Allegrini Cook-Off For a Cause

Seared Tuna with Foie Gras Mousse from Chef Keith Hanks of The Capital Grille

Yesterday afternoon in the cooking studio at Central Market, four of Dallas’ favorite chefs came together to cook and compete for a great cause, each of their supported charities.  The event was the second stop on a three city tour created by Allegrini wine asking top chefs to create the ideal pairing for their Palazzo Della Torre wine.

Chefs Tre Wilcox (Village Marquee – Texas Grill & Bar,) David Uygur (Lucia Restaurant,) Keith Hanks (Capital Grille Dallas,) and Francesco Farris (Zio Cecio Cucina Italiana,) tested their imagination and ingenuity making dishes to enhance the dry, earthy, slightly raisined Valpolicella wine.

Fregola with Amarone, Pancetta and Fiore Sardo from Francesco Farris of Zio Cecio
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Manchego, Parmesan and Goat Cheese Polenta with Chorizo from Chef Tre Wilcox
Chef David Uygur (left) and Chef Tre Wilcox

Thirty or so individuals attended the tasting, where I had the pleasure of acting as one of the guest judges at yesterday’s event, and the decisions were tough.  Though Chef Farris’ Amarone simmered Fregola with crispy pancetta and Fiore Sardo sang with deep Italian roots; Chef Wilcox’s chorizo infused cheesy, creamy polenta with juicy pork tenderloin was as satisfying as it was comforting; Chef Uygur’s milk braised duck with smoked Anson Mills Otto File polenta was imaginative and delicious; the best dish went to Chef Hanks for his inspired take on barely seared Anise Sented Tuna with Foie Gras Mousse, red wine demi-glace, and an award winning chutney of fennel, currant and bacon.

Chef Keith Hanks

The dish was original, flavorful and out of the box making skeptics who don’t think you can pair fish with red wine believers. This spot-on pairing enhanced earthiness, spice and raisined quality of the wine, which is made by placing 30% of the ripe Corvina, Rondinella and Sangiovese grapes in boxes to age and raisin for four months prior to fermentation, then pressing and blending with the remaining 70% finished, fully fermented grapes, creating a second fermentation of the wine which finishes with a dried fruit, mineral intense and completely earthy flavor.

Family owned Allegrini Winery was founded in 1858 outside of Verona in the Veneto region of Italy known for their bold, age worthy and often expensive red wines.  Allegrini offers a little relief to the budget concious with wines like the Plazzo Della Torre that is made with great precision, time and care, but is still affordable at a cost around $20 a bottle.   Giovanni Allegrini is regarded as a pioneer in quality viticulture and winemaking in the 1950′s and 1960′s in the Valpolicella region.  Today Giovanni’s son Franco is the winemaker, with his daughter Marilisa handling the marketing for the winery, as well as running a cooking school, and traveling with world teaching the history and attributes of Amarone and Valpolicella wine.

Marilisa was with us at the luncheon, passionately speaking about her family, her winery and of course, beautiful Allegrini wine.  Though all chefs received a donation for their respective charities, Chef Hanks was the big winner with a $3000 donation to his charity, The Turtle Creek Association.