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As suspense mounts for the long-awaited chefs from Berlin, S.Pellegrino Sapori Ticino gives us a taste of what’s to come with the first dinner at Villa Principe Leopoldo in the Swiss canton of Ticino.
The venue may vary from year to year but as usual the first evening combined top chefs from the area’s finest kitchens: host chef Dario Ranza with Ivo Adam, Andrea Bertarini, Marco Ghioldi, Egidio Iadonisi, Antonio Fallini, and René Nagy. Villa Principe Leopoldo Hotel & Spa is a five-star boutique hotel with breathtaking vistas over Lake Lugano and the surrounding mountains. The gourmet Principe Leopoldo Restaurant has been run by Dario Ranza for more than twenty years and directly looks out over an inlet glistening with lights.
This magnificent venue offered the perfect setting for guests to be treated to gourmet appetizers in the heated veranda by the impeccably manicured lawn. The blissful sound of corks popping off magnums of Bellavista Cuvée was accompanied by delicate amuse-bouches, such as quail eggs on a nest of celeriac with mustard sauce; prawns with toasted Valle Maggia bread and pancetta; sea bass in a citrus fruit marinade with herb ricotta or fried calf’s head and baccalà (salted cod) with a hot sauce. Guests then moved up to the first floor where the fine dining began in earnest. Small white porcelain bowls arrived containing a white “tangle” with a sprinkling of clams and a greenish powder, at first glance they seemed like tagliatelle cut up by an inexperienced commis chef, but were actually ultrafine, tender strips of cuttlefish served with Bronte pistachio cream.
A bouquet of grapefruit and lime emanates from wine glasses: it’s the Brivio Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Ronco Bain Ticino DOC which announces the next pairing. It’s a risotto, but more than a few people looked rather perplexed as they read the menu which said that it was risotto with tomato, lemon, Sicilian red shrimp and Provola cheese. One dish that breaks two taboos: won’t lemon and tomato make it too acidic? And what is Provola cheese doing in a recipe with shrimp? Worried faces melted into smiles with the first mouthfuls; the freshness and elegance of the citrus notes, which were also heightened by the wine, made for an exhilarating taste sensation.
A glass of S.Pellegrino to cleanse the palate, and the taste buds are ready for the next meat dish. The USA Angus sirloin was baked until almost rare in the oven and served with fondant potatoes and Foyot sauce, a simple yet complex dish as the meat has to be cooked just right. The dish was paired with two great reds: Confidences Château Prieuré-Lichine, Margaux from 2009 and a 2008 by the same producer, two outstanding Bordeaux. But the tribute to French wines did not stop there; a drop of Château Suduiraut- Sauternes 1999 accompanied the satin puff pastry with white chocolate and yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit that lightens and offsets the cream.
The guests are dying to know which chef created which dish and many tables are even placing bets: who cooked the risotto or who made the dessert? But this year the chefs are unanimous in their reply, “We decided not to reveal who made each dish. This sends the message that we are united and working together; our aim isn’t to compete against each other, but to promote the gastronomic excellence of the canton of Ticino”. So after dinner amiable discussions about the food continue in the adjoining drawing rooms, accompanied by an excellent cognac and a fine Davidoff cigar.