Evoluzione's Guest Chef Series | Basilicata

April 24, 2015

Earlier this week I was invited by Zomato to their second Guest Chef Event at Evoluzione at the Hotel Xenia.

The restaurant is currently holding a series of events every six weeks that focus on a different Italian region each time. Having attended the first event that showcased the taste of Sicily I was excited to see what the region of Basilicata (also known as Luciana) had to offer.

Basilicata is the most mountainous region in the south of Italy, with 47% of its area covered by mountains and 45% deemed as hilly. Due to this the region's potatoes, olives and maize are grown in mineral rich soil that gives them a unique taste.

Our first taste of Basilicata was a smokey aubergine fritella 'surpise' and a sphere of swordfish appetiser. That mini morsel of swordfish was, in my opinion, the best dish of the night - I regretted not going for a second helping.

Our 5 course tasting menu started with a dish titled 'an evolution of traditional pasta cozze e fagioli.

Pasta e fagioli, meaning pasta and beans, is a traditional meatless Italian dish. Like many other Italian favourites including pizza and polenta, the dish started as a peasant dish being composed of inexpensive ingredients. The dish is commonly made using cannellini or borlotti beans and small pasta such as macaronni.

We were severed a modern take on the classic recipe included a mussel foam to represent the coastal area of the region and bean purée to symbolise the mountains.

The most impressive dish on the night, named ‘potato make the eggs,’ contained porcini, fondue of Caciocavallo cheese and cauliflower.

Caciocavallo is a type of stretched-curdcheese made out of sheep's or cow's milk. It is produced throughout Southern Italy, particularly in the Apennine Mountains, and is shaped like a tear-drop.

The name caciocavallo means "cheese on horseback" which derives from the fact that two cheese forms are bound together with rope and left to mature by placing them on a horse's back.

The dish contained one of my favourite components: a runny poached egg. Mixed with the salty cheese, earthy porcini and nutty cauliflower the dish looked impressive and tasted spectacular.

The guest chef of the evening was Chef Mario Demuro who is passionate about creating a kitchen that fits better with the rhythms of everyday life. His vision is based on meditteranetà modernity and respect for the raw materials Basilicata offers.

Along with a translator he taught us how to create the Cavatelli pasta that was served with the third course - the small pasta shells look like miniature hot dog buns and are fiddly yet fun to make. We were told that pasta within the north of Italy is made with eggs and in the south pasta is made with soft wheat and water.

Throughout the evening the chef gave demonstrations along with explanations around the source and taste of the ingredients he used. To gain this insight was something rather special, especially as the team were so friendly.

Another two savoury dishes followed: cream of broad beans with Cavatellini pesto, chicory and Crusco Tipico Lucano peppers and stuffed lamb chop, Timballo spinach with macedonia vegetables and an Anglianico reduction.

It was explained that our dessert was an ode to Britain - brownies, Candonga strawberry sorbet, lemon and meringue – that were served representing the soil. 
The brownie was blitzed into a fine powder whilst edible flowers, orange segments and the sorbet gave a botanical illusion. A honey coloured dessert wine Greco di Bianco was served alongside the dish, which was a beautiful way to finish the meal due to its refreshing citrus notes.

Whilst the cuisine, stories and guest chef change each time, you are guaranteed beautiful food, friendly service and a great wine selection during Hotel Xenia's Guest Chef series - I can't wait for the next one. 

Details of upcoming events can be found here - at £65 they're an absolute steal.

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