Monday, November 30, 2009

Adriatico Trattoria Italiana

I've probably been to Adriatico a half dozen times since it opened a few years ago. So this one is long overdue.

Thinking about this restaurant brings two things to my mind: fantastic food and great wine. We had family dinner at Adriatico last week a few days before the holiday to get ready for the mass amount of food we were about to consume over the next few days.

Sitting down we were immediately presented with three apps: Bruschetta al Pomodoro, Calamari alla Napoletana and Mozzarella Caprese. Sounds like your standard fare of Italian apps, right? But the first bite will make you realize why Adriatico stands above the rest. It's all about the seasoning. Anyone can make bruschetta: bread, olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and basil. Same goes with Caprese. But what I find in restaurants is that most are afraid to season. In my mind, salt and pepper do not belong on a table because, well, guests should not have to use them to season food. Most people do not realize that salt should not be utilized to make food more salty, but to enhance and accentuate the flavors already present in the food. It's the same with acidity in wine: too much can be overwhelming, but not enough will lead to a flat and one dimensional wine.

Point being, the apps popped with flavor and were delicious. And it's probably worth the trip just to try the Neapolitan sauce that is served with the Calamari.

I ordered the Filet with Artichokes and Barolo reduction for my entree. (See above.) And you know what? They also cook a great steak! Perfectly medium rare in another flavorful sauce, I literally ate everything on my plate. My only negative comment is the inconsistent knife cuts that made the carrots look odd and the potatoes either over or undercooked.

We also enjoyed our favorite wine offered at Adriatico-the Zenato Ripassa. Quick wine lesson: Ripassa is from the Valpolicella region in Italy (near Verona). Translated as "re-passing", the wine is passed over the lees (solids) of a wine called Amarone. It leads to a very rich wine with stewed dark fruit flavors that really compliment full bodied Italian entrees.

So next time you're near College Park, I'd recommend that you drop by and have dinner. The restaurant itself is comfortable, non-pretentious and always dependable.

Adriatico Trattoria Italiana on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts with Cranberries and Bacon

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

Here's my favorite dish from the holiday:

4 pounds Brussels Sprouts, cooked
6 slices Bacon, minced
1 Red Onion, diced
4 Tbsp Butter
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 cup dried Cranberries

Heat medium saute pan on medium high. Add Bacon and cook until crisp. Remove Bacon and reserve.

Add Red Onion and butter to pan and saute until translucent. Add Red Wine Vinegar and deglaze pan. Add Brown Sugar and cook until mixture has slightly reduced.

Combine Bacon, Red Wine mixture, Brussels Sprouts and Cranberries.

*Adapted from Robert Irvine

Monday, November 23, 2009

TRP, RPG, The Pig or whatever you want to call it.

Most call it The Ravenous Pig.

It had been so long since I last visited TRP that I think I was beginning to forget how much it, well, rocks.

Having recently completed my online mixology "certification", I was pleasantly surprised at the drink offerings. I keep saying that Orlando needs it own version of a Speakeasy....going back to classic cocktails with fresh house-made mixers. If I was ten years younger and made of money, I would totally quit my job and do so. (And yes, I've told my bosses this.) But, this certainly isn't a fantasy world and to be honest, I've had my fair share of good luck recently. So better to not temp the fates. Regardless, I was quite happy to sip my Sidecar as I perused the wine list and menu. (And yes, it was house-made sour mix.)

We started, as usual, with an order of the house-made soft Pretzels served with whole grain mustard and a Taggelio-porter fondue. It was perfect, and one of my dining mates suggested utilizing the fondue as the base for a soup! Which sounds a lot better that my proclamation that I would want to bathe in it.

I ordered what I had been thinking about all day-the Steak Frites. The Porcini marinated Flat Iron Steak was cooked perfectly and was extremely flavorful! And the Truffle Fries with the Aioli were really out of this world.

With dinner we had a bottle of the Viettie Barbera D'Asti "Tre Vigni" 2006. For those of you not familiar with the Barbera grape, it is consistently one of my favorites from Piedmont with typically a nice subtle blend of dark fruits and earthiness. This one did not fail at impressing, and really was a great balance with the earthy flavors of the Steak Frites.

We got dessert to go and stopped at ABC for a fun dessert pairing. I don't remember all of the specifics on the dessert (it was an impulse buy) but I do know that it was a Chocolate Torte with raspberry and a citrus Chantilly Cream. We decided to be wild and got a bottle of Blandy's five year Madeira to go with dessert. The burnt sugar flavors of the Madeira really complimented the citrus of the Chantilly Cream and slight berry flavor in the Torte. We literally ate it standing up in the kitchen!

I've already decided to become more of a regular at TRP. Everything there is really all in it's place: ambiance, service, food and drink.

Note: The picture above is my half eaten Steak Frites. I took the rest home and had it as a wrap for lunch the next day (with the leftover caramelized onions from one of my dining partner's Pub Burger). It was one good sammie!

Ravenous Pig on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Farro and Goat Cheese Salad

The exploration of healthy grains continues! I am officially in love with Farro!

1 cup uncooked Farro
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 large Shallot, minced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 lb Green Beans
2 cups cooked Corn
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
2 oz Goat Cheese
2 Tbsp Green Onion, sliced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Soak Farro in water in the refrigerator for six to eight hours.

Cook Farro according to package.

Heat 1 Tbsp Olive Oil in a large saute pan. Add Shallot and cook for one minute. Add Garlic and cook until fragrant. Add Green Beans and cook until bright green but still al dente (about 5 minutes).

In a small bowl, combine Dijon Mustard and remaining 2 Tbsp of Olive Oil. Mix until ingredients are well combined.

Combine Farro, Green Bean Mixture and Dijon Mustard mixture. Add Goat Cheese and mix until incorporated and creamy.

Top with Green Onions.

Tip: I also added two poached and shredded Chicken Breasts for some protein.


Soups and Stews by Lea is now closed.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Downtown Food and Wine Festival

Finally made it this afternoon to the Downtown Food and Wine Fest. And all I have to say is..."Eh".

I'd been looking forward to a beautiful afternoon of food and wine all week. And today all the cards were in play: great weather, freaky fantastic parking, the best company I could imagine, and well, I looked good. But the fest really lacked that "world-class culinary event" that I was promised on the brochure.

I won't bore you with details about the stalls I did not approach: PF Chang's, Pei Wei, Panera, Funky Monkey, etc. And the ones I did sample really did not blow me out of the water. The only highlights were Black Olive with a tasty Artichoke and Olive Crostini and Prima with their Arincini (fried balls of risotto). I haven't been to either restaurant but they are both officially on the list of places to go.

I'd also been soaking some Farro all day so I came home and went ahead and cooked the salad I'd been planning for the week. Had a few bites and realized it was better than anything I'd tried this afternoon! (Recipe to follow!)

At this point I probably won't go next year, but if for some reason my selective memory kicks in and I only remember Primo, I'll make sure to buy my ticket early and only pay $10.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Luma, redux

A friend and I decided to be wild and crazy last weekend. So I got all dolled up, put on a dress, and headed to Luma for dinner.

Reading my last entry from Luma, I'm not surprised at all to have the same feelings about their food! Delicious, innovative and smart all come to mind. I had the Snake River Farms Flank Steak served with Farro, Fingerling Potatoes, pickled red onion and an onion ring. I did some quick research and found that Snake River Farms is home to the infamous American Wagyu Beef I referenced in my last entry. Long story short, they breed a hybrid of Japanese Wagyu and American Black Angus Beef.

My meal was fantastic. The flank was perfectly cooked and seasoned well. The earthiness of the Farro (an Italian grain) and potatoes were an excellent contrast to the mouth puckering pickled onion.

My dinner companion had the Maple Leaf Farms Duck with Forbidden Black Rice, Pineapple Marmalade and Passion Fruit Jus. Yet another quick search revealed that Maple Leaf Farms is located in Indiana and is known the "family owned company (that) dominates the North American duck market...". The meal was quite tasty and the sweetness of the marmalade and jus paired well with the tender duck.

For dessert we split a Chocolate Lava Cake served with Popcorn ice cream and homemade caramel popcorn. I'll admit we got it for the ice cream and I only wish there had been more on the plate!

We also had some great wines. I really appreciate the organization and creativity in the wine list. My favorite was a Melon de Bourgogne (ironically from Oregon) that surprised me with it's forward simplicity yet complex ending.

I love the fact that Luma has been consistently putting out great product for quite some time and I hope that they continue with their success.

Luma on Park on Urbanspoon

I think I'm going to head to the Food and Wine Festival downtown this weekend. I skipped it last year, but haven't been to a fest for awhile so I think it's time!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Barley with Mushrooms and Green Beans

Here's my beginning attempt to incorporate more (healthy) grains into my diet!

4 cups Barley, cooked
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 medium Shallot, minced
2 small Garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Portobello Mushrooms, sliced
1 lb Green Beans, snipped
2 cups Chicken Stock
¼ cup Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Cook Barley al dente. Reserve.

Heat Olive Oil in a large pot on medium high heat. Add Shallot and cook until translucent. Add Garlic and cook until fragrant. Add mushrooms and cook until soft, about five minutes. Season with Salt and Pepper.

Add Green Beans and Chicken Stock. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until liquid begins to reduce, about five minutes.

Add reserved Barley and continue cooking until some of the liquid is absorbed. Add Parmesan Cheese.

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Quick Tip: You can find Barley at Whole Foods or Fresh Market. I used the quick cooking kind to save on time. Make sure to cook it al dente as it will continue cooking after you add it to the Mushroom mixture. This dish is even better the next day!

Also, I served this with seared Sea Bass. It really added a fantastic richness to the Barley!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Soups and Stews by Lea

I was really tired when I was at the grocery on Sunday afternoon. I spent last weekend in New Smyrna drinking Pina Coladas and Lemoncello between rumbling and tumbling in the surf. Exhausted and standing at the seafood counter deciding on a pre-packaged sushi dinner, I made the decision: I most likely won’t be cooking this week.

So on my way home from work the other night, I decided to do something I rarely do at all, none the less on a Monday evening. I stopped for takeout. I’ve driven by Soups and Stews by Lea numerous times since I moved to this side of town a few months ago. My impression at first glance was to make fun of the name. Kinda like the new Steak and Salad up on Mills. But after a few more drive bys, I started to appreciate the simplicity. Soups. Stews. Paninnis.

Midway through my day and after checking out their website, I decided that fresh soup and half of a paninni was definitely the cure for the Monday-after-a-weekend-at-the-beach blues.

The space itself is clean, well lit and seemingly comfortable although I ordered and received my food in a number of minutes.

I was offered samples of any of the daily soups and started with the Three Bean and Cabbage (which, ironically I had homemade at a friend’s house a few weeks ago). But it was bland and flat with some seriously undercooked beans. I ended up getting my second sample: Pumpkin Soup. I love the pumpkin time of year. Some of the best beers, soups and breads are available. This soup was definitely no exception. When I first sampled the soup I was struck by an unusual earthiness that accompanied the sweetness of the pumpkin. So much so that I asked about the ingredients. I was floored to learn that my arch enemy cilantro was the culprit! My favorite thing about the soup was the generous helping of black pepper. It really gave it a perfect sweet yet savory yet spicy flavor.

I’m a huge fan of the Panini and was pleasantly surprised by my options. I choose half of a Turkey Trot to go along with my soup. Again, simplicity: Turkey, Fontina, Argula, Pear. The freshness of the turkey was enhanced by the spiciness of the arugula and the creaminess of the Fontina cheese. The pears gave it just a touch of sweetness, which is why I originally ordered it with pumpkin soup. The sandwiches are pre-made and they simply press them to order. My only complaint is that the sandwich was very greasy from the butter on the Panini press. Next time I visit I’m going to try the vegetable wrap: Mascarpone cheese with dill, tomatoes, zucchini, red onion, artichokes and apples.

Check out their website at:

Soups & Stews by Lea on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Corn and Parmesan Risotto

What this dish lacks in color and beauty, it makes up for in flavor! I served it with a spicy Jerk Chicken to balance the richness of the Risotto.

4 cups Chicken Stock or Broth
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 large Shallot, minced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 cup Arborio Rice
½ cup dry White Wine
2 cups Corn (fresh or canned, depending on season)
¼ cup Parmesan Cheese
1 Tbsp Butter
Salt and Pepper

(If using fresh Corn, remove kernels from cob with a sharp knife. Heat a large sauté pan on medium high and spray with pam. Add Corn and roast until al dente. Don’t forget to season with Salt and Pepper.)

Place Chicken Stock or Broth in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.

Heat Olive Oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add Shallot and Garlic and sauté until soft, stirring often. Add Arborio Rice and stir to coat Rice with Oil.

Add White Wine. Keeping pot on medium heat, stir often. When all liquid has been absorbed, add another ½ cup of Chicken Stock. Repeat until all Chicken Stock has been used. Stir often to avoid sticking.

Remove from heat. Add Corn, Parmesan Cheese and Butter.

Add Salt and Pepper to taste.