As I plan my trips quite far in advance, inevitably I miss certain events I just can’t quite coincide. I made a conscious decision that this year in November I would forego the pleasures of Phuket and visit Chiang Mai, another of my favourite culinary destinations.
In hindsight, a huge error on my part as I discovered when my phone rang last week and the effervescent Frank Grassman, general manager of The Nai Harn, cordially advised me that Italy would be visiting the resort this year, and guess when? Smack bang in November!
So here I am writing this about the pleasures I will be missing but giving you the opportunity to attend.
The extravaganza begins with a seven-day culinary stint from Neapolitan pizza master Salvatore de Rinaldi in cooperation with the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. Salvatore will be cooking authentic pizzas at Rock Salt from November 8 to 14.
The True Neapolitan Pizza Association was founded in Naples with its mission to promote and protect the true Neapolitan pizza. Neapolitan pizza is a style of pizza made with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. It must be made with either San Marzano tomatoes or Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio and Mozzarella di Bufala Campana with the milk from water buffalo raised only in designated locations within Italy.
The art of its making is included on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage. This style of pizza gave rise to the New York-style pizza that was first made by Italian immigrants to the United States in the early 20th Century.
According to the rules, the genuine Neapolitan pizza dough consists of wheat flour, natural Neapolitan yeast, salt and water. The dough must be kneaded by hand and, following the rising process, the dough must equally be formed by hand and may be no more than 3 millimetres thick. The pizza must be baked for 60-90 seconds in a 485°C (905°F) wood fire oven and, when cooked, it should be soft, elastic, tender and fragrant.
There are different variants, but the original one is the famed pizza margherita and another the similarly celebrated pizza marinara.
This pizza festival will be followed on November 13 by an exclusive dinner at Prime attended by Federico Ceretto, a renowned Italian maker of that wonderful grape juice we love to pair with quality dining.
The Ceretto family are also owners of two renowned restaurants, one of which is the three Michelin-starred Piazza Duomo in the heart of Alba’s old town centre. With around 80 years of ultra-fine grape growing, the Ceretto family have become a benchmark in the region of Piedmont.
Sadly, I fear that by the time you read this, it will be fully booked up, providing me a further opportunity to grumble at my good friend Khun Frank. But do certainly seek a reservation as the menu will feature many signatures from Executive Chef Mark Jones’ repertoire given a one-off Italian twist.
Dishes will include his tartare of Angus beef fillet and a no doubt silky smooth porcini risotto, both dressed with shaved truffle and the latter finished with salty pecorino romano sheep milk cheese perfectly complementing the earthy risotto. Elegant premier pairings from the Ceretto cellars will share the stage with Mark’s culinary creations.
This epicurean experience will be followed on November 22 by an equally tempting and upscale dinner at Cosmo with a Travaglini pairing featuring this renowned producer’s liquids highlighting the Nebbiolo grape. These will be perfectly matched with dishes such as a Diamantina flank steak. Although Australian, the steak’s origins can be trace back to an Italian immigrant family, the respected Menegazzo beef producers who moved from Italy in the 1920s.
The menu also features Gorgonzola Dolce, a soft, blue, buttery cheese made with uncooked whole cow’s milk. The cheese took its name from a small town in Lombardy near Milan, where it is said to have been born in the 12th Century. This is partnered with a northern Thailand blossom honey and served on a stellar “Mark Jones” ciabatta. I believe seats are still available, but do call soon!
This series of unmissable events culminates with the now annual showcase of premier league Italian grape drink producers and a must-be-seen-at tasting evening. James Suckling will again preside with almost 50 of the whose-who of top grape growers in attendance.
This will be held at Reflections, The Nai Harn’s spectacular rooftop terrace with live cooking stations, on Saturday, November 23 from 6pm. Booking essential.
I am, as always, confident that this November at The Nai Harn will be veramente magnifico! Sadly, I will be unable to join you as I will be in Chiang Mai, enjoying a bowl of khao soi… Mamma mia, Frankie G, next time, tell me sooner!
To book your place, call 076 380 200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris is a former Michelin Guide Inspector who, following an international career in hospitality spanning 30 years in both the Middle East and Asia, has now settled in Thailand and contributes a monthly column.