May 31, 2011

Il Cane Rosso - A taste of Naples

As I'm sure you can tell, I am completely preoccupied with Italian food.  I could eat it every day of the week.  "How?" you may ask.  Well, if you have access to the amazing variety of Italian food that we have in Dallas, you would eat Italian just as often!

My second favorite Italian food joint is Il Cane Rosso.  Jay Jerrier has a passion for Napoleon style pizza and has made it the mission of Cane Rosso to supply Dallas with pies you only dream about.  Cane Rosso began with their mobile pizza oven.  The wood fire oven was specially crafted in Italy and fastened to a trailer.  The mobile oven stakes out predetermined locations, such as Times Ten Cellars in Lakewood, to serve up freshly cooked pizzas.  This "guerilla restaurant" gave the Cane Rosso guys a chance to build a solid rep of producing uniquely delicious pizza.  Cane Rosso found a home in Deep Ellum, Dallas, and now serves lunch and dinner from their second imported oven installed in their new digs.  Cane Rosso has recently been certified by Vera Pizza Napolentana Association for their high standards in creating authentic Napoleon pizza.

Salumi Misti

Italian tomatos, fresh mozzarella, basil,
Jimmy's sausage,  hot soppresata, mushrooms

Che Cazzo
"Trust Your Pizzaiolo... Always Spicy" - This is my fave!!
Dog friendly patio so Thomas can come, too!
The next time you're in Dallas, I recommend swinging by Il Cane Rosso.  What is your favorite casual dining restaurant? or favorite type of food?

May 23, 2011

Dallas Italian: Nonna

When we're not on the road, we are more than happy to take part in the Dallas food scene.  I know that "Dallas" may not immediately roll of the tongue when you think of a busy foodie scene, but let me tell ya, we know food in Dallas!  My first example is Nonna.

Nonna is a non assuming little restaurant spot located in a strip mall across the street from my Whole Foods.  I've driven past it countless times and finally made my first reservation a couple weeks ago. Nonna has received accolades from the likes of Bon Appetit magazine, NY Times, and Dallas' own D Magazine.  I was truly looking forward to their spring menu featuring Roman dishes and couldn't have been more thrilled with what we were served.

We began with a large format Barolo (don't judge, we can handle a liter of wine very easily!).  Our favorite antipasta is a good salumi plate, so that was an easy choice.  Each table is welcomed with warm from the oven bread.  For the main course, or courses in our case, we ordered the Five Course Pasta Tasting.  The tasting was a great way to enjoy a tour of Nonna's opinion of Italian dishes. I like how Nonna made these traditional Italian pasta dishes seem more contemporary and trendy with Uni and Saffron and added a little Texas heat with fresh peppers.  Even so, the effect from the diverse pasta plates gave you a worldly, Roman feeling.

Serralunga D'Alba Barolo

Artisanal Pecorinos and Salumi: Moliterno al Tartufo, Pecorino Nocino, Pecorino di Pienza a Crosta Nera, speck, coppa and fennel salame
Bread served fresh from the brick oven

Cacio e Pepe - My favorite Roman pasta dish

Spaghettini Neri with baby Manila clams, Uni, white wine, shallot and Calabrian hot pepper

Tonnareli alla Carbonara: pancetta, farm egg, pecorino and black pepper

Papparedelle al ragu Bolognese

Saffron Pennette cooked like risotto with white shrimp, oven dried tomatoes and squash blossoms
What is the food scene like in your town?  What are some of your favorite local restaurants?  I'd love you hear your experiences and (most of all) your recommendations!

May 20, 2011

Destination: Rome, Italy - Part 1

My absolute favorite city in the world is The Eternal City, Rome.  Last night, I watched a BBC special on Italy's Renaissance gardens.  The special really took me back to Rome, so I wanted to share a little about my adventure with you.

We packed our bags and headed to Rome last fall.  From our room at the Westin located on the infamous Via Vittorio Veneto, to the magical discovery of il Boom restaurant in the Travestere, our Roman adventure was a trip of a lifetime.

First, the Westin Excelsior was located in the perfect spot in the city.  The hotel was a few short blocks from the Villa Borghese gardens and museum.  Right on the edge of the city, we could walk to the ancient city walls that once stood in defiance to anyone who would challenge the might of Rome.  The street Via  Veneto was the central location for the film La Dolce Vita.  This area does not lack in opulence.  Some of the best Italian boutiques have a shop on the street.  Of course, $15 martinis aren't really our scene, so we set out to find other options for entertainment.
Our room in the Westin

Double sinks, robes, shower/bath, that's how I like to travel in Europe
Example of the high end boutiques near our hotel

My favorite site was, of course, The Vatican.  I attended catholic grade school and had an small idea of what we may expect from the grandeur of the "Christian Rome".  What I didn't expect was how culturally diverse Rome is.  One night, we set out to find a restaurant we found on TripAdvisor.  The restaurant was located in a quiet corner of the Jewish Ghetto.  We walked into the restaurant and were promptly seated by a non-English speaking man.  Though we couldn't communicate directly, the restaurant owner began bringing us plate after plate of artisan cheeses and cured meats.  Each plate was accompanied with a new bottle of wine.  It felt a little rude to leave any food behind, so we stuffed ourselves to the maximum!  After dinner, he brought over some grappa and insisted we indulge in the after dinner drink.  The authentic food, the boisterous host, the language barrier, were all seemingly elements of a romantic movie.  Such a magical night!

Just south of Vatican City, lies the Trastevere.  The Trastevere's beginnings stem from rebellious Etruscans.  The Etruscans were eventually conquered by Rome, but their rebellious spirit seems to linger in the Trastevere.  The narrow, cobble stoned streets are home to universities, artists, coffee shops and famous people alike.  You can think of the Trastevere as a Roman Tribeca.

On a rainy evening, we set out in the Trastevere in search for the perfect Cacio e Pepe.  We had watched the Anthony Bourdain Rome special and were determined to find this featured dish.  After following winding roads for a bit, we reached our destination, Il Boom.  Now, this restaurant turned out not being the restaurant featured on No Reservations, but Il Boom was a fantastic discovery nonetheless.  The interior is a throw back to the La Dolce Vita days.  There were old photographs and movie posters covering the walls as well as an old fashion juke box by the door.  The ambiance was that of a carefree time when people were dressed to the 9's and ready to indulge in the sweetness of life.  Our server was quite the hospitable host.  He made great food and wine recommendations.  After the meal, he served us limoncello and grappa to our hearts' content. (....which we lived to regret in the morning!)  Before the week had ended, we made it a point to return to Il Boom for a second meal.  This time a lunch.  Our waiter remembered us, sat us at the same table, and offered us the same great service we received a few nights prior.  We kindly declined the grappa.

I love the casual atmosphere and fun retro pop elements


"Il Boom"

Clams and mussels.  The waiter said it is required to eat the butter sauce with the bread because that is the Roman way.  No arguments here!

Above: Cacio e Pepe traditional Roman dish
Below: Lasagna Bolognese cooked to perfection

Largest bottle of grappa I've ever seen!

There is just so much that is great about my precious Roma.  Have you been to Rome?  What is your favorite city?  Expect follow up posts with other stories and pictures from our trip!

May 7, 2011

Uni, Butterfish Tapas Style Goodness!!

Once we had our fill of wine in Sonoma Valley, CA, we headed into downtown Healdsburg in search of dinner.  We decided on Willi's Seafood & Raw Bars.  The restaurant has a tapas style menu, great wine selection (duh!) and plenty of raw items for the choosing.  Since we were looking to soak up some of the wine for the drive back to the hotel, we decided on a few small plates instead of diving into the raw bar.  The first thing we ordered was a lobster roll.  The roll didn't have too much spice or mayo to cover the fresh lobster taste.  We even bought three lobsters to make into rolls this weekend.
Warm Maine Lobster with Garlic Butter & Fennel
Next up, we have the uni mac & cheese.  Nope, that's not a typo.  This mac & cheese dish has noodles, scallops, an uni cheese sauce, and bread crumbs on top.  I died.  I think we could have put down three more orders of this surprising take on a comfort food dish.
Uni “Mac & Cheese” with Chives & Sweet Bay Scallops
Moving on, we ordered a lump crab cake.  It was good enough to mention, but not the best "all meat" crab cake I've ever had.  My favorite crab cake is served at Splendido in Beaver Creek, CO.  We enjoy heading to Colorado to escape the Texas heat.
Dungeness Crab Cake
Last up is caramelized butterfish.  I've never even heard of this light fish.  I felt like I was eating an entire filet of toro.  The butterfish was airy, like little cloud pillows.  It was heaven! The oyster mushrooms were a great touch.

Caramelized Butterfish with Miso Vinaigrette & Exotic Mushroom

I'm sure we'll make it back by Willi's on our next trip to Sonoma.  Do you like seafood?  I'd love to hear about any recipe or restaurant recommendations!!

May 4, 2011

Destination: Sonoma Valley

On Sunday, we continued our wine country adventure by heading into Sonoma Valley.  We began the morning stopping at a coffee stand we saw on the side of the road.  Bo’s Brew was a cute little trailer where we grabbed a couple of hot bevies and breakfast burritos.

Inside look at our breakfast trailer!

How could we resist this adorable coffee trailer?!?
After we finished eating, we headed to Korbel California Champagne. I mean, what’s wrong with sampling some “bubbles” first thing in the morning??!  Neither of us had been to a champagne winery, so we were really looking forward to learning the champagne process on the tour.  The grounds are spectacularly shaded by 200 year old redwoods and beautiful greenery.  Korbel offers a free tour a few times a day which includes free champagne tasting at the end of the tour.  We learned about the wide variety of champagne Korbel produces, a lot about the fermentation process (if you are squeamish, you may rather not know about what had been growing in your bottles), and how the bottles were formerly hand corked.  The Organic Brut was my favorite champagne we tasted.

200 year old redwoods

Such variety!

The Organic Brut was my favorite

We hit the road after Korbel and headed into the Russian River Valley.  This area is so luscious and green.  The windy roads reminded me of the Tuscan road trip we recently took.  Our first stop was Thomas George Estates.  They have the cutest guest cottages on the estate and plenty of shaded picnic areas to plop down, cork some wine and relax.  The girls in the cave were very knowledgeable about their wines and eager to help us stock up.  Their pinot noir is so INSANE that we brought home two bottles (not to discount the other three bottles we took to the car as well!).  I’m looking forward to heading back to Thomas George Estates as an overnight guest.
One lane bridge, we had to take turns crossing

Thomas George Estates

Wine cave

Picnic area

Hop Kiln winery was the last tasting we hit on Sunday. The grounds are beautiful and the old fashioned barn tasting room is so unique compared to the castle-esque and overly majestic tasting rooms at some of the wineries we visited in Napa.  The guys behind the counter were really nice.  The tasting room had a bunch of d├ęcor for sale and an entire mustard bar.  The Hop Kiln chef cooked up some brisket sliders to pair with their pinot noir sample we tasted.

Hop Kiln

Chef preparing sliders to pair with the tasting.  Notice all the mustard!

Pond behind the bar
Tasting area
Our last stop was Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar in Healdsburg.  I can’t say enough about the food we had there, so I’m going to post those thoughts and pics in my next post.  Stay tuned!!
Napa vs. Sonoma, which do you prefer?  Do you know why Korbel can call their sparkling wine Champagne??  I’d love to know your thoughts!!

May 3, 2011

Destination: Napa Valley

We booked last minute flights this past Thursday night to spend the weekend in California wine country.  After a quick 7:00am flight from DFW, we were headed North on the 101 from SFO to wine country.  Our first stop was Napa Valley. 
My favorite thing about exploring wine country is the adventures that tend to spring up when you are en route to a wine tasting.  While heading into Napa, we happened upon the cutest roadside diner, The Fremont Diner.  Their menu is a collection of comfort foods.  Snacks include Cracklin (deep fried pig skins) and Fremont Sliders.  Smoked “Whole Hog” and Brisket Plate are fresh from their own smoker.  We ordered the Chili Con Carne for me and a “Whole Hog” for Eric.  We even had a strawberry milkshake for a starter.  From the turquoise painted picnic tables to the glass jars for drinking, The Fremont Diner successfully harnesses that old California nostalgia.  Next time, I’m trying the chicken and waffles.  I think Mildred Pierce would approve!
Chili con Carne

Whole Hog

10 oz Strawberry Milkshake

Drinking jars and Crystal hot sauce!!

Rooster (chicken?) roaming the grounds

Outdoor seating option.  Notice the vinyard in the background.  There is also indoor diner seating, but I didn't think to snap a pic -- Fail!

We began our wine route with a tasting at Bouchaine.  Next we stopped at Goosecross cellars (my favorite!) for a tasting and to replenish our stock of their wine.  My new favorite is the Tempranillo that they just released.  They did a great job with the Spanish grape!!  We then headed to M. Cosatino, and lastly stopped at V. Sattui – we always seem to forget how busy V. Sattui is and make the mistake of stopping.  We quickly left V. Sattui and headed to Santa Rosa for dinner.
For dinner, we chose a casual place called Rosso.  Rosso is a local restaurant participating in the “Slow Food” movement.  Rosso specializes in brick oven pizza, so, of course, we had to try the place out.  We started the meal off with an order of burrata + prosciutto di Parma and an order of burrata stuffed with goat curd + EVOO + mint gremolata – the second was the waiter’s suggestion.  For pies, each of us ordered our own.  My favorite ingredient from any of the dishes was the prosciutto.  It had a great flavor for having been imported.  Sometimes the prosciutto I eat is really dry and doesn’t cut well with a fork.  This prosciutto cut like butter.  Mmmm.....

burrata + prosciutto di Parma

burrata stuffed with goat curd + EVOO + mint gremolata

flat bread

Margherita + prosciutto di Parma

Goomba -- Yes, that is spaghetti and meatballs on the pie!  It tastes like spaghetti wrapped in garlic bread.

Funghi + Sonoma organic egg -- The egg made the pie!

"In Italy they say 'Red wine is good for the baby's blood'" -- I think I heard that on one of our recent Italy trips

Napa was a great day!  What are your favorite wine trails?  Rioja?  Napa?  Tuscany?  Look for my next post on Sonoma.  We discovered some amazing hidden gems in the Russian River Valley that I am very excited to share with you!!