Welcoming 2019 at Fabulous Fiola
by Bill Babash, Vice Chargé de Presse
The Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C., welcomed 2019 with an outstanding dinner on January 9 at Chef Fabio Trabocchi’s flagship Fiola restaurant in Washington’s Penn Quarter. Members and guests at the sold-out gathering had eagerly anticipated the Michelin-starred cuisine and service at one of DC’s best-known restaurants, and the evening proved delightful.
Chef Trabocchi is originally from the Marche region, located along the Adriatic Sea in the center of Italy’s eastern coast, and his cuisine reflects the flavors and heritage of that region. He first made his mark in Washington with BiCE restaurant and later Maestro at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner, Virginia, for which he received numerous awards, including Chef of The Year from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (the RAMMY awards) and the James Beard award for Best Chef in the Mid‑Atlantic. Chef Trabocchi opened Fiola in 2011 and it received the RAMMY award for Best New Restaurant in 2012 and for Best Formal Dining in 2014. In its inaugural Washington, DC edition, Michelin recognized Fiola with a coveted star.
Attendees were welcomed to Fiola’s sophisticated private dining room with a glass of Gosset Brut Excellence NV. Founded in Aÿ in 1584, Gosset is the oldest wine house in Champagne. Its wines are composed almost entirely of grapes from Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards and are produced without a second (“malolactic”) fermentation, allowing the wine to retain its natural fruitiness. A delicious array of passed hors d’oeuvres, each presented on a spoon, whetted appetites: roasted beets with citrus and hazelnuts was flavorful with a bit of crunch; Ahi tuna tartare was highlighted by Taggiasche olives and preserved Sorrento lemons; and a cacio fritter was decadent with the richness of the sheep milk cheese complemented by roasted San Marzano tomatoes.
The gathering then sat down to six marvelous courses, each of which was matched with an Italian wine artfully selected by Vice Echanson Ellen Kirsh. The first course was a symphony of delicate flavors and textures in a beautiful presentation. A crudo of Nantucket Bay scallops was paired with uni, and accented with artichoke mousse, Agrodolce, and vinaigrette. Shaved black truffles provided a luxurious finish to this delicious composition. Wine for this course was from La Mesma, a family business run by three sisters, Paola, Francesca, and Anna Rosina in the countryside between Piedmont and Liguria. Their La Mesma Gavi 2017 is a 100% cortese varietal, considered Piedmont’s finest, that is vinified in stainless steel vats, resulting in a clean, crisp taste with hints of citrus and fruit that allowed the scallops and uni to sing.
Next was Fiola’s interpretation of a classic Italian combination: Burrata with Prosciutto di Parma. The burrata was from an artisanal maker in New York who uses water buffalo milk imported from Campania in Italy. The prosciutto was sliced paper thin and was simply delicious. The combination was elevated by a winter pesto composed of 80% rapini and 20% basil with walnuts. Nasturtium leaves and blossoms along with microgreens from Fresh Impact, a hydroponic grower of rare herbs, greens, and edible flowers in Arlington, Virginia, garnished the plate. Graci Etna Bianco Arcuria 2015 paired nicely. This Sicilian winery is situated on the north slope of Mount Etna at an elevation of around 2000 feet. Made from 100% carricante grapes indigenous to Sicily, this wine is noted for its crisp acidity and distinctive minerality.
The next course was a light and tender gnocchi made from potatoes smoked over hay and served with a wonderful sauce of salsify crema and taleggio cheese with guanciale and trumpet mushrooms. A cap of black truffle slices extravagantly added further earthy notes. Terlano Terlaner 2017, with its balanced body and acidity, was a great accompaniment to this most satisfying dish. This blend of 60% pinot bianco, 30% chardonnay, and 10% sauvignon blanc is produced by a cooperative of growers in South Tyrol, Italy’s northernmost province, situated in the Dolomites between Switzerland and Austria. With the Alps to the north protecting the area from cold northern European winds and its proximity to the Adriatic Sea offering over 300 sunny days per year, this region has been producing wines since pre-Roman times.
Next was a North Carolina black bass served with spinach fonduta, pomegranate, and a red wine reduction. The bass was beautifully cooked and nicely accented by the acidity of the pomegranate and richness of the red wine reduction, which had been enhanced with demi-glace. Benanti Nerello Mascalese IGT 2014 was a great match. Winemaker Guiseppe Benanti uses indigenous vines and the latest winemaking techniques to recreate the traditional wine of his family’s estate, which first produced wines on the eastern slope of Mount Etna in the late 1800s. Long maceration gives this 100% nerello mascsalese its ruby and garnet color, with small-cask aging bringing out its excellent minerality, herbaceous flavors, and earthy nuance. The pairing of red wine – in the sauce and the glass – with this fish was an inspired and sophisticated choice by the chef.
The final savory course – pine-smoked venison loin – was perfect for the mid-winter dinner. The Cervena venison from New Zealand was cooked to a tender medium-rare and accented with a wild huckleberry sauce. Butternut squash and poached pears completed the composition. Carpineta Fontalpino “Do Ut Des” Toscana IGT 2013 was an excellent companion. This ruby-red, full-bodied Tuscan blend of 34% sangiovese, 33% cabernet sauvignon, and 33% merlot featured notes of cedar, cherry, and tobacco that paired seamlessly with the venison.
Dessert was a Tiramisù Piemontese, but Pastry Chef Claudia Barrovecchio’s version is not a typical Tiramisù. Hers began with a richly flavored espresso cake, topped with a muscovado sugar streusel that provided a bit of crunch, then layered with a sorbetto of 66% chocolate from the Dominican Republic, and topped with espresso-flavored mascarpone crema over which the staff poured additional espresso. This refined and elevated classic was especially delicious with a glass of Villa de Capezzana Vin Santo di Carmignano Riserva 2010. Villa de Capezzana, in Tuscany, was established in 1475 and is today a certified organic estate. This wine is made from 90% trebbiano and 10% San Colombano grapes, which are dried for several months on reed mats, reducing their weight by 75%. The must (juice) is then vinified for five years in small chestnut and cherry casks.
As the evening concluded, Bailli Judy Mazza thanked the chefs, culinary team, and service staff of Fiola for their dedication and skill in creating the evening’s gastronomic journey and exploration of Italian wines.