Rana puts a new spin on your grocer’s pasta

Rana

Giovanni Rana and company sure have been busy lately.  With a recent NYC-wide launch of his retail pasta and sauce line coupled with plenty of personal appearances to celebrate world pasta day in October AND a one year anniversary of the opening of his first restaurant, Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina in New York City, the 76 year old Rana has his work cut out for him.
The newly launched in NYC pasta line is now available in Fairway and Gristedes locations as well as Key Food and Food Emporium.  Although the packaged stuff will never be a substitute for the real thing at Rana Pastificio & Cucina (and a pasta factory it certainly is!), the ease of picking up a package of Rana’s pastas and boiling to perfection in about 3 minutes is certainly appealing after a long day at the office on any given week day.

 

Rana’s Tortelloni

Rana’s Tortelloni

Giovanni Rana’s packaged pastas are thinner, and more delicate than other fresh packaged pastas due to a machine designed by Mr. Rana himself meant to mimic the way fresh pasta dough passes through a chef’s hands.  The US factory where all the pasta is made, imports many of its ingredients from Italy who tout the D.O.P. certificate of authenticity.

 

Rana’s Ravioli prepared with olive oil and parmesan

Rana’s Ravioli prepared with olive oil and parmesan

Try Rana’s pesto – a stand out among other grocery store pestos and a new staple in my fridge – or dress your pasta simply with olive oil and quality freshly grated parmesan.  It’s clear that ravioli is where Mr. Rana’s heart is with plenty of flavor options.  Stand outs in Rana’s pasta collection include the Artichoke Ravioli, for a subtle, fresh flavor and the Mushroom Ravioli where the earthy mushroom filling speaks for itself.  The “Delicato” cheese blend ravioli is also sure to be a crowd pleaser and is the perfect way to curb that comfort food craving you’re having!
Giovanni Rana’s pasta and sauce selections can be purchased at the above New York City retailers as well as D’agostino.  Prices range from $4.99 to $8.99.

An Italian Culinary Experience in New York with Zonin and Circo

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

 

 International Culinary Center, SoHo

Chef Alfio Longo and Marco Maccioni

Chef Alfio Longo and Marco Maccioni


Casa Vinicola Zonin
hosted an inspiring dinner at the International Culinary Center in SoHo highlighting wine from a selection of their wineries with the acclaimed Circo restaurant, bringing a true taste of Italy to New York City.

 

Marco Maccioni represented Circo at the event, the Maccioni family’s tribute to the woman behind it all – Mrs. Egidiana Maccioni.  He told stories of growing up with a father in the restaurant business, doing fine Italian when no one else was and of his mother who did her best to keep a traditional Italian household in the midst of it all. The food served, embodied just that – the home grown nature of the Circo restaurant and the woman who continues to call all the shots there.  Zonin’s humble and versatile wines paired seamlessly with the down to earth fare.

Tuna salad rolled into a thinly sliced pork tenderloin

Tuna salad rolled into a thinly sliced pork tenderloin


A simple tuna salad rolled into a thinly sliced pork tenderloin was a surprisingly fresh start to the meal and was paired with an equally as refreshing, yet full bodied wine – Zonin’s Vermentino Calasole –  IGT Maremma 2011 vintage.  Chef Alfio Longo was a charming addition to the presentation as he showed how to prepare the dish as we all cleared our plates.

 

Pasta paccheri all anatra, zucca, funghi

Pasta paccheri all anatra, zucca, funghi

A presentation by the DelVerde Pasta Sommelier was next, his thick Italian accent making everything he said about the pasta making process that much more believable.  Delverde’s paccheri pasta stood front and center in the next dish served, creating a bed of pasta for the braised duck, butternut squash, and mushroom delicately laid on top.  The wine featured with this course was an amalgamation of grapes from two of Zonin’s estates – The Berengario Zonin, a cabernet sauvignon and merlot blend – the dry red paired well with the richness of the braised duck.

 

Zonin’s Chianti Classico, 2009 vintage stood up to the next dish of a slow cooked Italian style tripe with artichoke, mellowing the rich flavors of both ingredients.

 

Italian style tripe with artichoke

Italian style tripe with artichoke

While I’m sure we could have all stayed far into the night to listen to more of Mr. Maccioni’s childhood tales of smuggling white truffles and salumi through customs and into the United States, the night ended with a classic tiramisu and an interesting Rosato blend of Moscato Bianco and Pinot Noir grapes from Zonin’s Castello del Poggio winery.

 

A chef in your kitchen: Review of Chefday

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

Claiming you “can’t” cook is no longer an excuse with Chefday – The new meal in a bag that makes it easy (and fun!) for any novice turn out gourmet meals.
Chefday delivers fresh, quality ingredients, pre measured in sustainable packaging right to your doorstep, anywhere in New York City.  Choose from a variety of meals, such as Scallop Risotto or Parmesan Veal Milanese, all curated by top chefs and accompanied with a how to video, the chef holding your hand each step of the way!

My particular Chefday experience was a great one.  As I rushed to open the enticing brown paper bag, I found a welcome note complete with my name printed on it and a thorough instruction list.  Each ingredient – right down to the salt, pepper, and olive oil was pre-measured and labeled, ready for me to conquer.  As I followed each step, simply uncapping each ingredient and giving a quick swoop of the knife here and there I couldn’t help but feel like I was on my very own cooking show – a fantasy once played out in my mother’s kitchen, dirtying every ramekin in the house with “pre-measured” ingredients while making some sort of “chocolate loaf” (lots of cocoa powder, flour, and water), ending in a toaster-oven baked goo that my mother has yet to let me live down.  Thankfully, my scallop risotto turned out better than my chocolate loaf.

What made the Chefday experience so special to me was not so much the finished product (although it was quite delicious), but the thoughtfulness that went into each piece of the package.  From the personal delivery, to the personalized note, to each labeled ingredient and even the pretty commentator who eased the instructional video along in what could have otherwise been a painful display because as we know – some chefs can be men and women of very few words.

Founders Julien Nakache, Laurent Moisi, and Vincent Marger are committed to providing a quality product with a conscience.  From the ingredients and the environmentally friendly packaging to the one for one donation to the New York City Food Bank, this is a product you can feel good about using while treating yourself at the same time.

Whether you are a closet wannabe cooking show host (like me) or simply want to impress your date or friends with a nice meal, at about $35 per two person serving there is no reason not to indulge in this great new product.

 

Home of Manhattan’s Best Banh Mi Sandwich – Review of Sao Mai

BY ELENA MANCINI

203 First Ave.
East Village
(212) 358-8880 / Sao Mai 

East of the East Village bustle and trendiness, this family-run East Village Vietnamese restaurant serves traditional Vietnamese fare and the best Banh Mi Sandwiches on the Manhattan side of the East River.

Vegetarian Bahn Mi

Available in six varieties including pho, sliced pork, grilled chicken and vegetarian, these sandwiches make a quick, nutritious, flavor-packed meal that’s easy on the wallet (priced between $6-$7). The Bahn Mi are prepared on baguettes are consistently fresh and crusty with a soft and chewy middle. Independent of the filling you choose, the kitchen always strikes the right balance between bread and ingredients. Their vegetarian Bahn Mi is among my favorite comfort-food lunches. Prepared on two warm halves of choice baguette, they’re stuffed with toothsome strands of sauteed bok choy, straw mushrooms, seedless cucumbers, shredded carrot and abundant swaths of cilantro, the sandwiches and seasoned with lemongrass,  sriracha mayonnaise, that provides a subtle and reverberating pitch of complex heat. In sum, it’s a light, filling lunch that delivers high-flavor rewards.

Pho’ Sao Mai

Front: Summer Rolls; Far: Spring Rolls

Lest one think Sao Mi is just about Bahn Mi, flavor mavens and fans of traditional Vietnamese fare will find other  sections of its menu will prove well worth exploring. The Pho Sao Mai will not disappoint. A flavorful broth, rich in tender strips of brisket, sprouts, rice noodles and a medley of herbs will consistently hit the spot. Adding appeal to  Sao Mi’s attractions is its steal of a lunch menu, which includes the choice of an appetizer, entree and a soft drink, all for $10. Sweetening things further,  both the Bahn Mi and the Pho are included in this deal!

Ga Gary – Chicken Curry

With a wide variety of vegetarian options on its menu, Sao Mai is also a smart choice for a low-key dinner that guarantees value, quality and flavor. Pity that wait staff has not yet mastered the walk-in dinner crowd on weekends. During these times, the  friendly service  can turn into a source of frustration for those who do not suffer extended waits and uneven food delivery times lightly.

Sao Mai on Urbanspoon

Chocolate, Cheese and Wine: A Celebration of Taste

CLAIRE McCURDY

 

Alexandra Leaf


Is it possible to have too much chocolate at one sitting?  I wouldn’t have thought so, but I must confess that I now know the answer is yes. Even if the chocolate is all delicious. Think of the Halloween sack, or hollow pumpkin, or UNICEF box in which you deposited your treats. If you ate them all at once you’d feel a little – say- overwhelmed.

And so it was this evening. But I’m glad I came.

The 92Y had issued a generous invitation to foodies:  “Join us for this walk-around pairing, featuring an array of hand-crafted chocolates, cheeses, pastries and wines.”

“Meet local producers, increase your knowledge of artisanally-made foods, and seek inspiration for your holiday table.”

It did sound wonderful. Unfortunately or fortunately, the spread was almost entirely of chocolate. Hand dipped chocolate. Chocolate brownies. Hot chocolate.  Chocolate martinis More little ovals and squares with cunning little sprinkles of things on top. True, some bonbons were paired with chucks of very aged Gouda, which was a great idea since the intensely salty cheese took the edge off the eternal sweet things. . And there were some wonderful wines and mixed drinks in the center of the room to which you could repair.

Note, I’m not complaining. I wish I had been able to eat each one of my chocolates, leave, take a turn around the block and come back in. But no dice. The Y treated this event with the gravity and officiousness (and possibly, concern for security) that it would treat piano recital- tickets, lines, guided tours up the stairs (not the elevators) and a sharp eye on the participants. So there we all were with our chocolates.  A difficult fate.

The two stars of the evening were Fairway’s Master Baker Sarah Black and Costas Mozouras, Resident Mixologist of Gotham Wines and Liquors. Sarah Black was there to share the  secrets of The Best Brownie in the World.

Sarah Black and Fairway Market are not shy about advertising  its delicious Brownies.  “Kosher under the Supervision of Rabbi Abraham Marmorstein;  Artisanal Baked Goods, passed down three generations from Pauline LaMarche to her daughter Ann Black to her daughter Sarah Black, Fairway’s Baker Director. Offering the best brownie to the best market in the world to customers who know what the ‘best’ means. ”

It was truth in advertising.

And best of all, Fairway/Black customers were cordially  invited to sample a brownie and take one home for a friend.  It was a hit. This take home brownie was solemnly pronounced –if not  the best, right up there close to the top. It disappeared within two minutes. Even the cats sampled the crumbs and pronounced themselves pleased., wandering about looking longingly for more.

Costas Mozouras,  resident mixologist of Gotham Wines and Liquors, accompanied by Mixologist Raoul Segarra,  occupied  the tables in the center of the room the room.  The seductive sounds of shaken ice and liquor drew all.

Imagine that- the star of the show was a wicked- white chocolate martini, with chocolate infused gin (I think) and white chocolate gently dusted around the rim of the glass, It was so very good it was hard not to stay close to the tables for the rest of the evening.

Flanking the martini were the wines.  I picked a Pinot Noir to sample from Gotham Wines’s extensive selections. A Daedalus Pinot Noir 2008 From Willamette Valley, Oregon. It was light  and subtle and best of all, dry- no sticky sweet aftertatste after all the many sweet things I’d imbibed.  It deserved a fine meal to complement it.

Cafe, O CAFÉ,  the first coffee bar in New York to serve coffee brewed  from the highest quality Brazilian beans, also had a fine spiel:   “We make the Big Apple a Green Apple.”

Café owner Fernando Aciar’s just-launched a Brazilian café.   Brazil offers  extraordinary potential for the production of rare coffee beans,  yet to be discovered by the mainstream coffee market.    The café offers you  the opportunity to   “Pair a Bahian chocolate-infused latte with savory pão de queijo, a toothsome roll made from yucca flour and Minas cheese. Come spring, refresh with superfruit (açai, cupuaçu) pulp juices sourced from the Amazon.”

With O Café, I  believe, it was pastries. Undoubtedly they were wonderful. I was a little dazed by this time.

Chocolat Moderne’s Chocolate Atelier is staging a “bloody good time” now, for Halloween, through tonight.   They advertise “bloody hearts, new pumpkin pie bonbons, and new fiendishly hot drinking  chocolate.”

Go, you will not be disappointed.

While the atelier’s chocolates were utterly delicious, the not too sweet hot chocolate was quite wonderful on a very unseasonably cold night.  It also took the edge off the many sticky sweet things I had tasted that evening. I’d happily have gulped it- instead, the piping heat meant that I had to sip it slowly.  Just as well.

Mille Feuille Bakery Café. I’ d say this was the top of the line:  fine French goods. Chef Olivier is obsessed with pasty. “He spent a year at the famous Ritz Cooking School in Paris where he learned how to make delicious pastry During a trip to New York City  in 2009, Olivier and his wife fell in love with this incredible city and conceived of a project: a French style bakery with the homely and welcoming atmosphere of a Village café that would offer French and American pastries with a fine taste, using organic and all-natural products – a combination of the French touch with American openness. “

Macarons, breakfast pastries, dessert pastries- the menu is packed with sweets as well as genteel French lunch and dinner fare. This is one follow-up trip I feel I owe to myself.

Finally another chocolate fest.  R+D Chocolate, which stands for “research and development” — our approach to chocolate making, the result of a Ph.D. in bioengineering, years of training as a research scientist, and an obsession with chocolate.”  “It also stands for “rachel and david Gordon.”

Their pr is truly poetic.  “we turned to making our ideal chocolates. We are obsessed with (dark) chocolate and chocolates that are wholesome, pure, and overwhelmingly satisfying. These are chocolates that are not too sweet, that capture the essence of their ingredients. All of our products are made by hand (by Rachel).    We use only the highest quality ingredients, including locally produced ingredients whenever possible, and we make everything to order in small batches. “

These chocolates were magnificent. I was again tempted to keep hovering but collected myself and bag and made tracks.

As a final treat here is the irresistible abridged list of the flavors one can sample while also suggesting new and different flavors of one’s own.

“Current Menu (all coated in 72% Dark Chocolate unless otherwise specified):

72% Araguani chocolate ganache

Fleur de sel caramels

Raspberry ganache

Lemon verbena ganache

Elderflower ganache

Passion fruit ganache

Chocolate mint ganache

Strawberry pâte de fruit

St. Germain ganache

Lagavulin 16 yr scotch ganache

Black raspberry ganache…………………………………..”

Enjoy

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The Chanel of Comfort Food – Ritz Carlton’s Classic Desserts Redefined

The Chanel of Comfort Food – Ritz Carlton’s Classic Desserts Redefined

BY ELENA MANCINI

Forget the orchid petal garnished  lavender-chamomile sorbet, the Ritz has introduced a new dessert menu that will make you want to forsake your New Year’s Resolution. Break out your “only this once” excuse and transgress! The taste rewards are worth it.

Molten Chocolate Cake

Ritz-Molten Chocolate Cake

With its recently launched new dessert line, Classic Desserts Redefined, The Ritz-Carlton is restoring the classics of American and continental patisserie to their natural glory by bringing them into the fold of their haute culinary repertoire, and proposing a concept that will goes down as easily as a cup of hot cocoa on a cold wintry night: dessert as the new comfort food.  Not that it would take any effort to convince anyone with a sweet tooth of the healing powers of decadent chocolate or cheese cake,  but comfort food in recent years has generally been associated with the hearty joys of meatloaf or Thanksgiving dinner, not necessarily a gorgeous hunk of  double fudge cake or bread butter pudding. And from the look and the tastes of this new menu, the idea is bound to be a winner. [Read more...]

The Chanel of Comfort Food – Ritz Carlton's Classic Desserts Redefined

The Chanel of Comfort Food – Ritz Carlton’s Classic Desserts Redefined

BY ELENA MANCINI

Forget the orchid petal garnished  lavender-chamomile sorbet, the Ritz has introduced a new dessert menu that will make you want to forsake your New Year’s Resolution. Break out your “only this once” excuse and transgress! The taste rewards are worth it.

Molten Chocolate Cake

Ritz-Molten Chocolate Cake

With its recently launched new dessert line, Classic Desserts Redefined, The Ritz-Carlton is restoring the classics of American and continental patisserie to their natural glory by bringing them into the fold of their haute culinary repertoire, and proposing a concept that will goes down as easily as a cup of hot cocoa on a cold wintry night: dessert as the new comfort food.  Not that it would take any effort to convince anyone with a sweet tooth of the healing powers of decadent chocolate or cheese cake,  but comfort food in recent years has generally been associated with the hearty joys of meatloaf or Thanksgiving dinner, not necessarily a gorgeous hunk of  double fudge cake or bread butter pudding. And from the look and the tastes of this new menu, the idea is bound to be a winner. [Read more...]

Arriba Rioja Week in NYC!

NYC Celebrates Rioja – April 26 – May 2nd.

Rioja week is a great time to try new food and wine parings from Rioja (Spain). Visit any one of 50 NYC restaurants during Rioja Restaurant Week and choose from a $25 prix fixe or $50 prix fixe menu that includes a glass of Rioja wine.

Image from MissTheda.com

Image from MissTheda.com

 

Click on the image above for a list of participating restaurants and wine shops to get a 20% discount on Rioja wines.


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