Tag Archives: Eataly

Review: Pastaio in Spring Lake; Big Brothers/Sisters Benefit; My Most Popular Recipe Ever – Ideal for Father’s Day

When she worked at Eataly in New York, Lisa Stanko-Mohen was tasked with making 3,000 pound of pasta a day. See if she learned well from her master, Mario Batali, in my review of Pastaio, her Spring Lake restaurant. In the June 2013 issue of New Jersey Monthly.

NJ Monthly cover June13

Help Mercer County Big Brothers Big Sisters Celebrate Their 40th Anniversary

Both NJ Salt Creek Grilles – the one in Rumson and the one in Princeton – continue to be exceptional supporters of the communities they’re in. One of the most enduring and meaningful alliances is between Salt Creek Grille, Princeton and a cause close to my heart: Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Salt Creek Grille Princeton

Salt Creek Grille Princeton is hosting their 5th annual Wine & Dine Festival & Fundraiser, benefiting Mercer County BBBS, on Thursday, June 20th from 6 to 9pm. Set up under big tents on the sprawling Salt Creek Grille lawn, Wine & Dine is an outdoor celebration of fine wine, craft beer, cuisine, and music. This year’s Wine & Dine event has special significance for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mercer County, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary. $60 in advance, $75 at the door. For information or to place your reservation, call (609) 419-4200.

Giving the People What They Want: Apparently, That’s Orange Soda BBQ Sauce

Of all the subjects I’ve blogged about over the last year and a half, the one that continues to receive the most hits – day in and day out, literally from all over the world –  is for grilled chicken with orange soda barbecue sauce. I first published the recipe, supplied by chef Jeremy Stahl who teaches at Mercer County College, in connection with father’s day 2012.

Thanks, Jeremy!

Thanks, Jeremy!

As a continuing public service, here is the link.  I would add my wishes for a happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, but clearly this recipe’s appeal goes way beyond American men on one particular day of the year! Who knew?

btw: Want to know the second most popular hit? Again, I couldn’t have predicted it in a million years. It’s a drink called switchel, a cocktail served in a Mason jar that I encountered at Jose Andres‘ America Eats! Tavern in DC. In its original, Colonial American incarnation switchel was a non-alcoholic refresher for farm workers. I wrote about it – complete with a recipe from America Eats! – here in my very first blog post. Come to think of it, it too would be great for Father’s Day!

Visiting Eataly; Discovering Croatian Wines

I recognize that I am probably the last so-called foodie in the Metropolitan area to haul myself over to Eataly.surely must be the last Italian-American round these parts to do so.

Eataly

Eataly

Last week I made the pilgrimage to that Disneyland of imported Italian foods on 23rd Street & 5th Avenue, the partnership of Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich, and Joe Bastianich. I expected to be overwhelmed by its size (a whopping 50,000 sf – and me who gets catatonic at Home Depot!), by flocks of tourists, and by prices in the stratosphere. None of these materialized. Well, I wish the grocery prices had been lower, but I was more than happy to shell out what I did for a memorable lunch at La Pizza & La Pasta, one of Eataly’s 7 eateries.

Cacio e pepe at Eataly

Cacio e pepe at Eataly

I ordered a dish I consider a true test: cacio e pepe spaghettone ($14). This simple dish of cheese and black pepper was perfect, plentiful, and served just as the menu promised: glistening sauce clinging to strands of fat pasta cooked “very al dente, like in Italia.”

The pizza/pasta restaurant comprises two counters and a table area. I arrived shortly after 1 pm on a Tuesday and was told there would be a ten-minute wait for a spot at the counter. Barely 60 seconds later, I was seated. Below is the view from my perch.

La Pizza & La Pasta Counter, Eataly

La Pizza & La Pasta Counter, Eataly

Service was prompt and efficient from beginning to end, without making me feel rushed. Water, slices of Italian bread (just OK), and superbly green, peppery olive oil arrived almost immediately, along with cutlery wrapped in a thick cloth napkin. When I asked my server to recommend a glass of wine, he quite correctly steered me to the Mirafiore Barbera d’Alba Superiore 2010. At $14 it wasn’t the cheapest alternative, but it was a perfect match and a good size pour.

After lunch I roamed aisle after aisle of everything from dried and fresh pasta to fresh produce and kitchenware. And not just Italian: there were, for example, premium Satsuma oranges.

Fresh Pasta Counter at Eataly

Fresh Pasta Counter at Eataly

Then I stopped for espresso ($2.50, including a complimentary gingerbread biscuit) at one of two stand-up coffee cafes, Vergnano (the other is Lavazza). My only disappointment came from the bakery counter: a cold, tasteless baba au rhum.

I have a reputation among my friends for restraining myself from overbuying at markets and Eataly was no exception. Here’s my loot of staples, which came to a grand total of $19.63: a pound of Garafalo pasta, sheets of crisp Sardinian flatbread (as thin as the music sheets it’s named after), a jar of arugula pesto, and a bag of light-as-air “lady kisses” chocolate and hazelnut cookies.

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Croatian Wine Surprises

When I received an invitation from Vina Croatia to attend their tasting seminar in New York on the wines of their homeland, I jumped at the chance – primarily because my knowledge of Croatian wines (like Croatian geography) was approximately nil. No longer – not after an entertaining and enlightening hour led by wine writers Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, known as “The World Wine Guys.”

The World Wine Guys

The World Wine Guys

I could not be more pleased to have made their acquaintance (both the guys and the wines). The whites in particular impressed, including those made with familiar grapes like Riesling and Gewürztraminer and those made with grapes indigenous to the area, such as Grasevina and Malvasia Istriana.

That last name gives a hint to the upcoming wine-growing regions of present-day Croatia, which is carved out of what had been Yugoslavia. The main four are Istria, Dalmatia, Slavonia (not to be confused with Slovenia), and the Croatian Uplands.

Croatian Vineyard (Wikipedia)

Croatian Vineyard (Wikipedia)

Guess who has a winery in Croatia? Mike Grgich of California’s Grgich Hills. He came to the US in the 1950s and in 1996, after the breakup of Yugoslavia, he went back and established a winery in his native land. Wines like his (red) Grgich Plavac Mali can be sampled in his California tasting room.

Plavac, dalmatian wine

Plavac, dalmatian wine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I practically swooned over the one ice wine that was included in the tasting, with its gorgeous light caramel color, floral nose, velvety mouth-feel, and notes of apricot. I’d provide the name but there’s little point because as of now, few of these wines are carried in NJ wine stores. (One that does seem to carry a sizeable collection, although not of the particular wines I sampled, is Madison Wine Cellar.) Meantime, my advice is to be on the lookout for Croatian wines, which are appearing more and more on restaurant lists. When you find one you like, ask your local wine shop to stock it for you. And just so you’re ready to hit the ground running, here are some fascinating facts I gleaned about Croatian wine:

  • Traces of wine making in Croatia date back to 2200 BC.
  • The first laws ever written concerning wine quality and standards were written in Croatia. (Take that, France!)
  • Croatia has more than 800 wineries, 64 indigenous wine grape varieties, and 66 appellations. All this with a population half the size of Manhattan.

Some of the Croatian winemakers were on hand for the seminar. My favorite anecdote was from one who related how the last few generations of his family have been citizens of four different countries:  Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia, and Croatia. And that was without ever moving out of their house.