If I asked you, “what’s the perfect food pairing?”, what would you say? Scallops and bacon? Lamb and mint? Venison and blackberries? Tea and crumpets? In Italy, the perfect pair is Parmigiano Reggiano P.D.O and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena P.D.O which are from Emilia Romagna, the region where my husband is from.
Earlier this month I was invited to a five-course lunch to discover this perfect Italian pair at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond. The event was part of the Culinary Project and was to showcase Parmigiano Reggiano P.D.O and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena P.D.O., not only the perfect Italian food pairing but also a protected product of origin – hence the P.D.O.
I couldn’t think of a more beautiful setting to enjoy the bespoke menu created by Petersham Nurseries’ Head Chef, Damian Clisby, in collaboration with guest chef, Daniele Repetti, Head Chef of Nido del Picchio, a Michelin Starred restaurant in Italy. The tables looked gorgeous and the flower arrangements were just stunning!
The lunch began with a tasting of 18 month, 24 month and 48 month aged Parmigiano Reggiano P.D.O. as well as an explanation of how it is made. It’s referred to as “The king of cheeses” and is best served in chunks with fresh or dried fruit or with Aceto Balsamico, of course. It’s one of the world’s oldest and richest cheeses – still produced today as it was nine centuries ago.
Next we got to hear how Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena P.D.O. is produced and we got to taste 12 year and 25 year Aceto Balsamico – first on a spoon and then with the Parmigiano. Delicious. What I found fascinating is that all Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena P.D.O. is produced by only seven families and then examined and judged by a board of five expert tasters. Only after that can it then be sold in special bottles, each with a numbered guaranteed seal.
It was really interesting to learn about both products and their rich history steeped in tradition. I was so excited to taste the food, using these special ingredients.
There were two starters – the first was devised by chef Damian Clisby and included 24, 36 and 48 month Parmigiano Reggiano P.D.O with spring vegetables, speck and Haye Farm egg with 25 year old Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena P.D.O. It was as pretty as a picture and was the perfect Spring starter. It was good to begin with something light as there were still four courses to follow!
The second starter was devised by chef Daniele Ripetti and consisted of 24 month old Parmigiano Reggiano P.D.O cheese terrine with herbs, asparagus tips, edible flowers and 12 year old Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena P.D.O. I really enjoyed this dish and could really taste the Parmesan in the terrine. I loved how the dish was plated – they looked like fairy-tale mushrooms.
The middle course
The middle course or ‘primi’ as they say in Italy was devised by chef Daniele Repetti and was one that I am very familiar with as it’s a traditional dish from Bologna. 24 month old Parmigiano Reggiano P.D.O cappelletti (or tortellini if you’re from Bologna) in an asparagus, mushroom and seaweed broth. I loved this dish! The broth (or brodo) actually tasted like the traditional chicken brodo and had I not known I would never have guessed that it was vegetarian.
The main course
For the main course chef Damian Clisby served lamb cutlet with artichoke alla Romana with 24 month old Parmigiano Reggiano P.D.O and 12 year old Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena P.D.O. As expected, the lamb was perfectly cooked and the stuffed artichoke was a delight. The only thing missing was another cutlet!
Now the only dessert I’ve ever had with Aceto Balsamico is some sort of macerated strawberry dish. I was intrigued when I read the menu and that chef Daniele Ripetti’s dessert would be a coffee mousse with chocolate ganache, creamy cardamom milk, beetroot coral and green coffee meringue with 25 year old Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena P.D.O. It looked like a work of art and was decadent too.
I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon eating, learning and meeting some lovely fellow food bloggers. Thank you to Dialogue Agency, The Culinary Project, the chefs and Petersham Nurseries for being such excellent hosts.