Italian Culinary Experience

Casa Vinicola Zonin's monthly cooking demonstrations

at MDC Miami culinary Institute

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By Simone Zarmati Diament

Things are heating up at Miami Dade Culinary Institute - Wolfson Campus, 415 NE 2nd Avenue, Miami.  The dynamic state-of-the art cooking school has partnered with the wine company Casa Vinicola Zonin and The Italy- America Chamber of Commerce, Southeast to host monthly cooking demonstrations paired with wines in their 3rd floor amphitheater. ( to see the amphitheater click here )

“Every month we demonstrate foods from different regions in Italy, from different Italian restaurants in Miami or in Broward county and we pair them with wines from different wine regions where Zonin  has an estate,” said Jelena Meisel, Zonin’s Director of Marketing.  “ Like the wines we’re showcasing today: Zonin’s Prosecco and the wines from The Tuscan properties of Castello d'Albola  and from Rocca di Montemassi.”

This April, Chef Julian Baker of Toscana Divino Restaurant — a newly opened eatery in Mary Brickell Village,  Downtown Miami — paired the wines, or the wines were beautiful paired, with typical Tuscan dishes he serves at the restaurant.

First, a bubbly, crip and aromatic Zonin Prosecco was being passed around alongside Crostini with porcini and lardo. Chef Baker, a Britton from Northern England who has acquired a passion for all things Italian, worked in high end restaurants in Milan, Trentino, and Tuscany before opening Bice on the East and West coasts, enjoys using artisanal Tuscan ingredients like salumi and cheeses from the different parts of Tuscany.

While in the background the sous-vide basin was bubbling to a controlled temperature, chef Julian demonstrated the Antipasto:  Pappa at Pomodoro, a peasant Tuscan tomato and bread soup, made with fresh ripe tomatoes and saltless Tuscan bread, but with the elegant addition of an organic poached egg, salame finocchiona (a delicious fennel-tasting salame typical from Firenze) and diced eggplants.

For the poached eggs, he wrapped raw eggs in surran-wrap, purse-like, and dropped then in the hot water for 4 minutes.

The wine: a light-bodied, not too acidic Rocca di Montemassi le Focaie 2010, from the sea-side Maremma (south of Bolgheri)  to complement the acidity of the tomato.

Then came the Primo: heavenly Tortelli of ricotta and spinach in a simple brown butter and sage sauce. “Tuscan food is very simple, with simple ingredients,”  explained chef Julian, “but one has to be very careful as to how to handle them.”

The handmade pasta was filled with 70% of plain steamed spinach mixed with 30% ricotta, a dash of salt, a dash of nutmeg, a bit of pepper, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Once the little pockets were closed and twisted, he cooked them for about 4 minutes in salted boiling water, drained them and sautéed them in butter and fresh sage. He then sprinkled greated parmesan to finish the sauce.

A medium bodied Castello d’Albola le Ellere 2008, with balanced tannins and acidity was the perfect wine for such a simply celestial dish.

For the Secondo, or main dish, a heartier Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico Riserva was served. Chef Julian prepared a melt-in-your-mouth Guanciale di Vitello, or Chianti-braised veal cheeks with beans. Beans are a Tuscan specialty. Each sub region prepares it in a different way, some just with sage and salt, others with a bit of tomato paste. But whichever way it is prepared, it is a delicacy as much as the meat it accompanies.  “I like dishes that are cooked for a long time. That’s cooking for me,” claimed Chef Julian as he braised the meat with a generous pouring of Chianti. Before serving it, it has been cooking in the oven for two hours.

As for the beans, they are simply soaked overnight, cooked 45 minutes with onions and veggies which are discarded, drained, sautéed with diced onions, sage, tomato paste and a brunoise of veggies, and cooked for about 20 minutes with vegetable stock.

For dessert a Castello d’Albola Vin Santo sort of eclipsed the crepes with ricotta cheese sweetened with honey, chestnuts, vin santo and topped with roasted pine nuts and rosemary.

Vin Santo is uniquely Tuscan and the nectar-like wine can be a dessert unto itself. A small quantity is produced when the vintage permits it. The late harvest grapes are air dried before the wine is made.  It is called Vin Santo probably because it would not be bottled before Semana Santa or Easter in spring.

Casa Vinicola Zonin is the largest privately owned wine company in Italy and the third largest in Europe.  Zonin’s nine estates span the length and width of Italy, from Sardinia in the south to Lombardy and Friuli in the  North West and North East of the country.

The cooking demonstrations are free to the public. The next event will take place on May 22nd .  For additional information, contact: 305-505-1504 or log on to and


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