Today’s Gift Guide is for ‘The Cooks’ in your family and friend circle. This can be a particularly difficult category because it’s hard to know what kind of equipment they already have or if they have personal loyalties to a specific brand. One tip is to buy them an accessory to something you know they already have. Like a soda syrup, a Kitchen Aide attachment, or maybe a braising base for the Dutch Oven they got last year. Here are some of my thoughts on original ideas for the cooks in yourlife.
Okay, I know monthly food clubs sound a little corney but I gave my dad a wine of the month club gift for 3 years in a row and he lovedit! Also, one of my brother’s best gifts to me was a hot sauce of the month club! New on my radar this year is Murray’s Pair of the Month Club. Cheese paired with honey, chocolate, chutneys and more!
So this is a little gadget-ey but I think it serves a lot of purpose! The foodpod
is a little silicone steamer basket. The one I have is metal and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to maneuver pulling it up without burning myself! I can also see this foodpod jamming perfectly into my disorganized utensil drawer.
Lately, my family has been obsessed with smoking meat. We even smoked a turkey this Thanksgiving. I did some research and found the Nordic Ware Ovengot some great reviews and it can be used indoors and outdoors. Note of caution, just about every review who used it inside said your house will probably smell for a little bit…but who cares!!!
If you have some female cooks and bakers Anthropologie has a cute rolling pins and kitchen mits and towels
I also really like the vase they use for utensils. Maybe that utensil draw of mine could benefit from something like that!
And I couldn’t complete my guide without a little pasta for my little rolotini’s!! So when it comes to pasta making I’ve used my Kitchen Aide attachment and the Imperia tabletop one, both work really well. The Imperia can slide a little if your table isn’t even and only has like 3 settings. The Atlas pasta maker
has lots of different attachments for your basic pappardelle, spaghetti, even ravioli! But then goes really specific for noodles like reginette (like ribboned papardelle, translates to little queen, that’s my kinda noodle!).
And lastly one final gadget is this Spaghetti measurer. No matter how many times I make spaghetti for myself, I could still use a little guide in portioning out one of my favorite food groups!
Thanks to some great recommendations from my culinary school friends I was able to take advantage of some fantastic food while visiting Boston. We took a break from a historical morning on the Freedom Trail to have some lunch at Carmen’s in the North Square. We walked in to a charming little dining room with a wine bar in the front overlooking the historic Italian streets with wine bottles lining the window sill. While reviewing the menu I noticed the waitress unveil a pasta dish a few tables down. Through the dim light I couldn’t quite make out what it was, but it looked like she cut into something to reveal the contents of the dish and steamy aroma of deliciousness. The historical landmarks of the morning quickly took a back seat as I was captivated by this culinary wonderment. The dish was a baked penne with little meatballs in a roasted tomato sauce with fresh mozzarella served in parchment paper or in the culinary world we call it – papillote. basically, the pasta if half-cooked and then placed in this little parchment paper pocket with all the other ingredients and finished off in the oven. The packed it served to the guest and then opened at the table by the server to make for a beautiful presentation as well as release the hearty aroma of the baked pasta and tomatoes. An aroma that I wish I could bottle up in a perfume bottle! Between the pasta and the wine I reached my culinary euphoria for the day and enjoyed the rest of the Trail rejuvenated. Word of caution: If you are thinking about going there for dinner be sure to make a reservation in advance. I managed to catch a glimpse of the waitress opening the reservation book and it was packed!!
You may remember last year when I did my cannoli (My Trip to Boston) taste test and promised the next time I returned to Boston I’d have the Lobster Tail. I never break a promise! As a New Yorker, I’m programmed to have a high tolerance for waiting on long lines for things. And this along with the cappucino was worth it!
I went back to Eataly last night with my cousin around 10:30. Prime time to go wander the aisles of merchandise. I was really able to spend some time with the products and read the signs above each category that explained the region and a little background about the ingredients.
And I met Mario Batali!!!! I couldn’t walk by without saying hello. He was sitting at a bar with 2 other people. I gauged the intensity of the conversation and felt confident about interrupting. I congratulated him, told him I was a culinary student rambled on about being Italian and also mentioned how I came in yesterday and felt overwhelmed but today was a prefect time to browse. In the middle of my rambling he commented on how blue my eyes were, I smiled thanked him and awkwardly continued talking. At least I’ll have a frame of reference for the next time I barge in on his conversations. The culinary student with the blue eyes.
I picked up a nice variety of items to try this weekend:
Crema Nocciole- A hazelnut spread
Moreno Cedroni Plum and Ginger Jam – the sign said: Moreno Cedroni is one of the most famous gourmands in Italy, two-starred Michelin Chef, and has produced these sauces and compotes.
Omelette aromatic spices from organic farming. The brand name is Valverbe. Spice mix includes some rare herbs I’ve never heard of: mallow, nettle, balsam and of course shallot, parsley, and thyme.
LavAzza Coffee – a brand I’ve seen all over Italy
And my favorite shaped pasta! The sign said: Pasta shaped like Naples famous volcano, vesuvius, produced with specially selected drum wheat semolina that is appreciated for its low levels of mineral impurities derived from milling. The pasta is shaped with bronze dyes to give its surface a roughness that allows the sauce to perfectly coat the pasta, and goes exceptionally well with sausage sauce, which I’ve used it for. Actually a Mario Batali recipe!
For about a year now, I have been stalking the opening of Mario Batali and company’s Eataly. A mecca for a little Italian girl living in Chelsea. After writing a very thoughtful cover letter and sending my resume I received a call for an interview! I diligently did my homework on all the Eataly’s across Italy and stepped into the wine cellar of Del Posto for my interview. Armed with all the right answers the man who interviewed me was very interested in my background, but my majestic visions of this Italian wonderland deflated like a balloon after he called it a grocery store on more than one occasion and the best place he thought to put me was at a customer service desk. The position I thought I was interviewing for was a sales job, and I figured I would be the cheese master, or the knowledge behind all olive oil or something like that. Alas, they offered me a job at the pasta bar for $10 an hour. I think at the time, what was holding be back the most was a complicated vision in my mind’s eye of what this place was going to be like. And of course the $10 an hour and abandoning CitiField before the season was over.
As usual the universe has it’s way of intervening into my life’s decisions. That very same day of my interview I was on the phone with one of my guests for the Brooklyn Cyclones and she mentioned the DDL Food Show a similar concept to Eatly, that crashed and burned in the 80s. We talked about the major carbon foot print the store will have and not to mention some of the bad press Batli has received about underpaying his staff. Personally from a marketing standpoint is there even a target audience for a place like this? The price points will have a major impact on how well it does. I can see it maybe doing well at lunch time in the cooler months when standing on line at the Shake Shack suddenly isn’t too appealing. From a neighborhood standpoint a couple blocks away the new Trader Joes just opened and in the other direction there is Whole Foods. And a lot of times for me, the little Garden of Eden is most convenient.
Time will tell, and I will definitely follow-up next week when I visit the store first-hand.
Until then here is an article from Eater with some pictures. The space looks nice and the thought of a vegetable butcher sounds fun!
I finally crossed ‘A Voce’ off my list of restaurants last night! Missy Robbins has been all over the foodie press these days, even on the cover of Food and Wine Magazine! I have been especially drawn to her as she is a graduate of the same culinary school as me! Dinner was obviously amazing but I was more excited to get the chance to meet Missy! I really didn’t think she would be in the restaurant but I caught her paying a visit to the table next to us. My heart beating out of my chest and Scott, my dining partner looking at me like I was a nut job, I asked the waiter if she could come by. With a slightly stained chef coat and blue jeans, the down-to-earth care-free chick was really friendly, modest and diplomatic about her favorite menu items.
What we ate:
cows milk ricotta, extra virgin olive oil, mint
almond shaped pasta, guinea hen sausage, morel mushrooms, pecorino
Goat Cheese and Proscutto Ravioli with pistachio nuts, and shaved leeks
Dorade in a lite chili sauce over a bed of escarole
And dessert!! Which we enjoyed outside with a glass of port wine on a comfortable lounge-style couch and the soundtrack of New York City’s Flatiron district.
gianduja mousse, chocolate cake, hazelnut brittle
If culinary school is teaching me anything it’s that cooking isn’t a culinary bible according to grandma. Chicken doesn’t have to be washed, butter won’t kill you and this article from Serious Eats tells me that pasta does NOT have to be cooked in a large pot. This is quite fitting as I was on the train this morning prepping from class tonight on starches.
The article pretty much debunks every myth about why pasta needs to be cooked in a large pot. And a little secret, I’ve definitely cooked pasta in a small crowded pot and I’m still here to tell the tale. The gods of Italian cookery didn’t strike me down with a wooden spoon.
Some interesting highlights:
- When adding the pasta to boiling water in a larger pot it will take longer to return to a boil due to the larger surface area. Thus making the pasta cook longer and ruining any chances of a nice al dente noodle. I’m always so anxious to eat that this is a good deal for me! I think aside from the digestive benefit of a dente noodles I think I’ve grown accustom to the texture because I can never wait long enough!
- Myths about the pasta sticking together in a small pot don’t really apply. You need to stir a few times in the beginning no matter what size pot you have.
- The water that remains from cooking pasta in a smaller pot is more starchy which is very helpful in binding the pasta to a sauce and can also be used as a thickening agent.
Keep in mind the author’s ‘final notes’ as this method doesn’t exactly apply to all.
Are we really in so much of a rush these days that we can’t sit down to a nice bowl of pasta?! Three French men, yes that’s right FRENCH have come up with the Chipotle of Pasta fast food. ‘Hello Pasta’ is set to open this summer at a few Manhattan locations. All I can picture is overcooked pasta sitting in salad-bar-like compartments with parts of the noddle breaking off, and then a ladle of mass-produced sauce dripping on top of it. Maybe they’ll come up with some unique mixing method like the guys at ‘Just Salad.’ Maybe they’ll prove me wrong. I mean, I’m sure there was some cultural upheaval when Anita Lo created Rickshaw Dumplings. But FRENCH?!?!
Here’s a link to the WSJ aritcle
I am a self-proclaimed Scott Conant groupie. After meeting him at the New York Wine and Food Festival and my three-minute personal greeting at Scarpetta I’m smitten. His success with Scarpetta has really rocked the NY dining scene and there are high expectations for his new place Faustina set to open this weekend. Eater NY has gotten their hands on a copy of the menu and I have to say I was taken off guard by it’s diversity. It seems he is adding a modern American infusion to his well established traditional Italian base. I find it interesting how he has hand-selected certain words to be written in Italian and some in English. From a grammar stand-point it doesn’t really sit well, but hey let’s be creative! Who says you can’t combine languages on a menu! It might also be a technique to make words like fish roe sound more appetizing. Also happy to see the breads have carried over as they are definitely a Scarpetta high-lite and point of differentiation. I like a man who is not afraid of carbohydrates!
I like how he has replaced a traditional ‘apetizer’ section with some small plates mimicking a tapas-like menu; olives, chutney’s, aged cheese and bread! Really excited for the La Tur- spiced pineapple chutney and the Parmigiano-Reggiano balsamico.
A raw bar is a nice touch but sadly I have been cursed with an allergy to shellfish so I cannot indulge. The Tuna avocado salad is a safe standby, and there has been much talk about the Olive-Oil Poached Sardines artichokes and preserved lemon.
The ‘hot’ section seems to have the most American influence. I really thought we were over Fried Chicken but I guess the porcini mushrooms are suppose to sex it up. Really interested in the Pork Belly (mostly because I LOVE grain mustard) and the Balsamic-Glazed Pork Spare Ribs with tomato chutney.
In the Pasta & Risotto section he’s splurged a little on the black Truffle. The Cannelloni sounds like it will end up being the simple staple similar to the spaghetti dish at Scarpetta. Burrata (a creamy mozzarella) appears twice on the menu, and seems right for a Cannelloni dish. I love how he has disguised sea urchins in the Tajarin dish by using the Italian translation, however, Conant describes this dish as ‘sex in a bowl’.
Another American influence is large plates of meat. Talk about the Veal ‘Porterhouse’ has been popping up on the blogosphere.
I love it when restaurants do side dishes. I’m the type of eater that likes a little of this and a little of that. And some sides on his menu sound amazing! Stewed Eggplant and pork shoulder, I might bypass cauliflower, capers bottarga but if you can handle fish roe that sounds good too!
Let’s see how long it takes to get a reservation!
Good luck Scott!
I spent a week in southwestern Italy visiting family and divulging in the fresh, homemade ingredients Italy is known for. Seeing family was definintly a religous and emotion experience. Eating the food was just as emotional!
Fresh, homemade pasta from our favorite hotel/restaurant, Albergo Miramonti. A few years ago we got to watch as the owners mother handrolled out each indiviual noodle.
Homemade salami meats from Uncle Giacamo, most commonly known as Sopressata
Tomoatoes on the vine at Aunt Pina's summer home in Paestum
Hot chile peppers in the garden
Me and Aunt Pina toasting to some homemade limoncello!
I had such a hard time finding good figs in the city this year. Thankfully I got some fresh from the trees!
Fig and Olive Trees
Baba Rum cake, a Napoleatano classic where the cake is saturated in rum!