Thursday 11 May 2023

Festa Della Polenta 2023 at Di Beppe Gastown

Italy is not going to happen for me anytime soon because European travel is not cheap! Flights, hotels and spending add up quick, so I have to live out my Italian food dreams in Vancouver. I already love dining at Di Beppe and constantly think about their carbonara with spaghetti because it is so good! This year, I thought I would check out their annual Festa della Polenta. 

Prior to this, I never paid much attention to polenta. Originating from Northern Italy, polenta is typically a coarsely ground cornmeal. Festa della Polenta dates back more than 400 years and continues to be celebrated across Italy each year! Polenta was offered by nobility to hungry townspeople during the famine and has become an annual event across Italy for friends and families come together around the table

To encourage conversation with other diners, Festa della Polenta at Di Beppe is served family style. My friend and I were seated with two other couples with whom we shared fabulous laughs and conversations a plenty all evening long. It was a refreshing change because it is no secret that Vancouverites are not the most approachable of people. In fact, it is a well known fact that making friends in Vancouver is TOUGH. Perhaps Vancouverites need to be pushed out of their comfort zone more and sadly we might need restaurant businesses facilitate it for us by doing communal table dinner services. 

I also loved my outfit from the night. I wore high-waisted black denim with black loafers, brown belt, green & white striped sweater and a lilac-coloured coat. Pulled half my hair back in a claw clip. Simple, easy and comfortable. 

The multi-course meal began with a cocktail of your choice. My preferred cocktail is a sour, preferably with an egg white foam; however, Di Beppe and most Italian restaurants in Vancouver focus on more traditional Italian cocktails and wine lists. The Aperol Spritz is the sweetest cocktail on offer, but it will never compare to a sour for me!

SPUNTINI | snack

A crispy polenta medallion served two ways. Salty thinly sliced prosciutto, pear and whipped gorgonzola was a lovely play of sweet and salty, but my favourite was the second combination. Spinach pesto, ricotta and Parmigiano shavings was creamy and earthy. 

ANTIPASTI | Appetizer

Fresh Carne Cruda was paired with polenta chips. You give me chips and dip and it will always be a guaranteed  win in my books. However, when put up against a ball of Burrata cheese, I have to give the win to the cream and cheese stuffed Burrata. The Burrata was served with warm asparagus, dill, and crispy hazelnut polenta. 


The main event of the evening was the Polenta Sulla Spianatoia aka the tabletop polenta pour!  The Chef poured hot cheesy polenta from the pot directly onto the wooden board in the middle of the table. Let me tell you, there is nothing more beautiful than watching luscious ribbons of hot polenta being streamed onto a table in front of you. 

Plain polenta has a fairly neutral flavour, aside from the cheesiness from the added cheese, so it is served with accompaniments. There were three dishes: Ossobuco, Roasted Chicken and Roasted Winter Vegetables. 

I am not a big red meat eater; however, I needed a sampling of the Ossobuco bone marrow stew. It had a deep rich meaty flavour that can only be achieved from cooking a dish slowly for hours. The Roasted Winter Vegetables were seasoned with parmesan and included carrots, zucchini and squash. The Roasted Chicken was served in a lemon cream sauce and sliced almonds. Tasted great, but the beige roasted chicken in a beige cream sauce with more beige sliced almonds made for one visually neutral-toned pale unexciting beige dish. It desperately needed colour! Perhaps some fresh herbs and lemon wheels laid overtop the chicken and freshly cracked black pepper for some visual excitement. 

The team offered a second pouring of freshly cooked polenta which our table happily accepted. We had already polished off the three accompanying dishes and plain polenta on its own is boring in flavour. 

DOLCE | Dessert

A raspberry sauce drizzled polenta cake rounded out the meal. The polenta gave the cake a wonderful crisp texture and was a great vessel for the bright bold raspberry sauce. 

Digestivos & Conviviality

To conclude the night, diners were invited into the cafĂ© section of Di Beppe. Everyone was presented several bottles of Digestivos. In Italy, Digestivos are after dinner drinks to kick-start digestion after a rich filling meal. These Digestivos are STRONG and let me tell you, they burn from the second they touch your lips, all the way down to your stomach. But it is wild how a small shot of a digestivo can completely alleviate the feeling of being too full to move. 

I googled Conviviality and it is defined as being friendly and lively. In this instance, Di Beppe wanted to continue the fun evening of meeting new people and to continue the conversation post dinner. 

Before we departed, all guests were given a small pouch of raw polenta. I love presents so yes please!

Festa della Polenta at Di Beppe was $95 plus gratuity of 18% and tax 5% which came out to a total of $116.85 per person. Set menu events are generally have a higher price point, but it is supposed to be an experience. However, I walked away from this meal still hungry! They offered all the tables a second polenta pour which we all happily accepted, but there were no more accompaniments left and the polenta on it own was not really my thing. We needed a second round of that Ossobuco, vegetables and chicken with the polenta! I left feeling wanting more and for that I will have to say the Festa della Polenta at Di Beppe missed the mark at the high price point. 


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