Pomodori – Hilton Head Island

It’s good to reflect on this summer’s vacation and delicious eats as we head into our first few snowflakes flying at home soon.  While searching for new eateries on Hilton Head Island we came across some rave reviews for Chef Amanda Russ’s Pomodori and knew we had to give it a try.  And what a delight it was!!

IMG_0037

Hidden in a small small collection of boutique shops, you wouldn’t know this place is there unless you were looking for it.  Comfortable and island casual, you can dine both inside or out for a relaxing weekday meal or a special occasion.  Our wait staff and everyone else we encountered were charming and helpful.  The personal touch of our name written on slate at our table (we had a reservation) was a nice touch.  There’s an eclectic wine list and good selection of cocktails.  Once we settled into drinks we perused the menu filled with classic Italian dishes and many that included local seafood.

IMG_0038

My wife ordered the pappardelle con costolette brasate – this was a wonderfully rich short rib ragu over handmade ribbons of pasta.  There’s no doubt this feels like a signature dish with visions of old Italy and the recipe having been perfected over centuries.  I dove into the zuppa di pesce con arrabiata which takes advantage of the plentiful seafood on the island.  A spicy tomato sauce complimented the shrimp, mussels and scallops over a bed of linguine.  There’s nothing I would change about this amazing combination of spicy, briny and yet somehow light, dish!

IMG_0039

I love when we find someplace new that feels like we’ve belonged there all along.  Pomodori is an absolute must-try when you’re on the island.  Bravo, Chef Amanda, on your culinary expertise and business savvy.  There is no doubt that you will be a permanent fixture for locals and visitors for many years to come!  Visit gopomodori.com for the full menu and additional information.  Dig in!

Fettuccine Pomodoro

I’ve been traveling way too much lately and haven’t really been in the kitchen.  Even though I was short on time tonight, I was determined to cook!  With a glut of fresh tomatoes, it was a no-brainer to make pomodoro sauce tonight with fettuccine.  Simple, flavorful and ready in less than 30 minutes, you have to add this to your weekly meal planning.

FullSizeRender 15

FETTUCCINE POMODORO

Ingredients

  • 8 Ounces Fettuccine, Cooked al dente
  • 2 1/2 Cups Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 Medium White Onion
  • 5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 Tbs. Fresh Chopped Basil
  • 1 Tbs. Fresh Chopped Parsley
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

 

Instructions

  • Finely dice onion and set aside.
  • Cut top off of each tomato.  Gently squeeze and roll tomato with cut side down to drain out most seeds.  Do this for all tomatoes and discard seeds.  Cut into 1/4 inch dice.  If you’re using cherry tomatoes, don’t worry about the seeds.  HINT:  Any combination or variety of tomatoes works!
  • In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and minced garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until translucent.
  • Add tomatoes to pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add remaining ingredients to tomato sauce.  Stir and continue to simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and pour over cooked fettuccine.
  • Toss and serve immediately.  Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side.

Yes, it really is that easy!  This is a delicious pasta on it’s own or is delicious with marinated grilled chicken breast or a pan-seared white fish.  You’ll love making this light pasta sauce, especially when tomato season is in full swing.  Dig in!

Sale & Pepe – London

For beautiful classic Italian fare in the heart of London’s shopping district, be sure to make your reservation at Sale & Pepe.  Among one of our busier days touring the city, we made a late reservation for dinner at this highly-rated eatery.  Tightly packed and slightly up upscale, the restaurant has a lovely interior decor with small tables and a lively atmosphere.  The maitre de was especially entertaining and made every person that walked through the door feel special and part of the family.  We were immediately thrilled to be there!

While the seating is tight and service a bit slow, we enjoyed the atmosphere while we reviewed the menu.  Sipping a great pinot grigio and nibbling on bread, we made selections from the ample menu filled with traditional dishes.  I loved that there were lots of seafood options to take advantage of the local bounty!  We started with a few basic salads and a very fresh melon and prosciutto starter.  All of them were well-prepared with as much local produce available.

We made our way to our mains where everything was equally as tasty.  The veal ravioli with fresh marinara we rich and decadent, but not heavy.  The linguini and clams was beautiful and a great rendition of the classic.  I opted for the mixed seafood grill which was a top-notch preparation of langoustine, scallops, fish and squid.

There was no doubt we were ordering cappuccino and dessert to round out our evening! Both the creme brûlée and chocolate semifreddo were outstanding.  If we only had more time to try more on the menu – we’ll have to make another trip!  You’ll have a wonderful dinner out with the famiglia or your sweetheart at Sale & Pepe.  Make sure you book a reservation!  Find out more on their website at saleepepe.co.uk.  Dig in!

Sausage & Pesto Campanelle

After a weekend on the road and eating out, it felt good to be back in the kitchen on a Monday evening!  Taking my recipe for Basic Pesto I created this delicious combination that’s perfect for summer night with a glass of wine and crusty bread.

FullSizeRender 2

SAUSAGE & PESTO CAMPANELLE

Ingredients

  • 1 to 1 1/2 Cups Basic Basil Pesto
  • 1 Lbs. Campanelle Pasta
  • 3 Links Sweet Italian Sausage, Casings Removed
  • 8 Ounces Fresh Mozzarella Balls
  • Red Pepper Flakes

Instructions

  • Prepare pesto per my recipe and set aside.
  • Place pasta in boiling water and cook 10-11 minutes.
  • While pasta is cooking, brown Italian sausage in a pan until cooked through.  Don’t break it all up completed as the dish is better with small and large pieces both.
  • Drain pasta and place in a large bowl.  Add in sausage, mozzarella and 1 cup of pesto.
  • Stir together until combined.  You may need to add more pesto depending on taste and personal preference.
  • Serve immediately and top with parmesan and red pepper flakes to taste.

FullSizeRender

The combination of crumbly sausage, bright pesto and slightly creamy mozzarella that gives this dish great balance.  No fuss and few dirty dishes for a simply tasty dinner.  Enjoy it with a glass of wine and good company.  Dig in!

La Piazza Cafe – Palm Coast, FL

On our first visit to Palm Coast, we had some great and not-so-great meals in the area.  La Piazza Cafe in European Village was the former and a rare treat of authentic Italian in a sea of chains in this resort area!  A quaint, kind of kitschy, restaurant with an old-world feel, La Piazza is a labor of love for the Lass Family.  Dine inside or alfresco under the ample covered patio and warm breeze.  You’ll love the atmosphere and the freedom to dress up or dress down for a relaxed dinner.

FullSizeRender 17.jpg

We were seated inside and made some selections from the ample wine list to start the night.  Given a long list of beautiful antipasti choices, we decided on the Antipasto Italiano.  This was a beautiful assortment of meats, cheeses, olives and dressed vegetables served  crostini.  Enough as a starter for four people or a meal for two, the selections were fresh and flavorful.  It’s worth noting here that our server was really friendly and attentive.  She took the time to explain specials, let us drink and chat at our own pace and kept the glasses full throughout dinner.  It really made for a pleasant experience and fun evening!

FullSizeRender 18.jpg

We enjoyed traditional caesar salads, perfect with optional anchovies, and then made our selections from the entrees.  There’s quite a list of pastas, traditional fare, steaks and fish, but it doesn’t feel crowded or fussy.  Our table devoured the traditional Bolognese and Carbonara – some of the best we’ve had.  I ordered the Fra Diavolo which was overflowing with fresh shrimp and calamari.  You can order the spice level from 1-10 and my 4 was plenty to give it a good zip.  The portions are huge though and a single pasta dish is nearly impossible to finish all on your own!

IMG_0635.JPG

Overall, it was a wonderful meal and a great evening with my family.  I definitely recommend making a stop or going out of your way to make a drive to enjoy a meal with the Lass Family.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!  You can find out more and take a look at their menu at lapiazzacafe.com.  Dig in!

Seven Lamps – Atlanta

On a recent business trip to Atlanta I was lucky to have an evening to catch up with friends in the bustling Buckhead area.  What a great evening we had at Seven Lamps!  Co-owner and Chef Drew Van Leuvan has developed a delicious menu of craft food and cocktails served in a warm comfortable atmosphere.  On an unseasonable warm evening we shared a communal table outside near the warm gas fire pit.  Both inside and out feel casual yet refined – you could find yourself here for a special occasion or any weekday lunch or dinner.

While we ordered wine and local beer from Creature Comforts in Athens, GA we were brought complimentary house pickled vegetables and whipped creme fraiche.  The vinegary and crunchy combo with rich smooth creme paired well with our hoppy IPA’s.  Scanning the menu, there’s a beautiful selection of oysters and charcuterie as starters.  With limited time, we all decided to dive right into dinner though.  What I love about the menu is that there are endless combos of starters, small plates and entrees.  Whether drinks and snacks, mains-only or full-on courses, you can find the perfect meal for your night out.

I ordered the Idaho Potato Gnocchi which were buttery pillows complimented by seasonal mushrooms and asiago cheese.  If it’s possible for a dish to be insanely rich and light and delicate at the same time, this is it.  We also ordered the Tortellini which was filled with a rich combination of braised beef and mustard greens.  Served in a light sauce and with creamed parsnip and ricotta, this beautiful pasta was a treat from some of the more traditional fare you find in other establishments.  We ordered dinner portions of both pasta dishes and they were generous without being overboard.  There is a lunch portion available for all pastas as well.  Finally, we ordered the Springer Mountain Chicken Breast, a wood-grilled preparation served on cheddar grits with roasted baby carrots and a dijon vinaigrette.  It was perfectly cooked and a delicious take on roasted chicken.

We loved our experience here – from the food to the atmosphere to the service, all made for a perfect al fresco night in Buckhead.  I’m dying to come back for the monkfish or the ridiculously large pork chop we saw at the table next to us.  I highly suggest adding Seven Lamps to your list of must-eats in Atlanta.  Chef, you’ve outdone yourself with this place!  Find out more and view the full menu at sevenlampsatl.com.

Basic Pesto

We’re in the heat of summer and there’s an abundance of basil in my herb pots!  Sounds like it’s time to make some pesto – don’t worry, this is the easiest no-cook sauce in the world and will make you look like a Food Network Star!  Pesto is a versatile sauce that can be used on hot or cold pastas, chicken, fish, pizza, etc.  Start with this super-simple recipe and then let your imagination take you to some tasty places…

BASIC PESTO

Ingredients

  • 25-30 Fresh Basil Leaves, Washed & Dried
  • 1 Small Handful Fresh Parsley
  • 4-5 Cloves Garlic, Peeled
  • 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Pine Nuts
  • 1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

FullSizeRender 3

Instructions

  • In a food processor (I have a small one) place basil, parsley and whole garlic cloves.  Pulse several times until chopped evenly.
  • Add olive oil and then pulse again until evenly blended.  Mixture will not be smooth, but herbs and garlic will be finely chopped.
  • Add pine nuts and Parmesan and pulse until mixed thoroughly.
  • Toss with warm pasta and/or spoon over cooked chicken or fish.  The recipe above is good for about 8 ounces of pasta, so you may need to double it for a family meal.

IMG_1969

See, I told you this was easy!  I tossed my pesto with bowtie pasta and peas and served with grilled marinated chicken thighs.  Try it as a base for pizza or a dollop in your tomato soup.  There are a ton of possibilities and a little can go a long way to add a burst of fresh flavor to your recipes.  Also, consider variations of basic pesto by using different herbs and nuts.  What about walnuts with chives and parsley?  Add a little lemon zest and juice to brighten the flavor – especially with fish.  You can also alter the amount of olive oil depending on your preference and flavor intensity you like.  Any way you make it, enjoy it all summer and fall while you have a great supply of fresh herbs!!