Truffles in China with Avignonesi: A Blend of East and West
Last week, we had the pleasure of sharing a little taste of Tuscany with a couple of wine-paired, truffle-topped dinners in China. The dinners were to showcase Avignonesi wines, paired with white truffle based dishes, and to blend East and West cuisine styles.
Our owner, Virginie Saverys, was invited to share the delights of Tuscan Sangiovese and white truffles with two dinners: one in Shanghai at Light & Salt with the guests from The Bund Magazine, and the other in Beijing, at Isola Sanlitun with Luxe. Co. Media.
Guests were some of the biggest names in China. In Shanghai, guests included Ms. Susie Lv, the marketing director for Maserati, Ms. Jojo Tang, the PR Director for Porsche, and Mr. Francesco Ye, founder of Itaste Business Consulting Co. LTD. In Beijing, invited guests included Mr. Xu Xiaoping, one of China's foremost angel investors and founder of ZhenFund, Ms. Xu Cong, Marketing Director of Trends Group Magazines which includes Cosmopolitan, Bazaar and Esquire, and Ms. Zhang Shenglan, Managing Director of China Venture.
Virginie shared two great treasures from Tuscany at these dinners - the Sangiovese-based wines from Avignonesi and the delicately delicious white truffle. These truffles were even more special because she flew them into China from her estate in San Giovanni d'Asso, a town in central Tuscany, famous for white truffles.
To truly get the flavours right, we also brought one of our own chef’s, Davide Conti, to give a true feeling of authenticity. Davide worked shoulder to shoulder with the chefs at both of these restaurants to put together a fantastic dinner, that captured a bit of Asian influence, while keeping its Tuscan heritage.
We sat down with Davide to hear about his experiences while cooking in China, and to see if any of those spicy Chinese flavors might end up on our own winery menu! Included, there is a recipe from one of the events.
What was your initial reaction upon arriving in China?
For me, it was a whole new world. Life is very different there -- from the way they dress, speak, act, etc. There is no Google, Facebook, or YouTube, so it seems like it is very closed off. However, everything we saw was very grand and lovely.
How was the Chinese food there that you tasted?
The Chinese food was incredible. Typically, the Chinese food here in Italy, is just...spicy and lacks any truly interesting flavours. While the food in China was spicy and sweet. It was well balanced and much more interesting to taste. The Italian food in China was very similar to ours because they import many of the same ingredients that we have here.
Tell us about the two events that you worked on?
The first was at a restaurant that was French and Chinese fusion, with some Italian. The chef was very particular in his style and how the food was presented. It was a great challenge and opportunity to put everything together. The second restaurant was an Italian restaurant, so it was a little more familiar. It was a lot like our kitchen at Avignonesi and was very beautiful.
How did you choose the menu for the events?
The menu was decided with Virginie. We wanted to create dishes that were upscale and elegant but needed to remain simple for 2 reasons. First, we needed to choose flavors and ingredients that would be easy to find in China and second, it wouldn’t overpower the strong, yet delicate flavor of the truffles.
Will we be seeing any of these dishes on the menu at Avignonesi?
I would like to, but I don’t think that I could do them justice here. We don’t have the right ingredients so the flavour of the dish wouldn’t be the same. However, I did learn a few new techniques that I hope to try out in the kitchen. Such as using a wok. It’s very popular in China to cook with one because it is fast and you can integrate a lot of flavours quickly.
Would you like to go back to China to learn more about cooking?
I would love to go to another part of Italy, France, or even the U.S. for a week or two to learn new things. I’m sure I could bring home knowledge that I could use in my job at Avignonesi. With China, I feel like I could never learn enough to be able to use it here. It is so different there that it would take a lifetime to master their cuisine.
Thank you very much, Davide, for your insight into the sweet and spicy kitchen scene of China.
Here is a recipe that Davide and Virginie put together especially for this event, to highlight the best from East and West.
Manzo Brasato all'Aceto Balsamico e Vino Nobile con Pak Choi Saltato
Braised Veal in Vino Nobile and Balsamic Vinegar with Salted Pak Choi
800g (1.75 lbs) braised veal
2 large carrots - chopped
4-5 stalks of celery - chopped
1 medium white onion - chopped
1.5 L Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Wine
200ml (¾ cups) balsamic vinegar
600g (1.25 lbs) pak choy
1 clove of garlic - minced
1 piece of ginger - minced
Spicy Chinese Peperoncino (spicy pepper)
Salt, pepper and olive oil to taste
Season the meat with salt and pepper and fry in a pan with a little bit of olive oil.
Meanwhile, in another saucepan, sauté the vegetables (celery, carrot and onion)
Add the meat and the wine and cook for about 3 hours.
Remove meat and strain the sauce
Add the balsamic vinegar and boil for another 20 minutes.
In a wok, fry the garlic and chopped ginger for about 3-5 minutes, then add the pak choi and season with salt, pepper and the spicy red Chinese pepper.
The braised meat is then cut into slices and topped with his wine sauce and balsamic vinegar, served over the bok choy
Next, gently grate the white truffle over the meat. Serve right away.