Monthly Archives: December 2013
I wanted to return and sample more of Chef Justin Smillie’s fare. A friend and I share the same birthday, so we decided to go for dinner and were happy we did. We received the royal treatment.
Following recommendations from New York Times, Foursquare, Immaculate Infatuation, and my own experience the prior year, I was completely thrilled with the dishes I ordered as were my friends. So were our neighbors at the table sitting next to us. Repeat diners they were ecstatic with their “to die for” Porchetta Alla Romana. The previous couples had scarfed down the “Spit-roasted Short Ribs” and left an large empty plate of the remains of the dish which was the main rib bone. Hmm. I was encouraged.
The decor is rustic and the atmosphere is relaxed. We sat in a section that was family style, conducive to speaking to your neighbor which is fun because I am nosy. I like viewing what others have ordered and if the group is friendly I will ask about their enjoyment of their various dishes. This homely, family style approach is what I think is the beauty of this restaurant which guys really love because it is not self-aggrandizing, nor pretentious. Indeed, it is an informal wine bar and restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In answer to those “foodies” (?) outraged that the New York Times gave it three stars because they thought it was like a sandwich shop (see the reference in Immaculate Infatuation), I would say that perhaps they are less flexible and more into their own pretension and conceptualization of “branding” than gorgeous tasting food. The idea of a market section up front where one can buy some of “the best salumi della casa in NYC, gelato, and other home made products beggars their idea of “three stars.” Well, I’ve gone to Michelin starred restaurants and the food was neither deliciously prepared nor were the elements combined well. So, it’s all in the perception and it brings to mind that with regard to restaurants, sometimes, the emperor is naked (The Emperor’s New Clothes) but no one wants to say it.
Back to our meal. First, came the basket of bread. If you adore crusty, substantial and sumptuous bread, Kamel Saci creates his bread’s magic from his own recipe and bakes it on the premises. Add Il Buco Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which is green, fresh and exceptional and you are home. My birthday buddy adores bread, so she was in heaven. If your taste doesn’t run to olive oil, and you’re a dairy fanatic, they will bring you delicious, fresh butter to spread on the fabulous bread.
We had appetizers and sides and then for some of us the Primi was the main meal and others, the Secondi.
Lattuga was just what I wanted: little gem lettuce, pickled onions, anchovies, tarragon, red radish. The combination of ingredients melded beautifully and seasoned with the unique taste of the tarragon. The lemon dressing was light and accentuated the freshness of the greens.
The Crispy Artichokes with lemon were wonderfully delicious. They were thin and curled by the char and dark browned to a perfect crunchiness. My friend who thought the gem lettuce was “romaine” which she hates, selected these as a veggie. There wasn’t a crumb left on her plate after we each had a little taste.
The Bucatini Cacio e Pepe is pasta setaro with fresh pecorino romano and black pepper. The pasta is all home made on the premises and was of course, perfectly al dente. My birthday buddy Andrea said it was really good, a compliment that one does not hear often dropped from her lips as she frequently orders pasta dishes and they are mostly, (silence), “OK,” or “good.” She is a pasta fan and gave Emily and Margaret a taste, but did not share the plate with Emily who was a bit disappointed as she loves pasta. But the pasta was Andrea’s main course. Do you blame her for not wanting to share it?
Polletto al Forno is poussin, roasted meyer lemon, capers and bread crumbs. Margaret thought this dish very good. Again, these are words I don’t normally hear, especially when they are said with the enthusiastic and emphatic pronouncement that Margaret made. Chef Smillie created the perfect combinations of ingredients and flavor textures and tastes with this dish. The beauty with all these dishes is that they are spot on, having achieved a regularity that is duplicated, without variation or unevenness.
The Slow-roasted or Spit-roasted Short Ribs are like that as well. These are the rave of city reviewers everywhere, whether for lunch in a sandwich or for dinner. OMG! I say amen to that. I do think they are amongst the best short ribs in the city and in a portion large enough to share with four. They were cooked to tender, flavorful moistness, complemented by the castelvetrano olives, celery, walnuts, horseradish and lemon which, squeezed on the meat, was a wonderful, unique addition. This is Chef Smillie’s creation of perfection. I had been waiting for a year and it was worth it. Absolutely marvelous.
To round out our luscious main courses we added Contorni.
The Crispy Polenta was amazing, crunchy with the salty, pungent taste of the parmesian on the outside and moist softness with milder notes of the corn/polenta on the inside. This was a delicious and wonderfully different way to morph polenta which I have found tiresome when it is served the usual way under the short ribs or meat. Same, same, enough already.
Carrots salsa verde. These had an incredible and luscious char which combined with their sweetness and hinted of other seasonings. They too offered a taste that was exceptional and interesting. The carrot plate was empty by the end of the meal and the pieces of polenta that were left, Margaret took home for her husband. They were devoured that evening.
Fingerling Potatoes valdeon we didn’t try. I wish we noted them because if they were anything like their brother contorni, they were probably wonderful and unique also.
Our shared dessert was home made seasonal Fruit Crostata and Vanilla Gelato, and Flourless Chocolate Cake and Gelato. Yum. The espresso and cappuccinos rounded off the dinner.
Il Buco Alimentari et Vineria is a NYC treasure. (See menu which is seasonal and changes.) And the beauty is you can go for breakfast, lunch or dinner. In fact the breakfast sandwich with 2 organic eggs, salame rosa, rupert cheese and focaccia fino is an incredible value. You will probably want to order a few Brioches for take away, since they go beyond originality in the flavor palette with the following varieties: “White Chocolate,” Chocolate Cherry, and Pistachio and Apricot Brioches. And then there are the Bombolone plain or filled with jam or dulce de leche. I don’t think it gets much better than this.
December is a great month to celebrate wines from the Veneto region of Italy. December we celebrate the holidays, Christmas and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. It is a time when we enjoy great food with family and friends and are looking for exceptional wines to pair with fish or are looking for sparkling wines to ring in the New Year without the gross hangoveR the next day.
I tasted some exceptional wines during a luncheon at Eataly’s La Scuola Grande. There the chef using Lidia’s, Mario Batali’s and Eataly’s recipes made delicious cuisine that paired seamlessly with the drinkable wines from the Veneto that were featured:
MONTELVINI Tullia Prosecco di Treviso Brut DOC, NV
CESARI Mara Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso DOC, 2011 (a red wine)
The Veneto is the primary region for wine production in Italy. The variety of wines produced there is surprising. The Veneto produces whites and reds, sparkling wines to meditation wines. There are also niche-labels from small producers that are in demand and luxurious. Veneto wines are in demand globally. The region expots 75% of its DOC wines. The wines featured were so drinkable that I would enjoy them with appetizers, with cheese and with the full range and complement of meats including chicken and other fowl and certainly fish. They go down smoothly and are a great value. For NEW YEAR’S EVE, a Prosecco is such a tremendous value over champagne. My cousin recommended it for years and knowing little about great wines, I was a snob and drank champagne. Have you seen the prices of good champagne lately? Too rich for my blood. An expensive Prosecco is the greater value. A great and delicious wine, a great value. Why not?
Lidia Bastianich’s Fritto Misto (Mixed Fried Seafood & Vegetables)
As Lidia suggests, “The point of a fritto misto is to enjoy the flavors and textures of a variety of fish. You can vary the roster of fish according to what is fresh in the market and increase of decrease the amount according to the number of guests you’re cooking for.” Also, the vegetables are now in season and can be swapped out for other vegetables that are fresh and in season. The Fritto Misto was delicious with the featured Proseccos.
Mario Batali’s Risotto al Radicchio
(Risotto with Radicchio & Red Wine)
You can find this in Simple Italian Food by Mario Batali, 1998.
Move the Passion! Sounds hot, yes? Well, I took in two venues during the Move the Passion Walking Tour of NYC on December 3rd. The tasting encompassed seven venues around Manhattan where one could sample the various wines offered and enjoy various appetizers which paired well with the wines.
If you enjoy the Veneto region of Italy, you know the province that takes in Venice, Verona, Padua, Treviso, etc., in the northwest corner of Italy on the Adriatic, you probably have tasted Soave and Prosecco that are produced in the Veneto. Because the climate and terroir are conducive to wine making and grape cultivation in that area going back to Roman times and before, the vintners know what they are doing and have perfected their skills to create some incredible wines which give great value.
I haven’t been to Italy in a few years and feel fortunate to be able to experience Italy around the city at wine tastings (#Vinataly and Slow Wine are presenting their mammoth tasting on on February 3rd at the Metropolitan Pavilion) at Eataly events which have featured wines from Umbria and the Veneto, and at special presentations like the “Pausa de Luce,” in upscale Italian retailers. Move the Passion was such a lovely event which I hope returns again next year because the city’s wine lovers are unstoppable once they are on notice there is an event.
Though I had other events to attend, I made sure to drop in to The Astor Center which featured some delicious Proseccos. I then dropped in to Risotteria Melotti for some interesting Soave. In both instances I had never tried these wines before and I have put down my markers to make sure to ask for them when I am looking for a pairing for fish or to have a Prosecco as a pre-appetizer wine and appetizer wine.
For years I have disagreed with my cousin who prefers Prosecco to champagne. Learning about Prosecco, becoming educated to its smooth, refreshing taste, understanding its quality and value, I have changed my mind. I now prefer it to champagne which has been over- hyped up for centuries because of the relationship of France to this country. In my estimation, the “fantasy” and the reality are very different. Champagne’s value, quality and taste doesn’t comparewith Prosecco. Prosecco is the best kept secret for sparkling wine lovers. Good! More for us and great value!
Of course, if you are a wine snob and are a CEO of a hedge fund or corporate, then you can drink Cristal 2005 ($274.00 a bottle on one website) like water and won’t know the difference. Go for it. I’ll throw in my lot with the 99% of the global wine lovers and leave the .001% to its palate. I do hope my estimation is wrong and the .001% also drinks Prosecco. If they don’t, they are missing a fabulous experience.
Here are some other delicious Proseccos I tried at the Astor Center. They are double processed, steel barrel aged, DOC and DOCG ensuring the highest quality and standards. The only Prosecco is an Italian Prosecco from Northern Italy. Don’t be fooled into drinking an Australian sparkling white which is NOT Prosecco. Check out my posts about this from last year’s article on #Vinatly…CLICK HERE.
The Soave white wines from the Veneto were equally delicious and surprising as I had not tried these vintners before and found them to be drinkable with a wide range of foods and cuisines, for dinner or as an aperitif. A number I tried (I wish I had more time…it was at closing) were lighter and refined for easy enjoyment. The Soave tasting was held at Risotteria Melotti in the Village.
This Soave (pictured above) was featured in the window next to the Soave Consortium sign in the above picture at the beginning of the article. There are 4 types of Soave: 1) Soave DOC 2)Soave Classico DOC, 3) Soave Superiore DOCG and 4)Reciotodi Soave DOCG. Soave is mainly composed of two grapesGarganega (70-100%) and Trebbiano de Soave. The wines are fermented in stainless steel, which brings out the lively acidity and fresh fruit notes.
The Soave producers featured at the tasting at Risotteria Melotti were
The pictures of the Soave white wines were taken at Risotteria Melotti, a wonderful restaurant in the Village whose menu you should check out because it is gluten-free and serves delicious risotto that IS ORGANIC AND IMPORTED. HELLO FOLKS! (Check out the duck risotto and great salads on the menu and gluten-free desserts)
DECEMBER IS THE MONTH FOR VENETO WINES. THERE WILL BE TASTINGS AND EVENTS AROUND THE CITY. EATALY WILL BE OFFERING TASTINGS ON FRIDAYS AFTER 6:00 PM DURING THE MONTH OF DECEMBER. THERE ARE 32 PRODUCERS THAT ARE REPRESENTED AT EATALY IN THE WINE SHOP AND AT THEIR RESTAURANTS. SO TRY A GLASS AT ONE OF THE RESTAURANTS OR STOP OFF AT THE WINE STORE FOR A TASTING. CLICK HERE FOR EATALY’S WINE SHOP AND LOOK FOR THE VENETO TASTINGS ON FRIDAYS BETWEEN 6-8 PM.
If you love the best of Italian Prosecco DOC and DOCG, Soave and even delicious lesser known red and white wines from the Veneto, you will appreciate Move The Passion, which begins this evening in New York City.
Move the Passion is a wine tasting event where you will be able to walk or be driven around to various areas of New York City to sample and discover the best wines from the Veneto which is Italy’s top wine producing region. The U.Vi.Ve. is the consortium of the Veneto wine producers to ensure the highest standards of Veneto wines, including their quality and uniformity. They have organized for the entire month of December a celebration of their finest wines highlighted throughout the city with various events.
Move the Passion is such an event. It offers wine lovers the unique opportunity to discover amazing Italian wines at 7 wonderful wine locations in New York City. The walking Veneto Wine tour will take place on December 3rd from 6 to 10 pm and will take in the following venues:
Arclinea: 21 East 26th Street
Astor Center: 399 Lafayette St.
Giovanni Rana Restaurant: 75 9th Ave.
Maslow 6: 211 West Broadway
Revel Restaurant: 10 Little West 12th St.
Urbani Truffles: 10, West end Avenue (between 59th and 60th)
Risotteria Melotti: 309 E 5th St.
You will be tasting sumptuous wines and fabulous food to go with them including truffles, rice (risotto), home made pasta, panettone, cheese and more.
REGISTRATION IS MANDATORY TO ATTEND THE EVENT.
TO REGISTER: CLICK AND SCROLL TO REGISTRATION.
Was it Jack Kerouac who said, “There is wisdom in wine?” Go for it!