05.18Villa d’Este Resort | Romance on Lake Como, Italy

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Courtesy Villa D'Este

Love a little romance and grandeur? Villa d’Este is simply breathtaking. This exquisite, five star Italian resort is located on the romantic shores of Lake Como, not too far from Milan. This is one destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Where else can you combine history, exquisite atmosphere and culinary excellence?

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Courtesy Villa D'Este

Many have called Villa d’Este on Lake Como  the most beautiful hotel in the world. The resort’s conversion dates back to 1873. Its palatial elegance was enjoyed by royalty, who enjoyed the villa as a summer residence many years ago.

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Courtesy Villa D'Este

Originally, Cernobbio was a tiny village populated by fishermen and woodcutters. Nuns were the first to arrive and took refuge from the civil war in a church that is today the park of Villa d’Este. In the l6th century, a Catholic cardinal built the main villa after acquiring the land from a monastic order, whose monastery still remains a focal point within the 25 acres of gardens.

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Courtesy Villa D'Este

More than five centuries of Italian art and architecture can be seen throughout the hotel and gardens. The l8th century Mosaic is one of the most photographed landmarks in Italy and can be seen as far back as Edith Wharton’s 1904 book, “Italian Villas and Their Gardens.”

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Courtesy Villa D'Este

It’s easy to close your eyes and transport yourself in time to a different era. Imagine Winston Churchill, Rita Hayworth, Yves Saint Laurent and Mikhail Gorbachev, taking the very same walk around the hotel and gardens as you. Today the guest list is a veritable “Who’s Who” in film and politics.

During the winter, the spectacular views of Lake Como and the snow capped mountains have not changed much over the centuries. The best time, of course, is summer. Be spontaneous and try this spectacular hotel. Trust me. You won’t be disappointed.

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Villa D'Este

Whether it’s the heated pool floating strategically over Lake Como, or the fabulous spa and tennis courts that grace the premises today, Villa d’Este leaves its guests wanting to return again and again.

– The Gourmet Review

05.14Risotto Primavera (Spring Vegetable) Recipe | Villa d’Este

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Courtesy Villa d'Este

Risotto Primavera (with spring vegetables) is one of the popular risottos prepared at Villa d’Este by Executive Chef Luciano Parolari on romantic Lake Como in Italy. Throughout the world, Chef Parolari has been known as the “King of Risotto” for good reason!

The Gourmet Review would like to wish Executive Chef Luciano Parolari good luck, as he retires from many decades of taking care of guests at the resort. The new Executive Chef is Michele Zambanini, who has been Chef Parolari’s assistant for many years. Chef Michele will continue Luciano’s traditions, which include cooking classes for resident guests and daily visits to the chef’s garden.

SERVES  6

INGREDIENTS

6 cups vegetable stock

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

l small onion, chopped

2 cups Carnaroli rice (or substitute Arborio rice)

1/2 cup dry white wine

l carrot, diced

l celery stalk, chopped

1/2 red pepper, chopped (optional)

1/2 yellow pepper, chopped (optional)

3 1/2 ozs string beans, trimmed and chopped

1 zucchini, diced

1/2 cup fresh green peas

3 ozs Taleggio cheese, diced

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley

6 basil leaves, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce the heat and keep at a bare simmer.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes.

Add the rice and cook, stirring for about 3 minutes, until every grain is coated with oil. Then add the wine and stir until absorbed.

Add l cup of the stock and stir until the liquid is absorbed.  When the stock comes to a boil, add the carrot, celery, bell pepper, string beans, zucchini, and peas.  Continue adding stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and making sure all the liquid is absorbed before adding more stock.  Continue to add stock.

Cook until the rice is just tender and creamy, but still al dente, 15 to 20 minutes.  You ay have leftoer stock.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Taleggio cheese, butter, Parmesan cheese, parsley, basil and salt and pepper to taste.

Let the risotto rest for a minute or two and serve with additional Parmesan cheese on the side.

– The Gourmet Review

12.28Holiday Greetings From Villa D’Este & Villa La Massa

Villa D’Este is one of the most beautiful hotels in the world. If you are truly ambitious and want to create an over the top New Year’s Eve dinner, take a look at the exquisite photographs and recipes on the attached Christmas card from Chef Luciano Parolari  at Villa D’Este. I guarantee you will want to make reservations to visit this beautiful resort this summer on beautiful Lake Como.

PLEASE SCROLL THROUGH THE ENTIRE PDF TO SEE INSPIRATION FOR ONY THE MOST ADVENTURESOME OF CHEFS.

If you want to experience a truly luxurious vacation, make sure Villa D’Este & La Massa for your next dream vacation. You’ll want to return time and time again.

– The Gourmet Review

09.12Villa D’Este Private Cooking Class | Lake Como, Italy

Villa D'Este Private Cooking Class

Courtesy Villa D’Este

What if you wanted to learn how to make risotto from the “King of Risotto” in Italy? Well, take a look at the private cooking classes with Executive Chef Luciano Parolari at Villa D’Este. You won’t find anything like this anywhere in the world. I promise!

This sumptuous, elegant hotel will transport you in time, as you learn secret cooking tips from this world renowned chef. Classes are small for the personal attention that represents any stay at Villa D’Este. Better hurry. The hotel closes for  winter, but the same staff returns every year, as positions are passed from one generation to the next!

-The Gourmet Review

11.28Villa d’Este Sommelier Interview | Paolo Vaninetti

Villa d'Este Sommelier Interview

The Verandah Restaurant Courtesy Villa d’Este

Sommelier Paolo Vaninetti oversees the wines served at The Verandah Restaurant, the Grill Room and even the bottle of champagne opened with great flair at the Canova Bar. It doesn’t matter, the sommelier at Villa d’Este knows his wines.

Villa d'Este Sommelier Interview

The Canova Bar Courtesy Villa d’Este

 Sommelier Paolo was kind enough to share some of his personal experiences and background.

Q  What is the oldest wine you have ever opened?

 A  An  1896 or 98 Madeira.

 Q  What is the most expensive wine you have ever opened?

 A  Chateau Lafite Rothchild 1945 from the “Special wine List” of the Palace.

Villa d'Este Sommelier Interview

Courtesy Chateau Latour

 Q  What is the greatest wine you have ever opened?

A   Chateau Latour 1961.

Courtesy Gaja

 Q  What is the most fascinating wine tasting/pairing that you have overseen?

 A  By Angelo Gaja in the tasting room, with his best Barbaresco and the most important wines imported by himself.

Q  Who is your favorite vintner?

 A  Angelo Gaja.

Villa d'Este Sommelier Interview

Barbaresco Vineyards Courtesy Gaja

(Read the rest of this entry…)

11.27Risotto for Pope John Paul II | Villa D’Este

famous risotto

Courtesy Villa d’Este

At Villa d’Este, it’s  natural to wonder what the favorite risotto is of the executive chef, affectionately known as the “King of Risotto.” I loved reading about the Risotto With Spring Vegetables that is also one of the hotel favorites,  and evidently that of Pope Paul II as well. Chef Parolari and Jean Salvadore share their story.

“At Villa d’Este, this risotto is a favorite of visitors to the hotel for two reasons: 1) since it’s studded with vegetables rather than more fattening ingredients, diners can pretend that it’s low in fat; and 2) the velvety texture and taste of the risotto base are perfectly counterbalanced by the crunchy texture of the fresh vegetables.

This risotto happens to be a favorite of Luciano himself and one that he earmarks as his most memorable in the thirty-eight years that he has been in the kitchen of Villa d’Este. Without hesitation, he commented: “In 1996, I made a risotto for Pope John Paul II. He came to Como for three days and was the guest of the archbishop, who called Villa d’Este and asked for our chef to prepare his meals. I made up a menu consisting of light chicken broth, steamed vegetables, and stewed fruit. His Holiness sent word back that he wanted a risotto with vegetables! Before his return to Rome, he thanked me in person and we were photographed together.”

Even if you don’t have the Pope over for dinner, this recipe is sure to be a memorable one, no matter with whom you share it.”

 Excerpt from “Tales of Culinary Adventures from Villa d’Este”

 -The Gourmet Review

11.15Elton John’s Favorite Risotto | Villa d’Este

Elton John's Favorite Risotto

Courtesy Google Images




When Elton John requests that his personal chef take cooking lessons from the “King of Risotto,” Chef Luciano Parolari, it probably means that Villa d’Este’s chef  of more than 30 years has created an utterly fabulous risotto.

I love the stories from Tales of Risotto about the Risotto con Pesce Persico (perch fillets) served at the Verandah Restaurant on the shores of Lake Como.

When Gianni Versace moved to Lake Como, he lived at Villa d’Este while his new favorite residence, Villa Le Fontanelle, located just around the bend from Villa d’Este on the lake, was being restored. Risotto with fish was Gianni’s preferred dish, and when he finally moved into his villa, he often called on Luciano to be the chef for his dinner parties.

 

Elton John was so enamored of Luciano’s fare that he had his chef consigned to a fifteen day apprenticeship to learn the secrets of Luciano’s cooking.

 

Not only was this Risotto con Pesce Persico (Perch Fillets) a favorite of Elton John, Gianni Versace and Madonna, but because of the inclusion of the daily catch, it makes it a specialty of Lake Como as well.

– The Gourmet Review

 

11.11Glimpse the Splendor of Villa d’Este | Slideshow

Verdi, Puccini, Stravinsky, Liszt, Winston Churchill, Walt Disney, George Clooney (of course, since he has a villa across the lake), Alfred Hitchcock, Barbara Hutton, Aristotle Onassis, Sting, Elizabeth Taylor, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Madonna, William Randolph Hearst, Paul McCartney, Greta Garbo, Valentino, Gianni Versace, Clark Gable, Elton John  and many more guests have walked the same grounds and enjoyed the impeccable service of Villa d’Este since l873, when the hotel was opened to the public.

While many of the amenities may have been updated, the same views of Lake Como, the palatial hotel and grand gardens have remained the same through the centuries. Take a look at some of the new additions since the hotel first opened.

– The Gourmet Review

11.09Risotto with Lemon Scampi | Villa D’Este

Risotto with Lemon Scampi

The Gourmet Review

Enjoy this easy to make “Risotto al Limone con Scampi,” courtesy of Villa d’Este’s Executive Chef Luciano Parolari – otherwise known in Italy as the “King of Risotto.”

Olympic gold medal ice-skating champion, Kristi Yamaguchi, and her hockey star husband, Brett Hedican, honeymooned at Villa d’Este. They loved all the seafood risottos, but loved this one the best.

SERVES  4 to 6

Shrimp Sauce

 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup dry white wire

DIRECTIONS

6 cups fish stock

5 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot or spring onion

2 cups Carnaroli rice  (or substitute Arborio rice)

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon minced fiat-leaf parsley

Juice of ½ lemon

Grated rind of ½ lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Caramelized Lemon Rind

Julienned rind of 1 lemon

1 cup white wine

2 tablespoons sugar

DIRECTIONS

To make the shrimp sauce, warm the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook for about 5 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and firm. Add the wine and stir until the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce the heat and keep at a bare simmer.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, until every grain is coated with butter.

Add 1 cup of the stock and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding stock, about ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently and making sure all the liquid is absorbed before adding more stock. Halfway through cooking the risotto, add half the shrimp and their sauce. Reserve the remaining shrimp as a garnish. Continue adding the stock. Cook until the rice is just tender and creamy but still al dente, 15 to 20 minutes.  You may have extra stock.

While the risotto is cooking, make the caramelized lemon rind. Place the julienned lemon rind in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, then drain and pat dry with paper towels. Warm the wine and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the lemon rind and cook, stirring, until caramelized, about l0 minutes.

When the risotto is done, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons butter, the Parmesan cheese, parsley, lemon juice, grated lemon rind, and salt and pepper to taste. Let the risotto rest for a minute or two and serve topped with the remaining shrimp and the caramelized lemon rind.

– The Gourmet Review

 

11.07Risotto with Artichokes Recipe | Luciano Parolari, Villa d’Este

risotto with artichokes

This is an easy, elegant risotto with artichokes recipe that was Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner’s favorite at Villa d’Este on fabulous Lake Como, when they first traveled to Italy in the 1950’s. Chef Parolari shares the Verandah Restaurant’s secret recipe for “Risotto can Carciofi.”

SERVES 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS


6  artichoke hearts

4  ½ tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

6 cups chicken stocks

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cups Carnaroli rice  (if you can’t find, then substitute arborio rice)

1 cup Italian spumante (sparkling wine)

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

l tablespoon minced flat leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS

Cut the artichokes into very thin slices. Set aside half of the slices. Melt ½ tablespoon of the butter with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the artichokes and sauté for 3 minutes, or until soft in the center. Set aside.

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce the heat and keep at a bare simmer.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, until every grain is coated with butter and oil. Then add ½ cup of the spumante (sparkling wine)  and stir until absorbed.

Add 1 cup of the stock and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Add the uncooked sliced artichokes. Continue adding stock, about ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently and making sure all the liquid is absorbed before adding more stock. Cook until the rice is just tender and creamy but still al dente, 15 to 20 minutes. You may have leftover stock.

Add the remaining 1/2 cup of the spumante and stir well. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons butter, the Parmesan cheese, and sale and pepper to taste.

Let the risotto rest for a minute or two and serve on individual plates, topped with the sauteed artichokes and a sprinkling of the parsley. This risotto can also be served with any kind of Italian sausage, either grilled or sauteed with sage and butter.

NOTE

I couldn’t find the Carnaroli rice when I was testing this recipe. I subsequently traveled to New York and went to Eataly, which just opened and is all things Italian, and purchased many bags of Carnaroli rice. It is fantastic, so check out your local Italian specialty stores and try to find. It is worth the effort, but this dish is still delicious with arborio rice as well.

– The Gourmet Review

 

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