Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Anatomy of a Dish: Risotto "Cacio e Pepe"

Our Risotto "Cacio e Pepe" has become a favorite dish among guests. Here we break down the preparation in our Anatomy of a Dish.

Risotto "Cacio e Pepe"
We use Acquerello Carnaroli rice, which is grown in the rice fields of Piemonte in the province of Vercelli. In 1945 a Milanese rice grower crossed the Italian rice variety Vialone Nano with a Japanese strain to create Carnaroli, considered the “king of rice”. Carnaroli has the highest starch content of the japonica varieties grown in Italy, which yields a creamy, flowing risotto that is resistant to overcooking. However, Carnaroli is difficult to grow, prone to disease, and its grains break easily in processing, so it is typically more expensive than other rice varieties.

We start with a soffritto of shallots and a combination of butter and extra virgin olive oil. The shallots are cooked until soft and translucent. Then the rice is added, and "toasted" in the fat, a process called the tostatura. When the rice kernels change from translucent to slightly opaque, we deglaze the pan with a dry white wine, usually Verdicchio or Pinot Grigio. 

Once the wine has reduced, we begin to add the broth a little at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. After approximately 15 minutes, when the rice is just al dente, we remove it from the heat for the last stage in the cooking process, the mantecatura.  This includes the creaming of the rice with cultured butter and freshly grated Bonati Parmigiano Reggiano. We love the richness of the cultured butter, and the Bonati family is setting the standard for impeccable quality and production of Parmigiano Reggiano in all of Italy.

We plate the risotto in shallow bowls, and garnish with crushed black peppercorns, cubes of Parmigiano Reggiano, and a drizzle of Villa Manodori Balsamico. Villa Manodori Balsamico is produced by 3 Michelin Star Italian chef Massimo Bottura and crafted from trebbiano grapes. 

We add a few spoons of Parmigiano froth made from the rinds of the Parmigiano soaked in milk, and we often garnish with proteins such as roasted pheasant or duck confit, and mache or microgreens.

Buon Appetito!

Recipe Corner: Maria's Chilled Gazpacho

Heirloom Tomatoes at Fiola
At the Trabocchi home in Mallorca, the gazpacho is made every summer with the tomatoes, peppers, and garlic grown in the garden on the property.

Everyone tries to compete with the high level of standards set by “Abuela” (Maria's mother, Alicia) for making gazpacho. The tomatoes are grown on the oldest part of the property, San Julia. 

One interesting thing about Mallorca is that it’s crying for water. Having water for plants is a luxury. That means that only a small portion of the land is used for growing vegetables, which include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini and melons. Because of the high temperatures in the summer, the tomatoes are super sweet. Even though our local and Texas heirloom tomatoes are wonderful, there is nothing that beats their taste! You can smell them even before you get to the garden.

Use the highest quality tomatoes you can find!


900 grams (2 lbs) heirloom tomatoes, chopped with their seeds and skins
1 red bell pepper, seeds removed
1 English cucumber, skinned
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed 
Extra virgin olive oil 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 


1. Combine the tomatoes, red bell pepper, cucumber, and garlic clove. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.

2. Allow to macerate for at least 24 hours covered in the refrigerator.

3. Puree the mixture in the blender until smooth, adding additional extra virgin olive oil as necessary. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Bravissimo! C-Cap Intern Receives Full Scholarship

Congratulations to our C-Cap Intern, Ramon Hagins, who received a full 3-year scholarship to culinary school and was featured on NBC News 4 with Jackie Bensen, along with Chef Justus Frank.

Bravissimo, Ramon!

C-CAP, which stands for Careers Through Culinary Arts Program, works with public schools to prepare underserved high school students for college and career opportunities in the restaurant and hospitality industry. 

Fiola and Casa Luca each hosted two C-CAP interns this summer, in culinary and pastry. Kudos to our Chefs for mentoring these aspiring culinary stars!

Chef Justus Frank

Sweet Simplicity: Seadas

A traditional dessert from the island of Sardinia, seadas are stuffed fritters filled with pecorino and drizzled with honey after frying. Seadas, also known as sebadas, get their name from the Sardinian dialect word “seu”, which is the animal fat used in candle-making and refers to sheen of the honey with which they are drizzled. 

Seadas have a romantic history; they were traditionally prepared by women for their husbands who were out in the spring pasture for long periods with the sheep. 

Chef Tom's version of Seadas could be a dessert, or even a cheese course! Glossy pillows of crisp dough are stuffed with three cheeses - Pecorino, ricotta, and Cacio di Roma - as well as lemon zest and orange zest. The warm fritters are tossed in wildflower honey, orange zest and Amaro, and served with fresh, seasonal figs. 

Seadas at Fiola

When it Comes to Wine ...

We have entered a season change. We are nearing the end of summer . . . but not yet in the fall.  The catch is, a lot of fall flavors and ingredients are emerging (anyone else looking forward to pumpkin spiced lattes?) and we need a wine that can work with anything. 

Enter the “Orange Wine”...

COS Rami
Orange wines are a style of making white wine that dates back into antiquity, before modern winemaking techniques. A white wine that is allowed to rest on the grape skins for longer and then is often exposed to more oxygen and aged in amphora or oak. 

Azienda Agricola COS, usually just called “COS”, is a winemaker from Sicily that is known for a natural and biodynamic style. This wine “Rami” is made from Inzolia/Grecanico, two local indigenous grapes that the majority of consumers have never heard of. 

This wine is a delicious gateway to the orange wine world. Rami conveys the vibrancy of orange peel and pear with a wonderful honeyed richness as well. Drink it with anything other than a salad. 

When you stop in, I can show you a few more advanced orange wine options too…

I have a bottle waiting for you,
John Toigo

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What Jeff's Drinking Now: Colonel E.H. Taylor Rye

Colonel E.H. Taylor Rye

The Colonel Taylor line came out right after I had finished reading a book on bourbon and American whiskey. One of the more prominent figures in the book was Colonel E.H. Taylor. Taylor brought about legislation to control the production of American whiskey. Have you ever noticed “Bonded In Bond” on a bottle? You can thank Colonel Taylor for that. Before his legislation went through, anything and everything could have a label with bourbon slapped on it. People were passing off alcohol with anything from caramel to formaldehyde in it to give it color.

Of course, Taylor may have had a vested interest given his ownership of the Old Fire Copper Distillery which is now where the Buffalo Trace Distillery is. This leads us to Buffalo Trace putting out a whole line of product in his honor. There were 6 products in the line originally with 2 being very limited and 2 being released annually.

The Taylor Rye is one that is going to be released annually. The one I’ve been sipping on lately is beautiful. There’s the classic spice that belongs in every good rye, but the mid-palate finds the barrel coming through. There are nice notes of toffee and general sweetness which rounds back in to the spice we all know and love from rye whiskey.

We have plenty here at Fiola. Come by and enjoy a great example of what rye should be. 



Recipe Corner: The Don Ciccio

The Don Ciccio, named after the character in Godfather II, is one of the new cocktails on the Fiola list I’m excited about. While playing around with different ingredients for the fall cocktail list, I came across this lovely combination. 

It certainly is more suited for fall weather with the Scotch and herbal notes from the Benedictine and Chartreuse, but there’s enough lemon in there to brighten it up for the last bit of summer weather.   

The Don Ciccio

1 oz Sheep Dip Scotch
.75 oz Lemon Juice
.75 oz Benedictine
.75 oz Yellow Chartreuse

Shake. Strain into your favorite cocktail glass. Garnish with a wide lemon twist. 



Ask the Bar Man

Q: Jeff, how do you come up with the names for your drinks? - Frank from Brookland

A: I have to admit this is the toughest part for me when coming up with drinks. The flavors I can get pretty quickly or I can nail down a general idea of what I want to do with a drink easily. The names? That’s always been tough.

I will say there is always one drink named after my wife in some way on any list I do. That’s a given. After that, I’ll try to throw a play on words in there (The "Smoke Gets in Your Rye" is a great example). Given the nature of Fiola, there’s always an Italian turn of phrase that’s useful. Sometimes I’ll go with a random song that comes on while on my way to work. Other times, it’s in reference to a movie I watched the night before. 

Perhaps the funniest way I’ve heard of bartenders coming up with names is through dog track racing names. I’ve resorted to this a few times. The best one I came across was “A Point to Ponder”. Although, you have to wonder what the owners of the dog actually called him/her with a name like that. 

Ultimately, I still have a hard time thinking of names even with all of those resources. There are only so many songs in the world, so many usable dog names, and my Italian is limited. Anyone have any great ideas out there?