Although Chef Ken Vedrinski, owner of Trattoria Lucca in Charleston, South Carolina, (and developer of a brand new restaurant called Ristorante Introdacqua slated to open next year), was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, it is to his native Italian roots via his Abbruzzese grandmother that he turns when creating his own unique cuisine.
Fresh and zinging with bright flavours, Chef Ken delighted guests at the Brasserie’s guest chef dinner series, with clever usage of local produce adding to the memorable meal. Tortuga Liquors provided an interesting sample of their finest Italian wines to pair with the dishes.
Having assessed the quality of local produce (namely locally caught fish and seafood, Cayman-reared meat and homegrown vegetables) upon arrival, Chef Ken quickly revised his pre-conceived menu for the dinner to take into account the freshly produced bounty on offer.
Chef Ken is no stranger to the Cayman Islands, having worked in the Islands 18 years ago, opening the Hyatt Hotel as a sous chef.
“I was shocked at the quality and variety of produce that was available here verses when I first worked as a chef in Cayman,” he confirmed, adding that one dish in particular on the menu was a real blast from the blast – namely the local sea whelks, which he said he used to enjoy eating out at The Lighthouse restaurant all those years ago.
Chef Ken was supported by consultant chef to the Brasserie Dean Max, who always adds his own vigour into the culinary mix, while Executive Chef Brad Phillips and his brigade added their own flair and passion to the evening’s culinary delights.
The appetiser, named crudo of local snapper was a super surprise awakening to the taste buds, a citrus-packed dish that delighted the palate not only with the deeply lemony, mouth-watering flavours, but also with a nice juxtaposition of textures – soft, giving squeaky fresh snapper alongside crisp garden radishes; a real winner of a dish.
Brasserie Sommelier Kyle Kennedy introduced the wines, saying that the 2008 Pinot Grigio from Veneto, called Fasoli Gino, La Corte del Pozzo, which kicked off the meal, was crisp, light and a lovely accompaniment to the snapper.
The garganelli pasta that followed was a marvel of collaboration, mixing local sea whelks with Calabrese chillies, gaette olives and a lemon agrumato, fusing Cayman and Italian cuisine in a really lovely, light yet sensationally flavourful dish. A glass of Bardolino Chiaretto Rosé, La Cantina dei Feudi was poured to be enjoyed with the pasta, a rustic light wine with a lightly fruity and floral nose and a pleasing finish.
A fragrant and fresh scallopini of local swordfish then followed, served with delicious morsels of local crab enveloped in pasta known as agnolotti del plin served in a spiced verdicchio brood (broth). Kyle had chosen a Chianti with this dish called Sefiro, Chianti Colli Fiorentini from 2007, which displayed lots of juicy plum and cherry and sour cherry notes. “I like to mix things up a little and serve red wine with fish; I think you will enjoy this pairing,” he confirmed. And we did.
Giving its life to accommodate diners that evening, a local pig was the centre piece for Chef Ken’s porchetta of local pork, served with cassava gnoccheti, garden callaloo and a lambrusco saba reduction. Just a might too salty for my personal palate, the dish was never-the-less another triumph of fusion cuisine, neatly melding local produce with Italian passion and expertise.
A Siro Pacenti Rosso de Montalcino from 2007 was the wine of choice, a heavy weight bold and complex wine that was needed to meet the flavours of the dish.
I have to admit that I’m not a massive dessert lover. Not possessing a particularly sweet tooth, by the end of the meal I am normally too full to properly do justice to the pastry chef’s talents. Thankfully I had made a little room for this dessert and was so grateful that I had. The chefs had pushed all the boats out on this one creating an incredibly tangy yet creamy mango gelato (thanks goodness for mango season!) and a deeply chocolaty croissant bundino, the intensity of chocolate flavour of which I had not experienced before in such a dessert. The extra half an hour on the treadmill the next morning was well worth this incredibly gorgeous decadence.
A Vignamaggio, Vinsanto del Chianti Classico from 1999 was a clever pairing with the dessert because it lent a silky smooth honeyed sweetness to the pairing without the overpowering cloying that some dessert wines display.
Congratulations to the Brasserie for another forward-thinking dinner that successfully showcased both the talents of all the chefs involved and the quality of local produce at the same time.