Being in Italy, pairing food with drinks is habitually commanded by wines. But surprisingly, it can be quite an interesting adventure to step out of the box especially when we are involving an exquisite liquor like rum. A noteworthy experience was a rum and food tasting dinner hosted by Rinaldi 1957, a historical distributor of liquors, wines and distillates in Italy for more than 60 years at Pulejo Restaurant in Rome. At the dinner, Walter Gosso, the Trade Advocacy Manager of Rinaldi 1957, with the presence of Gabriele Rondani, Marketing Director of Rinaldi 1957, expounded on the six different rums they have chosen from their portfolio for the dishes prepared by Chef Patron Davide Pulejo. The dinner was a culminating journey of various characteristics and stories of the diversity of the sugarcane distillates from South and Central America, renowned for their production of the distillates, and a curious detour to the Philippines in Southeast Asia, accompanied by the delectable flavors of the creations of the chef.
First distilled in the Caribbean in the 1600s, this alcoholic beverage is derived from sugarcane molasses or sugarcane juice through the process of fermentation and distillation. It is then aged in oak barrels of different types and the result is a limpid and brilliant rum ranging from transparent to gold to dark golden brown. Popularized in the 18th-century, there are around 80 countries that produce rum at present, the majority of which is in the Caribbean and Southern to Central America, as well as two countries in Asia, which includes the Philippines, a major sugarcane-cultivating country.
The choice of restaurant for Rinaldi 1957 was focused on the chef’s creative technical approach to raw materials and the perceptible depictions that are conveyed in the dishes, true masterpieces of culinary execution. Pulejo was recently opened in March 2022 by Davide Pulejo with the desire to welcome, rediscover and remember, where memory is central both for the purpose of bringing back familiar tastes as part of welcoming diners to a warm environment. “I’m always looking for new ideas and combinations but the memory of my past remains always alive,” muses Pulejo. He was 21 when he entered Il Convivio Troiani, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Rome, then London and to three-starred Noma di Copenhagen. But Italy remains in his memory so back to Italy in Milan, he led the kitchen of L ’Alchimia until it received its first Michelin star. Now he is back home, in Rome, at the helm of his restaurant, Pulejo. There are dishes on the menu that have accompanied the chef for years, such as the Pepper like Beef and the Milan-Rome, his version of risotto with saffron and oxtail.
The dinner proceeded with this menu:
Peperone Come Manzo (Bell Pepper Like Beef) paired with Montebello Vieux 8 Anni Millesimè 2007
The dish is a great classic of the chef, roasted red pepper treated in the same consistency as beef tartare with capers, oregano, rocket and 36-month old Parmigiano Reggiano. The rum, with the color of a mixture of gold and copper is aged for 8 years in ex-Bourbon American oak barrels. The nose reveals aromas of chocolate, tobacco and citrus and after a short breath, notes of coffee appear followed by cooked fruit, pine resin and sugar. Coffee dominates the palate with a pleasant sweetness and before the finish, there are notes of red fruits, bitter orange and hazelnuts.
Raviolo with Roasted Tomatoes, Minced Raw Beef and with Bone Marrow Cream paired with Ron Centenario Gran Legado Rèserve 12 Años
A delicious dish of the chef, the ravioli filled with roasted tomatoes is paired with the 12-year old rum from Costa Rica in Central America. The sugar cane from which the molasses are obtained from is cultivated at an altitude of over 1,200 meters asl in volcanic soil, recreating optimal conditions to give the product an above-average quality. Once the molasses are distilled, the rum ages in American oak barrels according to the solera method. Gran Legado 12 Years is obtained from a blend of several rums with different aging (including 12 years) and subsequently aged for a further 12 months in oak barrels wherein bourbon was previously aged. Amber in color with an intensity and complexity in the nose. There are hints of caramel, vanilla, chocolate, light woody and raisins. On the palate it is consistent with the perceived aromas, with notes of spices and hazelnuts.
MI-RO paired with Santiago de Cuba Anejo 11 Años
Milanese-Style Risotto with Stewed Oxtail and Cocoa Powder, another signature dish of the chef that has been a success over the years, and one that merits to be lauded. This delectable risotto is paired with a Cuban rum, appreciated by connoisseurs of rum recognized as the highest expression of this important tradition. It is distilled from molasses obtained from the sugar cane grown only in a specific region then aged for 11 years in white oak barrels. The intense flavor and aroma convey unique sensations typical of a quality product, dry but with an intense, soft and balanced aftertaste. On the nose there are hints of tropical fruit, coconut, vanilla and almond while on the palate the blend is well-balanced with sweet and spicy notes with a long, rounded finish.
Grilled Benevento Beef, Plums and Lard paired with Pusser’s 15 Y.O.
Cooked to perfection with the right input of saltiness and acidity of the complementing ingredients, the dish was paired with a superb rum that has won several prizes in the World Rum Awards and the most famous brand of British Navy Rum, a well-known Heavy Rum range coming principally from Trinidad and Guyana. Previously made with blends of rum from Guyana and Trinidad, the new bottles contain only rum originating from Guyana aged in charred oak barrels. On the nose there are hints of tobacco, spices, toffee and sweet licorice while on the palate it is full, long and round.
Il Tiramisù paired with Coloma 8 Años
Almost a classic, this version of tiramisù is composed of cocoa biscuit, mascarpone ice cream, coffee reduction and warm zabaione. The pairing is with rum produced in Colombia from the distillation of molasses, then aged for 8 years in oak barrels that previously contained Bourbon, then from 6 to 12 months it finishes its aging in barrels used for the storage of the coffee liqueur of the same name. On the nose there are hints of cocoa and coffee while on the palate there are notes of sweet vanilla and almonds. The finish is soft and persistent.
Small Pastries paired with Don Papa Baroko
Concluding the long journey is a platter of small pastries by the chef paired with a rum from the other part of the ocean, in Southeast Asia, the central part of the Philippines. Baroko is the latest bottle of the distillery which is sweeter and has more body at 7 years. The rum is obtained from the black gold molasses of Noble sugar cane, grown on the lava lands on the slopes of the Kanlaon volcano on the island of Negros, at center of the archipelago. Don Papa Baroko is aged in highly-toasted American oak barrels that have previously contained Bourbon. On the nose, there’s an explosion of citrus and vanilla while on the palate it is full-bodied with notes of ripe tropical fruit, candied fruit and honey. The finish is long and deep with notes of raisins and vanilla.
Viale Angelo Masini, 34
40126 Bologna (BO), Italy
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00192 Roma, Italy
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