Posts Tagged ‘New Milford’

When Research Is a Pleasure, Part 6

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

me and Bill 2

For this installment of my grand research adventure in Connecticut, I donned a green apron for a cooking class at the famed Silo Cooking School in New Milford. I was a volunteer during a corporate team building class of seven executives from an IT company in Manhattan. Our leader was chef Bill Cosgrove whose Upper Crust Cucina Italiana restaurant is practically a local landmark. (In the photo above, Bill is teaching me how to make balsamic syrup.)

The menu for the corporate group’s feast was an ambitious one, but Chef Bill made it all look easy and by the end of the day I not only believed I could cook the various courses at home but sampled dishes I’d never tried before.

Like for instance, our appetizer…

appetizers finished

It was called a sformato, a savory custard made with pureed asparagus, eggs, Parmesan cheese and a bechamel sauce, poured into ramekins and baked, then unmolded and served on top of arugula with a bit of crispy bacon on top with a drizzle of my balsamic syrup. It was beyond delicious – light and fluffy and out of this world.

The pasta course – in Italian cooking there’s always a pasta course – the group made tortellini in beef brodo (brodo is Italian for a rich beef broth).

tortellini presentation
Chef Bill demonstrated how to make pasta and it was eye opening.

Bill pasta machine 2

But it was the main course that was truly the show stopper: butterflied pork tenderloin stuffed with a pesto of basil, pistachios and Parmesan cheese, reconstituted figs and layers of proscuitto and arugula. Behold.

finished pork with jus

Bill showed everybody how to make it happen – from stuffing the pork…

Bill stuffing pork with arugula

to searing it on the stove…

Bill searing pork 2

to slicing it once it’s out of the oven.

cutting finished pork

It was past my usual lunch time at this point and I was dying to pop the entire tenderloin in my mouth, but I restrained myself. Actually, while the corporate group ate each course in the Silo’s dining area…

dining pre-guests

Michael and I, along with the Silo’s executive director Liba Fuhrman and assistant director Nancy Stuart, sampled everything back in the kitchen. Yummmmmm.

But a meal like we were lucky enough to enjoy had to be finished off with a superb sweet treat, and ours was a cherry and almond clafoutis, a rustic tart-like dessert made by baking cherries in a custard-type batter.

dessert closeup

It was topped with homemade vanilla gelato.

finished desserts with gelato

Want to see how homemade that gelato was? I watched Chef Bill pouring the ingredients into the machine.

Bill ice cream maker

I’m full just thinking about all of this, but I had a good time and learned a lot. Best of all, I took lots of notes and got great material for my novel.


Why Are There So Many Italian Restaurants?????

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

I live in a small town in Santa Barbara County and we have a handful of restaurants – all but one of which serves Italian food. Why is that? Is it because people love pasta and pizza more than anything else? Because kids will always eat spaghetti and meatballs? Because Americans are off fussy French food and dismissive of Chinese takeout?

When I got to Connecticut on my vacation, I found the same situation. Ninety percent of the restaurants in my area are Italian, which means we end up trying them all but feeling as if we went to the same place.

Tonight we went with friends to a lively spot in New Milford called Tivoli.

It was your basic “red sauce Italian,” which means that everything was smothered in tomatoes, olives, capers and onions. Michael’s osso bucco? The same sauce as my grilled salmon. My friend Harriet’s mussels? Same sauce. Her husband Henry’s beef? Yup, same sauce.

I’d like to say the service made up for the one-note food, but a waitress dropped a tray of ice water behind us and we were lucky not to get soaked.

Such a shame. The location is great and the patio is perfect on a balmy summer evening. But I won’t rush back.

The Help: The Movie

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

I saw it last night and really liked it. And I didn’t expect to. Not because I didn’t love the book, which I did. And not because I’m one of those people who thinks Hollywood can’t possibly translate a book to film; I’m not. I didn’t expect to like the movie because of the trailer and the clips of it that aired in TV ads. The studio made the story seem like a lightweight, giggly girls story – a “Steel Magnolias” with a few black actresses thrown into the mix.

Instead, the movie is a story – improbable but compelling – of brave women in Jackson, Mississippi who risked their own safety and, in the case of Emma Stone’s character, their social status, to fight for civil rights. No lightweight subject there.

I thought the acting was superb. Jessica Chastain practically steals the movie. Emma Stone gives us a very likable heroine. Olivia Davis plays every scene with nuance. And Cicely Tyson’s all-too-brief moments on screen made me cry. The only flat notes for me were the normally excellent Allison Janney, who seemed miscast, and Bryce Dallas Howard, whose witchy villain was a bit too cartoonish.

Mostly, I loved the way the story unfolded – slowly, as with the book. No editing tricks. No car crashes. No special effects. No forced humor. What a relief.

To top it off, I had a great dinner at a place called Lucia Ristorante in New Milford, CT. You know how you can just walk into a restaurant and tell you’re in the hands of experts? That’s how I felt at Lucia. There’s an antipasto that comes when you’re seated. Delicious. There’s warm, freshly baked bread that shows up soon after. Delicious. There are entrees on the menu that make you want to order every single one of them; I had salmon and Michael had pasta and we were both happy. Delicious.

A nice evening with good entertainment and good food. Now if only it would stop raining. Sigh.

The Summer Dinner I’d Been Fantastizing About

Friday, August 12th, 2011

There’s nothing like August in New England, and today’s weather was just about perfect. And to cap a beautiful day I was lucky enough to feast on summer’s bounty – straight from local purveyors.

First came the luscious tomatoes.

They came from a nearby farm stand, and they were ripe and juicy and sweet. Heaven.

We also picked up some fresh corn while we were there, and it was like eating a candy bar.

But the centerpiece of the meal was the grilled swordfish, straight off a truck that had just driven down from Maine. Yes, a truck. If you told me I’d be buying fish in a parking lot on Route 7 in New Milford, I would have said you were nuts. But all the locals swore the guy was the real deal, and he is. Wow. His fish is as fresh as it gets. He leaves Maine at 3 am, after the fish has just come off the boat, and makes it down to CT by 10. What a find.




My Love Affair With Soft-Shell Crabs Might Be Over

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

I first fell in love with the little creatures in the ’70s. I was in France one summer and I think I had them practically every night. They were sauteed. They were broiled. They were breaded. They were dusted with almonds. They were prepared every which way, and I adored every bite.

I continued to eat them when I lived in Manhattan where they were on menus every spring/summer. They were fewer and far between after I moved to Florida and still more scarce in restaurants once I settled in California.

Did I forget about them? Absolutely not.

Last night, during our annual August pilgrimage to Connecticut, we went out for dinner with friends to an Italian place in New Milford called Piccolino’s. I spotted soft-shell crabs among the specials on their blackboard and pounced.

“I haven’t had them in ages,” I told the waitress. “I’m really excited.”

She tried to smile, but she had an earring in her top lip and the piercing made smiling difficult, apparently.

The crabs arrived and my heart sank. They looked mushy. I hate that. Too much butter sauce and probably overcooked.

I took my first bite and tried not to pout. No crunchiness of the legs. No rich crab flavor. No delicate seasoning. Just blobs on a plate.

Did the experience turn me off to soft-shells forever? I don’t know, but it’ll take me awhile to jump back in.