Tag Archives: artichokes

Grand Opening: Tavola

30 Sep

We lived around the corner from a pretty infamous place: Manganaro’s. There were 2 restaurants: Manganaro’s Hero Boy and (the late) Manganaro’s Grosseria.  They were side by side and the grocery displayed a sign very specifically stating that they had no affiliation with Hero Boy next door.  It was a very long family feud and the restaurants had both been there for over a hundred years. Anthony Bourdain had famously lived in an apartment above these restaurants before he made it big. He even featured them on a show a few years back.

I ate there once, and they had a group of Italian ladies fighting and cursing pretty constantly in the background, while cranking out awesome old fashioned Italian food that they served on floppy paper plates.  

But then, they closed. After all those years.

A new restaurant quickly started going in, and last week, the NY Times featured this new restaurant, Tavola, in an article.  Tavola opened on Friday (or thereabouts) and we went for a late night dinner.

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The menu is full of the classics.

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And they kept many pieces of the Grosseria as it was, giving it a bit of flashback to days gone by.

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They kept the old ceilings.

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And the very pretty old sky light in the back.

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They built a brand new oven that was quite beautiful.

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And they are doing their pizzas in this wood burning oven.

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It is a good mix of new and old, and it was instantly comfortable.  Even though it just opened, by keeping a lot of the old design, it felt somehow as if this place had been there forever.

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When we entered, it was pretty full and service was buzzing.  There was some confusion and we waited a bit too long for things like bread, water, and the check, but it was obvious that there were just small kinks that needed to be ironed out.

We started with hearty bread.  It was well flavored and good and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

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We had the arugula and fire roasted artichoke salad.  This was good, with a very nice dressing. I wanted more flavor and more quantity of artichokes, but overall it was a nice starter.

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We then tried the wild boar and veal meatballs, with fresh mint and pine nuts. These had a very nice flavor and the mint was a nice compliment.

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Then we had the lasagna with veal meat sauce.  I really loved this dish. The noodles were thicker and really held up to the layers.  The sauce was great and this tasted like everything you want from classic Italian.

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Overall, everything we had was very good and very hearty.  I can see this becoming a really nice, local place to eat on a cold night. As they iron out some of the service issues and get cranking, I can see them doing a very good business here in the section just south of Hell’s Kitchen.

The neighborhood is really growing with tons of new restaurants and building, and I’m glad to have Tavola as part of that growth.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Il Punto- Take 2

14 Sep

 

We had been to Il Punto (on the corner of 38th and 9th) once before.  It was decent, but not some place I was chomping at the bit to go back to, however.  But when Mike’s family suggested we do a family meal there, we were game.  Hell… it’s hard to beat a place right on the corner!

We started with the artichokes, as we did last time.  These weren’t as good, and the sauce I loved last time seemed changed.

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We then ordered “Paper Thin Slices of Wild Boar” which came with mesculin, marinated eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and drizzled with pear vinaigrette.  This was good, but resembled roast beef a little too much to feel very special.  Still tasty though.

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I’m a bit foggy on what was ordered, but this may have been some sort of salad with meat and potatoes? Hmm. Not positive.

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This was the Salmone Alla Brace, which was grilled atlantic salmon served in a nest of julienne vegetables and roasted potato.

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Next was a Lombatina Al Vincotto: A grilled tender rib veal chop with red wine reduction, drizzles with vincotto, sprinkles black turffles, mashed potatoes and swiss chard.  This was pretty good.  Probably the best thing on the table. However…I have no idea what happened to the truffles.

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Someone also ordered a fish.  This may have been a special, because I can’t find it on the menu.  I know it’s not easy to bone a fish, but this one looked a bit like it had been through a war when it came out.

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Mike got the Bisteca Di Manzo Arrostita: char grilled sirloin steak with roasted potatoes and vegetable. This was pretty good.  Well cooked at the very least, though missing the fantastic char that, in my mind, sets steak apart.

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I got the special of pasta with beef and vegetables with shaved truffles.   I need to stop ordering shaved truffles.  They never taste as rich in flavor as I want them too.  This basically tasted like a small diced stew over over-cooked noodles.  Disappointing.  Fair at best.

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Overall consensus was pretty poor on Il Punto.  It was fine… but for the price, it should be much more than fine.  (Most entrees were $25-$30)  I probably won’t go back, but it’s just fine if you need an option in the area.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10 (a full Nom Point lower than last time)

 

 

 

 

Zucchini Parm Tacos

25 Apr

The Number One question our friends and family ask Mike and I is “So does Sara do all the cooking?”  I guess since I write about it, the assumption is that Mike doesn’t participate.  What you fail to see is the side-by-side in our kitchen where he chops, sautees, preps, and melts… and then hand models, spreads sauce, and moves things around to aid the picture-taking process.  Frankly, I couldn’t do half the things I do without Mike’s help.  Then there are the days where he is off from work and he decides to get creative.  He likes to take the time he has to prepare a great meal for the two of us.

One day, we had leftover eggplant, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and tomatoes.  I came home from work to find that Mike had created “Eggplant Parm Tacos.”  He lightly breaded and fried the eggplant, then folded them up like tacos and stuffed them with the other items.  (I never would have thought of this!) 

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It was a great take on his last creation, the zucchini and eggplant parm stack.

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They tasted excellent and were a fun way to eat something you could never typically pick up. 

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Though they were so overloaded (in a very good way) that it was mostly a knife and fork meal. (He also made a few flat versions with some dill havarti cheese. YUM!)

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The great thing about anything “parm” is that it is SO easy to make.  It is actually the first thing I learned how to cook, all on my own, without a recipe.  You can basically take a few different items (chicken, veal, pork, eggplant, zucchini…) and dip it into egg and then into breadcrumbs (sometimes I flour it first… depends on my mood and if the breadcrumbs are sticking without it).  Then you pan sear it until it’s mostly cooked through.  Then you can basically throw it into a casserole pan, layer on the cheese and sauce, and stick it in the oven until it’s melty and warmed through.  Easy peasy!

Then you bring in Mike who gets all gourmet on it.  I love it.

Il Punto

26 Mar

I seem to have a tendency to move into neighborhoods that are labeled as “up and coming.”  I spent nearly 3 years living near Penn Station, and now I’m pretty close to Port Authority.  While Hell’s Kitchen has always been close, it’s still not “right on the corner.”  Therefore, imagine my happiness when we went to the restaurant on the corner, and it turned out to be great! 

Il Punto is on 9th Ave and 38th Street… right below all that tunnel traffic and the block that no one likes (9th Ave between 41st and 42nd, right at the back entrance of Port Authority). 

The inside was actually quite lovely.  You didn’t feel like you were in the “seedy” part of town at all (and for what it’s worth… I’d rather be in this neighborhood that is constantly filled with people than in a sleepy part of town where it’s just too easy for things to go unnoticed).  While the restaurant was certainly more traditionally Italian, there were certainly decorations of the more eclectic kind (take, for instance, the little wagon in the photo below or the Asian table besides the main dining area).  It felt more like someone decorated this place along their personal tastes as opposed to just fit a theme.

There were artichokes on the menu, so, of course, I got them.  They were stuffed and baked in their fresh tomato sauce.  The artichokes were decent, but the sauce was REALLY good.  I sopped every last drop up with the bread.  It was sweet but still tangy. Tons of flavor.  The kind of sauce I want to learn to make!

Mike chose the veal shank special.  It came with mushrooms and tasted like a marsala sauce without the marsala. Quite flavorful and delicious.

I wanted to be healthy, so I went with the pear salad.  The pears were poached in red wine with cinnamon sticks… and they were AWESOME.  The salad also had arugula, gorgonzola, bacon, walnuts, and lemon dressing.  It was just a perfect salad.

I wish I could have truly enjoyed the Italian as Italian should be enjoyed (with ZERO regard to calories and fat).  But for what we got, I was really impressed.  It was quite unexpected, and I’m sure we’ll return.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

First Crush- San Francisco

25 Jan

I heard so many good things about the food in San Francisco (especially from one of my fave bloggers, Feisty Foodie).  I was incredibly excited when I was asked to travel there for business (I had never been) and extended the trip to include leisure travel with Mike over Christmas week.  I was so excited to try so many different restaurants in SF (plus I knew it was prime artichoke growing territory… MMM!) and we planned the last 2 days in Napa where more wonderful nomming was to take place.

It was just my luck that I came down with a wicked case of food poisoning or a stomach bug about an hour before leaving for the airport.  (I do not wish having stomach problems like that on an airplane to my worst enemy!)  It actually had me completely in bed for 24 hours after the trip and sans food for the first two days.  I somehow dragged myself to work on Day 2 but it wasn’t pretty (I was so bad off that I never would have gone in had they not paid for me to fly out there and I knew I actually had to SHOW UP or risk them not reimbursing me).  By the end of that evening, I was finally feeling semi-capable of nourishment and went with chicken soup from Westin’s room service.  It was actually quite tasty and I’m pretty convinced it was slightly magical as that was the turning point.

By the next night I convinced myself I was well enough to eat again.  We were staying in the Union Square area and used our Urban Spoon iPhone app to pull up a convenient restaurant.  First Crush sounded like a good place so we went for it without much research (very uncommon for me!)

We started with something that sounded right up my alley: roasted winter squash with chestnuts, pearl onions, squash puree, and pomegranate reduction.  It was really, really good!  I was a bit dissapointed that there weren’t more (and bigger) chestnuts since I love them, however, I got over this very quickly with the amazing flavor combination and freshness of the ingredients. 

Mike went with the pistachio crusted wild hawaiian walu with rainbow carrotes, roasted fingerlings, fried shallots, and glace de veau. The crust was perfect and the fish was moist and flavorful.

I ordered the artichokes braised a la barigoule with toasted barley, flageolets, sunchokes, and lemon oil.  It was good but I was expecting a bit more robust artichoke flavor.  (I think I expect too much of my favorite veggie).  I really enjoyed it, however, and I’m glad I ordered this dish.

Overall, for a random restaurant in the middle of an unknown city, I thought we found a gem.  None of the desserts sounded especially appealing (which was surprising for a wine place… I always expect those 2 to go together) so we skipped.  What we ordered, however, was especially fresh and very tasty.  We enjoyed this first meal at First Crush very much.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Hopping Across the Street

7 Dec

One of the first things Mike and I noticed about our new building was the little Italian restaurant on the block. Carbone Ristorante is in the middle of the Garment District on a side street, so I can’t imagine they get a great amount of foot traffic, however, I was happy to see a new place to try that was so convenient!

I went with the Homemade Fettuccine with Artichokes, Smoked Ham, and Cherry Tomatoes. It was good, but nothing great. The artichokes tasted very dull, though the smoked ham was tasty.

Mike went with the special of homemade pappardelle with rabbit ragu. I would say the same went for this dish. Good but nothing great.

Overall, the only real victory Carbone has is that they’re close. It wasn’t great and the prices were average to a little higher than average for NYC fine Italian. We took a peak at the dessert menu and nothing really called to us… so we got Ben & Jerry’s ice cream pops on the way home.

Total Nom Points: 5 out of 10

My first attempt at Osso Buco

13 Nov

I have an affinity for Osso Buco that goes beyond normal.  I try not to think about it too much, as the extra layer under my chin doesn’t need any more fatty goodness and marrow, however, when FreshDirect had it on sale, I couldn’t resist.  I really wasn’t sure how to make it, so I found a recipe with a picture that reminded me of the ones I have preferred (most notably at Montenapo and Becco, as well as the lamb one at Charles).

The recipe wound up being very simple and basic, actually.  The only thing it really requires is time.  2.5 hours of braising made it clearly a Sunday meal.




I paired it with a quick prepare, microwavable side from Fresh Direct (“Sides in a Snap” Mascarpone and Mushroom Risotto with Chives) and a steamed artichoke dipped in Roasted Garlic Butter. Adding roasted garlic to butter for dipping is my new favorite way to eat artichokes.  There are few things I find more easily delightful to make than roasted garlic.


The final meal was a great combination, and the Osso Buco was good, but it just wasn’t great.  I guess I really shouldn’t compare my first attempt with restaurants that are known for making it great… but I still wanted more.  It was perfectly tender but the meat itself just didn’t have the same flavor.  I’m not sure if this was the fault of the cut or my preparation.  But I will try again and work to improve it to ❤ caliber.

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RECIPE
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Osso Buco

Ingredients:

  • ·      1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • ·      2 teaspoons salt
  • ·      1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ·      2 pounds veal shank
  • ·      3 tablespoons butter
  • ·      3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ·      1 cup chopped onion
  • ·      1 cup thinly sliced carrots
  • ·      1/2 cup chopped celery (I omitted due to hatred)
  • ·      2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ·      1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • ·      1 cup water
  • ·      1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ·      1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ·      3 sprigs fresh parsley (I used dried. Seemed fine)
  • ·      1 bay leaf

Directions:

1.         In a shallow dish, stir together flour, salt, and black pepper. Dredge meat in seasoned flour. In a large skillet, melt butter with oil over medium heat. Brown meat. Remove meat from pan, and set aside.

2.         Add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic to drippings in pan. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes.

3.         Stir in tomato sauce, water, basil, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. Return meat to pan. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer. Cover, and cook for 2 1/2 hours.

Nizza Pizza

9 Nov

Continuing our round-up of restaurants within 10 blocks of our old or new apartments while all our kitchen stuff was packed, we wanted to try Five Napkin Burger.  We were going to meet friends for drinks at 9pm, so when we saw a huge line of waiting patrons for Five Napkin, we decided to walk back down 9th Ave and Stumble Upon something.  Nizza was on the same block (9th between 44th and 45th) so we decided to try it.

They had a wine on special and offered me a sample.  I went for it and REALLY liked it.  So much so that I asked the waitress to write it down.  It wasn’t until I was in a wine store a bit later that I realized she only wrote down the type of wine and not the brand (duh).  So all I know was that it was a 2005 Valpolicella Superiore from Veneto, Italy.  We tried another one of this type and it was good, but not as good.  Oh well.  Mike got a Negroni (made with Campari, Gin, and Vermouth). It wasn’t my cup of tea, but Mike seemed to think it was okay.

The bread was warm and came with what seemed like a blue cheese spread/butter of some kind.  It was quite tasty.

They had Braised Artichoke Hearts on the menu.  If you know me, you know I had to order it. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t great.  The heart had some flavor, but overall it was a bland artichoke that the extras added little to.  I am a very harsh artichoke critic, however.

Mike got the spaghetti with sausage and meatballs.  He cleaned his plate before I even got halfway through my entree, so it must have been good!  I think he had some ordering envy again, however, as he drooled a bit when mine came out.

I ordered the Carciofo Pizza that came with tomato, roasted artichokes, goat cheese, parmesan & ligurian olives.  It was delicious!  Perfectly crispy and flavorful crust with great toppings.  Again, the roasted artichokes were pretty bland, but the rest of the flavors were great.  I even was full enough on three pieces to offer my last to Mike, who happily accepted.

Overall, Nizza is a good selection in the over-crowded area of Hell’s Kitchen.  We enjoyed our meal but it wasn’t anything amazing.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

Plummy Pork

25 Aug

When I was at the Union Square Market with Mike, I saw mini plums and couldn’t resist. I used to get them at the Farmer’s Market in Ithaca, and they were some of the best fruit I had ever had. These were good, but not that good.

When trying to determine what to make for dinner on Sunday, Mike suggested making a plum sauce. A quick google later, and we found a recipe that sounded very good without the use of fats. We supplemented the mini plums with pluots (half plums, half apricots) to make for enough substance in the sauce. The recipe was a bit hard to figure out, however, we took some liberties and the recipe turned out incredibly well. The pork was tender and the plum sauce was tart and sweet and tasted incredible. It was quite pretty in color and when you cut it open, and the wine it was cooked in really brought out a great flavor in the fruit. I’d put it in the top five of the recipes we’ve made.  And I think it was pretty healthy!

I actually didn’t have cooking string to tie up the pork to wrap it, however, I did have some wire. I was concerned that the wire would do something funny, so we made a backup version of just the pounded pork with the fruit on top. The wrapped pork in wire wound up working, and the flattened ones were a bit drier, so I recommend the wrapping.

We paired the pork with brown basmati rice mixed simply with mushrooms as well as artichokes we bought for the sole purpose of using the artichoke cookers I got for my birthday from my friend and old college roommate, Kim (she also got me my very own NYC Nom Nom apron, that is adorable and awesome). They are very smart with a stand that allows the artichokes to steam upright. Unfortunately the artichokes we got were too big and didn’t have the flavor that they should have. The stems were also too woody. I look forward to trying the cookers again with regular artichokes.

Artichokes steaming:

Cooking down the plum sauce that goes on top:

Cooking the cherries in the wine (apples were added later):

Browning the wrapped pork in shallots:

Putting the pounded flat pork in the dish with fruit on top:

Browned rolled pork wrapped with wire:

A finished archie:

The finished plate:

Cut open rolled pork:

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Pork with Plum Sauce

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
  • ½ green apple, diced
  • 3 Tbl. sugar
  • Red wine (I’m sure good wine would be better, but we used “Four Buck Chuck” aka Charles Shaw, and it was still fabulous)
  • 8 ripe black plums (or red, or pluots, which is what we used)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • Pork chops, pounded thin
  • Shallots
  • High heat PAM

Directions:

  1. In saucepan, mix 1/3 cup of wine with 2-3 Tbl. of sugar until sweet to the taste. Add dried cherries and put over low heat. You don’t want to cook them, you just want to reconstitute them. Add apples to soften (I just let this cook on very low heat until I was ready for the next step)
  2. Cut the plums into a separate sauce pan. You don’t have to peel them. Recipe said to just cut chunks the size of your thumb off until you’re down to the pit. Add wine to a depth of about 1 inch. Add enough sugar that the wine is sweet to the taste (though not too sweet). Add salt and lemon juice. Cook over a medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the plums soften, about 40 minutes. Mixture should be thick like applesauce.
  3. Preheat oven to 325°
  4. In the meantime, place cooking string or wire under each thinly pounded pork chop so you will be able to roll and tie it up, about 1.5 to 2 inches apart (I used 3 per chop). Spoon the cherry/apple mixture into the pork and then roll up the sides and tie up. (You can also stuff a pork loin if you prefer)
  5. Brown shallots in a pan and then brown all sides of the pork (use tongs to rotate)
  6. Spray casserole dish with PAM high heat spray. Place pork in the baking dish. Cook at 325° until done, about 50 min. Set pork on platter to rest.
  7. Pour pan juices into the plum sauce and boil 1 minute (I guess I cooked too long since there were no juices and just some solidified stickiness on the bottom, but it still tasted great).
  8. Untie/cut/untwist wire/ties and either serve as a roll or slice the pork into 1/2 inch slices to reveal the center. Serve with plum sauce over the top.