Adventures at Le Grand Fooding

Adventures at Le Grand Gooding – Le grand banchetto acqua panna – s.pellegrino

And what an adventure it was! Rare that a food event should be described in this manner but from the creativity of the dining room, to the ambience to the waiters sporting head torches (all will be explained later!) it truly was a magical adventure and that’s before I even get started on the food.
So Le Grand Fooding came back for its second year in Milan and it came back with a bang. From last years one night special with dining “a piedi” to this years three nights of grand banquets, Le Grand Fooding seems deteremined to put on a good show, and it certainly felt like performance art with the banquet hall designed by leading architect Paola Navoni.
But lets start at the beginning. I arrived in Via Tortona, home to Milan’s design and creative brains, in time for apertivo or should I say Le Grand Preludio. As I entered Tortona 31, I first lost my way (it was dark!) and then once back on the right path entered into the corridor of degustazione where with a selection of tickets one could enjoy a flute of Mumm Champagne, cocktails and pasta bullets by Cino and Sanbitter, Pizza by Pizza East (London, UK) or Pizzaiolo (Oakland, USA) and later Haagen Dazs icecream and Nespresso. The atmosphere was very jolly, despite the cold, with many a guest wrapped in the thoughtfully supplied fleecy ponchos.
Suddenly bells ring out and we were invited into the main banquet hall. Luckily I was spotted at this exact moment by Elisa Pella, Identita Golose, who kindly introduced me to my fellow diners and subsequent “adopted family” for the evening with the flamboyant Elvio Gorelli taking me under his wing.
 Darkness it transpired was the theme of the night, thereby excusing my previous loss of direction, and we were greeted by waiters adorned with head torches who showed us to our table. You might wonder how we were expected to eat under cover of darkness but each table was creatively illuminated by a San Pellegrino bottle lamp (a genial idea for dinner parties at home!). Above our heads, a scene reminiscent of a laundry room with t-shirts and underwear pegged out to dry as part of Navoni’s vision for the event creating an atmosphere of an army mess as we sat elbow to elbow at our tables.
Our chefs for the night were Moreno Cedroni from La Madonnina del pescatore (Marzocca) who presented us with our antipasto of Hot-Dog di seppia (cuttlefish) served with a mustard, raspberry and ginger dressing. Verdict. Interesting combination, delicate and light and yes I would go back for seconds.
Next up was Davide Oldani from D’O (Cornaredo) who gave us Spaghetti “Whoosh”, a cold dish with an orange and bitter chocolate sauce. Huddled as I was in my poncho, cold pasta would not have been an obvious first choice but it was certainly a memorable dish. A little sweet for my tastes and if I’m honest I’m not a lover of cold pasta but in the right place at the right time I could see how this dish would work.
From whoosh to seafood polenta with chef Mario Carbone from Torrisi Italian specialities (New York, USA) who seved up a rich corn based polenta with prawns and old bay drizzled in olive oil. Surprisingly tasty for polenta which has a reputation for being a poor mans food and incredibly impactful in flavour. It was one of those dishes where a little goes a long way.
Our last savoury delight was cooked up by chef couple Federica and Fabrizio Mancioppi from Caffe dei Cioppi (Paris, France) who served a deliciously salty risotto with a smoked andouiette sausage, porcini mushrooms, celery and lemon. Loved it! Creamy risotto capped by the flavoursome sausage and the freshness of the lemon which worked wonders in the mouth and completed our culinary adventure.
And here, as in all good adventures, the puzzle was solved. Le Grand Fooding has hit on a winning formula of combining food with design with atmosphere with intrigue to create an event unlike any other. As I switched the darkness of the banquet hall for the darkness of the Milan night I felt like I was leaving a secret coven of food lovers behind me and returning to the world of normalcy. But how sweet the adventure, if just for a couple of hours!

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