‘Bollito misto’ (let’s say ‘Mixed boiled meats’) is one of the great classics of Italian popular cuisine: an assortment of ‘plebeian’ cuts of meat and poultry cooked in broth. We enjoyed an interpretation by Michele Menestrina at this great little joint overlooking the dreamy Valle dei Laghi (Lake Valley) which eventually leads from Trento to Lake Garda.
To stimulate our appetite (really no need, since we need to recuperate the usual 1000 metre ascent in the snow – with ‘ciaspole’, also known as snow rackets – of the previous day), a little present from the kitchen, a trattoria amuse bouche:
It’s a ricotta quenelle with radicchio and walnuts, on a slice of toasted pan brioche. Delicious, the delicate sweet, bitter and acidic flavours from the components, and the textures, just perfect to set our taste-buds on full alert.
The bread arrives:
Always home-made, always very good, this time also with some radicchio rolls, a first for us here.
And now, ladies and gentleman, we begin:
– Gran bollito misto.
An array of sauces is brought to the table. From left to right we have radish, fig mustard, ‘peverada’ (a traditional sauce from the region: breadcrumbs from bread toasted in the pan, bone marrow long cooked in stock, some stock itself), then a classic ‘salsa verde’ (green sauce, parsley based), and finally a tomato sauce. Even without waiting for the meat we unceremoniously begin to pick and try…Then…
A warm dish is brought to you with a potato and a stewed finely sliced onion. Taste-buds on even fuller alert.
Then the copper container…
…from which you yourself will pick the pieces to put in the plate. It’s nice once in a while to eat stuff in the order that you bloody prefer, each piece with the sauce you bloody want, with nobody hovering to tell you how you must eat.
Let’s open it:
We have a chicken leg, two tongues cooked in two ways, (‘salmistrata’, kind of corned veal tongue salt cured; and ‘normal’), both veal and beef muscle, and ‘cotechino’ (home-made of course, no industrial shit here). The ox-tail which is normally there is missing today, and has been replaced by the second tongue. Now, let’s just shut up and eat, this is fabulous!
In the end, we certainly do have the space for the dessert of this set menu
– Budino di pane e mela Golden con caramello di Schiava Nera (Steamed bread and apple pudding with Schiava Nera (a local wine) caramel).
Excellent, this choice of a dessert characterised by local ingredients and rooted in tradition, in keeping with the rest of the menu. But Menestrina is a missed chef patissiere, his desserts always so intense and balanced, and this dessert is truly on a different plane. Just look at the presentation.
All was accompanied by a local wine, a Rebo at €17 (more on the Rebo wine at some point) and water, a full litre bottle of it, that extinct animal, at €2.50. The whole menu (all you’ve seen above) cost…€23. Yes. Including proper tablecloths, amuse bouche, bread, smiling service and ambience. This must be the best quality for money on earth (we think of St. John’s in London, of all the rave around it, and the star, and the prices, and we somehow feel that the world is crazy).
We love, love meat. And so this was for us a fabulous treat, a vigorous interpretation of popular heartiness, but with refinement of presentation, a kaleidoscope of flavours and attention to cooking and the choice of cuts and materials (true, this last feat facilitated by a dad in the butcher’s trade who gives a willing hand!) that reveal the true chef behind the stoves. For this year, we think bollito is gone: Spring is upon us (even if here in Trentino we were under snow yesterday). What will Chef Michele be putting on the new season menu? Be sure we will find out…