Monthly Archives: August 2012

Molto Mario!

We’ve had a very busy, and fun, August. Lots of traveling, eating, and general frivolity; hence, my silence. Our most recent trip was to NYC. We rented an apartment in the Chelsea district on W30th and 9th for a week. If you don’t mind walking, which we don’t, it’s the perfect location to take in a Broadway show, great restaurants, a run along the Hudson, Chelsea Market, High Line Park, and much more.

One of our favorite places in Manhattan is Eataly (http://eatalyny.com). We had lunch here a few times during our visit. This Italian megastore, bursting with over 50,000 square feet of artisinal provisions, is located on the corner of 5th and W23rd in NYC.  All thanks for this wonder of mankind should be directed to the red-headed-whirling-dervish Mario Batali, his brainy cohort Joe Bastianich, and Joe’s inexhaustible mother, Lidia Bastianich. I first visited this mecca of Italian cuisine only a few short months after it opened in 2010 and the lines were snaking around the corner of 5th. Thankfully, some of the hoopla has died down to a dull roar so you can now walk through the market without your elbows out in a defensive position.

One of the many beautiful things about this market is your ability to order a glass of outstanding Italian wine and consume it while perusing the vast array of specialty items. Genius, hah? A little wine on board and next thing you know, your shopping cart is full of delectable items.

A small sampling of the breads offered at the Eataly market.

Dry aged meat for purchase.

The mozzarella show. Better than some Broadway plays!

I took way too many photos (as I always do) to include them all here. That being said, I can’t resist adding a few photos from one our lunches. Le Cucine di Eataly is one of the many eateries inside this magical place and they have a brick fired oven. Their pizza ingredients are the absolute freshest you can find. Every bite is nirvana.

Pizza Emiliana. Prosciutto Crudo di Parma aged 18 mos., shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, arugula, basil, and a touch of tomato sauce. I paired it with a glass of 2008 Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. Yum!

Pizza Fru Fru. Ricotta cheese and ham, mozzarella and tomato sauce, Parma Ham, arugula, and shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

We’ve had the good fortune of eating at several of Batali’s restaurants in the past. Del Posto in the Meatpacking District being the most notable, for me. I decided months ago that we must make a trip to Babbo while in NYC. After Po (Batali’s first house), Babbo was the second restaurant he opened; however, he didn’t go solo on this venture, but instead, he partnered with his future sidekick Joe Bastianich.

Naturally we went with the pasta tasting menu. Roger and I requested our menu with pairings and Babbo’s sommelier is a genius. Each pairing complimented each dish perfectly. We just had our socks knocked off!

The black (squid ink) tagliatelle was bathed in a creamy butter sauce and the charred corn in the dish cut through the richness brilliantly. I could go on and on about each dish, but I won’t bore you with that. Instead I’ll post some pics of the dishes and you’ll just have to make your own journey to Babbo.

“Casunzei” with Poppy Seeds

Goat Cheese Tortelloni

Agnolotti al Pomodoro.

Pappardelle Bolognese.

Summer Cherries “in Mandorle”

Bittersweet Chocolate “Sotto Una Nuvola”

Olive Oil Rosemary Cake with Olive Oil Gelato

Sure we engaged in a Batali love fest; however, we did eat outside Batali’s gravitational pull at a once-in-a-lifetime eating establishment called “Atera.” I read about this place in the New Yorker a few months ago and it sounded VERY intriguing. Luckily, I was able to secure reservations for the week we were in NY. Atera is an 18 seat tasting menu only restaurant. You are catered to like no other. There is a bar that surrounds the kitchen working area so it’s as if you’re taking in a show. Much is on display and the food is very exotic. Monica’s our most adventurous eater so we naturally brought her along. Some of the more “intriguing” menu items were: seared duck heart, barbecued veal sweetbreads, foie gras peanuts, pickled quail eggs, pig’s blood crackers, and, of course, roe. Surprisingly, Monica ate every bite. She was the only teenager in the joint and people were impressed, as were we. It was an experience….I’m already looking forward to our next NYC escapade. As David Letterman says, “New York, the greatest city in the world!”

Monica at Atera. Ready for the show to unfold!

We’re hosting another Italian student this school year and we’ll be picking her up at LAX tomorrow morning; she’s from Udine, which is in northeastern Italy between the Adriatic Sea and the Alps.  I can’t wait to hear about the food of her region!

Eat well!

April

Open Fire Pork Loin

Roger was planning on being out of town last weekend, so I decided to take the kids tent camping. After an exhaustive online search of campgrounds, I was able to procure an awesome site in the Sequoia National Forest. We had a woodsy stream-side site that couldn’t have been more perfect…unless, of course, it had a flushing toilet, running water, and a shower.

The first morning, before the kids had crawled out of their tents, I set up the camping stove and began frying up some bacon. If anything can rouse a bunch of sleepy teenagers, it’s definitely the mouthwatering aroma of cooking bacon. About 10 minutes after adding the second batch of bacon to my pan, a small fire erupted to the left of the burner. Before I could investigate the origin of the flames, I had a major conflagration on my hands. At this point, Greg had emerged from his tent and saw that I was dealing with a significant situation. Thankfully, he reacted quickly and unscrewed the mini-propane tank before it spread down the line and detonated. (Thank you, Boy Scouts!) Needless to say, I was shaking like a leaf. We determined that the insulation around the hose had pretty much broken down (it’s a very old stove) and it was resting on a piece of the stove that was becoming intensely hot.

The good news was that the bacon was pretty much cooked at this point. The bad news was that my plan of cooking the pork loin I had brought with us was now out the window. My only source of heat for cooking was now the fire pit in the middle of the site. I’ve cooked over an open fire before, but it’s only been braising with a Dutch oven. The pork loin needed to be seared, etc. before braising and I had only brought my extra large sauté pan, without its cover. As anyone who’s been primitive camping knows, being out in the wilderness will bring out the MacGyver in all of us (or MacGruber in my case). After we cleaned up the breakfast mess, and I had stopped trembling, we set out for a 12 mile hike. This gave me plenty of time to come up with an alternate plan of action.

Let’s start with the ingredients of the recipe:

  • 1 open fire
  • 1 large sauté pan
  • 5 tomatillos, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1.5 lb pork loin
  • 1 13 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • Juice from one lime for deglazing your pan
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Espelette
  • 1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper

The first task was to remove any of the silver skin on the pork loin. If you don’t do this, the membrane will constrict and the meat will be tough. As you can see, I performed this action on aluminum foil so I didn’t contaminate the cutting board, etc. It’s tough to adequately clean surfaces out in the wilderness!

The next step was dicing my tomatillos, onion, and chopping my cilantro.

I put my pan over the fire and added the oil. As soon as I saw the oil was beginning to shimmer, I unwrapped my pork loin (I wrapped it in aluminum foil to keep the buggies off of it..there were bees and flies everywhere!), seasoned it with salt and pepper, and added it to the pan.

Once I had a nice caramelization on all sides of the loin, I deglazed the pan with the lemon juice and threw in the onion, tomatillos, cilantro, and let the onions cook until they were slightly translucent.

Then I added the rest of the ingredients and covered the pan tightly with aluminum foil.

The fire needed to be tended constantly, so I left that up to Greg and moved on to the pre-cooked brown rice I had brought with me. I had originally planned on warming this up on the camping stove in a small pan. Since this was no longer an option, I poured the rice into an aluminum foil pouch that I created and wrapped it tightly. I also wrapped a baguette of French bread and put them on the space next to the pan once I felt the pork was halfway done.

I always carry a digital meat thermometer in my knife roll and that’s how I determined when the pork was finished. I inserted the thermometer in the middle of the loin at a horizontal angle. I pulled the pan off the heat once the loin had an internal temperature of 140. As your meat rests, the temperature continues to rise to the perfect temp. you of 145-150. Any higher than this and your meat will be dry and tough.

After 10 minutes of rest, I cut the meat into medallions and covered them with the pan sauce. The medallions were served over brown rice and accompanied by butter smeared pieces of warm baguette. It turned out to be delicious!

Scout drooling dirt and waiting patiently for someone to drop some of their dinner. Of course, he was such a good camping/hiking dog we had to give him a few table scraps!

Eat well!

April