Cooking with Grappa in Trentino

Have you ever considered cooking with Grappa? Well, you should, I did it in Trentino and here’s my adventure + a recipe

Thanks to the Istituto di Tutela Grappa del Trentino (it roughly translate as Institute for the protection of Grappa of Trentino), and AIFB (Italian Association of Food Bloggers, of which I am a member) – I’m back from an incredible trip to Trento (in the North Eastern part of Italy) – where the Institute organized a Food Contest “La Grappa del Trentino nel piatto” dedicated to cooking with local grappa.

I was between the luckiest AIFB members chosen to participate, together with Paola Bellora (Profumo di vaniglia), Ilaria Bertinelli (Uno chef per Gaia), Stefano De Stefano (SteDeSte in cucina) who unfortunately couldn’t come, and Annalisa Sandri (Manca il sale) the winner of the contest. Great Team! Great Time!

La Grappa del Trentino nel piatto: Palazzo Roccabruna kitchen: Ilaria Bertinelli, Annalisa Sandri, Orsola Ciriello Kogan, Chef Sebastian Sartorelli, Paola Bellora

I reached Trento by train, a very comfortable fast ride from a torrid Rome, dreaming of a cool weather (being Trento in the mountainous region of Trentino, the Alpine Northeast of Italy), to find a fiery 41C (106F). Even in Trento it’s hot!

Welcome to Trento!

We’ve been welcomed by Mr. Mirko Scarabello (Master Distiller and President of the Institute for the protection of Grappa of Trentino) and Mr. Alessandro Maurilli (Journalist), who I met during the train ride.

La Grappa del Trentino nel piatto (Visit @ Pisoni Distillery)

After a light lunch we drove to Frazione Pergolese for a visit to the Brothers Pisoni Distillery (a family active in winemaking and grappa from 1852), where Mr. Giuliano Pisoni (Master Distiller) walk us through the property.

@ Pisoni Distillery

First the alembics room – stand-by for the next harvest season (vendemmia) – where they master the delicate process of grappa making.

And then came the cellar with their vintage barrels, and the grotto where the brothers keep alongside red and white wines their Trento DOC, a sparkling white wine made following the ‘Metodo Classico’, which is the same method used to make champagne. Applying manual remuage, (when the bottles are rotated by stages).
A great drink for special occasions… like our visit 😉

La Grappa del Trentino nel piatto

Few words about Grappa. It’s a fragrant, grape-based, alembic-distilled “pomace brandy” made in Italy, a good example of a zero waste kind of product.
In order to be called “grappa” it must be produced in Italy and made entirely from local pomace (vinaccia), following a specific distillation method; more so if made in Trentino – in order to getting the “Trident” marking.

Legends call for a shot of grappa as a cure for cold, illness or, most commonly, to “sooth” the stomach after dinner; there aren’t many ailments that grappa won’t cure.
Similar distillates are made in France (Marc), Portugal (Aguardiente Bagaceira), Spain (Aguardiente de Orujo), and many other countries.

Back to Trento: Time to Cook!

La Grappa del Trentino nel piatto: Palazzo Roccabruna kitchen

Tick-tock… we are going to cook around 6pm in the kitchens of Palazzo Roccabruna, a gorgeous location right in the city center, part of the local Chamber of Commerce: The reference in Trentino for all those who wish to learn about the most authentic local handicraft and food and wine products.

Once in the kitchen we are welcomed by the Chef Sebastian Sartorelli (La cucina di Seba) who is going to help us out during cooking time, later to taste and asses our work together with Mr. Scarabello and the grappa, wine and cheese expert Mrs. Maria Grazia Brugnara. There is also the official photographer Ms. Giulia Zanoni (secretary of the Institute).

La Grappa del Trentino nel piatto: Palazzo Roccabruna kitchen: Mistery bag

Here comes the Mystery Box/Bag. That’s all we know is that we must use grappa bianca (young) and/or grappa invecchiata (aged), together the ingredients that we are about to discover…

Some more local pantry staples, including shiitake mushrooms. Yea there are locally forest-grown shiitake in Trentino.

And the Mystery Ingredients are…

  1. venison fillet
  2. pears;
  3. buckwheat flour, and
  4. Fontal cheese.

Ready, steady, go! It’s time to get creative!

La Grappa del Trentino nel piatto: Palazzo Roccabruna kitchen. A glimpse of Mrs. Maria Grazia Brugnara. The great contestants team: (from left) Paola Bellora, Annalisa Sandri, Ilaria Bertinelli and me ;)

The kitchen is hot, temperature is on the rising, everybody is very active. You recognize when mastery is at work! And here I am thinking what the heck am I going to prepare?

Think Orsola, think!

I came up with a pan-seared drunken venison fillet with pear and shiitake mushrooms deconstructed tempura, and Fontal cheese chips. Here’s the recipe:

My travel companions (in alphabetical order:) Paola Bellora (Profumo di vaniglia), Ilaria Bertinelli (Uno chef per Gaia), and Annalisa Sandri (Manca il sale) the winner of the contest. Great Team! Great Time!

Interesting links:
– Good tips on cooking venison loin.
– Here’s an excellent post on how to clean mushrooms.
– Here’s a step by step guide on how to make a delicious pan sauce.