Yesterday, my better half and I traveled to Watsonville for a three-hour $145 cooking demonstration put on by Andrea Mugniani (pronounced moon-ya-knee
). Two Valoriani ovens were used in their professional seminar where the course was held for about 20 people. Mugniani, the president of the company and author of the book, The Art of Wood Fired Cooking
, showed-off both her outstanding cooking skills and her prowess with using the WFO as a cooking tool. Mugniani imports Valoriani ovens from Italy.
The first hour was spent carefully explaining how to properly start the oven. It's important to have all the stone saturated with heat and peaked before cooking. Once peaked, simply allow the oven to cool gradually until the desired temperature is hit. Then add a stick of wood or two either maintain or raise the temp to the level needed. Interestingly, most of the students in the class already own home installed WFOs but came to the class to learn how to better utilize their equipment.
Chef Andrea made several Neopolitan pizzas with various toppings that were given to us observers. They were excellent with nice spotting. Cooking time was about 90 seconds and the oven was operating at 800 degrees without being pushed. I recently had pizza at Pizzaiolos in Oakland and these demonstration pizzas were of equal quality. No doubt exists in my mind that these ovens are completely capable of producing quality pizza, despite what other posters may have written on this forum in the past. The Mugniani imported Valoriani ovens will produce quality pizza all day long if the recipe, prep, and pizzaiolo are up to snuff. I had a chance to carefully look at the internal construction and design and can attest that to my eye, these ovens are top-quality all the way.
What was most impressive was the number of other things this oven could make. Used property, the WFO is a tool that is more versatile than a standard kitchen oven. We ate an entire meal at the conclusion of the demonstration, all prepped in these two ovens. All the dishes, which included squash and tomatoes, stuffed peppers, corn relish, beef tenderloin, and roasted chicken were all simply wonderful. Also, of particular note was the delicious Carmody cheese produced by Bellwether Farms which was used on some of the pizzas. All of these recipes are detailed in the Mugniani' cookbook, which we purchased.
All in all, we had an enjoyable afternoon and were treated very, very well by the folks at Mugniani. These are the types of people I'd be very comfortable doing business with. Improvement? Sure. I wish I could have gotten my hands involved in the cooking but had to passively watch, instead. I'm a do-er and not a very good spectator. A nice, red wine from the Mugniani vineyards would have been welcomed with open arms to complement the outstanding food that was prepared for us. We really enjoyed learning about WFO and greatly appreciate the hospitality afforded us by Andrea Mugniani and her crew.
A three-day, $1500 course is available at various times in Healdsburg at the company's winery and garden. This class reportedly gives plenty of hands-on cooking time.http://www.mugnaini.com/