Last Thursday night Slip and I became 2 of the luckiest people in Philadelphia as we received a last minute invite to a 6-course tasting dinner at Le Castagne in Rittenhouse. His aunt and uncle won the dinner at an auction, so we joined his parents and M and M in partaking in this visually striking and incredibly delicious dinner, paired with prosecco followed by 5 more glasses of wine.
The dinner was the epitome of gluttony, as we dined on small plates, fish, poultry, and beef, ending with a dessert, coffee, biscotti, and chocolate caramels. Let’s just say it wasn’t easy to do pilates on Friday morning (but it was well worth it). The service was superior, and getting to meet the Chef towards the end of the meal was a special treat— we got to give him our many compliments in person!
To start we had a Trio de Delizie: polenta encrusted sweetbreads with black garlic (R), Pistachio encrusted quail with white truffle honey (L), and deconstructed melon and prosciutto (center), paired with a glass of N.V. Prosecco (IlFagetto).
This was a really nice way to start the meal. I’ve never had sweetbreads before and I have to admit I was a little nervous. The fact that it was coated in polenta really helped me along, and the black garlic was incredible, but let’s just say I probably wouldn’t have sweetbreads again soon. The quail was my favorite— it was succulent, crisp, and the truffle honey added a great layer of flavor. I sopped of some more of the honey with a warm piece of bread. The prosciutto and melon was a nice, refreshing end to the course. The breadstick was unnecessary, but the prosciutto was crisped up and salty and the juice was not too sweet but just refreshing— just a simple, well-done dish.
Second course: asparagi arrostiti con uovo fritto, or Roasted asparagus with truffle vinaigrette, fried poached egg, shaved parmigiano cheese, and blistered grape tomatoes. Paired with a 2009 Verdicchio (Marchetti).
This was my second favorite dish of the night. As you might remember from my trip to Amada, I think asparagus, poached eggs, and truffle is the absolute perfect combination of foods. The fact that this egg was poached and fried amazed me; it is now a technique I’m dying to learn. And it was poached perfectly— I loved the runny yolk mixing with the truffle vinaigrette on my plate and joining the crisp outside of the egg in a single bite. The tomatoes were just a bonus. The white wine pairing was light, crisp, refreshing. I’m reconsidering— maybe this was my favorite dish of the night!
Up third: Filetto di branzino scottato in padella, or Filet of stripe bass, sauteed wild mushrooms, and english peas in a roasted garlic cream sauce, paired with a 2008 Pinot Nero (Lechthaler).
Fish? Cooked perfectly. Cream sauce? Somehow light, not too creamy, and just the right amount on the plate to flavor the fish without overwhelming it. And I just loved the peas. Most of the people at the table claimed this as a favorite.
Next on the table: Raviolo d’anatra e cipolla, or Duck confit and caramelized onion raviolo with truffle demi-glace and herbed goat cheese. Paired with a 2006 Valpolicella Classico Superiore (Caterina zardini).
Ok this dish, this fresh pasta filled with juicy duck confit and laying in a bed of truffle sauce— this dish was my favorite. The raviolo was gigantic, which left the edges more al dente, the middle part of the pasta cooked perfectly. The goat cheese was tasty but I didn’t like it paired with the pasta, so I ate it first. I don’t even know what else to say except just thinking of this dish makes me smile.
5th on the menu— Bistecca con insalata mediterranea, or charred NY strip steak over a Mediterranean freekah salad, grilled kumquat and herb oil. Paired with a 2008 Nero D’Avola (Altadonna).
This dish was just awesome. My steak was really rare, which I like, and juicy. The freekah salad was awesome and innovative— kind of like a toasted rice, but mixed with finely chopped veggies. And the kumquats added such a nice, robust citrus flavor to the plate. My only complaint? By the time we got to this one I was too full to eat it all!
Finally, we had dessert. Mousse al cioccolato, burro di arachidi, e banana zuccherata: Marshmallow and peanut butter mousse, chocolate mousse, and caramel-banana delight.
Slip’s absolute favorite bite of the night was that banana— caramelized, sweet, crisp on the top. The shortbread style cookie paired with it was indeed a delight. I didn’t love the marshmallow, mostly because it just tasted like what it was and not very interesting to me, but the other two mousses were really tasty, not too sweet. And to cleanse my palate at the end, some sugared, frozen grapes. How brilliant is this pastry chef? Oh, and of course, what is any Italian restaurant without biscotti and cafe?
I thought this meal was just absolutely, incredibly indulgent, gluttonous, impeccably ordered and tasty. M and M are regulars at Le Castagne and after this amazing meal I definitely want to return, and I’d recommend you go as well! Apparently they have a great happy hour (why not?) and I am so ready for more of their pasta. I’m sure I’ll have a difficult time choosing between their gnocchis, bucatini, and pappardelle— I’ll need some Philly friends to come along with me!