Search
This is Us!

We are here to bring you our life through food. Especially Italian food. You can learn more about us here.

Navigation
Friday
Sep102010

Gone Fishing



Hello my lovely readers! I'm taking the day off today. You should too! It's beautiful outside.

I have some great stuff for you next week, so don't fret. In the meantime, feel free to leave me comments about stuff you'd like us to cover. Or things you'd like to know about. Food related, of course. Or 80's movies. either one.

Have a lovely Friday, and if you need reading, you can re-visit (or visit for the very first time):

Eataly your heart out!

Tapas the Morning to Ya!

Or make yourself some paella this weekend. I swear, it's good.

See you Monday!
Thursday
Sep092010

Eataly, Beataly, Mo-Meataly. EATALY!



Italy is Eataly! Or so says the banner outside the door to the newly opened Mario Batali & Joe Bastianich's Italian gourmet food store and market.

I have not read many reviews of Eataly. Maybe I should have, but anyway. First, I would like to take a moment to comment on the name. Eataly? Really? I mean, I get it. But does anyone else find it kinda….I dunno…stupid? I was half expecting (hoping) the meat department would be called Meataly, and then the bakery could be called Treataly. Oh – and the bread section – Wheataly! Ok, you get the idea.

The place is enormous and comprehensive – it includes sections for meats (cured and otherwise), cheese, wine, pasta, bread, baked goods, gelato, fun, imported packaged foods from Italy, a Panini station, and even kitchen gadgets and cookbooks.

The produce section is up front when you first enter the shop. It’s very nicely laid out – it has the feel of a fancy farmer’s market with baskets heaped with eggplants and apples and little garden signs detailing produce names and prices. They have some fancier items, like white and purple figs, lesser-known mushrooms, and those tiny little grapes.

Once you walk towards the center of the store things get a little more confusing. Eataly’s solution to this is to use signposts to direct you to your desired destination. I still got confused. Probably because I’m slow, but really, there was stuff everywhere and I got overwhelmed.



I was also hungry. And if you know me, you know how I get when I’m hungry. Cranky. And I’m hungry pretty much all the time, so….Anyway, I was looking for lunch, preferably something relatively healthy and pre-made (because I didn’t have the patience to put anything together myself at that moment). There aren’t a lot of pre-made offerings except for baked goods, gelato, and Panini. I settled on a Panini. I ordered a hot Panini with prosciutto, spicy peppers, and Mizuna. There were only two hot and two cold offerings at the Panini station. I don’t know if this is good or bad, I’m just sayin’.

I knew this would not be enough food for me, so I wandered around checking out some other stuff. I settled on some white figs (which are really green), a Honeycrisp apple, some imported chips from Italy (of course – Chipaly!!), and a tiny pot of honey (I should note, I’m a sucker for fancy-pants gourmet stores and food packaging. I am a designer, after all.) As I was wandering around the isles, I overheard many astounded comments from other patrons regarding the prices of the food. It is expensive. My whole order came to around $20. Yikes. But it’s for science, people. And my readers – all 12 of them (readership is up)! I’m not really going to comment much on the cost of things, other than to agree it’s pricey, and suggest you should prepare yourself for that if you are going to shop there.

I perused some of the other sections including the cheeses (nice selection), the cookbooks (not extensive, but some good choices), and the kitchen gadget area, which I found a little tchotchke-ish and overrun with Alessi-designed implements.

Eataly really does seem to want to impress that they are authentic Italian. In fact, most of the signage is in both English and Italian. I suppose vacationing Italians will flock here in droves and need proper instruction as to the whereabouts of the Parmesano Reggiano.

I took my lunch across the street to devour it at one of Madison Square Park’s outdoor tables. The sandwich was good. The bread was fresh and crispy, and I liked the added kick from the spicy peppers. The produce (apple and figs) was fresh – no spores, molds or fungus. And the chips were decent – like the Italian version of tortilla chips.



Un pranzo costoso ma delizioso.

Eataly
200 5th Ave
23rd St
New York 10010

Wednesday
Sep082010

Tapas the Morning to Ya! A Review of La Nacional



Today's review is of La Nacional, a Spanish tapas bar/restaurant located on 239 West 14th Street.  We were clued in about this place by Tasting Table.  Indeed, the write up it received got us excited - "Homesick Spaniards have been flocking to La Nacional for camaraderie and tapas since the 1920s. Over the years, these expats have been joined by a mix of chefs and in-the-know diners for good reason: The city's oldest Spanish restaurant is also one of its best."  Did we agree?  No, not so much.

The inside is, interesting.  The restaurant is located on the first floor of what feels like a walk-up apartment building; the second floor sounded like it was accommodating a studio for Latin dancing classes.  Indeed, it was (there were flyers for Tango lessons and music could be heard).  Tempted as I was, I stayed at sea level and entered the restaurant.  A dimly lit, pool hall-ish pub type joint, with two rooms, wood tables, and a laid back atmosphere.  No host or anything - just some old maps, eclectic ethnic art and iron work on the walls.  There were twinkle lights in the windows, and checked linoleum floor in brown and black.   Elana awaits in the adjoining room, looking excited.

Myself and Elana scour the menu.  To get us going, we order a pitcher of Sangria and it is just fine. The offerings are quite extensive, but we settle on the following: Grilled Octopus (which became known as the Grilled 'Pus after a few glasses of sangria), Croquettas, Veal and Beef Meatballs, and the Fried Artichokes.



The 'Pus was just OK.  It was hearty in portion, but was really nothing more than a bunch of sea meat, chopped up and drenched in hot sauce - perhaps to give its otherwise bland nature some taste.  It was left unfinished, which, if I am at the table, is quite an indictment. Also just OK were the Fried Artichokes, which was disappointing to us. Fried artichokes get us excited.  They can be so damn good... but in this case, there was an almost sour, canned taste to them.  Again, these were left unfinished.

The Croquettas and Meatballs, however, were a different story.  Both were pretty darn delicious.  The Croquettas had a great crust, and some sort of mushroom/bechamel thing going on inside which was awesome.  The Meatballs were cooked just right and the sauce was pretty darn delicious.  A Spanish marinara of sorts, quite good.  Both of these dishes were finished.

For an entree, we split an order of the Arroz Negro (paella): black rice (squid ink) with mussels, shrimp, and clams.  This was probably the highlight of the meal.  It was brought to the table in its cast iron pan, which continues to cook the paella and give portions of the rice a very nice crust at the bottom.  Not a scrap was left over, as Elana and I diligently scraped the bottom of the pan to unearth all remnants of that awesome crust.



According to Elana, "the bathrooms were a little shady. They need an Xlerator® hand dryer. The antiquated version they had blew feebly at my hands making them (if possible) less dry."

Overall, we were not blown away.  But I suppose, like many restaurants, a familiarity with the menu could have lent itself to a more favorable experience (and review); since the plates were hot and cold; figuratively speaking.

Overall Experience - The Girl Next Door
Tuesday
Sep072010

Announcements

First! I would like to thank you all for making comments. It really does bring a tear to my eye. Of joy (I swear). I'm thinking of picking one lucky commenter per month to win a special John and Elana Talk About Food Prize. I have no idea what this prize will be. It will not be money, that I can guarantee. It could be ridiculous. It could have feathers. I will keep you posted.

Second! We have added photos to our Flickr photostream. Did you even know we had a photostream? Well, we do. Click here - or in the sidebar.

Third! We will be posting a review of La Nacional - a Spanish Tapas place - tomorrow. See how everything relates? Paella recipe today, Spanish restaurant tomorrow. We try.
Tuesday
Sep072010

Paella! Pae-yay-ya!



I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday weekend. Did you miss us? I did. But here we are again, on the other side of Labor Day. Thankfully, you - our dedicated readers - have some wonderful things to look forward to this fall. From us. Imagine that.

First up, this week will be slightly Spanish themed. I say slightly because I'm still not sure how much. We are beginning with a recipe for paella...

I love paella. Especially if it has the magic ingredient - CHORIZO. Oh dear, how I looooove the chorizo. Maybe too much, but those are the facts. And this recipe does have the magic ingredient. This is Tyler Florence's recipe for "Ultimate Paella." I did modify it slightly, so this is my version. But he's responsible, so I wanted to give the man some credit.

Ingredients:

  • Spice Mix for chicken, recipe follows

  • 1 (3-pound) frying chicken, cut into 10 pieces

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 Spanish chorizo sausages, thickly sliced

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 1 Spanish onion, diced

  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed

  • Bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, reserve some for garnish

  • 1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed

  • 3 cups short grain Spanish rice

  • 5 cups water, warm

  • 1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed

  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined

  • 1/2 cup sweet peas, frozen and thawed

  • Lemon wedges, for serving


* Note: I subtracted 1 cup of rice and 1 cup of water (cuz this really makes a boatload of paella). I also took out the lobster tails. I love lobster tails, but I couldn't handle buying one more thing this particular go-round. Additionally, I ditched the saffron and added cilantro (with the parsley).

Spice Mix for Chicken:



  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika

  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken; marinate for 1 hour, covered

Special Equipment:



  • Large paella pan or wide shallow skillet


Directions:


Rub the spice mix all over the chicken and marinate chicken for 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Heat oil in a paella pan over medium-high heat. Saute the chorizo until browned, remove and reserve. Add chicken skin-side down and brown on all sides, turning with tongs. Add salt and freshly ground pepper. Remove from pan and reserve.

In the same pan, make a sofrito by sauteing the onions, garlic, and parsley. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on a medium heat. Then, add tomatoes and cook until the mixture caramelizes a bit and the flavors meld. Fold in the rice and stir-fry to coat the grains. Pour in water and simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. Add chicken and chorizo. Add the clams and shrimp, tucking them into the rice. The shrimp will take about 8 minutes to cook. Give the paella a good shake and let it simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al dente, for about 15 minutes. When the paella is cooked and the rice looks fluffy and moist, turn the heat up for 40 seconds until you can smell the rice toast at the bottom, then it's perfect.

The ideal paella has a toasted rice bottom called socarrat.

Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with peas, parsley, cilantro and lemon wedges.