Chef Christopher Palios ~ Executive Chef Sophia's Tuscan Grille
In a previous post, "Holy Cannoli ~ Sophia's Tuscan Grille!", I introduced you to Chef Chris Palios and Sophia's where I briefly touched on his amazing cuisine. This guy is good and I want to tell you why!
We first met Chef Chris a few weeks ago at People's Liquor Warehouse in Warwick, RI where he had teamed up with another great foodie, Marc Guillotte, AKA the Wine Guy!
Normally dressed in his black chef's coat, Chef Chris commands the stage. He is the show. Half Greek and half Sicilian, he grew up loving good food and wine. (I am so jealous! Can you imagine the family dinners?) He's passionate about his food and it shows by the way he talks with his hands.
Chef Chris schmoozing with Emeril Lagasse
Full of life, he gets excited when he talks about his Chianti Gnocchi! You're so young, I thought, at only 25 years old, where did you get all this experience? His face breaks out in a sentimental smile as he recalls his childhood. Chef Chris first learned the art of creating delicious food at his Grandmother's side. He was 7 years old when his Grandmother told him, "Don't ask me questions, just watch." He soon learned that if he played sick, he could get out of school and go to Grandma's house! At the age of 10, he already knew he wanted to go to Johnson & Wales and be a chef like the immortal chefs he saw on TV. At 14, he was peeling onions and prepping tomatoes in a local restaurant. Chef Chris was on his way to becoming one of those great chefs himself.
Marc Guillotte ~ The Wine Guy
Marc, who does double duty as the Sales Manager for Greenvale Vineyards in Portsmouth, RI, has been conducting wine seminars at People's Liquor Warehouse for quite a while. We learn something new each time we go. One week it was all about Shiraz & Syrah, next it was Sauvignon Blanc, and still another week he was pouring Riesling & Gewurztraminer. For each seminar, he pairs appetizers to go with the selected wines. It's always a lively bunch that shows up, some are regulars, others for the first time. Everyone goes home full and a little more wine savvy than when they first walked through the door.
Marc knows his wine! It's amazing how much information a brain can contain, but somehow, Marc becomes a walking wine encyclopedia. He pulls it off brilliantly too. He can rattle off wine info and statistics in rapid succession, pausing to answer questions about pairings and reminisce about something comical, while pouring the next wine selection! His wife recently admitted that Marc often has his nose stuck in either a wine book or Julia Child's biography! If you need anything, any wine advice at all, Marc is the go-to wine guy for the state of Rhode Island.
A Wine & Appetizer Tasting Preview
This was not your ordinary wine tasting that night. It was a sneak preview of the Rustic Tuscan Wine Dinner that would knock-our-socks-off the following week!
Roasted Yellow Pepper Crostini
As Marc poured two Pinot Grigio's, a Chianti and Rioja, Chef Chris tempted us with two phenomenal appetizers. The first offering, Roasted Yellow Pepper Crostini with Gorganzola Cheese & Spring Chives, was gorgeous! The bright yellow of the peppers set off by the green chives made the colors pop! He described exactly how he roasted the peppers and why the gorganzola cheese set it off. Hmmm, I never thought of using gorganzola like that.
Chef Chris with Todd English
The second teaser of the night blew me away! It was a Pork Slider with Red Onion Jam, aged White Cheddar and Baby Arugula on homemade Focaccia. He made his own focaccia? I'd heard of sliders before (aren't they just mini hamburgers after all?), but never having had one, I was curious. But why pork? Why not beef or something boring, like turkey? I soon found out why! Not only was it to-die-for, it was HUGE! Even though I was full, I wanted more. The saltiness, the sweetness, the textures, the wine. They complimented each other like a guy and a girl on their first date. I caught John begging for seconds.
We were hooked! Chef Chris had us. He seduced us right there and then and we never saw it coming. We plunked down our money for the Tuscan Dinner tickets without a second thought! But the Red Onion Jam peaked my interest. As I walked out of the store hugging my 6 bottles of Rioja and Chianti, I couldn't stop thinking about that jam. So simple, I thought. I had to recreate it when I got home, and I knew just what I would do with it!
Stay tuned for Part II ~ RUSTIC TUSCAN CUISINE & WINE DINNER ~ Rhode Island
Chef Chris creates a magnificent four course Rustic Tuscan Dinner, while Marc pairs each plate with wine that seems designed for the meal!
Sophia's Tuscan Grille, 1729 Warwick Ave., Warwick, RI (401-732-6656)
People's Liquor Warehouse, 1350 Greenwich Ave., Warwick, RI (401-737-0900)