We’d spent three action-packed days exploring Expo 2015 and the culinary and cultural fabulousness that is Milan. We’d sweltered in 100+ degree heat and walked a combined 15+ miles. We’d eaten enough for an army. We were tired, cranky and, frankly, I just wanted a salad.
But from the moment the white-gloved server tucked a small, crimson-velvet footstool beside my feet and discreetly whispered in my ear, “It’s for your handbag,” I was worried my humble craving would go unsatisfied.
Jonathan, the footstool and I were in the restaurant of the sumptuously appointed Castello di Guarene in the Roero region of Piedmont, Italy, on the fourth day of a “discovery” trip for my unique travel adventures. We were road-testing the Castello for the October trip, and so far, every detail exceeds my expectations.
Assuming the kitchen is up to the standards of the rest of the property, my yearning for a simple, satisfying salad is fading fast, too pedestrian an offering for a perfectly appointed hotel dining room.
I’d heard from colleagues in Piemonte that the Castello’s Chef, Davide Odore, is a rising culinary star. Young, creative, and talented, he’s helmed his own restaurant, Io e Luna, for several years, earning a reputation as a chef who builds on tradition, regional cuisine and local, seasonal sources.
At one point, he said, “For me, innovation is a way of expressing the past … but with innovative ideas and methods.” I’ll take innovation, as long as it is crispy and well-dressed.
I’ve always thought that a restaurant is only as good as it’s simplest salad. Let’s face it, salads are tough to get right. Gritty, wilted, or soggy greens are never acceptable. It takes real skill to prepare a great salad, let alone dress one properly. All things relative, Davide Odore agrees, but with a nod to innovation and technique.
Like everything else at the Castello, Chef Odore over-delivers in a unique, whimsical and thoroughly satisfying way. Behold his Bouquet di Verdure, a sweet little posy of a composed salad, each vegetable perfectly blanched and artfully arranged. The flower centers boast vegetable purees, or passate, light, airy and redolent with the essential flavors and colors of the vegetable at its origin. A hint of fresh strawberry for color and sweetness, and thin slivers of fresh summer truffle, because, well, why not?, and summer arrives on a plate for me to savor. It is light, refreshing, and visually extraordinary, like the perfect summer day.
As I grab my bag from its crimson perch, I leave satisfied, both of appetite, and spirit, already looking forward to sampling Davide’s full menu. Stay tuned.