Tag Archives: Celebrity Chef

AOL Presents Now Eat This: Italy, Cooking with Rocco Dispirito!

Rocco Books
All Photos By Gail

When you hear the name Rocco Dispirito, you may at first think, “What a hottie” — amiright? But also, Rocco is a skilled and charismatic Celebrity Chef who has hosted and starred in many TV shows (Rocco’s Dinner Party, how fun was that?) as well as being a restaurateur and author of many best-selling books on food and cooking. Rocco Dispirito!

Rocco Dispirito
How Cute Is This Guy?

If you have been following his career for as many years as I have, you may recall that Rocco, while consistently adorable, was not always as lean and trim and he is now. He got into shape by learning to cook in the same manner as his Italian ancestors: and not just by incorporating fresh, local ingredients and creating preparation techniques which reduce the use of traditional fats and carbs, but also by adopting a more leisurely-paced approach when it comes to the experience of social eating.

Tuna Crudo
Tuna Crudo, One of Rocco’s Low Calorie Yet Gourmet Specialities

Rocco’s latest New York Times best-seller, Now Eat This! Italian, takes on all of your favorite Italian food recipes by reducing them calorically while keeping the very fresh and authentic flavor. In fact, most of these dishes come in at 350 calories and under without sacrificing deliciousness.

AOL Sign

In the book’s accompanying video series, which debuted on AOL.com earlier this month, DiSpirito travels to various regions in Italy to learn from the foremost Italian food experts, real Italian Moms! The show is a lot of fun and also lets you see the beauty of the Italian countryside.

Kitchen
International Culinary Center Test Kitchen

Last evening, AOL hosted a hands-on cooking event with Rocco at The International Culinary Center for a select number of lucky bloggers and contest winners, where we all had the chance to cook a meal with Rocco and then sit down together to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Rocco lead the class with his step-by-step recipes and stories behind each dish and he was very patient with those of us who are challenged even by slicing a tomato (raises hand). It was a great time and I learned that making lovely homemade Italian food does not have to be intimidating at all.

Here’s what was on the menu:
Caprese Salad
Caprese Salad

Pasta with Clams
Pasta with Clams

Roasted Chicken
Roasted Chicken with Zucchini

Rocco Making Dessert

Rocco was kind enough to make the evening’s dessert – a fresh Strawberry Italian Ice – for us tableside so we could enjoy our after dinner drinks. This quick and simple frozen dessert is basically just fresh berries (I suppose any fruit could be swapped out if Strawberries are not your thing), ice and the same thickening agent used in the faux olive oil salad dressing. Sweet and refereshing!

Strawberry Granita
Strawberry Italian Ice

Proseco
After Dinner Proseco

Rocco Signed Book

Because Rocco is so awesome, he took the time to pose for photos with every single person at the event and also gave each of us a personally signed copy of his book, so that we could cook his recipes at home. The first episode in the Now Eat This: Italy! series, in which Rocco makes Caprese salad after visiting the actual cheese makers, can be enjoyed at This Link. Thanks again to Rocco and AOL for a very fun evening!

The Voltaggio Brothers Take On: Thanksgiving For the Cooking Channel!


Bryan & Michael Voltaggio (All Photos Except This One By Anne Raso)

Handsome and talented brothers sporting as many tattoos as members of Motley Crue, Chefs Michael and Bryan Voltaggio first gained national recognition as contestants on Bravo TV’s Top Chef: Las Vegas – my personal favorite season of Top Chef to date. Out of four very charismatic finalists, the competition ended with Michael taking home the title of Top Chef and Bryan finishing a close second to his brother. Sibling rivalry, not kidding! While I confess that I was a total Bryan fan – cheering for him to pull off a victory – it cannot be denied that Michael was a deserving champion. Because let’s face it, these guys can cook.

Already accomplished chefs and noted restaurateurs before appearing on Top Chef, the Brothers Voltaggio are now bona fide culinary Rock Stars, having just released a massive, coffee-table-sized recipe book, Volt Ink, and entering into a partnership with Williams Sonoma to promote their products. The Volts are also set to debut their first TV special, Voltaggios Take On: Thanksgiving, premiering November 6, 2011 at 8:00 PM on the Cooking Channel.


Bryan V Signs a Copy of Volt Ink for a Fan

The Voltaggios were in NYC last evening to host a book signing at the Williams Sonoma store in Columbus Circle, which was followed by a private party to celebrate the book, the Cooking Channel special, and the Voltaggio’s staggering degree of awesomeness in general. While sampling selections featured in the special’s holiday menu (bites of roast turkey, sautéed Brussels sprouts with bacon, chestnut dressing and a delectable pumpkin cheesecake garnished with fresh orange that was just insane) partiers were treated to a brief preview of the special, which is lots of fun and entertaining as well as educational. Voltaggios Take On: Thanksgiving finds chefs Bryan and Michael putting their unique twist on classic recipes that reveal their secrets for creating an impressively delicious meal. Packed with survival tips to get you through America’s toughest culinary challenge, this hour-long special is sure to inspire. Voltaggios Take On: Thanksgiving is the ultimate modern twist on our favorite holiday feast. I will be watching it for sure!


Michael V and Gail

It was great to get the chance to meet both Michael and Bryan at the party and to speak with them briefly. They are both super friendly, and they genuinely seem to really love their fans. Thanks to Williams Sonoma for throwing such a fun bash and also for the gift bag which contained a T Shirt emblazoned with the words “Food Person” (yes) and a potato ricer, the tool with which the Volts make their famous creamy mashed potatoes. Be sure to tune in to Voltaggios Take On: Thanksgiving, on Sunday, November 6th at 8:00 PM on the Cooking Channel (check your local listings for broadcast information) to see the potato ricer in action!

Donatella Offers Gourmet Pizza and Fine Italian Dining in Chelsea!


From The Golden Oven Comes What Could Be NYC’s Best Pizza  (All Photos By Anne Raso)

Italian food is a cuisine for which New York City is deservedly famous. From the upper west side to Little Italy, there is certainly no shortage of Italian dining establishments to frequent. But if you’re looking for one restaurant offering an updated take on tradition that can also satisfy the diverse cravings of every member of your party – whether it be for pizza, pasta, meat or fish you might want to check out Donatella, located right in the heart of Chelsea, because this place is really something special.  Proprietor Donatella Arpaia (formerly of David Burke & Donatella fame) has created a down-to-earth yet classy culinary experience where the wood-fired pizzas are joined by more-formal fare, all served in a modern, well-lit and highly inviting space.

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NYC’s Lair Lounge Mixes Nightlife Vibe with Gourmet Eats

When dining out in NYC with a group of more than, say, two people, it can be challenging to find a venue that meets the expectations of both those seeking delicious food and those more interested in experiencing a hot, “night life” scene. Lair Restaurant and Lounge, which opened in Nolita last October, aims to bring together the best of both worlds. Featuring Asian-Fusion cuisine billed as ‘Modern Dimsum’ and potent, eclectic cocktails, all served amid a cozy-yet-cutting edge décor that’s part urban safari and part goth, Lair is a glittering jewel nestled in this up-and-coming trendy neighborhood.

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Top Chef’s Angelo Sosa Presents Social Eatz!

UPDATE: Social Eatz Has Closed For Business as of March 2013

I’m a big fan of Top Chef since I got hip to the show in its second season. I am especially enjoying this season’s “All Stars” competition, featuring favorite Cheftestants from past seasons, and am excited for the finale beginning tonight, and then wrapping up in next Wednesday’s episode (Richard Blais for the win)! Although this has never been a point of contention for me, many fans I’ve talked to like to whine about how impossible it is to fully enjoy the Top Chef viewing experience when you can’t actually taste the food. To me this is like saying you can’t possibly enjoy watching a True Blood if you are not really a vampire, which is just silly. But I guess that is reason to be grateful that most, if not all, Top Chefs also operate their own restaurants. Angelo Sosa may not have quite made it to the finals of Top Chef All Stars, but he currently has the starring role as the Chef and owner of a cool new trendy-casual restaurant called Social Eatz, which opens for business on Thursday March 10th in a midtown east neighborhood of Manhattan.

Social Eatz hosted a Media night on Tuesday evening to stir up some advance buzz, and I was lucky enough to snag an invite as the Plus One of my writer friend Anne (who was also kind enough to take all of the pictures in this post). Anne and I had a blast at Social Eatz, which has a fun vibe, comfortable decor and food that is totally off the charts. If you’ve wondered why Angelo made it to the finals of his season (before losing to Kevin. Who? Exactly) and why it was likely a no brainer for the producers to invite him back for All Stars, wonder no longer. The guy can cook his ass off.

According to its mission statement: Social Eatz reinterprets favorite NYC foods “with flavors from across Asia, including Korea, China, Vietnam, and Japan, with Top Chef All Stars’ Angelo Sosa, a self-proclaimed Asian food fanatic, at the helm. Sosa has designed a menu featuring certified organic vegetables and certified sustainable humane meat and fish ranging in categories from Soup’z, Salad’z, App’z, Sandwich’z, Taco’z, Burger’z and Sweet’z.”

We sampled delicious fare from just about every category, as detailed below:

(All Photos By Anne Raso) Tomato Soup with Thai Chile and Curry Whipped Cream. Effing delicious.

Smoked Rib with Mesquite Tamarind Sauce. Best. Rib. Ever.

“Imperialist” Hot Dog: A grilled Chicken Apple Sausage topped with Pickled Onion & Green Pepper Relish on a Potato Bun with a Side of Sake Cheese Sauce. This was my favorite thing.

Charred Bibimbap Burger with Slow Cooked Egg and Pickled Carrot and Cucumber, Served with Fries. OMG.

Chocolate Brownie with Toasted Sesame Seeds and Toffee Sauce, served with chilled Rice Milk. Thank you chocolate toffee brownie for making me so very, very fat.

We also had some tasty and very potent cocktails. Don’t skip the alcohol on your trip to Social Eatz!

Prices range between $5 for the soup and $12 dollars for the burger, so you can see it is quite affordable and an excellent value for some good eats. Or should I say “Eatz”?

Me with Angelo – He is So Hot!

Social Eatz is Located at 232 East 53rd Street, Between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in Manhattan (close to the 6 train). Phone 212-207-3339, Website: www.socialeatz.com. Dress Code is Casual. Reservations are recommended.

Gail Meets Chef Jonathan Waxman!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2011 is to enjoy the company of good friends while dining in fine restaurants as often as possible. No one can accuse me of not sticking to my resolutions, because last night I had an amazing meal at chef Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto Restaurant on Washington Street near the Meatpacking District. My dining companions were my longtime friend Ivy, her charming husband Rick and their adorable daughter Violet, who is the best kid you could ever hope to have, let me tell you. We’re all huge fans of Bravo’s Top Chef, and having enjoyed the most recent season of Top Chef Masters we are also admirers of Waxman’s “keep it simple” philosophy/approach to gourmet cooking. Dining out is always so much more fun, and a much richer experience, when you are accompanied by true foodies like Ivy, Rick and Violet. We had an amazing meal and a really fantastic time catching up.

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Gail Meets Chef Eric Ripert!

“I Am A Dreamy French Sex God, and Also a Great Chef”

Since there are arguably no real Rock Stars anymore, I like to say that the new Rock Stars are Artists, Comedians and Celebrity Chefs. Last night I was out with my friends and fellow Foodies, Mark and Michelle, enjoying a (seriously) once in a lifetime dining experience at Le Bernardin restaurant. I say “once in a lifetime” not because I wouldn’t want to go back there – because the food is insanely, mind-blowingly delicious and the service is the most attentive service you will ever get in any restaurant anywhere – but because it costs a small fortune to eat a meal there.  Somehow though, the folks at Le Bernardin make you feel that paying them hundreds of dollars to eat all kinds of tiny bites of tasty, weird food is totally worth it. One of the reasons people throw down the big bucks to eat at Le Bernadin is Chef and co-owner, Eric Ripert, whose gorgeous face is familiar to fans thanks to his many appearances on Top Chef and his own cable show, Avec Eric. Ripert is not only one of the world’s top chef’s but he is also wildly charming, charismatic and, in the looks department, just about as hot as it gets. Hotness!

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