Friday, September 24, 2010

spelunking in the city


The mamacita is in town, and of course, all we have been doing is going to markets galore, food shopping, reading recipes, having small bites, and cooking! Since living in New York I've discovered (for myself) some amazing places that I had to share.  For our first evening, we had a few cocktails at Upstairs at the Kimberly Hotel - it really has an amazing view of the city, with the Chrysler building front and center - and it isn't too insanely "hip" like Mad45, 230 Fifth, etc.  It has great design, great food, and great cocktails! It'll even be a great bar for wintertime, with a retractable glass roof and heated floors. 

really, i just like the lights.
 Beyond that, we popped into Pampano to have some ceviche - legitimately, some of the best ceviche I've ever had (minus the aguachile from Yelapa, Mexico!) - it's as fresh as can be, and outrageously flavorful, with the ceviches changing seasonally.  

Of course, I have to take her to Kalustyan's, NY Cake and Bake Supply, and....Eataly.  We both went NUTS at Kalustyan's! Purchasing everything left and right, from green bamboo rice to black forbidden rice, nigella seeds to borage flowers, fennel pollen to...well, you get the idea.  If there is ever ANY type of spice (everything!!), flour, bean, grain, or frankly anything nonperishable that is high-quality, this is your place. 
I mean, these are only half of the curries they have.
Following Kalustyan's, we spent an entirely absurd amount of time at Eataly. We contemplated buying truffles, because yes, they had them FRESH for sale.  We also contemplated buying sea urchin and cracking it open outside of the market, but that just seemed like it may be a bit odd (to some, not me).  This was the first time I actually ATE at Eataly, and the quality of their product is outstanding. We tried a Grande Piatto Misto di Salumi e Formaggi. Why I failed to take a picture of this, I do not know! Beautiful cheeses and cured meats - divine prosciutto de Parma and San Daniele, mortadella, and speck, along with Fontina, Taleggio, a 35 month aged Parmesan, a creamy Gorgonzola, and a fresh Ricotta. During this time, I was able to chat with Joe Bastianich! Not only is he a brilliant businessman, but he really loves what he does.  We kept running into him in every part of the store (seriously not on purpose) and finally I decided to just start talking to him - about Eataly and how great it is, the original store in Torino, food, ingredients, and of course cooking.  How can you not talk cooking with someone who's mother is one of the queen's of Italian cooking?! He told me about a dish he made with fresh linguine, langoustine, fish stock (made with the langoustine shells) and finished with fresh sea urchin to make it creamy....I will be making this as soon as possible! He gave us a few tastes of different parmesans and aged balsamics, as well as a fig stuffed with gorgonzola, topped with La Mozza olive oil. Delicious!

Mamacita Mare Bear and my friend showed up to have some treats with us - we wanted to try some pasta and pizza inside the market.  The pasta was cooked perfectly - on the menu they had both dried and fresh pastas, specifying which is which.  We tried two fresh pastas, one tagliatelle with pesto Genovese, and one lasagna al forno. The color of the pesto was absolutely striking - almost a kelly green - which signified the use of super fresh basil from Genoa, and a properly made product.  It was delicious, and perfectly cooked - and reminded me of this video. The lasagna was as such as well.  The sheets of lasagna were thin, allowing the flavor of the ingredients to come through, utilizing the lasagna to give a sort of toothiness to the dish.

tagliatelle - look how green!
lasagna al forno
Next came our little pizza just a San Marzano with (obviously) San Marzano tomato sauce, basil, and mozzarella.  The crust was thin, and perfectly crispy, the sauce has the proper amount of sweetness, and there was a great ratio of sauce-crust-cheese.  Of course, being the obnoxious people that we are, we sprinkled some fennel pollen on the pizza. I know, get over it, it was worth it.

 Finally, after a billion hours of being in this store, we decided to leave on yet another adventure to the NY Cake and Bake store to buy god knows what.  Sprinkles, colored dusting powder, Valrhona cocoa powder - pretty much everything unnecessary, yet necessary that you could think of. I did get a rolling pin and cooling rack! 

After toting all of our goodies home, and after taking a breather, we were ready for a bite to eat (seriously, this was quite a few hours later, as much as it may seem otherwise).  We needed something not heavy at this point, so we decided on Esca.  Fortunately, Chef Dave Pasternak was working this evening so I could introduce him to MB.  Dave is an amazing seafood chef and really knows how to work with his ingredients, and he sources GREAT product from all over.  Not to mention he LOVES what he does, which is so important in this business.  At Esca, we tried a couple crudos and a couple antipastis to share - I love that crudo is becoming more popular all over - it's Italian sashimiBianchetti, or as he calls them "french fries of the sea" - fresh whitebait fried in a light batter, whole - and you eat it, whole.  Absolutely delicious.  

For our courses, our first taste was the sea urchin with olive oil, sea salt, and a bit of balsamic.  I absolutely LOVE sea urchin.  I used to be absolutely terrified of it, because the first time I had it, it was hideous.  But once you try a fresh sea urchin, its like eating the ocean. Seriously.  The olive oil on the urchin really helped bring the flavors together - although I must admit, I like West Coast urchin better than East Coast.

Our next crudo was Branzino with it's own cracklings - I'm not sure if you can legitimately call them cracklings, but I am absolutely okay with it! Since it was the branzino skin, it added a little more "fishiness" to it if you will, but you can only expect that from skin with all the oil in it.  This was a great play on textures and flavors, with big chunks of sea salt as well.

For our last two tastes, we had grilled octopus with giant corona beans and preserved sorrento lemons. I seriously have an obsession for octopus as of late - I can't get enough of it! I don't know if it's because I have more access to it, or more people know how to cook it well, or what the deal is. I could eat octopus, grilled, roasted, or pan-seared every day of my life. This was a delicious take on grilled octopus - the preserved lemon really livened up the dish.


And the sardines! Little butterflied fillets atop roasted peperonata with green olives and olive oil.  This was perfect.

The evening ended with some delicious Moscato d'Asti and biscotti.  You can't get much better than that! I would say it was a successful start to the MB visit to the city. More to come!

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