Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I will preface this by saying...this is by no means a 'review'... (that will come later, when I have more people who want to come with me so we can try many more dishes! - accepting volunteers now...!!) hence this being (oddly for me) pictureless because I wanted to just sit back and savor the meal and not have to remember my camera!

So this Pictureless-Non-Review is simply a post of complete excitement as one of my favorite restaurants is Opening again!

Vero - Cibo - Vino - Liquori Bar (clicky, clicky) in Amityville, NY

I was a regular guest at Vero when they opened in November of 2010...even celebrating with friends New Years Eve to a delicious meal in an amazing atmosphere. 

Unfortunately Vero has been closed for renovations after a fire -but friends...November 1 they are officially open for business!

(I actually herd angles singing in my head when I got that news...as it had been way too long since I had the amazing Cesare alla Griglia (grilled ceasar salad), the Caponata Siciliana (eggplant) or the utterly delicious Lamb Lollipops - which were some of my favorites during previous visits)

I am thrilled to say that last night, Dave and I were able to go to Vero on their first soft opening night to enjoy a much anticipated-absolutely-delicious-can't-wait-to-go-back-again-meal!

There were four of us having dinner, which actually started out with a cocktail at the bar.  With a well thought out wine list, a large and unique beer list as well as a plethora of unique cocktails - how does one choose?? 

I stuck to a lovely Cabernet (as my motto is when you don't know what to choose - drink Cab!) and Dave beer - a really dark, creamy, hint of coffee/chocolate-esque Porter... Elena a cocktail from the menu, which she absolutely enjoyed (I wasn't around to hear what it was but looked luscious) and Andy a different kind of beer (again, wasn't around to hear what it was, but he drank it the rest of night, so he must have liked it!).  

I mention cocktails and beer now (as we all know I'm a wino) because while the wine list is fantastic - the beer menu and the specialty cocktails are worth a look (or two!) ... and a try!  Some very unique beverages for you to test out...And when I do a full on review - I won't have room to mention the bar (which is a fantastic setting) and its offerings!

For our starter...we opted for a sampling of the Formaggi, Salumi and Olives ... holy can you say "meal in itself?"... except there is so much more to try (I warn you - you'll leave there very full, but oh-so-satisfied!). 

The board it comes on is huge...and there are piles of salumi (we got the Bresacola, Coppa and Dave's favorite, the Mortadella) and enough cheese to put me right into my "i love life Happy Place"... Burrata (we all know how much I love that...a love I was introduced to at Vero!), an amazing Gorgonzola, of course a Parmigiano Reggiano...the assortment of cheeses offered on the menu is simply wonderful.  The board is served with a home made Giardiniera, a jam (ours was carrot!) as well as a grape and mint salad.  Each and everything was a perfect accompaniment to the Salumi and Cheeses.  Just wait til I have pictures, folks!!

After that delicious, pungent, creamy, meaty start - we opted for a few hot dishes to try.  Of course the Polenta Fries with Roasted Tomato Pesto... I simply can not go to Vero with out ordering these! Crispy, light, buttery, creamy...this hit all the notes and then when you add the pesto, a touch of sweet... a must have!

Our pasta dishes were:
The Garganelli with the duck ragu ... pasta cooked to perfection and a sauce that is rich, delicious and tender all on a plate.  I'm very new to eating duck - and often times will shy away - but not with this dish!

Gnocchi with the ragu of the night ... pork and mushroom i think... I was too busy shoveling it in my face to pay attention!  These little pillows of clouds simply melt in your mouth and leave you with a beautiful, chunky, meaty ragu that is just so flavorful.  We (thankfully!) had enough left over so I could eat it again for breakfast this morning!! What a treat!

Arm twisted for dessert, with lovely little - and surprisingly light - donuts in a trio of sauces (raspberry, chocolate and the carrot jam - which so worked with this!)... but my favorite of the night was the chocolate Ganache and Pistachio mousse.  I mean, my favorite word in the world after wine and cheese is Ganache...this was a mix of luxury and lightness, sweet and salty that was just the perfect way to end a meal!

Compliments to Chef Massimo and all of the staff for a delicious meal and great service....And a very heartfelt thanks to Michael and Kristy for a really fantastic evening...and a very loud Congratulations in the re-opening of Vero!

Friends...I suggest you make your reservations at Open Table as soon as possible!!  See you there!

(By the way ... who's coming back with me and when??  Can you imagine how long the review will be with pictures and oh so many more dishes to try?!?!?)

Until Next Time...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Waiters, Tips and Service

I had an interesting thing happen this past week that has sparked a thought process…Yes, they can be random at best, so thanks in advance for reading this long blog!!

I was in NYC with some friends at a restaurant.  It was just an OK place to grab a bite after doing a walking tour (Can you guess what the tour was by this Picture??)
Anyway – the restaurant was nothing gourmet by any means...not memorable enough to remember the name of the place (hence not blogging about the meal!) but with service that was absolutely memorable.  Our waiter Walter was amazing.  Anything we asked was answered with “of course”…and while I could go on about the little things he did – his professional behavior and stellar customer service was really a stand out.

He impressed so much, that one of my friends asked him to see the Manager… (mind you we hadn’t even eaten our main course yet and Walter did look a little freaked out!).  Without question, Walter said “Of Course” and got the manager.  When he came to the table, she said, “I just wanted to let you know that Walter’s service is amazing.” 

I wonder how many of you think to do that.  We all are so quick to complain – but how many of us tell either the manager or even the waiter themselves what a great job they are doing?

Of course that got me to thinking about tips…as at the end of the day, Walter knew he was appreciated by the 45% tip we ended up leaving him.  Excessive, absolutely … but with 7 women at the table who were very impressed with his service…we all just threw in above and beyond to say Thank you.

I’ve never been a waiter, but I married one (does that elude to "I played one on TV??").  I know me enough that I do not have the temperament or the personality for that particular job.  And after knowing my husband just shy of a decade, I have a deep appreciation for anyone who has the patience, energy and overall amazing demeanor to service the public. 

I hate most of the public…you’ll get that feel as you read through my blogs and we get to know each other…Unfortunately, a waiter doesn’t have the luxury of outright hating the public – they must cater to the public - give in to ever whim, thought and desire of the customer they are helping that evening. OH, no…I couldn’t do that to save my life. I swear if someone snapped their fingers at me, I’d walk over and slap them.

I’ve witnessed many a “did that just really happen?” incidents in restaurants involving waiters and customers…and I’ve heard many a funny, irritating, down right ‘people-are-disgusting’ stories from Dave and other friends in the restaurant industry. 

Let me tell you my favorite of all Dave-isms from his tenure in the business…this makes me chuckle every time!

Two ladies come in for lunch…each have a burger and a beverage and ask for separate checks (in case you don’t know, that is one of a waiters least favorite questions to be asked). Dave brings them their checks, they pay and leave.  One of the ladies left an appropriate tip for her portion of the bill…the other lady put on the tip line - no monetary tip, but the words “Jesus Loves You”.


Maybe it’s an occupational thing – but these days when Dave and I go out, we’re always leaving over 20% when we have good service in a restaurant.

This is a scenario I witnessed recently:
A group of diners are in a restaurant…the service is fine, they were being paid attention to, they never wanted for a drink nor did they have to ask for more bread or butter, their special requests were handled with ease…
One of their appetizers wasn’t cooked to her liking…the waiter took it back and did bring another a short time later.  Another didn’t like how his meat was cooked, but just ate it anyway.   

Upon paying the bill, the guy actually said that he was tipping 10% because of the errors with the meal…specifically said ‘that will show him’.

Ahhh....What did the waiter do?  They served; they did their job, but because the food wasn’t correct people feel the need to take it out on the waiter (um…isn’t that the chef’s job??).  I don’t understand why they didn’t talk to a manager, but rather decided to ‘dock the pay’ of the waiter.

Pet Peeve:  (I was out with a few friends and their friend when this one happened)… we decided to go out for some drinks and maybe some appetizers. We did sit at a table, and the service was just fine…at the time to pay the bill… the friend of a friend just threw in a few dollars for the tip “because we didn’t eat a meal, it was just drinks and apps”. 

Yes.  She said that.

I don’t know why would anyone think that 18-20% tips don’t count for just drinks and apps?  Your waiter has to tip out the Bartender who made your drinks and the bus person who cleared your table (which lessens his take) and yet – its OK to not tip right cause it was just ‘drinks and apps”?  Needless to say the rest of us covered it…but I was stunned!

And how many of you do this (or know someone who does):
You sit at a bar and order a cocktail before dinner or waiting on friends.  The bartender gives you your check…which you pay and leave $1 extra. I’ve seen it numerous times.  A drink is usually about $10.00 … why would you only tip 10%?  If your drink was 10 bucks...at least leave $2...really!?

I am ashamed to say that in my youth – I’ve done things like this.  Youth and ignorance on my part…absolutely and in my defense it was before I knew anything about the food service industry and I was overly critical of service. OK, yes, I’m still overly critical of service – but I do so knowing that if I have an issue with something – I take it to the person who can do something about it (the manager)…and not take it out on the livelihood of the person serving me.

Ok…vent over.  Moral of this story: next time you’re out to dinner and your service is good – take the time out to say thank you...verbally and monetarily.

Until Next Time...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Yes, it's finally Quinoa Lentil Salad Time

I've written about it two or three times in my blog, so I thought it's now time to share this with you!

I remember the first time I heard the word quinoa and I was like “king-what?”…and really paid no attention to it.  But I’m hearing it in more and more recipes and hearing how it is a whole grain that is a great source of protein and I wanted to check it out.  I looked it up online and saw that it really isn’t a grain, but a seed of a plant (related to spinach) – and since I love spinach, I figured how bad could quinoa be…?

Well, months go by and I don’t do anything about it…Until I saw a recipe on the Food Network and decided I had to try this…it’s so simple and my lazy self loves the idea of being able to make a salad that is filling, nutritious and (crossed my fingers and hoped it would be) delicious.  

So – off I go to Stop & Shop and buy a box of white quinoa (yes, there are colors!) and a bag of lentils…Two ingredients I have NEVER cooked with … and geared myself up to make this recipe.

And the stuff sat in my pantry for easily six months.  Yes folks, I am that lazy…and especially with ingredients I’ve never used before – I almost am intimidated by them.  Almost…

Then one afternoon, I’m going to a BBQ at my friend’s house and need something to bring.  Having nothing in the house and not wanting to go shopping, I decided to let my friends be my guinea pigs.  Nice of me, right?  This could have been disgusting, but I’m willing to let my friends jump into the quinoa pool. 

So this is what you need to make the quinoa:
½ cup quinoa
1 ¼ cups of water (or chicken stock)*

And for the Lentils
2 cups of water (again, or chicken stock)
½ cup lentils

*note – you can cook all of this in chicken stock or vegetable stock…to impart flavor…however I originally used water as directed – the recipe came out just fine.

OK – Let’s address the Lentils:  Put them in a sieve and rinse with cold water.  Then add them to the saucepan that has the 2 cups of water and bring to a simmer – let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, but not mushy.  (I did fined that 30 minutes was just right)
 Drain and set aside in a bowl.

The quinoa:  Put them in a sieve and rinse with cold water too (ah…yes, separately from the lentils!).  Put with the 1 ¼ cups of water in a large microwave bowl with a cover and nuke it on high for 9 minutes.

Let it sit for 2 minutes, then stir.  The quinoa absorbs all of the liquid (if it doesn’t – cook a bit longer) and when done it will have a consistency a bit tougher than sort of a cream of wheat…it kind of ‘pops’ when you bite into it.   
(Kids, if you don’t have a cover to your dish, and you just cover with plastic wrap, you’ll need to just about double your cooking time!)

Put the quinoa in the bowl with the lentils.

Now here is where I deviated from the original recipe that wanted you to make your own vinaigrette – and not that there is anything wrong with that, but when you have perfectly fine Good Seasons Italian Dressing, why wouldn’t I use that? (Of Course you can make your own vinaigrette or use your desired Italian style dressing of choice).

So I add into the quinoa/lentil bowl: 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder, salt (not a lot) and pepper to taste and about ¼ cup (to taste) of the pre-made Good Seasons Italian Dressing.  Combine with the quinoa/lentil salad and then taste – see if you need more dressing or not.  Not salty enough…That’s OK – I then added two large handfuls of Parmesan cheese!  It added that salty, nutty, creaminess that I was looking for! 

Done!  Or just about... :)

This salad is great just as is...Hot, Room Temp or even cold...but it also has "expandable" possibilities!

Want a bit more crunch?  Throw in a few handfuls of either Pine Nuts or Slivered Almonds...

Or cube up some feta cheese, halve some grape tomatoes, dice in 1/4 of an English cucumber and toss in a touch of oregano and you have a great Mediterranean salad.

Top with some cooked shrimp, 1/2 cup of salsa, 1/2 can of rinsed black beans, a dash of cumin and chili seasoning for a Mexican inspired dish (I'd even top it with a touch of Cheddar and Sour Cream).

Or just go all veggie on it and dice up some green onion, red peppers, (blanched) asparagus tips...what ever you have in the house!  Then crumble a bit of goat cheese on top...Yum!

Try this one out...it sits well in the fridge, so I usually double the recipe and will have it for the occasional breakfast, lunch or a side with dinner (if I don't throw some chicken in it and have it for dinner!).

Until Next Time...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fall Monday Football Nights

Is it really October?  I love the autumn and the changing of the trees...Halloween and Thanksgiving...I'm just not a fan of the cooler weather.  I don't want to have to put on a jacket (but I'm OK with a heavy sweater) and I certainly don't want to start thinking about the possibility of snow.  Eh.  A completely four letter word people.

I was forced to admit this morning that Fall has fallen - I’ve actually started today wearing socks and closed-toed shoes.  

Well, tonight is Monday Night Football and the JETS are playing...

on top of a cool, gray, damp day...and the memory of the horrific game last week…Well now lets add to that Dave is working. I don't think I can hold off and not watch the game until he gets home...but I also know it won’t be any fun yelling at the TV alone tonight … Yes - it's a bit gloomy over here!

It's time to break out the comfort food!

Comfort food brings so many dishes to mind from my childhood… German Eggs, Poor Man's Chicken, Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese...OH! Welsh Rabbit! (OK, that one will take explaining, but that is for another time!); but the one that stands out as one of my favorites is ‘Hamburgler Helper’ as my sister Kris called it for years…(I’d bet she still does!)

Hamburger Helper … Specifically – Cheeseburger Macaroni. 

I mean, please – who didn’t like Hamburger Helper as a kid?  And please note: I did say ‘as a kid’. 

Dave and I took a walk down memory lane a few months ago and bought a box to make for dinner…I was so excited!  I hadn’t had it in…oh, say 25 years and my mouth could just remember the flavors that I enjoyed so much as a child.

Well folks, apparently as I grew up, so did my taste buds – it wasn’t the same at all.  Or maybe it’s just that Mom needs to make it…Who knows. All I know is that I was so disappointed!  And then Dave said that “we (he really means me) can make this from scratch and it will be way better”. 

Well Dave, Yes… I can.  And I did.

In the EmilyVerse, it’s Monday Night JETS football and my version of Cheeseburger Macaroni and Cheese…if only Dave were home and the JETS win – it would be a perfect night!
(Ok - so obviously this was written Monday Night and posted Tuesday morning...and I got one out of my two wishes...Dave got home early so we could watch the game together...but the JETS lost.  Again. Sigh.)

So, two things:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
Put on a large pot of boiling, well salted water for the pasta.

Elbows or Shells are the norm, but we all that I don't do norm well.  Use what ever pasta you have in the house! You'll cook the pasta per the box instructions (just shy of al dente please!).

While that is going, you're going to brown your meat.  In a skillet, put some olive oil, and then throw in:
1/2 of a medium onion, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced (or run it through a micro plane)

Let that cook until just fragrant (about a minute or two) and then add in 1 lb Ground Turkey (yes, you can use beef here...I just choose turkey!). 
I'll also season at this point with some salt, Pepper, Worcestershire sauce (a few dashes) and some dried Italian seasoning.

Let this go, breaking up the meat and cook until brown. 
The sauce...We're going to make a basic rue so melt in a sauce pan
8 tablespoons of butter
one quart of milk.
When that is warm and just barely at a simmer, whisk in 1/2 cup of flour to thicken the sauce.
(I suppose I should add that this would be the perfect time to make a slurry so that the sauce doesn't get lumpy...meaning put some of the hot liquid in the flour, combine well and then put it in the rest of your milk - Dave would tell me to do this.  I don't...I just dump it in and whisk away...haven't had any lumps yet!) 

I also add at this time about 2 heaping tablespoons of dried mustard as well as about 1/2 a teaspoon of fresh nutmeg - little flavors that will make you say...hum..what IS that?
When its all combine (and no lumps! :) add in your cheeses...Be flexible here - use what you like!  I'm putting in about 8 oz of Gruyere, 12 oz of a sharp yellow cheddar...(and this is very conservative for me...but it's all I have in the house at the moment! I usually overload with the cheeses, so feel free to do so!)

Mix until the sauce is all gooey, cheesy goodness. 
You'll put this on top of your drained pasta and add the meat...

mix well and put in a casserole pan. Sprinkle a mixture of the cheeses on top and cover generously with some seasoned panko bread crumbs (yes, you can make your own, but why? when you can just get a good panko?) and a drizzle of Olive Oil.
 Bake for about 45 minutes until golden and bubbly.  
In my world...any Mac and Cheese is served with the choice of putting Ketchup on it.  Yes, I know most of the world just read that sentence and said..."what?" But that is how I was raised, so that is how I eat it.  Please feel free to try it - or just eat it plain...But do try this recipe and make it...and eat it! It's yummy, trust me!

Until Next Time...