Infused by Alchemy into the Sublime

I was reminded today of the most exciting meal I’ve ever had, and wouldn’t you know it, it was in Venice, a city which, only a decade or so  ago, was notorious rather than noted, for its food.  This visit, food, glorious Italian food, was almost top of my agenda, and so I made a mini-excursion into the wilds of the Venice Lagoon so I could eat at Venissa:  a Michelin-style restaurant that’s part of a project rehabilitating an ancient vineyard and farm buildings on the little island of Mazzorbo. I couldn’t have chosen a more evocative day to set out: grey, misty Venice –  the clouds capsizing onto the campaniles, subsiding into the campos and along the quayside fondamentas;  the wind making frosty shakes as it collided with the downpour.  I’m glad I bought those (cyclamen pink leather) gloves.

While my lunch near the Rialto the previous Sunday had showcased the best of traditional local recipes cooked to perfection, at Venissa, I tasted the simplest ingredients infused by alchemy into the sublime.

To start, the chef sent out a titbit of langoustine, immersed in a small ladle-full of onion soup. Onion soup? The quintessence of onion soup. I don’t know how she did it, but I’ve never tasted anything so unadorned, and yet so titillating to the palate, that is, till I tasted the razor clams,  Baked, with just the faintest drizzle of parsley oil – each perfect morsel tasting of  ocean-infused shellfish sweetness; the texture just shy of al dente.  A small rest was called for, to savour the flavours a little longer, before finishing my glass of deliciously fresh Prosecco, and sampling a couple of the breads (so I could tell my friend Mohara about them) which gave my palate a bit of a rest before the wild duck arrived. Teamed with baked radiccio and wild cherry glaze, the meat was creamy with a hint of the wild, the slightly bitter after-taste of the radiccio tempered by the sour/sweetish cherry. To finish, since I’d decided against a pasta course, I chose a poached pear – sweet as, slightly gritty against the satiny texture of vanilla-infused whipped ricotta and velvety burnt caramel – and, wait for it, slowly melting caramel ice, and three slightly floury wild raspberries and a sprig of wild thyme …

Accompanying each course was a succession of wines (by the glass, how civilized!) recommended – after a little discussion as to preferences – by the sommelier. A performance which he topped off with a herbal digestive, followed by a local Grappa, with the coffee – which was accompanied by slightly candied orange peel and the lightest, shortest, least sweet of shortbread (oh, and chocolate, but I didn’t taste them) cookies.

What an experience!

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23 thoughts on “Infused by Alchemy into the Sublime

  1. Reblogged this on The Wanderlust Gene and commented:

    As I sit, sipping my freshly made passion fruit juice, with just a hint of salt, to intensify its aromatic, sweet/sour flavour, I know it’s time to do a post about Sri Lankan food. I’m not ready, photographically, and it will take me several days to pull it together. In the meantime, I’d like to see if I can manage to reblog one of the first posts I put on my site – a description of the finest meal I’ve ever tasted.
    In response to Ailsa’a Foodie Travel Theme this week, I give you “Infused by Alchemy into the Sublimje” a description of a meal at Venissa, on the island of Mazzorbo, in the Venice Lagoon. Enjoy.

    • I emailed my friend Mo about it afterward – had to share it with someone – and for some reason never deleted it – I guess I just couldn’t let go of the experience. I’m so glad, because now I’ve been able to share it with lots of people.

    • It was, Madhu. I’ve always enjoyed good cooking, and have tried to find those special places, everywhere I visit. This was in a different league altogether, Madhu – took my pallet somewhere I didn’t know existed, in fact. Now I get it why those 3 hatted chefs have always been so famous, and sought after.

  2. The perfect meal; your description makes me feel as if I was at the table. And the Italians are so civilized with the digestives after a meal. I can’t wait to sit down to a Sri Lankan meal with you.

  3. Very impressed that you can remember it so exactly…or make it up so convincingly. Time to launch your food critic career. It may not pay well but the perks would be good.

    • Yes – I got it, after that meal. I really understood why some people will pay a small fortune for a meal cooked by one of those people who have the gift of creating ambrosia from common corn … 🙂

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