Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Foodie Blogger Meet Up At Buzo Osteria Italiana

It’s always exciting to meet people that you've come to know in the Blogosphere. The Trini food bloggers are a particularly great bunch. They blog consistently, give honest feedback, and ask all the right questions. So I was happy to do a little genre jumping and join up with the foodies for a bloggers’ lunch at Buzo a few Wednesdays ago. Meeting all the people I know in cyberspace feels, well, kind of like a blind date. But it was a nice small bunch to ease me in.  Our coordinator and organizer extraordinaire was Corey
who blogs over at http://www.thehinzadventures.com/, I was also excited to see Marie from TriniChow, Sarina from Trini Gourmet (who now has her own television show), and Q from Bring It to The Table. 
 If you’re not familiar with Buzo Osteria Italiana, it sits on that wonderful spot at 6a Warner St that once housed Rafters Restaurant back in the eighties and nineties. The limestone building (built in 1908) with its original thick walls has a long history of food.
 Beginning with its incarnation as Camacho’s Grocery (owners and proprietors Manuel and Rosina Camacho lived upstairs and ran their business out of the Warner St wing) the building was later sold to the Mowser family who ran the very popular Rafters Restaurant for some twenty four years.
Elizabeth Mowser remembers that when Rafters first opened, the late Pat Bishop did a series of large floral paintings to adorn the walls of the restaurant. Bishop knew the building well as she had grown up diagonally opposite to Camacho’s and would no doubt have shopped there, as many people living in the area did at the time. Mowser, no stranger to the restaurant business as she had been instrumental in running JBs (named after owner Johnny Boos (Mowser’s brother) was a solid source of knowledge to her sons, Richard and Paul, who managed Rafters through its sterling run before closing its doors after almost quarter century of operation. Today the Mowser family still owns the building but it is now the home of Italian restaurant Buzo Osteria Italiana.
With a snazzy renovation under its belt, the old world charm of Rafters has been replaced with an uber chic remodel.
That all of this modern appeal is housed in one of Port of Spain’s older buildings only adds to the charm of both the spot and the ambiance of the restaurant.
Chef Christian Grini pulled out all the stops for us and after much chatting and picture taking we settled down to our menu while taking note of all the lovely touches.
 Here thanks to Corey's great organisation, I have her handwritten menu. I'm including it because I like the rustic-y charm of an au natural menu.
We started with Focaccia al Rosmarino, also known as Focaccia Cicilista (pronounced chick-kle-sta) topped with olive oil, rosemary, and rock salt. I like the presentation of the bread standing in triangular shapes. Reminds me a bit of the hot, salted, nuts are served as street food. The focaccia (a type of flatbread) was crisp, not greasy, with the rock salt and rosemary flavor holding up well to the texture.  
Focaccia al Rosmarino
Next on the plate was Polenta Fritta on Cheese Fondue  or Polenta Fritta con Fonduta al Quattro Formaggi which was perfect. Deliciously cheesy, the polenta base is always more accommodating than heavier starches and reliably delivers on texture. Visually it was also interesting as the association with an egg (for obvious reasons) intrigued me; it's something that I've been seeing recently, this idea of chefs playing up visuals to throw the palate off guard.  A culinary-pun, I guess. 
Polenta Fritta on Cheese Fondue
 For me, the piece de resistance was the Portobello Tempura. If you haven’t tried it at Buzo, make sure you ask for it next time. This meaty mushroom is perfect in its tempura batter. Light and heavy. Yin and yan. The basics of good cooking. I like when my palate expects something and I get an other. Wonderful.

Portobello Tempura
 All through our tasting, we were attended by Frances, our waiter, who was gracious and ever patient as we rearranged the food to shoot it and asked him a million questions. Thank you Frances. You were the bomb. 
Frances our waiter
The flat bread  pizzas are really called Focaccine Farcini and they came in several combinations. My personal favorite was the Arugula and Truffle Oil (a lettuce pizza?), and the Zucchini and Goat Cheese.
Zucchini and Goat Cheese - A favorite

Prosciutto Crudo
A selection of the flatbread pizzas. Note my favorite in the back!
 They were all very good but my favorites had flavors that I didn't expect to find on a flat bread. For anyone going to Buzo and expecting the heavy, cheesy, pizza that most people associate with the term will be surprised at both the versatility and the flavors that are produced by these light, crisp, offerings.
Next on the menu were little pillow shaped Lobster Ravioli stuffed with Ricotta Cheese.
 Lobster Ravioli stuffed with Ricotta Cheese.
But, for presentation, nothing beat the whimsical touch of the Frito Misto, fried calamari and shrimp which arrived in its own little brown bag and jar. The absolute gourmand's brown bag lunch!
Frito Misto, fried calamari and shrimp which arrived in its own little brown bag and jar.
 Style on a plate.

Note the bed of Proseco Risotto
Gorgeous! This was followed by a Strawberry Salad. Even on the page this menu is an epicurean's dream. I was intrigued by the use of radishes as accents with their crisp red and white circles. I'd seen them in the polenta dish and here they were again. Just a little pop of color.
Strawberry Salad


Final Light Dessert
After this marathon tasting session and lots of this (always necessary at long Italian lunches)...

And even some of this. All fine Italian of course.

We had to have our fair and delicious share of this...

But we were all still shooting away. So many lovely things in this restaurant
Pepper Flakes and Pepper Oil
Even the Display Jars are Exotic.

 Buzo Osteria Italiana is on Facebook and at 6a Warner St. Port of Spain.
Be sure to have the Portobello Mushroom Tempura.