The 14th Annual World Gourmet Festival at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok is the undisputed premiere gourmet food event in Thailand. This year it was held September 2 to 8 and it was one of the best ever. Guests were able to get up and personal with a bevy of world class guest chefs and indulge in some of the most innovative cuisine on offer. Chef Vito Mollica was one of the featured chefs in attendance and he graced a lucky few who had the foresight to secure a ticket to one of his wine dinners with a gastronomic feast that was truly legendary.
About Chef Vito Mollica
Chef Vito Mollica; who currently works for the Four Seasons Florence, is a force to be reckoned with. He is a staunch advocate of Italian food and was inspired as a young boy by the local specialties prepared by his mother. He has spent his career trying to preserve the culinary ecology of Italy by supporting small local producers and old-style markets. “I have what I like to call a ‘Farm to Fine Dining’ philosophy. I believe that food expresses the roots of a culture” shared Chef Vito. It is important for him to know the “people behind the products” and he personally scours the markets and Tuscan countryside for independent producers who share his passion for quality. The pasta that was served at the dinner is a prime example of this, as it was procured form a small village where a husband and wife team spends hours hand making pasta in the same way it was done hundreds of years ago. “The main value of any dish is the quality of the ingredients,” he explains. “If they have been produced with care, it comes through in the taste. Then the more simply you cook the ingredients, the more you will allow the flavor to come through.”
Chef Vito’s cooking style is refined yet soulful and he genuinely cooks from the heart. From the relationships he cultivates with his producers to the positive attitude he builds with his staff, he evokes a sense of easy comfort and approach-ability. One of the extra benefits of the wine dinner was having the opportunity to see Chef Vito interact with the other chefs as they prepared the meal in the open kitchen of Biscotti at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok . There was a lively comradery and a palpable sense of joy that was absolutely expressed in the food that was served. Chef Vito goes out of his way to ensure that each guest feels at home. “Food is an experience – the care has to extend beyond what is found on the plate to how you welcome each guest, how you treat them and how you say goodbye” stated Chef Vito.
The meal began with the Crab Timbale w/ Ricotta Cheese & Citrus Dressing paired with Poggio Del Sasso Vermentino, 2011. This was a rich and decadent dish and the serving size was quite generous. Chef Vito sourced high quality ricotta cheese that was produced locally in Thailand, and the mild cheese was studded with chunks of sweet white crab meat and a large dollop of black fish roe for saltiness along with sliced radish for texture and bitterness. The crisp white wine added a needed acidity that was completely appropriate for the stellar first course. According to Chef Vito, the next dish was inspired by a recipe from the Renaissance period in France. The Beef Salad Francesina w/ Pumpkin & Ginger Cream was unlike anything I have ever tasted before and reminded me a bit of a de-constructed stew. The meat had an almost ethereal quality as it melted in my mouth and it exploded with an intense depth of flavor that can only be accomplished by hours, if not days, of intense cooking and reduction. The bitter salad greens added texture and bite while the wine introduced a hint of oak and spice to round the dish off. The pasta course was perhaps one of the most memorable. The Cavatelli Cacio e Pepe w/ Baby Squid & Marinated Prawns was everything I love about Italy in a bowl. Chewy handmade pasta, copious amounts of coarsely ground black pepper, delicate seafood, and the alchemy of premium olive oil and aged artisanal pepperchino cheese was simply magical. The wine pairing of a spicy red Poggio San Polo Brunello di Montalcino, 2007 was pure genius as the counter intuitive paring managed to completely elevate the dish. As successful as every dish had been thus far, for me the best was yet to come with the Stuffed Quail w/Tuscan Dried Figs, Seared Foie Gras & Vin Santo Sauce. When asked about his inspiration, Chef Vito revealed that it was a twist on American Thanksgiving which is perhaps why it was love at first bite for me. This dish evoked a powerful sense of familiarity and comfort, even before I knew the inspiration behind the plate. The quail was tender and juicy with a crispy skin, the foie gras was perfectly executed and the sweet fig, creamy potato and seductive sauce all left me feeling inexplicably satisfied. The bold red Poggio Al Tesoro Sondraia Bolgheri, 2009 was another highly accomplished wine paring and overall the dish was simply stunning. For dessert I was treated to a Crispy Hazelnut Cylinder Coffee Zabaione w/Gianduja Ice Cream paired with a Giovanni Allegrini Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico Veneto, 2009 for an absolutely delightful way to end the meal.
The beauty of a dining experience like this is that it surpasses the sum of its parts. It’s not simply about the expertise that is required to compose one cohesive and brilliant tasting dish after another. It's the access to rarified Italian wines from Tuscany in Italy and the sumptuous and warm aesthetics of the award winning Biscotti restaurant that make it so special. Every guest was treated to a trifecta of casual comfort, luxury service and provocative Italian cuisine. Chef Vito managed to parlay an evocative sense of “place” with his timeless interpretations of soulful food. The wine pairings were exceptional as each dish was emotionally compelling. There are very few occasions in Bangkok where you have an opportunity to engage with the chefs and experience cuisine in this way. This is the kind of dining experience that stays with you long after the meal is over. So be sure to mark your calendar early for next year's World Gourmet Festival; or better yet, make your way to Four Seasons Florence where you can taste Chef Vito's cuisine every day.
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Four Seasons Bangkok
155 Rajadamri Road
Tel: + 662 250 1000
Fax: +662 254 5390
MRT: Lumpini Station