I am not a fan of keeping any kinds of paper trash — all those business cards, press releases, invitations or entrance tickets. As a rule, after serving its purpose, all that paper tinsel, embossed or not, printed or hand-written, will end up right where it belongs — in the trash bin.
It’s not because I am such an ardent lover of perfect working space organization (because it’s certainly not who I am!), but if you give way to your sentimentality just a little bit — these papers will seize and usurp your life! As an exception, I only keep something that reminds me of the brightest and most memorable events.
Quite recently, my modest collection has had a new addition — a cardboard menu page from the Olio. Pane. Vino Secret Dinner arranged by Le Silpo in the dungeons of the atmospheric Sklad Bar. Right now, even when the year has not ended yet, this dinner is the top of my personal rating of gastronomic events of the year!
My past experience of attending such “secret dinners” arranged in Kyiv from time to time made me doubt whether I should give this format one more chance. Actually, a “secret dinner” is a kind of a “surprise box” because you don’t know the people who will sit next to you at the table, you have no clue what will be served, and you even learn of the venue where such dinner will be held just a couple of hours before it takes place — like that’s going to add up to intrigue and boost your curiosity!
However, amateurish secret parties often turn into very odd home shows with odd food and awkward atmosphere because everybody is a little bored, the food is not always tasty, the surroundings are not very cozy, but you feel it’s not very polite to leave before dessert is served. So you have to praise the enthusiasm of the organizers because they have tried real hard, yet meanwhile you promise yourself to never have to deal with these secret food parties again!
The situation is absolutely different when a secret dinner is organized by a company with a serious catering background and an Italian chef to run it: then the dinner becomes a gastronomic revelation and also the central event of the evening, and not just “food with board games”.
Name cards, a long common table in the cellar twilight, mountains of fruit and vegetables decorating the slightly rough table surface in a picturesque way, bouquets of curds and leek — and this is just a light warm-up before the main show begins!
The special guest star, one of the famous traditions of secret dinners, is Marco Oreggia, Italian journalist and author of Flos Olei, the main world guide of olive oil. Marco did not only fly to Kyiv from Rome just to be present at the secret dinner but also presented a fresh edition of Flos Olei 2017.
Details, it’s all about the details — this is what makes such parties special!
Dark violet tasting glasses for olive oil, special eye blinders to enhance your sense of smell during bread tasting, delicious fragrances of tomatoes, fried garlic and spicy cheese, the clinking of glasses, head-spinning and slightly bitter olive oil polyphenols — actually, we get to try four of the very best ones included in the Flos Olei 2017 top list.
Wines are all natural, no additional flavoring, but their taste is approximated as close as possible to the taste of the wines lavishly splashing in the wine cups across taverns and cafes during those days when the hunger started backing away slowly and giving the medieval Europe some space to breathe!
What about these plates made of flatbreads, sending you back to the books by Massimo Montanari and Giovanni Rebora, and also to those times when the great-great-grandfather of classic pizza was only just born!
What about wine and olive oil pasta manually cut into rough and nourishing strips, generously flavored with garlic and butter?!
What about the peasant’s soup that replaced breakfast, lunch and dinner — made of tomatoes, bread and oil, modestly sprinkled with bread crumbs on top that replaced parmesan on the everyday tables of common people in the countryside!
And the golden oil smelling richly of freshly mown grass, especially after you warm the little violet glass a bit in your hands!
Naturally, we don’t forget the dessert, and it’s absolutely unlike anything you have tried before in your life — panna cotta with a layer of olive oil cream, and you feel like you haven’t got either the strength or the space inside after soup and pasta, but you still scrape your tasting glass clean because you never know when and where you will get to try it again.
The conversation is right on-point — about oil, wine and bread. Marsala to end the party. Gifts in crispy rustling packs. And a small paper menu with your name card that you get to keep as a reminder of a beautiful evening.
Text: Olga Kari
Photo: Anton Lazutin, Olga Kari