Think back to your favorite vacation. What do you remember? If you’re anything like me, it’s a specific moment. Even more likely, it’s a specific sensory experience: the smell of the plumeria as you walk through Kauai; the sound of the mosquitos along a river in Bali; the brilliant turquoise of the water in St. Croix. There may be flowers, bugs, and water wherever you live, but your favorite vacation moments are locked in a single place and time. Look at photos and videos as much as you’d like, but you’ll never quite get back to that moment.
So how did I go back to Bologna last night when I was sitting in LA?
It’s all thanks to a magical tortelloni.
Let’s go back in time a bit, shall we? This past October, I was in Italy where pretty much every night consisted of wine, prosciutto, pasta, and gelato. It was the dolce vita I’d always dreamed about. The highlight of the entire trip for me was a lunch at the incomparable Chiarli property outside of Modena, where the Chiarli family has made sensational Lambrusco for over 150 years. We went thinking we were just going to get a tour, but we were welcomed in like family and treated to a multi-course lunch with a tasting of all of the lambruscos that Chiarli makes.
Now, the star of the show was a handmade tortelloni in a butter sage sauce. It was phenomenal. I mean, come on, just look at it. Wow. I’ve thought of that pasta often over the past few months.
Flash forward to last night in Los Angeles. We were celebrating my lady’s upcoming birthday at Rossoblu, a restaurant that celebrates all things Emilia-Romagna. The menu listed a tortelloni dish with swiss chard, ricotta, butter, sage, and parmigiano reggiano. Honestly, it didn’t even click at first. I just wanted to order it because it sounded good.
I took one bite, though, and my entire body was transported back to that long dining table in the Modena countryside, surrounded by friends new and old and more than a few glasses of lambrusco. The chew of the pasta, the balance of the ricotta and the greens in the filling, the richness of the butter surrounding it all… it was the perfect culinary clone.
I was back on vacation.
This is a true testament to Steve Samson’s pasta at Rossoblu. His tortelloni was a time machine. It perfectly replicated the way I felt when I was eating tortelloni with the Chiarlis. It was in the moment of that first bite that I realized that I had come across a major revelation: you can recreate your favorite vacations through taste alone.
Nothing will ever match the exact blue of the water or the sound of the waterfall, but a chef has the ability to place you right back in the moment of your favorite vacation. Whenever I need a taste of Emilia-Romagna from now on, I’m heading to Rossoblu. Now I just need to find more restaurants that can create culinary postcards to my favorite moments from all of my trips around the globe.