Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The other week I had a true Sunday Funday in New York City, eating amazing food and enjoying the company of some of my favorite people. First up on the list for delicious cuisine was ’ino. Sonya and Pat (my older sister and her boyfriend) had lured me to ’ino for brunch with promises of phenomenal truffled egg toast, and they certainly delivered. There’s a few different variations of ’ino restaurants, but we hit up the the cafe/bar on 21 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village.

We started off the meal by ordering a bottle of 2006 Domenico Clerico Barbera d'Alba Trevigne. Barbera wines are usually fruity with high acidity and low tannins and are known for paring well with a variety of foods. This bottle was the perfect accompaniment for the culinary adventure we were about to embark on with brunch.

First up was the long-awaited truffled egg toast. If there is a heaven I’m certain they serve truffled egg toast every morning for breakfast. And probably for lunch and dinner as well.

The truffled egg toast is basically a thick slice of white bread (I’m guessing it’s brioche but another reviewer claims it’s ciabatta—either way it’s amazing), the center is hollowed out and filled with  luscious raw egg yolks, and the bread is covered with fontina cheese. It’s beautiful. When it arrives the cheese only covers the bread, not the yolk, so that vibrant, golden ray of sunshine peeks out from the center of the toast, tempting you to dig right in. But that’s not it. Drizzled on top of this heavenly creation is decadent and aromatic truffle oil, and the plate is also adorned with asparagus tips. I have to say it—the truffled egg toast is orgasmic. Truly. And when you cut into it and take that first bite, the egg yolk just oozes out sensually over the plate. It's a thing of beauty and pleasure—a culinary work of art for the tastebuds.

Next we delved into the 'ino antipasti. The antipasti came with a variety of delicious options to be spread on grilled pieces of bread, including sweet onions, pate, fennel, goat cheese with fennel fronds, tapenade, soppressata, cacciatorini, roasted garlic with rucola oil, olives, asparagus, and red peppers. What a way to start a meal. The plate abounded with an array of flavors, and every little bite was fantastic. 

After the antipasti we sampled a bruschette plate. Ours came with butternut squash, asiago, and walnuts; white bean, tomato, and basil; spaghetti squash, currants, and pine-nuts; and goat cheese with fennel fronds. As with the antipasti, the bruschette plate is perfect for sharing. We each sampled little bites of all the perfectly crafted bruschette, savoring the different yet complementary flavors of each variation. My favorite was probably the butternut squash, which seemed apropos of the chilly November day.

For the rest of the meal we each ordered a dish and shared bites with one another. I opted for the prosciutto toast, which was very basic—just thin slices of prosciutto over grilled ciabatta. I was really in the mood for some quality cured meat, and this simple prosciutto toast definitely hit the spot. The meat was sliced nice and thin and was flavorful without being overly salty. The ciabatta was grilled perfectly. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect combination of meat and bread.

I loved my prosciutto toast, but Sonya’s tramezzeni was pretty sumblime as well. A tramezzeni is a small sandwich made of white bread with the crusts cut off. ’ino offers a variety of tasty fillings for these sandwiches, but I think Sonya picked the best option—pancetta, oven-roasted tomato, rucola, and lemon mayo. The bread was light and soft and the filling, while flavorful, was not overpowering or heavy. The flavors were delicate and yet so satisfying.

Pat ordered the special salad with arugula, pomegranate seeds, brussel sprouts, and heirloom pork. Before I had even dived into my own prosciutto toast I had to try a bite of the heirloom pork, so I snagged a piece off of Pat’s plate and popped it in my mouth. Oh. My. God. It was perfect. Each piece was crispy, fatty, and tender. Just the pork was amazing, but when it was combined with the other ingredients it was even better, especially as those tiny pomegranate seeds exploded with their quintessential flavors of sweet and tart. Best salad ever.

I was promised an amazing brunch at ’ino and that’s what I got. I now make you the same promise—go to ’ino and you will leave satisfied and smiling. There’s just one condition, you absolutely must order the truffled egg toast. If you walk through those doors without tasting the truffled egg toast you’re definitely missing out on a little slice of earthly delight that could only have been sent by the gods. Enjoy! 

'Ino on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 29, 2010

An Off-the-Hook-Rook Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is, of course, one of the best holidays of the year, especially for a foodie. Almost every holiday is an opportunity to cook copious amounts of food, but Thanksgiving revolves around it. Families and friends come together, create a mess in the kitchen, and cook enough food to feed an army. This year Thanksgiving dinner was definitely off the hook at the Rook house.

So what was on the menu? Tasty snacks, bread and butter, salad, soup, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, cranberry relish, ambrosia, banana pudding, and raspberry bars. Yes.

The turkey was going to take about four hours to roast, so around noon I popped open a beer and prepared the guest of honor, cleaning it, patting the skin dry, coating it with my special combination of butter, sage, rosemary, and thyme, and stuffing it with apples, onions, garlic, herbs, carrots, and celery.

While I got the turkey ready, Tara put out a nice repast of cheese, crackers, olives, and cocktail shrimp. No Thanksgiving is complete without snacks to munch on throughout the day before the big meal.

This year we decided to break up the meal a little bit. When I took the turkey out the oven to rest for a while before carving it, we devoured a first course of bread and butter, soup, and salad. Tara baked the bread--it was fabulous. The bread was hearty, warm, and perfect for dipping into the amazing soup that Tara also made. 

The soup was a combination of vegetable stock, carrots, buttercup squash, butternut squash, apples, and a variety of spices. After allowing all the ingredients to cook through until soft, Tara pureed it and served it with just a little bit of sour cream on top. It had a hint of spiciness and lovely flavors that invoked the autumnal season.

My mom prepared the salad--a waldorf salad with a bed of romaine lettuce that was topped with green grapes, apples, celery, and walnuts. The light dressing she tossed it in was delicate and refreshing. Again, it was a perfect representation of fall flavors.

All in all, the bread, soup, and salad were a perfect way to pregame for the main course. We also opened up a delightful bottle of red wine to start off the meal.

Next up was all the traditional fixings for a Thanksgiving meal. The turkey turned out just the way I like it--the skin was nice and crispy and the meat was still moist. I carved it successfully and served it up, snacking a bit on pieces of skin along the way.

Sonya is the queen of mashed potatoes, and as usual she prepared a perfect dish of creamy mashed potatoes. She uses red potatoes and leaves the skin on, also adding some garlic and half-and-half to make it the right consistency. As always it was delicious.

Last year I made a cranberry relish with a recipe that my friend Melissa gave me, and it was so good that my mom requested I make it again this year. The recipe consists of bourbon, shallots, orange zest, sugar, black pepper, and cranberries--it's slightly sweet but still has a nice bite from the bourbon, shallots, and orange zest. This year we decided to try it with spiced rum since we already had some on hand and it added a little different flavor but was quite delightful.

Tara made the ambrosia salad this year. Ambrosia is kind of a 1950s' throwback, but we still make it every year. It's definitely a Rook tradition. Our ambrosia consists of mini marshmallows, shredded coconut,  sour cream, mandarin oranges, pineapple, and maraschino cherries. Somehow this year the maraschino cherries didn't make it in the ambrosia, but as always it was sweet in that way that only ridiculous doses of high-fructose corn syrup can create. An American classic.

We always make the stuffing (or dressing rather since we don't cook it in the turkey) using our Grandma's recipe. The recipe isn't written down anywhere, we just do it by intuition. The basics are bread, pork sausage, celery, onions, salt, pepper, and Bell's seasoning. This year I took over preparing the stuffing--tearing up chunks of wheat bread and mashing it together with the other ingredients until it was combined evenly. When it was done the top was lightly browned and crispy and the inside was soft, hearty, and perfectly seasoned. It might have been the best stuffing I've made yet.

We usually try out different vegetable sides every year, so my mom made a brussel sprouts dish using a recipe by Chef Ric Orlando. She opted for the balsamic roasted brussel sprouts, tossing the little strange vegetables in olive oil, garlic, shallots, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, salt, and pepper and then roasting them until tender. It was a lovely new addition to the more traditional aspects of our Thanksgiving dinner.

I had completely forgotten about gravy until I went to carve the turkey and saw the the gravy boat was sitting on the table. I was about to give up on the idea of making gravy but instead placed the giblets and turkey neck in a small sauce pan and covered it with water, allowing the water to come to a boil while I carved the turkey. I melted some butter and added flour to create a rue, removed the giblets from the water, and mixed it all together, hoping that it would reduce quickly. It didn't get as thick and flavorful as I would have liked it, but when it was close enough I poured it into the gravy boat and we were ready for dinner. 

After dinner we were so stuffed that there was nothing else Tara and I wanted to do except lie around and watch Labyrinth. After an hour and a half of David Bowie, psychedelic scenery, and wacky Jim Henson puppets, we emerged to find out parents noshing on dessert. Ever had banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery? If not, you need to try it. The pudding is nice and creamy with pieces of banana and Nilla wafers mixed throughout it. Covering the pudding was a layer of whipped topping. We were promised it would be phenomenal, and it definitely was. Tara also made some delicious raspberry bars. Normally we would have some sort of apple or pumpkin pie, but this year the pudding and raspberry bars were more than enough.

Thanksgiving is a great holiday for eating rich food, raising a toast, and giving thanks for all that we have in life. I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving as much as we did. Cheers!

Thanksgiving Eve at New World

The night before Thanksgiving the fam got together and we all headed to New World Bistro Bar for a delicious dinner. New World is probably my favorite restaurant in Albany. I've reviewed it before, so I'll just give you the highlights of the meal and entertain you with some photographs to titillate your visual taste buds.

I finally got to try an Italian Greyhound--a drink composed of grapefruit vodka, grapefruit juice, soda, campari, and a sprig of fresh rosemary--which I'd read about on the New World Web site weeks ago and have been dying to try. It was a fantastic cocktail--light, refreshing, and loaded with liquor. 

I also ventured into the Forbidden Pleasures section of the menu and tasted roasted beef marrowbones with apple butter, sel gris de mer, and rye toast for the first time. They were phenomenal. The luscious marrow spread beautifully on the toast and the apple butter added just enough of a light sweetness to complement the fatty, savory marrow. It definitely qualifies as a forbidden pleasure.

For an entree I ordered the Thai-Italian Love--paparedelle with panang bolognese made with local, free-range beef, panang curry, tomato, lime leaves, and coconut. This dish had tempted me since I first saw it on the menu, but I had resisted and always ordered something else. I'm so glad I gave in and tried it this time. The fusion between Thai and Italian cuisines was done absolutely perfectly. It had the heartiness of a rich bolognese with the refreshing spiciness of a Thai curry. And those noodles! They were thick, beautiful, and cooked just right. 

If you live in the Capital Region and haven't treated yourself to a dinner at New World Bistro Bar yet, I highly recommend you get your ass there pronto. I promise it will be worth it.

Italian Greyhound:
Grapefruit Vodka, Grapefruit Juice, Soda, Campari, 
and a Sprig of Fresh Rosemary

Luscious Olive Oil with Balsamic Vinegar and Tasty Bread

A Festive Casuela of Warm Olives

Saigon Street Style Fried Calamari with Cuke Noodles, Peanut-Tamarind, and Chile Sauce

Korean BBQ Pork Belly with Daikon Kim Chee

Roasted Beef Marrowbones with Apple Butter, Sel Gris de Mer, 
and Rye Toast

New World Jerk Chicken:
Free Bird Half Bird (Marinated, Grilled, and Finished in the Oven), Plated with Coconut Peas and Rice, Island Yams, Greens, and Plaintains

Yellow Curry Shrimp and Fat Noodles 
with Crisp Veggies and Fresh Basil

Thai-Italian Love:
Papardelle with Panang Bolognese, made with Local, Free-Range Beef, Aromatic Panang Curry, Tomato, Lime Leaves, and Coconut

Thai BBQ Ahi Steak Glazed with a Lime and Garlic Dressing, with Peanut Slaw, Organic Brown Rice, and Greens

Arugula Salad with Local Pears, Beets, Slivered Almonds, Manchego, and Truffle-Moscato Vinaigrette


Cardamom Creme Brulee

Dessert Tapas Trio

Nutella and Mascarpone Mousse

Chocolate Chevre Truffle Rolled in Chile and Cinnamon

A Shot of Yates Street Lemon Curd with Berry Compote

Be sure to check out my other posts on New World Bistro Bar:
New World Bistro Bar
New World Oysters
Thalamus Anyone?