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The Gourmand Mom Hits the Big Apple

Hi everyone!

Just wanted to pass along a quick update from our big trip to NYC. If you haven’t been following the story, we’re here as a result of my winning recipe, Braised Lamb Shanks and Mushroom with Brown-braised Onions, which I entered into a contest sponsored by Bertolli, the company which produces delicious pasta sauces, olive oils, and fresh-tasting frozen meals.

We arrived early yesterday afternoon and were greeted at the airport by a swanky Lexus towncar. Not a bad way to start the weekend. The driver got us into the city in a snap and we checked into our room on the 39th floor of the Crowne Plaza Times Square Hotel.

Within a few minutes of our arrival, there was a knock on the door, announcing the arrival of a welcome gift from the Bertolli team. The highlight of the gift was seeing my recipe printed on a glossy recipe card.

By this point, it was well past our lunch time and my belly was burning with hunger. We set out in search of food, specifically Italian food, which my husband had a hankering for. We bypassed an Olive Garden and landed upon a little corner place called Ciro Trattoria. The placard in the front advertised a $15 Prix Fixe 3-course menu, with options such as Spaghetti and Meatballs, Chicken Marsala, or Rigatoni Bolognese. Sounded right up our alley, so we entered.

Upon opening the front door, we were greeted by four uniformed police officers and a self-proclaimed psychotic who’d apparently just downed six Coronas and a Hennessey on the rocks in a thirty-minute time frame before deciding that she didn’t feel like paying. Ahh… good ole New York City. I sure did miss it here. The host ushered us to a comfortable table far removed from the commotion. We ordered our drinks and selected our entrées.

Our meal began with a house salad, in a surprisingly delightful vinaigrette. The sweetness of the dressing provided an excellent contrast to the saltiness of the olives in the dish. Italian bread was served warm, perfectly crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle.

We shared an order of Fried Calamari, which were lightly seasoned and well-cooked. The sauce was unremarkable, but overall it was a pleasing dish.

For my entrée, I selected the Rigatoni Bolognese. My husband had the Spaghetti and Meatballs. Once again, the sauce was somewhat unremarkable, but the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente and the parmesan cheese was particularly delicious. I had no trouble clearing my plate.

For dessert, they served Tortoni; a small ice cream dish topped with a light layer of ground nuts and a cherry. It was delicious. My only complaint is that is didn’t come with extra nut topping!

By the time we left, the raving woman had been escorted out of the restaurant and was standing in the middle of the road yelling at the cars. We made our way past and headed back to the hotel for a much-needed nap.

In the evening, we had the opportunity to meet up with the other contest winners and the Bertolli team at a welcome dinner, which was held in a private dining room at a Bryant Park restaurant called Aureole. What a truly lovely group of people!

The drinks, conversation, and laughter flowed easily amongst this new group of friends. We even had the opportunity to meet an extraordinarily well-spoken and well mannered young man, who floored us with his knowledge of the culinary world. He also happens to be a skilled drummer, bassist, and pianist; a young Rock & Roll chef! He shares a food blog with his foodie mom, called The Mouths, which I will definitely be following!

Dinner was truly impressive, prepared to perfection. I started with the Organic Baby Greens with Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, Summer Vegetables, and White Balsamic Vinaigrette.

For my entrée, I selected the Beef Tenderloin with English Peas, Smoked Fingerling Potatoes, Pearl Onions, and Sauce Au Poivre. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender and expertly seasoned.

Dessert was a Warm Chocolate Cake served with Pistachio Ice Cream and Candied Pistachio. The flavor was full of rich, decadent chocolate, yet the texture was indescribably light. Chocolate heaven on a plate.

It was a lovely dinner, which I felt honored to be part of. Tonight is the big event at Lincoln Center. I’m both incredibly excited and nervous. We’ll be attending the Zac Posen fashion show, followed by the Bertolli after party, hosted by Rocco Dispirito and Zac Posen. The winning dishes have been carefully scaled down into passed hors d’oeuvres and will be served to the attending celebrities and media. It’s certain to be an event unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Wish me luck!

: )


Winner Winner Lamb Dinner

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Yesterday was Mr. Gourmand Mom’s birthday. (He’s probably not going to appreciate me calling him that.) As the day approached, I began asking him for his birthday cake requests. There was no need to ask what he wanted for dinner. That answer was predictable. Greek Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce, his favorite dish and a fair request, considering that I’ve hardly made them since beginning this blog. As far as the cake went, he insisted he didn’t want a cake at all.

So this is what we sang Happy Birthday to…

To see the complete recipe for my Greek Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce, click here.

But, I’m a firm believer that everyone needs dessert on their birthday. So we also picked up these little treats from Coldstone Creamery…

In other news…

I’ve been keeping a little secret from you. Partly because I wanted to confirm what I should or shouldn’t share and partly because I still can’t believe it’s for real. Perhaps you remember a couple months ago, when I posted this picture…

And this picture…

You may remember me mentioning that the pictured dish was my first entry into a recipe contest.

Well, the recipe contest was for Bertolli Ristorante, the company which produces delicious pasta sauces, olive oils, and surprisingly fresh-tasting frozen pasta meals. The idea of the contest was to create a recipe inspired by one of Bertolli’s pasta sauces. I chose one of the sauces in their Vineyard Collection; the Fire Roasted Tomato with Cabernet Sauvignon. Inspired by the rich tomato flavor in this very yummy sauce, I created my dish, Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Brown-braised Onions.

And guess what…

It won the grand prize in the meat category! I couldn’t even believe it when I first got the call. I won the very first recipe contest I’ve ever entered. I certainly never expected that to happen! I can still hardly believe it.

Wondering what I won?

The grand prize includes:

  • A trip to NYC to attend an exclusive event hosted by Chef Rocco Dispirito, where my dish will be featured on the menu
  • $500 spending money
  • A signed copy of Rocco’s newest cookbook, Now Eat This: 150 of America’s Comfort Foods, All Under 350 Calories
  • Premium 10-piece cookware set
  • A year’s supply of Bertolli Pasta Sauce

Sounds awesome, right??

Here’s where it gets really interesting. I’ve been speaking to the good people who are organizing the exclusive event. Turns out that the event will take place immediately following the Zac Posen fashion show, as part of New York City’s infamous Fashion Week. The event will be hosted by both Rocco Dispirito and Zac Posen at the gorgeous Lincoln Center, which is currently undergoing a transformation in preparation for hosting NYC Fashion Week. We will have seats at the show and then move across the way into a courtyard area for the Bertolli Ristorante afterparty, where my dish and the winning dishes of the other four categories will be served. We can expect a few celebrities and many members of the media to be present at the event.

Wow! Sounds very exciting.

The only small problem, as I put it to my parents, is that I’m barely fashionable enough for the grocery store. As I was selecting bananas the other day, I made a quick evaluation of my look. Terry shorts with an elastic waistband. Well-worn t-shirt from Target (with a tiny hole on the side). Sandals. Chipping polish on my toe nails. Hair in a ponytail, loose hairs surrounding my face.

Oh Boy. I’m in a much better condition for attending (or participating in) a pie-eating contest than a NYC Fashion Week event. It’s not that I don’t care about how I look. It just plays second fiddle to my homemaking responsibilities. Somehow, when I imagined my life as a stay-at-home mom, I fancied myself as the June Cleaver type. Handle the housekeeping and children with ease during the day, then greet my husband in the evening, immaculately dressed, hair perfectly coiffed, with a fresh baked apple pie and glass of brandy in hand. Turned out to be more of a stretchy shorts kind of job.

This gourmand mom is going to require a serious makeover to get herself in suitable condition for a NYC Fashion Week event. Currently accepting applications for a fashion consultant.

Seriously though, I am so thrilled about winning the contest and the exciting prize that Bertolli is providing. Within the next couple of weeks, my recipe will be posted so you can try it out. I’ll be sure to share the link when it’s available. In the mean time, wish me luck as I try to put together a suitable Fashion Week worthy outfit, learn how to apply makeup, and walk without stumbling in heels. I’ll definitely keep you updated!

EDITED TO ADD: The winning recipe for Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Brown-Braised Onions can be found by clicking HERE.

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