Croxetti with Smoked Salmon

59 Comments

Last April when my husband and I visited New York City for my birthday, we went to Eataly. I could have spent much more time there, but my “other half” has limited patience shopping. We checked out the whole place, which requires a map if you want to do it in an orderly fashion, and then ate an incredible lunch.

My husband convinced me to shop online at Eataly.com instead of dragging groceries back home in my suitcase. In retrospect I think it was a trick to keep me from really shopping, but nonetheless I did grab a few Italian goodies.

One was Croxetti, a beautiful embossed pasta that I’d never seen before. I have since learned that the spelling can vary, but these “pendants” are Ligurian in origin.

fullsizerender
_mg_3706
Over the many years of Croxetti development, the “traditional” designs have varied. The following photo is an example of a wooden stamp used for embossing, taken from the blog A Path To Lunch.

crozetti-004

I highly recommend reading the blog post I highlighted above. The blog’s authors, Martha and Mike, describe and photograph a meeting with the craftsman Mr. Pietro Picetti, who custom designs croxetti stamps in his workshop in Varese Ligure, Liguria.

_mg_3742

For the croxetti, I chose a light cream sauce with smoked salmon, hoping it would be a delicate enough sauce to not destroy the integrity of these delicate pasta discs once cooked.
_mg_3705

No real recipe is required. The pasta is cooked according to the package directions.
_mg_3710

I sautéed a few minced garlic cloves in hot olive oil, just for a few seconds, then added cream to the pot. Pour enough in the pot to lightly coat the pasta, about 12 ounces of cream for the 1.1 pound of croxetti.

_mg_3713

Julienne thin sliced of smoked salmon or lox, and add them to the cream. Heat through.

_mg_3716

Gently add the drained pasta discs to the cream and let sit, stirring once or twice as necessary to allow the cream sauce to coat the croxetti and get absorbed.

_mg_3717

Serve warm and sprinkle with capers, if desired.

_mg_3719
_mg_3709

If you would prefer a thicker sauce, consider adding a little Marscapone or ricotta to the cream.
_mg_3735
Other options for this simple recipe would be to use butter instead of olive oil, and one could include clam juice with the cream for a fishier yet less rich sauce. Also, lemon zest would be a nice touch.

_mg_3741

If you happened to have fresh dill, a few leaves would be pretty on the pasta, but I only had dried dill leaves.

_mg_3745

The croxetti actually didn’t end up being as delicate as I assumed they would be. Of course I treated them gently as well. They were really fun to eat!

_mg_3726

Chinatown, NYC

68 Comments

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Chinatown in both San Francisco and New York City multiple times. I say lucky, because it’s such a unique peek into an extremely different culture from my own.

It’s also a foodie adventure, as much of the food isn’t even recognizable to me.


IMG_8689

When I’ve visited Chinatown, it’s never to shop, because I’m typically staying at a hotel and not cooking. My visits are all about observing and taking photos.

The produce, whether on the sidewalks, or inside shops, is gorgeous. And just like in Europe, it’s impeccably arranged.

IMG_8682


The seafood variety is always impressive, and extremely interesting.



Dried seafood is ubiquitous.

Inside the shops, you see a multitude of boxes and cartons of goodness-knows-what, from teas to herbs, tinctures to rubs. I remember when deer antlers and other now illegal items were in full view.

One gentleman who was stacking fish decided my camera was in his way and he yelled at me. I felt badly, although I really didn’t feel like I was in his way, as someone who is an expert at respectably visiting markets as a tourist.

Plus, I’ve not ever been the only non-chinese person walking through Chinatown with a camera. But still, I felt badly, because I’ve managed to say “photo?” in many a language, and it is the polite thing to do. Before my next visit to Chinatown I will learn how to say “photo” in Chinese/Mandarin.

Exactly 20 years ago, my husband and I took our daughters to San Francisco, and of course Chinatown was on the agenda. We had a favorite dim sum restaurant that was our lunch destination, but before that we showed our daughters the entrance to Chinatown, and walked some of the main streets.

At the age of ten, my younger daughter had somewhat of a negative reaction to Chinatown. It had to do with the many window displays of hanging plucked chickens and ducks, live turtles in buckets, and so forth. That day she became a vegetarian. I kid you not.

We really didn’t think she’d follow through with it, but twenty years later, she’s still a dedicated vegetarian.

Being that she lives close to Chinatown, she is familiar with restaurants there, and joined us for dim sum at Nom Wah Dumpling Shop, a restaurant she recommended. It was excellent, although I do miss the little metal carts that used to be pushed around between tables in the old days. I guess these were deemed unsanitary.

So now you look at a photo menu of dim sum items, and then check off what you want on a piece of paper.

I really wanted to try chicken feet, but with a vegetarian and a really food-squeamish guy at the same table, I knew I’d be the only one eating them. So we stuck with the basic dumplings, fried rice, pancakes, and greens. All were fabulous.


The reason I posted on Chinatown, is because there really aren’t that many in existence except in big cities. So if you don’t live in these cities, or don’t visit them, you don’t get the fabulous experience of seeing how other people live and shop for food. Shy of actually visiting China, that is.

Except for being yelled at this one time, I will continue to visit Chinatown, wherever it might be. And you should too. Don’t let it feel intimidating.

IMG_8648
I really wanted to buy a durian and really see what one tastes and smells like, but I was afraid we’d get kicked out of our hotel!

Eataly, NYC

63 Comments

One of the goals during my recent New York City trip was to visit Eataly. I’ve been intrigued by the whole Eataly concept since it was built. It claims to be the largest Italian market place in the world, and at 50,000 square feet, I believe it must be.
IMG_6367
The famous names behind Eataly include Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich, and her son Joe Bastianich.
FullSizeRessnder
Eataly sells everything Italian. There is a bakery, a cheese shop, a fish department, an area for charcuterie, a pasta department, and so forth. Intermingled among the shops are various restaurants – some set up for full dining, others cafés, take-out stops, and areas for tastings.
FullSizeRrrender
FullSizeRhhender
Oh, and a fresh pasta shop of course.
FullSizeRkkender
IMG_7105
The toughest apart about Eataly for us was figuring out how to get in to Eataly. We had the right address, but never found an obvious entrance. So we walked through a shop that sells everything Nutella – the Nutella Bar.


So yes, I had to have a Nutella crepe and an espresso. It was still morning, after all!


Eventually we discovered a customer information booth of sorts, and were handed a map, which helped immensely. We walked around, for the sole purpose of picking up some items I can’t get where I live, but my husband suggested I get them online. That’s how much he dislikes shopping of any kind.

I was especially intrigued by this pasta, which I can only describe as embossed pendants. I will be buying these online!

IMG_7108
Eventually we managed to get hungry and chose Manzo for lunch.

We began with toasted bread, prosciutto and stracciatella. Stracciatella, if you’re not aware, (I wasn’t), is the inside of burrata. So it was like sweet, lumpy cream drizzled with a little olive oil. And their prosciutto was the meatiest, smokiest prosciutto we’ve ever experienced. At that point we should have asked for the bill.


But no, we both do love to eat, and so far we were definitely excited and impressed.

My husband ordered pappardelle with wild boar sauce, and because I’ve never eaten them, I ordered pasta with ramps.

IMG_6409

My pasta was incredible, but because the ramps were blended in a “sauce” that included asparagus, I couldn’t really tell what they were like on their own. Nonetheless, a fabulous dish. And our lunch was made more perfect with wines chosen by our attentive and knowledgeable waitress.

IMG_6421

Overall, Eataly was a wonderful experience, even though I left with no groceries. But you can indeed go to Eataly online and shop. There is also a calendar of events like tastings and classes if you happen to live in NYC or are visiting.

One note – While at Eataly, I had actually planned on eating lunch at Birreria, a glassed-in restaurant on the rooftop of Eataly, but it happened to be closed for renovation. It’s now re-opened and named Sabbia, serving “coastal fare.” I would still like to go there, if nothing else for the views. But I bet the food is top-notch, after our Manzo experience!

My Surprise Birthday Dinner

98 Comments

Recently my husband and I flew to New York City for my week-long 60th birthday celebration. I picked NYC because our younger daughter lives there. Since we hadn’t seen her since Christmas, it was great timing.

I typically make all of the dining reservations when we travel, however, I asked that my actual birthday dinner be a surprise. So my daughter made the plans. And she knows me so well!

On the evening of my birthday, we taxi’d to the surprise location. And there it was – Gramercy Tavern!
gramercy_tavern_exterior2_v1_-_version_2-v3
I’ve wanted to dine at Gramercy Tavern for years, but it’s never worked out.
IMG_5839
There is a lively tavern at the front of Gramercy Tavern, but our dinner was served in the actual restaurant of Grammercy Tavern. The room is gorgeous and has great ambiance. (photo below is not mine)
gramercy_08_1500_958
We chose the 6-course tasting menu with paired wines. I mean, why not?!!


I can’t go into every detail of our food and wine extravaganza because there were so many impressive pairings.

One of the highlights of our dinner was our waiter, who seemed to always make things more complicated by switching out wines, and accidentally serving the wrong course. But he was incredibly entertaining! And the wine pairings were absolute perfection.


One dish I must point out is the dessert of whipped cheesecake served with nettles ice cream. Nettles must be the new big thing, because I saw it on so many menus served in a variety of ways. My husband forced me to try the ice cream even though I was too satiated to eat another bite. It was really wonderful!
IMG_5901

After forcing myself to sample the ice cream, I was then surprised with a special birthday cake! Oh no! But I managed to eat the whole thing. There’s always room for cake?
IMG_5915
The Gramercy Tavern experience was a wonderful, four-hour food and drink adventure. I was also gifted with a signed copy of the Gramercy Tavern cookbook – something my daughter sneakily and thoughtfully planned.

The book is gorgeous and could be used as a coffee table book as well as a cookbook. Besides the impressive photography, included are stories honoring everybody who takes part in making Gramercy Tavern the top-notch restaurant that it is, from the farmers, the florist, to the woman who polishes the wine glasses.

Chef Michael Anthony, who has been at the helm of Gramercy Tavern for ten years, is not well known, maybe because he occupies himself with his restaurant and community activities, instead of becoming a TV personality. I find that really admirable!


Overall, this was an extremely memorable birthday dinner for me. I just wish the rest of my family could have been there.