The Sun WineFest ’15 is this weekend and as always it attracts some of the best names in the food, wine and spirits world to the Mohegan Sun Resort in southeastern Connecticut. This year Providence’s own Matthew Varga, Executive Chef of Gracie’s, is one the many talented chefs presenting a dish at The WineFest’s Saturday night Celebrity Chef Dine Around.
Gracie’s was recently named a AAA Four Diamond Award-Winning Restaurant for the fifth year in a row—the only restaurant in the Providence area to receive the Four Diamond. Only 2.3% of the nearly 30,000 restaurants approved by AAA make the Four Diamond list.
Varga told us about the dish he will be preparing for Saturday evening’s Celebrity Chef Dine Around, a Sherry Roasted Beet Salad with black pepper ricotta, poached apple, pistachio honey, curly endive. Having recently honeymooned in Italy, he created this dish based off of a Sicilian cassata. Cassatas are found in restaurants and cafes all over Sicily and it’s a traditional dessert made up of ricotta, pistachios or other nuts and dried fruits.
Varga’s salad is cassata-inspired. The pistachio honey is made up of blended olive oil, pistachios, honey, thyme and crushed red pepper, and is the dressing on the beets from Freedom Food Farm. The ricotta is of course award-winning Narragansett Creamery Ricotta, that he adds some salt and pepper to—it needs nothing else!
Varga is happy to be part of the Sun WineFest this year for a chance to spend time with other chefs from around the area and around the globe. Chef Michael Ginor, a frequent participant in the Sun WineFest, owner of Hudson Valley Foie Gras and friend of Varga’s—Ginor joins Varga at Gracie’s for an annual Star Chef Dinner with the next one coming up on March 16th—is one of the main reasons Matt’s joining the WineFest. Another WineFest participant, Chef Robert Sisca of Bistro du Midi in Boston, is joining Varga at Gracie’s for the February 23rd Star Chef Dinner.
“I’m very excited to be a part of this,” Varga said. “It’s something I didn’t expect to be included in, and it’s a great opportunity to meet some new friends and hang with some old friends.”