Restaurant week is great fun for me. Aside from my regular blogging duties as Seasonal Chef, I get to partake in and write about the best game in town: our very own Hudson Valley Restaurant Week (HVRW), and this year we get to have two of them!
This week I got to go back to one of my favorite spots in Irvington: Mima Vinoteca. The location is just perfect. Just about the middle of Main Street in Irvington with easy access to the Metro North and plenty of parking. That evening I was heading to the Clocktower Players performance of “Nine to Five” starring my favorite thespian, and with Mima only about a block away, it was the perfect place to have dinner. The HVRW menu has a great assortment of options to choose from. Since I was there with my in-laws, Madeline and Larry visiting from California, and friends Kaley and Jeff, I had the great fortune to taste almost every offering.
Mima is a lovely restaurant and very cozy inside. You feel like you’ve just walked into a small trattoria in Tuscany. There is a soft glow from the candles in the room filled with dark wood chairs and tables and wine bottles lining the walls. It’s a small restaurant but feels big, but not is a bad way. We were there on a Friday night so it was definitely jumping.
Eggplant Rollatini: ricotta, mozzarella San Marzano tomatoes
Polpettone: Meatballs with San Marzano tomatoes and parmigianno
Clam and Mussel Brodetto: Manila clams, PEI mussels in a garlic tomato broth
The HVRW menu offered four appetizers and four main courses which was fantastic. Starting at the beginning, I think my choice of Clams and Mussels was the top pick. The bowl was piled high with lots of shell fish and the bottom had a remarkable brodetto. Brodetto is basically the Italian version if bouillabaisse, but much more rustic. You find this dish in almost all seaside towns along the coast with the ingredients reflecting the local catch. Mima’s broth was rich, warm and garlicky with chunks of tomato. The only downside to this dish is there were not enough crostinis to dip into the brothy deliciousness!
More after the jump …
The main course offerings spanned the ingredient spectrum as well. Chicken, fish and pasta.
Chicken Scarpariello: shiitake, tomato, sweet sausage and fingerlings
Wild Salmon: farro, marinated tomatoes and cauliflower sauce
Rigatoni: San Marzano tomato, fior di latte mozzarella and basil
Orecchiette: farm fresh egg, onion, smoked bacon and parmigianno
Sadly I got only a bite of most of them. I managed a picture when each arrived, and in the excitement of mine I lost track of the others. When I looked up everyone had finished them off! Like I said, I did get a bite of each one and can report that each was wonderful. The scarpariello sauce was rich and smooth with a hint of spice and the rigatoni fresh and bright. I tasted the farro under the salmon when it hit the table but not the salmon. A very apologetic Jeff reported that it was amazing, hence the clean plate!
My choice was the Orecchiette with carbonara sauce and frankly I could not have been happier. The “Americanized” version of carbonara doesn’t come anywhere near the authentic version. Carbonara is a dish that hails from the Lazio region of Italy. The most traditional ingredients for this dish are pasta (spaghetti or bucatini), guanciale (pork cheek), garlic, parmigianno, olive oil, pepper and, of course, a fresh egg. That’s it. Now, when in Rome you won’t find anything but guanciale in this dish, but here it’s generally not found in the local grocery store. You can find it, but usually at a specialty butcher or Italian market like Tarry Market for instance. A perfectly acceptable substitute is pancetta or even good old smoked bacon. The goal is to have the pork bring a smoky flavor to the party. So basic sausage or pork won’t work.
So how do you get to the “oh my God” moment of the dish? It’s the fresh egg of course! As the dish comes together in the kitchen the farm fresh egg and yolk are separated and the white is tossed into the hot pasta along with the pork, cheese and I’m imagining some of the pasta water. Just before it leaves the kitchen the yolk is nestled into the pasta and a good couple of pepper grates go over top. (Fresh pepper a must with this dish!) The heat of the pasta begins to slightly cook the yolk and when it arrived to me it was utterly perfect. There are just a couple of dishes out there in food-land that make me swoon and this is one of them. Mima’s is just perfect. Traditionally this would be found with spaghetti, but I loved the use of oriecchette pasta. Also described as “little hats” or “little ears.” If you have never had authentic carbonara you must try theirs!
Torta di Cioccolate: espresso chocolate ganache
Banana Walnut Bread Pudding: with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce
The dessert offerings on the menu were just wonderful as well. I opted for the Tiramisu which was creamy and delicious. The Chocolate Torta was dense and thick, with a texture similar to fudge. The Bread Pudding also a lovely rendition with bananas and walnuts.
All in all a fantastic dinner and nothing less than expected. If this one is not on your HVRW list this week you must plan to get there very soon! If you are able to go this weekend definitely make it an evening of dinner and the theatre and hop up to see the Clocktower Players performance of Nine to Five at the Irvington Town Hall. Its a great production with two performances left. Look closely at the list of performers and you will see a very familiar name! (wink)
Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She’s an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmers, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.