Category — Restaurants
Charles and I are talking about wine and food on the new i-Italy TV show about all things Italian in New York which premiered this past weekend on NY Public TV Channel 25. If you missed Episode 1, here is a link to it on You Tube:
The show airs weekly Saturdays at 11PM repeated Sunday at 1PM.
November 28, 2012 No Comments
Last week we exchanged our usual view for the one above. We stayed in an apartment right around the corner from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. We went sightseeing and we shopped, but that was just to have something to do in between meals. As always, the city lived up to its reputation for great food. Just about everything was delicious, from the superlative bread (and amazing butter!) to the luscious slow cooked meats, and the incredible pastries and chocolate.
For our first dinner, we ate at La Fontaine de Mars, a classic bistro, where the Obamas ate on their visit to Paris. I started with pumpkin soup topped with sauteed foie gras. The buttery meat juices added another dimension to the smooth creamy soup. A rich stew of duck legs in red wine was the main course. For dessert, I opted for an old favorite, Floating Island, poached meringue on a sweet creamy pool of vanilla sauce.
The next day we had dinner at a favorite bistro, La Regalade. It is always crowded, but I it is one place I have to go when I am in Paris. Their coarse country pate was as good as I remember it, and I loved the crackling crisp pork belly with lentils and celeriac puree that followed. For dessert it was a perfect Grand Marnier Souffle. On Sunday we explored the stands at the outdoor market on Avenue Woodrow Wilson. The vegetables and fruits were hard to resist…
…and so was the seafood. There were stands selling shrimp, scallops and many varieties of oysters. These oursins, or sea urchins, were tempting.
If you think all butter tastes alike, I wish you could try this kind from the Normandy region that I tasted at Drouant, a classic old restaurant that has recently been done over. I liked the butter so much, I took it’s picture. BTW, our lunch was excellent. I started with 4 little vegetable appetizers, including a tiny cup of jerusalem artichoke soup and 3 fresh salads: beets, curried carrots, and fresh coco beans. The main course was perfect roast chicken, thick cut French fries, and a green salad.
One day, we had an all-chocolate lunch at Jacques Genin, an elegant tea room and chocolate shop in the Marais District. The mille feuille is a specialty and each one is filled to order so that the buttery puff pastry layers stay crisp when sandwiched with the creamy filling. We ordered one filled with chocolate caramel ganache along with a pot of hot dark chocolate as thick as melted ice cream to drink. Was it too much chocolate? Yes! And it was soooo good.
March 12, 2012 7 Comments
In Italian,” finire a tarallucci e vino” (literally, to finish up with cookies and wine), means to say that there was a happy ending. At the Tarallucci e Vino restaurant at 15 East 18 Street near Union Square in NYC,we were happy not just with the ending of the meal, but everything else from appetizers to dessert.
We had the tasting menu, so we got to try a number of different things. My photos don’t really do them justice, so I’ll just post a few of the best ones. Above is a roasted sea scallop with wild mushrooms and a poached quail egg.
Among the starters were these fried sage leaves stuffed with anchovies and mozzarella. I like to stuff zucchini blossoms this way, but this inspired combination means that I can make them even when the blossoms are not available. The sauce was nice and fresh, but the crunchy sage and tasty filling really didn’t need it. Many more good things followed.
Did I mention the bread basket? Charles could not stop eating the flatbread flavored with squid ink, rosemary and olive oil. I know it sounds odd, but take my word for it, I was glad he ate it all so I could not. There were also warm little baguettes and olive rolls.
We’ve long been fans of Tarallucci e Vino and weekend mornings often find us there enjoying one of New York’s best cappuccinos and a perfect Italian-style cornetto. On our recent trip to Abruzzo, we met Lorenzo, who is the manager for all 4 of the restaurant’s branches. He invited us to come by for dinner to the 18th Street location and we were glad we did. It’s one of New York’s best kept Italian restaurant secrets. The place was cozy and the atmosphere lively. Charles had only good things to say about the wine list and in honor of our last trip ordered the Cantina Frentana Coccociola, an unusual white wine from Abruzzo, and the Emidio Pepe 2003 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, which was superb.
August 1, 2011 1 Comment
Joel Peterson, the owner of Ravenswood Winery, has been called both a vino-revolutionary and the godfather of zinfandel. That may be, but it doesn’t give you any idea of how knowledgeable he is, or that he is a delightful dining companion. You may already have guessed that he makes a superb line of California zinfandels. Joel was in town last week and together with some other writers, I had a chance to chat with him and taste his new vintages over lunch at A Voce in the Time Warner Center. As far as I’m concerned, there is no better way to taste a wine than to accompany it with food, and A Voce turned out to be the perfect choice.
Joel organized the tasting in 3 flights. We began with the lightest wine, the Dickerson Zinfandel, named for the vineyard where the grapes are grown. This wine is made from 100% zinfandel grapes. As soon as I lifted my glass, I noticed the aroma — like a big bowl of fresh ripe raspberries. It was a perfect way to the start the tasting and went great with the first course, crisp fried cassoncini, little turnovers filled with crescenza, a creamy cheese, and swiss chard, plus tender sliced prosciutto and stracchino, a soft cheese best known as the stuffing in burrata, and fresh fava beans. Then we moved on to the Big River Zinfandel, also 100% zinfandel, which had a more subtle fruit aroma and concentrated flavor. The third wine in the flight was the Belloni Zinfandel made from a blend of grapes. Joel described the aroma as dark fruit like plums, which was true, and boysenberry, but since I ‘m not sure I know what boysenberry smells like I’ll have to take his word for that.
Joel made it clear that he wants to avoid what he called the “3 sins of Zin”: high alcohol, high sugar, and too much oak. With the next course we drank Barricia Zinfandel fom the vineyard of the same name, made with 76% zinfandel grapes blended with petite sirah. This wine was more complex than the first three with a better balance. The Old Hill Zinfandel, so called because the vines are thought to be the oldest in Sonoma, went great with my pasta, Sagne alla Amatriciana. Sagne is a wide fresh pasta ribbon and in this version it was sauced with a smooth tomato sauce flecked with smokey bacon and fresh marjoram. The wine tasted of dark cherries with a rich leathery quality. The bacon, tomatoes and spicy pecorino cheese on the tender pasta matched up with the wine beautifully. The Teldeschi Zinfandel was particularly interesting to me. Joel said that the blend of 4 grape varieties — zinfandel, petite sirah, Carignane and Alicante Bouschet — used were originally planted by Italian immigrants and this wine was a favorite with traditional grape growing families.
We ended with two more wines. According to Joel, the ICON Mixed Blacks was the wine that should have been and would have been made in California if it had not been for Prohibition. The blend of grapes is the same as the above Teldeschi, but the proportion of zinfandel is much lower — 37% for ICON as opposed to the 75% in the Teldeschi. That’s why the ICON cannot be called a zinfandel on the label. To go with the wine, I had grilled quail glazed with fig reduction resting on a bed of fregula, tiny Sardinian pasta similar to couscous. This was outstanding and the flavors of the fig glaze and grilled meat were an ideal match with the robust flavors of the ICON and the final wine of the day, the Pickberry Red. This is a Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blend that shows promise, and will really come into its own with a few years of aging.
June 27, 2011 No Comments
Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, I learned the proper Irish way to eat butter. According to Molly O’Loughlin of the Irish Dairy Board, the way to do it in Ireland is to scrape a knife across the surface to create a soft, creamy wave to spread on bread. Who knew? To make the scraping and spreading easier Kerrygold, a cooperative comprised of small Irish dairy farmers, is introducing a specially formulated easy spreading butter packaged in a small tub. Even straight out of the refrigerator, this butter will always be spreadable. (Not that I need to make it easier for me to eat more Kerrygold butter, which I confess to being somewhat addicted to.) The really good news is that Kerrygold Naturally Soft Pure Irish Butter is 100% butter, with no additives. The butter’s softness comes from the milk that cows produce during the summer months that has a naturally softer milkfat.
The spreadable butter was introduced this morning at a breakfast along with another new Kerrygold butter that has 25% less fat and 50% less sodium made without artificial ingredients. For me the flavor is all important, and like the spreadable butter, the reduced fat Kerrygold delivered on that score as well. Light and creamy, the flavor that reminded me of whipped cream and it melted easily in my mouth. The spreadable butter was deeper and richer in flavor with a satin smooth texture. Both will be available in stores this summer.
Putting a fresh new spin on the classic Irish breakfast was chef Neven Maguire, of MacNean House and Restaurant in Blacklion, County Cavan, Ireland. The charming young chef is quite a star in Ireland where his hotel and restaurant have received numerous awards and he appears regularly on tv. His menu began with a real eye-opener: Blacklion Porridge with Irish Mist, Honey and Cream. I usually need a cappuccino or two to get me moving in the morning, but I can see how the Irish Mist might have a stimulating effect as well, if one were so inclined. Me, I would be happy with a couple of the chef’s buttery Lemon and Sultana Scones, generously smeared with that Kerrygold butter.
The chef also prepared Warm Herb Pancakes with Smoked Irish Salmon and Citrus Creme Fraiche, Spring Onion Soad Bread, Multi Seed Wheaten Bread and my favorite Smoked Bacon and Dubliner Cheese Frittata. Dubliner is a cheddar-like cheese made by Kerrygold with a sweet and nutty flavor. For more information about Kerrygold and some great looking recipes, go to http://www.kerrygold.com/usa/index.php
March 15, 2011 2 Comments
“It’s Chianti Classico Time” was the theme of a lunch today at Manzo Restaurant at Eataly, but if you ask me, it’s always time for Chianti Classico. Chianti comes in many different styles and goes with many different foods so it just might be the perfect red wine. Do you like your wines young and fruity or aged and mellow –no matter, there is a Chianti Classico to suit every taste. No wonder it has been around for hundreds of years.
Chianti Classico comes from Tuscany, so the chef at Manzo prepared a special menu based on the classic foods of the region. To start, there was Tonno del Chianti, meaning tuna from Chianti, which sounded like a strange choice. You see, Chianti, in addition to being the name of the wine is also the name for the completely landlocked portion of Tuscany known as Chianti. What kind of tuna would you find in Chianti, I wondered? One taste and it was obvious that it was not tuna. It tasted great, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was. Fortunately, Silvia Fiorentini from the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico was there to explain. Tonno del Chianti, she said, is a dish made famous by Dario Cecchini, Tuscany’s most famous Dante-quoting butcher. Cecchini makes it by marinating cubes of lean pork shoulder with herbs and spices, submerging it in olive oil and cooking it slowly until the meat is falling-to-shreds tender. The tender pork was served on arugula leaves topped with slivers of pickled red onions and sweet dried tomatoes.
The next course was Ribollita, Tuscan vegetable and bean soup recooked with cubes of bread until thickened. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil from Tenuta San Felice was all it needed and I felt as if I had been transported to Tuscany.
Wild boar, known as cinghiale, thrive in Tuscany and are something of a nuisance to farmers, much as deer are here. Their meat is rich and flavorful and prized by Tuscan cooks who use it for slow cooked winey pasta sauces and stews as well as salumi. At Manzo, it was prepared “hunters’ style”, alla cacciatora, in a thick tomato sauce studded with bits of carrots and celery and accompanied by polenta.
Our dessert was Schiacciata all’Uva. In Tuscany, this is a simple focaccia-type bread (schiacciata means flattened) topped with tiny and intensely flavored wine grapes and dusted with sugar that is eaten around the harvest time. But Manzo’s version was a tender little round of sweet bread served with satiny honey ice cream and drizzled with honey. Worth every calorie!
There were over 20 wines to taste. I wish I could have gotten to all of them, but unfortunately I did not. I did enjoy the Tenuta di Lilliano 2008, the Castello di Ama Riserva 2006, Cecchi Riserva di Famiglia 2005 and the Banfi Riserva 2007.
February 9, 2011 1 Comment