soave in the $15 price range.

Finally, Venice produces a varied range of red wines from the Corvina Veronese, Rondinella and Molinara grapes. At the lower end of the price scale, Valpolicella and Bardolino can be found at most supermarkets. They are easy drinking, simple light bodied dry red wines that pair with most pasta courses, and because of the slight bitter qualities of the Corvina grape, they cleanse the palate like tannins in a hearty red wine would. At the extreme end of the spectrum are the Amarone, made from the same grape varietals, but Amarone are usually produced in better vintages and the grapes are first laid on straw mats to dry for several weeks. Therefore, Amarone are as rich as red wines get and can pair with the heartiest stews and roasts. When the dried grapes are vinified dry, the wine is labeled Amarone della Valpolicella and when they are vinified sweet are labeled Recioto della Valpolicella. And the additional time to create these magnificent wines are reflected in their prices. Amarone start in the $50 range, but are usually closer to the $100 mark, with Recioto having the same price point except most bottles are only 375 milliliters or half the size of a standard wine bottle. Then there are the wines of Guiseppe Quintarelli that fetch upward of $400 on release. Between the Valpolicella and Amarone are the Ripasso della Valpolicella that “salvage” the expended grape must in the production of Amarone. Instead of simply discarding the pressed grape must, free run juice from basic Valpolicella is passed through — ripasso — the must to pick up flavor components in the grape flesh. A little more complex and richer than basic Valpolicella but with a price point closer to Valpolicella than Amarone.

Venetian Cuisine
Because it sits in the middle of a body of water, you would think all of Venice’s cuisine would be seafood based, but that’s only partially correct. The one dish associated with Venice is Bigoli in salsa, which is a whole wheat pasta with an anchovy and onion sauce. And pasta isn’t the favored starch in the region, it’s polenta, which is served with another Venetian specialty, Fegato ala venesiana or chopped liver cooked with onions. Venetians also cook with their famous Amarone wine featuring beef braised in the pricey red wine of the Gods or Brasato all’Amarone along with risotto also cooked with the same nectar, Risotto all’Amarone. And while my favorite dessert out of Venice is Pandoro, a traditional sweet yeasted bread, your favorite is probably Tiramisu, yes that Tiramisu, which eventually spread throughout Italy and the rest of Europe.

The menu celebrating the annual Hawai‘i sojourn of Isabella Zambon, Jessica Coro and Filippo Coro:
aperitif — 3 oz Sommariva Prosecco

A Toast to Dino
Antipasti (served family style)
Crispy Cauliflower-cumin aioli, zatar brown butter
Grilled Hau’ula Baby Bok Choy-Marcona almonds, cranberries & shaved pastrami
Sliced Marinated Pork — with charred asparagus
Wine: 3 oz Corte Gardoni Bardolino “Chiaretto”
 
Garlic Shrimp
Served with garlic, fennel, sun dried tomatoes, white wine & clam jus
Wine: 3 oz Corte Gardoni Bianco di Custoza

Beef braciole. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Beef braciole. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Roasted Beef Braciole
stuffed with prosciutto, raisins, herbs and Parmesan cheese and served with
oxtail ravioli, Swiss Chard and pine nuts
Wine: 3 oz 2009 Quintarelli Primofiore

Roasted Banana & Chocolate Tiramisu
Served with Mango sorbet

Before dinner started, Furuya did his customary toast to Dino Coro, who we know was there in spirit. As the evening progressed, Isabella made her way to every table to reconnect with everyone whether they previously visited Osteria Oliva Nera or whether they simply friended her through social media like yours truly. And she’s still asking us when we plan on visiting Venice. Baby steps first, I still need to get a passport. Though the Internet has its negatives, it’s great when it makes this vast, wide world a little smaller. Ciao!

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the Univ. of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at gochisogourmet@yahoo.com.

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