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Entries in gelato (5)

Wednesday
May232012

The Iaciofano's Go To Naboo, I mean Lenno...

Although we were sad to leave Verona, we were anticipating with much enthusiasm the adventures that awaited us in Lake Como.
Our fearsome foursome took up temporary residence in Tremezzo, one of the towns circling the lake. Travel from town to town happens by boat on Lake Como, so the Iaciofano's heaved-to and set sail for Lenno one rainy day.
Our main purpose in visiting Lenno was to see the Villa Balbianello, an impressive estate that you may recall from such films as Star Wars (I forget which – one of the new films with that Jar Jar creature), and Casino Royale.
In order to get to the villa, we had to trek through a couple miles of woodsy terrain. I very much enjoyed this, even in the rain, but The Box was not a fan. 
"Are we there yet?" He'd ask... and, "I'm turning around and calling a cab."
Needless to say I was not amused. I was, however, floored by the grandeur of Villa Balbianello once we finally made it onto the main grounds.
Impeccably manicured and coiffed, ivy coiled around the columns and the trees were manicured within an inch of their lives. We entertained ourselves for quite some time, until I got very cold.
Did I mention it was raining? So, we hailed a water taxi (one conveniently pulled up to the back door of the villa's grounds) and made haste back to the main center of Lenno, where in spite of the cold, we all had gelato at La Fabbrica del Gelato.
This wasn't the best gelato John had sampled – he much preferred the gelateria in Bologna. BUT it was very pretty, and they got extra marks for their display of tiny colorful gelato scoops.
Now I was REALLY cold. And the state of my hair in the rain...let's just say Marmo and I were picking up RAI Uno and RAI Due station feeds.
Also, we were hungry. Yes, we just had gelato, but gelato does not a meal make. What does is meat and cheese. And wine. So we headed back to Tremezzo and located a local wine bar, Cantina Follié.
Perched atop some bar stools, and wearing The Box's jacket for warmth, I commandeered the wine list. I selected the wine pictured below based on the label design. I do that. I'm a sucker for pretty design. Also, I was cold, hungry and out of patience.
Luckily, the wine proved to be delicious. Marmo and I started to calculate U.S. shipping as we devoured a plate of local meats and cheeses, included a personal favorite formaggio of mine: TALEGGIO.
Stuffed full of meat, cheese, wine and gelato, we headed back to our hotel for.... a NAP.
Hey, we needed to conserve energy for dinner. 

 

Thursday
Apr262012

Loopy for Lupa

Since John has been slugging away in the bowels of his law firm, I've needed a dinner partner. I mean, even though I CAN eat for two (because I have a large appetite) doesn't mean I should. At least not every day. So I called in reinforcements in the form of the IMOM: The International Man of Mystery to those of you who haven't been paying attention.

The IMOM prefers to stay shrouded in mystery. Can you imagine the paparazzi bombardment that would ensue if he were caught on this blog? Yeah...we'll let those crickets continue to chirp and I will talk about FOOD!

The IMOM and I made our way to Lupa. Can you believe I had never been? True story. Anyway, Lupa is billed as a Roman Trattoria, or "Osteria Romana", therefore the dishes served there are typical of food you would find in Rome. On the back of the menu, there's even a handy glossary of terms to help those unfamiliar with "Carbonara" and "Amatriciana". I liked that.

I also liked the simplicity of presentation of their dishes, which in no way compromised the taste. The IMOM was feeling a bit "hefty" or so he said...so we began light.

I ordered a Mixed Green Salad with shaved Peccorino (typical of the Roman region), and the IMOM selected the Octopus with Farro and Salsa. The salad was light and refreshing with a tangy lemon vinaigrette. The octopus didn't look like much (that's why there isn't a photo here). It was a bunch of chunky single tentacles balanced over salsa on a square dish.

Let me tell you, looks can be deceiving, especially where this octopus is concerned, as it was fabulous. The meat itself was perfectly tender and flavorful - not a hint of that gum-like chewyness that comes with over-cooking. The salsa was light and fresh - somewhere between a light marinara and a salsa, and there were bonus fried chick peas rolling around on the side for a bit of texture. A must order.

 

Moving on to dinner, the IMOM (who had pushed his extra Octopus off to me, distracting me with a lengthy and meaningful conversation about the benefits of me having my own in-apartment meat slicer) ordered the Spaghetti Pomodoro. I was about to reprimand him for being so dull, but that was before I tasted the pomodoro sauce. The tomatoes delicately enveloped each and every strand of spaghetti so delicately and entirely, you could never imagine them apart. The healthy addition (not too much, but noticeable) of red pepper flakes gave the sauce added heat and impact.

For myself, I was feeling some fish. I selected the Market Fish of the Day, which was a Red Snapper filet dressed with Sunchokes, Grapefruit and Broccoli. The palm-sized filet (kudos for appropriate portion sizing!) was pan fried to give it a nice crust on the top. The veggies loomed over it like blossoming Wisteria, adding some meatier texture (the sunchokes), tangy refreshment (grapefruit), and a bit of earthy greenery (the broccoli). 

Now, although the IMOM had sworn not to overdo it at this meal, I couldn't pass up the homemade Dark Chocolate Gelato, and so I forced some on him as well. Smooth, rich, velvety....and complemented by about three after dinner Amaretto's on behalf of the IMOM. I admit to stealing a few sips...

In parting, I will say this:

The Octopus: Get it

An in-home meat slicer: very tempting...consider it.

Pomodoro: Simplicity in a bowl...share it as an app at least!

Market Fish: Perfection in preparation and size.

Dessert: Make the gelato happen.

After dinner drinks: Know your limits.

The Bathrooms: Visit them.

I cruised into my apartment, humming something about a yellow brick road and wondering if I could store my new meat slicer in the bathtub when I wasn't using it.

Overall Eating Experience: Shawshank Redemption

LUPA

170 THOMPSON STREET NEW YORK CITY 10012  212 982 5089

Wednesday
Jan042012

Dinner With the I.M.O.M. at Alloro

As you know, John and I are always on the hunt for excellence in Italian cuisine. But we also enjoy inventiveness. No one, especially not John, will dispute the appeal and deliciousness of a well-made plate of Veal Parmesan. Or a spectacular, pancetta-speckled rice ball.

But what about something different?

Many of you may be able to picture the contents of an Italian restaurant menu in your head. It never changes, and what starts with Insalata Mista, rolls through Calamari Fritti and Zuppa di Pesce, and winds up somewhere around Osso Bucco. The road map remains the same regardless of season or availability of ingredients.

I like it when people shake things up. I like salt shakers, drinks you shake, polaroid pictures...but it's rare that I find an Italian restaurant that thinks outside the box of penne.

Enter Alloro and the I.M.O.M. What is the I.M.O.M? He is the International Man of Mystery, just not Austin Powers. But similar....Every now and again the I.M.O.M. jets in from Rio or Morocco to take me out to dinner and catch up on exotic happenings in our lives. Like what happens when your neighbors in suburban New Jersey start complaining about your generator. NO! I mean crazy stuff like international living and cotechino.

What is cotechino? I'll get to that.

The I.M.O.M. even carries the giant purple bag that follows me everywhere, especially when it's training season. Side note: You can fit a lot of cotechino in the giant purple bag.

We decided to jet to the Upper East Side to try out Alloro, an Italian restaurant that I was recommended to try by one of my Full Throttle coaches who enjoys giving me restaurant recommendations while making me sprint around Central Park at alarming speeds. My brains are usually addled during this process, so anything he tells me I believe.

And he told me that Alloro's menu was inventive and seasonal. No veal parm here (sorry, John), but you might get a parmesan foam gracing your homemade ravioli.

Before I continue, a word of warning: These are TERRIBLE photos. Seriously, the worst. The lighting was VERY dim and I don't like using my flash...I feel like it disturbs the other diners.

To begin, I selected the Insalata di Salvatore (pictured above), named for Salvatore of Salvatore and Gina, the owners. The presentation was a delight, to say nothing of the taste. Arranged linearly, this salad was a wealth of seasonal herbs and greens (I even detected mint!), accented with pomegranate seeds and blanketed by fresh Parmeggiano Reggiano.

Mysteriously, the I.M.O.M. chose the Salmon Tartar: two healthy cylinders of freshest pink salmon accented with bean sprouts and cubes of soy ginger gelatin. I have to say, I think they could market soy ginger as Jell-O's next flavor...tangy and salty but also deep and flavorful.

For my main meal, I chose the Duck Ragu over Penne. The ragu was decorated with foie gras and - get this! - chocolate flakes!! You mix the whole thing up and what you get is a juicy, salty, ducky, fatty, sweet mess. It would be nice to take a bath in it. Ducks and all.

The I.M.O.M. selected the Homemade Ravioli stuffed with Cotechino. This photo was too blurry and ridiculous to post, so I must describe it accurately. Eight large ravioli arranged in a line arrived on a long, slender plate. A foam of parmesan (that I admit to being suspicious of) graced the tops of the pasta like snow on a roof. Cutting into a ravioli revealed a center densely packed with cotechino. Cotechino is pork – chopped pork that is lightly salted and seasoned. It's not an overly salty pork like bacon. It's more like thickly cut pancetta, but milder. A dessert meat...And a dessert meat accented with a snowy bluff of parmesan foam that was, how do I put this?...AMAZING. So good. I need to foam all my cheeses. NOW.

For dessert we selected the Pomegranate Panna Cotta which arrived in a swirly dish accompanied by ginger gelato and a tiny cannoli, stuffed not with ricotta filling but with a pignoli nut butter/cream. This medley had a little bit of everything, and while they say that if you're a jack of all trades, you are also a master of none, I would argue that this dessert mastered all three of its intended sweet purposes:

1. Thick creaminess with just a slight tang in the panna cotta;

2. A little crunch with a warm nutty filling from the cannoli;

3. And cold, spicy refreshment in the ginger gelato.

Finally, a look at the loo:

I would say overall, I wasn't too impressed with Alloro's ambiance. I wanted it to be a bit more modern to match their intriguing cuisine....something like Rouge Tomate, but on a smaller, cozier scale.

The bathrooms were pretty much the same, although I did get a charge out of the inspirational hand-holding artwork and the fancy, cut-glass soap dispenser.

Overall Dining Experience: Heat

Alloro
307 East 77th Street
NY, NY 10075
212-535-2866

Wednesday
Aug032011

Amorino Gelato

The Great Gelato Search continues, and this time it brought me to Amorino, located at 60 University Place.

I had been wanting to try this place, both to expand the gelato hunt and also out of curiosity, as this gelateria happens to be a chain.

I'm always a little apprehensive about chains...I feel like they need to work harder to prove their salt (or in this case sugar). I wonder if fine, artisanal quality can be maintained with such a broad outreach.

In the case of Amorino, their product proves that they can indeed maintain quality. Further, their gelato exhibits the key characteristcs that separate it from ice cream (more rich and dense, and served warmer - get extra napkins for melting!).

The gelato chefs at Amorino apparently take great pains to achieve these results, churning it everyday day in typical Italian fashion. They also try to source the highest quality ingredients for their flavors.

The set-up inside Amorino is quite polished. Long, well-lit glass cases highlight the flavors, velvet ropes herd customers in the right direction (as in Italy, you pay before you receive your gelato), and tables at the back half of the shop.

I had wanted to try the "foccacina" which is Amorino's version of the ice cream sandwich. But they were out of foccacina, so I opted for a cone with Vaniglia Bourbon del Madagascar (Bourbon Vanila), surrounded by "petals" of Caffé puro Brasile (Coffee). And when I say, "petals" I mean it. Amorino arranges their gelato like a flower perched onto a sugar cone stem.

It's quite a feat of physics. A tasty feat. The Bourbon Vanilla was a stand-out. Speckled throughout with vanilla beans, it was rich (probably due to the profusion of vanilla beans) with a delicate infusion of bourbon that blended perfectly.

Amorino's website claims about their vanilla that, "it doesn't get better than this!" and they might be right. I have rarely been so tickled by a vanilla flavor (I usually opt for something a bit more "daring"), but I found myself wanting more of Amorino's version.

The surrounding Coffee flavor was excellent in terms of consistency and texture. A beautiful light toffee color, but the flavor was a bit mild. I wanted more coffee punch, as it would have been a nice contrast to the vanilla.

Interestingly, the Coffee flavor proved to be the "vanilla" of the two, while the actual Vanilla was a heavy-hitting flavor explosion.

For me, Amorino has proved that it can maintain quality product in the face of global expansion. I hope they keep it up. At least long enough for me to return and try a foccacina.

Amorino
60 University Place, New York City

Thursday
Jun162011

Spanning the City for Frozen Desserts – Semifreddo from Salumeria Rosi

All this week, we've been talking about cream. Frozen cream, that is, in various forms. Gelato, ice cream and now semifreddo.

"Semifreddo" literally means "half cold" in Italian. It has a much softer texture than ice cream or gelato, perhaps because it is mixed with equal parts whipped cream. So it's lighter and fluffier. Like an ice cream mousse (sans antlers).

The above pictured semifreddo is of particular note. All you downtowners now have a reason to go to the Upper West Side: Salumeria Rosi. Go for brunch, stay for the semifreddo, and don't forget to buy some lardo before departing.

This semifreddo was a Parmigiano Reggiano Parfait, garnished with prosciutto brittle (yeah, you heard me right: prosciutto. brittle.) and tiny chunks of melon. The tangy frozen cream was offset by crispy, salty chunks of cured meat and an ever-so-slight-sweetness from the melon. Truly different. And categorically and undeniably outstanding.

If the above isn't convincing enough to have you cruising around the UWS looking for half cold desserts, consider the following:

Equal halves sunny and shady outdoor seating!

The Porchetta Calabrese sandwich! With provolone piccante, pickles and and Calabrese pepper sauce, I really shouldn't need to beg you to order this "sangwich" but I'm going to. PLEASE DO IT....

And finally, what other chef/owner has this certification? Posted in the bathroom, no less:

I was convinced. By the semifreddo, by the porchetta, a few "Tuscan Marys," and this official restroom certification. You will be too.

Overall Dining Experience: The Shawshank Redemption (The Happy Ending)

Salumeria Rosi
283 Amsterdam Ave
NY, NY
(212) 877-4800