Italian Wine Dinner…at Cleonice Bistro with George Schwartz

I had the opportunity to spend Sunday evening with old friends…in the “new” Cleonice Bistro…enjoying delicious Apulian Food and Wine…what a delightful evening… The “new” Cleonice Mediterranean Bistro is up the street from where the “old” one was… at 192 Main Street in Ellsworth. It is a spacious, yet inviting room with an open kitchen that is warmed by plenty of natural light. You are no longer limited to parties of 2 or 4 when you call to make your reservation, as they now have unlimited seating options. So, if you haven’t been to Cleonice in a while…you should definitely check out the new place…Cary and Rich have done an amazing job with it… Now about the Dinner… This was a 5 course Wine Dinner featuring the food and wine of Puglia… the “Breadbasket of Italy”. Our presenter was the Incomparable George Schwartz…George has been an Italian Wine importer for 30 years…and I have never meet someone more passionate about Italy…its people…their wine and their food than George. He has finally realized his dream of starting his own Import Company specializing in the wines of Southern Italy… Kimera Imports… Our Antipasti was Polpo in Umido (Octopus Stew) and Polpette di Malanzane (Eggplant Fritters)… to say these were done perfectly is no exaggeration… Rich prides himself on being as accurate as possible with his ingredients and preparation… and having spent a couple of days eating my way through Puglia this April… I can tell you that these dishes were “spot on” and delicious…The wine… 2012 I Pastini Locorotondo…was a perfect pairing…this white wine blend of indigenous grapes has great acidity, minerality and a hint of saltiness…just right…next… Zuppa… Fava Bean and Escarole…beans and greens are big in Puglia…and so is Negroamaro… The 2012 Sule Negroamaro is a very pretty wine… Negroamaro can be a big red wine with a lot of dried fruit characteristics and raisin like notes on the finish…this wine was not like that at all…a very feminine expression with perfect balance…which was great with the soup…On to the Pasta Course… Orecchiette con le Cima di Rape…(“Little ears” pasta,Broccoli Rabe,Pancetta, Garlic, Olive Oil & Parmigiano Reggiano) an absolutely delicious dish featuring the classic pasta of Puglia…paired with 2010 Sule Squinzano…a new wine for me…(which is what I love about this business) a sturdier more complex red than the Negroamaro that stood up to the garlic with pride…but was equally as well balanced… a pleasant surprise…Primi time… Cosciotto D’angello in Crosta di Sale (Herb Rubbed Leg of Lamb in Salt Crust with roasted potatoes and greens)… The Salt crusted Lamb was a site to see coming of of the oven…(open Kitchen… remember?) and it tasted amazing… George chose a wine from another area that he is passionate about… Sicily… Mount Etna to be specific…2010 Giovi Etna Rosso…this was also a first for me…and another refreshingly pleasant surprise… Sicilian Wines can be big and overly fruity…but this red blend was not… This wine definitely let you know where it came from…the Etna terrior came through elegantly…in a well balanced whisper that tasted exquisite with the lamb… I savored every sip…and every bite…Finally… Purceduzzi…(Mini Fried Gnocchi glazed with Honey and Almonds)…this light, crunchy, slightly sweet dessert was one that Rich’s grandmother made for him on when he was a boy…on special occasions…a very fitting ending for this special evening with old friends…