I was in New York recently and I dropped by SD26 to pay my respects to proprietor Tony May, who heads the Gruppo Ristoranti Italiani with whom I traveled to Italy this past spring. In more contemporary fashion SD26 carries on the tradition of its predecessor, San Domenico, from the late 1980s on the city’s leading purveyor of alta cucina, upscale Italian cooking. After lunch – which, incidentally, was better than dinner that night at Mario Batali’s Del Posto – I picked up a flyer for SD26’s white truffle dinner.
White truffles, aromatic, difficult to procure, expensive, and intoxicating to aficionados, are the most sought-after Italian food product, especially the ones from Alba in northwestern Italy when they are in season in the fall. Shaved raw over a dish just before eating, white truffles can make a simple preparation of freshly made pasta with butter or even scrambled eggs a luxurious- and even decadent-tasting experience.
The SD26 event was to feature the wines of Beni di Batasiolo from the Langhe region of Piedmont along with Fiorenzo Dogliani from the winery talking about those wines. Valentino here is featuring the wines of Beni di Batasiolo along with Fiorenzo Dogliani from the winery talking about those wines. The dinner at SD26 was $250 per person plus tax, gratuity and some additional fee they were able to get with. The dinner at Valentino is $125 plus tax and gratuity. Similar dinners with Mr. Dogliani in tow at the Las Vegas and Santa Monica branches of Valentino are priced at $275 and $250, respectively.
For half the price, or less, of similar dinners in New York, the Los Angeles area, and Las Vegas, Valentino in the Hotel Derek is hosting a white truffle dinner on Wednesday, December 7. In addition to the winemaker from Piedmont, it will feature Luciano Pellegrini, the James Beard Award winning chef from the Las Vegas outpost, cooking with the skilled Cunninghame West to highlight truffles from Alba, and all presided over by Piero Selvaggio. Selvaggio has been as least as influential as May in raising the level of Italian restaurants in this country over the years.
Come to think of it, over its tenure the Valentino in Santa Monica has likely been the most highly acclaimed, and best reviewed Italian restaurant in America ever. The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wine Spectator, Luigi Veronelli and Gambero Rosso named Valentino as the best Italian restaurant in the country at one time or the other.
White truffles are exceedingly expensive this year and at least a couple of chefs at local fine dining restaurants I talked with have decided to forgo them this season. Da Marco or Tony’s might be hosting dinners – there is nothing on either of their websites – but this one at Valentino will feature quite a bit more star power, a more impressive pedigree, and will certainly be a much better value, too.
I have been to at least a half-dozen wine dinners at Valentino – including a Beni di Batasiolo one last year – and the food and experience has each been excellent. This one should be even better: truffles.
Crostino all’Uovo e Tartufo – Scrambled egg crostini with truffle
Tartara di Kobe al Tartufo – Seared Kobe beef tartare with truffle
Bruschetta con Pate di Quaglia – Quail pâté bruschetta
Gavi di Gavi 2010
Insalata di Bietole Gialle e Coniglio al Tartufo Nero – Golden beets and roasted rabbit salad with fresh black truffle
Dolcetto d’Alba 2009
Risotto con Robiola e Tartufo – Risotto with Robiola and truffle
Barbera d’Alba 2008
Medaglioni di Vitello Ripieni alla Panna e Tartufo con Sformato di Polenta e Asparagi Biamchi – Stuffed Veal loin in a truffle cream sauce with polenta flan and white asparagus
Barolo Batasiolo 2004
Panna Cotta al Cioccolato Bianco con Salsa di Cachi – White chocolate panna cotta with persimmon coulis
Moscato d’Asti 2010
Truffle Dinner – Wednesday, December 7
The dinner is $125 plus tax and gratuity. Call (713) 850-9200 for reservations or e-mail email@example.com. The dinner starts at 7:30.
2525 West Loop South (in the Hotel Derek), 77027, (713) 850-9200