When a bunch of Italians get together, it is bound to get saucy. So in friendly competitive spirit, we all challenged each other to a #sauceoff. We were judged by a group of close friends, who managed to stay unbiased. After enjoying several bottles of great Italian wine, we dished it up, but one dish was clearly #1. Grazie.
Our host, Team Paul Iacono, stirred the crowd with his Tagliatelle & Ragu Bolognese. Not a heavy meat sauce that you would expect in a bolognese, Paul’s was layered with flavor and very light. The winner!
The De Martes went all ‘Italian Job’ on their dish. James is an amazing chef and worked all day on his handmade Tortellini “tastasal” with Treviso, bacon ragù in a free-range chicken broth with parsley pesto and grana padano. The whole dish was perfection, the parsley pesto gave it a very fresh flavor. In second place – James is looking for a re-match!
Last but not least, #BillyisTheBest and I pulled out a classic we often make at home, Pasta Ceci. Seared chicken with onion, garlic, chick peas, arugula, parmesan and toasted bread crumbs. An Italian peasant dish inspired by my momma, Roro Bitetti.
Round TWO will be happening soon!
This was such a fun way to have a dinner party. Rachel DeMarte expertly created a charcuterie platter from Bari Foods, and we each prepared our dishes at home, then plated them up at go-time.
Layer in some wine (and grappa) – it was a fun night worth competing for.
Looking back on 2013 – it was a great year, but we all are looking forward to what 2014 has in store for us, and here is what I’d like to see more of.
1. WINE: On a recent trip to New Orleans, my boyfriend and I fell in love with Chablis at Restaurant R’evolution, and just can’t get enough. I also want to learn more about Italian wines, especially big Brunellos, with the help of Vino Italiano.
2. BAGUETTE: In Paris with my besties, hot dogs on the Champs-Élysées in a baguette are a must-have obsession. We are talking the thin ‘crunchy on the outside yet very soft and chewy on the inside’ kind. More delicious things need to be put in a baguette, so chefs please take note. Pastoral does a great job at stuffing baguettes with Jamon Serrano, BLTS and Spanish style tuna on their sandwich menu.
3. SEAFOOD: This Dungeness Crab with fava bean puree, bottarga and radishes is not only a beautiful presentation, but a delicious appetizer served with thin crackers at Nico Osteria. Bacon and pork belly will always be in my heart, but lighter seafood extravaganzas are welcome. You’re welcome.
4. FANCY: Caviar, yes please. And shaved truffles, please don’t stop. These crème fraîche and caviar numbers were served at the Brioni opening. Class. All the way.
5. ESCAROLE: Can it be the new kale? This salad at Pizza House 1647 is perfectly light yet robust with flavors with the addition of roasted string beans, grape tomatoes, garbanzo beans, a wedge of asiago, fennel and scallions. Chickory and Dandelion Greens are also on my list. If you have any leads let me know.
6. ARTICHOKES: This is the one vegetable where I can never get enough. Steam them, grill them, stuff them. Just get out of my way when they are done. La Madia grills them with garlic and a creamy mustard sauce.
Every year for Thanksgiving we are lucky to be included in a huge celebration with friends at “The Richmond”. My mom and I always prepare a huge antipasto platter, one of my family’s signature dishes for the holiday season. But we always like to add a few new twists. This year, in addition to the array of sliced Italian meats and cheeses, we made Zucchini & Squash Pickles. The recipe was one that my mom’s friend sourced from an issue of Southern Living. It was a quick pickle recipe that we made two weeks in advance. They were not only sweet & sour, crispy & crunchy – but they also looked beautiful in the mason jars we stored them in, as well as on the platter.
Hope you all had an amazing holiday with family and friends! Now, let’s get ready for Christmas …
Meals On Wheels Chicago’sCelebrity Chef Ball celebrated its 25th Anniversary this year – and it was such a night to remember. Meals on Wheels Chicago provides funding to programs that support home-bound senior citizens and people with disabilities, allowing them to continue to live independently in their own homes, with dignity and self-respect.
We started out with Artichoke-Ricotta Raviolis with Olives, Piquillo Peppers and Saffron from Chef Aaron Browning.
A signature dish from Chef Gresh at David Burke’s Primehouse – Surf & Turf dumplings: Lobster with Charred Lemon Chutney and Beef Shortrib with Spicy Mustard. He was even kind enough to pass around seconds of this crowd pleaser.
One of my all time favorite dishes, the 55-day Dry Aged Rib Eye from David Burke’s Primehouse, cooked to perfection.
And of course there were great photos and PIC (partners in crime) Kiki Luthrighausen and Lorin Adolph. Not to mention #billytisthebest scored us a great food trip to San Francisco from the silent auction, with an amazing dinner at SPQR and a signed book from Chef Matthew Accarino - we’ll be seeing you soon!
The event was also sponsored by William Grant & Sons, so the mixology team was really put to the test and created unique cocktails from the William Grant portfolio. Revae made this one in particular with Sailor Jerry. It was so good we had to have two.
One of my favorite blogs and publications is The Scout Guide Chicago. I crave the creative content and love spending time with my friend and publisher, the ever-stylish Meredith Wood-Prince.
She asked me to guest blog about my recent trip to Blackberry Farm, which was the trip of a lifetime, in every way imaginable. My boyfriend and I road-tripped to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and may have had the best travel experience ever. We loved everything about Blackberry Farm – from the service to the wine selections to the Saison made on premise. And I couldn’t eat enough Benton’s Country Ham or Bacon.
TheFoodarazzi guest post from The Scout Guide Chicago:
#FOODLOVE at Blackberry Farm
Guest blogger Amanda Puck of TheFoodarazzi.com gives Scout Guide the inside scoop on Blackberry Farm.
This past summer I was the luckiest girl in the world and had the best vacation in the heart of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee at Blackberry Farm. The farm is situated on an abundant 9,200 acres of spectacular scenery and offers some of the world’s finest wines and cuisine. Blackberry Farm was named “The Best Food Lover’s Hotel in America” by Bon Appetit and rated “#1 Resort” by Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards. After reading about it in Bon Appetit, my boyfriend and I were determined to make it there. The article had us hooked with the mention of their fried chicken to-go that could eat on the way back home when your vacation was sadly over!
The breathtaking views had me whipping out my phone to snap the scenery nearly every step we took. The sustainable farm produces their own vegetables, wild flower honey, farm-fresh eggs and artisan cheeses from East Friesian sheep. You can even fly-fish on the grounds. As a truffle fanatic, I immediately fell in love with the “Truffle Dogs” who were being trained to hunt for truffles they are planning to grow at a nearby orchard.
Blackberry Farm’s renowned “Foothills Cuisine” features both haute cuisine and foods indigenous to its Smoky Mountain heritage. Executive Chef of The Barn Joseph Lenn and his team were so inviting, which made for amazing and relaxing meals. The Barn was an exquisite space, truly magical, well designed, open and elegant. A few of my favorite dishes included a creamy chicken liver pate with farm fresh blueberries, their famous fried chicken and of course, every morning was no complete without Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Ham with poached egg and heirloom tomato. As much as I love food, I certainly love wine. Blackberry Farm’s impressive wine list and gorgeous wine cellar did not disappoint. So whether you’re a food lover or a wine connoisseur, Blackberry Farm is the perfect haven.
Thanks to Ashley Boll and Nicole Donnelly for the graphics and help with the piece!
It is something that can’t be helped if you are an Italian from Staten Island. Pizza is in your DNA. You are passionate about it, would profess it to be your last meal, and always crave just even one slice. On the Island, my favorite is Joe and Pats. Thankfully, my best friend lives just a few blocks away, so when I visit we get it delivered, pop-in for dinner, or may just run in for a snack.
When I found out the owner of Joe and Pats son, AJ Pappalardo, opened Rubirosa several years ago, it has been on my list to try it. Tucked away in Nolita, Rubirosa is charming, friendly and most of all, a delicious find. On a recent work trip, a colleague and I sat outside for 20 minutes, just to be sure we would get a table right at 11:30.
Our server suggested we do a half Supreme (tomato, mozzarella, pepperoni, mini meatball and roasted garlic) and half Vodka sauce with fresh mozzarella. We devoured it, but saved room for cannolis. My Nonna would have been proud. See you next time Rubirosa!
If you have heard the news – for sure you are excited about Chef Morimoto’s collaboration with local favorite Japonais, soon to be “Japonais by Morimoto,” opening later this year, after redesign to the space.
This video from our wine and spirits gurus at Tenzing Wine & Spirits really shows the excitement we are feeling for our hometown, especially when Chef Morimoto threw out the first pitch at the White Sox game a few weeks ago.
One weekend date night brought us to The Bristol, a true Chicago classic. You can always find your favorite dishes on the menu, and also have a chance to try Chef Pandel’s seasonal specials – and start off with a great cocktail. We could not turn down the Smoked Sicilian Manhattan – which is a rich and sexy cocktail crafted with bourbon, averna and regan’s orange no. 6. And the music is pretty good too.
I love this dish – one of my favorites of all time – chitarra with snail bolognese, soft herbs, and breadcrumbs. The pasta was perfectly cooked with great bite and the breadcrumbs give it the extra crunch.
Speaking of crunch the spaetzle in the Millers Farm Roasted Half Chicken makes me crazy it is so delicious. Chicken done really well is hard to come by – but this dish is obviously made with lots of love and attention.
In honor of Bastille Day, July 14th, we decided to put together a joint post to share our 14 Favorite Foodie Experiences within the city of light. Yes the French can sometimes be snotty, and their cheese stinky, but there is no culture which better elevates and celebrates the art of fine food. We’ve been to Paris nearly 20 times between us, and six times together, and no matter what we always leave wanting more – more haute dogs, more country pate, and of course more macarons. We tend to forgo the five stars for neighborhood spots with a mix of locals and tourists. And we always love a good cocktail. Some choices are established (you can’t argue with success) and others hidden gems (we like to do our research). Regardless, each is a place we return to again and again to experice that certain “je ne sais quoi” which defines this ancient city. Bon Appetit!
Our Top 14 Paris Foodie Experiences (ranked in no specific order):
Frenchie Bar à Vins (okay we lied – this is our top pick): nestled in the 2nd, directly across the street from the much lauded Frenchie, chef Gregory Marchand’s wine bar serves much the same menu in a less formal shared plate experience. From the well priced wine list, to his standout takes on french classics, this spot is not to be missed. Unlike the restaurant, they don’t take reservations, so get there early to score a prime spot. Read more about Frenchie Bar du Vin.
L’Avenue - make reservations for a weekday lunch, and pay way too much for a club sandwich at this “see and be seen spot” on avenue Montaigne. It’s really not about the food here, more about the social study of the Chanel clad ladies who lunch. Try and score a coveted cafe seat if weather permits. And be sure to order a side of the decadent whipped potatoes which are strangely perfect for dipping the chips which come with your sandwich.
Bar 30 at the Sofitel Faubourg San Honore - This is our favorite place to stay in Paris and much of our love for the hotel stems from this jewel box bar which is the perfect place to start or end your evening. The bar tenders take great pride in crafting creative cocktails with the very freshest ingredients – and be sure to say hello to our favorite mixologist Aurele.
Hot Dogs en Baguette from the green kiosk in the park across from the American Embassy at the beginning of the Champs Elysees at the Place de la Concorde. No visit to Paris is complete without one It’s a simple and brilliant process where they partially hollow out a baguette, stuff it with a hot dog, pile on the greyere and put it under a broiler until it is bubbly and toasty. Need we say more? And they pair perfectly with lots of mustard (dijon of course) and a stack Paprika Pringles.
Chez Georges - behind the Palais Royal, on the tiny side street Rue de Mail you will find a french bistro which harkens back to the 1920s. The cramped tables, the crusty old waitresses in starched uniforms, and the old zinc bar combine to create an authentic experience. But it is the food, all well executed french classics, which have kept this place bustling for generations.
Ladurée - we know they are now in NYC, and that there are a million small bakeries scattered around Paris which may lay claim to better macarons. But much of the joy of Ladurée is the experience. Go to the location on Rue Royale and wait in line on the carry-out side – it moves fast. You’ll be transported back to childhood while picking your pastry and grin from ear to ear while watching them wrap it up in an exquisite box. And while the macarons are fantastic – don’t miss the amazing elephant ears. They are perfection.
Au Bon Accueil - tucked away on a small street at the base of the Eiffel Tower is this small charmer. Formal, but not fussy, look for a creative take on the french standards you know and love. The servers are friendly and the crowd the right mix of locals and tourists. Plus the majestic view of the illuminated landmark on your way out the door provides the perfect end note to a decidedly Parisian evening.
A Sunday lunch of Roasted Chicken at Drouant - the elegant french dining room dates back to the 1880s. Noted Chef Antoine Westerman is now at the helm and his Roasted Chicken is not to be missed (available Sunday lunch only). The expertly roasted bird is served family style on a silver platter with lots of au jus and piles of crispy frites. It pairs perfectly with a nice cold bottle of Sancerre. We can’t imagine a more civilized way to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon.
Le Castiglione - This bustling cafe located along Rue Saint Honore is a perfect place to take a break from shopping and grab a light bite. It is also an easy spot to start your day with coffee and tartine. And like L’Avenue this spot is as much about the people watching as the food.
Au Moulin a Vent- This spot in the Latin Quarter is our go to for Chateaubriand. The old school charmer looks much as it did at inception in 1946 – replete with white table-clothes, red leather banquettes and aproned waiters. The menu is full of french staples like frog legs, escargot and haricot verts with crab, all made beautifully. But Au Moulin a Vent is is all about the bouffe, the corresponding sauces and the accompanying fried potatoes. Save room for dessert – both the Floating Island and Profiteroles are tops. Read more about Au Moulin a Vent.
Cantine at Merci - On the lower level of Merci, the uber hip concept store located in the Marias, you’ll find a hidden lunch spot. After perusing the store’s well edited assortment of home goods, apparel, and accessories, head downtairs for a light lunch in the bright modern space. Decidedly french, the menu is limited to wonderfully creative cold salads, soup and a few plats de jour. Add in a glass or two of Rosé, an espresso and and a few slices of baguette, and you’re all set for a tres Parisian lunch experience.
Aux Lyonnais - Alain Ducasse is now at the helm of the historic bistro dating back to 1890. He has returned the room to it’s early 20th century elegance with lots of Art Nouveau and Art Deco stylings. Like it’s name, the food owes it’s influence to Lyon. We especially enjoy the charcuterie, poached eggs with crayfish and the cassoulet. The baked to order soufflés are a wonderful grace-note to an elegant evening.
Le Defender - this cosy bar tucked inside the Hotel du Louvre is a true hidden gem. Dark and sexy, it is the perfect spot to grab a drink before dinner or to enjoy a night cap. Ice cold martini’s, and a wide array of champagne by the glass, set the tone to sit back and tuck in to this serene spot.
Café Ruc - while we are all about french classics, we also love a good burger. The one at Cafe Ruc is a stand-out – with a gooey melted cheese topper. Part of the overtly hip Costes Group, this corner cafe is packed with art and fashion types. Take a break from sight seeing at the nearby Louvre and Palais Royal for a leisurely lunch in the chic dining room or at the sidewalk cafe.
There you have it. But before we sign off, a few more pieces of advice. Make dinner reservations before you arrive (and lunch reservations at nicer spots like L’Avenue and Drouant). The french don’t understand the concept of walk-ins and popular places are booked weeks in advance. Email your hotel concierge five or six weeks before you go for help making these arragements. Hailing a taxi in Paris is an impossibility and finding a cab stand can be confusing. So ask your waiter to call a taxi as you finish dessert. Finally, although almost all of these spots have an English menu, and an English speaking wait staff, a few words in French will go a long way to build goodwill and assure you are well taken care of.
Hopefully by now we are all getting ready for our Fourth of July BBQs! Our friends from LeaderBar gave us some #burgerlove and topping tips, so any spread can look like it’s done by an expert grill master.
The El Diablo is the spiciest burger on the planet. If you like HOT – this summer add some spicy pepper jack cheese, habanero relish, jalapeño, grilled onions and sriracha mayo to your burger. On the menu – this comes with a WARNING.
Baked goat cheese in marinara, served with crostini. A crowd pleaser. I might make this for a party I am going to tomorrow.