Vino Venue was the location of a friendly food fight last Thursday for the Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Cook-Off for a Cause. Three top local chefs competed to see whose dish paired best with the Italian red wine for the chance to win a donation to their selected local charity.
Allegrini is an estate and winery located in Fumane di Valpolicella, just north of Verona in northeastern Italy. Now in its third year, their Cook-Off for a Cause has traveled through eight U.S. cities and donated more than $35,000 to charity.
The competing chefs for the Atlanta cook-off were Ford Fry, Kevin Gillespie and John Metz. They were chosen because they all source locally and add importance to the community.
Chef Fry of JCT. Kitchen & Bar, No. 246, The Optimist and King + Duke was competing for City of Refuge, a non-profit organization that offers life saving resources and life building tools to Atlanta individuals and families who are living on the margin.
Chef Gillespie of Gunshow was competing for the FitWit Foundation, which improves the lives of Atlanta children and teens through fitness, tutoring and personal development programs. Since 2008 more than 500 kids have participated in the program.
Chef Metz of Marlow’s Tavern, Aqua blue Restaurant & Bar and Sterling Spoon Culinary Management was competing for the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Founded in 1979 with the mission of fighting hunger, the ACFB procures more than 45 million pounds of food and groceries each year and distributes it to more than 600 nonprofit partner agencies in metro Atlanta and north Georgia.
As the chefs prepared their dishes, Marilisa Allegrini gave an overview of the estate and wine. Marilisa is the sixth generation of her family to work in the wine business and manages the winery with her two brothers.
The Palazzo della Torre is a blend of 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella and 5% Sangiovese made in the ripasso style. After the harvest, 70% of the grapes were vinified immediately and 30% were left to dry until the end of December. The wine made at harvest was blended with the fermenting juice of the dried grapes, initiating a second fermentation. This winemaking style helps to create a more complex and concentrated wine. The wine spent 15 months in one year-old French oak barriques.
The Allegrini Palazzo della Torre is dark ruby red in color, with an intense dark berry aroma and flavors of blackberries, ripe and dried cherries, mocha and dates.
The chefs had a couple of weeks to get to know the wine and come up with their dishes. Guests were asked to judge each dish based on three criteria: the dish on its own, the uniqueness of the dish and how well it paired with the wine.
Up first was Chef Fry, who paired the Palazzo della Torre with Pekin duck risotto. Duck stock added a rich flavor to the Arborio rice, which had duck cracklings, foraged mushrooms and herbs folded in. Rich without being heavy, the risotto matched the elegance of the wine.
For the second round Chef Gillespie served a smoked cabbage dumpling with country sausage, caramelized turnips and potato puree. The smoky and savory flavors in the dumpling paired nicely with the cherry notes and tannins in the wine.
The final round was a rustic country rigatoni from Chef Metz. The pasta was served with oregano roasted chicken, sausage meatball, oven roasted tomato, baby escarole, oyster mushroom, canellini beans and parmesan cheese. Hearty and with layers of flavor, the pasta complemented the layered and complex wine.
After dining, discussing and casting votes it was time to announce the results. The winner: Chef John Metz, who thanked the audience and spoke passionately about his cause. The Atlanta Community Food Bank will receive $3,000 from Allegrini.
Chef Kevin Gillespie came in second, and Chef Ford Fry came in third. Their causes will receive $2,000 and $1,000 respectively.
photo credit: Sarah Dodge, dodgeandburned.com (first three photos in article)