As my pal Jeremy might say, mimetic desire kicked in big time last week. As much as I've been enjoying Jeremy's steady output of highlights from the sommelier and restaurateur junket to Friuli that he and Bobby Stuckey organized back in September, there's been one thing missing: actually getting to taste some of the Friulano vino e cibo of which Jar's been writing.
To the rescue last week came Stephen Wildy and Joe Campanale (pictured at left and right above, respectively), two of the members of the Parzen/Stuckey band of gypsies. I was jazzed when I first learned that Steve, who is the beverage director for the Marc Vetri restaurant group (Vetri, Osteria and Amis) here in Philadelphia, was along on Jeremy's trip, as it's always good to see a hometown boy getting the chance to unwind and spread his wings. And I was doubly jazzed when I heard that Joe Campanale, sommelier and owner of New York restaurants L'Artusi, Dell' Anima and Anfora, was making the two-hour trek down to Philly to team-up with Steve for a recounting of their adventures in Friuli.
Steve and Joe chose wines from some of the producers they visited on that September trip. On the docket for the evening were selections from Plozner, Scarbolo, Venica e Venica, La Castellada, and Livio Felluga, each poured to accompany a dish (or dishes!) inspired by traditional Friulano fare.
Osteria executive chef and co-owner Jeff Michaud put together a fantastic five course meal, all of it served family style. The duo of rambasicci (a Friulano specialty of pork-stuffed cabbage) and venison "muset" may just have been my favorite of the evening's courses. It was arguably one of Joe and Stephen's more challenging matches of the night but they rose to the occasion with a surprisingly fine pairing in the form of the 2009 Collio Sauvignon "Ronco del Cero" from Venica e Venica.
My shoddy picture doesn't do it justice but Chef Michaud's next dual course, gnocchi stuffed with prunes (top) and porcini cialzon, nipped closely at the heels of the previous course in the running for most memorable of the evening. I've always really enjoyed the pasta at Osteria — pizza and pasta definitely seem to be the sweet spots at Vetri's "middle" child — and tonight's iterations were no exception. I was a little less enthusiastic with my first pour of the wine that Stephen and Joe chose to pair with the dish, the 2004 Ribolla Gialla from La Castellada. I thought it was suffering from a very subtle case of cork taint. Steve, on the other hand, thought it was the wine, chalking up what I found to be muted, slightly stale/musty character to bottle variation, an omnipresent aspect of so-called orange wines — white wines fermented on their skins — like the '04 La Castellada. It's always fun when a couple of "wine guys" can agree to disagree, all the while respecting each others opinion... even though I was right! A second pour from a different bottle offered redemption and again worked very well with the food it was chosen to accompany.
Steve and Joe are both super sweet guys. Both of them had nothing but praise for the acumen, enthusiasm and scholarly depth of knowledge of Professore Parzen. The two of them good naturedly forced me into the above photo opportunity, citing it as a perfect moment of what Steven later called, in tribute to Jeremy, supercalifragalisticextrablogaliciousness (okay, the "ness" is mine). As much as the curmudgeon in me would like to have ducked out of the frame, there was nothing doing. Joe and Stephen's enthusiasm was infectious. As if hanging out with them wasn't pleasure enough, I even got to spend a little time with Joe's equally sweet mother, Karen Campanale, the PR-natural and micro-blogger extraordinaire known in some circles as Dellanimom. Like mother, like son....
Big kudos to Steve, Joe, Jeff and Aaron for a job well done. I think it's fair to say a good night was had by all in attendance.
610 North Broad Street (at Wallace)
Philadelphia, PA 19130