There are those moments in life when you truly realize that the pretense of what you are doing on the surface has actually little to nothing to do with the “real” moment you are supposed to be experiencing. Such was last night at Trattoria Grappolo‘s in Santa Ynez, in the heart of Santa Barbara’s wine country.
The invitation said simply to come for a tasting and some wine from Foley Family Wines (including Firestone, Lincourt and Foley wineries) and enjoy one of Grappolo’s private dining rooms. I thought it would just be a great opportunity to reacquaint myself with Grappolo’s, try some of Foley Family Wine’s latest and greatest and meet up with some old and new colleagues. What ended up happening, however, was a feast for the soul where a handful of our industry’s finest gathered around a private dining table and partook of a seven course meal and wine accompanied with conversation and sharing that resulted in a soul feast: every guest there got to know each other: their past life before the special events world took over it, what their special talents and passions were and so much more. The best part of it was that this conversation was completely spontaneous and due to the intimacy of the group, a familial setting , trust and bond was established. The common thread behind all of these event professional’s stories was simply this: every step they took in their lives (personally and professionally), no matter how quirky and no matter how seemingly “off track” at the time, resulted in bringing them to where they are right now and they love it. Who knew such a message would be masked under the pretense of “dinner and wine” and completely unplanned. I love it when life throws these kinds of things at us.
Even Grappolo owner/Chef Leonardo Curti opened up shared his upbringing in Italy and his first trip to the United States as a young man – an adventure filled with courage and all heart. But what struck me most is that despite having one of the most successful and incredibly delicious restaurants in wine country, Leonardo has a method to his madness when it comes to private special events. He prefers to serve all meals “family style”, which is usually an event planner’s nightmare on many levels, but when you hear why, it makes perfect sense. You see, every artist knows what it takes to showcase his craft/art piece in the light that truly makes it shine and makes it unique- an extension of them. From the time Leonardo was a boy, he basked in the smells of his mother’s cooking and even the moments of waiting were filled with scents and enticements from the kitchen. When you have family style meals, it paces the meal experience. Guests are forced to interact as they pass platters and talk , smell and taste. And when you taste how Leonardo cooks, you will become undone. You simply cannot rush. Where as Americans tend to assault the palette with “overkill”, Leonardo has mastered the craft of slowly letting each flavor stand out subtly as you enjoy it and allow it to wash over your entire senses. When you pair each of his amazing dishes with a Foley wine, it is an experience you and your guests will not soon forget. It is a great reminder of what “dining” should be (and is, in Europe). It’s a time to connect with others, to savor a sensual experience and treat yourself . It’s a time to be real.
Whether you choose a rehearsal dinner or intimate private celebration at Leonardo’s incredible Trattoria Grappolo’s or you are celebrating a wedding at one of our beautiful wineries, making sure that you and your guests have the opportunity to connect and relish the edible art in front of you will ultimately be what makes your event stand out. Not the decor, the countless hours of assembling DIY favors (not saying that there is anything wrong with either of those) or days stressing about what your future mother-in-law will think over the lace on the hem of your dress. Relax, renew and refresh with a dining experience.
Below is the decadent Italian menu from Grappolo’s complemented with Foley Family Wines:
~ Foley Estate 2010 Chardonnay, JA Ranch ~
in our Homemade Caesar Dressing
Melanzane alla Parmigiana – Baked Eggplant with Tomato Sauce, Basil, Mozzarella, and Parmesan Cheese
Caprese ai Pepperoni – Roasted Peppers with Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
~ Lincourt Vineyard 2010 Chardonnay, Zoula Nunn ~
Dover Sole in a White Wine Lemon and Caper Sauce
~Foley Estate 2010 Chardonnay, Barrel Select ~
Mezzo Pollo al Forno – Half Free-Range Chicken Roasted with Lemon, Prosciutto and Herb Sauce
~Firestone Vineyard 2011 Syrah~
Penne ai Funghi e Salsicce – Penne Pasta with Italian Sausage, Mushrooms in a Light Pink Sauce with a Touch of White Truffle Oil
~ Firestone Estate 2011 Pinot Noir, Barrel Select
Panna Cotta- Italian Eggless Cooked Custard Served with Caramel and Chocolate Sauce
Affogato– Vanilla Gelato Topped with a Shot of Espresso Dust
Tiramisu– Imported Italian LadyFingers Soaked in Espresso, Layered with Whipped Mascarpone Cheese