Category Archives: Manhattan

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?

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?

Chef you most admire?
Michael Romano

Food you like the most to eat?

Food you dislike the most?

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?

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: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in New York City’s West Village

This is a re-post of some of my favorite haunts Manhattan’s West Village. I’ve been traveling again….and it always messes with my postings. 

West Village 2The West Village conjures up Carrie Bradshaw-types and her many boyfriends tripping the light fantastic in the early morning, afternoon and night. It’s now a neighborhood peppered with forever young adults feigning an old-school worldliness…. and it was my playground for many years. At one time, I was one of those young adults so I know what I’m talking about.  The West Village is timeless with it’s cobbled neighborhood streets and hustle and bustle of it’s residents. It’s on this colonial streets where I learned how to shop for food, drink gallons of vodka and eat well with my friend, Penny, sometimes Sharon, Annie and Tanya but mostly, Penny. With Penny – whom I claim as my culinary mentor — we would stop at Murray’s Cheese Shop to purchase a crunchy French baguette and an excellent stinky fromage. Then, we would traipse half a block to the Korean market, interestingly enough named Bleecker Farm Corp which carries some of the best priced produce. Once we filled our woven Parisian handwoven bags – because shopping without them is so… mundane — we would just jaunt up to Ottomanelli & Sons for a decent, inexpensive cut of something and then cook it. In between our mock-European “marketing”, we would stop at a bar for an alcoholic refreshment (or three) …something to give us a jolt before we started being all culinary and stuff in Penny’s miniscule “3 x 5” kitchen. God, I love New York.

Hudson Diner

Breakfast: Hudson Diner. There are so many fancy,
schmancy places to get your eggs in the area. Steamed. Boiled. Chopped. Shirred. But there is nothing like a New York diner. Nothing. They always manage to please no matter what you order. It wasn’t the best food, meaning that every salad was made with iceberg but it was good food. Plentiful and cheap. Now, it’s not so cheap…but cheaper than the others.  You can still find one of the old New York diners and pretend it’s 1986.

My suggestion: An omelet with hash browns. It’s like a New Yorker, it never goes out of style. Order any kind you want as long as it comes with the hash browns.  There’s nothing like a pulpy bite with crisped almost burned edges. Heavily salted. (Potassium for the hangover.) Get rye toast. Or pumpernickel. They never offer you pumpernickel outside of New York City. Go ahead, eat the carbs.

Price: $12.75

Hours: 6:00am – 11:30pm

Address: 468 Hudson Street, NYC, NY


dasilviano.600Lunch:  Da Silvano. For about eight or nine months out of the year, New York is the Emerald City. Beautiful fashion, amazing people watching and for the most part — lovely weather. When the weather is perfect in the Big Apple, it’s glorious which is why I love having lunch at Da Silvano, eating outside with freshly prepared Tuscan food. I can’t believe it still exists in the same place – corner of Bleecker and 6th Avenue — for the past forty years. While deciding on what to eat from the housemade pasta or antipasti, take a sip of a refreshing Negroni or a glass of Gavi di Gavi and gaze at the passersby. There is nothing more entertaining than watching people – in real time — while eating some of the best Italian food in the West Village. Who needs Broadway and the cinema when you have the spectacle of New York?

My suggestion:  Any of the antipasti for lunch are brilliant and fresh. My favorite is the beef carpaccio. This was the first place I ever ate it.

Price: $14.50.  Negronis are a separate price.

Hours: Sun – Thursday: Noon – Midnight; Friday and Saturday: Noon – 1:00am

Address: 260 6th Avenue, NYC, NY,

Phone Number: (212) 982 – 2343


White Horse Tavern

Snack Time: White Horse Tavern. If there was ever a quintessential watering hole of the West Village this would be it. Serving up drinks since the 1880s, it’s a tavern with a literary bent – Dylan Thomas, James Baldwin and Jack Kerouac – all bellied-up to the bar. It’s probably in every New York City guidebook as it has a sense of history which most bars in the area don’t have anymore. This corner establishment with its neon sign beckoned so many famous and non-famous New Yorkers through its doors – for the casual nip or the full-on-let’s-drink-until-we-puke – it’s a slice of Manhattan history that hasn’t been replaced….yet. It’s not a dive – just worn around the edges with love and history. (Note: There is a well-known Alcoholics Anonymous building down the street at 50 Perry Street, just in case you have too many of the puke-till-you-drop episodes. Just sayin’.)

My suggestion: Anything you want with a slice of literary.

Price: Cheap. Cash bar…which is why it’s cheap.

Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 11:00am – 2:00am. Friday and Saturday, 11:00am – 4:00pm.

Address: 567 Hudson Street (between Perry and 11th Streets), NYC, NY

Phone Number: (212) 989-3856

Website: No website.

Cornelia StreetDinner: Cornelia Street Café. In the 80s, the trend was not quiet little restaurants but big oversized – well, everything. Nightclubs, restaurants and, of course, that silly velvet rope. But down in the West Village, on a small little colonial street with a carmine-colored front lies Cornelia Street Café, a picturesque neighborhood establishment that has outlasted all the big guns and has only become better with age. In the beginning, there was a toaster, microwave and a coffee machine now – almost four decades later — it has expanded with two kitchens plus a cabaret. Owned by three artists who are still the proprietors, the café has become a landmark. It has the bistro chairs and tables, brick-walls, redolent of New York past and lovely food prepared by Chef Dan Latham. An absolute must. Small aside – I had my last date with a woman at Cornelia Street Café. She was a dancer with the Joffrey and was absolutely stunning. Olive-skinned. Beautiful body and face with Andie MacDowell hair. I knew I was gay when I only wanted to talk about her hair and clothes.

My suggestion: Black Sesame Crusted Salmon

Price: $22.00. (Seriously, where are you going to get a delicious piece of fish at this price in Manhattan?)

Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 10:00am – 12:00pm. Friday – Saturday, 10:00am – 1:00am.

Address: 29 Cornelia Street, between 4th Street and Bleecker

Phone: (212) 989 – 9319



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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in New York City's West Village

Photo Wikimedia Commons: Adam Jones

The End. Go Eat. Black Sesame Salmon