Dick & Jenny’s Bake and Brew

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She suggested Dick and Jenny’s Bake and Brew http://www.dickandjennysny.com/ on Baseline Road in Grand Island.

Dick and Jenny have a tragic happy-ending story. They met and fell in love in New Orleans and eventually opened a restaurant in the Big Easy.

Things went well as they were well received and successful … until Hurricane Katrina. The restaurant survived, but their home did not.

They evacuated to Grand Island to be with family and decided to stay. Happily, their restaurant in New Orleans was purchased by their employees and they decided to grow some new roots on Grand Island.

I joined my friends last week at this adorable restaurant tucked back on the island, and had a surprise gourmet meal.

They happened to be celebrating restaurant week one week early (timing is everything, no?) and we each sampled Dick’s Tasting Sensation Menu ($20.12 plus $13 for wine samples – no brainer!). Click here for the menu.

The three of us each selected a different first course and, as good friends do, tasted each other’s selection.

The soup duo was great and the tomato soup was my favorite (almost like a stew, so thick with chunks of tomato).

I had the smoked salmon and loved frisee salad, dressed lightly with crumbled egg on top.

My other friend had the crab cake dish and loved the fried green tomato.

The second course brought us a pair of duck cigars and one crawfish tasso cheesecake. We loved the cigars but I look forward to going back soon and ordering that seafood cheesecake.

It was light and packed with flavor and the sauce was delicious.

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My friend ordered the mac and cheese as her entrée. The portion was considered a tasting size but it was more than enough for a full meal.

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The bacon added a smoky flavor while the Gorgonzola cheese added a tang and creaminess. I loved it and almost wished I had ordered that myself. We found out we could vote for it by March 31.

Believe me, it’s getting my vote – it still makes me happy just thinking about it. Two of us had the pork loin. I liked it a lot and enjoyed the apple mashed potatoes. I am going to try that next time I make them.

The atmosphere is fun and the parking ample. I am really looking forward to going again because there are so many things on the menu I would love to try.

Maybe my “let’s get together” friend could do it again!

Have a yummy week!

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Hold on, St. Patrick; Viva San Guiseppe!

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Today’s column is not about corned beef or green beer. It is about an important annual celebration which occurs annually just two days after the party saint’s big day.

There is a story which has been passed down several generations and told to me by both my grandmother and father. The people present this particular day are long gone but the memory lives in our family as we pass it to our own children.

St. Joseph’s Day (March 19) is celebrated each year with a table filled with cakes (St. Joseph is the patron saint of pastry chefs!), breads, meatless sauce and other special foods made with love and care in thanks for special favors asked of St. Joseph.

I have many recipes handed down from my grandmothers and from some old cookbooks. The blue one was actually written by my sister-in-laws aunt – how cool! Another favorite recipe is from the late Nick Antonacci (owner of the Como and my father’s best friend). It is sfinge made with a base of ricotta cheese … so good.

OK … back to the story.
Feeding the needy is perhaps the most important part of the day. It is primarily a Sicilian tradition and my father’s family celebrated in a big way. He grew up on 17th Street in Niagara Falls in a typical two family home. His grandparents lived downstairs.

Each year my great grandmother would make the feast with the help of my grandmother and great aunts. I am sure they cooked for many days. Although their houses were not large they would open their home to anyone who wanted to eat.

Imagine doing that today? It was a different time …

My great-grandfather built a large banquet table which was referred to as the St. Joseph table and I’m in possession of it today. When you went up stairs to my grandparents house you had to go through the kitchen to get to their bedroom. Because of that they stored a lot of the food that did not need refrigeration in there until it was set out on the table.

They served all day, until everything was gone. The spaghetti for the pasta con sarde (macaroni and sardines) (Gramma’s recipe at end) served with Molicca (breadcrumbs to represent sawdust – St. Joseph was a carpenter) was stored in the bedroom. My grandfather bought a case of spaghetti. I am not sure how many boxes there were in a case but assume it was a lot of macaroni.

On this particular St. Joseph day, I think in the 1940s, the crowd at the house was particularly large. It was part a family dinner, social experience and soup kitchen. Macaroni was being cooked as fast as pots could boil water. At some point in the day my father went into the bedroom and brought his grandmother the last box of spaghetti from the case.

She cooked it and it was served to the crowd. Next my grandfather noticed the table was out of spaghetti, went into the bedroom and took the last box of spaghetti from the case, gave it to his mother-in-law. She cooked it and it was served.

Once again, there was no more macaroni out on the table so my grandmother came into the kitchen and into the bedroom, got the last box of spaghetti out of the case, gave it to her mother who cooked it and it was served.

They fed many people that day and experienced their own “feeding of the multitude.” The “last” box of spaghetti was served three times! It was our very own St. Joseph Day miracle.

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I won’t be preparing a table this year … one can only do so much. I would love for local restaurants and organizations to let us know if they are offering a St. Joseph table.

Gramma Russo’s Pasta Con Sarde

4 Large Cans Tomato Puree
1 Large Onion, chopped
10 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Large Can of Sarde Mix (I buy mine at Latina’s)

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add sarde mix and heat through. Fill each can of puree ½ full with water to clean sides and add to pot. Cook down on medium low for 2 to 3 hours until thick.

Cook spaghetti according to instructions on the box. Toss with some sauce to coat and serve with extra sauce on top. In place of grated cheese sprinkle macaroni with Mollica.

Mollica

Toast day-old Italian bread in the oven until dry. Use a food processer and grind to a fine crumb. Brown the crumbs in a heavy, dry pan until brown. Be sure to stir constantly because it burns very quickly. Remove from heat and add a little bit of granulated sugar.

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Great-Great Gramma's Bitter Sweet Peas (this is my favorite St. Joseph recipe)

6 Large Cans Peas (drained)
1 Large Bunch Celery (diced)
1 Pound Italian Green Olives (pitted and chopped)
1 Large Can Artichokes (cut up)
1 Tablespoon Salt

Dice and cook celery until slightly softened. Drain and cool. Saute onions, add celery, and olives. Take off stove (recipe says to take off the fire but I decided to change that) and add peas and artichokes. Mix lightly with fingers.

¾ Cup White Vinegar
½ Cup Sugar
Warm the vinegar gently in a sauce pan to melt sugar. Remove from heat and add to pea mixture. Toss lightly and refrigerate.

Viva San Guiseppe!

una settimana deliziosa

Second chance at Pub was world-class

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I had a great dinner this past Sunday at the Lewiston Village Pub (linked here).
This came as a considerable surprise to me because the one and only time I was there previously ordering off the menu was completely and totally forgettable.

As owner Ken Scibetta told me, our last visit was before he took the kitchen over.

When they first bought the Pub in January 2008 they sublet the kitchen out.

It was just Ken and his partner back then. Now they have a staff of 25. Back then it was 80 percent bar business and 20 percent food.

Now it’s 65 percent food and 35 percent bar which is a testament to how good the food is. When they started out the bulk of their profit came from the bar business.

They have this Mug Club where you get a personalized mug for $8 which is waiting for you when you return. The beer offerings are very extensive and he would like to expand the wine menu sometime in the future.

Ken has slowly and surely created a menu that has regular customers come back often. He likes to change up the specials frequently using as many local ingredients as possible.

He gets a great deal of his produce from Tom Tower and other Niagara County growers. He is quick to explain he is a self taught chef.

His previous experience was in “the front of the house” serving at higher end WNY establishments such as the Buffalo Chop House and Left Bank.
He told me he learned about food from the daily specials he had shared with diners. If he did not know an ingredient or cooking style he had to learn about it before the customers asked about it.

To start we ordered calamari served with the house tomato sauce.

20120611-082433.jpg I liked the sauce very much, not to salty and almost sweet. The rings were described as “jumbo” and they certainly were.

We had a Rex-Goliath Merlot, a great value at $20 a bottle. We took advantage of the Sunday special, steak for two. I got a salad with cucumber wasabi dressing which had heat without pain. It was delicious.

20120611-082426.jpgThe steak was cooked exactly to order and it was served over buttery mashed potatoes. There is always room for dessert and we ordered a slice of cheesecake.

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When I see the website and the pictures of the food I’m very impressed he taught himself to cook. He tries to create his menu so that when a diner reads it they cannot decide what to have. I can say that worked for me.

I look forward to going back and having the crab legs or maybe the Kona crusted sirloin … I cannot decide!

Have a yummy week!

Sunday Dinner

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When I was a kid, Sunday was a day of rest … for everyone but mothers. Sunday was a ritual, almost religious in its well-kept traditions.

In our family my mother made dinner every Sunday. Some weekends, it was the predictable tomato sauce but more often it was a rib roast or roasted chickens. My mother had a rotisserie in the oven and I can still hear the mechanical sound as dinner rotated evenly around and around until cooked to perfection.

Dinner always included a “nice” salad (I guess other families had to deal with the nasty ones because ours were always nice) and dessert. Dessert was special because it was saved for weekends.

On Sunday, we would get to eat the pie with homemade crust painstakingly created on Saturday afternoon or a cake baked with mom’s secret flavor combinations.

My dad was an only child so my Gramma Russo was always with us. We didn’t have to share her with other cousins like we had to share Gramma Massaro. So the deal was, we would all eat at our own house then, wherever Gramma Massaro ate dinner was the location of “coffee.” Aunts and uncles and cousins would start to arrive after dishes and the leaves were inserted into the table.

The coffee pot went non-stop and all of the confections consumed. Ed Sullivan would be on TV as long as there was no game on. I really do remember seeing that long-haired band called the Beatles on one night and hearing my uncles laugh about all of the girls screaming. When we were first married, we continued to go to our parents’ houses, alternating to make it fair. I must admit, though, it was a bigger deal in my family so we were there most weekends.

As time went in I longed to have a Sunday alone or with people I did not have a direct DNA match. Foolish, silly me, because eventually Sunday dinner became an infrequent occurrence celebrated like an occasional high holy day. When I became a mother and our mothers moved from our long time family homes to small efficient condominiums, I tried to continue the Sunday dinner tradition even if it was only once a month. All were welcome but it usually ended up to be our mothers and various aunts and uncles.

I still try to have Sunday dinner whenever we are in town, even if it is just my husband and me.

Sunday, I made a roast chicken (no rotisserie for me) which I rubbed with a concoction of D’Avolio California Arbequina EVOO, chopped garlic, parsley, paprika, mustard seeds, dried mustard, coarse salt and fresh ground pepper.

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I lifted the skin and put some under it on top of the meat. I rubbed some inside and put the rest on the skin on top.

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I preheated the oven to 450F, inserted the thermometer probe (this is one of the most important tools in my kitchen) and put the chicken in the oven. I immediately reduced the temperature to 350F and cooked it until the internal temperature reached 165F.

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I covered it with foil for the juices to set and made mashed potatoes, peas and pan gravy.

Just because it was only the two of us doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy a special Sunday dinner.

You can see the results above!

I am writing a book called “If It’s Sunday Dinner We Must Be Family” and want to know how you celebrate Sunday.

Here is a challenge to my foodie friends (face it, you read this if you are a foodie and/or my friend!): Please share your Sunday story. I would love to know things like how you prepare, who attends (not names rather relationships like children, in-laws, neighbors, etc.) and menu.

If the menu changes, who decides? Are they special occasions only? Tell me anything to help me understand how you value the tradition of Sunday dinner.

Each month I will post my favorite one. Each month D’Avolio will reward the winner a $25 gift card good at any of their locations.

Have a yummy week.

Next week: the Foodie finally visits the Lewiston Village Pub

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