On Tuesday night, I was invited to attend a special dinner tasting menu at Olio Pizzeria in West Hollywood. The theme? Aphrodisiac foods. I was intrigued.
Aprhrodisiac expert, Master of Gastronomy, and author Amy Reiley, together with Olio’s owner/chef Bradford Kent, created a menu that highlighted sensual ingredients from sea scallops to chocolate to sparkling wine.
Olio is a simple pizza & wine bar that Chef Brad says was inspired by the neighborhood pizzerie and enoteche in Italy. In contrast to their more upscale eatery next door, Olio e Limone Ristorante, Olio is a casual, tiny hole in the wall that places an emphasis on simple, everyday artisanal italian food that doesn’t need to be “fancy” to exude elegance.
The seductive meal Tuesday night was designed not only for its sensual pleasure in the moment, but also to give guests a few ideas for their own Valentine’s dinner, featuring beer and wine pairings from Olio’s new list, along with a couple unique twists from Reiley’s new book, “Romancing the Stove.”
The Amuse-Bouche was a Bruschetta of Heirloom Tomatoes with slow roasted garlic, a tease of fresh wasabi, micro celery and aphrodisiac argan oil on fire-toasted sourdough ($8.00 a la carte). It was paired with either Blue Star Wheat Beer from Fort Brag, CA or Prosecco with a Rosewater Kiss (my choice).
The second course was Fire-Seared Diver Scallops with braised shiitake mushrooms over a winter parsnip puree and sensual saffron-lobster broth ($20.00 a la carte). It was perfectly paired with Sangre de Toro Rose 2009, from Catalunya, Spain. I was so impressed with this dish I told Chef Brad it should be on the menu ALL the time!
The third course was called “Margherita’s Secret,” an artisanal, organic hand stretched pizza crust topped with olive oil, cured tomato, tastebud-tickling Sicilian pistachio pesto and a creamy burrata cheese ($16.99 a la carte). It was paired with a Lambrusco wine from Italy that was a little light for my taste, but was actually quite nice with the pistachio pesto.
The Entree was Prime New York Steak Morsels that were perfect-for-sharing nibbles, served hot from the wood-burning oven, marinated in aphrodisiac herbs and wrapped in smoked Alto Adige prosciutto. It was served with a libido-boosting arugula and blood orange salad, shaved Grana Padano and chile vinegar ($15.00 a la carte). It was paired with Colossi, Nero d’Avola 2010, from Sicily, Italy. I love the heavier reds, and this was my favorite of the bunch.
Dessert was appropriately titled “Melange a Trois,” a warm, chocolate ganache tart (perfectly balanced and bitter chocolate – my favorite!) served with pears poached in an arousing array of spices and made-to-order vanilla bean gelato served with cantuccini ($12.50 a la carte). I’m not a dessert person, but this one I’d eat over and over again. It was paired with Vin Santo, although a nice port or ice wine could have been equally (or more) delicious with this one!
Overall, the food was impressive and while these special menu items are not regularly available on the menu, Chef Brad Kent’s pizza (and fresh dough) are something I’ll be returning for regularly. He’s considering bringing back a couple of the favorites from Tuesday night as a special treat for his Valentine’s Day guests.
The dishes were simple but delicious, and certainly aroused the senses. One of the easiest recipes in Reiley’s book was teased as the pairing in the first course: Champagne with a Rose Water Kiss. (Recipe follows below.) Reiley’s favorite recipe in her new book? The mind bending blue cheese walnut brittle. “I love the earthy flavor that the walnuts, thyme and blue cheese add to what I think is often an overly sweet snack,” she says.
In browsing through the book, I see some fun recipes that I can’t wait to try out… albeit with caution. During the writing and research for “Romancing the Stove,” Reiley ended up pregnant! She’s due in six months…
By adding just a trace of rose water, you’re emphasizing the Champagne’s aphrodisiac attributes while allowing the wine’s natural flavors to still shine, Reiley says.
1. Place 1-2 drops of rose water into each of two Champagne flutes (she suggests using an eye dropper to make sure you get only a drop or two for the perfect complex subtlety)
2. Top each with 5 oz of Champagne or sparkling wine (Reiley prefers to use Prosecco for this)
How easy is that?!
***Lindsay Taub is an LA-based writer/producer/media strategist with a passion for travel, photography, nature, adventure, and wine. She resides in LA with her pups and is the managing editor of The Pacific Punch. Follow her on twitter @lindsaytaub58 and @ThePacificPunch. Learn more at www.lindsaytaub.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org***
Lindsay Taub is an LA-based writer/editor who covers travel, lifestyle, culture, music/arts, food, wellness, and more. She calls Los Angeles home when she's there, but prefers to leave the city for the mountains and open spaces as often as possible. She loves cooking, gardening, live music, hiking with her three rescue dogs, and rustic luxury. Follow her on instagram/twitter @lindsaytaub and follow the Pacific Punch @ThePacificPunch or email email@example.com. Learn more at www.lindsaytaub.com and www.voyagevixens.com .***