Alba Osteria explores Emilia-Romagna

Alba Osteria, the upscale Italian restaurant at 2480 Canyon Boulevard in Boulder, will host a wine dinner on March 25. At first glance, the menu looks like a run-of-the-mill prix fixe dinner, one that happens to focus on the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. But since this region is arguably the center of Italian cuisine, a chef needs a deep, connected knowledge of the area to pull off its storied cuisine.

Fortunately, Alba chef Alex Feldman has that. He's worked all over Italy but has a particular attachment to this region, and it shows in his description of the four courses he's planned for the dinner.

ANTIPASTO:Antipasto Misto. Crostino di mortadella, prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano al balsamico, grissini al sesame

"There are a lot of things that people associate with this region," Feldman says. "With the whole dinner, I was trying to go outside of those associations for the region. But with this first course, I was trying to show the jewels of Emilia-Romagna, then move on from there. This is all a good taste of what the region's about."

Crostino di mortadella is very common in the region; it's a mortadella-based spread that goes on top of a crispy piece of bread. Then there's proscuitto, parmesan with balsamic vinegar and thin breadsticks with sesame.

PRIMO: Triangoli alle Erbette e Salsiccia. Fresh pasta triangles stuffed with chard, sausage and ricotta

"A hallmark of Emilia-Romagnolo cuisine is, in order to get the best flavor, it's a matter of carefully blending and selected the ingredients, it's how you treat them," Feldman explains. "Pastas originated in Bologna (the capital of Emilia-Romagna). A lot of recipes there say just to boil the pasta and serve it dressed with melted butter and parmesan cheese. The point is, it's all about the flavor of the pasta.

"We use brodo, which is a sort of concentrated broth. We make sure not to skim off the fat on the brodo, since there's so much flavor in the fat. This is the base of a lot of our sauces. We make all of our pasta by hand on a daily basis. This is a very typical pasta there, but I'm trying to do something that many people haven't seen here; it hasn't really been imported here yet."

SECONDO: Stinco di Maiale. Confit pork shank, Parmigiano potato puree, red wine veal reduction

"This dish is me trying to do something that top chefs in Emilia-Romagna are experimenting with right now, new-style plating and new-style dishes," Feldman says. "It is a very slow confit of the pork, then it is taken off bone, put in some semolina and cooked. There is some other action on the plate, but this is very similar to a dish I was doing in Bologna, a nice crispy pork confit with a wine reduction (with brodo)."

DOLCE: Cassata Bolognese.  Candied fruit and hazelnut semifreddo

"This dish is very classic there but again, something a lot of people here may not have had," Feldman concludes. " We use hazelnut brittle that was ground up and some candied orange peel for it. It is then frozen down with some chocolate sauce."

If you you'd like to take a culinary journey to Emilia-Romagna without crossing an ocean, this is the dinner for you. Reservations can be made on Alba's website, or by calling 303-938-8800.

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