Thursday, April 19, 2007

What's for Dinner? Pretty Pasta!


I was feeling inspired to make something nice for dinner, but I wanted something easy. I went to the gym after work (yay, me!) and didn't finish up until almost 8:30pm. Remembering that I still had the Foglie D'Autunno pasta that I picked up at the West Point Market in Ohio, I decided to make a quick run to Whole Foods for some basil, Parmigiano Reggiano, bread and a bottle of wine to go with the sun dried tomatoes and olive oil I already had at home.

Foglie D'Autonno

Foglie D'Autunno,which translates to the 'leaves of autumn,' is a rustic Italian pasta that's made by Castellana in Apulia, the 'heel' of Italy. It tastes like pasta, so it's nothing special in that regard, it's just that it's so pretty! The colors are made with various vegetable powders—and squid ink!

At Whole Foods, I ended up buying a Pecorino Tartufello, which is an Italian sheep's whole pieces of black truffles, instead of the Parmigiano. I wasn't positive that it would work with the basil and the sun dried tomatoes, but I love truffles so I thought I'd give it a try. The wine I chose was the Da Vinci 2005 Chianti Classico. I've been wanting to try this for a while. The 2004 was highly rated for such an inexpensive wine—the 2005 was $10.99. I also picked up some Sicilian-style marinated olives and a small loaf of Ciabatta (Italian 'slipper' bread, named for it's shape).


I tossed the pasta with Frantoia, an Italian olive oil that was a favorite at the Chopping Block and one of mine as well. I added the basil and sun dried tomatoes, both of which I sliced chiffonade (in thin strips). The Pecorino Tartufello was pretty powerful so I only used a little; I used a vegetable peeler to make thin slivers to top the pasta. I warmed the bread, sliced it, and poured a little more of the Frantoia into a saucer for dipping. I also added a couple the olives on the side to complete the meal.

Finished Meal

Everything went together pretty well. The wine wasn't the best match—I guessed when I picked it up that it might be a little too fruity to stand up to the truffles and the olives, and I was right. I think it would go better with a tomato-based sauce or a regular Pecorino. But the wine that I thought would match perfectly was $20, so this was good enough! It made for a rustically simple meal, but it was quite satisfying and again, very pretty! Not quite as exciting as the Digg party I'm missing right now (I'm listening to it enviously via; it sounds fun!) but it'll do.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Calacanis on Barcelona

Jason Calacanis is currently in Barcelona to give a talk on Social Media. Befitting that subject, he's been posting frequently on Twitter about Barcelonian food. He sent a Tweet out earlier today looking for advice on finding the best rabbit in the area, and the current update: "At abasolo etxea with my friend Xavier in barcelona. Amazing rabbit I'm told!!!" I've been enjoying his commentary immensely, and oh, how I would have loved to have been at the Barcelona Blogger/Web 2.0 dinner! Read more about his experience and drool over the imagery here: Tapas in Barcelona.

New Basque cuisine seems to be playing a major role in culinary evolution here in Chicago. I've often heard Alinea referred to as second only to El Bulli, the world renowned restaurant just outside of Barcelona. Cantu of Moto is also considered to be directly inspired by El Bulli chef Ferran Adria, who is credited as being the founder of the molecular gastronomy movement. Even Ambria, classically French, is currently offering a Tribute to Spain tasting menu that features Basque cuisine. And speaking of Ambria, I had the chance to dine there recently. It was fabulous, of course, and I'll be posting more on that experience very soon.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tasty Tech at the Food Network Awards

I don't watch much of the Food Network. Not because I dislike it, but because I rarely sit down and watch shows on an actual television and so far I haven't been interested enough to seek out the torrents. Therefore, the first annual Food Network Awards was only vaguely on my radar, but enough so that I did check out the website.

I'm sure that, even if I had watched the show, I wouldn't agree with Bourdain's rant on "Last night, during the breathtakingly awful, interminable cruelty that was The Food Network Awards, I even found myself feeling bad for Rachael Ray." Don't follow the link if you're not fond of profanity—it took me a minute to settle on a usable quote that didn't contain a colorful string. While I find the Food Network a little fluffy, and am aware that it's celebrities are often chosen for their cute-factor rather than their culinary ability, it's driven Americans to get more interested in good food and I can only thank them for that. It's not the Food Network's fault that we prefer everything fed to us with that special Hollywood-style seasoning.

There were only a few highlights for me from the award pickings. I was somewhat surprised that they had a Tasty Technology category (although I guess I really shouldn't be), and the most geek-friendly award winner was the PoliScience Anti-Griddle. It flash freezes instead of grills, and was created for Grant Achatz in 2004 (PoliScience is based in the Chicago suburbs). There's an interesting article about it on Chow (and I think I might change my tagline).

Other winners that I thought were interesting:

  • MooBella Ice Cream: A vending maching that uses "a multi-patented, fully automated ice cream process" to create custom ice cream on the spot.
  • Zingerman's: Z - Club: A "gift for the adventurous eater." Zingerman's supplies a boxed collection of rare and specialty foods such as "olio nuovo, a coveted version of the new season's olive oil pressed and bottled just days ago, or maybe a cheese from one of America’s small dairies" up to four times a year.
  • Liz Hickok, Jell-O Artist: Cities of Jell-O. Go look—it's cool!
I also have to give a little shout-out to Matt Lee and Ted Lee of the Boiled Peanuts Catalog. They lost to Alicia Polak of the Khaya Cookie Company under the category of Edible Entrepreneur of the Year. Polak hires South African men and women to bake handmade cookies that are brought to the U.S., so the award was well-given. But there's a Southern heart beating deep inside this yankified urbanite, so I just had to mention the boiled peanut boys. I might just have to order one of those boil-your-own peanuts kits...