Holy Mother of Gouda, will you look at that photo? Did you ever imagine that such a thing as a Mac & Cheese Donut even existed? I did not, and yet, there it is. With today (July 14th) being National Mac & Cheese Day, I snagged this recipe for Creamy Cheddar Mac & Cheese Donuts from the website of Three Bridges [www.threebridges.com] — a chef-crafted pasta, sauce, and meal brand that makes clean eating easy. If donuts make you go nuts, this is the dish for you. Breaking the mold, these donuts trade in the sweet for the savory, but don’t be fooled — they’re just as addicting!
A commitment to enjoying life in Manhattan means taking advantage of the many finer things that New York City has to offer. One of those fine things is visiting unique restaurants where you can linger over a delicious meal in a relaxed and beautiful setting, with gracious service that elevates you from the daily grind, and creates a memorable experience. Because you only live once! Recently, the Worley Gig was invited to dine at Brassiere 8/12, a true hidden gem in the heart of midtown: and when we say hidden, we mean it, as the restaurant is tucked away just below street level in the famous Solow Building on West 57th Street (you know, the one with the big red 9 out front)!
Just enter through the revolving door and follow the spiral steps down the your destination, where a lovely evening awaits you!
It’s been more than a year since our previous review of Bobby Van’s Grill on West 50th Street, so it was a special treat to be invited back again for another taste of what we here at The Gig consider to be the Best Filet Mignon in Manhattan. Just being serious. Here are a few of the reasons why this surely won’t be our last visit to this Midtown gem.
First of all, the place is gorgeous. Bobby Van’s is an old school steakhouse fitted out in warm woods, polished brass fixtures and classic lighting moderated by decorative glass shades. As soon as you enter the restaurant, which is fronted by a spectacular long bar, you feel comfortable and welcome, but also like you are in for a very special dining experience.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Nothing goes with red meat quite like red wine. And you know how I feel about red wine.
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.
Man, what a nice cocktail!
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!
Macaroni and Cheese: It is my thing. A couple of months ago I attended the Food Fete press event here in NYC, where I was lucky enough to meet Kristen, the PR representative for Cucina Fresca Gourmet Foods, which operates out of Seattle. I’m excited to report that Kristen hooked The Gig up with a couple of boxes of Cucina Fresca’s frozen Gourmet Macaroni and Cheese! I ate some of it last night for dinner, so I could tell you about it today.
I received two different varieties of Mac and Cheese in my shipment: Smoked Gruyere, made with aged Gruyere, Swiss, Fontina, and a touch of lightly smoked Spanish paprika; and Tangy Gorgonzola, made with a mellow Gorgonzola cheese blended with Fontina and a tangy blue cheese. Since I was grilling up a simple burger, I decided that Tangy Gorgonzola would be a complimentary accompaniment. I was so right! This dish has a very homemade taste but is also of the quality that you would get in a nice restaurant. Not only was the cheese sauce tangy, as promised, but it has a smooth and nutty flavor that gives it a sophisticated edge, while keeping the 100% comfort food vibe. I wanted to eat the entire dish but stopped half way, because I was full and because it was so good I wanted to save some for another meal!
Because this dish is so rich and versatile, it lends itself well to being mixed with a vegetable (broccoli would be ideal) or perhaps some cubed ham left over from another meal or a few strips of crumbled, crispy bacon. Make it fancy! I enjoyed topping a bite of my burger with a spoonful of the tangy, cheesy pasta and pretending I was eating some kind of exotic gourmet burger. Fun!
According to the press materiel I received, Cucina Fresca Mac and Cheese dishes are all natural and carefully handmade in small batches. All varieties feature eggless penne pasta accompanied with rich, creamy sauce made with rBST-free milk, fresh cheeses and a touch of whole creamery butter. The secret to the creamy delicious sauce is that it is a roux-based béchamel sauce which the cheese is then melted into. Also, the pasta is cooked al-dente pre-packaging, so that it can finish cooking in your oven and absorb the flavor of the sauce. I am not a fan of hard pasta and this was cooked perfectly: tender but not mushy.
If you are one of those convenience junkies that can’t even figure out how to turn on a conventional over, don’t freak out; you can cook this product in the microwave. It will turn out OK. But let me tell you something as a confessed Foodie who loves convenience but doesn’t even own a microwave (yes, I just typed that): it is so worth it to take a few extra minutes to heat this up the way Mac and Cheese was intended to be cooked, in the oven. Cucina Fresca Mac and Cheese goes right from freezer to oven (all you have to do is take it out of the box and remove the plastic lid) and cooks to a bubbling, golden, uber yummy dish of molten cheesy goodness (with the much-desired crispy, browned edges, even) in less than 45 minutes. It is so easy! It is so good!
Cucina Fresca offers two additional varieties besides the two sent to me: Sharp Cheddar, made with 2 year aged white cheddar; and Creamy Fontina, made with a blend of Fontina, aged Asiago and imported Parmesan cheeses. So cheesy! Each variety of Cucina Fresca Gourmet Mac and Cheese sells for $9.99 for a 20 ounce box that feeds two as a meal, but can be also be served as a side dish (reality check: it says on the box that it serves four, but seriously, who eats 5 ounces of Mac and Cheese and then stops? Answer: no one. Be smart and plan on serving two people, max, with one box of this stuff). Bon Appétit!
Visit Cucina Fresca on the web at find out about their other delicious, natural packaged foods at Cucina Fresca Dot Com.