Oh, Brooklyn...you've won me over within one corner block in Bushwick alone. I rarely write restaurant reviews but this place made me so happy in my soul that I had to share it with all of you. Blanca and Roberta's are sister restaurants run by the same chef with vastly different vibes. The juxtaposition between the two (and the foodie internet radio station sandwiched in between!) is absolutely irresistible...read on for a photo journey through my experience at both a 2 star Michelin restaurant and an amazing hipster pizzeria. Be forewarned, this is going to get you revved up and hungry for your next trip to Brooklyn...
First things first, let's make that pizza dough so it has ample time to rise...
Broccoli Rabe is also known as Rapini and what I love about it in particular is how the greens develop a slightly bitter, horseradish-like flavor, yum. Orecchiette is an ear shaped pasta that stays nice and firm when cooked so that it has a nice bite to it.
Fish Tacos with Grapefruit Avocado Salsa
Herb Veal T-Bones with a Brandy Pan Sauce
As a reminder, I do receive the Omaha Steaks products for free in exchange for my blog posts, but I do genuinely enjoy their products. Particularly their uncooked, unseasoned products. You can see all of my SteakBytes blog posts here.
It makes me feel connected to my Italian roots and think back to the amazing two trips I've taken to Italy. I'm fortunate enough to have actually visited the Ligurian region of Italy and enjoy truly authentic Ligurian Pesto while there...so I'm excited to bring a taste of that amazing vacation back home with this recipe! Since heirloom tomatoes are in season right now (along with all of that basil I needed for the pesto!) I tossed some chopped tomatoes into this dish to brighten it up a bit. Sometimes pesto can feel a bit indulgent with all of that olive oil and cheese. Add a glass of Pinot Grigio and you have a happy Italian SavoryGirl!
The pesto recipe that I used can be found here. I typically use the pasta recipe right in my Kitchen Aid manual, but this is a pretty similar recipe. Mangia!
It's been years since I've bought dried pasta. That may sound impressive, but when you try to make it yourself once and see how easy and delicious it is I promise that you'll be making your own pasta too. The trick is that you need a pasta roller...it can be a hand roller or an attachment to a fancy kitchen aid. In my opinion, the latter is well worth the investment. Back to the pasta...the great thing about pasta is you pretty much always have the ingredients you need to make it in the house. Flour, eggs and water. That's pretty much it! Give it a quick mix and knead and then roll it out and your ready to cook. We often make double batches of the dough and freeze it in single serving sizes so we can quickly thaw and roll it out with even less work for future dinners. The difference between dried pasta and fresh pasta is amazing...try it yourself, you'll see!
The original recipe calls for topping the lasagna with herb feta cheese, but over the years we've decided that we like it better the traditional way so we just put lots more mozzarella on top. We also always make our own lasagna noodles vs. buying store bought...which means no pre-cooking of the lasagna noodles required! That was always one of the biggest pains of lasgna to me...cooking the noodles, then keeping them moist enough while you layer so they don't all get stuck together but also waiting long enough so your not burning your hands. Issues! So homemade noodles are the way to go in my opinion...preferably wheat.
As most of you know, I'm from Massachusetts and a proud Mass-hole through and through despite having lived on the West coast for over 10 years now. While I didn't grow up in Boston, I did grow up heading into the city pretty often throughout my childhood for museum visits, parades, Red Sox games and of course, cannoli from the North End. So every time I return to Boston I make a bee-line straight for my old stand-by, Mike's Pastry, to get myself a cannoli experience filled with childhood memories, nostalgia and yummy Italian pastry.
But on a recent visit when I was doing a bit of foodie research I kept finding mention of another fan-favorite cannoli spot, Modern Pastry, and I had to wonder...could it stand up to my Mike's? Could these other people possibly know something I didn't when claiming that Modern, not Mike's, had the best cannoli in town? Only one way to find out...enter SavoryGirl's Great Boston Cannoli Taste-Off!
So first things, first....acquiring the cannoli. 10pm after a Red Sox game, my best friend and I along with our husbands headed to Mike's and then Modern to get a plain cannoli and a chocolate dipped cannoli from each spot. The vibe of each bakery was extremely different.
Mike's, just as I remembered, is bustling, disorderly, frenetic and has an air of anticipation within the large open bakery. A ridiculous assortment of cannoli type to choose from...not necessarily traditional, but certainly something for everyone. The women behind the counter are a bit gruff but in a forgiving way...almost as if they're playing the stern but loving Italian grandmother role.
Modern, on the other hand, is quiet and orderly with customers queuing in a straight line outside of their tiny shop. The cannoli selection is much more limited, but definitely more traditional. The women behind this counter are similar to those at Mike's in the sense that they also aren't friendly or warm but instead of being gruff, they are curt and short on patience with their customers.
So now onto the cannoli themselves...we removed ourselves from the potentially biasing atmosphere of either bakery and walked down to the Greenway right outside the North End to do the tasting itself. Jeff, always one to play along, presented the first cannoli to me in grand first-bite tasting style. We of course ensured that I had no idea which box the cannoli came from so that this truly was a blind taste-test (I am a researcher by trade after all). As you can see above, our theatrics were starting to draw a bit of attention...
So what do we love so much about Incanto? Well it's Italian to start (yes, we're that easy!) but beyond that chef Cosentino's philosophy about using the whole animal is right up my alley. We love trying new cuts of meat in unique and skillful preparations and that is precisely Cosentino's area of expertise. We honestly have a hard time getting past his "Odds & Ends" special board onto the main menu whenever we go there for dinner! And while we're being honest...I have a total foodie crush on Chris Cosentino. He's like the bad-ass chef without trying too hard...who wouldn't want to come home to his cute face, engaging personality (on T.V. at least!) and delicious cooking every night? Yum.
Ok, moving off the man-meat and onto the real food...our first dish was an amazing take on a traditional prosciutto with fruit plate - Boccalone Ibérico di bellota lardo with roasted figs, hazelnuts & rose thyme. The lardo is delicate with a slight salty-sweet essence that pairs oh-so perfectly with the roasted figs and crunchy hazelnuts. A lovely start to what promised to be a delicious evening!
Next, onto our first special from the Odds & Ends board...beef heart tartare with chives and puffed beef tendons. I know, I know...puffed beef tendons? But if you even remotely like pork rinds you will love these! My only complaint is that there weren't more of them to eat alongside the tartare. The tartare itself was incredibly rich and flavorful. The chives and bit of fish sauce used really brought the flavors together...yum. I think this was Christian's favorite dish of the night.
The Odds & Ends specials board is always so enticing that we ended up getting 3 appetizers...we figured it was fitting to behave like little piggly-wigglys when we were in a restaurant that practically acts as a shrine to pork! Speaking of pork, this third appetizer was a Trotter Cake with Periwinkle Snails and Radishes. Definitely the best trotter cake I've ever had...large succulent pieces of pork leg/foot meat seasoned to perfection in a nicely crisped exterior. The pairings of snails and radishes with trotter cake initially seemed a bit odd (but also why we ordered it) but it really all worked well together.