Posts tagged ‘pasta’

Sutera’s

Sutera’s has been around for more than thirty years. First in the West Bottoms, then in Brookside, and now on Rainbow Blvd. It’s a family friendly, neighborhood joint, suitable for drinks while watching sports on TV, or for a full meal in the dining room.

Though it’s primarily an Italian restaurant, diners can also order burgers, wraps and salads. But since pasta and pizza has been their bread and butter for so many decades, that’s what we had.

Sutera’s menu states that although ” we didn’t invent pizza, we merely perfected it!”, but after sampling it, I’m not sure I agree. I ordered a large cheese pizza and my mouth started watering when it was placed in front of me. There was tons of cheese on it and it was nicely browned and bubbly. The crust looked thin, and it was, but unfortunately it wasn’t crisp. The pizza looked done on the top, but lifting up a piece, I noticed that the bottom hadn’t browned at all.  And though there was plenty of sauce, it was the same as the sauce in the lasagna and on the rigatoni. I’d rather have a real pizza sauce, not pasta sauce on my pizza, especially since I didn’t love the taste.

Two of my dinner companions had the lasagna–one with cheese and one with meat. Though it looked good coming to the table, neither of them raved about it. Too much of that same sauce and not enough flavor in any of it.

If you’re watching your carbs, the veggie wrap is a tasty alternative. It’s basically a salad wrapped in a tortilla.

Though the food didn’t impress me, there’s a reason Sutera’s has been around for so long. It has a comfortable vibe and, looking around the dining room, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Whatever they are doing, it seems to be working.

Sutera's Restaurant Westwood on Urbanspoon

April 3, 2011 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment

Il Mulino Aspen

If you’ve never been to one of  Il Mulino‘s many locations, I have two words for you, “pace yourself”. I recently went to the one in Aspen–the original is in New York, though there are locations across the country and in Tokyo. From the very moment you sit down you will be inundated with food. In quick succession a waiter comes by with a chunk of cheese from a massive wheel of Parmesan, bruschetta with tomatoes and basil, lightly fried and thinly sliced zucchini, salami and a variety of breads. Who needs dinner?

After inhaling all the food set before us, we turned our attention to the menu, a feast in its own right. There’s a mouth-watering list of pastas, along with risotto, fish, veal, beef and lamb. Since there were eight of us, we thought it would be fun to sample several of the pastas, passing them around the table family style. Each of us ordered an entrée as well.

Big mistake.

The waiter brought each of us our own plate of four pastas, which taken as a whole was enough for an entire meal. Whether the waiter misunderstood our wishes and thought we wanted enough for eight, or decided to take advantage of us by giving us double what we ordered,  it’s hard to know.  But the upshot was that we felt compelled to eat the pastas because they were so outstanding, leaving little room for our entree when it arrived.

The pastas included a very light gnocchi with pesto, pappardelle with sausage, a house capellini, and mushroom ravioli. All were excellent but I thought the pasta with sausage led the parade.

Thinking we were only going to have a bite of each of the appetizer pastas, my husband and I ordered pasta for our main dish. Living in Kansas City, we don’t have the luxury of eating pasta of this quality very often, so it seemed like a good bet. With more room in my stomach, it definitely would have been. I ordered a squid ink linguine with seafood in an arrabbiata sauce, which is one of my favorites, and this was as good as it gets. My husband ordered angel hair with the same spicy tomato sauce, and he was equally enthralled. Especially since there were plenty of leftovers for the next day.

Others in our group ordered veal Parmagiana. I have NEVER seen anything as huge. It looked exactly like a 12 inch pizza, only instead of crust on the bottom there was a piece of veal with the bone still attached.

We were all ready to roll out of the gorgeous restaurant when the waiter came by with a bucket holding cold grappa for all of us. He scooped up a glass for each of us with our bill. Nice touch.

Il Mulino’s sleek ambiance and smooth service would make this a restaurant to remember even if the food had been less than stellar. Was there too much to eat? Definitely, but that was partly our fault for the way we ordered, and of course, for the way we attacked the food. Would I go back? In a heartbeat.

Il Mulino New York on Urbanspoon

February 21, 2011 at 8:05 pm Leave a comment

Acqua Al 2 in Washington, DC

Acqua Al 2 has come to Washington, DC. Its owners know a thing or two about what constitutes authentic Italian cuisine. Started in Florence, Italy, the restaurant’s only other  North American outpost can be found in San Diego.

Acqua Al 2 took over a charming little space in the up and coming Eastern Market section of DC in early summer. Since that time, it’s been wowing diners who revel in the homemade pastas and  steaks that taste like they came straight from Tuscany.

On our visit, we couldn’t resist the pastas, sampled several and even ordered a second round. Maccheroni all Vodka looked bland but hit all the right notes with its spicy vodka tomato/cream sauce, Fussili  Lunghi  alla  Fiaccheraia, pasta with a spicy tomato sauce  proved that simple is often best, and the Cannelloni  Mascarpone  e  Funghi, certainly didn’t resemble St. Louis’s standard, but was every bit as decadent. And the gnocchi, essentially a potato dumpling, was light and airy (and then smothered in a rich cream sauce.) The homemade bread and focaccia was the ideal vehicle for mopping up all those sauces.

The two specialties of the house are the filet mignon with blueberry sauce, a combination which I just couldn’t bring myself to order, and Tuscan style rib eye (read blood rare) served on a bed of arugula, which I did order but they forgot to serve. I think it was a miscommunication rather than neglect–the server thought I was just asking how it was prepared and didn’t realize I had actually ordered it. No worries, I’ll be back and I had more than my fill that day anyway.

The restaurant is long and narrow, rustic and comforting, and on the night we were there was filled with families, groups and cozy couples. With its extensive menu, this is the kind of place where family style dining is preferred–more to try, more to love.

Acqua Al 2 on Urbanspoon

February 5, 2011 at 8:52 pm 1 comment

The Rieger Hotel Exchange and Grill

The Rieger opened late last month in the former 1924 Main building, and was likely the most anticipated new restaurant of 2010. It carries those high expectations into 2011 and, for the most part, manages to deliver.

Howard Hanna (formerly of 40 Sardines and Room 39) and Ryan Maybee (formerly of JP Wine Bar) have teamed up to create a restaurant that they believe serves “beautiful food for the people”, a mantra that is painted on a soffit in the kitchen, where Howard can see it each time a plate goes to the table.

I have now been once for dinner and once for lunch. Both visits were enjoyable, there were no missteps, and all of the dishes I sampled were pleasing if not thrilling. The downturn in the economy has made “comfort food”, fare that satisfies without breaking the bank, the buzzword of the restaurant scene.  While Chef Hanna’s cooking is certainly straightforward and far from fussy, there’s also a level of sophistication in it that shows an appreciation for each dish’s origin, whether it be Italy, France or the United States.

The pastas are house made, as are the sauces. Pappardelle Alla Bolognese features a  four-day beef, pork and veal ragu, and the Spaghetti Rossi is infused with red wine, and tossed with escarole and guanciale. The pappardelle is a dish made for meatlovers, but as a non-Italian, I would have preferred a bit more sauce. The one dish that didn’t work for me was the Swiss Chard Gnudi.  Typically a pasta-like dumpling without its pasta wrapper, Hanna’s version is a swiss chard puree formed into balls, sitting in a pool of brown butter. Though visually stunning in vibrant green, it lacked oomph.

The restaurant’s signature soup is The Rieger Pork soup, with pieces of pork,  Gruyère and garlic. As I was savoring it, my taste buds vacillated between recalling a pork chile verde I ate in Santa Fe  and Swiss fondue which, of course, is primarily melted Gruyère. Either way, the soup is a winner, and not as rich as it sounds.

The Cioppino, a seafood stew originating in San Francisco but a derivative of Italian cuisine, was competent but not particularly memorable. Though the fish and seafood were properly cooked,  the dish didn’t scream with flavor.

Grilled Poussin is not often found on menus, because, as Hanna points out, diners think of chicken as being rather pedestrian. This was anything but and I gnawed at the bones to savor it.  It was accompanied by caponata, typically a relish with eggplant, capers, peppers and olives.  This rendition was too heavy on the eggplant for my palate, but I enjoyed the Tuscan Fries, ordered as a side, which are a cross between a thick potato chip and a cottage fry, though puffier.

The dinner menu is compact, offering a couple of soups, four pastas, three salads, a half-dozen meat entrees and three seafood/fish dishes.  Clearly, this is the kind of menu that will change seasonally to take advantage of fresh and locally sourced ingredients,  a hallmark of Chef Hanna’s cooking, as it seems to be with all young chefs today.

The lunch menu offers some of the same dinner items with a slightly different spin, while also featuring a handful of sandwiches.

The Cubano is layered with house-cured ham, roast pork, mustard, swiss cheese and pickle, pressed together on a baguette. This type of sandwich is  all the rage right now around town, but not all are as good as this one. Though not overflowing with slices of meat and cheese, the pieces of crisp pork that dominated each bite set this apart, rather than thin slices of pork tenderloin that one often finds.

I also ordered garlic  potato chips, which reminded me of those at Union Square Cafe in New York City.  They are homemade and each bite tastes of garlic. Knowing that Chef Hanna had worked at Union Square Cafe some years ago, I asked him if they were his model.  He explained that The Rieger’s are slightly spicier, but they are definitely of the same mold. I can attest that they are certainly as addictive.

It’s not all about the food. With expert mixologist Ryan Maybee as one of the co-owners, a focus on cocktails and spirits was inevitable. My husband had the best Bloody Mary of his life, a Smoky Mary, which Ryan recommends trying with tequila rather than the usual vodka. The cocktail list in the restaurant is different from the drinks that are mixed downstairs in Manifesto, but equally impressive. Manifesto is the speakeasy that closed temporarily when 1924 Main did, but is now back in full swing.  With only 48 seats available, those wanting a drink are advised to call or text 816.536.1325 for a reservation. Taking a look around, I was surprised and happy to see that patrons’ ages ranged from their mid-twenties to sixties.  I had been under the mistaken impression that this was just for the young, not the young at heart.

You can expect service and hospitality to be top of mind with these restaurateurs, given their devotion to Danny Meyer, who is widely considered to be the king of restaurant hospitality. Meyer is the author of Setting the Table, a primer on hospitality that many have adopted as the industry’s bible, as well as owner of a wildly successful group of restaurants in the Big Apple. Hanna and Maybee have undoubtedly learned a thing or two from their mentor and it shows.

My first impression is a positive one. If the owners are striving to create a place where patrons can stop in to relish a drink and nibbles or to experience solid, satisfying fare without breaking the bank, they’ve already achieved that. Nor is it highbrow. The ambiance is warmer than when it was 1924 Main, the menu appeals to a broad range of tastes, and the staff is friendly and welcoming. It certainly adds some panache to Kansas City’s dining scene and I will be happy to return.  All good, right? But I was hoping to be blown away by what I ate, and I wasn’t. Perhaps my expectations were too high considering Howard’s pedigree and my past experience enjoying his cooking, but as the kitchen develops an identity, I’m hoping a touch more excitement is part of its DNA.

The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange on Urbanspoon

January 14, 2011 at 8:54 pm 3 comments

Teller’s Restaurant in Lawrence, KS

My husband and I recently went to Lawrence to see a KU football game. Though the Jayhawks didn’t have a successful aftTeller's Restaurant-Lawrenceernoon, our outing was salvaged by dinner at Teller’s restaurant. From the service to the pizza to the nightly special, it was an enjoyable experience. It’s in a former bank building, hence the name, but other than the exterior, there are only minor vestiges of its former life. The interior is certainly not stuffy or staid, rather  casual and quite comfortable.

Our server was very knowledgeable about the nightly specials, the preparation of every dish on the menu we asked about, as well as beer and wine selections.He was friendly, but certainly not obsequious. His recommendation of a red Duroc pork chop included a short dissertation on its origins and flavor. Red Duroc Pork Chop-Teller'sIt was a great choice, as was the pizza we shared as an appetizer. (For those of you who live in the area, consider stopping by to buy some dough, available even for those not dining there.) My husband was delighted when the server asked if he wanted freshly grated parmesan on his house-made pasta. As usual, they stopped grating before he said “when”.Pizza-Teller's-Lawrence

The bread was fresh and chewy. I suspect it came from Wheatfield’s Bakery on Vermont, just a couple blocks away, which I love. It was served on a rectangular wood block, with two small piles of salt and pepper to season the olive oil.

Teller’s has long been a popular spot on Massachusetts and is usually packed. If you don’t make a reservation, there’s a cozy bar to pass the time.

Teller's on Urbanspoon

November 8, 2009 at 5:44 pm 1 comment

Whole Wheat Pasta

Whole wheat pasta is made with whole wheat flour, meaning that the flour includes the bran and germ of the wheat. It has more fiber and nutrients than pasta made with white flour, and it has a somewhat different texture and flavor. Some people find that whole wheat pasta is not to their liking, but I haven’t noticed much of a difference in taste. Consider choosing whole wheat pasta as a healthier alternative to conventional pasta. That way you won’t be consuming empty carbohydrates and you can justify having pasta on a regular basis.IMG_0247

October 9, 2009 at 7:17 am 1 comment

Tomato Time Two

IMG_0247This season’s crop of tomatoes will be gone well before I’ve had my fill,  so I’ll try to include them in at least part of every dinner I serve for the next few weeks.

For a striking presentation, spread a variety of heirloom tomato slices (yellow, orange and purple, not just red) on a platter, sprinkle with cut cherry tomatoes, goat or blue cheese crumbles and leaves of basil (a common theme at this time of year). Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and oil and season with salt and pepper.

An old favorite among the Silver Palate crowd, the tomato and Brie pasta dish is a winner, exploding with an array of flavors on the tongue, from the soft, melted texture of the cheese to the powerful bite of the raw garlic. The earlier in the day you make the sauce, the deeper and more flavorful the result. Chop lots of garlic (8 cloves is not too many!) and several shallots, and put them in a big serving bowl. Add a half-cup of olive oil, cover with saran wrap and set aside. An hour or so before you want to eat, halve dozens of cherry tomatoes and add them to the bowl along with torn basil leaves and bite-sized pieces of Brie cheese. At dinnertime, cook a batch of your favorite pasta and toss with the room-temperature sauce. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan at the table.

Bruschetta is a terrific party food and it’s fun to offer your guests a choice. (When their mouths are full, it won’t even matter if they know the proper Italian pronunciation of this appetizer.) Toast or grill slices of pain de compagne (Farm to Market makes a French Farm bread that works beautifully and is available in most grocery stores) that have been brushed with olive oil. Spread with mashed roasted garlic cloves and oven-roasted tomatoes. Or try one with pesto and fresh mozzarella. Warm in a 350-degree oven until the cheese melts, and add a halved cherry tomato on top before serving.

August 10, 2009 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

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