Nov 17, 2013

Wonders of the Tuscan Grill at Center Cut Steak House Ritz Carlton DIFC

Last week I had the unique opportunity to attend a gourmet masterclass and dinner with a couple of seasoned food industry professionals at the Center Cut Steak House in the Ritz Carlton DIFC during the 5th Italian Cuisine World Summit 2013.  Chef Cesare Casella and master butcher Simone Fracassi delighted us with their passion and knowledge of all things Italian plus an evening dedicated to the craft of selecting, preparing, and savoring the finest cuts of meat.  

Chef Cesare owner and executive chef of Salumeria Rosi restaurant in NYC, famous for his pocket full of Rosemary, created a special 5 course meal reflecting his authentic Italian style of cooking paired with the highly coveted and in-season Italian white truffles.  Master butcher Simone Fracassi educated the group of culinary enthusiasts with an introduction to the Italian art of butchery and his precise methods of grilling meats from his native Tuscany.
 The first menu item for the evening was the Scottiglia in Bianco con Tartufo, a marinated vegetable salad, slivers of tender cooked beef, and truffles.  The delicate tendrils of fennel, carrot, and mixed greens paired with the thinly sliced cuts of beef was refreshing to the palate.  With the excellent quality of olive oil coating  each ingredient along with a sprinkling of sea salt and shaved truffle, it's a dish which makes you appreciate the simple things in life.  With just a few key ingredients (and of course truffle), we were enjoying an uber elegant salad, the perfect way to begin a meal.
Since the menu was themed around top-grade meat and proteins, it made sense that the next course was a beautifully executed Battuta al Coltello con Procini e Tartufo, also known as Steak tartar.  The Beef was tenderized by hand using a rustic technique of being "beaten with a knife".  Served with shaved truffle, Parmesan Cheese, sea salt, and rocket, this dish allowed the meat the shine.  The silky smooth yet firm texture of this fresh red meat melted in my mouth in all the right ways.  Coated in the extra virgin olive oil and served along side the toasted Tuscan bread,a perfect bite allowed each ingredient to distinctly stand out against the next. 

The small little mound you see on the left hand corner of the photo was made on special request by the master butcher, Simone Fracassi.  He wanted people to fully understand the quality of meat being consumed, so to humor him Chef Cesare prepared a small taster portion of the meat with just a dash of sea salt and a touch of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Course number three as you can see captures a dish described as the ultimate comfort food not just in Italian culture, but all around the world, Lasagna!  This particular form takes it to the next level when prepared with a white sauce including mince meat and truffle.  Rich, hearty, and absolutely divine are the only ways to describe a well done lasagna.  Since I have not indulged in this quintessential Italian treat in so long, it makes me happy to think I waited for just the right one to come along, it was love at first bite! The savory warm flavors of the creamy sauce along with the freshly made pasta rounds and the incredibly well seasoned beef mince proved to be a winning combination. I only wish Chef Cesare could stay in Dubai longer for me to go back fro seconds of this one dish alone.  I guess next time I have a craving, I will be booking myself on a plane to visit the chef at one of his 2 restaurants in NYC, Salumeria Rosi (He also has one in Paris and in Parma)
The last of the main courses to arrive was one for the books, in Italian simply called Il Ricco e Il Povero (The Rich and The Poor).  On one side of the dish we have the meticulously cooked medium-rare Fiorentina style steak with sea salt and zolfini beans (considered one of the most precious Tuscan legumes) representing the "rich" alongside that was the braised Fiorentina-style beef with mashed potatoes representing the "poor".  Having tasted various forms and cuts of delicious meat on this particular evening, sometimes it just comes down to a nicely cooked piece of steak that take that experience one step closer to gastronomical bliss. The execution of this final plate was not only creative, but demonstrated the all around skills of this culinary master at work. A successful dish and evening with the finest examples of the Tuscan grill.
 No meal would be complete without a little Dolce.  Because the trademark of Chef Cesare is the rosemary I was expecting more of it throughout the meal, low and behold it came through in the final course, dessert. This was one of the most unusual flavor combinations I've ever tried, the Semirfreddo di Pinoli e Rosmarino, (caramelized pine nut and rosemary semifreddo, with honey glazed figs).  Although I was incredibly full at this point, I did make the effort to taste this unique sweet.  The crunch of the pine nuts encased in the creamy rosemary scented frozen custard along with the sweet wholesome figs were a treat for the heart and soul.  Tapping into my taste buds in the most unusual way, this was a dessert I won't soon forget. 
The entire evening from beginning to end was second to none.  The impeccable Ritz Carlton hospitality and the one of a kind experience by these Italian culinary masters left me wanting more and more. I am grateful to have been a part of it, and only hope these photos and post do this meal justice.  I look forward to returning to Center Cut Steak House for a taste of the regular menu as well, but these memories will last me a lifetime.

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