Sundays are all about relaxing and pottering, but every now and then it’s nice to do something a little different. I was recently invited round to a friend’s house for dinner, but with a special twist. We were being cooked for by our very own private chef, the talented Georgio from La Belle Assiette, who was treating us to a Venetian feast. So, after an extremely casual day of yoga and newspapers, I spruced myself up and popped on some sequins then headed round to Chorlton with my little blogging girl gang, the Secret Seven.
We started the evening catching up and nibbling on some delicious focaccia while chef Georgio was doing his thing in Holly’s kitchen. Our first course was an Italian tapas-style mix of three starters; baked crespelle filled with ricotta and artichokes, stewed wild mushrooms on polenta, and broad bean croquettes with sweet and sour onions. The crespelle was my winner here and I could have easily polished off a plate full.
We had a nice break between courses where we chatted about everything from blogging to kittens. It’s been ages since the seven of us got together so it felt very special to catch up in such style! Next up was the primo piatto, risotto vialone nano with crab and clams. I love cooking risotto at home so I rarely order it when I’m out, but this was beyond anything I could have mastered myself. It was a real taste of the sea and I greedily finished the lot.
You would be forgiven for thinking we were coming towards the end of the meal, but no. A quick palate cleanser of sgroppino, lemon and prosecco sorbet, set the scene for the second half of the meal. The secondo piatto was baccala alla vicentina; salt cod braised in milk and spices, with stewed runner beans in cinnamon, cloves and tomato sauce. I’m not sure the picture gets across how much flavour was in this dish. It was so unusual and different from the standard Italian fare. Georgio explained that Venetian cuisine is often like this, thanks to the spice trade and melting pot of cultures passing through the region centuries ago, giving locals access to produce from all around the world.
Now, our final course really deserves a blog post in its own right. Tiramisu isn’t something I’d usually order, but this one was totally different to anything I’ve had before. The creamy dessert was served in a wafer basket rather than on the usual ladyfinger sponges, which can be a bit soggy. The tiramisu itself was the most perfect boozy blend of coffee and creamy marscapone and came with an interesting anecdote from Georgio about how the dish was first invented (something to do with the literal meaning ‘pick me up’ and a brothel, although Google tells me its origins lie elsewhere!).
The evening was just perfect and made an ordinary Sunday feel very special. We had no particular occasion to celebrate but this would be excellent if you had a birthday, anniversary or something else to add a special touch to. I wasn’t the host, but I imagine it took away any stress usually associated with dinner parties at home.