Antica Locanda Di Sesto

•August 10, 2009 • 3 Comments

Antica Locando di Sesto logo.

Antica Locando di Sesto logo.


In a villa on the outskirts of Lucca, a family owned restaurant lay oozing with hospitality and popularity. 9:00p is the perfect time for a simple, but complex meal by yourself, but I suggest with your family and friends. Established in 1368 and looking as I might imagine it back in the 14th century. The restaurant was a cozy family reunion kind of place with brass pots and pans nailed onto the white and yellow walls with a small gourmet grocery in the front. We were a party of 12 people seated on a long table in a small room that was connected by a warn looking wooden arch. The waitress was a plump rosy cheeked woman who was also the owner. She was cheery and energetic making us all feel a bit better about eating this huge meal. The first of two wines was a 2007 Montecarlo. It was chilled and refreshing making people eager to drink more not noticing the effect of the 12.5% alcohol rising within their moods.

Fresh Pasta.

Fresh Pasta.

The first dish or, might not qualify for a whole dish, was one piece of bread. Normal? I think not. In the home-made and I assume home-invented bread was garlic, herbs, olive oil and that fresh, crispy taste you get when your teeth bite into a good bread. Also included in the unqualified first course was Boroldo Magliato. In different towns you may find other names for this delicacy of pig blood, fat and meat. It may sound strange and inedible, but what have you got to lose to try it? The meat was sliced onto two different plates and then devoured by hungry carnivorous eaters.

Soft talk rebounded across the walls, but no music was played. Tables were covered with a yellow table cloth and draped with a white cloth matching the walls. Another wine, Maolina the house red wine, was placed in front of us. It smelled stale and fruity, but the taste was entirely different. The wine tasted unsophisticated and down to earth which made it addicting. My water glass was speckled with bits of color that looked blown into the glass. As I drank I decided that a trip to the toilets would be a wise idea. Walking and walking up long flights of steps suddenly I was in a whole other environment. There were old ropes and chests with dusty bottles of 1970 wines.

T-Bone steak on the grill.

T-Bone steak on the grill.

The next course arrived. Coming with shaved parmesan cheese it was three different pasta dishes on one plate. Looking welcoming and creative I dig in. First to hit my stomach was a home-made spaghetti with wild asparagus (that I was told were in season) and a light cream sauce. The asparagus were delicate and small, but had a remarkably sour, tangy taste. The creamy sauce the sour asparagus and the fresh pasta made a unique triplet. The next pasta on the plate were balls of doughy goodness. Each one about the size of a small rubber ball and covered with a thin layer of a creamy tomato sauce. The final pasta on the long white plate were the ravioli. Filled with beef and covered with pork they were steaming with inviting smells. The ravioli was home-made and looked it to. Each one was hand crafted then stuffed with beef and drizzled with pork and a simple tomato sauce. The plainness and simplicity shone through all the dishes and placed the dish on the number one best dish list along with many others from our stay in Italy.

The last dish was the meat. We watched as a half a cow was grilled over leaping flames with nothing, but it’s own flavor and luck. When it finally came sizzling and thick we all stared at it with hungry eyes and full bellies. I was served a piece from the rare side and immediately dug in fearing it would burn up. If you want steak cut and chosen from the most experienced meat seller in Italy then this is your heaven. It was something out of a dream. Steak not tough, but soft and tender with artichoke shaved over its crispy shell. Being surrounded by acidic tasting artichoke and the leaves of a turnip, I am happy to say that the steak was at it’s best.

Spinach

Looking for dessert, but winding up with another dish. This wasn’t right! A platter of fried zucchini, artichoke, rabbit and chicken. Each bite was a burden after eating a huge steak and all the pastas. The fried dishes are supposed to come first. I painfully took and bite and was unimpressed by the fry and the surprise under it. After such delicious dishes this one was no match and looked small and scared sitting there as our last dish.

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Today Show: The Fourth Hour

•August 2, 2009 • 2 Comments

Video clip of Today Show.

Video clip of Today Show.

Table with Cheese Dip and Velvet cake set for four.

Table with Cheese Dip and Velvet cake set for four.

A large black car with comfortable leather seats and bottled water in the cup holders sat waiting to

leave with it’s passengers, my mom and me. We were whisked through the city and arrived at 15 Rock just on time: 9:20AM. Past security we walked into a medium sized room called the “Green Room” and sat down along with about six other people waiting to be on the famous Today Show. Adam Miller the producer met us there. We had done a pre interview together on the phone a few day before. He calmly explained to me that there would be a teaser and then I would on for three minutes. It seemed to me that being a producer, you not only had to put together the piece, but assure the subjects that everything was going to be alright. He did an excellent job getting me organized and ready for the shoot. Seconds turned into minutes and minutes into hours (meaning time dragged on for awhile before I was asked to sit down for the teaser).

Finally at 10:15 am I sat down at a round wooden table next to the big NBC kitchen with four set places and chairs. Three prepared dishes were on the table. One was a Buffalo Chicken Dip, recipe courtesy of Sarah’s mother. Another dish was Lemon Chicken courtesy of Kathie Lee. The last dish a dessert, Velvet Cake with cream cheese frosting, was Hoda’s recipe.

Schedule for kitchen staff telling them what to cook.

Schedule for kitchen staff telling them what to cook.

The camera men were set up (with my mom and dad on the other side) and I was on in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5,4, 3, 2, 1! I ate a tostito chip and that was it. Soon after the teaser Kathie Lee, Hoda and Sarah walked in with a sense of belonging and sat down at the table. Hoda started to talk to me and I of course became very nervous, but kept my cool. The camera man said, “ We’re on in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.”  Live TV!

Mustering up my courage I spoke as confidently as I could. It’s hard to talk in front of three largecameras and three famous hosts. The meal went by very quickly. First we dipped our chips into the Buffalo Chicken Cheese dip. My chip broke and I couldn’t seem to pierce the top layer in time. Hoda saved me by giving her chip to me. I took a bite. Sarah shouted over the table, “Oh come on David.” I decided that Sarah’s mom really was a good cook. The 4 cheese dip was great. It was usable for a party or on an upscale restaurant’s menu. The complexity of the cheese, chicken and buffalo sauce really hooked me onto the dip.

Throughout the meal Hoda kept muttering 50 seconds, 40 seconds. I was relieved to hear that I wasn’t going to be cut off and had time to plan an ending to my reviewing. The next dish we gobbled down was the Lemon Chicken. Kathie Lee advised us that the chicken would be improved with more sauce. I

Control Room

thought that the chicken needed

more flavor, but it also had a home-cooked taste that was unique.

Large HD camera.

Large HD camera.

Finally at about 30 seconds we dug into the Velvet Cake. I was told the cake was made with Betty-Crocker’s help. My fork wafted through the cake. It was neither good nor bad. When I hear cream cheese frosting I think of a sour-sweet thick frosting, not thin vanilla. At 15 seconds I was asked to choose my favorite dish from the three. I chose the dip. Kathie Lee cheered and we all clapped! It was over!

The cameras and the hosts moved on and I moved in to finish the Lemon Chicken. I was hungry and I decided it really was pretty good. Thank you Kathie Lee, Hoda and Sarah!

My mom and I walked over to sixth Avenue and 48th. We found ourselves facing a large window with someone inside frosting a big Velvet Chocolate cake! It was the new Magnolia’s bakery (recently opened on the Upper Side and originally in the West Village).  How would my favorite cupcake bakery compare against Hoda’s Velvet Chocolate cake?  I’ll have to go back and try it….


Old On Air sign.

Old On Air sign.

Kouzan

•July 26, 2009 • 1 Comment

Kouzan Sushi

Kouzan tries… and fails. This giant restaurant does not make what I would call sushi. Dimmed to almost darkness this commercial restaurant shouldn’t be on the map. As you step into the restaurant you are hit by a glass wall with water pouring down. Split into two rooms with a flat screen TV, my friend and I sat down in the corner. A candle is placed in the middle of your table to help the lighting out. Looking over the menu it looked like any other Japanese restaurant, but it wasn’t. A middle aged woman walked over to us (waitress) and offered us drinks which we accepted. As we talked she came back multiple times pushing us to order which after a lot of pressure we did. Kouzan’s sushi for two was the meal for us, with two salads, one with ginger fruit dressing and the other with soy mustard; also a miso soup. We added the Soft Shell Crab roll to our dinner just to see and compare to other Japanese restaurants.

Starting with the salads this restaurant was moving lower and lower in my opinion. Two salads were put in front of us, one twice the size as the other, yet it was the same price. Pouring the soy mustard dressing I wondered if this might have been a mistake. The mustard dressing was as sweet as sugar and tasted like fruit. Next the sushi for two loomed in front of us with the look of a dish prepared for a TV show, almost fake. One bite and it tasted like it too. Carrots all over the plate were shaped into flowers or animals. The fish itself lacked a certain freshness and firmness giving you the feeling you were eating warm mush. The one fish on the platter, yellowtail, tasted o.k, but still standard. The crab was a mixture of fry and crab paste. A dish called the Heart Roll, coming with our platter, consisted of, tuna with cucumber shaped into a heart, to draw people into thinking they were eating good food. This restarunt has a far way to come in my opinion, to even reach traditional Japanese standards and something tells me they aren’t going to try.


Davidburke and Donatella

•July 20, 2009 • 1 Comment
Davidburke & Donnatella

Davidburke & Donnatella

Before I begin I would like to inform thee that this restaurant is not one that you might come to every week or day. This is a very fancy and expensive restaurant, but a great place for business or a celebration.

I sat down and was given a special menu, then asked for the regular and was given just that. As I was looking at all the unique dazzling dishes I was served, complimentary, Twelve. It was made with many different teas, fruits and waters. It was bubbly with a touch of alcohol and was different, but surprisingly addictive. I and my friend ordered their steak, T-Bone Halibut, lobster and egg served in a real Ostrich egg with white truffle. We also ordered a delicious looking grilled asparagus with a little cream on top.

What came first was not any of those, but an appetizer with three amazing looking things. The first was hot the second was warm and the third was cold. The first a lobster flan. “Wow” I said as I tasted the exquisite dish it was great with chunks of lobster and custard under it. The flan was almost lobster flavored and a perfect fit. Next was the corn chowder with lobster and caviar. This one was my least favorite, because I just didn’t think that these foods mixed. It was still good though and my friend absolutely loved the caviar and lobster with corn soup on top. The last one was an old dish called Foie Grasse. Now this was a dish that you either loved or hated. It was duck liver with raspberry jam on top, then the liver then some yogurt. I liked it to the surprise of my friend, but the raspberry jam and the liver mixed so you almost couldn’t taste that it was liver which was good.

A rare steak.

A rare steak.


Next to come the ostrich egg with the lobster and the egg. This dish was by far the most mysterious because you think that the ostrich on the menu means it’s the meat of and ostrich, but instead what came were lobster, chives, caviar, scrambled egg and rare white truffle. My friend got a Shrimp Risotto with fresh cooked peas and cream drizzled over. Our waiter came and grated white truffle which added the final taste to these heart breaking delicious dishes.

Finally the Entre came. First on my side was the T-Bone halibut, a huge slab of fish that was thick and great. On my friend’s side, came the rare cooked Flank steak with fresh cream drizzled on the bottom. The halibut was cooked to perfection with pepper corns on it. My first thought was this is the best halibut I have ever had then came the smell of fresh tender meat with cream and I was swayed. I had a bite of steak and was blown away by its taste. I reflected the long amount of time and thought put into these dishes and was satisfied. Also coming with my Halibut was ravioli stuffed with the cheek bone mush. G-d this stuff was good.

Finally the end of the meal came with dessert. We let the chef hit us with his best desserts. All at once they came looking like pieces of art almost inedible. There was, lollipops on a tree that were filled with cheese cake and covered with chocolate, chocolate lava cake with chocolate chip vanilla ice cream, a beautiful box that turned out to be chocolate mouse with raspberry filling, there was bubblegum whipped cream and a butter scotch Pannacotta. I was stuffed in the end and I looked around the restaurants décor I was amazed with its beautiful blown glass balloons and designs.

Stella D’ORO

•July 14, 2009 • 1 Comment

Chef Marco

Chef Marco

When you go to Italy what do you look for? Food? Well which kind of food? Local or tourist? You might say, “what’s the difference?” Local food is the food that Italy is known for. It features excellent service, a unique experience and fresh, simple food. Touristy food is the opposite of Italy. To find touristy food look in fancy guides and famous places. To find local food you must only explore and ask the locals where they eat.

If you’re looking for fancy, but local food, Stella D’ ORO is the place for you. At 8:15 on a regular week day night it’s half full with buzzing enthusiastic eaters.  The front is a market set aside from the restaurant that sells many Italian products, from Hams (Prosciutto) to beans. As you sit on leather couches to await your seating you will notice that all the waiters and waitresses speak only Italian. This may be a problem, but only makes the experience more authentic. As we, a party of three, are seated we hungrily await the arrival of our menus. As soon as we are settled in the chef, a plump cheery looking man, swoops out of his hiding place, the kitchen, and warmly welcomes us. Marco Pallabona starts rapidly talking in Italian then stops as if to say, “your not Italian?” and then begins again not caring if we understand him or not.

Me with Restaurant in background.

Me with Restaurant in background.

Looking over the menu, which is of course in full Italian, I was inspired to see that there was not only seafood, but Foie Gras and ricotta with asparagus plus Le Carni (meats).

We try to order, but fail miserably, and allow Marco to choose our dishes. We are not good Italian speakers and with no hints or suggestions we could not order from an all Italian menu. After Marco fades away I take a glance around. The room we are sitting in is one of three glamorous rooms. Each room has white table cloths and white puffy chairs. At one table a beautiful blonde sat with her rich Italian boyfriend drinking bottles of old wine. The woman was layered in jewelry and tight cloths while the man sat with a satisfied smirk on his face as if he was about to make a winning deal. At another table were two American looking men drinking brandy and talking quietly. At the last table in our small room was the king and queen. The couple was dressed as though they were at a wedding and they ate like there would be no tomorrow. Finally our food arrived.

As if answering my calls to heaven an angel brought the first course. Raw fish.

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Vetri

•July 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Lobster on linguini.

Lobster on linguini.

Saturday night everyone was at Chef Vetri’s mercy when it comes to food. He chooses everyone’s meals according to what he thinks they will like. This small Italian restaurant sure did give a big aroma off to GQ’s Alan Richman and his guests. Curved brass lights lit the old fashioned theme restaurant. A semontai would decide the right wines to go with our meal. As our waiter comes with the surprise extra dish called Mush Bush (muse bouches) he made sure that nobody had any allergies. A welcome champagne was poured on the house.

A platter with all kinds of charcuterie tastes arrived. First the venison, a tender cook of deer meat, then little portions of fois gras as a teaser. Fresh mozzarella cheese with cream was very tasty, but would be even better with a touch of fresh ground pepper. The cheese itself had the requirements of what someone might call “fresh.” As we ate we were offered home baked bread and as I tasted the soft warm insides it was as though I could eat just this for dinner.

For the next course we were served a white wine. Jumping up in a certain déjà vu, I realized that this next dish was a replica of the dish served at John Dory. Raw Nantucket Scallop Crudo, sliced and served cool on a long plate with pomegranate seeds and lemon juice. The same brilliant taste hit me here and I wondered where this dish started. To get its full unique taste you must eat both the pomegranate seeds and the scallops together. One thing was different about this dish at Vetri’s though. In stead of lemon juice they use chunks of grapefruit. The originality caught me in my bite so I hand this dish to Vetri’s.

Next to race into my open mouth was a dish I had never heard of or thought about ever. A salt cured egg yoke with anchovies and cream. I being not a big eater of anchovies didn’t think Id like this dish, but yet again I was mistaken. So many strong flavors hit my tongue it was hard to taste the anchovies in the dish. Almost like in an orchestra having one more of an instrument. The egg poured into the cream and together they made an unbeatable team. Also on the table was a famous Spinach Gnocchi a mix of spinach, cream and butter. Not my favorite, but a catchy taste that made you eat more unaware of what you are doing.

My all time favorite dish, the lobster with linguine in a red sauce, came steaming onto the now rickety table. Taking a deep breath I dove in. Ahh now this is what I live for. Rich lobster meat on pasta with a peppery taste. Our waiter explained how they had taken this off the menu because in the past people would come into the restaurant and only order the lobster, and then be too full for anything else. Like a train chugging down the track we kept going. Next to pop out of nowhere were the Brussels sprouts. I could rave about these forever, but I won’t. Soaked in vinegar and chopped up then crisped on a high heat this dish made candy bow down. My one thought was, “simple yet complex.”

Last, but most certainly not least was the baby goat. The goat that rested on polenta was delectable. Stringy at times, but flavorful and spectacular. The juices from the meat dripped onto the polenta giving it a mushy meaty taste. The goat came straight from Pennsylvania or nearby places we were told.

Chocolate Polenta Soufflé invaded my thoughts, with vanilla gelato (claimed by the Chef to be the best). It was good, not great. The gelato was, I am sad to say, not nearly as good as some I’ve had, but the Soufflé was exceptional. Stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey, I hobbled out of a superb restaurant.

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Montauk Mimosa

•July 3, 2009 • 4 Comments

Mimosa on the rocks.

Mimosa on the rocks.

Paris Ritz in 1925, the Mimosa was invented. Commonly used for special occasions or welcoming guests in the morning, the “Mimosa” consists of 9.999999999 parts orange juice and 0.0000000001 parts champagne (Note: this is only if your under 21. 21 and over I’d suggest trying out different parts of orange juice and champagne. For experimental purposes I tried out 3/4 orange juice and 1/4 Champagne and vice-versa. You’ll find that even when you look up a Mimosa recipe, you’ll have a different opinion.) For people who are not up for a challenge with a rewarding finish buy a carton of orange juice. For people who do want a twist to their Mimosa squeeze your own orange juice. Buy squeezing oranges from a local supermarket and buy a squeezer. Squeezing oranges is an art in my mind. It can be frustrating and boring. I guarantee you that if you buy good oranges and squeeze your own juice you will taste a whole different drink.

Mimosa on tray.

Mimosa on tray.

I know I must be asking a lot from you. This is why I said only follow my suggested instructions if your up for a challenge.

Sweet orange juice blended with tart fizzy champagne. Both the orange juice and the champagne have been chilled so that on a hot June day it’s like soy sauce is to sushi. Breaking the rules I drank this in the afternoon. It’s truly exhilarating tasting such a powerful drink.

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