Why are we here? How did we get here? What exactly made Kim Kardashian famous? When is an egg no longer an egg? I feel like starting this one like Anthony Bourdain starts some of his shows, with deep, philosophical nonsensicalness that grabs your attention and never lets go… until commercials. Its the perfect prelude to what’s to come, whether its “The best soup in the world” (Vietnam – last episode), “Best Duck Feet I ever had” (Beijing), or “Best Meal I ever had” (French Laundry). Because somehow “The Perfect Meal” or “Best Egg Dish I ever had” would simply get lost in the shuffle of this blog if I dont start with a deep Kim Kardashian question. Makes sense? I thought so
What makes a perfect meal? When you are hard-pressed to find any little detail that worked against your enjoyment of the meal. From the food, the host, the wine, the room, the environment, there is absolutely nothing negative I can say about Locanda Mariella. And while I usually ignore any imperfections in meals I greatly enjoy, its hard not to notice when everything goes right. Sure someone may be bothered by its location, 1 hour south of Parma, in the North Apennine Mountains. But to us the location just added to the fun and intrigue. Especially considering it allowed us to visit the town of Felino, the home of “King of Salami” where the Italian version of Rick Steves tried to sell his entire Salumeria to us. And on the way back, it was the magnificent Torrechiara castle which deserves its own post.
Mariella is Slow Food at its finest. In a way it reminded me of the one man show of Roberto in the village of Montisi, while the two got almost nothing in common except for their true Slow Foodness and that passion to deliver to you the finest ingredients available to them. It almost felt like you are visiting a three Michelin star chef who retired in the mountains in the middle of nowhere and cooks to those brave and willing souls simple mountain food
Alloooora! At Mariella all this melodramatic stuff came from sampling just 5 dishes, with wine pairing and dessert, with each dish making me shake my head with hand gestures Andrew Zimmern style. Mariella had a white truffle menu, black truffle menu, and a regular menu that included black truffle filled classics which we mostly took advantage of. Did I use “Allora” there correctly? Two hours into the meal I still did not have the heart to tell Mariella that we don’t speak Italian. She explained every single detail of the meal in Italian. My entire Italian is solely based on menu Italian, so when I wanted to ask if the egg was baked at some point, I said “Umm.. Uovo..Al Forno?” Mrs Ziggy had a “Fish Called Wanda” moment, and now I occasionally have to speak Italian to her
Started with a very nice Strolghino salami with aged Parmigiano-Reggiano. And continued with some of the staples on the menu, potato Sformatino with pumpkin cream, and polenta with cheese fondue and black truffles. Both outstanding! A great start aided by a fine Sauvignon Blanc/Gewürztraminer blend from Le Fate Furbe (Tuscany). Mariella, I find out later from my host in Parma what I suspected all along, is a great sommelier
Two sunny side up eggs with black truffles would have been the best egg dish I ever ate even without the truffles. It hits you like a smack in the face as soon as you taste the whites. So rich, so creamy, so good I didn’t want to share. I believe with my menu Italian understanding that she blends cheese instead of butter with the eggs. A truly remarkable dish in every way, aided by black truffles which had more flavor than some whites we had on this trip. Gnochetti with light cream and black truffles, by far best Gnocchi of a few gnocchi dished we enjoyed on this trip. Mariella matched a beautiful Nebbiolo with this course
For the third course we shared another outstanding veal cheek with mashed potatoes (since we had polenta in the first course, she suggested mashed instead), along with a Voerzio Barolo 08. I say “another cheek” as this was about the 4th of the trip. Another thing we couldnt get enough of on this trip was Cachi (Perssimon). We like eating it and we liked saying it. Here it was a splendid chestnut mousse with a cachi purée, along with an excellent preserved sour cherries with ice cream