Meritage‘s floor-to-ceiling windows showcased the Boston Harbor Hotel‘s gazebo, standing atop the blue waters, as dozens of boats sailed in the background on the clear, bright May day. Inside the restaurant, about two dozen wine and food lovers snacked on hors d’oeuvres and sipped family-owned Planeta‘s Moscato di Noto, made with 100 percent Moscato Bianco grapes, an unexpectedly dry version of the popular white.
Sicily-based Planeta is not one winery but six, each located in a different district of the Mediterranean’s largest island. The Moscato di Noto is vinefied inside an “Invisible Cellar” at Planeta’s Buonivini estate at the southeastern tip of Sicily. The Capparina estate also boasts an olive grove, from which Planeta produces its own olive oil. Harvested in early fall, the olives are hand-picked and pressed within a few hours. It shows; the extra-virgin olive oil is among the best I’ve tasted, a tad fruity and slightly peppery. As if this weren’t enough, Planeta also has a 14-room inn, La Foresteria, which hosts culinary classes among other offerings, at its Menfi location.
Chef Daniel Bruce prepared a meal worthy of the wines. We started off with a Maine lobster tail and monkfish brodetto, served with crostini topped with saffron & tomato aioli. Readers of this blog know I’ve never met a lobster I didn’t love, and Chef Bruce certainly didn’t disappoint; the meat was sweet and slightly al dente, just as it should be. The tender monkfish deliciously absorbed the savory broth. And all went well with the three reds we enjoyed from the restored cellar in the first-millennium farmhouse at Planeta’s Dorilli estate, northeast of the Buonivini location–a slightly spicy 100-percent Frappato; a fresh and fruity Cerasuolo di Vittoria, which comprises 60 percent Nero d’Avola and 40 percent Frappato grapes, and a soft cherry Dorilli-Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico, 70 percent Nero d’Avola and 30 percent Frappato.
Our main course featured slow-roasted Long Island duck and ravioli filled with foie gras, served with wild rapini greens and melted fennel. The foie gras inside the delicate ravioli was soft and tender, and the duck was quite simply the best I’ve ever tasted. I usually don’t care for duck because it tends to be greasy, but Chef Bruce’s wasn’t oily in the slightest. The faint licorice flavor of the fennel added a welcome freshness. With this plate of delights, we enjoyed another red wine, the tangy 100-percent Nero d’Avola Santa Cecilia, which also contains notes of licorice, as well as plum, from the Buonivini estate.
For dessert, Chef Bruce served his “Contemporary Carrot Cake”, a delicious soft blend of a small round piece of carrot cake virtually hidden under a mound of sweet creamy topping, served with roasted pineapples and toasted walnuts. Lunch ended the way it began, with a 100-percent Moscato Bianco wine from the Buonivini estate, this one the honey-sweet Passito di Noto, my favorite of the afternoon.
Before retrieving my car from the Hotel’s outstanding valet service, I went for a long walk alongside Boston Harbor, sated but enthusiastic to prolong the glorious spring day’s sensual pleasures.