Restaurant Week Winter 2018!! I’ve managed to hit 3 (or will) this week. Chillfire in Denver, The Foundry in Denver and Fiamma in Charlotte. Oh be still my heart! Fiamma was so worth the wait. I’ve had it on my wish list forever! It is authentically Italian, probably some of the best I’ve had in this area. Their fish is flown in daily from Europe and they hand make all of their pasta.
Fiamma is also open for lunch Monday through Saturday, so you can try it during the day if you can’t make it for Restaurant week or forget to make reservations at night. You can easily make reservations online through Open Table, though, so don’t forget. This place is hopping!
The service here is top-notch. I found all of the staff to be kind, knowledgeable and prompt. I felt cared for, but never bothered. This is a true accomplishment during harried Restaurant week!
Let’s talk about the food. YUMMM!
When you sit down, they bring out a plate of fresh bread and crunchy bread sticks to dip in this luscious and tangy pesto. If I had a big bowl of that pesto and a hunk of bread, I think I’d be happy. It was so good!
St. Germain Coctail: Prosecco, St. Germain liquor, on the rocks with lemon and lime.
Refreshing and crisp, this is my favorite cocktail ever. Reminds me of a sweeter mojito.
Burratta – fresh creamy buffalo cheese served with arugula, roasted red pepper, grilled eggplant, and prosciutto di Parma
Calamari al Salto – sautéed fresh calamari, tomato, avocado in a white wine sauce
This was a perfect hearty warm salad. The calamari was tender and not rubbery and provided a perfect canvas for the avocado and tomato to give it such flavor. The girls were mostly impressed with the party hat on the lemon, though.
Delizia Del Contadina – mixed greens tossed with walnuts, pears, and Tuscan Pecorino cheese in a light balsamic dressing.
This was my first course, and it was lovely! A basic salad, but sometimes that’s just exactly what I want, a simple salad, with fresh ingredients that are all perfect. This hit all of the marks.
Then came this palate cleanser: orange sherbet. I was charmed 🙂
Veal Ossobuco (Fiamma’s Specialty) – braised veal shank served with a side of saffron risotto
This was the best dish of the night. The veal was so tender it fell apart with a touch of the fork. The sauce it was simmered in was so flavorful and rich, you could tell it had reduced for hours. The one blight on the meal was the saffron risotto. It was so salty, it was inedible. No, we didn’t send it back. Restaurant week is super busy and we were seriously enjoying everything else so much it became an afterthought.
Branzino – Mediterranean fish stuffed with fresh seafood and served with spinach, potatoes, and asparagus
Tagliolini alla Scoglio – homemade pasta sautéed with fresh seafood in garlic, red pepper flakes, white wine sauce
This was my selection. It was incredibly hardy. I couldn’t believe how much seafood it had, especially during restaurant week! They truly don’t skimp on portions. The wine sauce was light and really let the homemade pasta and seafood stand out as the stars. I took most of it home and it was even better the next day.
Fussili Al Toscanaccio – sautéed with chicken, mushrooms, served in a vodka pink sauce with sundried tomatoes
I tasted a tiny bite of this dish, and it was packed with flavor and the chew on the pasta was perfect! I rank it the second best dish of the night!
Panna Cotta – cold Italian custard served with mixed berries
Tiramisu – layered coffee-soaked ladyfingers topped off with a mascarpone cream and cocoa
This dessert was creamy and light, not with an overwhelming coffee flavor. I thought it was perfect, but my dining partner wanted the coffee to be more prevalent.
Cheesecake – ricotta and mascarpone blended cheesecake, served with berry sauce and vanilla ice cream
So light and creamy, and not too sweet. perfect with the berry drizzle.
Crema Tostada – warm vanilla custard topped with torched sugar, served with fresh berries
This was my dessert, and despite the name, as you can see it is Creme Brulee. Not very imaginative of me, but so good 🙂
Sometimes you just need a big bowl of pasta to get you through. Tomorrow we are supposed to be experiencing a “Snowpacalypse” in the Carolinas, and I am seriously nervous. I hate being closed up in the house for too long, and I HATE the thought of losing power and sitting in the dark and freezing. To calm myself down, I made a big pot of creamy pasta. It worked, I’m cool as a cuke now. Bring it on, wretched snowstorm.
coarse salt and pepper
6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
4 leeks, halved lengthwise, rinsed well, and thinly sliced ( white and light-green parts only)
3/4 lb short pasta, such as campanelle (I used gemelli and more like 1/2 lb.) or 3/4 lb orecchiette ( I used gemelli and more like 1/2 lb.)
2 large eggs
1/2 ounce parmesan cheese, grated ( 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped (optional)
1. Set a large pot of salted water to boil. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet. (I did not pour off any fat… it looked too good to discard.) Add leeks, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until leeks are golden brown, about 10 minutes.
2. Add pasta to pot and cook according to package instructions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, Parmesan, and lemon zest and juice. Whisk 1/4 cup pasta water into egg mixture.
3. Drain pasta and immediately add to egg mixture, along with bacon, leeks, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Sprinkle with more cheese if desired and serve immediately.
I love Top Chef! Each season I pick an early favorite and in Mike’s season…he wasn’t it. In fact, I really didn’t even like him. Then I saw him on the fan favorites show, and though I rooted for Richard, I developed a new appreciation for the brashness that was Mike. He had passion that seemed limitless…and this sauce. Sinfully delicious.
This sauce is most likely designed to be a garnish, not to cover and entire plate of pasta. It is extremely intense. I made this and then added it to my regular Marinara sauce (4 cups marinara, I’d guess?) and it was perfect.
Mike Isabella’s Pepperoni Sauce (For Pasta)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, cut into small dice
5 medium garlic cloves, cut into very thin slices
1 lb pepperoni, cut into thin slices
1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted (see NOTE)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 -12 ounces canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juices
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 fresh bay leaf
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, until the oil shimmers.
Add the onion and garlic; cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until they are golden and fragrant.
Stir in the pepperoni; cook for about 5 minutes, until fragrant and evenly coated, then add the toasted fennel seed and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute, stirring.
Add the tomatoes and their juices (to taste), the broth and the bay leaf; stir to incorporate.
Once the mixture starts to bubble at the edges, cover and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
The pepperoni slices will be soft, with a deeper color.
Remove from the heat.
Working in batches as needed, transfer to a food processor or a high-powered blender (including the bay leaf); puree until smooth.
The sauce is ready to use. Or cool, cover and refrigerate or freeze.
NOTE: Toast the fennel seed in a small dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the skillet often to keep the seeds from burning. They will become fragrant and slightly darker in color. This only takes a couple of minutes.
He also recomends using San Marzano tomatoes for this recipe.