Italian

Italian Cooking Class

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This was a last minute booking as a Capri trip was cancelled due to weather, but sometimes things work out for the better.  We were staying in Amalfi so we had to take a bus but it was no issue as it was the last stop in Agerola and it was only a 10 minute walk to the farm from the bus stop. 

Once there we were greeted in a nonchalant way by Fernandido’s brother. No biggie, excitement ensued as we waited for the others in the class to show.  There was a total of eight of us in the class and we were shown how to make tiramisu, ravioli (ricotta and mozzarella filled) and fettuccine with a zucchini and garlic sauce.  Fernandino and his brother were patient and helpful teachers answering all questions in their best English.  They had a great dry sense of humor and I enjoyed the rest of the group I was with from Canada, Greece, Lebanon and the USA.  We all worked great as a team to create these pastas and dessert from scratch cheering each other on as we slowly made progress in each area.  The best thing about all of the work was beating able to  taste the fruits of our labor which was so amazing, I’m talking restaurant quality flavors.  Maybe the raviolis and tiramisu were not of picture perfect quality but flavor-wise...right there!

I think the thing I took most from this class was the minimal amount of ingredients that were used.  For the fettuccine we used four ingredients; olive oil, zucchini, salt and pasta.  Ok so to make the pasta we used egg, flour, water and pepper but the point is it’s not about how many ingredients, it’s about the quality of ingredients.  Same with the ravioli and tiramisu.  To reiterate this was a fun, fantastic and educational experience.  I would highly recommend anyone thinking about taking this class to do it.  And again, you get to eat the fruits of your labor and you get local wine too!

Luna d’agerola

Mamo

2017 is here and the craziness of the holidays have past.  I am looking forward to sharing more this year and am starting with the first restaurant I have visited this year, Mamo.  Mamo is in SoHo and is an off-shoot of the original in Antibes.  They bill them selves as  Italian hospitality and Provençal charm in NYC.  It is a perfect Italian spot for those looking for a respite from shopping or for someone looking to celebrate a special occasion (they serve lunch and dinner daily).  

Truffle Pizza

Truffle Pizza

As soon as I walked in the door I was greeted and led upstairs.  There is a beautiful bar (with beautiful staff to match) and a well laid out dining room.  Whitewashed exposed brick and ceiling beams add to the warmth and charm of the space.  The tables are a good size, not too close to each other and the chairs are super comfy; all following the white theme.

Rabbit stuffed with foie gras & spinach and gnocchi with a ragu

Rabbit stuffed with foie gras & spinach and gnocchi with a ragu

The menu is varied and something for all palates and restrictions.  The big draw and a transplant from the Antibes menu is the Focaccia al Tartufo (Truffle Pizza!)  Anyone that comes to Mamo has to get this.  It is a white pie with cheese and shavings of truffles, simple yet decadent.  

Their homemade gnocchi came with a meat ragu.  It is a stick to your ribs kind of dish and perfect for the cold night.  The gnnochi were like heavenly little pillows, so light ad they practically melted in my mouth.  The ragu was nicely balanced; meaty with a tiny bit of acidity.

To try something different I went with the leg of rabbit stuffed with bits of foie gras and spinach.  The leg was moist and the added flavor (fat) from the foie gras was nice.  This was a nicely executed dish but the least favorite of the ones I tried.

For dessert I went simple again with some warmed strawberries over vanilla ice cream.  Cream and berries; Perfect.  Finish with a cordial glass of Limoncello and your escape is complete.  

In summary, you have a warm space, congenial service and fantastic execution of simple dishes (which can be hard to do).  Keep Mamo in mind when you are in SoHo or looking for a great place to spend time with friends or family.

MAMO

 

Black and White Truffle Festival at Scarpetta

Tagliatelle

Tagliatelle

Truffles, some see them as mushrooms, some see them as food royalty, I see them as delicious and I had the opportunity to have one of the best meals ever at Scarpetta recently.

For those of you that are not familiar with truffles, these are not chocolate bon bons I am talking about.  Truffles are part of the mushroom family, a fungus, one of the many species of the genus Tuber.  These are highly sought after for their distinctive smell which in me triggers and immediate need to eat some.  Prices can vary depending on the availability of the different types (black, white, Burgundy, etc.)  A 4 pound White Truffle was auctioned this year for $330,000!  Typically the peak season for truffles is October through the beginning of December, which leads me to this phenomenal meal at Scarpetta.

Gimmie Some Truffles!

Gimmie Some Truffles!

First, I love Scarpetta for it's food in general, understated yet elegant look, and their Negroni options.  Now add to all this the fact that we went for a truffle tasting and I knew this would be a great night.  Before I even start with the truffles I have to comment on the bread basket.  It contains very nice focaccias and comes with an olive oil citrus mix as well as a honeyed dollop of mascarpone and a small portion of caponata.  The true star is the Stromboli with broccoli rabe and salami.  This was so good, tasting like a pizza sandwich, I could literally eat this all day. 

Moving on with the tasting we started with a nice prosecco to pair with Diver Scallops served with crunchy chestnuts, black trumpet mushrooms, apples and celeriac.  This and a couple other dishes were presented with glass, igloo looking domes that presented the dish beautifully.  To finish the dish our server came over and shaved burgundy black truffles over the top with a flourish, "making it rain" with slivers of the valuable fungus.  The faint sweet taste of the sea from the scallops were balanced perfectly with the earthiness of the mushrooms.  This dish was followed by glass of Barbera d' Alba served with Mascarpone Cappellacci.  This is kind of like a ravioli but shaped more like a triangle.  They were small enough to eat each one whole and when bitten into it was like a truffle explosion in my mouth.  This was a good thing and though it was close, this was my favorite dish of the night.  These were also topped with freshly shaved Burgundy truffles.  

The next course was accompanied by a Pinot Nero, kind of like the Italian version of Pinot Noir.  This dish was Tagliatelle pasta with shaved White Truffles.  Perfect al dente pasta, a cream sauce, white truffles and a nice glass of wine; why can't I eat like this everyday?   The next course featured a seared Turbot with porcini mushrooms, parsnips and of course shaved black truffles.  This was served with a Terlaner which had a great fruitiness to it to pair perfectly with the fish.  The last course featured tender Wagyu Ribeye Cap with potatos, fonduta and a Parmesan foam.  This was topped with another flourish of White Truffles.  The wine paired with it was a Bunello di Montelcino to stand up to the fattiness of the beef.  After all that there was still dessert which included chocolate truffles and cheese, but by the time they came out I could barely eat another bite.

I have to thank the staff of Scarpetta and LDV Hospitality for one of the best meals of my life and they have reaffirmed why Scarpetta continues to be a great destination for dining in New York City.  On point service, beautiful and tasty food and a great location.

Wagyu Ribeye

Wagyu Ribeye

Turbot

Turbot

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The Marrow

Bone Marrow - Photo by Anastasia Vener

Bone Marrow - Photo by Anastasia Vener

Bone marrow is a magical, yet at the same time, frightful dish.  To serve, one must split a bone in half and roast the bones to cook the marrow, which is then scooped out and spread on toasted bread.  Voilà, Meat Butter.  The Marrow is Harald Dieterle's third restaurant following the success of his first two restaurants, Perilla and Kin Shop.  The Marrow's menu takes inspiration from Dieterle's parental roots, marrying food from his German father's family with his mother's Italian side.  This includes pastas and schnitzels on the same menu as well as the restaurant namesake Bone Marrow.

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My meal started with the Marrow cocktail, a beautiful and frothy aperitif served in a champagne flute.  Made with gin, lemon and sage, there was just enough citrus to get the taste buds awakened.  The first dish ordered was the Bone Marrow.  A beautufully roasted piece of half bone topped with dollops of uni, a scattering of celery greens and finished with off with a lemon aioli.  This was served with toasted rustic bread slices so you could scoop out the goodness and spread it on the toast to enjoy.  The sea urchin added a nice saltiness to the marrow and spread evenly with it.  Heaven on toast....

Fluke Crudo - photo by Anastasia Vener

Fluke Crudo - photo by Anastasia Vener

This was followed perfectly with a Fluke Crudo that sat in a spicy passionfruit broth.  This had both a nice citrus and spice to cut through the creamy and fatty marrow eaten just moments before.  The crudo was sliced perfectly and played well with the passionfruit broth.

 

For the Main course I wanted to try a more "German"dish so I ordered the Pan-Fried Duck Schnitzel and Buttermilk Fried Quail.   I have had many a schnitzel, but never one with duck.  This proved to be incredibly juicy with a perfect crunchy exterior and served with quark spaetzle, stewed wolfberries and a traditional cucumber-potato salad.  While the spaetzle really didn't do much for me, the wolfberries were a great addition pairing fantastically with the duck by adding a nice citrus and sweetness to the schnitzel.  I always love the traditional cucumber and potato salad and this stood up to the best of them.

Pan-Fried Duck Schnitzel - photo by Anastasia Vener

Pan-Fried Duck Schnitzel - photo by Anastasia Vener

The Fried Quail came with two quails fried to very nicely to give a crunchy crust while keeping the meat moist inside.  But the real star of this dish and what could be the side of the year, the Foie Gras Polenta.  Whoever came up with this was a mad, evil genius.  Smooth creamy polenta with lobes of decadent foie gras melted within. 

Fried Quail - photo by Anastasia Vener

Fried Quail - photo by Anastasia Vener

The space, which was French brasserie Paris Commune before still retains some of it's brasserie feel to it.  It is casual and comfy and the service is warm and friendly.  This is another great option in restaurant heavily populated West Village.

THE MARROW