Sunday, February 13, 2011


Italy is Eataly says just one of the many signs throughout this megastore and restaurant that is perhaps a one of a kind. Mario Batali, famous chef of Babbo, occasional TV chef star, and his partner, Lidia Bastianich, have opened this gourmet grocery, food market, and restaurant to bring not only good food to the city, but also their philosophy- which they have emblazoned everywhere. If the food wasn't amazing and the spectacle mind blowing, I might have found the signage a bit irritating. Every stand had a mantra, advice to spare, and just for a dash of 'authenticity', subtitles in italian. But who cares about the words? Can we get to the good part- the food, the wine, and the food, and the wine, and the food?

Ryan and I decided to head to the heart of the store first for a light lunch. The Piazza, as it is called, is in the central rotunda, and tables- no chairs, just standing height- are spread throughout. We started with wine- I had a glass of barbera d'alba, which was earthy, vegetal, and a little funky, and really wonderful. Ryan had a dolcetta d'alba that was purple in color, and tasted fruity, with cherry and raspberry.

We ordered the meat and cheese plate sampler, as well as a tricolore salad. The salad was delish, with radicchio and arugula, nice and peppery, and topped with shaved parmesan and an aged balsamic vinegar. We tried several types of cheeses, an aged parmesan, a taleggio, and a gorgonzola, as well as a creamy and light fresh ricotta, and Ryan tasted a few types of prosciutto as well. Complimentary loaves of bread and olive oil and honey complimented everything wonderfully.

But can I mention my favorite part??! When it was time to go shopping, we ordered a second glass of wine- to go! I had a really wonderful glass of prosecco and then off we went- glass in hand- to look at all the wonderful items for sale.

The produce section is really wonderful- they carry all different kinds of mini vegetables, as well as lots of harder to find items.

We also picked up some imported olive oil, fresh pasta, house-made mozzarella, a bunch of fresh basil, and my all-time and impossible to find favorite, pecorino peppato- an aged pecorino cheese with peppercorns...

I was too full from our lunch to try the coffee bar, gelato bar, or the bakery, but I will not make that mistake twice. Everything looked so good!! And rumor has it later this spring they are opening a roof top bar... I'll be there!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sel de Mer Act II: Dinner

So, as mentioned in my previous post about brunch at Sel de Mer, we were so impressed, we wanted to give dinner a shot ASAP. So, the other night, cold and windy and icy, seemed perfect for some fish n' chips and other hearty sea fare. And Sel de Mer did not disappoint!

We had some really lovely glasses of wine- Ryan tried a special Beaujolais, and I had one of the tastiest glasses of Albarino I've come across in some time. Albarino is a light spanish white wine, almost a little bubbly, and this one had really nice citrus notes.

For appetizers, I ordered a warm beet salad. I have to admit I am a sucker for this dish: if it is on a menu, I am pretty much going to order it. Usually it contains all my favorite things- beets, arugula, spinach, or field greens- and often goat cheese. I've had my fair share of good, and I've had my fair share of meh. This one comes out near or at the top of the list. The beets were sweet and delicious, and the greens nice and peppery. My only complaint was there was a bit too much cheese, but it was easy enough to leave it on the plate.

Ryan ordered the lobster mac n' cheese- it was delicious, but very rich. I am not a fan of lobster, and though I did not try the meat, I tasted the noodles and it was delicious. The flavor was great.

For our entrees, I ordered the fish n' chips, which was awesome. super light and flaky and the batter was just right. The best part of course was the malt vinegar. Ryan had the mussels in white wine and garlic, and they were "really good. Really good." Locally, Ryan has declared them the best in the 'hood"- high honors.

Overall, the tab wasn't bad- not cheap, but in step with what we see for dinner for 2 with appetizers and drinks. $85.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

White Wine and Garlic Mushroom Polenta

Polenta always brings back childhood memories of my Great Grandmother's kitchen. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the polenta then, but I sure do now- and sorta wish for a gourmet time machine on this one. The irony is that Ryan definitely does not like polenta, then or now, and so I rarely make it. But, it was freezing, I was hungry, and there was a bag of shiitake mushrooms going to rot. So, in a moment of... what can I make in 5 minutes for dinner? I reached for a box of polenta. Below is the recipe, for the next time you get a comfort food calling!!

1 box instant polenta (the one I used made... a massive quantity...)
Directly to the polenta I add in chicken broth, butter and olive oil, and grated pecorino cheese, salt and pepper to taste.

For the mushrooms:
1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms
1 clove garlic, chopped
white onion
olive oil
white wine
chicken stock

Heat the oil in a skillet. Slowly cook the garlic and onions. Add in the mushrooms, stir. Add in the stock and wine and cook off. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the mushroom mixture over the polenta and adjust seasonings to taste!!