1. St. Francis Big Red, a "celebration of the big red beefsteak matched with big red wines," 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday, November 3, at Noche, 1604 Broadway (between 48th & 49th Streets). $95/members, $110/non-members (718.229.6565). [via VittlesVamp]
2. PastryScoop is hosting an online chat with pastry chef Jacques Torres about holiday baking and desserts, Tuesday, November 4, 12:00 p.m.
3. SQC chef Scott Campbell will interview André Soltner, author of The Lutèce Cookbook, followed by a tasting, on Tuesday, November 4, 4:00 p.m., at SQC, 270 Columbus Avenue (between 72nd & 73rd Streets), reservations recommended (212-579-0100). The free event is part of the ongoing "LIVE @ SQC Talk & Tasting Series," featuring interviews between Mr. Campbell and notable chefs in a "TV Talk Show Format."
A huge crowd turned out on Sunday, October 26, for Urban Harvest 2003, presented by Slow Food USA and the French Culinary Institute. The four-hour food and wine tasting extravaganza was a schizophrenic affair, combining samplings of some of the best artisanal foods in the Northeast with wines from a micro-region in Northern Italy.
The public and private spaces of the French Culinary Institute were transformed into a series of specialized rooms packed with cheese producers, apple farmers, cider makers, and hungry attendees whose eagerness to sample the food was only hindered by the long lines that wound throughout the cooking school.
From Valtellina to Vermont
The Wine and Dine Room, in the dining room of L’Ecole, the French Culinary Institute’s restaurant, showcased 17 wineries from Valtellina, a wine-producing area in Northern Lombardy, close to Italy’s border with Switzerland. According to the glossy brochures distributed at the event, the region proclaims itself “Italy’s biggest viticulture terraced mountainous area."
Walk into Despana Brand Foods on a Saturday afternoon, and, before you’ve had a chance to take in the surroundings, owner Marcos Intriago will immediately thrust a cup into your hand and fill it with wine. Mr. Intriago and his wife, Angelica, offer free tastings of Spanish wine, meats, and cheeses in their Jackson Heights store every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. When I visited, the place was busy with people enjoying their generous spirit, as well as the samplings of spicy chorizo and cheeses filling a counter lined with terra cotta cazuela dishes.
The small space on Northern Boulevard is a retail showroom for their company, which produces chorizo and other sausages and imports foods from Spain for wholesale distribution.
The shop is stocked with a wide range of Spanish foods that rise up to the ceiling, from a wall lined with Basque specialties, including Rosara jarred beans, Navarra white asparagus, and baby artichokes (below left), to a case full of Serrano ham, salchichon, chorizo, other cured meats, and cheeses (below center) and artisanal chocolate (below right) for combining with hot milk to make thick Chocolate a la Taza.
Despana Brand Foods is located at 86-17 Northern Boulevard, Jackson Heights, New York 11372 (718.779.4971).
1. The American Museum of Natural History has transformed its Museum Cafe into the Petra Cafe on 4 as part of its exhibition "Petra: Lost City of Stone." The menu features traditional Middle Eastern dishes, desserts, and Bedouin Arabic coffee scented with cardamom. The cafe is open 11 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. daily, through July 6. [via New York Times]
2. Academia Barilla Regional Italian Restaurant Week: A Celebration of Italy's Authentic Flavors, Wednesday, October 22, through Wednesday, October 29. Participating New York City restaurants will offer four-course prix-fixe menus celebrating regional Italian cuisine. $60/person. [via Time Out]
3. Experience the Way of Tea, featuring traditional tea service in contemporary tea houses designed and installed by Japanese designer Shigeru Uchida. Wednesday, October 22, and Thursday, October 23, hourly between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., at the Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street. $15 for members/$20 for non-members (212.752.3015).
4. Barolo holds its 12th Annual Truffle Dinner, Thursday, October 23, at 7:00 p.m. $150/person, 398 West Broadway (212.226.1102).
5. Grand Gourmet Tasting Tour, a culinary tour of Midtown Manhattan held by Grand Central Partnership and the American Institute of Wine & Food, Saturday, October 25, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The tour begins at Little Pie Company at Grand Central Terminal. $75/person ($70 AIWF members) (718.229.6565). [via New York Times print]
6. A Festival of Sweets, benefiting scholarships given by Les Dames d'Escoffier, Saturday, October 25, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at the Institute of Culinary Education, 50 West 23rd Street, $20/person (212.966.9799). [via New York Times print]
7. Slow Food USA and The French Culinary Institute present Urban Harvest 2003: Savoring City and Country, Sunday, October 26, 12:00 to 4:00 p.m., 462 Broadway at Grand Street. Tickets: $40 for Slow Food members/$50 for non-members, in advance; $50 for Slow Food members/$60 for non-members, at the door (212.965.5640).
8. Suba's Monday night Pedro Almodovar dinner film screening series continues on October 27 with Flower of My Secret, 8:00 p.m. (212.982.5714). [via Gayot]
9. Bid Against Hunger 2003, auction and tastings benefiting City Harvest, Tuesday, October 28, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Puck Building, 295 Lafayette Street. $200/person. The auction will be followed by a party and dessert tasting at 9:00 p.m. at Canalroom, 285 West Broadway. $65/person (817.351.8700).
Look closely at the stand in this photo posted earlier, and you will see an advertisement for Latte di Mandorla (almond milk), an Italian beverage made from a concentrated paste of ground almonds diluted with water to form a sweet, milky drink.
According to Marcella Magliulo at Buon Italia in Chelsea Market, almond milk is typically served cold, on ice, as a refreshing drink to quench the summer heat in Italy. The smooth, white milk tastes like liquid almonds. The drink may also be varied with the addition of fruit syrups, says Ms. Magliulo.
For an unorthodox improvisation, I like to put a small amount on hot cereal as a sweet and flavorful substitute for milk.
Buon Italia also sells an almond paste which may be diluted with water to make Latte di Mandorla, or used as an ingredient in cooking.
Latte di Mandorla is $3.45 for one liter at Buon Italia at Chelsea Market, 75 9th Avenue, New York, NY 10011 (212.633.9090).
Before bubble tea (also known as "boba" or "sago" tea) hit the tipping point, there was tiny, subterranean Sweet-n-Tart Café, a pioneer in churning out the hot and cold brewed teas blended with milk and chewy black balls of tapioca. While bubble tea shops have popped up all over, from Chinatown and Flushing to the East Village and even Macy's Herald Square, Sweet-n-Tart continues mixing the teas just as it did before the beverage took hold as a popular phenomenon.
But Sweet-n-Tart also makes a delicious line of thirst-quenching juice drinks, embellished with tapioca pearls, that shouldn't be overlooked as the bubble tea bandwagon continues. Sweet, cool, and refreshing, these fresh-squeezed fruit drinks have a striking visual appearance, as the small, white tapioca pearls are suspended in tall glasses of thick, brightly colored juice. The drinks are $3.75 and come in a variety of flavors, including mango, melon, papaya, watermelon, kiwi, and strawberry (pictured above).
Sweet-n-Tart: 76 Mott Street, New York (212.334.8088); 20 Mott Street, New York (212.964.0380); 136-11 38th Ave., Flushing, Queens (718.661.3380).
With an aging of 12 to 18 months, Grana Padano is like the younger sibling of Parmigiano-Reggiano, which may be aged for as long as 24 to 30 months or more. Less expensive than its more famous counterpart, Grana Padano remains very similar in taste and texture to Parmigiano-Reggiano, though it is a milder and less complex cheese. It is, nevertheless, excellent for grating on pasta or for snacking on by the sliver.
“Grana” means grainy, which refers to the somewhat granular texture of the cheese. “Padano” is an adjective describing the Po River Valley in Northern Italy, where the cheese originated in the 12th century as a way for medieval monasteries to preserve excess milk. The cheese is still made in this region today from the milk of grass-fed cows, following the strict guidelines of the Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Grana Padano.
A recent issue (no. 35) of the Italian food and wine magazine Gambero Rosso features an article praising Grana Padano as “Italy’s favorite cheese.” The author, Saverio Paffumi, writes:
Although Italy is proud of producing well over 400 types of cheese (more even than France), one type or another of grana cheese is in 99% of Italian homes. Grana is like bread and spaghetti. There’s no household without it.
Widely available at cheese shops and gourmet stores, Grana Padano is $6.99/pound at Agata & Valentina, 1505 First Avenue (at 79th Street), and $19.95 for 2 pounds online from agferrari.com.