Sunday, January 23, 2011

Viva Italiano!

A couple weeks ago, I gathered on a bitterly cold Saturday with a group of 21 other food bloggers from Atlanta and had an amazing afternoon of the "inside scoop" from one of the city's most fantastic restaurants: Pacci Ristorante.

Chef Kiera Moritz welcomed us into her kitchen of the rooftop lounge and prepared a feast of deliciousness for us complete with color commentary. Go Chef Kiera!

Chef Kiera and her team started with a clean, crisp and crunchy homemade grilled Caesar salad. I'd never had grilled lettuce before, but it was absolutely delectable - crunchy, smoky and filled with the sturdiness of Romaine, but with a kick. It was topped with homemade Caesar dressing that we watched the team whip up from scratch (much better than the bottles that litter the door of my fridge, I must say).

Next, we moved on to an Italian staple: homemade gnocchi (aka Strozzapreti: Priest Stranglers - there's a cool story about why these are called Priest Stranglers, but for the life of me, I can't remember). I don't think I have the patience to make my own pasta from scratch, but it was absolutely fascinating watching someone else do it!

The result was a warm, gooey, potatoey nugget that was bathed in caramelly, browned butter, topped with nutty sage and walnuts, and sprinkled with creamy Gorgonzola. O. M. G.

As if these two masterpieces weren't enough to satisfy our mid-afternoon cravings, Chef Kiera and her team delivered another winner: brown butter pear crespelle. These pear and ricotta filled crepes were the perfect mixture of light and heavy - neither was too overwhelming. The pears delivered a juicy sweetness that mixed with the creamy ricotta shoots a "Pow!" of flavor through your mouth. All of this yummy is enveloped in a cloud of slightly sweet batter that's been cooked to perfect golden brown. It's enough to make you weak in the knees.

And, the grand finale...smores by the fire pit on the rooftop lounge.

These weren't just any smores. These were smores with homemade marshmallows and chocolate disks. I'd never had a homemade marshmallows and truthfully, didn't see what all the fuss was about. (Come on, I'm perfectly satisfied with my $1.29 bag from Publix.) Notice: Chef Kiera and her assistant are using a creme brulee torch because the wind was so strong it kept blowing the fire out! Handy.

Let me tell you something...there ain't nothin' like a homemade marshmallow baby. The texture was as fluffy as a soft blanket right out of the dryer. Marry that with dark chocolate and squish it all between two cinnamon graham cracker (yes, cinnamon!) and you've got nirvana on a plate.

Pacci is next on my list for dinner's a coupon for yours...

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