Dining

FOOD | La Pentola Sunday Supper Series - Pasta & Vino by Jenn Chan

La Pentola

 

There is a day each month set aside for a special culinary experience.  The Sunday Supper Series at Italian restaurant La Pentola takes place the last Sunday of the month, a familia style meal with a new menu each time.  Our visit was in February when the menu featured Pasta and Vino.  The six course meal was available with or without wine pairings.  The evening was like a virtual tour of Italy as each course was from a different region of the country.  I was a tourist in Italy a few months ago and had many excellent meals there.  I am determined to return some day but until that happens meals in Italian restaurants will have to satisfy my yearnings.

 

We arrived promptly at 6pm.  A large curved bar is the focal point of the warmly lit main room.  We were shown to a side room with seating for twenty two people at three tables.  Two windows facing Davie Street let in the dwindling daylight.  A large window to another side room in the restaurant was curtained off, creating a comfortable feeling of privacy and separation from the larger restaurant.  As we settled in we were brought fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to tide us over until the first course.  You might say that traditionally Italians don’t eat bread before a meal but as North Americans we are able to enjoy this without any qualms and it is so, so good.

 

Pasta & Vino Supper Series Menu

 

The first course, from the Piedmont region, was Pea and Ricotta Agnolotti with Side Stripe Shrimp, Lemon Butter Sauce and Bottarga.  Piedmont is a mountainous area in the north of Italy with Turin the largest city of interest.  The fresh shrimp was excellent, the agnolotti equally good.  The lemon butter sauce light, harmonious.  A Marchesi di Gresy Sauvignon Blanc was the wine paired to this dish, a fine match.  The Piedmont region scores high marks all around for this course.

 

Piedmont | Pea and Ricotta Agnolotti, Side Stripe Shrimp, Lemon Butter Sauce, Bottarga Wine Pairing: Marchesi di Gresy Sauvignon Blanc

Piedmont | Pea and Ricotta Agnolotti, Side Stripe Shrimp, Lemon Butter Sauce, Bottarga
Wine Pairing: Marchesi di Gresy Sauvignon Blanc

 

On the central Adriatic coast of Italy is the Marche region which provided inspiration for the next course on the menu: Lobster Tortellini in Lobster Brodo.  The lobster tortellini’s subtle flavour was nicely enhanced by the slightly spicy lobster brodo.  The summery white wine with this course was the Andrea Felici Verdicchio.  The Verdicchio grape is one of the best for white wines in Italy.  I found this wine easy to drink and a welcome respite from the slight spicy heat of the brodo.  (I have a low threshold for spicy foods so you might have found the brodo very mild.)

 

Marche | Lobster Tortellini in Lobster Brodo Wine Pairing: Andrea Felici Verdicchio

Marche | Lobster Tortellini in Lobster Brodo
Wine Pairing: Andrea Felici Verdicchio

Marche | Lobster Tortellini in Lobster Brodo

 

From the Adriatic coast to Sicily in the Mediterranean for the third dish of the evening: Spaghetti, Sardines, Currents, Pine Nuts, and Saffron.  This dish had layers of texture and tastes.  I liked the currents quite a bit.  As sardines are slightly oily a full bodied wine was called for.  The lovely Mazzei Zisola Nero d’Avola fit the bill fabulously.  This rich dark red wine was my favourite of the evening.  As good as the spaghetti dish was this wine pairing made it better.

 

Sicily | Spaghetti, Sardines, Currents, Pine Nuts, Saffron Wine Pairing: Massei Zisola Nero d'Avola

Sicily | Spaghetti, Sardines, Currents, Pine Nuts, Saffron
Wine Pairing: Massei Zisola Nero d'Avola

Sicily | Spaghetti, Sardines, Currents, Pine Nuts, Saffron

 

The fourth dish to be brought to the table, inspired by the city of Florence, was Pappardelle, Wild Boar Prosciutto and Rabbit Ragu.  A translation of the word pappardelle is “to gobble up” and that is exactly what I did with this delicious offering.  The boar prosciutto and rabbit ragu were amazing.  Jenn said “I don’t know where the rabbit ends and the boar begins.  So delicious together!”  The wide pappardelle noodle was a perfect choice with this ragu, bringing so much flavour to the mouth with each bite.  If I had the talent to make this dish at home it would appear regularly on my dining table.  La Pentola makes their pasta in house so you can count on it to be fresh and excellent.  A dish this good needs an equally good wine.  The Tenuta Guado al Tasso il Bruciato, a blended red wine, did not disappoint.  It is a rich, full flavoured vibrant wine that paired very nicely with the dish from Florence.

 

Florence | Pappardelle, Wild Boar Prosciutto and Rabbit Ragu Wine Pairing: Tenuta Guado al Tasso il Bruciato

Florence | Pappardelle, Wild Boar Prosciutto and Rabbit Ragu
Wine Pairing: Tenuta Guado al Tasso il Bruciato

 

The Veneto region is towards the north of Italy, on the Adriatic sea.  Venice and Verona are two of the tourist friendly cities of Veneto.  This region is represented on the menu by Potato Gnocchi, Braised Oxtail Ragu, Pecorino.  The oxtail ragu was the star of this dish.  Lots of flavour, accented nicely by the Pecorino.  The wine pairing was Werner Walch Saint Magdalener Schiava, a nice red similar to a Pinot Noir with hints of cherry.  I’d not tasted Pecorino before this evening and I am happy to say I very much like this cheese made from ewe’s milk.

 

Veneta | Potato Gnocchi, Braised Oxtail Ragu, Pecorino Wine Pairing: Werner Walch Saint Magdalener Schiava

Veneta | Potato Gnocchi, Braised Oxtail Ragu, Pecorino
Wine Pairing: Werner Walch Saint Magdalener Schiava

 

Dolce is the logical conclusion to a great Italian meal.  Four different sweets appeared before me along with a sweet dessert wine.  I tried the Lemon Curd Stuffed Meringue first and loved it.  The Apricot Biscotti was warm and yummy.  A pleasing Raspberry and Rose Water Macaron was next, and my final taste experience was a Sour Cherry Gorgonzola Cheesecake.  I was initially surprised at the bold gorgonzola taste but quickly grew to like it.  I regret not noting the name of the dessert wine.  I can say it was a very suitable choice, as were all the wine pairings this evening.

 

Dolce | Lemon Curd Stuffed Meringue, Apricot Biscotti, Raspberry and Rose Water Macaron, Sour Cherry Gorgonzola Cheesecake

Dolce | Lemon Curd Stuffed Meringue, Apricot Biscotti, Raspberry and Rose Water Macaron, Sour Cherry Gorgonzola Cheesecake

 

The six courses of this Sunday Supper Series were served over a comfortable three hours.  Our servers were well informed about the food and wine choices and were happy to share that information.  The theme of the supper series is different each month.  Prepare yourself for a variety of interesting courses that will leave you satisfied and full, with or without wine pairings.  La Pentola sources vegetables and meats locally and imports olive oils and prosciutto from Italy.

 

La Pentola is located in the Opus Hotel, 350 Davie Street near Hamilton.  The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Don’t drink and drive, plan ahead.  Bus, taxi and skytrain are all nearby.

 

La Pentola & Opus Hotel
 
 

Seattle Dining: Trace Seattle by Jenn Chan

Trace Seattle

 

Trace is a beautiful, modern room. High ceilings, artist architectural details and brimming with potential! We were seated and looked after by our very kind server Loan. She suggested we try their Mai Tai, twist my rubber arm, but returned with 5 different colourful, photogenic cocktails at the behest of Trace's GM Zack. They came out just before our first courses: amazing pulled pork sliders and a seared ahi and poke plate.

 

Trace Seattle
Trace Seattle Menus

 

The Crime of Passion has a nice passion fruit puree, tanqueray, pimm’s, St. Germain and cucumber dry soda. Thankfully helped to extinguish the fire from the seared ahi and poke dish which had a nice heat from a house secret spice GM Zack was nice enough to share with us, but we won't share with you. Ever. Critic/ client privileges. The Cactus Drop again boasted a purée, but this time a prickly pear puree, with Ketel One Citroen, cointreau and lemon juice. I have never eaten a prickly pear. In fact the prospect frightens me a little bit, but sipping its liquid offspring is not daunting. Not even a little bit. This cocktail is perfectly balanced with the exquisite Ketel One Vodka forming the base and the prickly pear providing a perfect compliment; very, very good!

 

Trace Mai Tai, Prickly Pear Margarita, Crime of Passion, Champagne Cocktail, Cactus Drop

Trace Mai Tai, Prickly Pear Margarita, Crime of Passion, Champagne Cocktail, Cactus Drop

 

The Champagne Cocktail has a blackberry puree, domaine de canton and, of course, champagne. Jenn was unable to take on a new initiative and give me her opinion on this drink. She lapped at it like a lizard for a few minutes, staring blankly at me as though mentally handicapped severally. Now, personally, as I prefer low-biscus, the hibiscus flavour is a little off putting. That was a tired Hawaiian joke I lifted from virtually every Hawaiian tour guide we encountered last year. In reality this drink was very much like a fizzy Ribena; a reference lifted from Jenn's childhood. The first thing I noticed about the drink was the expertly zested and curled lime. It's fragrance hits you as soon as you lift the glass to your mouth; delicious! The Prickly Pear Margarita has a prickly pear puree, Avion tequila and Trace's house 'sour mix'. You have to like tequila, or even solely tolerate it, to appreciate any drink in which it forms the base. This margarita was very good. Not too strong and not too fruity, a good balance.

 

Last, but not least was the Trace Mai Tai. Bacardi superior, Orange Curaçao, Orgeat, Bacardi 8 and lime. Orange, almond and lime. These are the building blocks of the Trace Mai Tai and they mix very well, better than you might imagine and the drink is overall: rum heavy (in a good way), hints of orange, almond (from the orgeat) and lime from both the juice and plump lime slices in the drink. This drink is a winner and Loan is a genius! 

 

Drinks on drinks on drinks and then thankfully our food arrived. The Pulled Pork Sliders came piled with incredible smoked pulled pork, a charred pineapple bbq sauce on fresh sesame buns. I was never a fan of pineapple growing up. I couldn't understand how they became a staple on pizza; it both bewildered and angered me. As an adult, presumably due to my taste buds mellowing, I'll take down a Hawaiian pizza. I'll savour it on my Hawaiian burger and I'll eat it like a hungry Pitbull on some pulled pork sliders! Savoury and sweet and delicious. You need these in your life! The Seared Ahi & Poké Plate come with Ogo, scallions, macadamia nut inamona and taro chips. The five spice on the edge of the seared ahi at the top with  tuna poké underneath. The hint of spice is often times better than lots of spice and always better than no spice. The two different kinds of tuna was a new twist on a tartare-like appetizer. I preferred the seared tuna and Jenn preferred the poké so it worked out very well. This dish is excellent and it disappeared quickly!

 

Pulled Pork Sliders: Tender smoked pulled pork, charred pineapple bbq sauce, sesame buns

Pulled Pork Sliders: Tender smoked pulled pork, charred pineapple bbq sauce, sesame buns

Seared Ahi & Poke Plate: Ogo, scallions, macadamia nut inamona, taro chips

Seared Ahi & Poke Plate: Ogo, scallions, macadamia nut inamona, taro chips

 

The Oxtail and Foraged Mushroom Risotto was the first of our entrées to make its way to the table. My first experience with a red wine / pomegranate reduction. A full bodied, rich and comforting dish. If you hate mushrooms you will still like this risotto. If you hate cheese... then move along. Your type isn't welcome. Anywhere. On Earth. This dish is a must try even for a mushroom-phobic. A college days delivery as a Panago delivery driver ruined me for the subtlety of fungus, but that is another blog post all together. The point is Jenn ate this, forearm curled around it like she was a jaded convict protecting her food from other inmates, as quickly as she could. Oh yes I got a few choice adjectives to help me write this: warm (it's supposed to be warm, it's a restaurant), comforting (oh...kay...) and delicious. Even after I let her know I could use only one of her three contributions she didn't waver. She couldn't. This dish is delicious!

 

Oxtail and Foraged Mushroom Risotto: Red wine pomegranate reduction

Oxtail and Foraged Mushroom Risotto: Red wine pomegranate reduction

 

Jenn also deigned to order the Huli-Hulu Spiced Draper Valley Half Chicken. It came with grilled corn, red rice and was bathed in a pineapple bbq sauce. Super tender, juicy and flavourful with its incredible Huli-Hulu spice enveloping it in its entirety. Amongst the best pieces of chicken I have eaten and I have eaten enough chicken to satisfy the lifetime appetite of an 80 year-old fox. I went with Trace's Char-GrilledRib Steak. It was accompanied by some roasted winter squash and natural jus. A large, discus sized round of beef arrived at my table minutes, seconds it seemed, after we waved our entrées over to join our myriad of appetizers. A perfect rare, as requested, and swimming in a sultry bath of its own juices and roasted winter squash. I sat with this dish, as 4 others languished, for a good half hour. Tempered bites with measured portions of the mashed potatoes and squash. After that half hour I was still working away on the steak in between bites of others and several cocktails and felt unapologetic for neglecting the others. A solid 8.5/10!

 

Huli-Huli Spiced Draper Valley Half Chicken: Grilled corn, red rice, pineapple bbq sauce

Huli-Huli Spiced Draper Valley Half Chicken: Grilled corn, red rice, pineapple bbq sauce

Char-grilled Rib Steak: Roasted winter squash and natural jus

Char-grilled Rib Steak: Roasted winter squash and natural jus

 

Dessert came and I almost exploded just looking at it. I was full, very full. Between the dishes and the many, many cocktails I had little to no room in my belly, but then I laid my eyes on the Warm Chocolate Cake and Washington Apple Semi Freddo. Root beer isn't for everyone and I'm not sure why. I love it! If thy made a root beer shampoo I would use it. Ditto on body wash. The chocolate cake was amazing, it's hard to screw up chocolate regardless of which form it takes, the accompanying vanilla ice cream was nice and light and fresh, but then you add a root beer sauce to the whole thing and you hit another level of delicious! Even if you head to Trace just for this cake and you won't be disappointed! A wise man once said "you never go full Freddo". Trace's semi Freddo adheres to that age old wisdom and uses the delicious Washington apples in a perfect way. My father was born and raised on an apple orchard in the idyllic Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. The area boats the only dessert climate in Canada and the apples are the best in the world; hands down! Washington, our beloved neighbour to the south comes a close second in my humble opinion. As a youngster we had a weekend property in Whatcom County just outside of Bellingham and up the street from Whatcom Lake so I know a thing or three about Washington apples. I would request this dessert as my last meal. It is that good!

 

Warm Chocolate Cake: vanilla ice cream, root beer sauce

Warm Chocolate Cake: vanilla ice cream, root beer sauce

Washington Apple Semi Freddo - Caramelized Apples

Washington Apple Semi Freddo - Caramelized Apples

 

In all our experience as Trace was excellent. Loan was a very sweet and knowledgeable server and Zack made frequent trips to our table to make sure everything was to our standards. The ambience was lovely as a large table was celebrating a birthday nearby and couples could still enjoy an intimate candlelight evening. Boisterous chatter from the adjacent lobby bar kept the atmosphere electric and the high ceilings and modern decor made for a lovely vista. I would recommend Trace to anyone visiting Seattle and for any Seattleites looking for a new experience. 

 

 
Words: Scott Allan
Photos: Jenn Chan