Wednesday, November 18, 2009

lucky me

Being a good cook has its drawbacks. The best meals to be had are generally the ones cooked at home. Which means a night out on the town at a swanky restaurant becomes a rare treat. Especially when my husband, who does not cook except tuna salad and is not an adventurous eater to boot, questions the need to go out at all when, heck, we can have a perfectly delicious dinner at home.

Sometimes its nice to get out of the kitchen and let someone else do the cooking (and cleaning and shopping and menu planning). With this aim in mind I called upon my dear friend Ilene to join me as we treated ourselves to "a nice dinner out." Ilene suggested Locanda Verde, a restaurant located in Tribeca that she had read rave reviews about. Sounded good to me!

The evening started out a bit rocky. The restaurant would not let us expand our 6pm on-a-Tuesday night reservation that was made a month in advance, to include ONE extra person (our friend Olga who wanted to join the fun) even when Ilene called every other day for two weeks prior to see if they would accommodate us. Ok, fine, whatever.
When I arrived at the appointed time the place was PACKED and NOISY!  The restaurant is gorgeous, lots of dark wood and sparkly lighting, but the ceilings are very high and the acoustics are cavernous, which is to say, not conducive to easy conversation.  Alas.
AND there was a single table sitting empty next to us for at least half our meal!! (the maitre d' explained they save tables for walk-ins, so clearly Olga should have walked in).
That all being said, the service was EXCELLENT. Truly excellent. Our server was an attentive mind-reader who always knew exactly when to appear at our table AND laughed at our jokes (yes, we told jokes).
Taken from Ilene's cell phone: Blue Crab Crostino, AMAZING!

Ok let's get to the food. GOOD!!! Really great. As good as Mama makes, with top notch ingredients and no TOP CHEF weirdo flourishes. The cuisine is Northern Italian. Sophisticated, simple, and PERFECT. I can't complain about anything and I really like to complain. Constructive criticism I call it. So, I have none for Locanda Verde's food. They got it all right. The menu offered lots of tempting small plates, pastas and entrees.

The wine was really good too and here is the point I have been trying to make. We shared an ANTIPASTI called Burrata with peperonata, escarole and fried Rosemary ($14). I have never tried burrata before and I was very curious about this trendy soft cream-filled mozzarella cheese. Sublime!! So light and creamy and fresh tasting. The peperonata had a nice vinegary bite to it. I was drinking a white wine I had never tried before either, a Ronchi di Cialla Ribolla Gialla 2008 that our server recommended to me when I told her I liked a well rounded white wine. It was DELICIOUS - kind of an apricot-orange flavor with a scent of tulips (?). All I know is that it was great alone and tasted great with the cheese. Ilene was drinking a glass of Grifalco Aglianico del Vulture, a really assertive, sophisticated red with lots of mineral flavor. She was quite happy!

Rosemary plants are easy to grow in small pots and can last outside during the winter
We ate a whole lot of other things including a dessert that a gentleman sitting at a table next to us bought for us (for details on that you have to read a DIFFERENT kind of blog! I told you, we told jokes). The dessert was OUTRAGEOUS, a maple pudding that was so light and airy and full of flavor we could have eaten an entire gallon of it. They paired it with a super tart and beautiful red cranberry sorbet. It was divine and I generally don't order desserts.

SO, back to the point here, I was going to try to come up with a recipe using my new friend burrata, but hey, where the heck am I going to get it? I looked on-line at Fairways, Dean and Deluca, Zabars and Citarella and none of these stores feature it on their web sites. Which is not to say they don't carry it, but I guess it is not one of the more frequent on-line purchase requests. So I will keep my eye out for it when I make my routine rounds to every supermarket in NYC and keep you posted.
I don't suppose I will find burrata in this Indian market in Jackson Heights

Amanda, what do you think of our wine pairings with the amazing burrata?

Your night sounds amazing and Locanda Verde definitely sounds like a place my husband and I would enjoy. Hey - maybe we can double date there sometime! I have to be honest and say that initially I was a little put off by the fact they would not expand your reservation to include one more. Having been in the NYC restaurant business for 12 years, my experience was to always try to bend over backwards for the customer. I totally understand the concept of leaving room open for walk-ins - but for 1 more? My school of thought would have had me accepting the extra reservation had I been the receptionist/manager/hostess or whoever answered the phone.

That being said - everything else sounds amazing. I'm glad the excellent service and the food made up for it. I have to admit - I am not familiar with the white wine you enjoyed. So, I did a little research. The grape, Ribolla, is a white Italian wine grape grown mostly in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeast Italy. Your description sounds wonderful. I learned that this varietal typically produces light wines with floral notes. Based on your description, it may have had some oak aging, which would attribute some roundness and structure to the wine. Soft-cream filled mozzarella would definitely require a wine with a little more body, if it is going to be a white. A rich, round, buttery Chardonnay would also work wonders.  But again, as is always my caveat when it comes to Chards - watch out for those with too much oak!

Though I absolutely love Aglianico del Vulturo, I do think it is a bit overpowering for this dish. BUT - more and more I learn that the most important thing in food and wine pairing is that the match work for the indulger. If your friend liked the pairing, then it was perfect. Personally, if I were going to pair a red with a young, fresh, creamy mozzarella, I would pick one that was lighter in style. A Sangiovese from Tuscany would work, or even a Barbera. Today, there are many California wineries that are producing fruity, delicious Barberas. One of my favorites is from Steve Clifton, of Brewer-Clifton fame. He and his wife, Chrystal, began their own line called Palmina, which focuses on Italian varietals grown in California. They produce a delightful Barbera. It is fresh, bright, and full of fruit - and is incredibly food-friendly! Now that I think about it - this is the wine would make an exceptional match for the Burrata!

Deb, please keep us posted as you try to track down this interesting cheese!


  1. As Deb's dinner date, I have to say half the enjoyment of dining with her is benefitting from her educated palate. A delicate taste that leaves me grasping to name it's elusive character, Deb will instantly identify.

    Our casual dinner companion who joined us at the next table, kept urging Deb to tell him whatwe were eating and what were the ingredients. I trust Karen DeMasco wasn't upset at Deb's unmasking the maple "budino" as a custard, to our neighbor's amazement.

    And on the burrata, yes you can find it at Fairway, even sometimes at Trader Joe's. The burrata has a skin on it and it's usually packed in a container with water, I guess to keep it moist.

    So lucky me to have such great dining companionship!

  2. I've also seen burrata at Whole Foods, although it's probably more reliably available at Fairway. Sounds like a super dinner--I've been meaning to check out this place, and now I really want to!

  3. The restaurant sounds great. If it gets a rave from you, it must be.
    I am NOWHERE near the cook you are, but when I was running my publishing business and too crazed to cook at all, nobody knew that I could boil water.
    That way, they never expected me to do dinner and I got to eat out a lot. For you, the gig is up. But glad you got one night out anyway.


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