Posts Tagged ‘Negroni’

Testing, Testing, 123

Holey Wheat

The time the Everyman and I have spent at Negroni during the last month (I think it’s averaged out to once a week, actually) inspired my latest project.

One of the reasons I enjoy their paninis so much is the use of their amazingly flavourful, crusty ciabatta bread (which they really should take to market on it’s own!).  To date, my bread-making exploits have primarily centred around quick breads, baguettes and the occasional foccacia, even though the beautiful pictures in Local Breads make me salivate every time I see them.

This weekend I decided to change all that.  I pulled out the book, rolled up my sleeves and resolved to attempt ciabatta.  Flipping through the two page recipe, it didn’t seem overly challenging, so I felt confident.  It was one of the recipes in the book that called for the use of a prefermented biga, which is sort of like a poolish or sourdough starter.  So, on Sunday afternoon I whipped up my biga, (which was a really easy process in itself) flipped it into the fridge to ferment for 16 hours and put things on hold until the following day.

Monday morning I woke up excited to peer at my biga.  As promised by the book, it had taken on a sheen and increased in volume from a lump of dough about the size of a lime to a glossy ball about the size of an orange (I intended to photograph the transformation but forgot).  Next, the recipe called for diluting it in water and breaking up the biga, then mixing it with the rest of the dough ingredients in a stand mixer set on high.  It was a little early, and the Everyman was still asleep, but I threw caution to the wind and assumed it would never rouse him up anyway.  After allowing the machine to vigorously (and loudly) mix the dough for 20 minutes, it ferments again for several hours (which ended up being much more while I was away at work).

When I returned home last night, I revisited the dough, stretching it out onto a baking sheet into 2 slightly misshapen loaves that were dimpled, then allowed to proof again.  Once ready, I tossed them into a blazing oven (one at a time) for a bake on the bread stone.  I (accidentally) left one in a little longer than the other, so I have a very definite variance to determine a favourite with. (more…)

Tasting Little Italy

The Taste Of Little Italy kicked off on College St. last night.

Being that Little Italy is right outside our front door, and we had such a blast last year, we made a point of heading down to the festival for dinner.

Once we got to the top of the street, we made a beeline for the completely underrated, but absolutely fantastic chili lime grilled corn from Friendly Magnolia.  This corn was the one thing we were both really looking forward to, because we’d so thoroughly enjoyed it’s smoky, salty simplicity last year.  I was also excited for a second offering that the owner of Magnolia had mentioned to me recently; a homemade funnel cake stand!  I showed amazing restraint, and held off for a bit so that I could sample some of the other fare.

Walking around, the first thing you’ll probably notice is that Italian restaurants are no longer the majority in Little Italy anymore.  Over the years it’s become more of a multicultural area and festival, but you still have Il Centro Del Formaggio, Cafe Dip, and a few others slinging decent Italian food.  We stopped at an amazing little storefront next to Riviera Bakery called Bis Gourmet that had the best selection of Italian foods, so we camped out there and went to town.  Offering tomato and bocconcini salad, puffy mini pizzas, both meat and cheese cannelonis, prosciutto and melon, hot and sweet cacciatore sausages, and the piece de resistance, a whole porchetta splayed on the table, the Everyman and I knew we had possibly found our food nirvana.  We ordered a little of everything (except for the porchetta, which was served on a gut-filling bun, and the prosciutto and melon, which wasn’t available yet) and copped a squat in front of another storefront to dig in.  Both of the cannelonis were amazingly moist and flavourful, but the meat-filled one was the clear winner with it’s smooth and slightly creamy interior and tomato and cheese studded crust.  The tomato and bocconcini salad was passable, but we both found the cheese to be slightly rubbery and unpalatable.  The pizza was killer, and the cacciatore sausage (which we purchased to take home) tasted as good as the wild boar version we’d had at Negroni.

Wandering around to see what the rest of the street had on offer, I saw that Il Centro was selling homemade tiramisu.  I had a little mental argument over my dessert options, but in the end decided to stick with the funnel cake.  The Everyman was lured to a lemonade stand by a passerby sipping on a freshly pressed glass, and wound up with a rather tart and tangy limeade.  Strolling back up the street toward home, we stopped for a funnel cake, and I ordered myself a “premium” which came with strawberries, icing sugar and my choice of flavored sauce (I opted for caramel).  The strawberries were pretty gross; being overly macerated and scooped out of a giant vat, but the funnel cake was exactly as it had been advertised to me.  Light, airy, and exceptionally fresh, it’s heady vanilla scent had festival-goers eyeing me up greedily every time they walked past.  The thing was massive, and even with the Everyman’s help I only managed to eat half, but without the strawberries, it was incredibly decadent.  I could easily go back for another today and tomorrow.

Luckily, there was way too much food around to sample in just one go, so if the weather cooperates this weekend, I plan to return for more grilled corn and other gastronomic pleasures.  Tiramisu, here I come!


Growing Pains

I’ve had hellacious sinus/allergy issues during the past few days that have sidelined me from accomplishing anything productive.

Since pretty much everything tastes like cardboard to me and I haven’t had the wherewithal to cook, the Everyman’s been ordering in a lot of junk food and takeout this week.  On Thursday night I finally had enough and decided I wanted some comfort food, Italian style.

After wrapping up a short interview I was doing, we chose to meet at Negroni and see how they were dealing with the challenges of running their still-young restaurant this week.

I happened to arrive earlier than the Everyman, so I placed our order and requested a glass of red wine to quietly ponder over.  The wine was wonderful as usual, but I think that either the glassware or bottle were too close to the panini press, because my first glass arrived quite noticeably warm.  A subsequent glass ordered later in the meal was the correct temperature though, so it’s entirely possible that the glass may have just come from the dishwasher.  While it happened, it wasn’t a big enough deal to mention to my host, and within a few minutes of sitting on the patio the warmth had subsided and wasn’t even perceptible anymore.

Moments after the Everyman sat down, our charcuterie platter was placed before us, with no difference in ingredients from the last time (bresaola, prosciutto and cacciatore) save for the pickled eggplant replacing the pickles.  The dish, (as it had last time) satisfied with their fantastically crusty bread and subtly spiced cured meats.  I even enjoyed the eggplant pickle, which is typically not a vegetable that I get along with, too.

Next up were the paninis, and while I opted to try something different, the Everyman stuck with his old standby; the prosciutto, bufala and roasted tomato sammie.  The quality of the paninis was just as good as we remembered, though the salad had much more fennel this time than the last.  My panini of pureed artichoke, roasted garlic and asiago was outstandingly pungent and fragrant, but I wished for a bit more textural contrast; these ingredients had the mouth feel of mush on toast.  Perhaps keeping the artichokes whole instead of pureeing them might help, or adding shards of asiago rather than gratings.  I don’t know.  It’s such a small complaint I would hardly consider it one at all.  The Everyman, who is even easier to please bolted his whole panini in record time, then looked up at me hungrily, like he might order another.  Let it not go unsaid that the man loves his prosciutto.


The Foodie 13 – Desert Island Fare

I probably spend more time than is normal thinking about what I would do if I ever became stranded on a deserted island.  I can assure you there’d be no montage of Castaway or Blue Lagoon moments, but if there were other people trapped with me, I imagine it would quickly devolve in a similar manner to Lord Of The Flies.

Because of that, I keep a mental list of comestibles I’d want to have with me if that were ever to go down.  The ironic thing about that statement of course, is that if (heaven forbid) it really did happen, there’s no way I’d be prepared enough to have all these good eats with me.  But a (slightly delusional) girl can always dream, can’t she?  With these 13 paradigms of culinary excellence to keep me company, I’d never be wanting for more.

So without further adieu, but in no particular order…

1- Czehoski‘s bacon poutine - There’s nothing better on a grey and blustery day than digging in to a bowl of this salty, creamy, crispy perfection.  If you’ve never tried bacon gravy before, you’re probably asking yourself, what’s the big deal?  Can it really be that different?  Trust me hombres, it can and is.  This poutine is what dreams are made of… decadent, curd-filled dreams.

2- Fat Willy’s ribs - Fat Willy’s is a little hole in the wall barbecue joint in the suburbs of Chicago.  I never expected we’d fine transcendent barbecue in Illinois of all places, but ever since we came home, I’ve had vivid dreams about the smoky tang I experienced there, sometimes to the point that I’m awakened from chewing on my own pillow.  Delish!

3- Terroni‘s mezzo mezzo - This appetizer platter is constantly changing, but always includes some meat, some cheese, some bread and some fruit or veg, plus a small dish of honey for dipping.  My favourite has always been the roasted pear that’s often a mainstay of the dish, and marries well with so many things.


La Dolce Vita

The Everyman and I are always on the lookout for new and delicious places to clink a fork and knife in our neck of the woods.  In some ways the search becomes so serious that one might almost consider it a sport.  But don’t worry, no foodies were harmed in the writing of this post!

Recently I noticed a little spot called Negroni going in downwind from Gamelle, but hadn’t any indication of what type of fare would be served, other than my assumptions based on their name.  Since I’m usually pretty open to foodie experimentation, I filed it away in the to-inquire-about later section of my brain and went on with my day.

Over the course of the last few days I found out that Negroni happens to be a casual little panini bar/cafe, operated by the owners of another College St. resto, Sidecar.  This would be right up the Everyman’s alley.  Having spent several of his formative years living in Italy, he’s rather fond of most Italian dishes, prosciutto-laced ones especially.  I’d initially planned to mention it to him as a weekend lunch spot, but while driving home from work on Friday night and discussing what to have for dinner, it just sort of fit.  Knowing that they were only open until 9, we dropped our gear at home, quickly changed and headed down the street for a little pressed bread action.

Negroni is a beautifully small space.  It’s bright, airy and hums with it’s cheerful café-ish, open-door persona.  At 7 pm on a Friday night the room was less than half full but an inviting and comfortable atmosphere still prevailed.  The staff are friendly and overly attentive, though not annoyingly so.  The gentleman serving us noticed I had their card (which I’d grabbed on my way in the door) and asked whether we’d come over from their sister spot.  I just like to collect business cards, but he promised to take good care of us anyways.

After ordering a beer and a glass of wine, we set to work perusing the food carte.  The menu’s not large, but includes a handful of temptation-inducing appetizers, as well as a dozen paninos (which based on their contents I’m hazarding a guess and saying are seasonal).  Being meatavores, we ordered a cured platter to split between us, and were not disappointed.  The quantity was spot on, with only a few delicate slivers of each meat dispensed, plus a small dish of house-cured sweet pickles and onion slices.  The trio of meats included a silky prosciutto, a tangy bresaola, and a sumptuous wild boar cacciatore (reminiscent of the Pingue Abbruzese, actually).  All served with a small stack of their achingly crisp and aromatic ciabatta.  The bread alone is worth coming for, with it’s yeasty, malty, savoury smell emanating from the many irregular crevices.  Eating that appetizer makes me think that the people behind Negroni really get what they’re doing, because it did everything an appetizer should.  By the time we were done we were yearning for more, sated but still possessing a discernable appetite.

When our paninos arrived several moments later, we knew we’d made an excellent decision.  The Everyman’s was a lesson in simplicity, melding prosciutto, bufala mozzarella and oven-dried tomatoes.  My own was a delectable spring-like combination of prosciutto, asparagus spears and taleggio (one of my favorite Italian cheeses ever).  If there’s any problem with their menu, it’s that too many of the options sound amazingly palatable, which is why it took me almost 10 minutes to order.  When I lamented that sentiment to our server, he suggested that we should try them in order, that way when we come back we always know where we are and where we want to be.  This is not a bad idea, and when we go back that’s exactly what I’m going to do, because I just mentally threw a dart at the menu to make my selection this time.  The sammies were served with a superfluous salad of parmagiano, fennel and arugula that was tasty, but I was more interested in concentrating on my sandwich.