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Giovanni Rana Pasta and Sauces

pasta1

TORTELLONI PROSCIUTTO w/ MARINARA

I recently had the opportunity to try the new line of Giovanni Rana fresh pastas and sauces. If you live in NY or Italy you may be familiar with Giovanni. From what I read online, he is a very popular guy and has a restaurant in Chelsea Market. All varieties of pasta tasted great but my favorites were the spinach and the mushroom ravs. I don’t have an Italian grandmother but if I did I imagine her bolognese sauce would be just like Giovanni’s. I was really impressed.

pasta2

FETTUCCINE PAGLIA E FIENO w/ BOLOGNESE

ranaThe best part is that you can have dinner on the table in 10 minutes. No exaggerating. The pasta cooks in under 4 minutes.  Find the Rana products in your local safeway supermarket –refrigerated section.

Thanks Gio!

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Risotto with Leeks, Shiitake Mushrooms & Truffle Oil


This was the  first recipe I made with items from my Full Circle organic produce delivery. Mike is not a fan of truffle oil but he loved this dish. All the ingredients worked together magically!

Tip: It was hot out and I was not about to turn on the oven… so for the mushrooms I just sauteed them in a pan!

shrooms & onions                     leeks & cream                              rice & stock

Recipe link
Bon Appétit | September 2007

Redd Wood

Famed chef Richard Reddington has opened a casual Italian eatery in Yountville down the street from his Michelin star restaurant REDD.

We arrived early on a Friday night and the restaurant was pretty empty except for the mini bar area which was standing room only. The tables around us seemed to be filled with locals as they knew the staff and brought plenty of their own wine. We were seated in a cozy corner booth that had a view of the entire restaurant. We decided to get a sampling of eats to share. We started off with the grilled artichokes with balsamic & Parmesan cheese which was crazy good but messy. I wouldn’t recommend ordering if you are on a first date. The balsamic glaze ended up all over our fingers and dripping down our arms (but maybe this just happens to us :) ).

Next, potato gnocchi w/ duck leg, rosemary, olives & pancetta. There was no real sauce just the natural juices from the duck. LOVED this.


Of course we had to try one of the wood fired pizzas. We went with the basic fresh mozzarella, tomato & basil. I was expecting this to be my favorite part of our meal but it wasn’t. It was good but the crust was a little over-charred which left a burnt taste in my mouth. Minor mishap.


We finished with the chocolate caramel tart w/ praline & sea salt which was highly reccomended by our server. It was super rich so we had a hard time finishing it. If you are a chocolate lover this dessert is for you!

I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived since the reviews I had read were hit and miss but I really enjoyed the food, service and vibe so I will definitely return.

Rating: 

Website: http://www.redd-wood.com/

Redd Wood on Urbanspoon

SPORTELLO restaurant & DRINK cocktail bar

On our second evening we ventured to the waterfront area for dinner and drinks at Sportello and Drink, both owned by one of Boston’s most renowned chefs Barbara Lynch.

Sportello (Italian for counter) is a modern Italian take on a diner. The restaurant is composed of almost all counter seating with an open kitchen. The vibe is young and hip…you have to be to sit on a stool for 2 hours : )

We started with the beat, avocado & crab salad and they brought some of the softest bread I’ve ever had along with a cheese, oil & jam concoction that was to die for.

    

Mains included: tagliatelle pasta with sauce bolognese and fried basil for me and anson mills polenta with wild boar ragu for Mike.

 

We finished things off by splitting an ice cream sandwich composed of salty pistachio cookies and chocolate gelato (grand combo). All the food was simply prepared and presented but tasted fantastic. I would come back here in a heartbeat. Bravo Barbara!

Website: http://www.sportelloboston.com/

Sportello on Urbanspoon

Located under Sportello is the bar Drink. This was the first time we had been to a bar that specializes in the art of cocktails. When you arrive you can’t just belly up to the bar and yell at the bartender. You have to wait for the hostess to show you to a spot either at a stool at the bar, or at the standing only counter tops that run along the walls. Then a server will come and take your order. There is no drink menu (except if you have wine) you simply tell your server your favorite flavors, liquor, or mood you are in and they will return with a drink prepared especially for you by a mixologists. We normally don’t drink cocktails so we had no idea what to order but our server returned with two really nice drinks without much input from us: Gimlet (gin/lime) for Mike and a Bohemian (vodka/grapefruit) for me. This was the perfect ending to our night out.

Website: http://drinkfortpoint.com/

Ratings:

Drink on Urbanspoon

Shrimp and Fingerling Potatoes in Tomato Broth


My bread was super happy to slop up this broth. It was tasty and hearty but next time I would add some more variety of fish. Maybe scallops and halibut.

Recipe link
Bon Appétit | February 2009

Grilled Pizza

I’ve read articles about grilling pizza for years. We finally gave it a go. I don’t know if I’ve said it before but pizza may be my favorite food. I can eat it daily. To make life easy we used Trader Joe’s pre-made pizza dough. A 1 pound ball produces one large regular crust pizza with a crispy outside and soft inside or two thin crust pizzas. We had 2 balls one white and one wheat so we tried both sizes. It was much easier to make two small pizza’s… being able to flip raw dough onto the grill without making a mess takes mad skilz.

What we made:
Wheat pizza dough with onions,peppers, shrooms, buffalo mozz and tomato sauce.
White pizza dough with tomato sauce, buffalo mozz, fresh basil, crushed black pepper and sea salt.

Step by Step Instructions

The directions say to brush the raw dough with olive oil before grilling. We used olive oil mixed with crushed garlic cloves to add a little zing.

It was time consuming to make but well worth it. The pizza turned out delicious. Just like those fancy artisanal pizza joints with brick ovens.

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Creamy Tomato Soup

tomato soup

We just received a copy of a new cookbook published by Mike’s family friend. The book is filled with mouthwatering classic Italian recipes that are simple and quick to prepare. The prominent theme throughout is the importance of eating together as a family and it stresses the benefits of getting children involved with cooking at home at an early age. Recipes come complete with kitchen tips, weekly menus and shopping lists for people on the go. It also includes useful sections that help you decide what to make with the items you have in your fridge and how to turn leftovers into a delicious meal.

The first thing we decided to make was the tomato soup because we had some ripe heirloom tomatoes that needed to be devoured. The soup turned out lovely and surprisingly light. We paired it with a grilled cheese panini. Delightful!

If you’re looking for easy, healthy and flavorful dishes pick up a copy of Cooking Dinner: Simple Italian Family Recipes Everyone Can Make by Rima Barkett & Claudia Pruett

Recipe for Creamy Tomato Soup
Adapted from Cooking Dinner by Barkett & Pruett

1/4 cup olive oil
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, chopped fine
1 celery rib, chopped fine
4 fresh basil leaves
1 small sprig fresh oregano
1 small sprig fresh thyme
1/2 tsp sea salt
dash ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 28-oz can quality diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, optional

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic,onion,carrot and celery. Saute 5-8 minutes, stirring often. Add herbs, salt, pepper and wine, reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes more. Add diced tomatoes and 1 cup broth. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 min. Remove from heat. Remove herbs and blend soup with an immersion blender or in small batches in blender. Be careful of hot liquid! Add remaining broth and cream. Reheat over low heat until barely boiling. Taste and adjust salt/pepper.

*We used 1/2 canned and 1/2 fresh tomatoes. Makes 4 small bowls or 2 large.


Eggplant Parmesan: Parmigiana di Melanzane

eggplantparm
OMG! This was awesome. Little stacks from heaven. Mario put his foot in this recipe. If you like eggplant, you’ll love this…heck, if you don’t like eggplant I have a feeling you’ll like this. It was time consuming and messy to make (why are eggplant recipes always so complicated?) but sooo worth it. The tomato sauce that went along with this will now be our go-to pasta sauce. I would of been happy with just a bowl of sauce!

Recipe link

Tra Vigne

travigne

For 20 years Tra Vigne has been a Napa staple serving up classic Italian cuisine. When we arrived we were seated in a large booth in the gorgeous open air dining room. We started our dinner with the hand made mozzarella and garlic crostini. It’s as fresh as you can get as it is made the moment you order. This appetizer is becoming one of their signature dishes and it didn’t disappoint. The cheese was smooth and milky and the bread was perfectly browned. Mike and I both opted for house made pasta for our main courses. I chose the rigatoni carbonara and he had the duck risotto with apples and thyme. Mike never orders risotto but the way the server described the dish he couldn’t say no. This was my first carbonara… I’m usually a red sauce gal but for some reason this called to me. The sauce was rich, creamy and peppery with thick slices of bacon. It was delicious, but filling. I could only finish half. Mike was in heaven with his duck which was succulent and tender. He said this was the best risotto he ever had (next to his). We really should have called it a night but, of course, we had to order dessert. Unfortunately it wasn’t a highlight. The gelato tasted like ice milk and the chocolate torte was just so-so. Next time we will pass on dessert and leave on a high note. If you’re looking for a great Italian meal at a reasonable price you can count on Tra Vigne!

rigcarbon duckrisotto1

Rating: drumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick ratinghalfdrumstick

Website: http://www.travignerestaurant.com/
Tra Vigne on Urbanspoon

Enoteca San Marco

On our last night in Vegas we decided to have a light, casual meal at Mario Batali’s Enoteca San Marco at the Venetian. The restaurant is located in the Grand Canal Shoppes area of the hotel.

We started things off with a Caprese salad. It was the most interesting and tasty version of a caprese salad that I’d ever had. No sliced tomatoes and cheese. What we received was a ball of mozzarella surrounded by roasted tomatoes and covered in garlic pesto and pinenuts. I actually found a version of the recipe on epicurious. I plan on making this at home. Recipe link

or you can find the original recipe in Mario’s cookbook: Molto Italiano

Mike and I then shared an order of veal and ricotta meatballs and the cavatappi primavera which is corkscrew pasta and fresh veggies tossed with olive oil and cheese. Both were outstanding. We of course couldn’t leave without getting dessert. We had seen gelato shops all over Vegas for 2 days and we waited until now to get any. We chose 2 sundaes to share. Yes, two! The first was banana gelato with walnuts, chopped banana, carmel sauce and mini banana muffins. YUM!! The second was espresso gelato with marscapone, espresso bean chips, chocolate sauce and lady fingers. YUM YUM!! Both were deliciously sinful. Enoteca is great for lunch or dinner. In addition to the pasta they offer thin personal pizzas and many antipasti dishes. We highly recommend you visit.

This was a wonderful way to end our Vegas vacation. In regards to the weekend battle between Flay and Batali… Who’s cuisine reigned supreme? Chef Batali!

Rating: halfdrumstick

Website: http://www.venetian.com/ENOTECA.aspx

Enoteca San Marco (Venetian) on Urbanspoon

Ristorante Da Mario – the best Bolognese around

My favorite cuisine is Italian. All my life I have been searching for the perfect bowl of ragu. I have found it (well at least the best so far). If you stroll the streets of downtown Saratoga you will find a handful of quirky stores and upscale/expensive restaurants. To our surprise last year a quaint little Italian restaurant opened up. We’ve dropped in three times and have never been disappointed. Last week we took a friend to dinner. We started things off with an Antipasto platter that included mozzarella, San Daniele prosciutto and two types of bruschetta (tomato and mushroom). Everything was fresh and flavorful. We also had a new addition to the menu a thinly sliced stuffed eggplant with a marinara sauce. It resembled a cannelloni and was wonderful. For the main course I had my usual — the Spaghetti Bolognese. I just can’t say enough about this little bowl of heaven.

The sauce is light with lots of tiny bits of meat and mushrooms. I could eat it every day. By the way the Spaghetti with meatballs is just as good. Mike had the veal piccata and our guest had the homemade gnocchi with pesto and Gorgonzola cheese sauce. I’ve never been a fan of gnocchi but Mike and our friend both said they were fantastic. To finish things off we ordered the tiramisu and chocolate macaroons. Be sure to leave room for dessert because the tiramisu is some of the best I’ve ever had. During our meal Mike attempted to get the ragu recipe out of the hostess but she wasn’t leaking any family secrets. I guess we’ll just have to continue to visit Da Mario for all my future ragu cravings…

Rating: drumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick rating
Website: http://www.ristorantedamario.com/

Ristorante Da Mario Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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