Chef Paganini, husband to host bourbon-inspired meal, tasting
Chef Loretta Paganini and her husband, Dr. Emil Paganini, are offering a culinary journey through Kentucky and Tennessee during a special dinner in February that will pair food and bourbon.
Planned for Feb. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. at The Community House on Sanibel, the first-ever event for the islands will combine a bourbon-inspired meal with an introduction to and tastings of bourbons. Owners of the Sapore Restaurant in Ohio, the seasonal couple has offered the dinners up north for a few years.
“They’ve been extremely popular,” Emil Paganini, who guides the tastings, said.
“Each one focuses on one distillery or one type of bourbon,” he added.
Because of the feedback, the couple decided to give one of their dinners a try on Sanibel.
“We thought this would be sort of fun,” Paganini said.
He noted that there is access to a wider range and variety of liquors in Florida.
“I think one of the nicest things is the availability of alcohol and the types of alcohol,” Paganini said. “The availability in Florida is much better than most of the states up here in the Midwest.”
As a result, he is looking forward to some great exchanges and to see who knows what.
Guests will try a couple of varieties as his wife pairs them with the meal.
“They’ll taste different bourbons throughout the evening,” he said. “I’m likely to try to get a (W.L.) Weller. We’ll probably get some Buffalo Trace.”
Paganini hinted at possibly bringing a rare Pappy Van Winkle.
“Then maybe some bourbons that are really inexpensive but really good,” he said, adding that another possibility is bringing a really expensive one to compare taste-wise against the affordable ones.
As part of the tasting, Emil Paganini will also provide a sort of introduction to American whiskey, including what is it, where is came from, how it is distilled and more. He will discuss the mixtures – high rye, wheated or blended – a barrel versus a charred barrel, how it is used and how it is stored.
“It’s really a very broad overview of how to generate or how to create a bourbon,” he said.
Paganini became drawn to bourbon several years ago after taking part in a bourbon tour of the distilleries and states. He began studying up on the liquors and became a self-taught connoisseur.
“There’s a renewed interest in American liquor, specifically to bourbon,” he said.
As for the meal, the menu will consist of: bourbon figs stuffed with gorgonzola and wrapped in prosciutto; sticky chicken bites in a bourbon glaze; mixed greens and apples in a candied pecan salad with a cranberry vinaigrette; pappardelle with short ribs in a bourbon sauce; pork tenderloin in a cider glaze baked apple sauce; roasted brussels sprouts; and chocolate whisky cake in a caramel sauce.
There will also be bourbon balls like in New Orleans, where her husband’s mother is from.
“I will talk to them and kind of explain what they are eating and why we choose that particular food with that particular bourbon,” Loretta Paganini said. “Each bourbon has a unique taste.”
“It’s a lot of comfort food and homemade pasta and so on,” she added.
Paganini pointed to the bourbon figs appetizer.
“They are literally soaked in bourbon and stuffed with gorgonzola,” she said. “It’s going to be a wonderful way to wake up your palate.”
The bourbon used for the chicken will be on the lighter size.
“It’s something a little bit sweeter,” Paganini said.
The one used for the short ribs will lend to deeper and fuller flavors.
“They’re going to have that wonderful oaky flavor,” she said.
Paganini noted the pork tenderloin next.
“That alone is a meal,” she said. “It’s delicious.”
Her love for cooking stemmed from helping at the family’s popular bakery and sidewalk cafe in Bologna, Italy. In 1972, Paganini moved to the United States with her husband and started teaching. She teaches amateur students worldwide, including at The Community House, and has a school.
Paganini founded the International Culinary Arts and Science Institute for professionals.
“Each year we try to do something new and exciting,” she said of working with the island venue.
Only 40 spaces are available for the special bourbon dinner.
“I think it’s about halfway full at this point,” Paganini said on Jan. 22.
The cost to attend is $125 per person.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “It’s the very first one we’re offering down in Sanibel, so we’re looking to have a good time and educate people a little bit on bourbon.”
Wine pairings will be available at the event for those not interested in bourbon.
“Even is you don’t like bourbon, come for the food,” Paganini said. “It will be worth it.”
Her husband added that the experience will be one-of-a-kind.
“It’s meant to be a fun evening, so come on out and enjoy it,” he said.
To register for the special bourbon dinner with Loretta and Emil Paganini, contact The Community House at 239-472-2156 or the Loretta Paganini School of Cooking at 440-729-1110.
The Community House is at 2173 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.