Category Archives: Italian

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks
credit Sanna-Mari Jäntt

Few people are experts, but then there are folks, like cookbook author and opera professional Fred Plotkin, who are knowledgeable on many topics. A native New Yorker, Plotkin became a student of opera while in college, working with various classical musicians and mentors, such as late mezzo soprano and director of the Lyric Opera House, Ardis Krainik, and well-known Broadway lighting designer Gilbert Helmsley. Always found in the back or front of the house, Plotkin has never graced the stage but has written compelling articles on the singing subject in books and articles. His bestselling and definitive tome Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera, leads the pack for appreciation on the vocal art form. His literary essays have been published in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, and Daily Telegraph, to name but a few.

Apart from being a fount of operatic history and knowledge, Plotkin, who has traveled to Italy since the early 1970s, has become a resource for all edible things in Italy. In the nineties, he wrote arguably the greatest book on eating throughout the peninsula, called Italy for the Gourmet Traveler (Kyle Books), making him a famous food person on this side of the Atlantic.

He recalls, “Italy, being the birthplace of opera, was a must (life experience) for me. Of course, eating and learning about the regional food became another obsession.”

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks
credit Lana Bortolot

The book is currently in its fifth edition and, rightly, has become a must for all gourmands traveling to the boot country. Although still known as an expert on classical singing, Plotkin has become a foremost authority on Italian cuisine as well, penning another five bestselling and award-winning books including Recipes from Paradise: Life and Food on the Italian Riviera, The Authentic Pasta Book, and La Terra Fortunata: The Splendid Food and Wine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. After writing about opera for many papers and magazines, Plotkin now finds himself interviewed about on all things epicurean, appearing in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Wine Enthusiast, and other leading food publications.

Plotkin can be found discussing his first love — all things opera — on Manhattan’s WQXR. And, in his New York City home, he resides in the kitchen with his mistress – Italian cuisine — making some of the best regional food from the country.

Food People Questions (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Everything Italian

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Parmigiano-Reggiano; Organic eggs; Sweet butter; Greek yogurt; Austrian apricot preserves; Organic Italian cherry nectar; Whole organic milk; Prepared mustard; Still water; Oranges; Lemons; Limes

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
The actual savoring of the food or drink being consumed.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Trendy, faddish foodiness, with no real awareness of what a food or ingredient means.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Carol Field

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Spade for cutting Parmigiano-Reggiano

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian; everything made with fruit.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Fish and seafood!

Favorite vegetable?
Spinach

Chef you most admire?
Michael Romano

Food you like the most to eat?
Pasta

Food you dislike the most?
Sardines

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Opera

Whom do you most admire in food?
Organic farmers; Seed-savers; anyone who provides sustenance to those who need it.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
A tie: Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Liguria, two of Italy’s finest food regions.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Ristorante San Giorgio in Cervo (Liguria), Italy

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None. If I did, it would be of a bunch of cherries

Scrambled Eggs Recipe

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks

One of the most difficult things to prepare, and among the most gratifying when done correctly, are scrambled eggs. Doing it right required LOTS of practice. Here is what I do:

Break two large or extra large eggs into a chilled glass bowl, taking care to not get any shell into the eggs. Beat the eggs only until yolks and whites combine. Do not overbeat. Fold in any added ingredient, such as small dollops of scallion cream cheese or a grated cheese, such as cheddar or gruyere. Do not beat the egg mixture if you are adding ingredients. Instead, give the mixture a quick stir.

Melt 1 tbsp. sweet butter in a non-stick pan over the lowest heat possible. This should be a pan you only use for eggs and nothing else. Add the egg mixture, let it set for about 15 seconds. Then, using a non stick (and non metal) spatula, gently move the eggs about, occasionally stopping for a few seconds to let them set. Keep nudging them and sliding them in the pan. No violence…no intense heat, no flipping, no active stirring. Gradually the eggs will come to the degree of doneness you desire and then slide them out of the pan and onto the plate. By cooking slowly, you allow the flavor of the added ingredients to permeate the eggs and also achieve the same temperature as the eggs.
– The End. Go Eat. –

 

 

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio PeperoncinoIn 2007, New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov devoted an entire column to Do Bianchi (a Venetian term meaning two wines), a blog started by Jeremy Parzen. Asimov calls him, “One of those annoyingly talented individuals who speaks multiple languages, writes music, plays in a band, and also writes about wine meaning and food.”

Even though the annoying part was a gentle ribbing, Parzen is all those things. He holds a PhD in Italian, having lived in Pisa. He continues to travel back and forth to the boot-shaped country once a month from his home in Houston. Via his wine blog, Parzen is considered to be the foremost authority on Italian wines currently being written in North America; he has also been a food journalist and editor for the defunct Cucina Italiana, the widely popular magazine that was solely about Italian food, products, and cooking. He has penned additional stories for Wine & Spirits, Gastronomica, Men’s Vogue, and The Tasting Panel.

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino
Sotto dining room. Photo Sean Murphy

Yet more importantly for consumers, his formidable knowledge on the nearly 1000 grape varietals used in making Italian vino is on display and available for tasting at Sotto, the Beverly Hills restaurant dedicated to regional Romanesque cooking. Here, with his friend of 25 years, Chef Steven Samson, guests can drink extraordinary small productions of vermentino or the Sardinian red fruit, cannonau, pairing it with handmade rustic pizzas and pastas.

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino
Wine pairing at Sotto

“Working with Steve and knowing him for as long as I have, he let me push the envelope for the wine list,” says Parzen. “In the end, we have produced a menu that’s won a lot of people over and is selling.”
“Steve always said to me, ‘When I’m ready to open my restaurant, you will (create) my wine list.’ (At Sotto), we try and give a voice to the youthful wine culture. I specialize in Italians wines that are looking to (the restaurant) to  give it a voice.”

And when you can’t find Parzen drinking an Italian wine, you can find him on a stage playing French pop music in a band called Nous Non Plus. Renaissance man, indeed.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Pasta.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Sparkling wine.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Hearty appetite.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Fear of pickled herring or horse meat.

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino
Wine pairing at Sotto

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Craig Claiborne.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Chef’s knife.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian, American, but not Italian-American.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Horse.

Favorite vegetable?
Horse radish.

Chef you most admire?
Chef Steve Samson!

Food you like the most to eat?
Pasta.

Food you dislike the most?
Junk food. Processed food.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Play music.

Whom do you most admire in food?
Darra Goldstein.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
Italy.

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio PeperoncinoWhat is your favorite restaurant?
Sotto! For real…

Do you have any tattoos?
Jews generally don’t get tattoos, so n/a.

 

Recipe: Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino
Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino. Photo: Flickr cc: Yusuke Kawasaki

 

Heat EVOO in a pan. Add garlic and chili flakes.
An anchovy, washed and cleaned, can be added as well, if desired.
Cook spaghetti until al dente.
Strain well and add to the pan.
Toss well and drizzle with EVOO before serving with a glass of Verdicchio.

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes RecipeOn a Wednesday night in Larchmont Village in the heart of Los Angeles, every table at Vernetti was full. The owner and chef Steve Vernetti was in the house, moving between the kitchen and the dining room, talking to everyone as though they were old friends. Indeed, it was obvious that there were many regulars. Vernetti is a neighborhood restaurant, the kind of place you come to rely on for all the important events of life – birthdays, anniversaries, and first dates. The atmosphere was lively, casual, and comfortable. There’s a modern European bistro aesthetic, thanks to Steve’s wife Joanne, who worked with designer David Thompson on the remodel of the original space. The staff made us feel like rock stars. The food was excellent.

His chef training started early. Vernetti notes, “Growing up, we learned how to butcher our goats, pigs, chicken, and turkeys. My brother and I got up at 5 every day before we went to school and milked the goats. We learned how to grow our food. My mother bought me my first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The first thing I made from that book was chocolate eclairs.”

Before settling in Los Angeles in the 90s, Vernetti traveled throughout Europe, gathering influences from Berlin, Paris, Venice, Amsterdam, and Florence. He then lived in London for seven years, working with Chef Charles Fontaine at Quality Chop House and Le Caprice. It is easy to see the old world influences mixed with the new at Vernetti, where Steve is in the kitchen every day experimenting with inventive takes on classic recipes.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

He’s also a thoughtful owner – “Working in the restaurant industry for as long as I have, I want my staff to be happy. We run a place where my dishwashers are key players in the business, just as much as the front of the house. We need the staff to be happy. If they are happy, my customers will notice it and they will be happy, too.”

We decided to try many dishes and share them round, starting with the gnocchi, a traditional northern Italian dish that is typically a rather dense potato pasta. This gnocchi was light and airy, rich with ricotta cheese and egg yolks, and topped with sage butter.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

We followed the gnocchi with vongole and shrimp scampi, since Vernetti is known for their house-made pastas. You’ll definitely want to try at least one.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Linguine alla Vongole
i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Shrimp Scampi

Dessert was a trifecta of orange cannoli, strawberry cheesecake, and chocolate mousse. Hey, there were three of us! I didn’t eat all of this on my own. Look, though…

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Chocolate Budino

Vernetti has an excellent wine menu, with a selection of Italian wines that covers the boot from north to south. There are also some great California wines on the menu. We decided to order by the glass so we could pair a different wine with each dish, which I think is a lot more fun. If you find something you love, you can always order more! You can also bring your own bottle and pay the corkage fee of $25.00. If wine is not your thing, Vernetti’s has a decent beer selection, though I confess my knowledge of beer is limited. I prefer the juice of the grape.

Vernetti is a neighborhood restaurant, and since I’m not a local there, I felt quite lucky to have found it. It reminded me of an Italian trattoria where the owners are always there and live nearby. The menu is fresh, and dishes are served until they run out of the ingredients to make that particular dish. I recommend this restaurant to everyone!

Steve Vernetti’s philosophy is to “feed the community as I do my family, providing a special place to celebrate all the amazing things that happen when sharing a delicious meal.” Cin Cin, Steve Vernetti.

 

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking? 41 years

What is your favorite food to cook? Thanksgiving dinner

What do you always have in your fridge at home? strawberry jam

What do you cook at home? everything

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? hunger

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? unadventurous

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail? wine

Your favorite cookbook author? Julia Child

Your favorite kitchen tool? my tongue

Your favorite ingredient? salt

Your least favorite ingredient? kale

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes RecipeLeast favorite thing to do in a kitchen? dishes

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? French, Italian, & British

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? beef

Favorite vegetable? potato

Chef you most admire? Eric Rippert

Food you like the most to eat? sweetbreads prepared by my mother

Food you dislike the most? anything that has the word molecular in it

How many tattoos? one

And if so, how many are of food? None

Recipe: Vernetti’s Semolina Pancakes

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

Ingredients
2cups Semolina
2cups all purpose flour
4tsp baking powder
2tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt

Sift dry ingredients in a bowl and add:
4eggs
3-4 cups buttermilk (plain whole milk will work)
1/2cup vegetable oil

Directions
Mix but leave lumps. Use well oiled cast iron pan or griddle on medium high heat and brush browned tops with melted butter – enjoy!

 

 

The End. Go Eat. 

i8tonite: with Chef Tyler Gugliotta, Baran’s 2239 in Hermosa Beach & Jerk Pork Recipe

i8tonite: with Chef Tyler Gugliotta, Baran's 2239 in Hermosa Beach & Jerk PorkThe petite picturesque coastal town of Hermosa Beach, along with its sister sandlots, Manhattan and Redondo, has never been known as a culinary hub. Typical Southern California seaside fare of good burgers, sustainable salads and grilled meats paired with frothy beers and California wines is de rigueur.   Yet, epicures who love the waves between their toes and food prepared with culinary prowess can now have both at the few weeks old Baran’s 2239 and their chef Tyler Gugliotta, using South of the Border and Asian influences.

i8tonite: with Chef Tyler Gugliotta, Baran's 2239 in Hermosa Beach & Jerk Pork Recipe. Photo Kent Kanouse
Photo Kent Kanouse

Generally speaking, food made by a cook of some repute can be had at any of the Golden State’s seaside hotels, which dot the Pacific Coast Highway. Luxury resorts such as Monterey’s Post Ranch Inn, Aubergine in Carmel-By-The-Sea, or The Resort at Pelican Hill’s Andrea in Newport Beach come to mind, yet it’s difficult to find independent dining. With Gugliotta, his ambition is to change that direction – and with his background, he just might. His father, a chef who cooks at Shugrue’s in Lake Havasu, Arizona – and his aunt and uncle own noted Weiser Farms, one of California’s best producers of root vegetables – so food is in his blood.

Interestingly, Gugliotta’s first love and his college major was English Literature. He was planning to become a professor but when he got on the kitchen line, all bets were off. On why he changed career directions, “Honestly, it was the creative aspect. As a young cook, I wanted to be mixing my own flavors, putting together my tastes.”

i8tonite: with Chef Tyler Gugliotta, Baran's 2239 in Hermosa Beach & Jerk Pork Recipe. Photo by Robin Kanouse
Photo by Robin Kanouse

His menus are fairly sophisticated for a sleepy seashore town – and, rightly, are a perfect stage for his family’s farms vegetable fortune. There is the nod to Gugliotta’s Italian roots with spigarello (broccoli leaves) with cauliflower, cannellini beans, and garlic scapes; plus, the bounty of California’s seasonality with white asparagus, chanterelle, and truffles. Then on the meat side a pork char sui with a crispy coleslaw or housemade chorizo verde.

More importantly, the thirty-one year old is excited to be elevating the food scene in his hometown, presenting exciting California cuisine with inspirations from his travels to Mexico, the Pan-Pacific, and Europe. And, the Hermosa Beach gourmands, flip-flops and board shorts, are happy to have him.

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust); 

i8tonite: with Chef Tyler Gugliotta, Baran's 2239 in Hermosa Beach & Jerk Pork Recipe
Photo by Monica Simpson

How long have you been cooking? Cooking since 8 years old, but professionally for 10 years.

What is your favorite food to cook? Anything with chilies.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Cheese.

What do you cook at home? I like to grill.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer ?Adventurous.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? No shows.

i8tonite: with Chef Tyler Gugliotta, Baran's 2239 in Hermosa Beach & Jerk Pork RecipeTupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Deli cups.

Beer, wine, or cocktail? Beer when I’m thirsty, wine with food, cocktails on my day off.

Your favorite cookbook author? Escoffier.

Your favorite kitchen tool? My hands.

Your favorite ingredient? Cilantro.

Your least favorite ingredient? Not big on tripe. Hate canned vegetables.

i8tonite: with Chef Tyler Gugliotta, Baran's 2239 in Hermosa Beach & Jerk Pork RecipeLeast favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Dishes.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Mexican/ Italian/Southeast Asian.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu? All but tofu.

Favorite vegetable? Chilies.

Chef you most admire? My Dad.

Food you like the most to eat? Tacos/sandwiches.

Food you dislike the most? Fake meat products.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? One tattoo which is of food.

Recipe: Jerk pork Tenderloin – Chef Tyler Gugliotta

  • 2 cups chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 habanero peppers, seed for less spice (i leave them in)
  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) pork tenderloin

Blend or food process all ingredients, and pour into a ziploc bag with the pork. Marinade for at least three hours, but the day before works best. Grill until caramelized, about 4-6 mins a side and the internal temp is 140.

 

–       The End. Go Eat. –

 

I8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in NYC’s Little Italy

 

I8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in NYC's Little Italy. Photo by Patrick RasenbergA long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…honestly, it was only 30 years ago when New York City’s Little Italy seemed like a slice of Naples. The area wasn’t so sanitized and mafia guys, like John Gotti, would hang out in the one of the local trattorias. Now, they are all in Brooklyn like the last of the Godfather series. Then, laundry would hang from pulleys rigged between buildings and neighbors screamed at each other from across the street, “Hey Doris! I need some sugah!” That was Little Italy.

As real estate has become the number one money maker in the world, old Big Apple neighborhoods have transformed into shopping and eating meccas with name brand stores holding court. The web of streets below Houston and east of Broadway always had a lot of European charm with independent shops from butchers to bakers and candlestick makers, but it’s been joined by bigger outlets. Think of seeing the actor Steve Buscemi, long noted for independent films, next to George Clooney, Hollywood glitz, but it’s only because Steve is there that George came to the party. It’s a bit of a shock almost like one of these things does not belong. Yet, like all things in New York, they co-exist, peacefully and wind up working in movies together. (See Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.)

The Feast of San Gennaro, New York City's longest-running, biggest, and most revered religious outdoor festival in the United States. From I8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in NYC's Little Italy
The Feast of San Gennaro, New York City’s longest-running, biggest, and most revered religious outdoor festival in the United States.

Probably one of the country’s most important ethnic festivals, The Feast of San Gennaro, started in the area. Originally, the event was to welcome new Italian immigrants to the area. Now, almost a hundred years later, the one day event has expanded into eleven and six urban blocks of food, raucousness and general good naturedness saying, “This is what New York City was like.” In September, it seems like the world, not only those interested in pasta and pizza, converge on Mulberry between Houston and Canal. Instead of paisanos walking the streets, it really is a melting pot of cultures eating sausages with peppers and onions, throwing darts at balloons, tossing ping pongs into fishbowls and carrying on…welcoming everyone to the neighborhood.

Balthazar. From I8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in NYC's Little Italy. Photo by Sue and Danny YeeBreakfast: Breakfast at Balthazar should be on the bookshelf with Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but there isn’t a book with that title. Ever since opening in 1997 Keith McNally’s ode to Paris has been a staple of the downtown demi-monde set. At dinner, it’s still one of the few places to see and be seen. Breakfast is normally not such a rush. it’s a quieter atmosphere with businessmen and female entrepreneurs holding court. Funny, to be recommending a French place while walking around Little Italy, but it’s a must.

  • Our Suggestion: Eggs En Cocotte. A classic dish not normally seen on menus but it’s really delicious and very easy to make at home. Here, though, they serve them with “soldiers” mean strips of toast without the crust. Just like our English “mummy” used to make.
  • Cost: $15.00
  • Website: http://www.balthazarny.com/

I8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in NYC's Little ItalyLunch: Walking in New York is tantamount to running a gauntlet if you’re not used to it. Swerving and dipping. Spinning and sprinting. The onslaught of pedestrians is mesmerizing,  overwhelming and hungry-making which is why you need a hearty lunch. Head to Parm. One of those newly designed farm-to-table  sandwich shops but this one started on Mulberry Street and now has sisters in Battery Park City, Yankee Stadium, and the Upper Westside. (Everything has to be a conglomerate.) It’s fun and affordable. You can belly up to the bar and have a lunch cocktail ( I would) to wash down a delish  sandwich. It’s simple fare and without a lengthy menu.

  • Our suggestion: Order the Chicken or Eggplant Parm. Lightly breaded and crisped outside served on a freshly baked semolina roll with beautiful marinara and mozzarella dripping from the sides. Delicious and satisfying for the mid-day repast. And get that lunch martini.
  • Cost: $15.00
  • Website: parmnyc.com

Cocktails: Spring Lounge. Sitting on the corner of Spring and Mulberry is a citadel to urban drinking. Spring Lounge, for generations, is the place where you’re coming for a shot of anything, with a beer or whiskey chaser. Holding up since the 1920’s, as the interior wood paneling can attest, it was first a haven for drinkers during Prohibition, meaning you could get your beer on. Now, it’s a bar with sister bars but you can still get pretty wasted cheaply. If you are so inclined you could join the Early Morning Drinkers Society which starts at 8:00am and yes, Virginia, people are sipping the toddy in the morning.

  • Our Suggestion: A shot of something with a cocktail. Go for it. We don’t judge.
  • Cost: Varies
  • Website: thespringlounge.com

I8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in NYC's Little ItalyDinner: Jacques. I know, I know. You are in Little Italy, why the hell am I recommending two French places? Well, it’s because there are excellent Italians restaurants in every place but Little Italy. Head uptown to Lidia Bastianich’s Felidia or Mario Batali’s Babbo. Italians, like the LGBTQ community, aren’t in ghettoes anymore, they are everywhere. So…we’re going French in Little Italy at Jacques. Part of the charm is the escargot, the excellent steak frites, the French accented waitstaff. It’s like being in a real brasserie in Paris without the plane ride. The smoky yellow walls seem to be evidence of a bygone era when patrons and their tobacco habits have left behind the color as a souvenir. Tin signs are extolling French products also decorate the room with wood chairs and benches. It’s very New York-centric and symbolic of a changing neighborhood. They also have some excellent specials such as order a full meal for a couple and get a bottle of wine, meaning two entrees and two appetizers.

Flatbread at Jacques. From I8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in NYC's Little Italy

  • Our suggestion: The escargot is excellent. Lots of buerre and garlic for dipping slices of French loaf.  Follow it up with the Pat LaFrieda Steak au Poivre. Medium-rare.
  • Cost: Escargot, $11. The steak, $29…you can’t find a steak for that price at your local butcher.
  • Website: jacques1534.com

Crosby Street Hotel. From I8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in NYC's Little ItalyWhere to Stay: The Crosby Street Hotel. An 86-room hotel outfitted with fabric covered walls and Easter egg colored chairs sits at the entry to Little Italy. It’s a modern looking structure tucked in amongst the last remaining tenements apartment building harkening back to New York’s roughed up days.

I8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in NYC's Little ItalyFirmdale, the hotelier, does this weird thing saying it’s in Soho but really, it’s Little Italy. Soho is the mostly made-up of cast-iron buildings and is located on the west of Broadway. These are tenements. Regardless, it’s a beautiful, small hotel located off the beaten path much better than the Soho Grand which is just stuffier and older.

 

Pin for later:

I8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in NYC's Little Italy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The end. Go eat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco’s Famed Acquerello

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco's Famed Acquerello“When opportunity knocks on your door, you have two choices (and) if I had waited until I felt ready, I would’ve missed what has turned out to be the greatest opportunity of my life,” says Chef Suzette Gresham, referring to Acquerello, the almost 27-year old Italian restaurant she co-owns with Giancarlo Paterlini. A friend had tipped off Gresham that there was an opening for an executive chef under the management of Paterlini. At the time, as a young chef, Gresham didn’t feel qualified, but decided that failure was nothing more than not meeting someone else’s expectations. She applied for the job – and the rest, as they say, is culinary history.

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco's Famed AcquerelloSince the opening of Acquerello in San Francisco’s posh Nob Hill neighborhood, the recognition and accolades just keep coming. Acquerello received its first Michelin star in the introductory 2007 Bay Area guide. In 2014, Gresham received the second star, making her the third woman in the United States and the second in San Francisco to receive this prestigious honor.  Chef Gresham is also only one of two women to receive the American Culinary Federation’s “Antonin Careme Award” – the other was Julia Child.

Chef Gresham remains true to her belief that you must understand the very basics of cooking before you can become a great chef.  She takes an innovative approach to Italian cuisine at Acquerello, allowing her curiosity, creativity, and passion for all things Italian to manifest in an innovative manner. However, she remains true to the heart of Italian cuisine: clean fresh ingredients, sourced locally, prepared lovingly and with attention.

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco's Famed AcquerelloWhile Gresham believes in flavor above all, she prides herself on the definability of her food. “If you close your eyes and put the fork in your mouth, you should still be able to tell what you’re eating,” she comments. In the end, there are no tricks to the cuisine at Acquerello, no attempt to dazzle beyond the inherent capability of the plate’s ingredients.

Over the course of her thirty-five year career, and beyond the laurels, Chef Gresham’s approachable manner has allowed her to mentor over sixty interns and apprentices at Acquerello. It’s her belief that she has had more than her share of the “good stuff” in life. In giving back, Gresham shares her knowledge and commitment to turning out the very best in every person who works in her kitchen. In an industry dominated by men, Chef Suzette Gresham has become one of the most influential chefs in the world.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco's Famed Acquerello

How long have you been cooking? Chronologically: For two-thirds of my life.

What is your favorite food to cook?  At home: Soup. Japanese Chiriashi. Hainan chicken. Duck Larb. Or, whatever my daughters request.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? I am a condiment whore. I can cook in almost any cuisine at a moment’s notice based on what I have on hand. I am never without a variety of imported butter, mustards, multicultural pickled items, truffle oil, and oodles of hot sauces.

What do you cook at home? From one end of the spectrum to the other: Seafood sashimi and crudos to long-cooking braised items like pig’s feet with cannellini beans.

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco's Famed Acquerello
Chef Suzette Gresham and co-owner Giancarlo Paterlini

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? Curiosity.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?  Closed mindedness.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? All three: Clear plastic containers with matching lids, Vintage Pyrex, heat resistant Rubbermaid spatulas.

Beer, wine, or cocktail? All three: Chilled, fresh homemade beer, Italian Barolo wine, and a “Mountain Man” cocktail or other crafted drinks created by Christopher Longoria.

Your favorite cookbook author? Seriously? There are cookbooks in every room of my house, including the bathroom.  I want to hear everyone’s voice.

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco's Famed Acquerello
Papparedelle with Duck Ragu

Your favorite kitchen tool? At home: Super sharp, pointed scissors. At work: “tickets” which are micro tongs. (A gift from a past employee carried back from Spain.)

Your favorite ingredient? Monocultivar Olive oil.

Your least favorite ingredient? Lavender. Although I can cook with it.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Stand around.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Global.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?All three: Wagyu Beef seared, Chicken stock with Matzoh balls, Nonna’s skin-on pork roast, Tofu skins stuffed with mushrooms.

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco's Famed Acquerello
Truffled Leek Torta with Seasonal Mushrooms, Sunchokes and Vegetable Glaze

Favorite vegetable?Leafy greens: Swiss chard, rapini, spinach, and all bitter greens.

Chef you most admire? Massimo Bottura: He has never relented in following his dreams. He is true to himself AND his food.

Food you like the most to eat? Great naked salads of wild greens. Unusual sushi. Properly seared Foie gras. Big pearl Royal Osetra caviar.

Food you dislike the most? Sea slugs.

How many tattoos?  As a Chef and a woman… I always leave something to the imagination.

And if so, how many are of food? Notice above. I listed “chef” first… you can decide.

Recipe: Acquerello’s Scallop Crudo with Carrot Vinaigrette

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco's Famed Acquerello
Scallop Crudo with Carrot Viniagrette

*Chef Suzette Gresham notes: The photo of the scallops is beautiful. It is meant to inspire and not restrict. It seemed to be one of the most do-able of our recipes and is open to interpretation. The Scallops create a clean canvas with which to pair your favorite flavors. The carrots are a surprising and colorful yet underrepresented vegetable in an elegant setting. It just shows that with a little mindfulness, what you can create. You don’t need to have exotic ingredients to create something delicious, as long as you are creative.

The recipe can be adapted any way you like and you can use whatever tools you have. For example you can poach, sautee, or steam the scallops if you like. You can use beets instead of carrots. Or any veggie, Drizzle with olive oil. You don’t really need xatham gum. Make it your own. This recipe is just meant as a template.

Recipe/Instructions

Scallops:

  • Size 16/20’s scallops
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon zest
  • Salt

Place scallops, olive oil, lemon zest, and salt in vac bag. Vacuum seal. Place vacuum-sealed scallops in a circulated water bath at 54C for 25mins.  After cooked, ice down until 33F. Slice scallops.

Carrot Vinaigrette:

  • 2C fresh carrot juice
  • 1T Apple cider vinegar
  • .2% xathan gum
  • Salt to taste

Blend carrot juice in vita-mix with apple cider vin. Add xathan gum. Season to taste.

Red Pepper gel :

  • 6 Large bell peppers juiced
  • 2 tien tsin chilies
  • Chili Flakes
  • Gellan gum 1%
  • Xathan gum .02%
  • Salt to taste

Bring bell pepper juice and tien tsin chilies to boil in small pot, turn off heat cover and steep for 10 mins. Strain out chilies with fine mesh strainer. Weigh reserved juice in grams. Add 1% gellan gum and bring to boil to activate. Cool until set in metal 3rd pan.

Once set, blend gel in vita-mix with a small pinch of chili flakes. If need, add water to get desired consistency. Add Xanthan gum just to keep gel from weeping. Pass gel through fine mesh strainer to remove chili flake particles. Vac to 100% in Cryo-Vac machine in metal 6pan to remove suspended air and brighten color.

Carrot ‘Flowers’:

  • Carrot tips, about 3″ in length.
  • Fry oil

Slice carrot tips into rounds on mini mandolin, bring fry oil up to 250F add sliced carrots.

Fry until carrots curl up. Drain carrot flowers off onto paper towels and place in dehydrator for 2 hours to crisp up.

Garnish:

Pulsed Marcona Almonds, High quality finishing oil to drizzle, Micro Greens/Herbs

The End. Go Eat