SOCIAL MEDIA

Queen City | Liberate Your Palate (Italian Aperitivos with Luca: Modern Italian Kitchen)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Charlotte's got a lot.

Lately, I've been doing more to explore the variety of fun social/learning opportunities in our city. Last night I had the pleasure of attending a cocktail class presented by Tamu Curtis and Liberate Your Palate. From their website: "We have a passion for cocktail culture, we live it, love it  and have a burning desire to share it with you." Based on the time I had last night with my friend Anne, this thesis absolutely captured the evening. LYP offers their #ShakeStirSipSocialize classes in addition to cocktail catering. I imagine any event would be elevated with these passionate people on the job.

Our class, "The Italian Aperitivo," was taught and hosted by Jessica Annunziata, who with her husband, Chef Luca Annunziata, own and operate Luca: Modern Italian Kitchen. Jessica's personality, knowledge, and love for food and spirits was a highlight of the evening. The "stuzzichini" (appetizers and nibbles) that were created by Luca to accompany each cocktail were delightful little surprises that made the sips even tastier. 
Aperitivo is northern Italy's version of happy hour that is enjoyed at the end of the workday as a warmup to dinner. People gather at their neighborhood bar or cafe with friends and family to enjoy a light cocktail and a snack. Aperitivo is typically between 7-9pm and dinner follows.

All three aperitivo cocktails we made in our class used traditional ingredients (Campari, Vermouth, and Bitters) balanced with simple modifications to change the resulting flavors. Because of these primary ingredients, the drinks were light on alcohol and bitter on taste, resulting in a beautiful pairing with the sweet and salty nibbles that the kitchen turned out as accompaniments. 

The first cocktail we mixed was a traditional Negroni --a favorite at my house. (If you get a chance to try the Blood Orange version that Luca keeps on their cocktail menu, be sure to indulge! With a tiny scoop of blood orange sorbet, it's not to be missed.) Our Negronis were paired on the front end with local figs, goat cheese, and blackberry jam and rounded out with a ridiculous stuffed squash blossom that was crispy, creamy, salty perfection over some "boozy peaches." I can't recall exactly how Jessica described the peach preparation but the result was incredible on the plate. 
The Negroni
1 oz Doc Porter's Gin
1 oz Campari
2 oz Sweet Vermouth  
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
Orange Twist

The next cocktail was called, Negroni Shagliato. While it contained two of the main ingredients from the Negroni, the cocktail turned out to be completely different. It was much less bitter, had a sparkly effervesce, and was surprisingly light despite its deep plum color and sweet notes. This sip was paired with a bruschetta-type bite that consisted of a well-seasoned toast topped with ripe tomato, creamy cannelloni beans, parsley, and garlic. This bite had gusto and with the sweetness of the Shagliato, the pairing was delicious. 
Negroni Shagliato
1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
Sparkling Wine (Lambrusco)
Directions: Shake Campari, Vermouth and Bitters with ice. Strain into a chilled wine glass or champagne flute. Top with Lambrusco. Garnish with 2 cherries.

Our last cocktail was called, Costar d'alcol. It was the lightest of the three and I felt as though I could sip them all day long (especially in the heat). I also thought it was the prettiest of the three. The garnish (prepared by the kitchen) was certainly a stuzzichini in itself: basil-wrapped watermelon ball alongside prosciutto-wrapped local buffalo milk mozzarella. Seriously. Salty, sweet, creamy, crisp perfection on a stick (and floating on my cocktail). The kitchen also sent out two house-made, fried raviolis on a generous smear of heavily parmesaned marinara. More crunchy, salty, sweetness to swoon over with our sips.
Ciostra d'alcol
2 oz Dry Red Wine (we used Cantina Zaccagnini Rosé Dry Wine)
1 oz Campari
1 oz Sparkling Lemonade (we used Cedrata Italian Citron)
Orange slice garnish (Or if you're inspired and motivated: Watermelon, Basil, Mozzarella, Prosciutto)
Directions: Fill a rocks glass with ice cubes. Add wine, Campari and Cedrata. Stir. 

The night was a complete success. Obviously, the company was lovely. :) Our class was an eclectic mix of people of all ages. I loved that the cocktails we made were based on only a few primary ingredients --making it more than likely that those who didn't already have them stocked, would invest in these for their own liquor cabinets or bar carts, thus making it possible to delight friends and family with the new recipes. 

Jessica was incredibly personable, as was Tamu. While Jessica was the "casual expert" in the tradition of Aperitivo and made everything completely accessible, Tamu was the "dancing documenter" who managed to always be where she needed to be in order to lend some hands-on help and encouragement. 
A+ to Liberate Your Palate and Luca Modern Italian Kitchen!
Cin cin!

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