I am very sorry to say that prior commitments kept us from seeing “Dinner in Abruzzo: A Journey Home with My Culinary Godfather” and I have devoted three articles about past memories of Luciano Del Signore and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other chef on that journey James Rigato. I originally heard of James Rigato from his first restaurant The Root in White Lake Township, Michigan and he has since opened a second restaurant that is also getting rave reviews called Mabel Gray, but we haven’t gone there yet. We went to The Root before it was named Restaurant of the Year by two different publications. White Lake Township, Michigan is about fifty miles from Downtown Detroit and it is not easily accessible, in fact from our house, it seemed like you couldn’t get there from here, but we did and it was worth the drive. The restaurant is located in a small strip center. James Rigato was perhaps the first chef to make a major splash locally about being local, I mean when we went there, everything we had for dinner that evening was from Michigan, save the appetizers. I remember trying to do an “aha” on one item on the menu, because it was shrimp, and one doesn’t think of Michigan as being the shrimp center of the United States, but I was surprised to learn that there was a Michigan man-made estuary created for the sole purpose of harvesting shrimp.
We were going to be good Michiganders that evening, but we did take one side-step, and who could blame us, as they had Hudson Valley Foie Gras (New York) on the menu and it was served with Sherry and onion jam and smoked Marcona Almonds and we also shared an order of Crab Cakes with avocado mousse and a mango-poblano salsa, and yes, we were really rebellious that evening. The rest of the meal was totally Michigan-centric. My Bride had pork shoulder with smoked cheddar grits, the grits were very creamy and the pork was prepared perfectly. I had the free-range chicken with a risotto of house-made chorizo, Swiss chard and roasted mushrooms in a white wine and what a delicious dish it was. We kept picking at each other’s plates both for the appetizers and for the entrée dishes. Afterwards we had coffee and split a Crème Brulee.
We maintained the Michigan theme of the evening with our bottle of wine. We had a bottle of L. Mawby Blanc de Blancs Brut NV from the Leelanau Peninsula in north-west Michigan near Traverse City. Larry Mawby has become the Godfather of the entire area there, helping other wineries get started and he is very proud of his products. This particular wine is made in the Traditional Method that one thinks of, when one thinks of great sparkling wine. This wine is made entirely from Chardonnay grapes and aged first in Stainless Steel, before the long arduous task of making the sparkling wine in the old-school tradition. I think that this wine just made the whole evening more festive, especially since Mawby is one of the wineries that we always try to visit when we are in that area. I must say that this short documentary that we did not have a chance to see, allowed me to remember some great dinners and wines.