Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting wine and food items that are upcoming. **********************************************************
1)  Chef Lee Napoli has returned full-time to her chocolate shop, Chocolee Chocolates. She has spent time searching for a larger production kitchen for Chocolee.” Chocolate-lovers can expect to see Lee behind the counter on Dartmouth Street, where new products are being rolled out for spring:

Classic Linzer Tortes
Dark Chocolate Fig & Marzipan Pouches.
Easter bunnies of all sizes

Lee'’s proprietary recipe for Queen’s Cake can now be enjoyed at Chocolee, as well as croissants, chocolate beignets, cream cheese brownies and hand-dipped chocolate truffles in flavors like rose, lavender, poblano, pistachio, espresso, Bailey’s, Gran Marnier and mint. Chocolee’s chocolate-making classes, held Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the shop kitchen, are perennial sell-outs, and will continue into 2014 for two hours of hands-on instruction culminating in a one-pound take-home box of truffles for each student.

2) Orta Ristorante is named for the magical Lago d’'Orta, a glacial lake in the Alps-strewn region of Piedmont, Italy. Chef-Owner Brett Williams trained in several tiny trattorie there, tasted his first truffles there, and in fact, proposed to his wife/partner Cara there. Brett’s passion for this stunning and gastronomically significant region is reflected in his cooking, which is simple, seasonal, and sublime.

Selected highlights from the current dinner menu include:
* Drunken Mushroom Brick Oven Pizza. Madeira-soaked crimini, shiitake and oyster ‘shrooms with a sprinkling of arugula and truffle essence, baked in a blazing wood fire @ 700 degrees.
* Translucent Beef Carpaccio with Lemon Aioli drizzle, capers, microgreens and micro-croutons
* Classic Aracini with mozzarella and spicy “gravy”
* Housemade Linguini with Black Truffle Crema, roasted mushrooms, chives
* Grilled Grass-Fed Prime Sirloin with Gorgonzola Butter, fried leeks
* Machias (Maine) Salmon with citrus-y spaghetti squash, Sicilian remoulade
* Braised Veal Meatloaf (recipe follows)
* Frangelico Tiramisu -– Warm Local Apple Crostata – Almond Mousse & Rum Cookies

Orta’s wine list spans the length and breadth of the Italian boot, but Chef Williams encourages his patrons to start with a crisp Gavi di Gavi from Piedmont ($14/glass) before perusing his list of well-priced bottles from Tuscany, Abruzzo, Marche and Puglia. A reserve wine list is in the works for 2014.

Braised Veal Meatloaf with Onions & Criminis
Serves 6-8

2 TB porcini mushroom powder (purchase and grind dried porcinis)
4 cups stale bread
2 cups milk
2 lbs ground veal
2 lbs ground pork
¼ lb pancetta, diced
4 eggs
4 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 medium yellow onions, sliced thin
2 oz olive oil
2/3 cups flour
2 cups white wine
6 cups veal stock
1 lb crimini mushrooms, quartered
1 tsp nutmeg
3 TB Kosher salt
2 TB cracked black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350.
Soak the bread in the milk and set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together crimini powder, eggs, garlic, parsley, nutmeg, S & P
Add veal, pork and pancetta.

Carefully strain the milk from the bread; make sure it’s not too wet.
Add moist bread to the meat mixture; combine ingredients thoroughly.
Form into a loaf shape, and refrigerate until you are ready to sear.

In a saute pan, heat the oil and saute onions and mushrooms until light brown.
Next, in an oven-proof braising pan, add some olive oil and heat until smoking.
Flour the meatloaf on all sides and carefully place it into the hot pan.
Sear until on all sides until golden brown.
Next, add the mushroom-onion mixture, and the white wine, to the pan.
Boil the liquid for a few minutes to reduce it by half, then pour in the veal stock.

Bring the mixture to a boil again, and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil.
Place pan in the 350 oven and bake for approx. an hour.
Check meatloaf occasionally to make sure its liquid has not evaporated.
If so, add a little more wine or water.
Meatloaf is ready to serve when its interior reaches 150 degrees.

3) Showcasing the best of the ever-expanding Rhode Island culinary scene, the Eat Drink RI Festival is returning to Providence for an expanded four-day all-local food festival. Taking place Thursday, April 24th through Sunday, April 27th, the Festival, now in it’s third year, will be held throughout downtown Providence.

The Eat Drink RI Festival will feature a star-studded line-up of over 80 chefs, farmers, bartenders and producers including: James Beard Foundation Best Chef Northeast semifinalists Benjamin Sukle of birch and Champe Speidel of Persimmon, eight top culinary instructors from Johnson & Wales University, Gold Medal Cheese award-winning Narragansett Creamery, Blackbird Farm, two-time James Beard Foundation Rising Star nominee Chef Derek Wagner of Nick’s on Broadway, Easy Entertaining Inc., Good Food Award winner Daniele Inc., Dave’s Coffee, Walrus and Carpenter Oysters, among many others.

Festival highlights include:
Thursday, April 24: Rhode Island Chefs Feast – Gracie’s
Eight of the finest Rhode Island chefs to graduate from Johnson & Wales University, paired with eight of the best culinary faculty at JWU, present a culinary experience like none other, hosted at Ellen Slattery's Gracie's in Providence. Guests at this unique Eat Drink RI Festival opening event will be treated to a reception with passed canapés, breads baked in a mobile wood-fired oven, a seated six-course dinner with dessert, and treats—all prepared by a group of sixteen chefs with over 300 years of combined culinary experience. These experiences include winning World Champion awards, Chef of the Year awards, James Beard award nominations and more. Wines will be paired by Jonathan Edwards Winery, along with beers paired by Rhode Island's own Revival Brewing Company. A portion of the proceeds from this event will benefit AIDS Project Rhode Island.

Friday, April 25: Truck Stop to Benefit the Rhode Island Community Food Bank – Bank of America Center, Kennedy Plaza
This hugely popular Festival event returns in 2014 with 50% more trucks! Admission includes tastings from sixteen of Rhode Island’s best mobile restaurants, along with wine and beer from several local producers. Benefiting Rhode Island Community Food Bank, the Stop’s participating trucks include Acacia Café, Championship Melt, Ellie’s Bakery, Flour Girls Baking Co., Fugo, Gilded Tomato, Like No Udder, Lotus Pepper, Mijos Tacos, Noble Knots, Presto Strange O, Portu-galo, RISD’s Rosie Eats to Go, Rocket Fine Street Food, and Tallulah. “Truck Stop is an amazing celebration of Rhode Island’s culinary creativity, and we are so honored to be the beneficiary of this event,” said Andrew Schiff, Chief Executive Officer of the RI Community Food Bank. “This important fundraiser will help us put food on the table of thousands of hungry families in Rhode Island.”

Saturday, April 26: Grand Tasting presented by Rhody Bites – Providence Biltmore Grand Ballroom
The Grand Tasting is our showcase of over forty local food, wine, beer and spirit exhibitors, all gathered in the Biltmore Grand Ballroom overlooking the city of Providence. During the Tasting there will be four expanded Local Food & Drink Seminars, all included with admission to the Grand Tasting, these seminars include cooking demonstrations and discussions with birch's Chef Benjamin Sukle and Indie Growers's Lee Ann Freitas, Easy Entertaining’s Chef Kaitlyn Roberts and Blackbird Farm's Ann Marie Bouthillette and Nick's on Broadway's Chef Derek Wagner.

Sunday,April 27: Grand Brunch – Providence Biltmore Grand Ballroom
The Festival will come to a close with two seatings for Brunch. There will be ten stations with dishes prepared by several of the area’s top culinary stars including: Ellie’s Bakery’s Melissa Denmark, Food & Wine “People’s Best New Pastry Chef 2012” nominee, local pioneer Chef Ben Wood of Wildwood, Martha Stewart Weddings baker Kelly Dull of the soon-to-open north bakery, Chef Kevin Thiele of the world-renowned Hotel Viking in Newport, Joe Simone of PBS’s The Chefs of Cucina Amore, Mexican icon Maria Meza of El Rancho Grande and more. Specialty cocktails will be created by Little Bitte Artisanal Cocktails and a coffee bar will be provided by New Harvest Coffee Roasters. The Grand Brunch is accompanied by live jazz performances from Rhode Island Philharmonic musicians, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Philharmonic’s Music Education programs. “The funds we receive from the Festival are used to support our efforts to bring music education to every elementary school child (50,000 in all) in our region over the next 4 years,” said Betty Ann Kearney, Director of Development for the RI Philharmonic. “Through efforts like Eat Drink RI we were able to bring 10,000 children to the Vets Auditorium to play and sing with the RI Philharmonic Orchestra.”

For more information about the Eat Drink RI Festival or to purchase tickets, please visit online, on Facebook at

4) On Sunday, March 23, Chef Josh Lewin of Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro and Katrina Jazayeri present Nowruz, a Persian New Year celebration with friends, family and cuisine at Anthony’s Function Hall in Somerville. Sponsored by Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro and Jeff Gabel's Kitchen Kibitz, Lewin and Jazayeri will be joined by Geoff Lukas of Sofra Bakery and Lenagev Middle Eastern pop ups as well as Louisa Shafia, author of The New Persian Kitchen, all of whom will bring their unique talents and expertise to the kitchen.

The VIP dinner will begin at 6:30PM with a procession of amuse bouche courses including a caviar service, followed by a number of plates based on traditional Nowruz meals, but through the lens of a fine dining journey, followed by exciting desserts. The diner can expect a high level of cuisine and service as well as a crash course in Persian flavors, cooking, and tradition, all paired with beverages. Seating is extremely limited and only 12 seats are available. Each guest will leave with a copy of Shafia’s book, The New Persian Kitchen. Following the dinner the space will evolve into a cocktail reception at 8:30PM featuring unique cocktails as well as the flavors of traditional Persian cooking in a family-style, casual environment.  Guests will take part in a variety of educational activities and will learn about Persian culture and cuisine made complete with dancing and fun.

VIP tickets are $125 and include a multi-course dinner, beverage pairings and entrance to the cocktail reception. Tickets to the cocktail reception are $35 per person and include two drink tickets and food. For more information visit

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