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Entries in Pasta (12)

Monday
Oct012012

Lincoln Ristorante

The inhabitants of the East Coast have been getting lucky with fantastical fall weather. The kind of fall weather that makes you want to sit outside, brunching for hours, spectating passers-by, and contemplating why people would do anything else. Like work. 

But then, who would pay for brunch? Perhaps you have a team of underlings that work for you so you can finance all your wack-a-doodle, hairbrained ideas and flights of fancy. I am jealous of you, if so. Let me know if your team is accepting applications.

In the meantime, sometimes Marmo takes me out to nice places where we can contemplate pasta fillings, and a properly fried carciofo while we refill our mimosas. Marmo was feeling especially generous the other week and took me to Lincoln Ristorante.

She picked this spot because I had been going on about it. Relentlessly, in fact.

"Hey, Marmo, we should go to the Lincoln," and "Have you been to the Lincoln yet?" and finally, "Hey, why don't you come into the city tomorrow and let's go to the Lincoln."

I am subtle.

Lincoln Ristorante offers a nice package for your brunching experience: your choice of two courses for $32. Marmo and I took our seats outside next to the fountain/reflecting pool at Lincoln Center to make our selections. 

We were served some homemade focaccia bread with LARDO to wet our appetites. The lardo danced on the golden surface of warm focaccia like a savory donut glaze. Studded with cracked black pepper, I went in for another slice.

When I review a menu, I have an all-encompassing Terminator-esque ability to digest the entirety of food offerings in one glance. It's an odd talent. When dining with others, I'll often shout out my selection within seconds, "Ooo! I want the Roast Duck with Creamed Polenta and Pomegranate Glaze!" Others at the table question me immediately, "Where do you see THAT??" Whereupon, I roll my eyes and patiently point it out to them, as they've been too busy reading the menu like a book from start to finish.

Anyway, I spotted the Insalata di Carciofi immediately. With braised, crispy artichokes, endive and hazelnuts all topped with a poached hen egg.

The egg was perfectly poached. Once pierced with my fork it oozed gooey golden delicious goo all over my artichoke salad. The dressing was light and lemon-y which complemented the egg perfectly, while the salad was studded with both crunchy and soft artichokes.

Lincoln Ristorante makes their own pasta. I have a hard time not getting the pasta at a restaurant that makes its own. Therefore, I used my laser-like powers of perception and menu reviewal to select the Agnolotti di Mais. The Agnolotti were thumb-sized pockets of fresh pasta hiding reservoirs of sweet corn polenta filling. These little nuggets were resting in a bed of fresh basil stracciatella cheese that created drippy ribbons of dairy when I attempted to extricate one of the inhabitants.

Cracked black pepper sprinkled the tops of the pasta, and a few corn kernels skirted the periphery like coins in the Lincoln reflecting pool.

This dish is hands-down, one of my favorite pasta dishes I have ever had. Ever. My other two favorites are here and here.

I tend to love dishes that have that sweet-salty taste combination and this one nailed that on the head with the sweet corn and salty cheese. But the pasta! Oh... the pasta! It was al dente with a firm yet soft grip on the oozing (but not overstuffed) polenta filling. Each one was a masterpiece.

Like fools, we did not leave room for dessert, but our waiter brought us this pedestal of miniature cookies and candies that was more than enough. Freshly made, I chose the truffle which was a dark chocolate shell holding a sweet, espresso-infused filling. The individually-wrapped candies were strawberry balsamic nuggets that I stored in my purse and found a day later while at work. Win - Win!

As for the restrooms, as it is October 1, I am awarding Lincoln Ristorante the September Bathroom of the Month Award.

A soothing, white modern affair, the Lincoln did much with little space. I especially liked the mirrored wall along the back. And while not technically part of the restroom, the pattern on the glass walls leading to the bathrooms was a tasteful take on a brocade pattern.

I will be going back to the Lincoln for another meal. Perhaps another brunch if this glorious fall weather continues. I consider this overall dining experience a Godfather - The Perfect Game.

Thursday
Nov172011

The Ultimate Non-Date Spot. But Good for Groups of Dudes. (La Mela in Little Italy)

Admit it, you've been to Manhattan's "Little Italy" before; and the tinsely, touristy semi-slob scene that it is.  Where gift shops proudly boast their ethnic commonalities with the admirable likes of fictional role models like Tony Soprano and Vito Corleone.  Where the red sauce flows like wine.  And the fake tanned women flock like the Salmon of the Capistrano.  And while there are still some Italians roaming the area, Manhattan's Little Italy (as opposed to the one in the Bronx, which is considerably more authentic) is, for the most part, a manufactured and commercialized environment of faux-Italian-ness. 

But, as I have stated previously, I have a slight personality disorder when it comes to being Italian.  Most of the time, I consider myself to represent my heritage with class and integrity;  I listen to Italian tapes in my car.  I pronounce commonly said Italian words fully and correctly - I don't excessively roll my "r's" like a show off, but I'm giving words like prosciutto and manicotti their complete accentuated respect.  I make my pizza from scratch.  But, somewhere inside of me, in a distant, dark corner deep within my loins resides a sleeping "cavone" who awakens once a month, with a stained guinea-tee, pissed off and demanding that I ingest absurd levels of gravied-up pasta, down vino as if I was a guest at Connie Corleone's wedding, and cap it off with a de-notching of my belt buckle a slot or two and slapping my recently expanded belly with feelings of amazement, satisfaction, discomfort and disgust.  And I know better than to try and suppress my determined, inner cavone;  history has taught me that fighting him is a losing battle:

What, you didn't know the Incredible Hulk was Italian?  Well, he was: Lou Ferigno.  And when my appetite transforms into Hulk like proportions, I mentally cycle through a list of establishments.  One spot that I try to hit about once a year to quell the inner-cavone: La Mela, on Mulberry Street.  Granted, you could probably swap out La Mela for any restaurant in Manhattan's Little Italy; they are, for the most part, all quite similar.  (However, walk a bit north on Mulberry and you'll start seeing cooler, hipper Italian spots like Rubirosa and Torrisi - both of which we recommend you try).

My plan for La Mela is the same every year.  I dont order off the menu; that would require thinking. And the inner-cavone isn't necessarily capable of deliberative thought.  Food is all he wants.  So I typically opt for their "family-style" offering - a 4 course marathon of antipasto, pasta, meat and fish.  I brought along my two friends Justin and Mark to experience it all.

The Scene: La Mela's layout has changed a bit over the years (I've been going since some good family friends introduced me to the place in highschool).  What was once a small crammed room has expanded into a 4-room compound of ginzo themed glory, complete with a bar - where myself and Mark parked ourselves as we waited for the perpetually late Justin.

But the appearance is roughly the same:  Festive surroundings, photos plastered all over the walls, bright colors, and about 4-6 light-up phallic symbols strategically placed throughout.  It is, gentlemen, not the ideal spot to schedule your 1st date.  Or 10th.  Perhaps your 20th, but only with adequate warning. 

The Grub: The first dish: a Caprese Salad.  Hefty globs of fresh mozzarella, served with tomatoes - both wading in a nice puddle of olive oil.  A solid way to kick things off, even if the out of season tomatoes weren't as tender or tasty as I'd have liked.  The cheese was moist, fresh, and milky smooth however.

The second dish: hot antipasto - mushrooms stuffed with bread crumbs and tomatoes, asparagus with melted parmesan cheese, roasted peppers, and this interesting but awesome mozzarella treat that - quite frankly - I don't know what I'd call it.  It's like a warm, mozzarella layer cake.  Whatever it is, it was a hit with the group.  The mushrooms were coupled with a salty, satisfying flavor, and the asparagus was thoroughly cooked, leaving a tender, quality consistency.  The roasted peps - just ok, not quite roasted or tender enough but definitely edible. 

The third dish: The Pasta Triple Threat: - Rigatoni, Tortellini, and Gnocchi, and while they were all grouped on the same plate, each had their own accompanying sauce; the rigatoni in a plain, but tangy tomato, the Tortellini in a Bechemel, and the Gnocchi has some melted mozz on top.  It wasn't earth shattering in its impression, or terribly complex in its ingredients, yet the group kept plunging their forks into the hot mess.  Again, and again.  Ooph, after 500 forkfulls too many, we didn't even get through 50% of the dish.  The Cavone is getting sleepy...

But not until the fourth dish: Veal, Shrimp and Chicken on the Bone.  Yikes.  When does the food end? The Veal and Chicken were borderline delicious, with each providing boatloads of taste and tenderness.  The veal was a pure, delicate white, with its uneven craters transporting puddles of quality lemon garlic sauce.   The chicken yielded serious off-the-bone flavor, with a snapping, sweet crust.  The shrimp - while large, firm and crispy - was a little off however.  It almost tasted a shade funky.  A bit disappointed here.

The Bathrooms: Pretty underwhelming, at best.  And frightening, at worst.  I spent the majority of my time staring at what appeared to be a tumorous growth of pipe insulation.  Either that, or some old wiseguy just got whacked and was buried above ground.

The bang for your buck at this place is quite impressive, however.  The boys and I also ordered some enormous bottle of wine for about 27 bucks, and the food was about 35 a head.  It's like the awesome, ginzo alternative to an all you can eat Golden Corral; and La Mela's food is definitely edible.  In fact, it's pretty darn decent.  This is a great alternative to having Fantasy Football dinners at the steakhouse.  And a perfect excuse to wear pants with an elastic waistline.

Overall Experience: The Girl Next Door

Wednesday
Oct122011

Play With Your Food – Make Your Pasta Shine!

Most of the time I like to eat my food. But sometimes, I'm looking at a box of penne, and it's looking back at me, and I know we're both thinking the same thing:

Where is that tube of glitter?

And for that matter....where did I put the glue?

A friend of mine once said about her mother, "If she could roll in glue and then roll in glitter, she'd be the happiest person in the world."

I had another friend who swore he knew someone who lived underneath a glitter factory. Every now and again sparkles would rain down from the ceiling. I must admit to thinking that this would not be a bad way to live.

Because, let's be honest – a little sparkle makes people happy. It just does. It has something to do with the way it catches the light and shoots little rainbows in all different directions...it's magical.

It also has a tendency to make me (and in this case my coworkers) revert to kindergarten activities and roll some pasta in some glue and glitter and make jewelry.

Yes, I did this at work. It was for a client. We ultimately didn't use the idea, but we got an obscene amount of pleasure from the creation of it all. So I'm sharing it with you. With "recipes". Buon Appetito!

What You Need:

Boxes of assorted dry pasta (we used mezzi rigatoni, elbows and penne)

Assorted glitter (we used hot pink, blue and gold). Be sure to get fine glitter. The chunkier stuff doesn't look as nice.

String

Elmer's glue

Water

Paper or plastic cups

Sheets of paper for drying wet, glittery pasta

What To Do:

Pour some glue into a plastic cup. Add a touch of water to the glue and mix. You want a slightly watery glue so you don't get clumps of glue stuck in your pasta ridges. This is decidedly unsightly. I found a 3 parts glue to 1 part water ratio works nicely.

Take a handful of pasta and drop it into the glue/water mixture. Mix it around and make sure your pasta is evenly coated. You shouldn't have too much extra water and glue once you've coated your pasta.

Sprinkle in your glitter (whichever color you like) and mix it around with your hands until it's evenly coated. Don't be afraid to get messy - that's part of the fun!

Pour your glittery pasta out onto a piece of paper to dry. Keep some spacing between the pieces so they don't stick together.

Once the pasta is dry, string them on some cord to make necklaces, bracelets, belts, bath mats, a bedspread...whatever! You'll love it. Just don't eat it.

Monday
Aug292011

Something Simple – Crispy Pancetta

I still need to tell you about the rest of my New Hampshire adventures...BUT we just had a hurricane. And I lost power (which included Internet connection), so I couldn't write about it and edit the photos. So you'll need to hang in there....

I was, however, able to do something very constructive with my hurricane time before losing power: I made Crispy Pancetta.

This is fabulous stuff, people, make no mistake. You should get excited about this. And it's so dang easy, you'll want to cry with joy. Bake some up, crumble it up, throw it on pizza (what I did), sprinkle it on a salad or pasta, mix it in with your morning granola - I care NOT! Just do it.

Here's how:

What You Need:

As many thinly cut slices of pancetta as you can lay your sneaky mitts on
A baking sheet
A piece of parchment paper
An oven

What To Do:
Fire up that oven to 425 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper (This keeps things all nice and neat. The meat won't stick to the baking sheet, and there's no messy cleanup. Need more reasons to use parchment paper?).

Place your sliced pancetta on the parchment lined baking sheet, spacing them evenly like cookies.

Place this whole contraption in the oven, and bake for about 40 minutes, or until crispy (and looks like the above photo).

Keep an eye on it, as oven heats and cooking times vary.

Remove from the oven and let it cool.

Crumble it with your fingers over whatever you're eating.

Commence crying with joy.

Thursday
Jul282011

Limoncello Pasta

Since Monday, I'm sure you are well on your way to homemade limoncello.

And now that you'll have all this limoncello lying around, you have two options:

1. You could drink it all.

2. OR you could drink MOST of it, and save some for this dish.

I think you’ll be happy you did. This is the lemony creamsicle of pastas. Simple, fresh and lightly creamy, it’s a perfect summer pasta. Throw together an arugula and watermelon salad and you have yourself a garden party.

Here is the recipe for Limoncello Pasta.

What You Need:
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup limoncello
1 lb (box) thick spaghetti
Zest of two lemons
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese
Fresh Italian parsley

What To Do:
Grate your lemon zest and set aside.

Set a large pot of water to boil for your pasta. Once the water is boiling, season it with salt and add in your pasta. Cook according to package instructions (Al denté)!

Heat the heavy cream in a large saucepan with a few turns from the freshly ground pepper mill for about 5 minutes, or until it starts to thicken. Stir occasionally so that the cream does not boil.

Add in the lemon zest and stir to combine.

Drain your cooked spaghetti and add the pasta to the cream sauce (with the heat still on).

Keeping the heat on, pour in the the 1/4 cup limoncello. Stir to combine.

Transfer to a large serving dish. Grate Parmesan cheese over the top and add some chopped fresh parsley.

Serve!

Variation:
1/4 lb cubed pancetta
1 1/2 cups peas (fresh or frozen)

Cook the cubed pancetta in a frying pan (with just a teeny touch of olive oil) over medium heat until it starts to brown, about 5-7 minutes.

While you are cooking your cream, add in the peas with the lemon zest and let them cook in the cream.

Proceed as above, adding in the cooked pancetta at the end.

Eat! Like so:

Limoncello Pasta from John Iaciofano on Vimeo.