Food Matters: Story Boards from Campo Catering
Anna Garofalo points to a pile of grilled peaches and suggests I make a bold move: Dip ’em in tzatziki.
It’s an idea that hasn’t crossed my mind, but I trust that the chef won’t steer me wrong. After all, the rainbow of antipasti that she and Campo de Fiori owner Elizabeth Plotke have arranged on a 2-foot-wide, round serving board is happy hour heaven — more than 25 different snacks!
I pick a peach wedge, scoop up some of the herbed Mediterranean dip, and bite. The sweet flavor of charred stone fruit with minty, garlicky yogurt is instantly addictive, and I return to the combo frequently as we share stories and sip wine on the courtyard patio with Campo’s executive chef of 20 years, Giuseppe Garofalo (Anna’s brother).
Next is an octopus skewer brushed with chile oil, followed by a grilled orange slice. Anna — who has worked in the Campo kitchen for 17 of its 25 years and now heads up the restaurant’s new catering operation — has cut the citrus so incredibly thin that the segments resemble stained glass, ringed with ash. The brittle edges shatter in my mouth, followed by the bittersweet chew of a taffy-like center. It tastes like what I remember it felt like to soak up Aperol spritz cocktails and eat seafood in cozy eateries on the Mediterranean’s sunbaked beaches.
“Lemon zest, orange zest reminds me of south Italy,” agrees Anna, referencing her and Giuseppe’s home village of Torre del Greco, near Naples. “My idea is to pull so many different flavors on only one board.”
Earlier I had watched her sprinkle Spanish paprika onto a mason jar overflowing with hummus. I drag a seeded cracker — normally served with the restaurant’s beloved tuna tartare — through the mottled beige dip, eat it, and smile. It’s hummus, but thicker and more complex … because it’s made with oven-roasted cauliflower, tahini and Middle Eastern spices.
“We keep the boards as Italian as possible, but add ingredients from around the world,” Plotke says.
Which is why, I soon learn, the scallops are such a curious diversion. Anna coated each seared morsel with yuzu kosho, the zingy Asian paste and perhaps the last condiment I would expect to find in Campo’s Italian pantry. Plotke picked it up on a recent trip to Japan.
“A scallop is sweet and a little unctuous,” Plotke explains, “and the fermented citrus and little kick of spice of yuzu koshu cuts through it. It’s almost how you think of wine pairing: foods that match each other or contrast get that best balance of flavors. How can we accentuate flavor with different ingredients we’ve experienced when we’ve traveled?”
That question drives the concept behind Campo’s attractive antipasti boards, which the team creates for private clients. The endeavor started in earnest at the end of last year, when Anna suggested the restaurant branch out into catering. The chef unveiled her creations at the Food & Wine Classic guest reception at the Wheeler Opera House: some 30 boards for 600 guests topped with roasted, grilled, marinated and pickled veggies and fruits, olives, nuts, handcrafted dips, sliced meats and cheeses. They were a hit.
“When you welcome friends at home and have a party, you bring out the cured meat, prosciutto, salami, cheese, usually with some veggies, olives,” Giuseppe explains. “You don’t just go with meat and cheese. That’s French!”
Since standard party spreads around here are often meat-cheese-cracker heavy, Plotke believes that the allure of Campo’s creations is proportional to the diversity of items grounded in Italy with seasonings from around the world. The platters also echo a number of dishes on Campo’s menu: whole snap peas partnered with abstract chunks of pecorino cheese, both found in the longtime-favorite lemon pasta; a pureed spinach-artichoke dip made funky with gorgonzola cheese; shrimp, cherry tomato and zucchini skewers … brushed with olive oil flecked deep red, thanks to crushed sumac spice.
“My mom is from Egypt, so I grew up with za’atar and sumac and cumin,” Plotke shares. “The food is very Italian, but there’s such an influence from our travels.”
When Anna had set a long yellow log onto a prep table during the construction session, I thought it might be polenta, until she cut off a half-inch slice to reveal a beautiful interior spiral. The egg omelet, cooked thin as a pancake then rolled up with ricotta cheese, spinach, and mint, was inspired by Anna and Giuseppe’s mother, who would prepare frittata for dinner when they were growing up on the family farm. For (dinner or brunch) catering, “rollino” is a snap for folks to handle.
Giuseppe points out that for Anna to best serve Aspen’s cosmopolitan crowd, Campo Catering takes inspiration from their homeland. Sicily has been an evolving melting pot of culture since the beginning of history.
“It’s like New York in the middle of the Mediterranean,” he says. “It has been occupied by Turkish, Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs, Byzantines, Normans, Vikings …
“(Now, in Aspen) When you go to a party, you have so many people with so many different tastes and expectations about food. You have people with different backgrounds. You want to make sure that everybody is welcome to the table.”
Thanks to a range of sweet and savory flavors, textures, colors and inspirations — well-roundedness leading to satiety, at least according to Panchakarma principles in India, where Plotke followed Ayurvedic practices on a recent jaunt — Campo’s rustic boards have become a staple at catered gigs. Plus, they get folks chatting.
“Anything around a board creates opportunity for interactions,” Giuseppe says.
“When people congregate, they start to say, ‘What’s that? What’s that? Did you try that one?’ Many guests (might not) know each other, and they’re looking for opportunity to start conversation.”