Monthly Archives: December 2014

Bowery Meat Company – A Croatian Seafood Delight

Bowery Meat Company Bowery SteakJust dont call it a steakhouse.  The brainchildren behind this meat project, John McDonald, Josh Capon, and Paul DiBari dont like that, and for good reason really.  “Steakhouse” is stale, uncool, touristy and boring in today’s NYC.  You cant hep but get the feeling that traditional steakhouses not named Peter Luger still exist for tourists and older generation New Yorkers.  I cant recall the last time my friends said “hey how about bowling and steakhouse”.  But my father in law does ask on occasion, only to get that painful reminder again that he cant eat raw meat.  I predict that just like with the demise of Jewish Delis the steakhouse will eventually be replaced with places like Costata, Minetta Tavern and Bowery Meat Company.  These are full menu, modern steakhouses with each having its little niche (eg. crudo, pasta, burgers, oysters) in addition to great steak

Even Yelp is confused, giving BMC the cafeteria “Salad, Italian, Seafood” tag.  As in “Hey what do you want to eat today.  Sushi, Russian, or ‘Salad Italian Seafood'”.  I suppose BMC is more about “Salad, Italian, Seafood” than “Croatian” as the title suggests.  But only the savvies of the foodie travelers understand the role Croatians played in the evolution of Oyster fishing, and the invention of the Charbroiled Oyster by the legendary Drago’s in New Orleans.  The same Drago’s oyster was the influence behind the Charbroiled little ones at BMC, though I’m leaning toward the cheeseless version at Felix’s myself.  If there’s one complaint about this “I cant believe this is not a steakhouse” meat company is the excess of cheese and in some cases salt.  At some point it felt like one of those Borat “And what is this?  its cheese” episodes.  But yet, I would still put BMC on top of any steak seeker list today.  And there was absolutely nothing wrong about the soon to be famous Steak I highlight below.

Bowery Meat Company PolentaBowery Steak Meat has quite a few nice pluses, starting with the pre-meal freebies that you wont get anywhere else.  Rosemary Focaccia with what looked like small Finocchiona slices was gone before I could take a picture.  And to top that, some schweddy balls in the form of oxtail arancini were quite good.  They can easily charge for this stuff, but they dont.  Others should note.  Even free bread these days has been replaced by $6 fancy bagels with frozen “homemade butter”

Crispy Polenta –  Mushroom and Shaved Parmesan.  Nice starter.  Polenta not so crispy but thats a good thing as the texture was a perfect not too soft, not too hard.  Mushroom had a nice sweet tone and could have used some more earthiness or crunch.

Broiled Oysters – Garlic, Romano Cheese, Bread Crumbs, Parsley.  The great aforementioned Oysters inspired by Drago’s in New Orleans.  There are many folks out there like Mrs Z that will eat this over the raw stuff, so you gotta wonder.. what took you so long New Yorkers!

Short Rib Ravioli – Bacon, Rosemary Butter, Aged Balsamic.  Six large ravioli.  Nice meaty flavor and quite exceptional.  But covering these with cheese was a slight turnoff.  If I want my ravioli smothered with cheese I’d go to Staten Island.  I would order this again though.  Just hold the cheese.

Duck Lasagna for Two – Caciocavallo cheese, Parmesan.  As with anything “For two” in NYC means “For 4” or “for a small Armenian village”.  I would never order something for 2, for just 2.  But we were 4.  Like the ravioli this also had excellent meaty flavor, and no sauce that I recall.  Soft lasagna sheets, duck and cheese worked together nicely.Bowery Meat Company Chargrilled Oysters

Cheeseburger – Griddled Onion, Raclette, Tomato Aioli, Fries.  This is an almost great burger.  My suggestion:  Change it to Burger.  Lose the cheese!  Raclette is generally quite salty, and this beautiful 40 day aged chuck, brisket, and sirloin combination should not be messing around with.  The fries were so salty they were not edible.  Perhaps they were gearing up for Justin Bieber who visited with his girlfriend the next day.  My youngest still cant believe she went to BMC on the wrong day

Bowery Steak – Salsa Verde, Whipped Potato.  A Triumph!  The steak of the year, and one of the best I ever had.  As soon as I touched it I knew it will be good (so many jokes with this one, but I’ll leave it alone.  Its a family show).  There’s no name to this 8 ounce meat perfection.  The best part of the ribeye, the ribeye cap is flattened and spiral-rolled into these Hockey pucks by who else, Pat LaFrieda and cooked to perfection.  Here’s your Michelin star right there.

Bowery Meat Company
9 East 1st Street
Recommended Dishes: All of the above. But make sure to get the Bowery SteakBowery Meat Company Lasagna Bowery Meat Company Ravioli Bowery Meat Company steak Bowery Meat Company

Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Torrechiara Castle near Parma

Italy 2014 868Since this is a food blog, a fitting subtitle for this post can be Locanda Mariella part II.  Just in case anyone needed more convincing to schlep an hour south of Parma to the Apennine mountains.  This castle, perhaps a dairy producer (Ciaolatte) and the castle of Felino can be combined with lunch at Mariella for a nice day trip.  The area between the Po and the mountains surrounding Parma is in fact flooded with well preserved castles.  But none of them is as intact and as remarkable as Torrechiara.  The castle was built by Pier Maria Rossi, count of San Secondo, in the 15 century mainly for his mistress Bianca Pellegrini.  Ok, lets pause for a second to examine this further.  The count was married to Antonia Torelli, a noble woman, daughter of Count of Guastalla.  He had an affair with another woman which as I understand was quite common at the time, fine.  But building his mistress the greatest of all castles, and decorating each room with magnificent frescoes including that of her (Blue ceiling below)?.  The dude had power!  I had to ask permission to throw out the garbage this evening.

The castle is perched on a hill and offers sweeping valley views.  A hill whose height I overestimated a bit as I drove way past it until we found the castle again and coincidentally one of the best kodak moments ever in Italy (top shot).  It was all by design, I told Mrs Ziggy.  Once inside the castle the main draw is all the various theme frescoes decorating each room.  Some of the most important rooms are Camera d’Oro (golden chamber) the tribute to Bianca Pellegrini, and Salone dei Acrobati showcasing, you guessed it, naked acrobats.


Courtesy of wikipedia

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Categories: Emilia-Romagna, Italy | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Bar Bolonat – Shiksa Approved

Updating a not quite oldie but goodie…

Eating With Ziggy

Bar Bolonat - Malabi

December 26, 2014 Update:

Took yet another shiksa to Bar Bolonat the other day and had another fun meal.  Plenty of empty tables on a Friday night at 8 pm but by the time we left the place was packed.  Are we eating later now like in Europe?  I didn’t get the memo.  Einat Admony’s pink scooter wasnt there again, and I’m yet to meet this NYC legend.  Yes, to me her accomplishments here are inline with some of the famous chefs in NYC.  Although there were some misses on this particular night, there were plenty of hits, some of which I added to the recommended list below.

Sunchoke Latkes – Hannukah special.  Tasted much better than they looked (they looked like Latkes!).  Nice falafely flavor

Delicata Squash – Good.  Essentially a hefty meaty sweet squash lightly dressed with some Tahini and a few pieces of brittle adding more sweetness…

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Trattoria di Via Serra {Bologna}

Via Serra TortelloniIt pains me to post only 5 pictures in this one.  In a span of 10 days we had about 10 exceptional meals, including 5 meals that I can only describe as epic.  Each epic meal was like a story.  A story filled with interesting characters, intrigue, wine, passion, surprises, wrong turns, betrayal, tears, tears of joy and a lot of time.  An epic meal requires extra time, preferably on a Sunday, and preferably as far from the center as possible.  Bologna, arguably the greatest food city in Italy produced one of those on a little street behind the train station called Via Serra.

For the family sitting next to us, it was just another regular Sunday afternoon meal at one of their favorite neighborhood spots.  For us however, the only tourists in the house, it was anything but.  “Only tourists” unless you count our new friends from Turin who we stumbled upon again after meeting them the night before at All’Osteria Bottega, another Bologna gem.  As far as I’m concerned, friendships start when someone offers me food.  And as I reached for a scoop of the neighbors homemade Gnocchi with pumpkin cream sauce, much to the horror of the other family, I thought to myself, that could have been dish #6.  I had room, damn it. Trattoria di Via Serra Pate

Via Serra is as “Slow Food” as it gets.  The duo of Flavio and Tommaso have sort of a history together that reached peak levels with a successful spot down in the mountains, Osteria del Sole in Zocca.  Tommaso, like so many other Slow Food cooks (they don’t like to be called chefs I learned over the years), has no formal culinary training.  He was working in a dairy equipment manufacturer before he decided to change careers and showcase what he learned from dad.  In fact right after our lunch they closed for a week to visit their families and the various producers in their respected areas.  “Continued Education” as we call it in the states.  Tommy traveled to Campobasso to scout butchers for a traditional Sunday Molise ragu (liver sausage, cotechino, sausage, ribs and minced shoulder in a tomatoes sauce). We came on the wrong Sunday it seems, but very far from a bad one

During this trip we drank all sorts of great wine, some more memorable than others.  But none had the same affect as the house red here. Perhaps the best house red we ever had.  On the board it just says “Rosso Bologna”, a 60% Barbera, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon blend.  Flavio explained that its a local producer, completely organic called Maria Bortolotti.  The aromas that came out of this one are those that you smell when you go to sleep the same night.  Or is it just me and I should probably talk to a food/wine psychiatrist about that.  Robustness in a very good way (unlike the Barbaresco at the Commune in Neive).  Quite full bodied, nicely balanced with big tannins for a house wine.Trattoria di Via Serra Piada

Here you need to pay attention to the daily specials.  We started with a fantastic Pate di Fegatini.  Sweet, creamy, buttery goodness.  Pate freak Mrs Ziggy was in liver heaven.  Piada was a lot of fun.  Not quite as thin as a traditional Piadina and without much of the lard but quite delicious.  Its served with prosciutto and fresh soft Squacquerone cheese from the nearby Castel San Pietro.  A fun traditional snack normally associated with the Romagna towns to the east.

The Primis we picked from the regular menu.  Traditional Tagliatelle with ragu – it never ceases to amaze me how much flavor they exude from so little meat.  Six fat Tortelloni with butter and sage, of the explosive, sinfully good kind.  Outstanding Faraona arrosto, filled with stuffing made of bread, egg, cheese, and more Faraona.  Best Faraona (guinea fowl) of the trip, but also quite different.  Mrs Z is a little more fond of the Faraona overall, but I’m game! (Get it? I’m game!).  Coffee gelato and homemade Nocioni was the perfect finish to one of those meals.

Via Serra is on Via Serra, 5-10 minutes past the train station.  From the outside it looks like one of those hip London spots, because it was sort of was.  It used to belong to the hotel next door that opened a posh spot that didn’t quite fit the neighborhood very well.  Inside however, Via Serra couldn’t be more different than the previous tenant, starting with the philosophy.  Those guys pay zero attention to how your plate looks and around 100% to the ingredients that goes on it.  And Flavio in true Slow Food style will talk about those ingredients like new parents talk about their babies.  Except in this case you pay attention, and enjoy.

Trattoria di Via Serra Tagliatelle Trattoria di Via Serra Faraona

Categories: Emilia-Romagna, Italy | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best Tacos in Manhattan

Otto TacosA common misconception in NYC:  “There’s no good Mexican food here”.  “Skip tacos, concentrate on Pizza, bagels and hala”.  “For Mexican you got to go south then west”.  “Even the Mexican Soap Operas here suck”.  Somehow 350,000 tortilla challenged Mexicans opted for the Northeast, while the rest went to Texas or California.  Well, there’s no mistaken where the best Mexican food in the US is located, but that doesnt mean there are no decent options in NYC.  As with any cuisine you just need to a little bit of homework, thats all.  And in the past few years there appears to be a Mexican renaissance of sorts in NYC.  And if you think the soap operas are bad, think again.  Just like some of the taco joints I will highlight below, they are intense, colorful and will bring you to tears.  Here’s one example that will no doubt change your mind.  Now, lets get down to some of the best tacos the city has to offer…

Tehuitzingo –  I’ve already written plenty about this gem in Hell’s Kitchen.  For a while it was like one of those terrible soap operas (the other ones).  Did they close?  Oh no.  Oh wait, they not only reopened, but they multiplied.  Welcome baby Tehuitzingo on 9th and 41st.  6 pounds, 5 ounces.  Thats how much Lengua they sell every hour.  The original on 10th isnt the same bodega (deli) as it used to be, but the tacos are still the same no frills, no nonsense old tacos.  Its all about the great tasting meats with just the right amount of condiments.  Try the Al Pastor, beef tongue (Lengua), just beef, carnitas, or anything else you fancy.  I havent had a bad one yetTehuitzingo

Otto HorchataOtto’s Tacos – One of the new kids on the block, this LA expat is gathering a lot of attention lately.  Their Horchata makes every other Horchata I’ve had taste like 1% milk.  I tried all the tacos here except the chicken, and shrimp (top) is my clear favorite.  Coated with serrano cream sauce, with onions and cilantro, the Shrimp is perfectly seasoned and cooked just right.  The rest of the lineup is not too shabby either and that includes a mushroom tacos that both my vegetarian readers can appreciate

Empellon Taqueria and Empellon Al Pastor – The natural progression from the labs of Alinea and WD50 is obviously tacos.  Alex Stupak is perhaps the biggest player in this tacos revolution we are experiencing at the moment, with Emplellon Cucina, Empellon Taqueria, and now Empellon Al Pastor.  The latter is the cheap simpler tacos with the namesake Al Pastor, shaved off the spit Shawarma style, leading the pack.  Taqueria on the other hand is the fancy, polished taco option.  And if I would be drafting Tacos as part of a Fantasy Taco League, the beer braised pork tongue would most be my #1 pickEmpellon Al Pastor

Mission Cantina – The Mission District in San Francisco has some of the best Mexican food in the country.  Some in fact claim that this is where the Burrito was born.  So not surprisingly, James Beard winner Danny Bowien of the famed Mission Chinese Food in Mission can make a nasty Burrito, although its take-out only these days.  The wings here are great as well, and all these goodies will make you wonder about the low Yelp score.  Crafty shmancy tacos rule the right side of the menu, with Veggie tacos firmly in charge.  But one has to try the popular masa fish taco and the lamb belly while its still around.Mission Cantina Tacos

Los Tacos #1 – Where I come from, when you see a line, you stand on it, then you ask questions.  Same rule applies to Chelsea Market where three friends from Mexico and California are trying to introduce New Yorkers and tourists to Mexican street food.  Many claim that these are the best tacos in NYC, and who am I to argue.  Try any of them, doesnt matter.  As long as you try the Adobada.  Say it with me, A-D-O-B-A-D-A three times.  Good, you ready.  Now get out there and stand on line for those abodabasChelsea Market Los Tacos

Tacos Morelos – Another fairly new mom/pop/cousin joint in the suddenly taco heavy East Village.  The store and restaurant is on 9th and Avenue A where the slow roasted porky Cochinita Pibil reigns supreme.  But its the cart on 2nd and A, where the EV rockers get their fix after gigs at 2 am, and where my friend swears by the Al Pastor.  Almost 24 hours (they take a break around 4 am)  is 24 hours to me.

Tacos Morelos




Categories: Chelsea, East Village, Lower East Side, Midtown West, New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

24 Hours in Lake Orta

Italy 2014 035In this food filled itinerary, the lake I like to call Lago d’Orta was not part of it initially.  But guess what Mrs Z found out when she first Googled Piedmont and looked at the first images that came up.  Text conversation:

Mrs Z:  hey r we going to lake orta

Me:  Neh!

Mrz Z:  really?

Me:  Thanks for ruining the surprise.  Of course we r

As they say “Happy Wife, Happy Ziggy”

We enjoyed a full day after landing at MXP around 9 am with the lake only 45 minutes away.  Picking up the car from Hertz was a breeze, waiting for the GPS to find a signal was not.  How the Software Developer inner Ziggy did not think about restarting the unit is something only the Bill Gates gods can figure out.  Either way, Google maps to the rescue.  The car this time by the way was rather filthy.  And I dont mean in a cool slang sort of way.  We got a dirty car.  One of those Fiats that turns off at traffic lights and requires sweet talk to move up a hill.  But we made it in no time, and what we witnessed was something way better than what any of these images (and Google’s) capture

Italy 2014 001But there was another surprising aspect that contributed to this little one nighter even more than the lake itself.  Food!  As in the fairly new Agriturismo il Cucchiaio di Legno where we also spent the night.  The Agriturismo is not on the lake so no lake views, although the lake is a short 5 minute drive.  I imagined that once I pass by the lake side hotels of Orta San Giulio I would have hotel envy, but that did not materialize.  I was very happy with this choice and can not recommend it highly enough.  And if you are staying elsewhere and enjoy good food you should at the very least make it for dinner.  Sure you can have a nice meal at the 2 Michelim Villa Crespi or at Locanda di Orta which just got a star a few weeks ago, but for something more “homey” and casual it doesnt get much better than this Cucchiaio.

Italy 2014 144My type of menu here.  the absent kind.  You eat what they prepare that day, and boy did they prepare plenty.  We indulged in a fine plate of Salumi, delectable little salmon bites, and an only in Piedmont shocking Syrian soup.  Then came the “Welcome to Italy” green Risotto, and a homemade Fusilli with pork shoulder that served as another reminder that big flavors can come out from these unassuming simple dishes.  A juicier than juice hen with potatoes, and an even juicier veal cheek sealed the deal before we heard those magic words we’ve never heard in a restaurant before.  “Would you like some more”  A 10 course feast for a mere 25 Euros.  Considering how delicious everything was, it was like a bank robbery.  We reminisced about a meal in Coimbra, Portugal as perhaps the only one that beat this value.Italy 2014 149

They also provided a very nice picnic basket for us for lunch that we used on the picnic tables of the Sacred Mount of Orta overlooking the lake.  Just the two sandwiches in there worth the 10 € per person tag, but there was so much more.  The hotel room was very spacious and modern, with a loft in case we have guests (you never know) or Mrs Ziggy gets mad at me for packing only shoes with holes (like I’m supposed to inspect carefully before packing).  You also get a nice patio facing the back yard.  The whole place is so serene during the day you can hear a lung collapse.  I was surprised to see it run by 3 young girls, and the cook responsible for that wonderful feast, Luigi, is 28 years old.  There must be a law that all young chefs in the lakes region must be called Luigi (ie Luigi of Salice Blu in Bellagio) and when they reach puberty they need to change names.  Makes no sense if you ask me.

What else did we do besides eat and inspect shoes.  We Spent some time in the Sacred Mount.  Quite a stunning setting overlooking the lake, surrounded by it pretty much.  Its a series of chapels depicting the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, from chasing goats as a child, to chasing goats as an adult.  I like goats as well but in a different way.  He apparently loved animals according to my friend.  The place was nearly empty, and extremely quiet.  If someone plays Doodle Jump down in Orta San Giulio you would hear the doodling.  The lake views from here is what you mostly see on Google images.  There are picnic tables by the parking lot, and I cant imagine a better setting for a picnic.

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The town itself Orta San Giulio was so much more pleasant than I thought, that we didn’t feel like taking a boat to the island and instead just wandered all over town.  We spent more time than Mrs Z liked in one particular deli with a chatty French owner where we sampled some salami and over 25 year old balsamic vinegar before we bought “Rafi”, the little truffle we carried with us the rest of the trip.  Rafi was a good sport, vacuumed wrapped in rice and all.  Update: Rafi is dead.  Unless the guy made a switcheroo on us at the last minute, the truffle just did not have it by the time I used it a week later.  The much anticipated dinner with our truffle at home turned out to be a simple Linguini with butter.

In short, Lake Orta is another gem that most Americans never heard of.  And on this day at least I was happy that that was the case

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Categories: Italy, Piedmont | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Espoleta – Turkey Wishbone Produces More Tapas

015I panicked!  As I often do in situations like this.  Whenever the opportunity for a quick wish presents itself, I normally panic and wish for something that I already have or something that emotionally stable Middle Aged Americans should not be wishing.  So when I was given a crack at the Turkey wishbone a few weeks back, instead of wishing something more meaningful like good health for my family, a healthier college savings account, or an unlimited supply of Poo Pourri, I wished for Tapas.  I’m not even sure what it means, nor I recall what I was drinking.  I just panicked.

But the wish was granted when I was invited to the launch party of Espoleta, a new Spanish tapas and wine joint in NoHo.  Yes my friends, Mrs Z and I continue to move up the NY social scene at a furious pace.  Espoleta means Wishbone (ha!) in Spanish.  Former tenant Forcella means Wishbone in Italian.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Both sides of the Wishbone are held by Giuilio Adriani, pizza master of Forcella, now running the show at Espoleta.  But that’s not the only big name there.  Suenos fans can finally come out of their Tapa hibernation as Sue Torres is consulting here.  I was told she’ll be in the kitchen once or twice a week.

Chef de cuisine, Francis Peabody, the famous “American physician born November 24, 1881”. Wait that makes no sense, googling some more… Well, not finding much, but Ariel Lacayo, the manager once voted Best Maitre D in New York City by NY Mag says Francis Peabody is a Daniel, and more recently Le Bernardin veteran

Since this was more of a party with mass produced food, we only got a small taste of what Espoleta has to offer. We munched on various Pintxos, Tapas and Paellas.  Japanese squash, jamon, artichoke with manchego, various croquettes, Shishito peppers and more.  My favorite was perhaps the Goat Empanadas with raisins and salsa verde (top).  Excellent Spanish wine here, too excellent perhaps for me to remember to note it down.

Espoleta, with its big names, looks very promising and is one to watch.  Check it out peeps.

334 Bowery


016014 013 Espoleta


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Antica Corte Pallavicina – When Life Gives You a Pig

Italy 2014 731When we were young and down on life, my mama had this strange saying:  When life gives you a pig, you make Culatello!  Black pigs preferred, raised in Emilia Romagna or Lombardia she proceeded to explain.  You take the muscular side of the back legs, aka the “heart” of the prosciutto, cure it, put it inside a pig’s bladder and let it age in the moldy caves and cellars somewhere near Zibello, north of Parma.  As close as possible to the foggy Po river.  “Its all about the Terroir” she proclaimed.  And only then, it can be designated Culatello di Zibello DOP, essentially Prosciutto on crack.  Prosciutto so prized, it has a different name.  Just don’t tell anyone that Culatello means “Little Ass” as it may take away some of that power from the name, she warned.  Or maybe she was talking beets and borscht, I may be confusing things.

Italy 2014 755Last month we spent a magical day and night at Antica Corte Pallavicina, the most famous producer of Culatello di Zibello out there.  In fact, “You can use the bikes to bike all the way to Zibello on the bike path” our trusted host told us.  Done, and doner, assuming spotting Zibello inland from a distance was close enough for our own aching “little asses”.  But if I would have to pick 5 memorable moments on this trip, riding those bikes along the Po on that day, with those views, passing farms, and with the sun Arrivederciing in front of us, was one of those moments.  Minutes earlier, we visited their famous black pigs, snacked on their own Strolghino (salami), Parmigiano-Reggiano (also aged in their cellars) and drank their own bubblies while sitting on the antique couch in the antiques filled room, watching their antique dog and antique cat very closely (Mrs Ziggy isn’t fond of animals and some humans.  Ok, most humans)Italy 2014 737

For Massimo Spigaroli the journey started over 20 years ago, when he bought the 14th century castle with his brother.  A castle and farm that saw Massimo’s great grandfather as a tenant (after he worked for Verdi who lives nearby).  At the time it was more like ruins, after years of heavy beatings from Po flooding. Nowadays, its a farm, 6 room hotel, a Michelin star restaurant, and a major Culatello producer.  Tourists from all over the world flock to the Corte to see one of Emilia Romagna’s greatest attractions, the cellar of dreams.  Dreams as in if you want them to cure one of those Culatello’s for you, you are dreaming my friend.  And you will keep dreaming for the next 3 years (waiting period).  But meanwhile you can check out the tags of the black pig Culatello hanging in the front.  Armani, Rene Redzepi (Noma), Alain Ducasse, Francescana (“my friend” Massimo Spigaroli tells me if I understood correctly), Prince Albert, Prince Charles, Prince Ziggy, Prince.  We all have our dreams as you can see!Italy 2014 721

As for the meal, other than a few minor hiccups, it was exceptional.  The restaurant has a fancy feel, but at the same time its unpretentious and comfortable.  You feel like a guest of the estate rather than at a dining establishment.  The combination of antique, modern, floor to ceiling glass windows, and the overall spaciousness felt unique.  This is not Farm-to-Table.  This is 50 yards-look-outside-your-window-what-do-you-see-to-Table

Italy 2014 780Once you settle down you are greeted with the homemade butter, Grissini, and a Cuban cigar box filled with delicious bread.  I love a good bread and butter, especially when the butter is of perfect spreadable temperature.  “When in Rome…” you go for the “Podium”, three Culatello aged 18, 27, and a black pig aged 37 months sitting at the top of the podium lip syncing the Italian national anthem.  The 18 month was silky smooth, sweet, and in a bizarre way reminded me of delicious small dried fish.  While the 37 was brinier, and packed in a lot more flavor.  The 27 was somewhere in between.

Basic but fantastic Tortelli with ricotta and spinach.  And an even better al dente Risotto crowned by green beans and surrounded by three gentle sauces that somehow worked nicely together.  Very high degree of raw material throughout, though it didn’t quite work with the rabbit.  Great ingredients, looks fantastic but the rabbit “cubes” a bit dry and uneventful.  For the white Ox they add another large table to yours and carve the beast right in front of you.  It was expertly cooked, on the rare side with great flavor, if not a tad too cool.  The Ox plate included an exceptional supporting cast of mushrooms, various garden veggies and a fine tasting zucchini topped with Parma cheese and breadcrumbs.

Italy 2014 790For dessert we were lucky to be joined by our new friend who lives not too far away.  And as expected, marvelous desserts here, especially the “Baba” rum cake which was just about the best rum cake I ever had.  The top notch Mousse, was a great finish to a magical evening

Massimo Spigaroli is very proud of his place, a celebrated one Michelin star.  While in NYC Michelin stars are distributed like candy (I got one!) in Italy there are standards that must be met.  I normally dont pay as much attention to service as others do, but it was hard to overlook this kind of hospitality.  Since we had to leave early to a dairy producer and couldnt stay for breakfast, the staff prepared a box filled with more Culatello, and various homemade goodies.  In a food oriented trip such as this, Antica Corte Pallavicina fit the itinerary like a gloveItaly 2014 743

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Categories: Emilia-Romagna, Italy | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Root and Bone – As Simple as ABC

root and bone gritsBefore I tell you more about this gem in Alphabet City (the last of the Manhattan neighborhoods that hasn’t received a hip name), there are a few developments in my personal life I would like to share with you.  Well, more like events really, not so much developments and not so interesting to the average reader Really.  Two milestones in one day (yesterday) that are fairly significant in one’s growth as a parent and more importantly as an American parent.  The first event was taking my youngest daughter, who is suddenly obsessed with hockey, to her first Islanders game.  Only those readers who experienced this can understand the magnitude of this thrill.  Especially those sport fans who never produced sons experiencing this a bit later on.

One can argue that the second event is even more significant, as it made me connect with the American people like never before.  Everyone, including tourists should do it at least one time during the holidays to show solidarity and patriotism.  We are Americans!  Some of the strange things we do, like tipping and brunch, photo (10)may seem different to some foreigners but this is who we are, and this our culture.  You dont question it, just like I dont question taking my shoes off in other countries, and not assuming that all those wonderful little plates they give you in Portugal when you sit down at a restaurant are free.  I’m talking about, you guessed it because what else could it be, wearing my first Ugly Christmas Sweater.  Although all I have is a spray of Poo Pourri to show for as my consolation prize in the ugliest Sweater contest, it felt great I tell ya.  You see I realized that there’s really no such thing as a fashion failure anymore.  Any fashion faux pas is either brought back by hipsters at some point or makes a big comeback once everyone in the world agrees that its ugly.  Or like in this case, its both!  I’m thinking perhaps I should hold on to those 80’s Hawaiian shirts after all, before Mrs Ziggy cleans the ‘hers and hers’ closet again.

root and bone chicken

Remember that little girl I was talking about earlier?  Other than hockey, she particularly likes mac and cheese and fried chicken.  So when I was looking for a place that serves both last Sunday, a return to Root and Bone was a no brainer.  I first tried their much hyped bird in the summer, not too long after they opened, but I may have been under some heavy Barolo influence which makes me like everything.  This time it was for brunch, affectionately called in my house and every other country, lunch!  But we don’t question, remember?  Southern homey soul food by two Top Chef veterans that look more like “The Bachelor” veterans, via Miami.  Famed Miami Beach Yarbird’s lose is NYC gain.  Well, Yardbird probably didn’t lose anything, its just an expression people.

root and bone wafflesWe started with Grandma Daisy’s Angel Biscuits.  If you ever see something called Grandma Daisy’s Angel Biscuits on a menu and neglect to order it, you are an enemy of America!  These were light, airy and awesome, and once dipped in the gravy-like Honey Chicken jus, awesomer.  Benne seeds (fancy for sesame) and salt on the side for you to dip may be there purely for esthetic reasons, as I didnt feel the need.  Terrific Mac ‘n’ Cheese topped with more biscuit and featuring elbow pastas that will make you donate the elbow pastas in your kitchen cabinet to charity.

I feel like there’s some sort of a chicken renaissance going on in NYC at the moment with both Rotissarie and the fried kind.  You got the new Bird and Bubbles, The Habanero in Ma Peche, Somtum Der’s version, and so many other notables all over town.  The fried chicken here should at least be mentioned in the same discussion.  Its sweet tea brined, and dusted with dehydrated lemon magic powder that gives it that extra zesty tone.  Although, the dusting was more liberal the first time around (perhaps too liberal) there was no flavor lose this time.  The chicken, featuring no greasiness whatsoever is just a solid, juicy fried chicken, with flavors enhanced by the accompanying spiked tabasco honey sauce.  I preferred to sprinkle it on the white meat only.  And in true southern style we paired it with the Buckwheat Waffle that came with Cheddar and Whiskey Maple Syrup

root and bone buscuitsHaving eaten the chicken before, perhaps the most interesting item for me was the so called Trumansburg N .Y. Stone Ground Cheese Grits (top).  They came loaded with corn and ‘pimento cheese’, a spreadable hybrid of cheese and Pimiento (cherry) peppers.  The entire dish is a beautiful medley of textures and flavors.  And in a city filled with mediocre desserts as it seems as of late, the sticky toffee pudding with whiskey sauce and beer flavored ice cream was perhaps the best finish I’ve had this year.

Update:  The Poo Pourri works!  Dont think I need it honestly, but it works.  I may have to bring some to some of my coworkers.  You know who you are!

Root & Bone
200 E 3rd St

root and bone mac n cheeseroot and bone sticky toffee pudding root and bone

Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bologna’s Porticos, Knobs and Porticos

Italy 2014 1510This one goes out to all those readers with those special needs, sufferers of Porticos and/or Door Knob fetishes.  You know who you are and you should also know that you are not alone.  Tens thousands of people with such infliction flock the porticos of Bologna annually.  They tell their friends and neighbors that they go to the food capital of the world, the place that invented the Bologna Sandwich (neglecting to explain the intricacies of the Mortadella and its bastardized American version to the clueless neighbor.  Smart move savvy traveler, smart move).  But what they dont tell their friends, because they cant comprehend, is all about the joy of running around through Bologna’s 40 Kilometers of Porticos, with minimal clothing sometimes.  But who am I to judge.

Those same Porticos have been around for hundreds of years (some since the 12th century), and while other Italian cities outlawed them at some point, Bologna continued to Portico itself to become the Portico capital of the world.  That includes of course the longest Portico in the world, 3,796 meters running from the city walls up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca.  Not quite the climb for us (hey, I’m on vacation, not competing for the biggest loser)

And as to the door knobs all over the historic center, well, they are just pretty door knobs.

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Categories: Emilia-Romagna, Italy | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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