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Taj Italian food festival
Getting started: Buffalo mozzarella with crunchy tomatoes & lobster salad
The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai is hosting an Italian Food Festival at the Shamiana until December 2, 2012. Chef Gianpaolo Cosimo and Chef Giuseppe Gullo from the 5 star luxury chain of Baglioni Hotels have put together an impressive array of dishes. Using traditional recipes from all across Italy, the chefs promise to take you on a culinary tour of the country. I sampled the menu at a special preview and am already planning a trip back there for seconds.

Many country-specific food festivals put together by visiting chefs get by with just a handful of options. The first thing that struck me about the menu at the Taj’s Italian Food Festival was that it is quite extensive. A little partial to non-vegetarians; lamb, duck, scampi, scallops and tuna meat all find a representation here. So choosing a dish really is quite a stressful decision to make.

Of course, where there’s Italian food there must be wine. Allow Irene Vigolo, a young Italian sommelier, to suggest which Tuscan wine best compliments your food.

Getting Started

A great way to begin your meal is to sip on a flute of Carpene Malvolti Prosecco Brut while you enjoy the complimentary bread basket and pour over the menu. Among the appetisers, La Mozzarella di Bufala Croccante Con Pachino, e Olive Taggiasche – buffalo mozzarella balls with crunchy tomatoes, and olives, is fresh, light and well seasoned.

For the fish-eaters, there’s no going wrong with Carpaccio di Branzino con Pesto di Verdurine e Maggiorana. Sea bass Carpaccio with pesto and delicious marjoram flavoured vegetables sprinkled on top, this appetiser was a favourite at the table and our plates were wiped clean in a matter of minutes.

Also try I Medaglioni di Tonno Rosso Con Capponata di Verdure e Emulsione di Basilico. The perfectly cooked medallions of tuna lie on a bed of lightly flavoured vegetables and topped off with a basil emulsion. Also on the menu – L’Insalata D’ Astice Con Catalana di Verdure Balsamico Alla Pesca – lobster salad with balsamic vegetables ‘Catalan Style,’ pairs well with the white wine Villa Antinori Bianco IGT Toscana 2010 which is citrusy and buttery, with notes of green apples and pears.

Top Picks

Taj Italian food festival
Top Picks: Fine herbed lamb rack & sea scallops in Mediterranean flavours
Of the two vegetarian mains, the penne with tomato sauce, eggplant and smoked ricotta (Penne Con Pomodoro Pamato, Melanzane e Ricotta Affumicata) seemed the better bet. Although I try to be unbiased, I have to say there was something missing, and I think it was ‘meat’.

The Italians know how to work their meats and this menu clearly conveys that. Carre’ D’agnello in Crosta D’erbe Fini, Scalogno in Agrodolce E Crackers di Parmigiano translating to fine herb crusted lamb rack, pickled shallots and paremsan crackers is our suggestion if you have space for a heavier main. The lamb is cooked to perfection as evident at first sight when you see the gorgeous pink cores. Try it with the Taj signature Sangiovese wine Palais Marchesi De Frescobaldi IGT Toscana 2009.

A complete standout is the sea scallops in Mediterranean flavours (Le Noci di Cappasanta Con Dente di Leone in Manto di Speack D’anitra Ai Sapori Mediterranei). Alright, so I have a weakness for sea food, but trust me when I say seafood-lover or not, there’s just no complaining with this plate. If the generous scallops weren’t enough, each one is wrapped in thin slivers of beef! Pair with Marchesi Di Barolo Gavi Di Gavi 2010. Made in the Piedmont region, with the famous Italian Cortese grape, it has notes of apple, peach and lime.

Taj Italian food festival
Just Desserts: Tiramisu & ‘Delizia’ with ricotta and candied raspberry sauce
For dessert the Italian signature tiramisu would be the ideal choice. Tiramisu ‘Classico Veneziano Con Salsa Al Caffe’ was also the chef’s choice from what we were told, but I was left a tad disappointed. Presented beautifully, you’d be tempted to dig in, but hold off, temper your bites though and keep a glass of wine or water handy. The generous dusting of cocoa on the top can get itchy on the throat.

For Vinoisseurs

Here are other wines on the list that deserve a mention: The Castello Banfi ‘Le Rime’ Toscana IGT 2011, a Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay blend, is aromatic and fruity with a crisp finish. Il Borro Lamelle IGT Bianco 2007, a Chardonnay from the vineyard owned by Slavatore Ferragamo, has flowery and ripe white fruit scents with a slightly spicy vanilla note. The ruby red Marchesi De Frescobaldi Pater IGT Toscana 2008 -100% Sangiovese is replete with notes of strawberries, blackberries and hints of coffee and liquorice. Danzante Merlot IGT 2007 comes with notes of wild berries, particularly blueberry and wild cherry, with spicy hints of black pepper and cinnamon.

A meal for two will cost approximately Rs 9,000.

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