Sometimes food criticism is almost pornographic in its intimate intensity. Many reviewers like to imagine they’re passing judgement on that inanimate object known as ‘the restaurant’ but such commentary, whether right or wrong, is almost always a psychological profile of the chef. The bottom line is that palates are personal.At Ristorante Ritrovo in Pretoria, Chef Fortunato (Forti) Mazzone dishes up his psychological truths with every antipasti platter. When he says of the Cederberg Sauvignon Blanc 2006 “I like that it is robust but not tarty. Subtle but not a wimp; a good companion to food but not a dominator,” there is no escaping that fact that these are qualities he values in his own life.
As Forti cooks, his grilled Red Snapper with artichoke and wild mushrooms provides a Mazzone mental map second to none. He chose “the earthiness of the porcini and the sweet undertones in the artichokes to encourage these qualities in the Cederberg Sauvignon Blanc”. One bite reveals that Forti likes assertive layers that stand their ground but don’t diminish those around them on plates, in bottles, in his restaurant and in life. He says: “as a chef I’ve grown increasingly tired of having my meals screwed up by clumsy wines. So many South African wines are food dominators. I think Cederberg winemaker David Nieuwoudt has a maturity that belies his relative youth. He’s making wine that allows for good, classy meals and, by extension, good classy lives.”
In the garlic, basil and vine tomato salad base of his dish he shows that ebullience and subtlety are not mutually exclusive. His creation and the ease with which it matches the wine are Forti’s proof on a plate that “showing off is not the same as being talented. Simple can be so exciting and so often simple works best”.
Behind every good meal is a chef. Behind every great meal are a chef and a winemaker working together. The flavour combinations that they form speak eloquently of where they come from and what they aspire to be. There are profound psychological truths in the mlange of Snapper and Cederberg Sauvignon Blanc, 2006. They taste damn fine too.
Pesce con Porcini e Carciofi al vino bianco sul insalata d’estate
(Grilled fresh fish with artichoke, white wine and wild mushroom on a summer salad (serves 2)
2 x 200g fillet of skinned white line-fish (like Snapper)
15ml cake flour seasoned with a pinch of salt
30ml Extra Virgin olive oil
100g large pickled artichokes
50ml Cederburg Sauvignon Blanc
100g large porcini mushrooms, thinly sliced
45ml chopped parsley
50g boiled potato, roughly sliced
5g garlic, finely sliced
100g garlic butter (90g butter with 5g crushed garlic, 5ml Worcester sauce, 5ml ketchup and 10ml chopped parsley)
Salt and pepper to taste
100g ripe cherry tomatoes, cut in half
50g ripe Roma tomato, cut in wedges
90g Spanish onion, thinly sliced
10 ripped basil leaves
30ml Extra Virgin olive oil
50ml of Gold Balsamic vinegar
Place the tomatoes, sliced onion, basil, oil and vinegar into a glass bowl. Stir thoroughly to allow to maceration.
Slice the pickled artichokes into thin slices. Add 5ml of the oil into a hot pan and flash the artichokes with the sliced porcini and the garlic. Season to taste. Cook for a minute until the mushroom and garlic take colour then add the wine (step back if you have a gas stove as the alcohol will briefly flame). Add the potato, fleck the pan with little chunks of the garlic butter and stir through and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
Pat the fresh fish in the flour. Place in a hot grill pan with the remaining olive oil. Cook until lightly crusted, approximately three minutes per side.
To assemble the dish; place a large tablespoon of the marinated tomato salad on the centre of the plate and gently top with the crusted, grilled fresh fish and generously spoon the artichoke and porcini mixture onto it. Drizzle a little of the salad dressing around the edge of the plate and garnish with chopped parsley.
Ritrovo, Shop 2, Waterkloof Heights Shopping Centre, 103 Club Avenue, Waterkloof Heights. Tel: 012 460 5773
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