Tag Archives: David Burke

Four-Course Menu with Cocktail Pairings by Top Chef’s Carla Hall

Carla Hall Looking Cute
Chef Carla Hall

It is no secret that eating and watching television are two of my favorite things to do in the world. And considering the fact that one of my favorite shows of all time is Bravo’s Top Chef, it did not take much prodding to get me to purchase tickets to attend former Top Chef contestant Carla Hall’s Pop Up Restaurant/dinner event at David Burke’s In The Box restaurant at Bloomingdale’s. Tickets to this event were offered, at what most people would consider to be kind of a steep price, through the Living Social website, but the expense proved to be so very worth it. Because Carla’s food is just insane!

It was especially fun to be joined for this spectacular culinary evening by my good friend Diane (a.k.a.”Diaaahhne!”), as she is also a fellow Top Chef fan and especially a fan of Carla’s. Following are photos and brief descriptions of the food we ate, which you will notice get progressively blurrier as the evening wears on, due to the unique cocktail pairings that accompanied each course, of which I was drinking many. Enjoy!

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche Arancini in Spicy Remoulade
Mini Arancini with Mushroom in a Spicy Remoulade

This tiny rice ball packed a lot of flavor, being perfectly crispy fried, and stuffed with tender rice and a plump mushroom morsel, all nestled on a tiny puddle of spicy remoulade. When we ate this thing, Diane and I agreed that it was the best food we had yet eaten in our lives. Little did we know that we would feel similarly about each piece of food we put in our mouths that evening.

First Course

Mac & Cheese with butter sauce and crispy bacon
Mac & Cheese with Butter Sauce and Crispy Bacon

Carla’s unique take on what she calls “inside out” Mac and Cheese comes off like a cheese stuffed tortellini made of most tender pasta you can imagine. The buttery, savory sauce was further enhanced by crumbles of crispy, salty bacon. I used a spoon to get every drop of the sauce. It was pure heaven. Best thing you ever ate, times two.

15 Ingredient Sangria

The Cocktail pairing for this course was called “15 Ingredient Sangria,” with a medley of 15 ingredients that I believe mostly included fruit and also seltzer to make the sangria effervescent.

Second Course

Hot Chicken Bite With Tomato and Cucumber
Hot Chicken Bite with Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Up next was Carla’s Southern specialty, Hot Chicken Bite, which rivaled my grandmother’s fried chicken for its insanely delicious, super-crispy fried skin. People who have not experienced super-crispy fried chicken skin have really not tasted one of the most delicious things that you can lay upon your tongue. This perfectly succulent fried chicken thigh was set on a tiny square of white bread, because that is how they serve it in the south, and was accented by a spicy hot Tabasco-like pepper sauce for that extra kick. The accompaniment/garnish of chopped fresh tomato and cucumber salad helped to cool the fire. Finger lickin’ good, as they say

Strawberry Margarita By Carla Hall

Accompanying the spicy chicken was a sweet and refreshing Strawberry Margarita with House-Infused Strawberry Tequila. I’m not super crazy about the taste of tequila, but this is fantastic.

Third Course

Meatloaf with Greens, Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Corn
Meat + Three: Carla’s homemade Meatloaf with Collard Greens, Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Corn

You can see that the photos are now in somewhat-less-than perfectly sharp focus, because at this juncture I have had three cocktails within a relatively short period of time. Not to mention, but you can see I am about you, the fact that by now the energy level in the room has kicked up a few notches and people are getting a little crazy over this delicious food. There was a lot of clinking of glasses going on and rampant moaning about how, OMG, this was the best food anyone had ever tasted and how surely we could now be at peace with death after having eaten such a fantastic meal.

Red Wine
Cocktail: Bocelli Sangiovese

Nothing goes with red meat quite like red wine. And you know how I feel about red wine.


Banana Pudding with Bruleed Bananas
Banana Pudding with Pecan Shortbread and Bruléed Bananas

You should not be too surprised to hear that I had great difficulty even spooning a few mouths-full of Carla’s delightful banana pudding into my gaping maw after stuffing my face with all of her mind-blowing gourmet dishes and drinking myself into a stupor. I did my best.

Proseco Cocktail with Sangria in Background
Cocktail: Lavender Cooler with House Lavender Syrup, Aloe Juice and Prosecco

Man, what a nice cocktail!

Will Cook for Shoes
Carla’s Apron Says “Will Cook for Shoes”

I forgot to mention that at the start of each course, Carla came out from the kitchen and talked to us about the next dish we would be eating, its inspiration or origin, and how the ingredients worked together to make it super special. Later, as the evening was winding up Carla made sure to stop at every table and talk to each person, to pose for photos and just to be her amazingly cool and talented self. This Pop Up dining event was Carla Hall’s second session of these dinners that she’s held at David Burke, so be on the lookout for her to show up doing something like this again in the future. I do my best to enjoy my life, and to treat myself to nice things when the opportunity arrives to do so. Like I said, it was a pricey evening, but it was one that was worth every penny and an experience I’ll never forget. Carla Hall!

Carla Hall's Dinner Menu with Pumpkin

Ace Frehley and Paul Stanley Jack in the Boxes

Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley Jack in the Boxes

Photographed at David Burke in the Box Restaurant, Bloomingdale’s, NYC.

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 – Click on Any Image to Enlarge)

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.

The menu at Donatella is pleasantly varied without becoming overwhelming. You can exquisitely customize your meal by choosing what piques your interest from a broad selection of courses ranging from Bruschette ($4, $10, or a trio for $12), Meats & Cheeses ($8-10), Salads ($10–13), Fried Appetizers ($8, $9 and $12), Antipasti ($12, $13 and $15) plus Pizzas ($10 – $21), Pasta ($15 – 18), Meat  or Fish ($25/MP), Sides ($4, $7) and Desserts ($9). No matter how you choose to build your feast, you will not leave hungry!

Having brought along our heartiest appetites, we started our evening with the Chopped Vegetable Salad (above, $13.00) – generously portioned for sharing – featuring a selection of seasonal vegetables  such as crisp red cabbage, slivers of endive, crunchy snap peas, carrots, cauliflower (parboiled to a tender crispness) red and golden beets and halved cherry tomatoes in a light but slightly creamy  vinaigrette dressing. We also enjoyed the Mesclun Salad with Candied Walnuts and Pecorino ($10).

Next up was the super tasty Arancini ($9): a trio of deep-fried rice balls stuffed with fresh mozzarella, sausage and peas – crispy on the outside with no trace of greasiness, and so tempting we wolfed it down before it even had the chance to pose for a photograph!

 Pizza Polpette  – So Good!

You only need to get one look at the gilt-tiled, wood burning pizza oven which dominates the open kitchen at the rear  of the restaurant to understand that Donatella’s specialty is their pizza: cooked at 700 degrees to create a pizza baked in the authentic Neapolitan tradition. Our selection for the evening was the Pizza Polpette ($17), topped with caciocavallo cheese (a southern Italian cheese similar to provolone), fresh basil, tomato and Donatella’s famous veal meatballs. After only several bites, my dining companion and I both agreed that this thin crust pie was arguably the most delicious pizza we had ever eaten. As promised, the crust was slightly charred and chewy-crisp and the meatballs were light, succulent and mouthwatering. If you chose to forgo meatballs on your pizza in favor of another topping, I’d suggest ordering the Antipasti of Polpette Di Vitello ($18) because you really should not leave without having tried them. They are so good!

For our pasta course, it was no contest to decide on the day’s special: Homemade Cavatelli in a pea pesto sauce (no basil!) with tiny chunks of crispy, thick-cut pancetta, sweet peas, and Parmesan cheese. Pea pesto was definitely something new for me and I enjoyed its lighter, creamier texture  (easy on the olive oil) while the pancetta added a delightful saltiness to the dish. The cavatelli is served al dente, so if you prefer your pasta softer, mention that when placing your order.

Pronounced “Swag-a-tell”

Unwisely, we had left no room in our tummies for dessert, but that does not mean we didn’t engorge ourselves further with two of the menu’s sweet selections. My dining companion had spotted one of her favorite Italian pastry dishes, which she identified as Sfogliatelle Riccia, at a neighboring table and insisted we order one to share. To our great delight the Sfog, as she called it, arrived warm from the oven. This classic Italian dessert consists of multiple layers of flakey pastry stuffed with fresh, orange-infused ricotta cheese filling. It was unlike anything I’ve tasted and absolutely delicious. Highly  recommended!

The Bittersweet Chocolate Parfait: a layered dessert consisting of bittersweet Valrhona chocolate pudding resting atop fresh raspberries in gelee, then topped with a mascarpone cream and thin layer of  burnt sugar, similar to that found on a crème brulee, was very rich but not overly sweet.

Bittersweet Chocolate Parfait

While Donatella is a great “Date Spot” and a fun place for just catching up over dinner with a friend, I’d recommend you try to go with a group of three or more so you can order many different dishes and then share, because here the rule seems to be “If Some is Good, More is Better!”

Donatella is Located at 184 Eighth Ave. (Between 19th & 20th Streets), New York, NY. Phone (212) 493-5150 for Reservations!