Dinner and a Movie: Big Night

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I’ll admit it. I’m not always in a rush to see films about food. As the head of a catering company, the last thing I want to do at the end of the night is settle down into my sofa and watch a flick that reminds me of what I’ve been doing all day (or what I’ll be doing tomorrow). That’s why Big Night sat at the bottom of my Netflix queue for such a long time. Despite the fact that I’m a huge Isabella Rossellini fan, the story of two brothers trying to keep their authentic Italian restaurant afloat in 1960s Jersey sounded just a little…well, stressful. But eventually I realized that I could only put the movie off for so long. So I watched it. And you know what? I loved it.

The food in this film almost has a starring role itself. And as a chef, you can bet I appreciated the gorgeous shots of thickly sliced timpano, freshly-picked tomatoes, and sprawling antipasti. Big Night is really nice to look at, and it reminded me of all the things I loved about the cuisine when I lived in Italy for a year. It also reminded me of this pumpkin gnudi recipe, which is the perfect dish to serve while watching this film.

The American diners depicted in this film were so unsure of real regional Italian cuisine, so they were balking at things like risotto and antipasti. They wanted breadsticks and spaghetti and meatballs, all very Americanized versions of Italian food. So, this dish is an homage to the brothers’ passion for unapologetically real Italian food.

Like many of the meals served in Big Night, the prep work here is the most labor intensive. But to save some time, you can make the gnudi a day ahead of time and pop them into the freezer. You can also brown the butter a day ahead and then heat it up on a bain-marie (a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water) so as not to brown it further on direct heat.  To serve this gnudi as an entree, I would add a bunch of parmesan cheese before garnishing with the fried sage.

Like a really amazing meal, Big Night is a film that won’t be soon forgotten. If it’s at the bottom of your Netflix cue, like it was mine, I’d highly suggest moving it to the top.

pumpkin gnudi, brown butter, fried sage
yields 60 pcs

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pasta:

6-8 oz. ricotta
10 oz. (approx) AP flour
6 oz. (approx) pumpkin, cooked
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
pinch cayenne
salt to taste

sauce:

butter
salt

garnish:

20 leaves fresh sage
fry oil

Method:

Mix dry ingredients together for pasta.   Puree fresh cooked pumpkin with oil and water. Combine ricotta and pumpkin. Then add puree into flour.  Season with spices to taste.

For the butter:  Brown milk solids and season with salt to taste.

Fry sage and set aside for garnish.

Cook pasta and toss in butter.  Plate and garnish with sage leaf.

 

September Supper Club

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In case you missed this video a couple weeks back (or simply want a longer look), here’s an up-close-and-personal recap of the supper club we recently hosted with The Cocktail Academy.

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With the help of a seriously amazing team, Apartment A was transformed into a stunning secret garden, complete with pretty party food, expertly-mixed cocktails, and more ambiance than you can shake a stick at.

Kudos to Celadon and Celery for the whimsical floral fantasy they created from top (literally) to bottom. How much do you love these fuchsia arrangements in china blue vases? Perfection!

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There was also live music thanks to Cartwright and Project M. Yep—it was that kind of an affair. One to remember.

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Things got started off with a bang. Scratch that. With pretty ombre menus by Copper Willow and an amuse-bouche (or five) that set the mood for a really scrumptious evening.

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Despite this fab shot below (that’s Super Cool Creamery making their magical nitrogen ice cream), there was a lot more than smoke and mirrors goin’ on in the kitchen. The Taste of Pace team served up dukkah crusted bass with quinoa, avocado radish slaw, and wild mushrooms (get the recipe here).

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Here’s a closer look at the menu:

beet deviled eggs, chives
polenta, parm, green harissa, feta
sepia agnolotti, spring pea, mint, bottarga
chilled tomato melon gazpacho soup shooter, herb pistou

SALAD

watermelon, cherry tomato, persian cucumber, torn basil,
creamy kaffir lime cilantro dressing

PASTA

corn gnocchi, browned butter, wild mushrooms, basil

ENTRÉE

dukkah crusted bass
quinoa
avocado radish slaw
wild mushrooms

100 Layer Cake wrote all about the event here. Pop on over and take a look!

Photography by Scott Clark Photo

 

TOP + JLM = One Swanky Event

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Been to any good weddings lately? Bridal season’s in full bloom right now, and it seems like everywhere I look, there’s a whole lotta pretty going on. Case in point: this glam event hosted by JLM Couture, BRIDES magazine, and Randy Fenoli of TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress.

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Randy’s pictured above with Harmony Walton, creator and founder of The Bridal Bar. When it comes to the wedding biz, these guys really know their stuff.

JLM Couture’s gowns were drop dead gorgeous, but they weren’t the only eye candy at this event. Charm City did this super sweet cak

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And Eddie Zaratsian whipped up some floral magic. Hello, lovely.

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As for me, well, I followed suit. I wanted to serve really elegant wedding food to go with the couture gowns.  We love grilled cheese and all, but this wasn’t that kinda party.

Here’s the herb goat cheese, caramelized leeks, and crushed spiced almonds in endive.

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And spring peas with mint, sepia agnolotti, chili flakes, and bottarga. A super sexy bite.

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This event was a lot of fun, and sorta had me wishing that wedding season would never end. If you’re planning one of your own, be sure to check out TOP’s catering packages here.

Photography by Scott Clark Photo

 

How to Cook Eggs – A TOP Guide

Eggs. They sound simple enough, but preparing them can sometimes be a little tricky. But don’t let that keep you away from the carton. Eggs are a pretty perfect source of protein, and the perfect dish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Here’s my quick and easy go-to guide for expertly cooked eggs. Now let’s get crackin’!

 

Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled eggs are about as basic as breakfast food gets, but prepared the right away, they can be light, luscious, and absolutely gorgeous. Here’s the Taste of Pace method for perfectly scrambled eggs.

  1. Add oil to a nonstick pan and warm over low heat.
  2. Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk vigorously. Some people add milk or cream at this point, but to me, that just seems like a waste of dairy. For fluffy eggs, all you need is a bit of water. And for flavor, just a sprinkling of pepper and a liberal amount of salt.

Pour the eggs into the warm pan and work them with a rubber spatula. Turn the heat off as soon as you notice the eggs are no longer wet. Then let them steam a bit in the pan before serving.

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Photo via Make Better Eggs

Poached Eggs

With their super soft yolks, poached eggs add a wonderfully creamy texture to cooked vegetables, and they only take 1 to 2 minutes to prepare. I especially love them over morels and asparagus (get the recipe here).

  1. In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add vinegar, then egg.

Chef’s Tip: Create a vortex by stirring a wooden spoon in a circular motion. The theory behind this technique is that the egg whites will attach to themselves within the vortex.

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Photo by Joel, Studio EMP

Hardboiled Eggs

Yes, hardboiled eggs are labor intensive. And messy. But you know they’re delicious. And the key to easy-to-peel shells is using eggs that are 4-7 days old. Here’s how I handle mine:

  1. Place eggs in a saucepan with cold water.
  2. Bring water to a bowl and allow eggs to stay in pan for 11 minutes (that’s the magic number).
  3. After boiling, run the eggs under cold water and peel immediately.

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Photo via Amanda Beth

P.S. My favorite spin on the classic hardboiled egg is this beet pickled egg recipe.