Monday, June 28, 2010
From there we ran off to MOMA to catch the last day of the Pictures by Women, A History of Modern Photography which was an absolutely stunning show that charts the medium's history from the dawn of modern period to the present. It was really wonderful to see the show with Lisa, a professional photographer and understand some of the influences and inspiration behind her work. We really wished we had more time to see some of the other exhibits, but the food show awaits!
The show was overwhelming with over 2500 vendors and probably at least half of those represented Italian products. Needless to say that made us very happy! But the highlight of the day was meeting our culinary idol, Lidia Bastianich, at her booth where she and her daughter were cooking up some of Lidia's new pastas and sauces. A gracious hostess, it was really nice to see her working her own booth and talking about her products. We walked the show for hours and barely saw half so were going back today to check out the rest. I'll write more about the show in my next post...
Now back to eating...we asked Kerry's friend Kim Severson, one of the food critics for the NY Times, were to go for the best Napoletana style pizza and she sent us Motorino in the east village. Cool little space with small marble tables and a small but good wine list, we ordered the Sopresatta Picante, a very spicy, aromatic pie with garlic, oregano, red sauce, lots of pepperoncino and of course, sopresatta. I ordered a Rosso Piceno from Boccadigabbia, a 50/50 blend of sangiovese and montepulciano, simple, but perfect accompaniment to the pizza. The pie, and that great little fresh green salad, was delicious and my only regret being that we didn't order another, but I had to save room for dessert....
Lisa had missed the pizza so we walked down to meet her at 3 of cups, another great little Italian themed restaurant on 1st avenue. We sat at the bar and had a cocktail while Lisa ordered the Spaghetti Fresca, a nice room temp pasta dish with fresh tomatoes, basil, capers, olive oil and ricotta salata. Very cool place, loads of atmosphere, good food and great background music, we'd like to visit again...
Ready to go back to Carmine Street and put our feet up after a very long day, I opted to pick up my dessert at Rocco's Pasticceria, just down the block from the apartment. A traditional Italian bakery and coffee bar, it is touted the home of the best cannoli in NYC, I had to see how it compared to Brocato's. A really creamy, not too sweet, ricotta filling with a thin crunchy shell and dipped in chunky pistaccios, I have to admit, it was divine! Sorry Brocato's, but this was amazing!
Time to go to bed and get rested for another day! More later.....
Sunday, June 27, 2010
One of my favorite things about traveling is taking off on a run, early in the morning and seeing a city on foot. Knowing this would be on my agenda on our trip to New York, I finally broke down a bought a new pair of running shoes, something I've been procrastinating about for months now. So at 6:25 this morning, I laced up my new shoes and took off down Bleecker Street towards the river. It's been 16 years since I've run in New York and I was really looking forward to a little less humidity and a different scene. I didn't have a plan except to check out the area along the Hudson and see where the morning would take me.
When I got to the river, I decided to go left and head toward the southern tip of the island. I hadn't been to the World Trade Center site since years before 9/11 and wanted to see what was happening. It is sobering to see the big gaping hole first had, such a large open space in the middle of Manhattan's sky line. It made me start thinking about the parallels between our two cities with their mighty rivers, both, in some way, wrecked by made man disasters caused by the failure of our government to protect it's people.
It's been almost 9 years since 9/11, nearly 5 since Katrina and a mere couple of months since the Deep Water Horizon explosion and with all of the other disasters, both natural and man made, happening in the world today, one might wonder if the Mayan calendar is right on track...
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Our trip to NYC begins with a great cup of coffee with Lisa in her little apartment in the west village. We're in town for a gourmet food show and a photography exhibit at NOMA. But, I'm sure there will be lots of great food, wine and fun while we're here, so we'll keep you posted!
Monday, June 21, 2010
The 2007 Brancaia Tre, a Super Tuscan blend, 93 pts, #10 in the Wine Spectator Top 100, is from a phenomenal producer with vineyards in both the Chianti Classico zone and the Maremma in the southwest part of the region. Even though they tend toward a more "new world" style, no matter who reviews these wines, from Gambero Rosso to Robert Parker, Stephen Tanzer or Wine Spectator, the reports are stellar from the entry level wine "Tre" to their flagship "Il Blu". While they do produce a Chianti Classico, their main focus is on Super Tuscans. They produce three Sangiovese based blends, the Tre, Ilatraia and the Il Blu, with the scores for 2007's being the highest yet for each.
And that is of no surprise, considering that the renowned Carlo Ferrini is the consulting winemaker for the estate that has been owned by the Swiss couple Brigitte and Bruno Widmer since 1981. Ferrini consults for 13 estates, some of the most highly regarded in Italy, and has been named Winemaker of the year by Gambero Rosso in 2000 and by the Associazione Italiana Sommelier's in 2003. Combine that with the Widmer's dedication to quality and you have a spectacular lineup from start to finish.
While their wines are all quite pricey, the "Tre" offers incredible value for the money. Mainly Sangiovese, blended with Cabernet and Merlot, the fruit for this wine come from their estates in Chianti and the Maremma. It is aged for 12 months in a blend of new and used French oak which helps maintain the fresh, young quality of the wine. A very accessible wine of red and black fruits with balanced acidity and soft velvety tannins and a rich, spicy finish make this a great wine for those wanting to take the leap into Italy. Try it with Tagliatelle al Ragu, you'll be in heaven...
Wine Spectator, October 2009 Issue, 93 pts: There's wonderful intensity of fruit in this wine, with crushed raspberry and blackberry and hints of coffee and fresh flowers. Full-bodied, with velvety tannins and a long, soft-textured finish that shows loads of fruit. Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Best after 2010.
$18.99, limited supply, maximum 4 bottles/person
One of the reasons we went to the market was to get more of the Thai Curry Paste that we love to cook with. Unlike Indian curry powder, aromatic Thai curry paste combines dry spices with "wet", or fresh, ingredients like chili peppers, fish sauce, shrimp paste, herbs, garlic, shallots and lemongrass. Mixed with a bit of coconut milk, it's an almost-instant sauce base, making it a fast, convenient way to cook up a really flavorful dish.
Curry paste is classified by color, ranging from deep red to yellow-orange to deep green, and often by the type of food with which it's traditionally used. The two most common are the green and red pastes. Red curry paste tends to be medium-hot, the most versatile, and used with chicken, duck, beef, pork, shrimp and fish, and noodle curries. Green curry paste, the hottest, is most commonly used in coconut sauces with beef, pork or chicken. Kerry is quite fond of the Maesri brand and it is pictured below with the ingredients of the dish. This is so simple and so good, you won't believe it! The hard part is driving to the West Bank for the ingredients, but it is well worth the trip. Be warned this is fairly spicy, but that's how we like it!
- 2.5-3 tablespoons green curry paste
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 lb. boneless chicken breast, sliced into thin pieces
- 8-10 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
- 1 sprig fresh Thai basil leaves
- 2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 8 ounces Thai eggplant (small round eggplants)
- 3 Thai or Serrano peppers, seeded and ribs removed, cut into thin long slice
* In a large saucepan over high heat, fry the curry paste in the coconut oil until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
* Reduce the heat to medium and add the coconut milk slowly, and continue to stir while cooking until a thin film of oil appears on the surface.
* Add the chicken and other ingredients except the eggplant. Bring to a boil and cook until the chicken begins to change color.
* Adjust the flavors to suit yourself. When it is at a boil again add the eggplant and continue to stir until the chicken is cooked through and eggplant are tender. They will turn a bit brownish from the heat, but that is normal.
* Serve with sticky rice or jasmine rice
I never knew bok choy came in so many different shapes, sizes and colors until I started shopping at the Hong Kong Food Market on the West Bank. We picked up lots of green things on our last visit and made a delicious Thai Green Eggplant and Chicken Curry as well as this Sauteed Bok Choy Salad.
* 1 pound bok choy
* 1 tablespoon coconut oil
* 1 tablespoon sesame oil
* 1/4 cup water
* 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 tablespoon fish sauce
* 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
* 1 tablespoon brown sugar
* 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1. Trim off the ends of the bok choy and chop, keeping the white parts separate from the green as they will need to cook longer. Rinse and spin or pat dry. Set aside.
2. In a medium sized bowl, stir together the water, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar and red pepper flakes. Set this aside.
3. Heat the two oils in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the bok choy stems first; stir fry for a few minutes or until the pieces start to turn a pale green. When stems are almost cooked, add the leaves; cook and stir until leaves are wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer the bok choy to a serving dish. Pour the sauce into the skillet or wok, and set over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened slightly, about 3 minutes. Pour over the bok choy and toss lightly to coat.
I took some time off on Wednesday for Kerry and I to take a trip to the other side of the world, the
We both love Vietnamese food so came hungry knowing we could grab a little lunch at Pho Dahn 4, House of Noodle located right next to the market. While a bit utilitarian in atmosphere, the food is fresh, light with a very inexpensively priced noodle dish based menu. We split an order of their delicious spring rolls, fat with lots of crisp lettuce, noodles, pork and perfectly steamed shrimp followed by noodle soups served with the traditional side plate of fresh bean sprouts, lettuce, basil and jalapeno peppers. I got the Pho Ga, a simple chicken and rice noodle dish with onions and herbs in a light broth. A perfectly healthy start to our shopping excursion!
As you enter the market, there are aisles and aisles of dried and preserved goods, lots of sauces and flavorings, more types of dried seaweed than you can imagine exist, every flavor and brand of Ramen, an Asian cookware section, frozen goods, a bakery and more.Thai, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese products await as we walk down each one just to be certain we don’t miss anything! The main reason we are there is for some of the Thai curry pastes we love so much, but we can’t help but check out the fresh fish, smoked meats and all of the other goodies lining the shelves.
The produce section is what I get most excited about, loaded with more types of bok choy than I knew existed, lots of exotic vegetables and fruits, herbs, and a section of locally grown items as well. The beautiful thai green eggplants, caught my eye and I knew I needed to design an dish around them, and I just had to have some of that delicious looking bok choy!
We left loaded with things we would never find at our local grocery stores and excited about cooking something different for dinner. Check out what we came up, Thai Green Eggplant and Chicken Curry and Sauteed Bok Choy Salad. And the next time you find yourself on the West Bank with a little spare time, be adventurous and take yourself to the Hong Kong Food Market. Hopefully you'll be as inspired as we were!
Hong Kong Food Market
Gretna, LA 70056-4569
Sunday, June 6, 2010
One of the food blogs that I am particularly fond of is Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino written by a woman named Eleonora who lives in Rome. She did a wonderful post last year about how in Italy Sundays mean "family", and of course family means food which is similar to how I grew up with my mother always taking the time to cook a delicious Sunday dinner for all of us and inviting extended family to share the meal as well.
Eleonora describes her Sunday ritual and her mother's signature dish that for her is a weekly display of love. I've been wanting to make this ever since I read her post, but for some reason never got around to it, until this Sunday. Because for Kerry and me, Sunday means "home" as it is the only day that we don't go to the shop or spend too much time working. We go for a bike ride, Kerry works in the garden, I work on my blog and we cook a delicious meal. So this Sunday I decided it was finally time to make Eleonora's mother's classic Sunday dish, Tagilatelle al Ragu. It is still simmering away on the stove (see photo below), but I wanted to be sure to get the post done before we sat down to eat because it is divine! I'm including her full post as it is a wonderful look into the Italian way of life brought back memories of my own childhood in my mother's kitchen.
From Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino
March 22, 2009
Sundays spent satiating
"Sundays in Italy mean family. They speak of tradition, repose and morning Mass. Sundays gather the family around the table for communal weekly updates, sports events (mainly soccer) and convivial merry. As my son and I skip down the flights of stairs of our apartment building on our way out, we walk past Signora Rosetta’s door, inebriated by the smell of tomato sauce simmering on her stove. That divine perfume then wafts over and mingles with our downstairs neighbor Gina’s veal cutlets. And so forth, in a Babylon of aromas all the way down, all good, all Sunday-like.
Every Sunday lunch, my little boy E. and I go to my mother’s house, which is a 5-minute walk from our home. Wearing a nice blouse or a new pair of trousers, to honor our host, we head out. Mamma likes that kind of stuff, she also loves it when E.’s hair is combed with a tidy part on the side. A rare image, E. defines tousled. We breathe in the morning air and take a nice stroll to our favorite cafe, buy the paper, chat with people from our neighborhood. A Sunday ritual. We may go to Mass if we feel inspired, otherwise we head straight for the pasticceria (pastry shop) and pick up a tray of assorted bigné, cannoli, sfogliatelle, éclairs etc. sold by weight and wrapped in gift paper, tied with curly ribbons.
We always arrive early, at my mother’s house. That too is part of a Sunday habit. All members of the family each chip in with the housework, helping in the kitchen, airing out the bedrooms, watering the flowers on the terrace. Every time I walk in the house where I have been raised, I am immediately overcome with a warm, reassuring feeling. Back to the womb. The aroma of my mother’s cooking returns me to all my childhood memories. The incidental music of the TV broadcasting the usual Sunday shows, the smell of fresh flowers. My mother’s books, her dust, her Persian rugs. The chandeliers, the framed black and white photographs, the Steinway grand piano. It’s all there, unchanged, thank God. And then that which she is most proud of: la tavola, her table. It is a festive occasion, and she honors it beautifully by setting an impeccable table. She always prouds in laying a crisp embroidered linen tablecloth, ironed to perfection. China plates, double glasses – for both wine and water – shiny silverware and matching fabric napkins. Mamma cooks for two days in preparation for her family feast, and she prouds in displaying her efforts. The beverages are always served in glass (and not the bulky plastic) bottles. The wine is always chosen wisely to pair the food, and there’s always an extra dessert, usually homemade.
My mother makes it a point to pick the best ingredients, priding herself in finding seasonal variations, local and organic staples. She cooks it lovingly, employing all her generosity, and enjoying the creative process. She provides for us, not merely nourishment and great tasting foods, but an on-going, weekly display of love.
For this year’s edition of 5 Minutes for Mom’s Ultimate Blog Party – my first – I will share with all participating home cooks, mothers, and daughters of great ladies before them, my mamma’s signature Sunday dish, the one she is most fond of. It his her pièce de résistance; whenever she prizes us by making it, it is in fact a party. I have watched her make homey dishes like these countless times, as I grew into the mother I am today, and never once has she or her fabulous fares disappointed me.
The authentic Italian Sunday lunch tradition lives on in my mother’s hallmark Tagliatelle al Ragù. Pull up a chair and let's eat. This recipe is a classic. It results in the creation of an intensely flavorful, rich meat sauce to serve over home made tagliatelle, and dusted with lavish amounts of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. My mother starts preparing it early in the morning and allows it to simmer, very, very slowly for many hours, at least three and ideally four.
* 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
* 2 tbsp unsalted butter
* 1 large carrot, finely diced
* 1 small onion, cut into same size dice as carrot
* celery stalks, cut up into same size dice as carrot and onion and in the same amount
* 650gr (1 1/2 lbs) ground beef and veal total (small variations from this weight are not significant)
* 200ml (1 cup) whole milk
* 200ml (1 cup) dry, white wine
* 1 kg (28-oz can) whole or crushed tomatoes, San Marzano would be great
* A pinch of ground nutmeg
* 300gr (3/4 lb or 1 1/2 cups) tagliatelle. If you decide to make your own homemade pasta, the outcome will be a million times better. And those eating will feel even more loved by you.
* Salt to taste
* Lots of Parmigiano, grated
It all begins with an empty, heavy-bottomed, medium to large sized pot. If you have a Dutch oven, that is ideal. Place the oil and butter into the pot and bring to medium-high heat. Add the diced battuto (carrot, onion and celery trinity) and stir to coat well, allowing vegs to soften for about 6 minutes. Hark! Do not brown the onion or celery, they need to simply wilt.
Next, add all the ground meat to the pot. Here is where the most work is involved. Using a large wooden spoon keep breaking up the meat into smaller and smaller pieces as it cooks. Do not brown it too much or dry out. Don’t let it sit in the hot shortening on the bottom of the pot and sear. Keep moving it around; it should just lose its color. Keep working on the meat and keep breaking it up into smaller and smaller pieces. It should also begin to smell wonderful.
When the meat has lost all its pink color and is reduced to minuscule bits, pour in the milk and turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Stir well and allow the milk to completely boil away. When that happens, you should only be able to see the olive oil and butter between the meat pieces and vegetables, and no more milk. This will take about 20 minutes.
Now add the white wine and evaporate it too.
Add the tomatoes. Empty the entire can into the pot and use a wooden spoon to break up the whole tomatoes into large chunks. Season with salt and nutmeg, stir well and turn down the heat to a very gentle simmer, only the occasional plip, plop! bubble should come to the surface. Do not cover. Allow the sauce to simmer slowly for 3 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally; and to fill the rooms of your soul with warmth, love and a terrific aroma.
If you're pressed for time, or making home made pasta feels too big a task right now, you can decide over dried or fresh commercially sold tagliatelle, the only requirement is they be rough-surfaced and quite thick (at least 3 mm, 1/8-inch).
When the sauce is almost ready, bring your salted gallon of water to a rolling boil. Cook the tagliatelle, then drain them al dente, saving some starchy cooking water. Return the pasta to the empty stewpot and add about a cup of meat sauce to the cooked tagliatelle and stir well. This only colors the strands lightly, but we’re not done yet. Serve the coated tagliatelle in individual soup bowls, spooning the divine Bolognese sauce over each and dusting with copious amounts of grated Parmigiano.
Mamma uncorked two bottles of Chianti today, and the first roaring toast was to the never-ending party she throws, come Sunday at lunch."
Quite a few of you have inquired about the status of my little Sicilian fig cutting so I guess it is time for an update! As you can see, it is thriving and doing well in it's new pot, and who knows maybe by the fall it will be ready to go in the ground! Keep your fingers crossed!
Dining at Domenica - We were invited by friends to dinner Saturday night at Domenica which we hadn't been to since right after they opened, so we happily joined them. I'm not going to go into a big review here, but here's my take for what it's worth: What works: the food was excellent, from the roasted sardines (highly recommended by another Italian foodie and he was so right!) salads, to the grilled summer squash pizza (the best pizza we've had since Rome) pasta, and desserts (the gelato affogato, frittole and pana cotta), we were surprisingly impressed. And the prices are great with most items offered in small or large portions. What also works: no corkage fee!! We brought a selection of our favorites from the store and ordered cocktails and more wine from the extensive, well priced menu, which has some really nice selections at many different price points. What doesn't work? The noise level and just general atmosphere are not what I personally enjoy in a dining experience. And the service was super slow, as we waited more than an hour for our sardines while the rest of the table waited almost an hour and a half for their salads and the entrees took another 30 minutes after that! Maybe it was an off night, but people were getting pretty cranky....
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Balarina is a toffee colored goat gouda from the Netherlands that has a crunchy texture that is nutty and delicious with hints of browned butter and caramel.
Evora is a rindless Portuguese cheese made with raw merino sheep's milk and cardoon thistle. It is interestingly floral and fruity with a nice tanginess on the finish.
Verde Capra is a wonderful blending of soft, creamy blue cheese and slightly tangy, gamey goat milk from northern Italy. A version of a gorgonzola dolce, with a nice fruitiness and a little bite on the finish.
The cheeses are accompanied by prosciutto, freshly sliced bread or gourmet crackers, nuts, olives, and locally made fruit spreads. $12
And besides helping me with the wine buying, managing the bar and all of the other demanding duties that come with being the only guy in the shop, Ron's new unofficial title is the "cheese guy" with his first responsibility being that of selecting and designing our new cheese plate. So, check out this month's "Ron's Pick" featuring 4 new cheeses with some great accoutrements!
Friday, June 4, 2010
Join us for a very special event on Wednesday, June 9th, as we pair up with Angel Miranda, Chef/Owner of Lola’s, while he opens his home for a demonstration of new, global Spanish cuisine cooking techniques by acclaimed Spanish Chef Fernando Sanchez Gonzales assisted by Angel. Chef Fernando Sanchez Gonzales of Barbacana Restaurante & Tapas Bar near Madrid, has worked extensively in fine restaurants throughout Spain and has been invited to New Orleans to work with Lola’s staff to infuse some new spice into their current menu.
The evening will feature:
• Tapas cooking demonstration
• A sampling of 10 prepared dishes
• A tasting of 7 wines paired and provided by Swirl
• Lola’s fabulous Sangria
Angel and Fernando have put together an incredible menu for this evening:
Starters: Lola's Sangria and Tortilla de Patata
- Endivias con Queso Azul y Nueces paired with Avinyo Brut Cava
- Croquetas de Cangrejo paired with 2008 Gurrutxaga Txakolina, Txakoli
- Ensalata de Verduras con Vinagreta de Cafe paired with 2009 Gaciarevalo Casamaro Blanco, Rueda
- Vieras con Doble Crema de Puerros paired with 2009 Vina Mein, Ribeiro
- Carpaccio de Atun Rojo con Vinagreta de Wasabi paired with 2009 Joan D'Anguera Garnaxta, Monsant
- Bacalao Riojana paired with 2008 Arbanta Rioja
- Albondigas de Cordero paired with 2009 Mas Martinet Menut Priorato
Wednesday, June 9, 7 to 9pm, $40 per person, reservations and prepayment are required as attendance is limited to 40 people. Please call 504.304.0635 to reserve your spot.