VIDEO: Pranzo Italiano with CPJ Wines

Thursday, December 13, 2018

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Thirty-four guests gathered under the shade of umbrellas and ackee trees on the lawns of Round Hill Villa Number 24 for an epicurean Italian lunch on Sunday, December 9. Hosted by CPJ Wines with the support of Round Hill Hotel and Villas, the luncheon saw Banfi Wines e xport m anager for the Caribbean Raymond Rivera flying in for the event. The five-course meal created by Round Hill Executive Chef Martin Maginley and his team was worth the drive from Kingston to Hanover.

The afternoon began with prosecco and an array of antipasti that included prosciutto, bresaola, smoked duck breast, aged gouda, brie, fresh olive focaccia, herbed pickled olives, tomato tapenade, guacamole, salsa and corn and plantain chips. Guests noshed on delicious meats and cheeses while guitarist Shawn Richards played suitable background music.

Lunch commenced in earnest with glasses of San Angelo Pinot Grigio to accompany the first course of grilled watermelon salsa with tuna. The dish saw sushi grade tuna combined with avocado, prosciutto chips, fingerling greens and pickled cho-cho. The sweetness and char of the watermelon wonderfully complemented the freshness of the tuna, saltiness of the crispy prosciutto bits and brightness of the pickled cho-cho. The fruity notes of the pear and honey of the pinot grigio paired well with the dish and allowed the first course to come out the gates charging. The intermezzo of lemon sorbet that followed was zesty, not too sweet, and cold as the shoulder given by a scorned Italian lover.

The third course of roasted grouper was served with two side dishes — white bean ragout with spicy pork sausage and spinach spätzle. The grouper was flawlessly cooked — amazing sear with a fleshy centre — the ragout and the spätzle made from spinach and soft herbs from the Round Hill organic garden made for amazing accompaniments. This dish was paired with two wines — La Pettegola Vermentino and Chianti Classico. Pettegola means “a gossiping woman” in Italian and this wine, with fruit-forward bouquet, notes of saffron and sage and delicate freshness, made the lips flap and dance. The Chianti Classico had lovely tannins, notes of dark stone fruit and a pleasing finish.

The fourth course saw herb-crusted cannon of lamb and grilled lamb rack served with triple-boiled garlic, crispy potatoes, kale and oyster mushroom and pan jus. Thursday Food could wax poetic about this dish but we would need a few extra pages. Put it this way, a number of guests threw etiquette out the window and picked up the lamb bones with their fingers, so ensuring that not a shred of delicious meat was wasted. The earthiness of the garlic meeting the mushrooms' umami flavour, combined with the herbs and the top-quality lamb, made for culinary alchemy that would make Harry Potter wish he went to culinary school. Molto bene! The delicious fruitiness and notes of vanilla and liquorice of the La Lus Albarossa made this pairing, in a word, heavenly.

Lunch ended in spectacular form with a dark chocolate mousse made from local chocolate that was coated in chocolate chip pepper cookie crumbs and smoked fleur de sel and served alongside mango sorbet. The smoky saltiness of the fleur de sel and intensity of the dark chocolate was rounded out by the airiness of the mousse and fruitiness of the mango sorbet. The Aska Bolgheri Rosso and its notes of blueberries and tobacco was dense and powerful and heightened the dessert experience.

CPJ definitely knows how to host. For a few hours guests were transported to Italy with superb wines and a flawless meal. The views of palm trees and the Caribbean sea in the distance and the ackee trees overhead anchored the event in Jamaicanness. And the Round Hill wait and kitchen staff showed that “out of many” extends to epicurean prowess.

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