Fennel-Tomato Penne: Pantry Pasta

PastaThe best summer days are like delicious meandering daydreams.

The thing about being adrift, slipping from salty stroll to hours lost in rediscovering an old love of a book, is that supper hour suddenly nears and the reverie is interrupted.

“S***,” you think. “What will we eat?”

Dorset boy has a plan. The pantry is almost bare, but the few things can prove useful: Fennel, garlic, tomatoes and penne.

Out comes the chopping board, and away we go …

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Lincoln: A Dazzler of A Show


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It's been hard to ignore only the Most Significant Restaurant Opening in New York so far this year.

Since Jonathan Benno announced he would be leaving Per Se for Lincoln, an upscale Italian restaurant the Patina Restaurant Group was opening at Lincoln Center, the stories and blog items have been unceasing. Weeks before the restaurant opened late last month, the city's food Web sites were already aflutter with anticipation. Just days after it opened, food blogs were filled with photos of its eggplant parmesans and breathless accounts of transcendent meals there.

It's difficult to live up to such hype, but Benno, his crew and the beautifully sculpted setting, complete with a modern glass-walled kitchen in the heart of it all, they do it in spades.

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Eataly (Il Pesce): A Mixed Bag Of Fish


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Eataly can be a hard place for the hungry.

For starters, chaos rules the moment you set foot in the door of this cavernous Whole Foods-meets-tony-food-court Italian emporium in New York City that opened at the end of summer. Believe me, you’ll need all the strength you can muster to bulldoze your way past the bodies before you can get at any food.

And while you’re pressed up, body against body, there are the displays of cheeses, desserts, milk and coffee you’ll be breezing past. You’ll want to stop, of course — but the mosh pit all around owns you. All you can do is cast longing glances, hoping for some private time with that fetching taleggio later in the evening perhaps, as the crowd carries you helplessly along.

Our destination on this particularly mobbed Saturday evening is Il Pesce, the fish restaurant within this 50,000 square foot-place that partner Mario Batali has famously billed as a “temple,” where “food is more sacred than commerce.”

Amid the sections where you can buy pasta, bread, cookbooks or stand around tall tables in a “tasting piazza” and nibble on cured meats, there are a few eateries devoted to specific categories — vegetables, pasta, fish, meat. Our dining companion for the evening, the insatiable Gael Greene, has already eaten her way through a few of those places. “I was curious to try the fish restaurant …” she says.

So, Il Pesce it is …

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The Lion: And On The First Night …


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When a girl leaves town for seven weeks, the City is full of advice for her the moment she returns.

Because she has been known to have an appetite, there is, first and foremost on the minds of many, the issue of where she should eat now. Restaurants have closed and opened in the time she’s been gone, sequestered in the woods of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., finishing a book, making new friends.

“Obviously,” a friend emails, “the Lion in the Village is the place to go.”

And by all accounts, that appears to be right. The West Village restaurant with Waverly Inn chef John DeLucie at the helm and backers like David Zinczenko of Men’s Health magazine has been one of the most breathlessly anticipated new restaurants of spring. In the last few weeks, its private preview dinners have been a Page Six hotbed, reportedly drawing bold-faced names like Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Nora Ephron and Mary J. Blige. 

The issue, of course, becomes, well, how on earth to get a table? If you aren’t God, Gwyneth Paltrow or Graydon Carter, that is.

On Monday, the very night that it opened, we decided to swing by and try our luck …

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The 12-Hour Bolognese


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I used to think Martha Stewart was high maintenance — but that was before I encountered Heston Blumenthal.

Yes, the man — chef/owner of the three Michelin-star Fat Duck in Bray, U.K. — is a molecular gastronomy genius responsible for tongue-boggling dishes like powdered anjou pigeon and scrambled egg and bacon ice-cream.  

But let’s take something like, say, bolognese, one of the most basic dishes in classic Italian cooking. It should be fairly easy to make … well, except that this is Blumenthal we’re talking about.

His bolognese recipe includes this instruction: “Cook for at least six hours.” And this would be taking place after a good two hours or so of cooking and prep work.

By the time my Blumenthal bolognese was done, it was 4:30 a.m. and the ragu had taken a total of 12 hours to make. I was mad at my oven, my bolognese — while also plotting a trip to Bray to give Blumenthal a piece of my mind.

But then I had my first spoonful of the ragu, a rich and muscular concoction that was beefy and hefty but also so, so, so sweet. Each morsel had just the slightest hint of licorice and the beef was so tender that I wondered if it was possible that I was actually feeling it melt on my tongue.

It was, in short, a joy to eat.

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