By Brenna Boone
The final dinner at the James Beard Foundation is always an exciting day for the students participating in TuttoToscana. This is the night all of their hard work for the entire week pays off. The culinary and pastry students put in days worth of hard work, concentration and preparation to carry out this amazing meal. The front of house students also prepared and studied to teach the guests about the techniques the culinary and pastry students used to make the dinner happen. The wines were also a very important portion of the dinner for the front of house students; they got to go around to all of the guests during service to explain what wines were chosen for the dinner, why they were chosen, and how they paired well with each course of the meal. Sponsored wines chosen for this year were Sauvignon Blanc 2015 by Macari Vineyards and Vermentino di Sardgena DOC from Olianas during the aperitivo hour. Barco Reale DOC from Capezzana served with the antipasto. Chianti Rufina DOCG Riserva – Lastricato from Castello del Trebbio paired with both primi dishes. Followed by a 2012 Villa di Capezzana DOCG to complement the orange duck secondo, and finally, a Vin Santo from Castello del Trebbio for the dolci.
Members representing FUA affiliate universities as well as members of the James Beard Foundation were in attendance at the dinner. Some of these guests can be very particular about how they want their experience to be at the James Beard Foundation, but the students really satisfied the guests and accommodated all their needs. Before dinner service, we had a reception outside, with passed appetizers and a wine bar setup serving sponsored wines from Macari Vineyard and Olianas. This was followed by a six course meal and wine pairing for at almost every course.
The theme of the menu was the Medici family. An iconic family in Tuscan and Italian history. To showcase the family, the TuttoToscana brigade planned a menu featuring classic Tuscan dishes paired with classic wines to connect all of the elements served. One of the best examples of this was the main course, the orange duck. Orange duck is a recipe that is often thought to originally be from France, but is actually a classical Italian dish. Duck thighs are stuffed with a mixture of broccoli rabe, orange zest, froie gras, and thyme. This is also served with duck breast that is not stuffed. As part of the wine pairing for this course, we used a very classic winery, Capezzana, which has been around since 804. This is one of the oldest places where grapes have been cultivated. To pair with the duck, we choose a 2010 Villa di Capezzana that is both lightly acidic, earthy, and medium-plus bodied. The body of this wine, along with the earthiness paired wonderfully with the duck because duck is rich and gamey. The acidity of the wine helped to balance out the richness of the froie gras as well.
By the end of the dinner, all of the guests seemed very satisfied with what and how they were served. The students were very excited too for completing an intense week of preparation and work. As a tradition, when the final dinner ended, the entire TuttoToscana team had a final toast in the kitchen. This final toast is a very special time, the students get to reflect back on what an amazing dinner they have put on and leave the week long program of TuttoToscana knowing how well they performed.
Photo by David Weiss