Archive for the ‘restaurants’ Category


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recipes from Matteo:

By Chef Francesco Mangano, Papavero restaurant

Roast-beef all’Emiliana

5 lb. beef top or eye of round

5 juniper berries

2 sprigs rosemary

2 garlic cloves

a little EVOO

1/2 cup red wine

2 bay leaves

Set oven to 400 F, season beef with salt and pepper. Put a frying pan on stove, heat olive oil, when it starts smoking, put top round in pan and brown it. Add the seasonings. Finish in the oven until meat reaches internal temp of 135  F. Let cool, slice, serve with salad of baby arugula dressed with balsamic/Parmesan.

Baccala’ fritto

2 lb. salt cod, soaked in cold water for 48 hrs

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 c. soda or sparkling water

Drain cod and pat dry. Mix water w/flour, dip fish in it, deep fry at 350 F till golden brown. Serve with sauce of fresh chopped garlic, crushed tomatoes, dried oregano, and fresh chili.


Torta di ceci (Toscana)

24 oz. chickpea flour

5 oz. EVOO

3 quarts water

salt and pepper

Heat oven to 475 F. Mix the flour and water, let rest for 1 hr. Skim the foam and re-whisk the mixture. Grease a pan with the oil, then pour the mixture in the pan and cook in the oven till you have a light brown color on top of the “crepe” (15-20 mins). Slice and season with S&P before serving.


Asparagi alla milanese

2 bunches of asparagus, bottom-trimmed and blanched

6 whole eggs

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Set oven to 500 F. Dry asparagus, sautee briefly in a pan with a little butter and the onion. Put in a ceramic or ovenproof tray, sprinkle with the cheese, and crack the eggs on top, leaving a little space between each of them. Bake till eggs are set.


Torta Pasqualina

3 c. blanched spinach, Swiss chard, or other greens

3 c. whole milk ricotta

1 c. grated Parmesan

1 whole egg, whisked

2 rolled sheets puff pastry

1 extra egg for egg wash

a little butter

a little nutmeg

Set oven to 400 F. Butter bottom of a casserole.  Set 1st rolled sheet of puff pastry in, making sure it goes up the sides. Mix the ricotta, parmesan, 1 egg, and spinach together, and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pour into pan. Cover with 2nd sheet of puff pastry. Seal together, then egg-wash the top of the pie. Put in the oven and bake for about 1 hr and 15 mins or until done. Let cool before slicing and serving.


Written by orata

July 16, 2011 at 5:39 pm

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I love Slow Food

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Monday’s family dinner at UW Slow Food was: shiitake-ramp puff pastry galette topped with fresh watercress and preserved Meyer lemon vinaigrette; tender rounds of braised lamb wrapped in pork caul fat and browned, its richness offset by nutty red sunchoke and bitter black radish hash with snipped chives and wilted kale; and a dense, dry, crumbly, sweet gooey butter cake with sticky sweet bourbon-poached apricots and some kind of thick table cream. Cooked by the chefs of Merchant restaurant and “urban grocery”–one of the best meals I’ve had in Madison. And all for, as usual, a grand total of $5. Excellent.

Written by orata

April 27, 2011 at 11:39 pm

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Rahul took me out to the most fantastic dinner at L’Etoile tonight for my birthday. I was wearing this strapless dress from Target that I need to get rid of post-haste–whoever invented strapless dresses was not as flat-chested as me, because by about 10 minutes into the meal I was squirming around trying to prevent a wardrobe malfunction–and was kind of uncomfortably shifting around when he said, “Look at the menu!” And I looked down and saw this:

So awesome. Here’s what we ended up eating:

  • 2 amuse-bouches: Wild ramp and watercress soup with crispy La Quercia prosciutto and toasted pine nuts; and a Sarvecchio cracker with cream cheese and caramelized onion jam. RPK said he liked the Trader Joe’s cheese sandwich crackers better, but I thought everything was delicious. The prosciutto was especially wonderful, crisp, tiny, salty slivers in the warm creamy soup (which Rahul said tasted like Lipton cream of chicken soup from the packet, but I disagree.)
  • Fried Sweet Water Organics perch, Asian slaw (this seemed to be a sweet and sour red cabbage with lots of sesame oil), nuoc cham, and smoked chilis cut into filaments. The chilis were mysterious and beautiful–an auburn tangle of threads, almost like really long, coarse saffron strands, but I couldn’t figure out what they were until I asked the waitress. They looked a bit like the dyed straw they put in nests on Pottery Barn coffee tables. The battered fish was crisp and delicious, and the nuoc cham tasted sparkling and fresh. With the high-quality ingredients and layers and layers of flavor in harmony, I didn’t feel cheated the way I sometimes do with nouvelle cuisine restaurants trying to appropriate low-end ethnic dishes.
  • Hidden Springs sheep’s milk cheese agnolotti, truffled pork meatball, San Marzano tomato sauce, boulot, basil chiffonade: also delicious. The agnolotti were perfect little pyramids, truly al dente, the meatballs were springy without being too firm or chewy, and the sauce was savory and bright. However, Rahul said it brought to mind Chef Boyardee ravioli, and I had to agree–obviously, it was far more complex and delicious, but I couldn’t help thinking of those little meatballs in tomato sauce glopping out of the can. Maybe it was just the visual, or the ratio of meatball to pasta.
  • Black Earth Meats lamb rack, grilled Kalamata olive sausage, sun gold tomato-butterball potato hash, Hidden Springs sheep’s milk feta & kale gratin, brown butter caper sauce. The lamb, served medium-rare, was just amazing. It tasted of lamb without being too gamey, and was juicy without being fatty. I used to dream about lamb like this when I was a vegetarian. It went beautifully with the caper-brown butter sauce. The tomato-potato hash was also fantastic. I found the sausage a little too salty, and the feta gratin was a misstep, I thought–the semi-melted feta turned into rubbery lumps, and was far too salty. The kale tasted fine, though, and its bitterness was at least good to offset the saltiness of the cheese.
  • Fountain Prairie grass-fed NY strip, creme fraiche mashed Kennebec potatoes, Snug Haven spinach, wild ramp and mushroom ragout, blue cheese-bone marrow compound butter, cabernet jus. Rahul got this rare and I think it might have been better medium-rare, but it was incredibly tender and rich. I only got one bite, so I can’t say much about the various sides.
  • Tiny dessert bites: chocolate ganache with cinnamon, “fiddle faddle” = caramel corn with hickory nuts, and a strawberry-rhubarb pain de fruit gelee. Nothing incredibly delicious, but it at least felt like a sweet little treat since we hadn’t ordered dessert.
  • I don’t have a copy of the drinks menu, but I had a cocktail called something like The T.M. Flip, made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, maple syrup reduction, cherry juice, and egg white. Too bourbon-y, next time I’ll just go for the girliest drinks.
The ambience is upscale, of course, but it’s still friendly and down-to-earth. The service was a little slow, but unpretentious, aside from one thing that bothered me–our waitress kept coming by and asking “How are the flavors?” People kept walking by and waving at friends through the big glass windows up front.

Written by orata

April 18, 2011 at 10:57 pm

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Catching up

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I keep forgetting to post, but I do have some interesting meals to mention!

I made a huge pan of the chap chae from my last post and, uncharacteristically, ate it all, diligently, meal after meal, instead of eating it for 2 meals and letting the rest ferment in my fridge until moldy. I used a little bit of Morningstar Farms fake meat crumbles and a ton of spinach.

Rahul and Charlie went gathering mushrooms in the forest, where they got hugely lost in the woods for about 6 hours, but came back with a collection of huge wild morels, and we made dinner with their find. We sauteed the morels in butter (gobs of it! 1 stick, and that was 1/4 the recommended amount from the recipe we found online) until they were a bit shriveled and browned. They were delicious! The caps were more tender, the stems more leathery and chewy, both with a wild, meaty savor to them, slightly tangy, I thought. So good! We also made:

– cornbread, using the Skillet Cornbread recipe from John Thorne’s Serious Pig, and watered-down farmer’s cheese instead of buttermilk. It came out very good, and we ate it all before the rest of the food was ready.

– risotto and orzo, both only somewhat successful; the risotto turned an alarming fleshy pink during cooking for no discernable reason (it was cooked in an enameled Le Creuset pan with onions, carrots, celery, and broth) and both of them went bad before the week was out, strangely. Dinner was on Monday; Rahul brought the Tupperware over for me to smell on Wednesday, I think, and it smelled horribly rotten, like something that had been there for weeks.

– fagioli all’uccelletto, made in a Crock Pot our friend Jason gave us before moving out of town.  Pinto beans, water, canned tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, dried sage, soy sauce, black pepper, and bay leaf. I cooked them for about 6 hours at 180 degrees (the highest the Crock Pot will go) and they were meltingly tender and soft.

But the morels were the star of the show!

After dinner, we went to the Stepp Cemetery to try and see the ghost. However, Carol and I got so freaked out that we left pretty much immediately. (I was feeling brave until we got there and it was much darker than I expected, and much more like that creepy well in the field in Ringu. I think Carol was more afraid, sensibly, of murderers in the woods).

Other meals in the week:

– We went to Sushi Bar with some of the straggler business school people still left in town–Shalini, Lisa, Dan, Andre, Steve and Jeanne, Sheen, and a first year, Thierry. I like their sushi! I got a combo box with rolls and there was enough in it for two meals.

– I made more cornbread to go with the beans, this time with dried rosemary in the batter. Also good.

– We had dinner at Runcible Spoon and it was actually really good! I’ve always thought of it more as a place with good atmosphere than anyplace to get excited about the food. But Rahul got a Reuben (we have pretty much fallen off the vegetarian wagon, I’m sorry to say) with home fries and it was amazing–big, moist chunks of corned beef, and the home fries were a far cry from the undercooked ones I’ve had there in the past–these were more like mashed potatoes made into a cake and pan-fried till crisp. I got kippers on whole wheat toast, with lemon slices and salad greens and chopped tomatoes, and it made a really nice light dinner with half a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

– I had a big Open Sesame salad at Roots–fried tempeh over mixed greens, with their green herb dressing instead of the sesame ginger stuff. I love that green dressing. Perhaps they’ll tell me what’s in it before I leave town. I also had a side of sweet potato fries. Delicious.

– We tried to go out looking for morels again yesterday. We were unsuccessful, though I found a beautiful orange flower that turned out to be a tulip tree blossom–later, I saw them growing all over a tree in town– and a box turtle who did not want to be my friend. Still, I was charmed.

– After the unsuccessful morel-hunting expedition, we drove north to Martinsville and found the town square. There was a fundraising barbecue going on for the Veterans’ Memorial in the main square. Walking around, we found a totally charming old-fashioned candy shop called the Candy Kitchen, where we bought
lots of candy they’d made in-house. Highlights included a chocolate-peanut butter fudge bar called a Tiger Bar, orange jelly cubes dipped in dark chocolate, and some snowy white old-fashioned pulled vanilla taffy (“It’ll pull out a filling if you chew it! You have to suck it,” warned the owner).  We had lunch at the barbecue on the square. The fundraisers were cooking meat in giant mesquite smokers, and it seemed like most of them were bikers. One guy at the grill tried to entice us by waving a cheeseburger at us. It fell off his spatula onto the ground. So we felt that we had to go back and have some food. It was $3 per sandwich–Rahul got a cheeseburger, I got chopped pork barbecue and put some sweet pickle chips on top, and they were both really, really delicious.

We ate at Village Deli today at lunchtime. The food was nothing special, but it was a pretty day–sunny and breezy.

Written by orata

May 18, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Sexy broccoli

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Well, as it turns out, banana dumplings are OK but not really something I want to repeat in the future. Overall, though, the stew and green bean casserole were both delicious, and it’s only after about 5 straight meals of the same stuff that I stalled out on eating them. Maybe I will regain my enthusiasm for the leftovers soon.

I forgot to mention that Rahul and I went to Snow Lion last weekend. I’m sorry to say it was pretty lousy. The menu is a weird amalgam of Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, and Cajun (!) food. We got nearly-identical dishes of spicy noodles that were too hot, drenched in greasy red sauce, and ended up making me feel a little bit ill. I would recommend the sauce on mine (the sesame vegetable noodles) over Rahul’s (exotic noodles or something like that), though his had more veggies–snow peas, where mine just had peas. Overall, though, I don’t think I will ever go back there. Unlike the other Tibetan restaurant in town, the atmosphere in the restaurant is bizarre and charmless–it’s windowless, dark, and cramped, half hall of mirrors, half wooden 1970s faux-chalet, and overall reminded me of the Haunted Train at Baker’s Junction we visited at Halloween.

I found this broccoli recipe on the NYT website today and would like to try it sometime soon. Sounds yummy.

Written by orata

March 6, 2008 at 10:41 am