My Gluttonous Stroll Through NYCWFF’s Grand Tasting

NYCWFF

One of the many events that NYCWFF hosted this year was this both delicious and informative Grand Tasting event. From the extra famous and successful in the culinary world to the start up mom and pops, everyone had a presence.

NYCWFF

Of course, I chatted with anyone and everyone who would listen. That said, the combination of comments that best described this event’s vibe is that it’s a cross between the experience of going to Costco with all of it’s yummy sample tables and a car show where you go visit individual sections to compare and contrast the benefits and—in this case—flavors of them all.

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Then add on the Food Network chef celebrity factor where you are chit-chatting with people you feel as though you already know personally because they’ve been in your living room—on your tv—forever. Chefs Robert Irvine, Anne Burrell, Masaharu Morimoto, Paula Deen, Marcus Samuelsson and so many more were there. I physically stood and had a full conversation with Bobby Deen—incredible (stay tuned for possible collaborations in the future)!

NYCWFF

From incredible causes like Food Bank for New York City, to cookbook raffles, to giveaways, there was an overwhelming feeling of generosity throughout the space.

NYCWFF

About those cookbooks, there were two tables and nine celebrity book signings through out the day.

NYCWFF

Then there’s the food—the incredible food. From masterful condiments to full on culinary masterpieces there was so many exciting new flavors to enjoy.

NYCWFF

From The Jelly Queens bordeaux infused jellies to 100% Colombian coffee teas from Devoción Coffee—yes, that’s coffee and tea in one. I can’t believe there were multiple versions of this caffeinated mix that I encountered on my gluttonous walkabout.

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There’s the home-favorite Barilla pastas cooked with a huge smile in all of the ways you’ll love it.

NYCWFF

Then there’s the Bongiovi pasta sauce, created by John Bongiovi Senior and his son Matthew Bongiovi, that I can’t believe I didn’t already know about. Politely eating the fairly large sample, I didn’t realize I would devour it entirely. How amazing, this pasta sauce warms the heart as well as the stomach. You see, some of the proceeds go the founder’s other son’s organization—who you just may know—musician Jon Bon Jovi’s Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Foundation.

NYCWFF

From pastas and sauces independently, to the stands where the two were put together to make fully composed dishes—like a beautiful meat filled lasagna—there were delicious interpretations everywhere!

NYCWFF

More and more exquisite looking meat dishes crossed my path, like this slow braised dish from managing partner and executive chef of Volare Joshua Moore. The aesthetics of the dish caught my eye causing me to stop and ask all about it full well knowing I don’t eat the meat portion. Chef Joshua offered to make me a vegetarian plate which became increasingly exciting as he told me all about their private farm where they grow their ingredients. Simply put, the kale salad was amazing. I ate every bite and made sure to go back to thank him again and reiterate how wonderful it was.

NYCWFF

It was a few minutes after this that my mouth was filled with a squash blossom popper and two great ladies, Joanna and Nicolette, stopped me in my tracks—no, literally, we were joking about how it was a sorts of ambush. My mouth way too full to do anything but attempt to chew, there was a pause of laughter followed by a wonderful conversation about the fermentation process in Korean food and an invitation to come by their Taste of Korea station to meet Chef Sung—an invite I couldn’t refuse.

NYCWFF

Immediately welcoming me to the inside of the prepping station, Chef Sung quickly became one of my favorite people. He put together a stunning vegetarian special plate with his incredible fermented sauce and step by step in a crowded loud space explained each element to me as if I were the only person in the room. He and his team were incredibly kind and my special plate was out-of-this-world delicious (I’m holding hope that we do a insider restaurant feature together)!

NYCWFF

Station after station, the wonderful introductions continued. The chefs at CDMX were super sweet and made incredible dishes—ones that are not the stereotyped as heavy and greasy. These were awesome.

NYCWFF

I’m hoping they open a restaurant in New York. Till then, I’ll have to start planning a trip to Mexico City because I fell in love with those fried squash blossom bites! They’re so yummy!

NYCWFF

Escorted from my last stop to Pergola, I had to try some of the savory sample dips. Immediately, I put “make a reservation” on the to-do list. PS. How stunning is that moss on wooden slabs presentation?!

NYCWFF

And, off for some sweets and a couple drinks! This Hampton Creek cookie dough is made without eggs and using plants—I don’t entirely understand the concept yet but am certainly willing to learn the hard way because it’s awesome! I wanted at minimum ten of these samples.

NYCWFF

Talk about sweets. Then think about eating straight sugar, peppermint sugar molded using a 3D printer from the guys at 3DSystems. I’m in love with this idea. From little intricately cut designs that elevate any beverage, hot or cold, to masterfully painted sweet large scale pieces of art and cake stands. Even after exploring their website, I want to see more and more of what they come up with!

NYCWFF

Time for a nightcap, albeit in the middle of the afternoon. There were so many drinks to choose from—wine stand after wine stand, whiskeys, tequilas, and mixed cocktails. “Choose from” may not be entirely the right words.  Jefferson’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey was the perfect way to get started!

NYCWFF

Some great wines were sipped and thoroughly enjoyed but it’s the Jägermeister Spice that caught my attention—wow. Time and time again, my friends have noted the original version of this unique drink in a negative light, a concept I never agreed with. For me, it was always that interesting flavor that I sipped in small doses—perhaps I feel this way because I’ve consistently avoided the bomb version (you know what I’m talking about). Well, this version has a flavor that encompasses the warmth of winter without any mixers.

With that, I bid “cheers” to a wonderful event! And a “thank you” for inviting me to be a part of it.

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Pumpkin Bourbon Blondies

Between this ooey gooey dessert and my “Mason Jar Pumpkin Scotch Cakes” (recipe coming soon), I’ve been really loving boozy sweets this fall. With all of the excitement around Halloween, the bagged candies that costume-clad children will collect, I wanted to make a couple adults-only desserts for the people who, like me, find themselves just a tad too old for trick-or-treating and without children to take out. 

These glaze-soaked blondies the perfect treat to bring to a dinner party or to make for the one you are hosting. So yummy!

Pumpkin Bourbon Blondies

INGREDIENTS

Batter

All-Purpose Flour (1 cup)
Brown Sugar (1 cup)
Cinnamon (1/2 tsp)
Nutmeg (1/2 tsp)
Salt (1/2 tsp)
Pumpkin Puree (3 tbsp)
Bourbon (1 tbsp)
Vermont Maple Syrup (1 1/2 tbsp)
Unsalted Butter (1 stick, melted)
Egg
Bourbon Vanilla Extract (1 tbsp)
Candied Walnuts (3/4 cup inside the blondies, 1/4 cup roughly chopped for sprinkling on top)

Glaze

Confectioners Sugar (2 cups)
Vanilla Almond Milk (1/2 cup)
Vermont Maple Syrup (1 tbsp)
Bourbon (1 tbsp)
Bourbon Vanilla Extract (1/2 tsp)

RECOMMENDED KITCHEN ITEMS

Large Mixing Bowl
Medium Mixing Bowl
Small Mixing Bowl
Saucepan
Baking Pan (9 x 13″)
Rubber Spatula
Whisk
Strainer

Pumpkin Bourbon Blondies

1. FLOUR & SEASONINGS: in your large mixing bowl, combine your flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

2. PUMPKIN & BOURBON: in your medium mixing bowl, use your rubber spatula to mix together your pumpkin puree, bourbon, bourbon vanilla extract, maple syrup, egg and melted butter.

3. MIXING & BAKING: pour your pumpkin mixture into your four filled bowl. Mix them together until it’s all one smooth consistency.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Coat your baking pan with butter and then pour your batter into it. Use your rubber spatula to make sure that it sits evenly in the pan.

Sprinkle your 3/4 cup of candied walnuts over all of your batter in the baking pan and gently press them in. Then put it in the oven for 20 minutes—or till gooey without having uncooked batter.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Then cut into 3 inch squares.

Pumpkin Bourbon Blondies

4. GLAZE: whisk together your confectioners sugar and almond milk in your saucepan. Once thoroughly combined, whisk in your maple syrup, bourbon and bourbon vanilla extract.

Once one fluid texture, use your strainer to strain your glaze into your small mixing bowl.

Drizzle your glaze on top of each of your square blondies and while it’s still wet sprinkle your remaining roughly chopped candied walnuts over it—like glitter on glue.

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Tossing Pizza Nutella with Dellarocco’s Head Chef Giuseppe Manco

Pizza Nutella

This summer, I went to the two year anniversary celebration of Dellarocco’s Pizza in Brooklyn Heights. The entire time I was eyeing the pre fixe menu counting down one incredible dish to the next while eagerly awaiting the “Pizza Nutella”.

A couple hours later, it was placed down in front of me. Often food presentation becomes predictable. That said, I was so excited to see that it had taken on a different form than I had expected—it had a dough top that enclosed the Nutella inside much like a panini.

Pizza Nutella

After the first bite, I was talking to my connections to see if Dellarocco’s head chef Giuseppe Manco would host me in his kitchen, make this Nutella-y rich dish with me, and allow me too share his recipe. Thank goodness, he was excited about this idea, too!

Much like that feeling I get when I’m out shopping and continuously find myself drawn to the most expensive items in the store, my eye being drawn to this dish was no coincidence. You see, it’s a special that they are planning to add to the menu. I imagine we were a case study of sorts—if we rave about it, on it will go. I’m certainly proud to say that I’m doing my part! So, for now, you’ll have to be in the know and ask for it directly before it makes it big menu debut (how cool and insider-y is that?)!

A couple weeks later, camera in hand, Chef Giuseppe welcomed me into his Dellarocco’s kitchen to show me the ins-and-outs of his classic Italian dessert—often, in Naples they prepare it in more of the way I had initially expected, where it looks like a classic pizza and the Nutella takes the place of the tomato sauce, cheese and whichever other fixings.

“In Naples we usually add banana or almond” – Giuseppe Manco

Pizza Nutella

Wanting to make “something different” and “balanced”, Chef Giuseppe started with this traditional Italian dessert that they make all over Naples and combined it with his experiences traveling from there to America stopping to live in Naples, Florida and then to this head chef position in New York. Step by step, he showed me his revamped homage to this classic recipe.

The dough he works with is a classic pizza dough that he uses for all of his pizzas—sweet or savory—which is comprised of four, salt, water and fresh yeast. He made this dough ahead of time in order to allow it to sit for a day or two to get to his desired more firm consistency for our baking session.

Pizza Nutella

So, we began with the incredible filling. Starting with a sour and savory whole milk ricotta he added in confectioner’s sugar for sweetness and then he doubled the contents of the bowl by mixing in lots of delicious chocolate chips and Nutella noting that when I make it at home that I make sure to,

“Get the one from Italy, not Canada—it tastes sweeter”— Giuseppe Manco

Pizza Nutella

Once all mixed together, we moved back to the dough. He rounded and flattened it down on the cool marble surface like any other pizza.

Pizza Nutella

It then went into the wood burning oven where it bubbled up like the classic Indian bread “Puri”(don’t worry, you don’t need to go out and buy a wood burning pizza oven. The recipe he shares below has home cooking with oven instructions).

Pizza Nutella

Once golden colored, Chef Giuseppe removed it from the oven and cut it half as one would a sandwich. Then on the bottom half went that incredible Nutella, ricotta, sugar mixture—you know, the one I would love to shamelessly stick my fingers in and devour like a four-year-old.

Pizza Nutella

The airy top of the baked dough is placed back on top. Then with both hands, Chef Giuseppe pressed down several times to evenly flatten it out.

Pizza Nutella

A sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar to finish it off and—voila!—it’s time to cut in and gobble up so quickly it feels like you’re simply inhaling it all! Gratzi a mille, Chef Giuseppe!

Pizza Nutella

Homemade Nutella Pizza by Chef Giuseppe Manco of Dellarocco’s

Time: 1 hour

INGREDIENTS

Pizza Dough (if under time constraints, you can buy pre-made pizza dough)

34 oz. of fresh water
8 oz of sea salt
4 oz of fresh yeast or active dry yeast
60 oz. of 00 flour

Nutella Filling

Non stick spray or parchment paper
2 tb spoon of sugar
5 oz. hazelnut Nutella room temperature (Italian preferred)
5 oz. whole milk ricotta (buffalo milk Italian preferred)
8 oz powdered sugar
7 oz. chocolate chips

1. PIZZA DOUGH: it’s very important to make the pizza dough at least one day ahead.

Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it stand for 1 minute, or until the yeast is creamy. Stir until the yeast dissolves.

In a large bowl add the sea salt, then yeast mixture and flour. Stir until a soft dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if necessary until it’s smooth and elastic—about 10 minutes.

Lightly coat another large bowl with oil and place the dough in the bowl, turning it to oil the top. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place. Let it rise until doubled in bulk—about 6 hours.

Cut the dough into 9 oz. pieces and shape the pieces into balls. Place the balls on a tray with non stick spray surface or parchment paper and cover with plastic wrap, allowing room for the dough to expand.

Let rise the dough from 8 to 12 hours or until is doubled. After, put the dough in the refrigerator and let it rest from 2 to 4 hours. Your homemade dough is ready to be baked.

Suggestion: 30 to 60 minutes before baking the pizzas, place a baking stone on a rack in the lowest level of the oven. Turn on the oven to the maximum temperature, 500 to 550 degrees F. Shape and bake pizzas in desired fashion.

2. NUTELLA PIZZA: blend the whole milk ricotta with the powder sugar in a medium bowl until everything is creamy, then add in the chocolate chips.

Whisk the chocolate-hazelnut Nutella cream in a medium bowl and then fold it with the ricotta cream until everything is mixed.

Position (if you have a baking stone) the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 500/550 degrees F. Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out each piece of pizza dough into a 7-inch-diameter round. Brush some water on top of the dough then add the sugar for caramelize the top surface of the dough. Bake until the dough puff and become golden brown, about 10/15 minutes.

With a knife cut the dough in the middle for form two separate rounded surfaces (it’s very important to do this when the dough is hot); now, the caramelized part is the top of pizza.

Spoon the Nutella and ricotta mixture on the lower part of dough, then cover with the caramelized dough, apply pressure with your hands to make the pizza uniform. Transfer the pizza to a plate, and dust with the powdered sugar. Allow to cool, and cut into six pieces. Serve!

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Eating Under the Canopy of Lights at Tavern on The Green

Tavern on The Green

Admittedly, I’ve wanted to go to Tavern on The Green for a while. Having worked in the area, I would walk past it multiple times a day while it was under construction excitedly waiting for them to open their doors. Life got in the way for a while, but I finally made it! With summer at its end and winter albeit begrudgingly looming, I had to make my way over to enjoy it’s outdoor dining space before it got too cold.

Tavern on The Green

Now, the food is good but not as wow-factor as I was expecting. The bread basket on the other hand is awesome—ridiculously awesome. There are a few bread baskets around the city that have me picking piece after piece of bread but it feels so rare these days. Well, I’m truly obsessed with this one. Fair warning, the lavender infused labneh served along side it for dipping is incredibly addicting. I’m in love, and in writing this have convinced myself that I must make my own.

Tavern on The Green

BEAU MONDE BLOODY MARY

Sticking in this lavender theme, I had to have their lavender lemonade cocktail. I’m quickly being convinced that anything made with lavender is delicious. My girl friend was all about her “Beau Monde Bloody Mary”. When she ordered it with dinner I was admittedly surprised but then the waiter raved on and on about it. FYI, this tall beautiful cocktail lived up to the hype! Well, of course I’m now thinking about the brunch. Fingers crossed, it’s as good as this matching cocktail.

Tavern on The Green

ROASTED MAINE BOUCHOT MUSSELS

Back to the food. To clarify a bit, it’s not that the food wasn’t good, it’s that I wasn’t excited by it. That, and by the time each dish made it to our table they managed to loose all of their heat—one would think the restaurant was full but we parked ourselves there at an early bird special hour where you could practically hear a pin drop and then its echo.

With such a presence when it comes to this somewhat newly reopened Central Park venue, being immersed under the glow of  the hanging lights you begin to expect everything to have that punch of “wow”—hello, that incredible bread basket.

Eager to try a bit of every thing, we ordered a few small plates to sample and share. When it comes to the “Roasted Maine Bouchot Mussels”, the almond, garlic, red chili and thyme breadcrumb flavors are all there—really yummy—it’s just that the mussels themselves were small in their shells and severely overcooked, making them hard. Should they have been full and plump, they would have carried much more of the delicious flavors and the dish would have been wonderful instead of a near miss (I’ll hold hope that next time I go it’ll be tweaked and incredible).

Tavern on The Green

LOCAL SEA SCALLOPS

The “Local Sea Scallops” appetizer was highly recommended so naturally when they were placed down on the table in front of us, we expected to be immediately obsessesed with them. As with any hype, it can be incredibly hard to live up to (this point was very much reiterated at the Mario Batali moderated Taste Talks panel “From Indie Bands to Grandpa’s Buick: What Is Buzz”) The scallops were good. When I go back, it’s not something I must have again but if I had a friend on the fence about them I would describe them as a safe seafood choice that they’d enjoy but wouldn’t go home raving about.

Tavern on The Green

CRIMINI MUSHROOMS

The “Crimini Mushrooms” were the surprise favorite. The flavor combination was spot on—we both fell in love with the Spanish blue cheese, the red chili and the basil. So yummy! We only wished there wasn’t a piece of bread hiding underneath it taking up the space that more mushrooms would have fit perfectly in. When the waiter asked what our favorite dish was, in unison we responded, “the mushrooms” the expression of shock and awe on his face was cartoonish.

If you’re going, go for the beautiful and unique ambiance and tall tasty cocktails.

Tavern on The Green

Address: 67th Street and Central Park West, NYC
Phone: (212) 877-8684

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Butternut Squash + Candied Walnut Bruschetta

I love how this recipe came to be. Once upon a time, a girl friend and I went to a wine bar in my neighborhood. Chatting about food, one thing led to another and the bar’s manager joined our conversation. Cards exchanged. Fast forward a couple weeks and he, Chris, and I were having a one-on-one conversation about how we could collaborate—bruschetta! I love it, the wine bar loves it, I would make them a featured one for their menu!

Fast forward again, and I’m walking into our next meeting with two different kinds of bruschetta, a fig one and a persimmon one. They were way delicious. The cheese combination specifically. Mmmmm. Then came the challenge. Chris has so much butternut squash. Challenge accepted. I would make a butternut squash bruschetta that screamed “Fall”.

Back with my new recipe in hand, he took one bite and,

“I want to move forward with this one and put it on the menu next week” — Chris Leon

Of course, I went to see it on the launch date. The bar was packed and the dish sold out—they had put together enough ingredients for three days! You must try it! If not at Bar Prima then in the comforts of your own kitchen.

Thank you to everyone at Bar Prima for this incredible opportunity!

“Butternut Squash + Candied Walnut Bruschetta” as featured on the Bar Prima Fall menu.

Butternut Squash Brushetta

INGREDIENTS (yields 6 slices)

Ricotta (6 tbsp)
Goat Cheese (3 tbsp)
Wildflower Honey (1 1/2 tbsp)
Ciabatta
Candied Walnuts (1/2 cup, roughly chopped)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (2 tbsp)

Roasted Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash (1/8)
Cinnamon (1 tbsp when roasting, 1/4 tsp when blending)
Vermont Maple Syrup (1 tbsp)
Coarse Sea Salt (1/2 tbsp)

Butternut Squash Brushetta

RECOMMENDED KITCHEN ITEMS

Baking Sheet (x2)
Tin Foil
Silicon Brush
Rubber Spatula
Food Processor
Chef’s Knife
Bread Knife
Cutting Board
Butter Knife
Spoon

 

Butternut Squash Brushetta

1. ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH & CANDIED WALNUTS: preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Line your both of your baking sheets with tin foil. Place your butternut squash on one of them.

Using your silicon brush, coat the butternut squash with olive oil, then a table spoon of Vermont Maple Syrup and finish it off by evenly sprinkling your salt over it.

Put it in the oven and let bake for 30 minutes (If you’re roasting the whole butternut squash, it will take a full hour).

When ready, take out of the oven and cut into roughly inch size chunks. Remove the skin and then put them into your food processor with your additional cinnamon and syrup (if you have a hard time blending, add in a tablespoon of water).

Roughly chop your candied walnuts on your cutting board using your chef’s knife and mix half of them into your butternut squash puree (save the rest for topping).

3. CHEESE & HONEY: in your mixing bowl, thoroughly mix together your ricotta, goat cheese and wildflower honey until it is one smooth consistency.

4. BREAD: on your cutting board, slice your ciabatta into inch thick slices and lay them out on your other baking sheet.

Using your silicon brush, coat them with your extra virgin olive oil. Put them in the oven for 4 minutes—or until lightly toasted.

5. PUT IT ALL TOGETHER: once your toast has reached room temperature, evenly spread a coating of your cheese and honey mixture over it.

Add on a heaping layer of your butternut squash candied walnut mixture.

Top it off with a light drizzle of syrup and a sprinkle of your candied walnuts.

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