At yesterday's Italian Culinary Experience at the Miami Culinary Institute, a few dozen public-relations professionals, chefs, and writers were treated to a wine-pairing lunch featuring Casa Vincola Zonin wines from Tuscany.
These Italian Culinary Experience (ICE) lunches are part of a series that teams wines from the company's several Italian vineyards and local chefs' cuisine. Usually, the meals feature Italian cuisine. This time, however, Giorgio Rapivacoli, chef/partner at Eating House, did the cooking, and although the chef acknowledged his Italian heritage, the meal was a reflection of the eclectic cuisine served at his Coral Gables restaurant. Asian influences, local produce, and a little pop culture were all represented in his meal.
As Rapivacoli cooked, he entertained the crowd by explaining the dishes and answering questions. One woman asked if the recipes would be posted online somewhere. The chef replied he doesn't use recipes.
Rapivacoli also told the crowd that he dropped out of culinary school -- after playfully asking the students helping him prep and plate to cover their ears. He said that growing up, he watched as much Julia Child as Sesame Street, and his primary influences were his mother and grandmother. "I never wanted to cook like anyone else," he said as made a marinade for his General Tso's oxtail (also noting he had never before eaten General Tso's chicken, so this was his interpretation of how he thinks it should taste).
Rapicavoli also dished about the TV show on which he appeared, Chopped (the cooking is "legit," and you really don't know what is in those mystery baskets, but the chef's coats are really heavy and the days are extremely long); his favorite food indulgence (Cheetos puffs and Nutella -- together); and his favorite kitchen must-haves besides knives (a Smoking Gun portable smoker, liquid nitrogen, and xanthan gum) before leaking some new projects in the works.
Asked about his goals, the young chef said he hopes to open a cocktail bar in Coral Gables within the next five months. Drinking Room will serve crafted cocktails and will be connected to Eating House, providing a good way to start or finish a meal at the popular restaurant.
Also in the works is a doughnut shop. "There are no good doughnut shops in Miami," Rapivacoli lamented. The chef also said he'd like to open an Italian restaurant in the Gables, ideally within walking distance of the other venues so he could easily maneuver from restaurant to restaurant.
Chef's welcome course: Teena's Pride tomatoes with peanut and coconut, served with Zonin prosecco NV.
Blue crab with yuzu, grapefruit, and green apple, paired with a 2011 Rocca di Montemassi Calasole.
Pork tenderloin and smoked sweet potatoes with a Dr. Pepper miso, paired with a 2011 Rocca di Montemassi Le Focaie.
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General Tso's oxtail with riceless fried rice (cauliflower), served with a 2010 Rocca di Montemasso Sassabruna.
Dirt cup (yes, the same dessert served at kids' birthday parties), paired with a 2003 Castello D'Albola Vin Santo.