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Top Ten (Things I Love) :: August ‘11


MacBar

1. MacBar, Soho – Four Cheese Mac ‘n Cheese

MacBar is a groovy and modern mac ‘n cheese take-out bar smack in the middle of Soho on Prince Street near Lafayette. They offer 12 different varieties of gourmet mac ‘n cheese combinations such as: Four Cheese with queso blanco, fontina, emmental and gouda, Mayan Chipotle with chicken Diablo, Chihuahua cheese and green onions, Mac Lobsta’, Mac ‘Shroom, Mac Quack with duck confit, fontina, caramelized onions and fines herbes and more. Who can resist a creamy, savory bowl of piping hot ooey-gooey macaroni and cheese? I know I can’t!

54 Prince Street | NYC 10012 | (212) 226-8877 |
http://macbar.net/

La Follia

2. La Follia, Gramercy – Beet Salad with Mint, Ricotta and Pistachios & Sauteed Garlic Spinach

La Follia is an upscale Italian restaurant and wine bar in Gramercy on 3rd and 19th Street. They offer delicious small plates, pasta dishes and entrees, salads, veggie sides and have an impressive wine list. My favorite small plate dish is the Roasted Beet Salad with Mint, Ricotta and Pistachios..it has a light vinaigrette dressing and is perfectly mixed with fresh mint and creamy ricotta and roasted pistachios to give it some crunch. They also have an excellent line up of Crostinis including Burrata, Olive Oil and Sea Salt, Imported Ricotta with Pesto, White Bean and Olive and more – perfectly crispy with the finest toppings – YUM. If you’re in the mood for some Salumi, try the Prosciutto Di Parma or Soppressata with a selection of cheeses, a side dish of Broccoli Rabe with garlic and chili flakes or Brussel Sprouts sautéed with crispy Prosciutto or the sauteed garlicky Spinach. Rumour has it their House-Made Pappardelle with Braised Pork Ragu, Thyme and Pecorino is amazing! An intimate bar setting and outside seating make this a perfect date spot on a Friday night.

226 3rd Avenue at 19th St | NYC 10003 | (212) 477-4100 |
http://menupages.com/restaurants/la-follia/menu

Waterfront Ale House

3. Waterfront Ale House, Murray Hill – Spicy Texas Chili with Serious Hot Homemade Hot Sauce

This is one of my favorite neighborhood saloons in Murray Hill. The food is fantastic, the locals are loyal and the service and staff are great. They make their own homemade Hot Sauce (which sells for $4 a bottle at the bar) – amazing with their Spicy Texas Chili! Perfectly seasoned and cooked to perfection with a bubbly layer of cheddar cheese and topped with green onions, the chunks of steak and beans make this chili a comforting dish with a cold brew on a Happy Hour kinda night. They have an impressive line up of more than 80 domestic, locally crafted and imported beers, as well as effervescent gins and “real” absinthes when you’re in the mood for a good shot of something stout on a Friday night. Don’t miss out on their BBQ either – their hot-off-the-grill Pulled Chicken and Pulled Pig sandwiches, Texas Dip Smoked Beef Brisket and hand cut Sweet Potato Fries rock!

540 2nd Avenue (Corner of 30th St.), NYC
| (212) 696-4104 |
http://www.waterfrontalehouse.com/

Prime and Beyond

4. Prime and Beyond, E. Vlg – Wet Aged Ribeye with Scallion Salad, Fresh Cut Fries

Prime and Beyond is a newly opened Steak place in the East Village NYC. They hand select all of their meats and dry or wet age them in a humidity controlled refrigeration on premises for up to 8 weeks, giving their meat extraordinary flavor and juiciness! They also have amazing burgers, salads, and hand-cut French fries, along with a selection of side dishes including grilled veggies, potato salad, and Wagyu Salami. In the mood for a Korean twist to your meal? Try to the Bulgogi Rice Bowl or the Short Rib Stew with a side of Kimchi and Spicy Scallion salad. Amazing flavor and a nice intimate yet casual atmosphere.

90 E. 10th St, NYC | (212) 505-0033 |
http://www.primeandbeyond.com/Home.html

Ocean Grill

5. Ocean Grill, UWS – Shrimp Cocktail, Fresh Crab, Avocado, Mango and Jalapeno Roll and Lobster Cocktail

I have found no other spot in NYC that has fresher seafood, as well as a comfortable and relaxing environment for an outdoor cocktail and delicious sushi and seafood. Their shrimp and lobster cocktail dishes come served on a bed of ice, fresh lemon, drawn butter and cocktail sauce – not to mention humoungous pieces of shrimp and lobster that is chilly and delicious on a hot summer day! Their sushi is also amazing – I fell in love with their version of the “California Roll” which is actually huge pieces of fresh lump crabmeat, avocado, mango and jalapeno. Great location situated across from the Museum of Natural History, so ideal for a Sunday brunch and walk in Central Park!

384 Columbus Ave (at 78th St), NYC | (212) 579-2300 |

http://www.oceangrill.com

Oficina Latina NYC

6. Oficina Latina NYC, Nolita – Orange Ginger Margaritas & Ham and Cheese Arepas

The concept of this hip restaurant and bar in Soho reflects the Pan American Highway along Central Mexico and South America with its Latin Tapas menu and exotic cocktails. The interior looks like a mechanic’s garage with a small lounge area, outdoor dining area and interior dining room. Their exotic tropical drinks are all handmade, with flavors such as Orange-Ginger Margaritas, Cilantro Avocado Margaritas, Blackberry Caiphirinas and Mojitos, made with muddled fruits and spicy and sweet rims. My favorite Tapas dish is their Albondigas (Spicy Meatballs in Tomato Sauce) and their Arepas which are corn pockets filled with ham and melted cheese. They have a huge menu filled with other Latin dishes such as Ceviche, Tostones, Cuban Tortas,  Croquetas filled with pan-seared crab cakes and chipotle sauce as well as slow-cooked black beans, roasted pork leg and rice and deep fried green plantains. Definitely a spot you don’t want to miss!

24 Prince Street (near Mott St), NYC | (646) 381-2555
http://oficinalatinanyc.com/

SanctuaryT

7. Sanctuary T, Soho – Smoky Black T-Dust Seasoning & Sangria

Not only is this a cool hip restaurant in Soho, but they sell fantastic tea-infused seasonings made out of organic teas and spices. My favorite is the Smoky Black T-dust seasoning, made of smoked tea, black peppercorns and sea salt. Their other seasonings are Tahitian Green, Chili Rooibos and Citrus White, also made of organic green, red and white teas. They also sell loose leaf drinking teas and have an awesome menu with organic Asian inspired dishes, salads and burgers as well as duck, seafood and pasta dishes. Their cocktails are artisan-made too, of course infused with their organic teas and fresh fruits and other goodies. Can’t miss out on their fresh made Sangrias either!

337B W. Broadway, NYC | (212) 941-7832 |
http://www.sanctuaryt.com/

KitchenAid Tyler Florence Event

8. KitchenAid/House Beautiful’s Kitchen of the Year event with Tyler Florence, Rockefeller Center 

Last month, KitchenAid and House Beautiful magazine created the 2011 Dream Kitchen of the Year smack in the middle of Rockefeller Center. Chock full of gorgeous KitchenAid appliances, indoor and outdoor bar and grilling spaces, and of course hosted by Tyler Florence – we were treated to delicious mini-hors d’oeuvres and cocktails and goodie bags filled with KitchenAid cooking utensils and Tyler’s new cookbook “Family Meal”.  My favorite recipes out of the cookbook are his down-home Southern specialties like Chicken-Fried Steak with Biscuits and Gravy, Southern-style Fish Fry Up with Big Papa’s Tartar Sauce and Fennel Sausage Hush Puppies. Makes me miss living in the Atlanta – always ready for some good old fashioned Southern comfort food! Now that Autumn is on the horizon, I see a Southern tailgating feast coming right up!

Check out my photos from the Kitchen of the Year event here

Check out KitchenAid’s site here

Buy Tyler Florence’s “Family Meal” Cookbook here

Gemma

9. Gemma, Bowery – Fresh Ricotta and Pesto Crostini and Arancini Risotto Balls

Gemma is one of those places where you need to go to see and be seen. Connected to the beautiful Bowery Hotel, Gemma is an upscale Italian dining establishment open for lunch, brunch, dinner, cocktails and dessert. My favorite dishes are the Arancini and Polpettine (Risotto Balls and Meatballs), their Buffalo Ricotta and Pesto Crostini, and Oriechette with Broccoli Rabe and Crispy Garlic Chips sautéed in Olive Oil with Red Pepper flakes. They also have amazing wood-fired pizzas, pasta dishes, salumi and formaggi plates, and if you’re in the mood for a massive grilled Bistecca Steak or Roasted Baby Lamb Chops – well, you can get that too. Don’t forget to top off your meal with a Calzone di Nutella or and Affagato (vanilla gelato drowned in espresso) and a shot of Frangelico or Limoncello. Amazing menu and service to match – what more can I say. A NYC must-visit for Italian dining!

335 Bowery, NYC 10003 | (212) 505-9100
http://www.theboweryhotel.com/dining.php

10. Teqa, Murray Hill – Braised Short Rib Tacos and Margaritas

Teqa

Newly opened this summer in Murray Hill, Teqa is a gorgeous tequila bar and Mexican restaurant with a gorgeous menu to accompany the space. The Frozen Hibiscus and Rose Margaritas are a beautiful thing – made with hibiscus-infused el jimador, combier, fresh lime, agave, rosewater mist and hibiscus salt. Order a pitcher (or two!) – you won’t regret this one!

For a dinner entrée, I unashamedly inhaled the Guinness Braised Short Rib Tacos that literally melted in my mouth. The tender, succulent beef is soaked in Teqa’s signature sauce, then topped with grilled corn, lime and queso fresco. The tacos are a bit small (you only get 3 of these babies for a steep $16) but the flavor explosion in your mouth is worth every bite and every penny!

447 Third Avenue, NYC 10016 | (212) 213-3223 |
http://www.teqanyc.com

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Meet the Chef: Jimmy Canora of Valentino’s on the Green


Watch the video as Kristen Hess interviews Chef de Cuisine Jimmy Canora at Valentino’s on the Green – the legendary fine dining Italian restaurant in Bayside Queens. The Chef demonstrates his infamous dish Chicken Breast Valentino with Creamy Polenta, Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Spring Vegetables and Madeira Wine Sauce and discusses his background and history as a Chef and Cookbook Author.

Valentino's on the Green

Valentino's on the Green

Valentino’s on the Green is a romantic fine dining Italian restaurant in a beautiful old mansion in a neighborhood rich in history, culture and style. This elegant establishment pays homage to Italian-born silent film legend and former resident, Rudolph Valentino. Valentino was America’s first sex symbol derived from his provocative roles in films such as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) and The Sheik (1921). He helped launch the new era of film and film stars and was one of the most iconic figures of Hollywood. Valentino’s on the Green combines this romantic history and Italian culinary expertise into a one-of-a-kind dining experience.

Giorgio Kolaj & Don Pintabona

Giorgio Kolaj & Don Pintabona

Headed by restaurateur Giorgio Kolaj, and renowned chef and cookbook author, Don Pintabona, who helped Robert DeNiro launch Tribeca Grill in NYC, Pintabona has served as Executive Chef for over a decade. Jimmy Canora, an award-winning chef, also formerly of Tribeca Grill and Delmonico’s; has brought his culinary mastery to Valentino’s on the Green and created an exceptional menu for this gorgeous historical landmark.

Valentino's interior

Valentino's interior

Valentino’s on the Green has several dining rooms inside elegantly furnished with chandeliers, grand mouldings, burgundy leather and mahogany furnishings and large windows. They have a gorgeous outside patio for dining in the warmer months, overlooking a golf course and beautiful park. They serve lunch, dinner and brunch on Sundays and have a spectacular dessert menu as well as a special Mother’s Day brunch annually. Reservations are accepted for private parties in the banquet hall with space for up to 220 guests, and catering is also available.

Start your meal with an Appetizer of fresh seafood including Shrimp or Crabmeat Cocktail, Grilled Octopus and Oysters or an Antipasti platter, soup or salad. Their Pasta is fresh made daily – Braised Short Rib Ragu with Mixed Mushrooms, Ricotta and Rosemary and Sweet Pea Mascarpone Ravioli or Lemon Tagliatelle Frutti Di Mare are just a few of their popular selections.

For Main Course, Valentino’s offers classic entrees such as Veal Marsala, Chicken Parmesan, Shrimp Scampi, Grilled Swordfish, Herb Crusted Lamb Chops, Steaks, Pork Braciole “Valdostana”, and their infamous Chicken Breast Valentino, stuffed with Fontina Cheese, Prosciutto and Spinach cooked in a buttery Madeira wine sauce with mushrooms and served with luscious creamy polenta and grilled Spring vegetables (recipe below). Last but not least they have an amazing dish of Spicy Chili Glazed Lobsters, with Spring Onion and Bay Scallop Risotto, Asparagus and Brandied Lobster Sauce that is out of this world.

Appetizers range from $8-29, Soups and Salads range from $7-$13 and Dinner Entrees range from $16-49. They offer a $24 Three Course Lunch Prix Fixe and Mother’s Day Brunches run at $49.50 per person. Reservations are accepted and recommended via phone or OpenTable.com.

Chicken Breast Valentino

Chicken Breast Valentino

Chicken Breast Valentino

Ingredients

6 boneless chicken breasts, pounded ¼” thin
1 c Seasoned all purpose flour
¼ c unsalted butter
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
½ c Madeira wine
1 c chicken stock, as needed
1 c veal stock, or low sodium beef broth, as needed
6 slices Prosciutto Di Parma, thinly sliced
6 slices Fontina cheese, thinly sliced
3 tbsp Parmiagiano Reggiano, grated
6 fresh Sage leaves
1 c cooked mixed mushrooms, (Oyster, Portabella, Crimini & Shitake)
1 small leek, white part only, diced and blanched
2 c cooked polenta, (Mascarpone, Parmesan, Chicken stock, Cream)
2 c roasted Spring veggies (baby zucchini, patty pan squash & baby carrots)
¼ c fresh chopped parsley, garnish
6 springs fresh thyme, garnish

Method

Season and lightly flour chicken breasts, shaking off excess flour.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil/butter, 2 tbsp at a time and when butter starts to foam, add the chicken breasts in batches, sauté until lightly browned about 2 minutes per side. Remove and set aside, and repeat until all chicken is cooked.

Increase the heat and add the mushrooms and leeks and sauté until the release of their liquid and start to crisp, about 1 minute, then add the Madeira wine and simmer to reduce to ¼, adding in the stock along with some more butter, salt and pepper.

Reduce heat to very low and top each chicken breast with a slice of prosciutto, sage, Fontina and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Return to the skillet until the cheese melts and chicken is warmed through.

Serve with hot polenta and roasted Spring vegetables and sauce each plate with the Madeira Mushroom sauce. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and a spring of fresh thyme for garnish.

Serves 6.

View the Menu

Valentino’s on the Green
201-10 Cross Island Parkway
Bayside, New York 11360
718 352 2300
www.valentinosnyc.com

Ragu alla Bolognese & Handmade Tagliatelle :: Onion, Olive & Rosemary Focaccia :: Blood Orange Panna Cotta


A Classic Italian Dinner

The following collection of recipes are from an Italian cooking class I took recently with Chef Peter Johnson at The Institute of Culinary Education. The Ragu alla Bolognese we made is the official “Classic” Bolognese Ragu recipe (deemed official by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina in 1982). Bolognese Ragu originated in the city of Bologna in Northern Italy. This rich, chunky meat sauce is created with a base of finely chopped onions, celery, and carrots (the holy trinity otherwise known as ‘Mirepoix‘), white wine, ground beef or veal (or a mixture if you prefer), tomato paste, milk and a touch of cream and simmered on low for 1-2 hours to let all the flavors meld together. The key is to cook slow and low to ensure a tender flavorful ragu sauce.

We made the Tagliatelle Pasta from scratch, first making the homemade dough by slowly mixing eggs into a flour mound until all the flour and eggs are mixed through, then letting the dough rise for about an hour and running it through a pasta machine to create long, super thin bands of dough and finally cutting the individual pasta strips by hand. You’ll need a lot of space, a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a lot of love – but the handmade pasta is totally worth the effort!

We made a delicious Onion, Olive and Rosemary Focaccia Bread to serve with the pasta and Bolognese Ragu and topped off the meal with a delicious Chianti and a Blood Orange Panna Cotta for dessert. Blood oranges have a crimson, blood-colored flesh, are smaller than an average orange and are grown in Texas and California, but originated in Sicily, Italy. They have a sweet-tart flavor that goes delicious with the sweet-tart Greek yogurt and cream in this light, refreshing dessert.

Ragu alla Bolognese & Handmade Tagliatelle

Ragu alla Bolognese & Handmade Tagliatelle

Ragu alla Bolognese and Handmade Tagliatelle

Makes 2 cups; serves 6

1 (5 oz) piece pancetta, finely chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped in a food processor

1 small carrot, finely chopped in a food processor

½ small yellow onion, finely chopped in a food processor

¾ pound lean ground beef

½ cup dry white wine

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 ½ cups milk

2 tbsp heavy cream

Salt and Fresh ground Pepper to taste

Homemade Tagliatelle (recipe follows)

Put the pancetta into a heavy-bottomed medium pot (preferably terra-cotta) over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until its fat has rendered, about 10 minutes.

Add the celery, carrots and onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned, about 15 minutes (caramelize the mire poix over low heat).

Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until broken up and lightly browned and beginning to sizzle, about 5 minutes. Add the wine to the pot; cook until evaporated, about 4 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the tomato paste and 2 tbsp water; add to the pot and stir well to combine. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally and adding some of the milk, little by little, until all the milk is added and the sauce is very thick, about 1½ hours.

Bolognese Ragu

Simmering Bolognese Ragu

Season the ragu with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Stir in the cream right before serving and toss with the pasta. Top off the pasta with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Recipe from the Bolognese Chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, decreed as the official “Classic Ragu alla Bolognese” recipe in October 1982.

Homemade Tagliatelle

Handmade Tagliatelle

Handmade Tagliatelle

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp kosher salt

3 large eggs

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp olive oil

Form the flour into a mound on your work surface (stainless steel or cutting board) and create a well in the center. Sprinkle 1 tsp kosher salt over the flour. Add the eggs, yolk, olive oil and 2 tbsp water to the well.

Using a fork, incorporate eggs and liquid in a slow circular motion, pulling in a small amounts of flour until dough becomes stiff.

Knead dough, adding a little flour as necessary, to prevent sticking, until it’s smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap; let rest for 30 minutes.

Cut dough into quarters.

Flatten 1 quarter into a rectangle (cover the other quarters with a towel to prevent from drying out). Sprinkle some flour on your surface and on top of the dough and pass it through a pasta roller set (KitchenAid accessory or hand roller) set on the widest setting.

Fold dough into thirds, creating another rectangle; feed open edge through pasta roller set at widest setting. Fold again; roll twice more using same setting. (Keep sprinkling some flour on both sides of the dough to keep from sticking as you go).

Decrease setting one notch and roll pasta through again; repeat, decreasing setting by one notch each time until you’ve reached the second-to-last setting, creating a 1/16 inch-thick sheet. (The sheet will be quite long and continually get thinner as you go, so you’ll need two hands to do these last few rolls to keep the dough from ripping or sticking together).

Sprinkle sheet with flour; halve cross-wise. Transfer to a flour-dusted parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough, adding flour-dusted parchment paper between each layer.

Handmade Tagliatelle

Handmade Tagliatelle

Tightly roll each sheet, from short end to short end; cut cylinder cross-wise into 3/8 inch-wide strips.

Unroll strips and toss with cornmeal or semolina; spread on a floured parchment sheet and cover with a kitchen towel. Let dry for 30 minutes.

Cook Tagliatelle in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain; transfer to a bowl and toss with 2 cups of the Bolognese Ragu. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Serve with warm Foccacia bread, an Italian green salad and a glass of Chianti. Mangia!

Serves 6.

Onion, Olive and Rosemary Focaccia

Focaccia

Onion, Olive and Rosemary Focaccia

Dough

2 ½ tsp (1 envelope) yeast

1 scant cup warm mashed potatoes

2 c warm water

½ c plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

5 c all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

¼ c extra-virgin olive oil

¼ c water

Toppings

2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves

½ c thinly sliced onions

½ c pitted Kalamata or Gaela olives

½ c grated Pecorino cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Add the yeast to warm water and stir to mix through. Let the yeast and water mixture sit for a few minutes. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the yeast mixture, potatoes, 2 cups of water, and ½ cup of oil. Add the flour and salt and using the paddle attachment, mix at a low speed for 2 to 3 minutes. The dough will be sticky and rough.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to ferment until doubled, 45-60 minutes. Coat half a sheet pan with the 2 tbsp of oil and press the dough evenly into the pan. Let the dough rest periodically if it seems too elastic.

Press the rosemary, onions, olives and cheese evenly into the surface of the focaccia and allow the dough to double, about 30 minutes. With the point of a pastry knife, pierce the dough gently at 2 inch intervals. In a squirt bottle, combine the remaining oil and water. Shake well and spray across the focaccia, moistening it well. Add your favorite toppings.

Bake until well browned on the top and bottom, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly, cut into squares and serve.

Blood Orange Panna Cotta

Blood Orange Panna Cotta

Blood Orange Panna Cotta

2 ½ cups blood orange juice (fresh squeezed, approx. 12 oranges), divided

1 ¾ tsp unflavored gelatin

1/3 c. sugar, plus 2 tbsp, divided

7 teaspoons finely grated orange peel, divided

2/3 c. plain Greek-style yogurt (Fage)

2/3 c. heavy whipping cream

½ tsp fresh lemon juice

½ tsp cardamom seeds, crushed (from about 16 pods)

Pour 1 cup juice into medium saucepan; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand 15 minutes.

Stir in gelatin mixture over low heat until gelatin dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1/3 c. sugar and 5 tsp orange peel; stir until sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Strain into medium bowl, pressing on solids. Discard solids in strainer. Cool juice mixture 10 minutes. Whisk yogurt, cream and lemon juice into orange juice mixture until smooth. Divide among six small goblets or sherbet glasses. Chill until set, at least 4 hours ahead.

Stir 1 1/3 cups orange juice, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp orange peel, and cardamom in medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil until reduced to 6 tbsp, 16-17 minutes. Strain syrup into small bowl; chill.

Spoon some of the syrup over each panna cotta and serve. For extra garnish, serve with some berries and some sprigs of mint.

Recipe from Bon Appetit, January 2011.

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