This year, I opted to return to Trattoria Lucca for the Perfectly Paired dinner on Friday night of Charleston Wine + Food. I ate there a few years back, when Michael White of Osteria of NYC was supposed to be cooking with Ken Vedrinski. Unfortunately, White cancelled but most fortunately Vedrinski was able to save the day with up-and-comer Jeff Michaud of Vetri in Philly. It was a memorable meal, and Michaud returned this year as a Beard Award-winning chef. He and Vedrinski were joined by Michael Audmon and Andy Ticer of Andrew Michael Kitchen and Hog & Hominy in Memphis, Tenn., two places that I've been hearing a lot about.
The fun began (after our table giggled at the fact that the host chef's name was misspelled on the menu — whose head will roll for that?) with the first course from Chef Ken himself. He sent out a crudo misti that was topped with weirdly awesome calamari cracklings.
Then came Michaud's pasta course. I braced myself. The menu described veal brains, sweetbreads, and spinach. I wasn't quite sure what to expect but I pictured a big ol' brain on a plate. Fortunely, what arrived was an elegant dish of ravioli stuffed with a texturally surprising combo of brains and organs. The ravioli were tender and lovely.
A grilled Spanish mackerel with black trumpet mushrooms from Matt Fitzsimmons of Lucca came next followed by a course of beef and beef cheeks. Another offal surprise that was quite good.
The dessert course proved the most surprising of the night. Tiny pizza boxes hid small pizzas. What?
They looked just like a pepperoni and broccoli pie. Instead of meat and veggie though, they were made with strawberries and kiwi by Michael Dunnavant of Lucca. Wish we'd saved one for later. So cute.
I can't believe I got this far without mentioning the wines. After three years of asking, Vedrinski was finally able to convince Planeta wines of Sicily to come to the states for a visit. The wines — from South of Italy, Planeta joked — were magical, and we were treated to a viticultural variety that took us on a deep tour of Sicily and its native grapes. Wish I'd grabbed a bottle or two for later to go with my strawberry pie.