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November 8, 2009

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Savoring Venice at the St. Regis

IT'S easy to forget that Italian cuisine, like Chinese food, is made up of diverse regional flavors and variety. The ancient culinary traditions of Venice for example are not well known outside of Italy.

But for the next three weeks, authentic Venetian cooking can be found at the Danieli Restaurant of the St. Regis hotel in Pudong New Area.

From now until November 26, guest chef Ricardo Porracin of the Hotel Westin Europa & Regina in Venice, Italy, will present a menu of Venetian delicacies to diners in Shanghai.

With 13 years of Venetian cooking experience at the finest establishments in Europe, including the Michelin rated Met Restaurant in Venice, Porracin will also host an exclusive wine dinner on November 13, and a cooking demonstration on November 21.

Porracin brings not just the traditions of Venice, but also advances in technology which is modernizing Italian cuisine.

"My aim is to preserve the ancient flavors of Venice with new cooking techniques. It is a kind of fusion between the old and the new, and bringing the old flavors to a new audience."

Occupying a unique geography of crisscrossing canals next to the sea, Venetian cooking features simple local ingredients combined to form complex flavors. A tradition of pickling seafood for voyages has resulted in signature dishes such as Sarde in Saor (sardines in a sweet and sour sauce). Hilly inland rice paddies produce great varieties of risotto, and additional kick is given by spices such as pepper, clove, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Strong flavors will be adjusted to suit Chinese palates, and techniques such as sous-vide, or vacuum cooking, will be used to retain maximum nutritional value and flavor. Cooked over a much lower temperature and for a much longer time, a signature veal prepared by this method takes up to 12 hours.

The combination of taste and health is part of a greater series of events by the Italian consulate in Shanghai to promote Italian cuisine in China.

Some of Porracin's techniques will be on show at the cooking demonstration near the end of the month, followed by a chance to chat with the chef over an intimate three-course lunch paired with Italian wine tasters. The demonstration and lunch is priced at 388 yuan (US$56) per person.

Signature dishes featured on the upcoming six-course wine dinner include vanilla flavored lobster with Bellini sauce and beef fillet with cabernet wine sauce and potato pie. Each course is accompanied by a careful selection of Italian Cuvees. The wine dinner is priced at 988 yuan per person. All charges subject to 15 percent surcharge.

The events are being offered as part of St. Regis' Aficionado program. This service provides privileged access to experiences and events in the good life that includes art, fashion, food and wine, sport, philanthropy, and spa and relaxation. The Aficionado program is not a club or membership, and is open to all "past or prospective St. Regis guests."

St. Regis Hotels & Resorts is known for delivering luxury, good service and refined elegance at the best addresses in the world. Founded over a century ago in New York, it has now spread to more than 940 properties in 97 countries. The St. Regis Shanghai was recently voted eighth in the Top 40 City Hotels in Asia and among the Top 100 hotels worldwide by Travel & Leisure magazine.


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