Tag Archives: Amarone

Zenato Wine Tasting

The main reason we decided to stay in Verona in the first place during our recent trip to Italy, was to visit the vineyard of our favourite wine label, Zenato.

Trebbiano grapes with the Italian Alps in the background

Zenato have two vineyards. One in the Valpolicella region, to the east of Lake Garda, where they grow Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes to make their wonderful red wines, like amarone, and one in the Peschiera Del Garda, at the south east tip of Lake Garda. Here they grow Trebbiano grapes to make white wines like their Lugana.

Zenato also grow their own olives to make their olive oil

Our friendly guide, Anna, walked us through the wine making process, where we found out what a truly complex art it can be. The flavour of each wine is so reliant on seemingly endless factors from nature, from the soil composition and weather to the types of plants that grow near the grapes – all encapsulated in the terroir that gives each crop their unique qualities.

Grapes drying to make amarone

While all of this was fascinating to me, we also had the benefit of being able to take in the spectacular scenery of the Italian Alps in the background, as well as seeing the grapes to make amarone being air-dried in crates before being pressed. The end result is an sweet, intensely flavoured wine that we just love.

No swans were harmed in the making of this photograph ! The awesome Lake Garda

Getting dropped off at Lake Garda on a stupendously gloriously sunny day after going through tasting eight of their wines made a slightly tipsy D and I a little emotional at just how good life can be.  La dolce vita !

Zenato Azienda Vitivinicola
Via San Benedetto, 8
37019 Peschiera Del Garda (Verona) Italy
Email: info@zenato.it


24 Apostles

Amarone risotto

Well, the second time we went to the 12 Apostles, actually. We had had such a fun and delicious experience there a few nights earlier, and there was so many dishes that went unordered, we felt we simply had to go again.

D and I were intent on trying dishes that we would not normally order. This time around, again on recommendation, an amarone risotto, a gorgeous dish of saffron shrimp au gratin and my first taste of monkfish.

The amarone risotto tasted exactly as you would expect a risotto that was made with a heady, heavy, sweet red wine instead of stock. With no other ingredients or accompaniments, the flavour was a little strong for my liking – not sure if it’s habit or preference, but the flavour of risotto for me is usually quite delicate. Still, I’m glad I tried a speciality of the region – presumably because they have a large supply of amarone (so jealous). And the risotto was cooked perfectly – with a good amount of bite and lots of gorgeous starch from the grains.

Saffron shrimp au gratin

The shrimp came on a bed of wilted spinach, smothered in cheese and then oven-baked so that the cheese melted over the shrimp. Oh. My. Goodness. Heaven on a plate. I never think of combining shrimp with cheese but that sweet and savoury mix worked beautifully together.

Pan-roasted monkfish with frutti di mare

Monkfish was my main course.  It isn’t commonly found in Asia or Australia, and we’d seen it in the Venice Fish Markets – not really sure why it seems to be filleted so that it looks like it’s exploded like some alien, but assume because the only edible part of the fish is the tail (and it’s liver) – and looking at pictures of the whole fish, it’s a pretty ugly looking thing. Which is ironic because it tastes absolutely delicious. The texture of it is dense and sweet, similar to lobster-meat but not quite as heavy and is beautifully flaky. This came simply pan fried with a simple stock reduction and seafood with vegetables. I have to say, that in the whole of our trip, the Italians seem to really overseason and overcook their vegetables. Still, the fish was wonderful and I’m glad to have finally tasted this fish I hear so much about from watching travel/cooking programs.

Vanilla ice-cream with amaretti pastry and crushed hazelnuts

Of course we couldn’t skip dessert. Only this time we were more restrained and just ordered one – essentially a round ice-cream sandwich, with vanilla ice-cream in the centre, flaky amaretti pastry on top and bottom, and with the ice-cream dusted in crushed sugar and hazelnuts. The dish was warmed in a hot oven for literally 30 seconds before serving, melting the sugar and hazelnut mixture and providing you with incentive to eat it before all the ice-cream melted. I think it wasn’t on our table for much longer than it was in the oven.

I would recommend Verona to anyone who asks, and also this restaurant. Your dinner is sure to give you a true taste of Veronese food and wine, as well as its culture and history.

12 Apostoli
Corticela S. Marco 3,
37121, Verona, Italy
Tel: +39 045 596999
Email: dodiciapostoli@tiscali.it

Closed Sunday and Monday evenings

Zenato wine tasting @ Basilico @ the Regent Hotel

Yellow-fin tuna and salmon tartare with toasted pistachios, wild fennel and citrus dill oil

Ponti Wine Cellars recently held another Zenato wine tasting.  The last time was at the Imperial Treasure Peking Duck Restaurant, where they paired various Zenato wines with Chinese food, which I don’t usually associate with wine, and found to my delight that wine enhances Chinese food as well. This time around, it was with more traditional Italian cuisine at Basilica in the Regent Hotel.

We started the evening with a prosecco – Lugana Metodo Classico Brut.  Crisp and dry, this was a perfect way to end a Thursday night after work and to ease ourselves into the rest of the evening.

First course was a yellow fin tuna and salmon tartare with toasted pistachios, wild fennel and citrus dill oil, paired with the Lugana San Benedetto 2009. But food first. The tuna and salmon tartare was firm and sweet and we noticed that it was not even seasoned, leaving the additional flavours coming from the fennel (ho hum), the pistachios (a surprisingly fanastic pairing) and the dill (for me the strongest and best flavour with the fishes). The wine was certainly one of those you’d easily drink all evening, but seemed to lack any punch (like I would expect with a pinot gris) which I think would pair well with the more neutral flavours on the plate.

Wild boar and ricotta agnolotti with black truffles and baby artichokes

Second course was a wild boar and ricotta agnolotti which is similar to a ravioli, but rather than having two sheets of pasta and then sealing it, it is simply one piece of pasta folded over – a technicality to me. The pasta was served with black truffles and baby artichokes. Maybe because of the truffles, but the three squares of pasta filled with delicate, tender wild boar with just a hint of creaminess from the ricotta left us almost gagging for more. The thing I find is, similar to sashimi, there is a limit to the amount of really good food that you can eat, before it becomes too much, and I presume three is the limit, but gosh on the night we all felt like we could have eaten at least another serving each.  Paired with a Cresasso Corvina Veronese 2005 (the corvina grape is the main grape in an amarone) this single grape wine was a good all-rounder, but nothing to write home about).

Roasted wagyu beef tenderloin 9+ with asparagus, ratte potatoes and roasted cherry tomato

The meat course was a roasted wagyu beef tenderloin 9+ with asparagus, ratte potatoes and a roasted cherry tomato.  Ratte potatoes are from France and lay claim to being “the potato” by several high end chefs like Joel Robuchon, but for me, the single roasted cherry tomato held the best flavour that married with the tender melt-in-the-mouth tenderloin.  The tenderloin was absolutely bang on perfectly medium-rare and ok I admit all three of the vegetables went well with it, but perhaps it was just so delicious that you could have stuck boiled brussel sprouts next to it, and they still would have been delicious. Paired with this was the Zenato Amarone Valpolicella Superiore 2007.  We thought the Cresasso Corvina was good, until we tasted this and we shouldn’t have been surprised but you just can’t go back once you’ve tasted the amarone.  Strong concentrated berry flavours hit your palate with hints of truffle in a gorgeously mellow wine.

Roasted peach with almond ice-cream and crushed amaretti biscuits

Dessert was a roasted peach with almond ice-cream, biscotti and crushed amaretti biscuits.  And with this, I had for the first time, a red dessert wine – Zenari Reciota della Valpolicella  Classico 2006.  I always think of dessert wines as having a syrupy texture.  This wine was dark cherry red in the glass, had lots of legs when you swirled it in the glass, and had all the sweetness expected with a dessert wine, but a surprisingly light and almost refreshing lightness in texture.  Amazing stuff.

We are still such novices when it comes to wine, but we do know what we like, and D and I are planning our entire trip to Italy later this year around a visit to the Zenato vineyard.  Each time I sample their wines, that trip is simply too, too far away for my liking.

Ponti Wine Cellars stock Zenato wines
G/F 204 Telok Ayer Street
Tel: 6733 0369

Basilico @ the Regent Hotel
Second floor, One Cuscaden Road
Tel: 6725 3232

Why Chef Valentino is a GENIUS

Truffle ice-cream with freshly shaved white truffles

Who else would shave fresh white truffles over truffle/vanilla ice-cream??

In my earlier post on Valentinos, I mentioned that D had loved it so much that he said that Valentinos was where he wanted to have his birthday dinner.  So off we went last night.

Fresh buffalo mozzarella

I had already rang ahead to check if they had any fresh buffalo mozarella that night and was delighted to find out they did.  We had a similar round of starters than we did our first time there – lightly breadcrumbed and deep-fried anchovies, the buffalo mozarella and sweet tomatoes with olive oil and basil, cow’s milk cheese wrapped in proscuitto and pan-fried, and we added a selection of cold meats to make four for the table.

Cherry tomatoes with basil

As before, the mozarella was light and chewy and stringy and milky and all the things buffalo mozarella should be.  Paired with a mouthful of tomatoes and basil and we were transported to our trip to the Amalfi Coast once again.  The cold meats didn’t look like much, but the flavour from the thinly shaved slices of proscuitto, salami and mortadella (something I’ve always wondered about but never tasted) was a perfect way to balance the other dishes on the table.

Porcini ravioli with truffle oil

For seconds we shared two pasta dishes – the porcini ravioli with truffle oil and the house speciality, squid ink pasta in a creamy crab sauce.  The ravioli was just so … mushroomy, for want of a better word.  And the squid ink pasta came in thick ribbons covered with large chunks of fresh crab leg meat, the sauce a mix of cream and tomato and with a hint of heat from chilli.  I couldn’t really taste the squid ink over the flavour of the sauce, so a good thing the sauce was so delicious.

Delicious steak

Mains we again shared two dishes – the veal saltimbocca and a 500g steak, cooked on the bone and medium rare, served thickly sliced over a bed of rocket and tomatoes. Both solidly good.

But I digress.  I am typing all of this as fast as I can just so I can tell you about the special dessert Chef Valentino served D especially for his birthday – truffle ice-cream, with freshly shaved white truffles.  The only time I have seen so many truffles was when we were in Rome at Pietros where they had a tray of fresh black truffles.  Chef Valentino showed us a square bowl full of arborio rice, with the most beautiful smelling truffles dotted on top.  This was how he stored his truffles – in order to further flavour the arborio rice for his truffle risottos.  Another stroke of genius.

White truffles perfuming a bed of arborio rice

He then gave us a martini glass with one scoop of truffle ice-cream – we ate the ice-cream on its own – a rich vanilla ice-cream that actually already tasted of truffles.  Why it works, we didn’t care.  Just trust me when I say it does.  Chef then liberally shaved the fresh white truffles over it and the four of us at our table greedily scooped out spoonfuls of ice-cream with truffles.  There was absolute silence in the room for a few seconds before the exclamations – “mmmmm !”  and “ooooh !” – started of just how good that tasted.

We left happy, full and with a parting shot of Limoncello.  For such an unassuming restaurant, this place rocks.  Apart from the food, the service is just so warm.  Not only is it clearly family run, but clearly the staff are also treated like family, and it really shows.  Add to this the fact that the Chef is an amarone fiend (ask to see his wine cellar!!), means we will definitely be going back again, hopefully very soon !

Ristorante Da Valentino
11 Jalan Bingka
Singapore 588908
Restaurant: 6462 0555

Closed Mondays

Il Lido

A comedy of errors occurred on Friday as we tried to enjoy a second dinner at Jaan par Andre.  Long story short, it was a Friday night at 9 and we had no seat in the restaurant despite making reservations. We thought we’d get out of the city and head to Sentosa to Il Lido, where we haven’t been in ages.  Beppe sorted out our late reservation, and when we go there, we weren’t sure why it’s been so long since we’ve been back.  The surroundings are luscious, the vibe chilled and happy, and the food and wine, superb.

We were all starvacious by the time we got there, and perhaps overordered, but to be honest, we did the food justice.

We started with a pan-seared foie gras and caprese salad, along with the white asparagus special, which was served with parma ham and a perfectly poached egg.  The foie gras done to perfection, the caprese salad bursting with tomato and mozarella flavour and the white asparagus was divine.

Seconds was a veal ravioli which just melted in the mouth and the mains for me was whole lobster in a creamy sauce.  The lobster was a tiny bit on the overdone side, but the sauce was light and didn’t overpower the lobster meat.

By dessert all I could fit in was a cheese platter.  A very runny cheese with aged truffles won D over but for me it was the simple chunks of parmesan and a gorgonzola with diced pears.

Despite the food, we couldn’t go past a Masi Amarone 2004 which was so good we stuck to it and polished off the last three bottles they had.

We could barely speak at the end of the dinner because we ate everything that was served to us and we were keen to try Il Lido again for brunch so we could appreciate the beautiful golf course during the day.

Bellisimo Beppe !

Il Lido Italian Dining & Lounge Bar

27 Bukit Manis Road
#02-00 Sentosa Golf Club

Tel: +65 6866 1977

Ah amarone

When D and I were in Amalfi in 2008, there was a tiny little bottle shop where we found an amarone, which we had recently discovered as a wonderfully big wine to have with big flavours, like a juicy fillet steak.  The amarone we found was Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva ‘Sergio Zenato’ – and we bought two of the four bottle they had, one of which we gave to friends as part of a wedding present, and the other, sat in our wine rack for another year until we opened it on the weekend with friends.

Oh. My. God.

It was incredible.  I know very little about wines, but I do know what I like, and this was it. It was a very ripe, raisiny, big-bodied wine with very little acid.  It has the same grape blend of Rondinella, Molinara, Sangiovese and Corvina as the standard Amarone but has longer oak maturation and older vines from carefully selected parcels.

The best grapes are hand picked and left to dry for 5 months. Skin contact fermentation lasts for 30 days. The wine is then aged in medium sized Slavonian oak barrels for two and a half years, followed by one year in bottle.

Why didn’t we buy the other two ??  We have recently found out that this particular wine is made in very small quantities as production is small and with our new wine chiller on order, the next time we see it available, we’ll be snatching up as much as we can.