Tag Archive | Black Truffle

Restaurant Review: Coming Full Circle at Circolo45

Circolo 45 Exterior Shot
This and Interior Photo By Gail. All Food Photos By Anne Raso

Ask a random sampling of Manhattanites if they can tell you the location of Bond Street and most will likely either scratch their heads or offer that it must be somewhere in the Financial District. Because Bond Street is an enchanting enigma of NYC real estate, a kind of Urban Shangri-La, if you will. Stretching for just two short blocks above Houston, nestled between Broadway and Bowery — and still paved with cobblestones from the days when New York City was in its youth – Bond Street offers a mix of unique public art, both definitively modern and gorgeous historic architecture, and best-kept-secret foodie destinations. It’s appropriate then that 45 Bond Street is the address of Circolo45, an intimate Italian Trattoria featuring fresh takes on traditional favorites and exceptional, old world service.

Circolo 45 Interior Shot

Recently renovated just nine months after its initial opening, accents such as pastel-painted walls in the bar area and white-painted brick in the rear dining space, minimalist, line drawn portraits hung  throughout the restaurant, and the variable candlelit “mood lighting” all fit right in with Executive Chef and General Manager Daniele Sicuranza’s vision of Circolo45 as an Italian Retreat with a “simple, yet vibrant” atmosphere. The varied menu’s emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and an extensive offering of homemade pastas echo the themes of simplicity and comfort in a setting that elevates the dining experience.

Tizi Cocktail

We started off our evening with one of Circolo’s specialty cocktails, the Tizi; a rose-colored elixir similar to a Cosmopolitan but with Elderflower syrup added. Delicious! I like my cocktails fruity and potent, and this delivered on both counts.

Eggplant Parmigiana
Eggplant Parmigiana with Tomato Sauce and Basil

Our cocktails put us in a nice, relaxed mood to peruse the impressive menu, which seems to offer a taste of the various regions of Italy to please every palate. The Appetizer section alone was overflowing with dishes I felt excited to try just from reading their descriptions. Agreeing to go with the classics, we chose to split the Meatballs Florentine Style and the Eggplant Parmigiana (both priced at $12.00). The Eggplant Parm, a perfect size for sharing which arrives with a golden cheesy top, is extremely rich and creamy, more so than I’ve tasted with this dish when ordered at other restaurants. I’m told that the mousse-like texture is owed to additional baking time. If you want the taste of eggplant to really stand out rather than be hidden by the flavors of other ingredients, this is the dish for you.

Meatballs
Meatballs Florentine Style with Tomato Sauce

The Meatballs, served in a ramekin with tomato sauce, sliced bread for dipping, and fresh rosemary, have very little binder added, so they are meaty and satisfying. These are also a good sharing size, especially if you want to sample several items from the menu without getting too full before your main course arrives!

Two starter dishes I’d definitely like to try on a future visit are the Arancini (Fried Rice Balls with Ragu, $10) — which are always a comfort-food favorite – and the Vitello Tonnato ($13), featuring cold, sliced Veal served in a Tuna Sauce. I had this dish once before, at Da Silvano on Sixth Avenue back in the nineties, and I’ll never forget it. It would be interesting to discover if Circolo45’s offering could compare with my fond memories.

Spaghetti with Black Truffles
Spaghetti Alla Chitarra Con Tartufo Nero Estivo

From Circolo’s extensive selection of fresh, house made pastas we chose a signature dish of the house, the Spaghetti Alla Chitarra Con Tartufo Nero Estivo: Fresh Egg Spaghetti with Black Summer Truffle ($20). The thick, al-dente cooked noodles are similar in size to Japanese Udon noodles for a hearty bite. This dish is perfectly seasoned and fragrant with truffle oil as well as a generous addition of sliced Black Truffle. We  reflexively asked our server for grated cheese but were advised to just try the dish sans cheese and let the truffle richness prove itself to be flavor perfection on its own. She was right; no cheese was needed.

Other delectable pasta choices include one of my favorites, Traditional Lasagna Alla Bolognese ($13), and the Paccheri Alla Genovese; Pasta served in a Veal Shoulder Ragu, cooked slowly in the oven ($15). I can imagine that the Veal Shoulder Ragu is exceptional, based on the next dish we tried.

Beef Shoulder

Another specialty is the Spezzatino Alla Toscana, Beef Shoulder oven-baked at low temperature served with tender, golden Potatoes, Tomato and Basil ($24). This wonderful dish is comparable to a pot roast or rustic beef stew. The meat is fork-tender and the large chunks of potatoes are cooked perfectly. If you are not sharing this, you will have enough to take home for a second meal (as I did, and it was even more delicious the second time)!

Steak and fish lovers will also find lots of tempting selections on Circolo45’s menu– from an oven-baked, Salt Crusted Branzino for Two ($54) to a reasonably-priced selection of steaks which we understand are prime cuts!

Brussels Sprouts

A generous side of Roasted Brussels Sprouts (all sides are just $5) could easily serve three people. The tender sprouts are roasted using very little olive oil, in case you are counting calories!

Chocolate Souffle

Circolo45’s dessert selections change daily and we let our excellent server surprise us. Giving us enough time for our food to settle a bit, she returned from the kitchen with a gorgeous and feather light Chocolate Souffle ($9.00). Light and crispy on top and just oozing with a rich Valhrona Chocolate center, this souffle is a few cuts above the ubiquitous warm /molten chocolate cake you see on every menu in town. A perfect ending to a rich and satisfying dining experience. We look forward to a return visit!

Circolo45 is located at 45 Bond Street Between Lafayette and Bowery. Hours are Monday to Sunday, 5:30 – 10:30 PM. Please Call 212-375-0323 for Reservations. Visit their Website at Circolo 45 Dot Com.

Advertisements

Manhattan's Truffle Macaroni & Cheese Round Up!

Round Up Logo
Image Source

It is no secret that The Worley Gig is a huge fan of all delicious foods, and we try not to discriminate. But if we had to pick a favorite single food (rather than an entire ethnic cuisine, in which case Mexican FTW!) we would choose Macaroni & Cheese. Because, pasta and cheese baked together, yum. Over the course of the past year’s many restaurant reviewing adventures we have had the pleasure of sampling a current trend in Macaroni & Cheese preparation: the addition of truffles, or truffle oil, which elevates this humble comfort food dish into the culinary stratosphere. In this post we revisit five New York City restaurants featuring a Truffled Macaroni & Cheese dish on their menu. Feel free to pay any of them a visit and tell them we sent you!

Upstairs at The Kimberly Hotel

Truffled Mac & Cheese
All Food Photos By Anne Raso

Midtown Manhattan’s finest east-side rooftop dining experience is found at Upstairs, a swanky open-air cocktail lounge (with awesome nighttime views of the Chrysler Building) located on the Penthouse level of the Kimberly Suites Hotel (145 East 50th Street).  On our first visit last summer, our heartiest mid-week appetite was more than satisfied by an order of rich and fragrant Truffled Macaroni & Cheese ($12), baked en casserole to a golden hue. Simply perfect.  Rating: A

The Meatball Factory

Truffled Mac & Cheese from Meatball Factory

Chef Dave Martin takes credit for starting the Truffled Macaroni & Cheese craze while he was a contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef. His signature dish, a Black Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese ($11), is among the most popular items on the menu at The Meatball Factory (231 Second Ave at 14th Street). Chef Dave’s secret to achieving such delicious, cheesey-truffly baked goodness involves first cooking the cream base for the sauce until it develops its own “nutty” flavor, then slowly folding in both Fontina and Parmesan cheeses so that ingredients blend perfectly, preventing the sauce from “breaking.” This technique makes for a very creamy sauce and a unique integration of flavors that, when combined with the essence of black truffles, elevates this memorable creation high above “your Mama’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese” status. Rating: A-

Update: Sadly, the Meatball Factory Has Closed as of April 30, 2012.

Bahr Che

Black Truffle Mac & Cheese

At Bahr Che Wine Bar (tucked away at 26 Astor Place) their limited menu is enhanced greatly by the Lobster and Black Truffle Mac ‘n Cheese ($16.00) — one of the heartier choices on a menu punctuated by tiny salads. We especially enjoyed the big chunks of lobster tucked around tendrils of macaroni in a mild cheese sauce, but ultimately the dish called out for either more sharp cheddar cheese or extra seasoning (a few sprinkles of salt, even) to bring out the much desired black truffle essence. Rating: B-

DL

Ludlow Mac and Cheese

One of our favorite new dining spots on the Lower East Side is DL (95 Delancey Street) where they do their Ludlow Mac (Elbow macaroni, with creamy béchamel sauce and cheese) three ways, including a glorious Truffle and Mushroom ($15), version. This is a classically oven-baked dish with a crispy panko crumb topping and plentiful slices of fresh mushroom added, which goes a long way towards enhancing the rich and flavorful truffle oil-infused sauce. Rating: A

Sons Of Essex

SOE Truffle Mac And Cheese

Sons of  Essex is one of no fewer than three restaurants with the word Essex in its name that is also located on Essex Street (in this case, 133 Essex Street, between Stanton and Rivington). Sons of Essex is so enthusiastic about the Macaroni & Cheese trend that its menu even has a separate section dedicated to detailing the various types of Mac & Cheese that SOE serves. In addition to a daily Mac & Cheese special variety, each day of the week you can also get the Truffle Mac N Cheese ($16) made with elbow macaroni, Gruyere and a truffle cheese sauce, baked to achieve the crunchiest golden brown top you could ever ask for. Easily shared between two people, this dish answers the burning question, “What shall we have for an appetizer?” Rating: A+

Bahr Che Wine Bar: A Hidden Hot Spot in Cooper Square!

Red Wine Glass

So many New York natives and visitors pass cursorily through the Cooper Square hub of Manhattan’s central village, perhaps only stopping to notice the landmark Astor Square Cube or double-check the direction in which they’re headed on their way to somewhere else. In this transitional neighborhood where several avenues intersect, it’s easy to miss the upscale yet cozy contemporary wine bar, Bahr Che, tucked away behind the Chase Bank Building on the ground floor of the Gwathmey Siegel-designed condominiums. While you may need a map and a handful of breadcrumbs to find the place, discovery is worth the effort.

Bar Che Bar Area 2

(This and All Future Photos by Anne Raso)

Open since December of 2010, Bar Che’s interior – its walls covered in both blonde and dark woods – conforms to the signature curve of the high-profile glass apartment tower in which it resides, and the structurally-enforced design gives Bar Che an even more intimate and romantic feel. The impressive wine wall – which buttresses the shallow bar – displays 1500 bottles of the select wines from all over the world. Wines are available by the bottle or single-serving carafe (basically a ‘full pour’ in contrast to the multiple-serving vessel that you might expect when seeing the word “carafe” on the menu). The tasting menu – which is secondary to the wine selections, because this is a wine bar, after all – is designed around small plates / tapas portions emphasizing sliced cured meats (Charcuterie), cheeses and light fare that marry well to either an oakey Malbec or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Bar Che’s servers are highly knowledgeable when it comes to wine pairings, so if your knowledge of the grape extends only to basic Reds and Whites, Bar Che offers an excellent opportunity to educate your palate.

Front Seating Area At Bar Che Wine Bar

Here are a few of the plates we sampled:

Warm Goat Cheese Salad

Warm Goat Cheese Salad with oven-dried tomato and field greens with walnut dressing ($9.00), comes with two toasts topped with goat cheese: good for sharing!

Vegetable Quiche and Salad

Seasonal Quiche Du Jour ($10.00), was a delicious vegetable selection filled with tender broccoli and roasted red pepper on the day of our visit. Served with bit of field greens salad on the side and also portioned to share.

Lobster And Black Truffle Mac 'N Cheese

Lobster and Black Truffle Mac ‘n Cheese ($16.00) is one of the heartier choices on the menu. We especially enjoyed the big chunks of lobster tucked around tendrils of macaroni in a mild cheese sauce that called for just a hint of extra seasoning (a few sprinkles of salt did the trick) to bring out the much desired black truffle essence.

Warm Japanese Eggplant

The thinly sliced Warm Japanese Eggplant, which sits delicately on a pastry round, topped with roasted tomato and drizzled with lavender honey dressing ($9.00) is a standout among the small plates, but perhaps a bit pricey for what is only a few bites. My dining companion and I each had our own serving and we enjoyed it tremendously.

Pear Almond Torte
Pear Almond Torte

For Dessert, we indulged in the Pear Almond Torte, comprised of toasted, sliced almonds layered with poached pears and Bavarian cream, and the Chocolate Gianduja Torte: a bittersweet chocolate butter cake layered with cream and topped with crushed pralines (each priced at $9.00), both of which were exquisitely decadent. The quality and deliciousness of these desserts (sourced from a popular local bakery) prompts me to suggest that you might want to consider Bar Che as your post-dining, nightcap and dessert destination!

Chocolate Gianduja Torte
Chocolate Gianduja Torte: Beautiful and Delicious

A daily selection of Francois Payard Gourmet Sandwiches ($10.00, ask your server for the day’s offerings), Half a dozen Charcuterie Selections (prices vary), Pate, Mousses & Foie Gras ($10.00 each) and limited, light weekend Brunch Menu round out the savory menu choices.

Window With Flower Vases

Bahr Che is located on the ground floor of the Gwathmey Siegel Condos at 26 Astor Place, but please note that the actual entrance is around the corner from Astor Place on Cooper Square, between Lafayette St and Third Avenue. Hours are Monday – Friday: 5:00 PM -12:00 AM, Weekends: 5:00 PM – 2:00 AM. Phone 212-260-2220 for Reservations.

Chef Dave Martin Brings Gourmet Meatballs to 14th Street!


Chef Dave!

East 14th Street is quickly becoming a go-to neighborhood for the seeker of comfort foods. Think about it: the first IHOP in Manhattan proper just opened between Second and Third Avenues a couple of months ago. And now, just a few storefronts further east, in the corner lot once shared by an Arthur Treacher’s-Pizza HutNathan’s triumvirate of fast food, a new restaurant has just opened that specializes in one of our very favorite foods: Meatballs! The Meatball Factory – as it is called – is the creation of Chef Dave Martin. Known for serving up Foodie-esque yet accessible takes on classic American dishes, Martin was among the final three Cheftestants on season one of Bravo’s wildly popular reality cooking competition, Top Chef. Like fellow Top Chef alumni Angelo Sosa’s midtown eatery, Social Eatz, The Meatball Factory aims to elevate your palate for the American food favorites that you already crave.


Cluck Cluck Chicken Meatball (All Food Photos By Anne Raso)

Having lived in a state of Meatballs-on-the-Brain for close to a week while anticipating our visit, we chose two types of meatballs to share: the Cluck Cluck Chicken Meatball, made with Bell & Evans Chicken, Esposito’s Chicken Apple Sausage and White Wine, and the Meatza Meatza (one of two beef-centric meatball varieties on the menu) comprised of Braised Certified Angus Beef Brand Short Ribs, Hangar Steak and Filet, Buffalo, Potato and Parmesan. Both choices were very naturally juicy, and because Dave uses no traditional “binder” (i.e. breadcrumbs) in his meaty mix, you are really going to taste the flavor of the meat.


Meatza Meatza Beef Meatballs

Other meaty concoctions offered include the Turducken (a mix of Turkey, Chicken and Duck, like it sounds), Lambda Lambda Lambda (Lamb, duh), Hog Wild (Pork) and the Vegan’s Dream meatless ball, featuring nine different types of veggies all mashed together with tofu and roasted garlic – yummy. All meatball selections are $8 for a generous 5-meatball portion, while the vegan choice is $9. Meatballs are accompanied by a side of your choice of eight homemade sauces, but for a few bucks more you can trade up to a selection of three different sauces, which seemed like the way to go – because if some is good, more is better! The Cluck Cluck was well complimented by the thick Salsa Verde of Roasted Tomatillos, Green Chilies and Caramelized Sweet Onions flavored with Lime, Fresno Chiles and Agave. We also chose a traditional Fire Roasted Marinara (super garlicky) and the Hells Bells Vodka Sauce made with Absolut Peppar – tasty, and excellent with beef. Kick up the fire in any of these sauces with a splash or two of the house-made Red Pepper Agave sauce found on each table.


Marinara, Hells Bells, Salsa Verde Dipping Sauces


Dave’s World Famous Black Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese

While on Top Chef, Dave takes credit for starting the Truffled Macaroni & Cheese craze with the introduction of his signature dish, a Black Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese ($11), which according to our server is among the most popular items on the menu. Chef Dave, who was quite visible in the front of the house on the night of our visit, joined us table-side while we savored – noodle by noodle – a shared portion of this delicious cheesey-truffly baked goodness, to personally describe his secret method of first cooking the cream base for the sauce until it develops its own “nutty” flavor, then slowly folding in both Fontina and Parmesan cheeses so that ingredients blend perfectly, preventing the sauce from “breaking.” This technique makes for a very creamy sauce and a unique integration of flavors that, when combined with the essence of black truffles, elevates this memorable creation high above “your Mama’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese” status.


Pureed Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic (Tastes Better than it Looks!)

While we certainly would have been quite satisfied with the Meatballs and the Mac, a side of Pureed Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic (with cream, of course, $5) sounded too amazing to pass up, and we were not disappointed! TMF’s menu also features half a dozen varieties of Crispy Crackerbread Pizzas (we hear that the Thai This Pizza featuring the Turducken Meatballs in a Green Curry Peanut Sauce is a favorite), plus Pastas, Sandwiches, Salads and even Poutine (aka Disco Fries, $5 – 10)! For dessert we were easily sold on the TMF Floatillas: traditional soft drink floats made with Dave’s Vanilla Mascarpone Gelato ($6)! On the night of our visit they were out of the Fanta Orange soda that makes up the Creamsicle, so we chose the Purple Cow Floatilla made with Fanta Grape – equally decadent and so huge we could not finish it!


Here is Chef Dave Bringing Us Our Massive Purple Cow Floatillas!

Last but not least, we tipped the scale of pure indulgence by ordering the Pig Sticks: Slices of Nueske’s Wild Cherrywood Bacon served with sides of Dave’s Malted Hot Fudge and Sea Salt Caramel for dipping! Pig Sticks are a dessert that should be enjoyed at least once by anyone who worships Bacon as much as we do here at The Worley Gig! As you can see from the prices listed in this review, The Meatball Factory is easy on your wallet: nothing on the menu is over $15. They also have a nice wine list with all bottles of wine is priced at or under $40. Beer lovers can choose from among 18 varieties on tap and 20 bottles of craft beer. With the welcome addition of The Meatball Factory to this East Village neighborhood, we just might turn 14th Street into a Foodie haven yet!


Pig Sticks: Oink!

UPDATE: I AM SAD TO ANNOUNCE THAT THE MEATBALL FACTORY HAS NOW CLOSED EFFECTIVE APRIL 30, 2012. RIP!

The Meatball Factory is Located at 231 Second Ave. or 251. E. 14th Street – depending on whom you ask – at the Northwest Corner of 14th Street and Second Avenue. Currently Open for Dinner Only, Hours are Monday – Sunday 6:30 PM – 11 PM. Credit Cards Accepted! Phone 212-260-8015 for more Information!