I had the opportunity to attend a special preview tasting of Olive Garden‘s new ‘Tastes of the Mediterranean’ menu this week at a lovely event held at Haven’s Kitchen in NYC with a group of other food bloggers, writers and journalists.
We sampled a (generous!) variety of delicious food and wine, and learned more about the new menu ideas and inspiration from the Olive Garden team and Executive Chef, Jim Nuetzi.
Inspired by the flavors of Italy’s Mediterranean Coast, Olive Garden is evolving its popular Lighter Italian Fare menu to the new ‘Tastes of the Mediterranean’ menu, which celebrates the flavors and cooking styles from the popular Mediterranean region of Italy with all entrees under 600 calories.
Beginning Jan. 2, two new entrees – Chicken Margherita and
Linguine di Mare – will be available in restaurants. Following, the fully evolved ‘Tastes of the Mediterranean’ rebranded menu section, which includes guest favorites as well as the new entrees, will be introduced on Jan. 23.
“Healthier dishes at restaurants can often be perceived as boring or unsatisfying. However, our Mediterranean-inspired Shrimp Scampi with its flavorful ingredients was our second most popular entrée on the entire menu last summer,” said Jim Nuetzi, Executive Chef for Olive Garden. “The positive reaction from our guests further showed that we could create indulgent and craveable entrees that just happen to have the added benefit of lower calorie counts.”
The guest-favorite Shrimp Scampi, which was introduced to the Olive Garden menu last year, has exceeded any other Olive Garden lighter fare entrée in popularity. Many guests were surprised that the flavorful and satisfying dish was only500 calories.
The guest reaction to the Shrimp Scampi inspired chefs to explore additional ingredients that would excite guests in the same way, leading them to the cuisine of Italy’s Mediterranean coast. The region is long known for healthier lifestyles and cooking with light, flavorful ingredients such as seafood, olive oil, fresh vegetables, whole grains and Italian spices.
The ‘Tastes of the Mediterranean’ menu features:
NEW! Chicken Margherita: Grilled chicken breasts topped with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil pesto and a lemon garlic sauce. Served with parmesan crusted zucchini.
Shrimp Scampi: Shrimp sautéed in a garlic sauce, tossed with asparagus, tomatoes and angel hair pasta.
NEW! Linguine di Mare: Shrimp and mussels sautéed with homemade pomodoro sauce and whole grain linguine.
Herb-Grilled Salmon: Filet grilled to perfection and topped with garlic-herb butter. Served with parmesan-garlic broccoli.
Chicken Piccata: Grilled chicken topped with a lemon garlic butter sauce, sun-dried tomatoes and capers. Served with parmesan crusted zucchini.
Tilapia Piccata: Delicate white fish baked in a lemon garlic butter sauce with sun-dried tomatoes and capers. Served with parmesan crusted zucchini.
Entrees on the rebranded menu start at $14.29.
And last but not least, we enjoyed a gorgeous dessert, Warm Chocolate Baci Cake with coffee..simply divine.
..and got some take home goodie bags with a bottle of wine and some wine glasses!
ABOUT OLIVE GARDEN
Olive Garden is the leading restaurant in the Italian dining segment with more than 800 restaurants, more than 96,000 employees and more than $3.8 billion in annual sales. Olive Garden is a division of Darden Restaurants, Inc., (NYSE: DRI), which owns and operates more than 1,500 restaurants that generate over $6.8 billion in annual sales. Headquartered in Orlando, Fla., and employing more than 150,000 people, Darden is recognized for a culture that rewards caring for and responding to people. Olive Garden is committed to making a difference in the lives of others in the local community. As part of this commitment, Olive Garden restaurants have donated more than 35 million pounds of food to local community food banks across the country.
FoodyDirect is an online marketplace bringing the most delicious food in the country right to the doorstep of your home or office.
The restaurants and artisan producers featured on their site are a highly select group. Each has won awards, garnered high praise from critics and blogger and, most important, gets rave reviews from passionate and loyal customers. Each prepares and serves up a menu of mouthwatering dishes and is equipped to ship their sensational food anywhere in the USA.
Kosher Food, Gluten-Free, Turkey and Chicken, Desserts, Cheese, Meat, Vegan Food, Seafood, BBQ, Chocolate, Fruits and Veggies – you name it – they’ve got it!
FoodyDirect is a curated national restaurant row. Learn about their Partner’s rich and colorful histories, which you can savor and enjoy in the comfort of your home or office.
In the interview, I discussed my views on how i celebrate the art of food and cooking through my blog with colorful recipes, stories and photography as well as some tips on how to follow your passion and what helped me succeed in the food industry.
Most restaurateurs are beginning to understand the power of social media and online marketing.
Running a print ad or spending money on television ads is expensive. Smart operators realize the importance of connecting with consumers and influencers, and how positive online engagement can affect their brand, business, foot traffic and reputation. Social media can be an effective communication tool to inform customers of daily specials, promotions, events, menus and more. But in a crowded online marketplace, how can you break through the clutter?
The three New York restaurant owners/marketers below give us real-world examples of what’s working for them, what tools they’re using, and successful campaign ideas they’ve implemented to increase online visibility and engagement.
Want to build customer loyalty and brand buzz? Here’s some inspiration.
Tavern on Jane is a quaint restaurant and bar in the West Village on the corner of Eighth Ave and Jane Street, a fun, cozy space I visit often, and a gathering place where everybody does know your name. I recently did a photo shoot for the owner Michael Stewart of their new revamped space and some of their hot food items on their newly redesigned menu.
They have always had amazing food, but I have to say their new lineup is super tasty and you have to see the new burgers they have on the menu now!
They also have some fantastic new dishes like the Beer Battered Fish and Chips; Short Rib and Butternut Squash Risotto; Steamed Mussels; Beet, Arugula and Citrus Salad and so much more. Delicious, high-end comfort food and the portions are unreal.
They also have a new Executive Chef, Josh LaBadie, who has brought a variety of new flavors and inspiration to the restaurant from his seasoned experience at top NYC restaurants including Terroir, Central Park Boathouse, and Capitale Grille.
Check out the photos I shot of their newly redesigned space and delicious new items on the menu below. And definitely stop in for a burger and a beer, or for a nice intimate dinner with friends in their back room, fireplace and all. You’ll surely be welcomed by Mr. Stewart and his friendly staff, and most likely will be back for more. Again and again.
The Christmas Holiday and New Year’s Eve is right around the corner and there’s no better way to celebrate the occasion than to pop open a bottle of gorgeous bubbly sparkling wine. Most people automatically think of Champagne when it comes to sparkling wine but there are actually some great selections of Cava and Prosecco that fit the bill too. But what is the difference between them all and how do you pick one that suits your palette and your budget?
I interviewed some of NYC’s top Wine Directors and Sommeliers: Joseph Camper of db Bistro, Laura Williamson of Jean-Georges, Jason Arias of Txikito, Peter Mastrogiovanni of La Cenita/EMM Group and Joe Campanale from Epicurean Group; to unveil the mystery behind all three sparkling wines and get some recommendations, food pairings and recipes to help you plan your holiday cocktail party in style.
The main difference in the three sparkling wines comes down to a few things: the grapes, the region, the soil, the fermentation process and temperature.
Champagne (also known as “cremante”, comes from only two regions of France: Rhones and Epernet, from either large houses that use blends of grapes or grower champagne from smaller private farms (also known as “farmer fizz”), according to Joseph Camper, Sommelier at db bistro moderne. Champagne has a distinct taste as well – a bit chalky and ‘yeasty’ with a minerality flavor.
Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine; generally a Dry or Extra Dry wine; normally made from Glera (“Prosecco”) grapes. Prosecco is produced in the regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia in Italy, and traditionally, mainly in the areas near Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the hills north of Treviso. It is the fruitiest of all three sparkling wines, and unlike Champagne is usually produced using the Charmat method in which the secondary fermentation is done in stainless steel tanks making it less expensive to produce. Prosecco comes in either fully sparkling (spumante) or lightly sparkling (frizzante, gentile) varieties.
Cava is a sparkling wine from Spain made in the traditional method of the French sparkling wine Champagne. The wine was originally known as Champaña until Spanish producers adopted the term “Cava” (cellar) in 1970 in reference to the underground cellars in which the wines ferment and age in the bottle. Cava has an ambiguous, well-balanced and neutral flavor. It’s looser knit, and has a less complex process in its making compared to Champagne.
French Sommelier – Joseph Camper, Sommelier of db bistro moderne
When people think about sparkling wine and France, of course their mind goes to the wonderful region of Champagne–which is in fact wonderful, because Champagne (in my opinion) is THE best wine producing regions in the world. While Champagne may be my dessert island wine, there are several other noteworthy sparkling wines from France. The top regions, aside from Champagne are: Burgundy, the Loire and even the Jura.
A few things to know about Champagne:
1) There are three primary grape varietals used:Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Most wines are a blend of all three, though there do exist some special bottlings that focus on just one of the three grapes (i.e., Blanc de Blanc is made entirely from Chardonnay)
2) With the arrival of the age of “Grower Champagne” (or as Terry Theise would say, “Farmer Fizz”) there is more focus on soil and specific sites, and we are seeing more vintage and single vineyard wines in the market than ever before!
RECOMMENDATIONS & FOOD PAIRINGS:
Sommelier Joseph Camper says that “Champagne works with almost all foods. It’s the greatest wine in the world.”
Vilmart, Grand Cellier: (not to be confused with Grand Cellier d’Or from the same producer): Vilmart GC, is in my opinion one of the greatest “entry-level” (price wise) Champagnes made, even though it is better than most prestige cuvées. It has incredible balance and precision, and therefore I would pair it with opening courses–raw fish, oysters, lobster, etc.
Egly-Ouriet, Viellissement Prolonge: Egly-Ouriet V.P. is crazy good. It tastes almost like Burgundy with bubbles. DON’T serve it in a Champagne flute, but rather in a larger, more typical wine glass to really enjoy the full array of the wine. It spends somewhere around 70 months on the lees, or yeast (!). For this wine, richer fare is called for–Turbot or Dover Sole, Veal. Butter! Also due to the autolytic quality of the wine it is unreal with umami flavors like soy. Crazy tasty with Asian food. BYOB anyone?!
Cremant du Bourgogne –
Val de Mer Cremant du Bourgogne: Sparkling wine made entirely from Chardonnay from the region of Chablis. Kimmeridgean limestone at its best! Serve with shellfish.
Domaine Huet Petillant: Also sparkling Chenin Blanc, but bottled at a low atmospheric pressure (less bubbles and certainly less aggressive–sometimes appears “flat” in the glass).
Cremant du Jura –
Tissot Cremant du Jura: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Poulsard: A ringer for champagne in its aromatic profile, though a bit softer and more floral. The perfect aperitif. Just drink it, by the gallon with or without food!
Photo Credit: Kristen Hess
Sometimes cocktails take not one, not two or three, but MANY rounds of testing to get it just right! This cocktail is just that: just right. Head Bartender at Chef Daniel Boulud’s Upper East Side cocktail lounge Bar Pleiades, and consulting bartender for the new db bistro cocktail menu, played with chocolate and red wine’s affinity for each other with this drink, as well as berry shrub’s red wine-berry fruitiness and Byrrh (a French wine based aperitif flavored with quinine). To make the drink, Byrrh is infused with cocoa nibs overnight. Pomegranate seeds are dropped into a champagne flute, and topped with a mixture of Rye, Cocoa nib infused Byrrh, White Crème de Cacao and Berry Shrub and Orange peel. When the drink is topped off with Champagne, the pomegranate seeds try, and try again, to rise to the top of the glass with the Champagne bubbles!
1 1/4 cups fresh blood orange juice
1 bottle (750 ml) dry Crèmant d’Alsace, chilled (Prosecco or Cava can be substituted)
3 tablespoons orange liqueur, preferably Cointreau
Pour the juice, Crèmant, and orange liqueur into a large glass pitcher. Immediately and carefully pour into 8 champagne flutes and serve.
For 1 drink:
5 ounce Champagne (Prosecco or Cava can be substituted)
Juice of 1 blood orange
splash of Cointreau
Blood Orange French 75
photo credit: Kristen Hess
1 ounce Gin
Juice of 1 blood orange
3 oz Champagne (Prosecco or Cava can be substituted)
2 dashes Orange Bitters
1 splash Cointreau
Serve in a Champagne flute and garnish with a blood orange triangle (made by slicing a blood orange wheel into 3rds)
Recipes by Laura Williamson, Master Sommelier, Jean-Georges
Latin/Argentinean Sommelier – Jason Arias, Txikito
Master Sommelier Jason Arias and Executive Chef Alex Raij of Txikito NYC recommend Cava and Champagne choices that reflect their Basque, Catalan and Argentine holiday traditions with a classic Basque 75 cocktail and high quality seafood and pasta pairings.
Cava and Champagne – High quality whole fish and mollusks and crustaceans (raw or cooked, or served in soup); Salt Cod Cannelloni (Canelons) and Pasta
Photo Credit: Txikito
Beach plum Gin or Patxarran (Basque sloe berry liqueur)
Bruised sage leaf
On rocks with splash of 7 up
Recipe by Sommelier Jason Arias, Txikito
Spanish/Mexican Sommelier – Peter Mastrogiovanni, La Cenita -Emm Group
La Cenita is a new Spanish/Mexican tapas restaurant in the Meatpacking District, part of the Emm Group. They have a focus on using very fresh and unique ingredients in their cocktails and also do a lot of house infusions with tequila including creative flavors such as prickly pear, jalapeno, coffee, cocoa nibs and bacon.
Head Corporate Beverage Manager, Peter Mastrogiovanni recommends the following Sparkling Wines and food pairings for the holidays if you’re looking for a Latin twist to your menu. Head Bartender Billy Potuin also shares his special cocktail recipe for La Ciderita – a light and boozy, warm and wintry cocktail that has an interesting take mixing sparkling Cava with tequila and Spanish cinnamon. It’s all natural, using honey and lemon and cranberry bitters and not too sweet making it a great cocktail for the holidays.
Shake, strain up in martini glass, top with Sparkling Cava wine. Garnish with a Canela (or cinnamon) stick and dried cranberries
Recipe by Lead Bartender Billy Potuin, La Cenita
Italian Sommelier – Joseph Campanale, Executive Beverage Director, Epicurean Group (dell’Anima/L’Artusi/Anfora/L’Apicio)
Cava – is from the Cava region in Spain. It is made in the same method as Champagne as is less fruit-forward than Prosecco. It doesn’t have the acidity or minerality of good Champagne but the best examples can be quite delicious. Some of my favorites are:
Prosecco – Made from the Prosecco grape in the Veneto region of Italy. This is fruit-forward and can be a little sweet. If you use prosecco in a cocktail remember that it can have some sweetness. Also it lacks the yeasty flavors of Champagne/Cava.
Champagne – The highest quality of all sparkling wine, it comes from the Champagne region of France and is made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and a local grape known as Pinot Meunier. Go for the smaller producers who grow their own grapes (Grower champagne). At their best, Champagne is crisp, mineral driven wine with a ton of complexity from high-quality grapes and aging on the lees (spent yeast). I think it would be unwise to use one of these in a cocktail.
Cava– Parmigiano Cheese – this hard, nutty cheese will complement the creamy bubbly Cava. Cava’s earthiness will be reflected in the cheese as well as the creaminess from the lees aging but the bubbles will cut through the richness.
Prosecco – Thai Food – Prosecco’s fruit-forward aromatics will complement the exotic, full-flavored Thai food. The chill of the wine and (sometimes) residual sweetness will cool down spicy Thai or complement the sweeter food.
Champagne– Fried Chicken – There is something just absolutely fun about the high-low pairing of fried chicken and Champagne. They were made for each other. Fried chicken is the fatty, crunchy poultry that needs a crisp, bubbly wine to cut through the grease and complement the crunch. This is a great flavor and texture experience.
It’s that time of year again to start planning menus and recipes for the holidays. But instead of just serving traditional turkey or ham, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, why not mix it up a little bit and serve your holiday meal with an international flair? I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and interview several Top Chefs and restaurants in NYC to get some creative ideas for non-traditional holiday menus for the holidays. Whether it have a Spanish, French, Asian, Jewish or Italian twist; here are some great international menu ideas and recipes for a fabulous holiday meal with family and friends that break the norm.
Spanish Holiday Menu – Alex Raij, Executive Chef at Txikito NYC
Executive Chef Alex Raij from the Spanish restaurant Txikito in NYC always makes a classic, festive dish for the holidays. This Canelones de Bakalao Recipe (Salted Cod Fish Canneloni with Crème Fraiche) feeds a crowd and references Basque, Catalan and Argentine family holiday traditions that Chef Raij grew up with in Spain. Serve with other traditional Spanish hot and cold tapas such as: Pikillos: roasted Navarran sweet peppers with ajoarriero; Kroketas: crispy creamy croquettes; Boquerón: marinated white anchovy with eggplant and piquillo; Cogollos: butter lettuce, Basque anchovy, and Bonito del Norte and Tutera: gratin of artichoke, Roncal, Jamón.
Photo Credit: Kristen Hess
Canelones de Bakalao Recipe (Salted Cod Fish Canneloni with Crème Fraiche)
Executive Chef Alex Raij, Txikito
1 9×9 inch baking dish, preferably earthenware
12 – 4 inch square pieces fresh pasta sheets boiled and shocked in ice water (The Chef recommends cooking longer sheets and then cutting them after they are cooled in ice bath so they are more uniform)
Filling and topping
2.5 pounds cod
2 tablespoons Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 cups olive oil
1.5 cup tomato pulp pref. pomi brand
2 cups Creme fraiche
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
50 grams hackleback or other high quality caviar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Salt the cod with the 2 T. kosher salt and let stand 10 minutes.
Rinse and pat dry.
Place the cod in a small pot and cover with olive oil.
Place on medium low heat and poach the cod in the oil until it flakes when prodded
Remove the fish to a mixing bowl to cool.
Pour 1/2 cup of the poaching oil over the cooling cod to cool with it.
Heat remaining oil add the tomato fry the tomato until cooked and a little sweet, season with salt.
Pour the tomato oil mix I the bottom of the baking dish.
Break up the cooled cod and flake it with clean hands.
Whip it up with the oil with a spatula or wooden spoon.
Place 6 pasta sheets side by side and place 1/12 of the filling at the end of each sheet.
Roll away from you and place on the tomato.
Repeat with the rest of the filling and next 6 sheets.
Season the crème fraiche with salt and pour over the caneloni.
Bake at 375 until bubbly.
Sprinkle with chives and top with caviar just before serving.
Serve 2 pieces per person.
Printed with permission of Alex Raij. All rights reserved.
French Holiday Menu – Olivier Quignon, Executive Chef at Bar Boulud
Even as Chef Olivier Quignon of Bar Boulud prepares to celebrate his seventh Christmas in NYC, he hasn’t lost touch with the French holiday traditions of his hometown, the Northern French town of Beauvais. Christmas in the Quignon household, and in the restaurant he helms on behalf of renowned French Chef Daniel Boulud, Bar Boulud, is traditional to a tee, lasting up to six hours and spanning just as many courses. What does a typical French holiday meal entail?
Oysters “Always oysters. We shuck them at lunch and the eating begins.”
Cured or Smoked Fish
Foie Gras “This can be hot, seared, or served as a terrine.”
Hot Fish or Pasta
Beef or Game
Cheese “ALWAYS cheese. French people eat cheese at practically every meal. We may sometimes skip dessert, but we never skip cheese.”
Pastry “At Christmas this is often a Bûche de Noel. But my wife is a pastry chef, so there are usually many desserts.”
Photo Credit: Kristen Hess
Traditionally, Tournedos Rossini is a French steak dish, purportedly created for the composer Gioachino Rossini by French master chef Marie-Antoine Carême. The dish comprises a tournedos (beef tenderloin) pan-fried in butter, served on a crouton, and topped with a hot slice of fresh whole foie gras briefly pan-fried at the last minute. A few slices of black truffle and Madeira demi-glace sauce garnish the dish.
At Bar Boulud New York, ‘Rossini’ is a dish that makes an appearance on the menu every holiday season, and on the tables at many French holiday meals. It is rich in ingredients and flavors, hearty, and the perfect celebration dish. There are several way to prepare Rossini, but Bar Boulud sticks to the traditional preparation—seared beef tenderloin atop a brioche toast, topped with seared foie gras and Madeira-beef jus, served with Pommes Macaire dotted with a celery root puree.
Tournedos Rossini with Truffles and Foie Gras and Pommes Macaire
Executive Chef Olivier Quignon, Bar Boulud
Kosher salt, as needed
4 yellow gold potatoes
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Black truffle butter or oil
2 egg yolks
Canola oil for frying
½ cup flour
Celery Root Puree
1 small (about 3/4 pound) celery root, peeled
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup milk
Freshly ground white pepper
1 ½ lbs angus beef tenderloin, tied with butchers twine
12 ounces fresh grade A foie gras
6 tablespoons beef jus or demi glace
2 ounces Madeira
1 Tablespoon chopped shallot
4 ¼ thin slices of brioche, cut into 3 ½-inch circles, toasted
8 small light green celery leaves
1 small black winter truffle
For the Pomme Macaire
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Make a bed of salt on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and place potatoes on top. Bake potatoes for 45 minutes, or until tender.
Remove from the oven, and when cool enough to handle, cut potatoes in half and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Mash the potato with a fork, season to taste with salt, pepper, and truffle butter (or oil). Stir in the egg yolk to combine. Press mixture into a bread loaf pan and chill overnight.
Turn the potatoes onto a cutting board and cut into (at least 8) 3 x ½-inch batons. Lightly coat the batons in the flour and shake off excess.
Fill 1/3 of a saucepan with canola oil and heat to 350°F. When ready to serve, fry the potatoes in batches until golden brown. Strain onto a paper towel-lined tray, sprinkle with salt.
For the Celery Root Puree
Cut the celery root into medium dice. Place the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook until browned. Add the celery root, milk, and water to cover; bring to a simmer. Cook until tender, about 12 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the celery root to a blender and puree with enough of the cooking liquid to make a smooth puree. Pass through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl.
When ready to serve, transfer to a small saucepan and stir over medium heat to heat through.
Slice the tenderloin into four portions and season on all sides with salt and pepper.
Cut the foie gras into four slices and season on all sides with salt and pepper.
Place a large sauté pan over high heat. Once very hot, sear the foie gras on both sides to brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter, cover with foil and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium and return the pan with the foie gras fat to the heat. Sear the beef on all sides, about 3-4 minutes each, basting the meat constantly with the fat. Brown the beef on all sides while basting the constantly with the fat in the pan, about 10 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 120°F for medium rare. Transfer the beef to the platter with the foie gras, cover, and rest in a warm place.
Add the shallots to the same pan over medium low heat, and cook, stirring until translucent. Add the Madeira and simmer to reduce by 2/3. Stir in the beef jus and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.
For each serving, place a brioche toast on a plate and top with a portion of beef. Top the beef with a piece of roasted foie gras, and shavings of black truffle. Place two pommes macaire next to the beef and top each with a spoonful of celery puree. Garnish puree with two celery leaves. Spoon the sauce from the pan around and serve.
Asian Holiday Menu – Hung Huynh, Executive Chef at Catch Restaurant NYC
Whole Roasted Branzino is a favorite recipe of Chef Hung Huynh of Catch NYC for the holidays. It’s simple, delicious and easy to make and great for feeding a crowd. Chef Hung also recommends adding some miso, ginger, soy and lemongrass to the seasonings to amp up the Asian flavors in this beautiful seafood holiday dish. His Asian inspired holiday menu includes:
Roasted Whole Branzino
Sautéed Green beans with EVOO and Soy Sauce
White or Brown Steamed Rice
Photo Credit: Kristen Hess
Roasted Whole Branzino
Executive Chef Hung Huynh
Serves 2-4 people
1.5 to 2 pound Branzino
1 tablespoon of Aged Balsamic
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of picked chopped thyme
3 cloves of minced garlic
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one lime
Before cooking, the Branzino must be scaled, gutted and scored.
Combine all the seasoning rub ingredients.
Rub entire fish with seasoning including the cavity, distributing evenly.
Make sure that the entire fish is covered in the rub.
Take a half sheet pan and roast at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Reserve the remaining olive oil in the sheet pan.
Place the fish on a platter and drizzle with the reserved olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar.
Jewish Holiday Menu – Zach Kutsher, Proprietor, Kutsher’s Tribeca
Zach Kutsher, Chef and Owner of Kutsher’s Tribeca, always serves Latkes for the Hanukkah holiday. These crispy potato latkes are a traditional Jewish dish made of grated potatoes, onion, eggs and matzo meal, shaped into round potato pancakes and fried to a crispy golden brown. The traditional way to serve them is with a spoonful of sour cream, but Zach likes to also add ½ ounce of caviar (salmon roe, paddlefish caviar and wasabi flying fish roe) to the latkes to give them a special holiday touch. Some other fun ideas that Chef Zach does to dress up the latkes are to use some non-traditional savory toppings such as:
Peking Duck with Cucumber, Scallions and Sesame Hoisin
Wild Hen of the Woods Mushrooms and Herbed Ricotta
Gravlax and Dilled Creme Fraiche
Pastrami Reuben (pastrami, sauerkraut, emmentaler and thousand island dressing)
VLT – Veal Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato
To make it a complete Jewish holiday menu, serve the latkes with: Chopped Duck and Chicken Liver, Seasonal Pickles, Golden and Red Beet Salad with Lemon Ricotta, Arugula and Pecans, Turkey or Brisket with Challah Chestnut Stuffing, Cheesy Spaetzle Kugel, Brussels Sprouts and Pumpkin Shlishkas with Amaretto Matzo and Sage Brown Butter and Babka Sticky Buns for dessert.
Grate onion on the fine side of a cheese grater and then line a strainer with some paper towels and let drain in sink as dry as possible.
Mix egg, yolk, matzo meal, salt, lemon juice, and drained onion together, set aside.
Julienne the potatoes (cut into thin small matchsticks) or grate on the large side of cheese grater, and periodically put the potato in the egg mix to prevent browning. Do not wash potato after it is cut.
Mix all together, fry in schmaltz (rendered/clarified chicken or goose fat – or you can substitute canola oil)
Take one handful of mix, twisted in the palm of your hand like you would spaghetti on a fork, till golden brown and crispy, then flip.
Finish in oven if necessary.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Italian Holiday Menu – Gabe Thompson, Executive Chef of Epicurean Group (dell’anima, L’Artusi, L’Apicio, and Anfora)
Photo Credit: Epicurean Group
Chef Thompson, Executive Chef of the Epicurean Group in NYC loves creating special menus for the holidays. It is all about the food, flavors and family. His menu below puts his crave-able Italian twist on some fall favorites to make for a classic holiday menu!
Grilled Pork Chop — roasted vegetable and chestnut panzanella, pork sugo
Warm Cranberry-pumpkin Budino – served with apple cider sauce
Roasted Acorn Squash Salad Recipe
Executive Chef Gabe Thompson, Epicurean Group
2 acorn squash (1 ½ pounds)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
8 sage leaves
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut each squash into 8-9 wedges, each wedge about 1 inch thick. Remove and discard seeds. In a large bowl, toss the squash wedges together with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season generously with salt.
Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of butter. As soon as the butter melts, add half of the squash to the pan, arranging the pieces so that they are cut-side down. Sprinkle half of the sage over the squash. Cook undisturbed until it is golden brown on one side, about 2-3 minutes. Turn each squash piece over and cook for another 2-3 minutes until golden brown on the other side. Remove squash from the pan and place on a half sheet tray or cookie sheet. Repeat this process with remaining olive oil, butter, squash and sage leaves.
Drizzle maple syrup over the squash segments. Place in the oven and bake until each piece of squash is easily pierced with a fork, about 25-30 minutes. Remove and set aside.
I had the recent opportunity to have an intimate conversation with Trevor Kunk, Chef de Cuisine of Blue Hill New York about their history, philosophy, cuisine and thoughts on their recent James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant 2013.
We sat in the charming back patio garden room as he told me the story of the Barber Family, Blue Hill Farm, his Southern Florida upbringing and Culinary Institute of America training, and how he found his culinary calling at of one of New York’s most premiere farm-to-table restaurants. When I asked him what he thought made Blue Hill win this most distinguished and notable award, he simply stated, “we consistently produce delicious, fresh food.” After our conversation, it’s clear to see why.
With over 138 acres in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Blue Hill Farm has been in the Barber family for three generations and served as the inspiration behind both Blue Hill restaurants. Blue Hill Farm was originally a dairy, and was converted into a cattle farm by the Barber’s grandmother Ann Marlowe Straus, in the 1960s. She believed strongly in preserving land and connecting great farming and delicious food, which she passed on to them. Dan began farming and cooking for family and friends at the farm, and it is there that grew passionate about locally grown and seasonal produce.
In 2006 the brothers decided to redesign Blue Hill Farm back to its original form, and brought in local farmer Sean Stanton to manage the land. The farm is home to chickens, pigs, dairy cows, and laying hens, supplies the restaurants with vegetables and grass-fed meats.
BLUE HILL NEW YORK
In 2000, Blue Hill New York opened in Greenwich Village, New York City. A small intimate space, the restaurant occupies a historical “speakeasy” near Washington Square Park. It is both elegant and casual, serving seasonal American cuisine that celebrates the delicious offerings from the Hudson Valley.
Blue Hill’s menu highlights local food, cocktails, beer and wines from regional Tri-State artisanal producers. The majority of the ingredients come from nearby farms, as well as Blue Hill Farm in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, located in Pocantico Hills, NY.
In addition to Blue Hill’s a la carte menu, they also offer a 5-course Farmer’s Feast and a 7-course extended Farmer’s Feast, bothinspired by the week’s harvest, and have a regular seasonal menu that changes depending on what produce, poultry, meats and seafood are in season to offer the freshest foods possible. Asparagus, Rhubarb, Radishes and Fiddlehead Ferns are abundant on the current Spring menu, which will change as soon as the weather warms up to Summer months, bringing in a flux of new seasonal fruits and vegetables to feature.
They offer a variety of fresh and locally sourced Farm Snacks such as Blue Hill Farm Yogurt, Parsnips, Beets and Oats or the “Farm Bar” served with Goat Cheese and Strawberries. There are plenty of gorgeous, creative appetizers to start the meal too: Chilled Asparagus Soup with Pickled Green Garlic, Walnut Bread and Sorrel; Emu Egg Pasta; or Stone Barns Butterhead Lettuce Salad with Fiddlehead Ferns, Pickled Cauliflower and Hazelnuts.
They serve Raven and Boar’s Pig year around, but their Hudson Valley Chickens are only served from May through November when their pasture raised chickens are in their prime and able to run around and feed outside. They serve local shellfish such as Shrimp and Squid with Spring Vegetables and fresh Tarragon; Grass-Fed Lamb with Asparagus, Knotweed and Alliums; and Rotation Risotto with 12 local grains and seeds made with Brassica Puree and Chocolate Wheat. Desserts are also made with fresh fruits and ingredients from surrounding farms –Olive Oil Cake with fresh pears, brown butter and toasted almond ice cream and a Chocolate Bread Pudding made with salted caramel, pine nuts and cocoa nib ice cream are a few house specialties.
Their cocktails and bar menu mimic the culinary program and support local farms by using NY State and domestic distilleries, wineries and ingredients from Blue Hill Farm and local Hudson Valley farms. They make their own bitters and sweet vermouth in-house, and have a ‘bartender garden’ where they grow their own herbs and plants, including wormwood used to infuse vodka, which is then muddled with fennel and chartreuse to create their own absinthe.
BLUE HILL AT STONE BARNS CENTER AND BLUE HILL CAFE
Sourcing from the surrounding fields and pasture, as well as other local farms in New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, Blue Hill at Stone Barns is an elegant restaurant that highlights the abundant resources of the Hudson Valley. There are no menus there, instead guests choose from a variety of fresh daily ingredients from the field and market.
Blue Hill Café offers light snacks, farm-fresh lattes and other locally grown and baked goodies, available to eat in the courtyard or take on a walk around the farm.
Shop for seasonal jams and pickles, rhubarb jam and pickled sunchokes in the Spring or apple butter and pickled cucumbers in the Fall. You can also shop for Blue Hill Farm Market items online.
The non-profit Stone Barns Center offers plenty of cooking classes and demos using local seasonal ingredients taught by well-known chefs and food artisans. You can also try your hand at some of their fun farm activities such as hands-on egg collecting, ice cream making, foraging for wild plants, making natural herbal remedies or maple tapping on the farm.
Visitors can also get a behind-the-scenes insider’s tour of Stone Barns, or attend one of their special events centered on farming and agriculture, such as the Sheep Shearing Festival in April or the Young Farmers Conference held in 2012. Check out this great video about Stone Barns Center’s mission to support a healthy and sustainable food system.
Blue Hill New York is open for dinner 7 days a week, and also hosts elegant events and private parties at its two restaurant locations and off-site venues. Whether it’s a trip to the farm or an elegant dinner in the city, Blue Hill certainly has earned its James Beard title for Outstanding Restaurant without a shadow of a doubt.
Blue Hill is a longstanding member of the NYS Restaurant Association (since joining in 2000), and is grateful for all the positive work NYSRA does to support their restaurants and businesses.
Blue Hill New York
75 Washington Place
New York, New York 10011
T 212 539 1776 (reservations and general information)
F 212 539 0959
Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Good Food Ireland (www.goodfoodireland.ie), the first-ever, all industry network driving food tourism in Ireland, offers the perfect online destination to shop, plan a food trip, obtain great Irish recipes and learn about authentic Irish food experiences. Good Food Ireland sets criteria for the “best in class” of Irish food and products and has created the Good Food Ireland Approved Provider status. There are over 450 Approved Providers that ensure consumers that all products and services meet the standards. At the newly redesigned website, www.goodfoodireland.ie you can:
Plan a food journey to Ireland via “My Food Trip.” This feature is supported by a host of information including locations and details about hotels, restaurants, cookery schools, producer experiences, markets and festivals as well as an ongoing calendar of events. In addition, there’s the opportunity to meet the people behind the products. The feature allows the user to create, save and share their favorite food trip around Ireland. It’s like a wish list for the user when they come to Ireland.
Find and create delicious contemporary Irish dishes at home with recipes from Ireland’s top chefs including Ed Cooney, Executive Head Chef of Dublin’s five star The Merrion Hotel, and a chef for the Obamas when they were in Ireland and Maurice Keller, Good Food Ireland Ambassador Chef. Some of the recipes include Bircher Muesli made with Irish Porridge Oats, Traditional Irish Stew, Brown Bread and Salmon Fishcakes.
“St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect time to learn about Ireland’s secret gems — its locally produced ingredients, great food and great people,” says Margaret Jeffares, founder and managing director of Good Food Ireland. “Good Food Ireland was created to make it easy for food lovers everywhere to travel to Ireland and to experience our bounty first-hand, but even if you can’t do that, we now offer some of our finest products, bearing the Good Food Ireland Approved Provider seal, here in the U.S. and are happy to share delicious recipes that can be enjoyed not only on St. Patrick’s Day but every day.”
I had the opportunity to meet the Good Food Ireland’s Ambassador Chef Maurice Keller, TV Personality Clodagh McKenna and Founder Margaret Jeffares at Dean & Deluca flagship store in Soho in New York City earlier this week for a special cooking demo and tasting event of some of their authentic Irish foods.
Below are some great photos of the event and the tasty Irish goods that I sampled, available at www.goodfoodireland.ie or at Dean & DeLuca:
Good Food Ireland also shared their recipe for the amazing Salmon Fishcakes and Irish Porridge so you can make some Irish goodies yourself for St Patty’s Day! enjoy.
2 shallots finely chopped
1 lb Salmon Filleted and skinned
Kerrygold Butter 1 Tablespoon
Dry White Wine 5 fl oz
Chopped Parsley 1 Tablespoon
Mashed Potatoes – no cream no butter
For the Coating:
2 Tablespoons Plain Floor
2 oz soft white Breadcrumbs
Pre-heat oven to 200c/400f gas 6
Butter and season a tray. Sprinkle with the shallots and sit the salmon on top. Drizzle with white wine and season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes – the salmon should be firm to touch but still pink in the middle.
Sit the salmon in a colander over a pan to collect all the juices.
When all the juices have drained, place in a small pot and reduce on a stove to a nice syrup consistency.
Break up the salmon into flakes, add the syrup and chopped parsley, then fold in the potato until you have a binding texture. Check for seasoning and roll into 12 to 18 ball shaped cakes.
To Breadcrumb – Lightly pass through the flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs, repeat the process again.
To Cook – Deep fry at 180c/ 350f for 4-5 minutes drain well.
Serve 3 per portion on a bed of steamed baby spinach and lemon butter sauce.
Traditional Recipe Cooked with Water or Milk
Porridge Oats 2 oz
Milk 7 fl oz
Heat the milk, add porridge oats and cook for 1 min serve with honey or salt
Ballymaloe Country Relish: A delicate balance of tomatoes and gentle spices, this delicious relish was created by Myrtle Allen of the famed Ballymaloe House in County Cork. It is made from only the finest ingredients, containing no artificial additives. The relish is extremely versatile and is excellent with beef burgers, French fries, cold meats, cheese, sausage rolls and salads. It is also wonderful in sandwiches or served with light meals, picnics or barbecues.
Burren Smoked Irish Salmon: All Burren Smoked Salmon is 100% Irish. It is farmed in the most pristine waters off the west coast of Ireland where there is no pollution. The entire smoking process, from filleting to packing is still done by hand in the small, family-owned smokery.
Cooleeney Cheese: Established in 1986. Jim and Breda Maher established Cooleeney Cheese on the family farm with the ambition to produce a range of artisan cheeses using the milk from their own Friesians. They launched their first cheese on the Irish market that same year and national and international awards over the next two years created a great awareness and interest in Cooleeney Farmhouse Cheese.
Ditty’s Irish Oatcakes: Handmade with rolled oats from County Armagh, these light, nutty, wholesome biscuits have a just-baked crispness. They are made by Ditty’s Home Bakery, a third-generation bakery based in Castledawson, Northern Ireland. The delicious biscuits that reflect a combination of sweet and savory flavors are handmade using only the finest locally-sourced ingredients.
Seymour’s Shortbread: Seymour’s biscuit bakery hand makes these Irish butter shortbread cookies with the finest Irish butter. They are created in Bandon, West Cork using local creamery butter, freshly delivered from the nearby co-op. The shortbread has a dense, crumbly texture but is not too sweet. It’s perfect for pairing with tea, hot chocolate or a glass of cold milk.
Kilbeggan Porridge: The oats in this “creamiest-ever porridge” are grown by fifth-generation farmers on the Lalor family farm in Kilbeggan, Ireland. Grown and processed naturally with no synthetic chemicals, this is perhaps the most delicious oatmeal you’ll ever eat.
About Good Food Ireland
Good Food Ireland is a grassroots industry network aimed at promoting innovations in Irish food, the country’s commitment to sustainable, authentic products across food, hospitality and travel industries – incorporating farmers, chefs, hoteliers and outposts of cultural interest. The organization seeks to promote its authentic products in the U.S. and to inspire Americans to travel to Ireland to experience the contemporary cuisine and engage with its citizens and culture. The cross section of agriculture, food & culinary, production/manufacturing and tourism industries seek to grow and sustain the Irish economy.
Margaret Jeffares, Founder & Managing Director of Good Food Ireland. Margaret’s career in tourism and hospitality has spanned almost 25 years. Living on a farm with her husband, Des, in Co. Wexford, she had a strong knowledge of the agri-food industry in Ireland. This combined with her experience in tourism led Margaret to identify a major gap in the market for the development of a strong food and tourism proposition for the island of Ireland. Therefore, she launched the all island umbrella brand “Good Food Ireland” and set the standard for Food Experience in Ireland.
Maurice Keller has travelled the world as Ambassador Chef with Good Food Ireland, showcasing the highest quality food that the island has to offer. Formerly, he was the chef-proprietor of Arlington Lodge Country House Hotel in Waterford City, Ireland. Having worked for many dignitaries, Maurice’s philosophy is simply based on using the best quality local produce he can find.
Clodagh Mc Kenna is a well known TV food personality and the familiar face of “Irish Food Trails” on PBS. She is also the author of four best-selling cookbooks that include Clodagh’s Kitchen Diaries, The Irish Farmers’ Market Cookbook, Fresh from the Sea and Homemade. A trained chef from the famed Ballymaloe Cookery School, Clodagh will share her culinary vision regarding the incorporation of farm fresh produce.
Dean & DeLuca | 560 Broadway at Prince Street | SoHo NYC
WOW. I recently had the opportunity this past January to assist on a photo shoot for Sandra Lee at her house in Westchester for a series of food and holiday shots for Sandra Lee magazine with my photographer friend, Jill Lotenberg. We set up and shot 15 different photos of Sandra in various settings around her home and kitchen, with gorgeous food and cocktails for her holiday and entertainment-themed magazine spreads with recipes. The house had a full crew and production team including food stylists, prop stylists, makeup artists, photographers and a team of assistants working around the clock to set up the lighting, food and drinks, props and sets around the house, and of course styling Sandra herself to be gorgeous and photo ready for the perfect final beauty shots for the magazine. The photos turned out great, and it was a cool opportunity to meet Sandra and her team in person. The shot above is currently in the March 2013 issue out on newsstands..stay tuned for more as they are published!
On a recent visit to BeyondSushi, a Japanese Vegan Sushi restaurant in the East Village in NYC, I had the opportunity to meet the Founder and Chef (and Hell’s Kitchen Finalist!) Guy Vaknin, to discuss his innovative and artful approach to traditional Sushi. Chef Guy came up with the idea for his vegan Sushi concept while he was the Executive Chef of Esprit Events, a Catering company in New York. Focusing on Kosher, healthy vegan and vegetarian food, they opened a Vegan Sushi station, and the idea grew from there when Chef Guy saw the potential and demand for healthy vegan food in the New York market. Two years later, BeyondSushi (The Green Roll) was born.
The Sushi is not only artfully crafted and colorful, but super healthy,fresh and totally vegan, while keeping the Asian flavors true to traditional Sushi by using natural ingredients such as sliced nori, red, black and six-grain rice, toasted sesame, chili flakes, and gourmet imported sea salts to punch up and balance the flavors and textures of their Sushi.
They have a variety of delicious and creative sushi rolls, sushi pieces, as well as Vegan wraps and salads, and they make all of their own custom sauces such as Carrot Ginger, Sweet Soy Mirin, Shiitake Teriyaki, White Miso, and more, using grapeseed oil and all natural, dairy free ingredients.
They take a variety of colorful, seasonal ingredients and combine them into gorgeous works of art – and the best part is, they really do taste like traditional sushi, but are pure Vegan. Crunch ‘n Munch, Pickle Me, La Fiesta, Green Machine and Mighty Mushroom are just a few of their catchy roll names – all made with tasty, healthy vegetables, rice and seasonings. They also do a custom roll of the month, which Chef Guy creates based on whatever he feels like dreaming up that day, using local produce from vendors at the Union Square Farmers Market.
Their Pastry Chef, Tiffany Louie, has created a new line of Vegan pastries and baked goods available in the store – Parsnip Cakes with Orange Almond Creme, Seed and Dried Fruit Almond Bars, and Carrot Bars are a few of their sweet healthy treats. Their juices are squeezed fresh each day and made in house.
I sampled the Nutty Buddy wrap, made with Buckwheat noodles, crushed peanuts, cilantro, jalapeno, peanut butter, avocado, sesame oil, carrots, baked tofu and romaine – a delicious combination and explosion of Asian flavors!
For a sushi sampling, I devoured the Spicy Mang Roll, made with Black Rice, Avocado, Mango, Cucumber and spicy veggies with a delicious Toasted Cayenne sauce. I also had the Pickle Me, made with Six Grain rice, Gobo, Carrot, Pickled Daikon and Avocado with a Carrot Ginger Sauce. YUM!
Their space is casual, cozy and inviting, and in a great location on 14th Street near Union Square. Their prices are reasonable too, ranging from $5.00 to $8.50 for Rice Paper Wraps and Salads to $6.50 for an 8-piece roll, or $7.50 to $13 for a combination plate of rolls. They also do custom catering for private events, weddings and parties with a variety of sushi rolls, salads and wrap platters.
They’ve been written up by Oprah and the NY Times and have plans to open up a second location in the near future, so stay tuned for more. There definitely isn’t any other restaurant around like it, so kudos to Chef Guy for pioneering this healthy, delicious concept. With Vegan Sushi this good – who needs the fish?!