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Chef Craig Deihl relives a trip overseas for perfect summer party menus
Craig Deihl, executive chef at Cypress, is known for his farm-to-table commitment, talents with charcuterie, and for founding the Artisan Meat Share. Last fall, he joined other Lowcountry Slow Food champions to represent Charleston at the organization’s Terra Madre conference in Italy. Afterward, Deihl explored the Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna regions to see if his stateside renditions of Northern Italian fare ran true to their roots. Besides affirming the dishes’ authenticity, he was taken with the region’s small-plate meals—just right, he says, for Spoleto parties or other summer get-togethers.
A Parade of Plates
Traveling through northern regions of Italy, Deihl was struck with how prevalent assaggini or “tastes” were. “We know them as small plates,” he says, “and gathered together they can become a light but satisfying meal, perfect for evening event fare.” Deihl devised this early summer menu to celebrate the season and honor classic Italy—fitting, considering the May to June Spoleto Festival’s Italian origin.
The lineup—prosciutto, mozzarella, and coppa; grilled plums and asparagus; arugula salad with roasted beets, watermelon, and feta; parmesan polenta; lamb meatballs; and pound cake with blueberries—is meant to be set out all at once. But Deihl suggests you start with a plate of cured meats and cheeses primo. “We had that every day we were in Italy,” he says.
As for pairings, “Pre-theater, accompany the assaggini with prosecco, an Italian red, and perhaps an expertly pulled espresso,” recommends Deihl. And after the show? “A 2005 Vittorio Graziano lambrusco would be excellent if the evening is warm,” he says, “as would a good grappa.”