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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Kos & Wyn | Food & Wine > Rubrieke | Columns > Paul Murray: Murray's Food Trails

The Harlequin Trail

Paul Murray - 2006-10-10

In the world of stage drama, as a source of stage comedy, Harlequin is usually cast as the servant of a lover of some sort, and ends up foiling his master’s plan. All along he pursues his own interest in Columbina, a fictional character in the Commedia dell’Arte, whose meaning is "Little Dove". She too is a servant, comic like her lover Harlequin.
Two things supersede Harlequin’s lust for Columbina: his fear for his master and his outright desire for good food.
HarlequinThe Harlequin Restaurant in Parow, Cape, is therefore a most apt place to go to for the best that a good restaurant has to offer, to enjoy rare delicacies from the chef. That’s why it’s called the Harlequin. That’s where Harlequin can satisfy his outright desire for good food.
When you get given a bottle of 1989 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, a second growth from a 17th-century estate in Pauillac, you have to decide very carefully with whom you will share it, especially when the price tag comes in at $657 (R5 000+) for the bottle. 
The Harlequin's chef-owner Angelo Inzadi, a friend for close on four decades, was the obvious choice, since he would know how to assemble the perfect meal around that bottle of Chateau Pichon in his restaurant, which is a landmark in the area and a favourite among patrons wanting healthy portions of fine food! The Harlequin has been there since the late 1960s!
The beauty of the meal lay in the all’improviso way in which the maestro put it all together. The bottle was carefully uncorked and decanted, and then came the irresistible moment of the tasting. Perfetto! … Exclaimed the chef himself, who then disappeared into the kitchen.
The table was set, linen tablecloth, napkins and all.
The chef returned, and we waited with bated breath to see what would be first on the bill of fare …
Escargot, done in butter and garlic, with finely sliced brown bread served.
The rare second growth was a fabulous accompaniment!

Soon after, the second course arrived, a platter of the most delectable Parma ham, and the conversation turned to one of the epicentres of Italian food, Parma, a city with style, doing things very much its own way ― alla sua maniera. The little Parmesan, Parmigianino, painted subjects exaggerating the features, from which we get the style called Mannerism.

Maria Ludovica Leopoldina Franziska Therese Josepha Lucia von Habsburg-Lothringen, who later became known as Maria Luigia d'Asburgo-Lorena, Duchess of Parma, did much to elevate Parma to a cultural city, which it still is today. She was chosen by her father to marry Napoleon (she was his second wife), and the marriage took place by proxy, because the great general was in battle at the time, with the ceremony taking place in the chapel of the Louvre on 1 April 1810. This dynastic marriage was intended to strengthen links between Austria and France.

For the discerning diner, however, the food from Parma is more likely to attract attention than the stories surrounding it.
Parma is home to three of Italy’s prize gastronomic jewels ― grana padano cheese, prosciutto of Langhirano and culatello of Zibello. The perfluence of air in the area of Parma is ideal for curing the prosciutto. Here the Virsilia dies down and enables the air from the chestnut forests of the Apennines to age the raw ham – hence the term prosciugato, meaning "dried". The pigs’ feed excludes salt in the diet, hence the sweet and delicate taste of the meat.
We certainly appreciated the history behind the making of the ham now. It was greatly cherished by the lovers of Italian food enjoying the ham with the wine.
The insalata greca came next. The French prefer a sorbet for cleaning the palate, while the Italians are happy with a salad.
The wine was opening itself up more and more as the evening progressed.
Proprietor Mario eating Osso BucoThe main course was a heavier meal and thus an apt way to enjoy the serious side of the wine. Osso buco is a stew with a tangy but rich and deeply layered flavour, a true test of gourmet cooking. Angelo and Dario have the dish down to a T. The chef explained the meal as "bone with a hole", referring to the veal shank bone with a large and tasty marrow filling. We had it with tagliarini, long slender pieces of pasta, but without the usual Gremolada, a mixture of Italian parsley, garlic and grated lemon peel.
Angelo revealed his secret recipe for Osso buco:
Take 3 lbs veal shanks, 3 to 4 tablespoonsful of olive oil, 2 tablespoonsful of butter, 1 onion, ½ green pepper, 3 carrots peeled, 1 stalk of celery; make sure you chop up all of these vegetables.
Take a few cloves of garlic and slice them thinly, then a little Marsala wine as well as a bit of brandy, 1 tablespoonful of balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoonsful of tomato paste, a sprig of rosemary, 4 of thyme, 2 bay leaves and then two cups of chicken stock (it is preferable if it is home-made) and add salt and pepper to taste.
Angelo explains in his tenor voice (a few minutes before that he burst out into the aria Vesti la Giubba – none other than the voice of the Harlequin in I Pagliacci): 
Pour the olive oil into a skittle over a medium high heat, season the veal shanks with salt and pepper on both sides and then brown them all around and remove and place to one side in a bowl.
Using the same pan, reduce the heat to low and add a bit more olive oil and the butter and the vegetables, stirring constantly and ensuring they are coated all the time, and do this for about 12 minutes. Then add the Marsala wine and the brandy as well as the balsamic vinegar, continuing to stir well, and then cover and allow it to simmer for about 6–8 minutes.
Now make a "bouquet garni" from the rosemary, thyme and bay leaves by wrapping them in cheesecloth and tie with cooking twine, and then add to the simmering vegetables, along with the tomato paste.
Bring up the heat to medium-high and add the shanks and chicken stock and then stir well to mix with vegetables.
When the broth boils, reduce the heat to low and cover and allow it to simmer for approximately 90 minutes until the veal falls off the bone.
Serve with tagliarini or, as an alternative, with creamy mash potatoes.  
The wine stood up to the meal alright and the meal was fit for the wine, a relationship that we can say was mutatis mutandis, with the emphasis on the strap phrase in vino veritas (truth in wine)!
A little ditty which was found on a fountain in Rimini, would not be apposite for the wine under discussion, but rather for future times when the wine is more ordinary:  
Primum potum, Bibe Totum.
Et secundum, vide fundum.
Sit et tertium, sicut primum,
Et sic simper bibe vinum!
("With the first drinking, drink everything, and with the second, be able to see the bottom of the bottle. Let the third drinking be as the first, and therefore always drink wine thus.")
At the HarlequinLamentably, the wine was coming to an end, and so was the meal. A piece of provolone romano appeared on the table as the final half glass each of wine was left for the drinking, and then there came gelato with strawberry and maraschino, served with chilled limoncello.
The coffee and grappa sealed the meal and the evening, which had, needless to say, been a gourmet’s delight, in the company of longstanding friends, with the fictitious Harlequin’s mouth watering as he gazed at us enjoying something that he loved so dearly, fulfilling his outright desire for good food.
This was not the stage, but the real thing, with two food lovers enjoying the best of the fruit of the vine, as an accompaniment to the finest in gastronomic delights at the Harlequin.