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This Weekend’s Five Best Food and Drink Events in NYC – 3/27/2015

It’s Friday and a weekend full of opportunities awaits. Here are five of the best eating and drinking events taking place over the next two days.

Goodbye Party, Eataly Vino, Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m./noon

Start stocking up on wine for outdoor-dinner-party season. Through April 5, Eataly’s wine shop is offering 20 percent off all bottles and cases in stock before its temporary closing. Guests who make a purchase will also receive a ticket for future use and receive 20 percent off a bottle of Vino Libero at the new expanded wine store.

Big Mozz Smorgasburg Launch Party, Nick’s Pizza Bar, 365 Third Avenue, Saturday, 11:30 a.m.

In advance of its Smorgasburg debut, mozzarella maker Big Mozz is testing out a few dishes and seeking feedback. So it’s throwing a party where the menu includes mozzarella pops, sandwiches, and a mozzarella bomb — cheese filled with roasted garlic pesto inside a mini bread bowl with vegetable toppings. All food and drink is available for purchase, and mozzarella and pesto sauce will be available to take home by the pound. Guests are required to make a reservation.

Brandy Smackdown: Cognac vs. Armagnac, Le Du’s Wines, 600 Washington Street, Saturday, 4 p.m.

Not all after-dinner drinks are created equal. Spirits enthusiast Leo Comercio will discuss four estate-distilled brandies that showcase what to look for when considering cognac and armagnac. The complimentary tasting includes two selections from each category.

Gastronomie 491 Anniversary Party, Gastronomie 491, 491 Columbus Avenue, Sunday, noon

This specialty grocery store celebrates its third anniversary on the Upper West Side this weekend, and it is throwing a bash complete with food tastings and prizes. The store will also reopen its gelato counter to welcome in warm weather while a Brazilian samba band serenades the crowd.

Puppetsburg, Dunham Gallery, 7 Dunham Street, Brooklyn, Sunday, 3 p.m.

This show rewards both parents and children at the same time. The performance includes craft work for the kids, and craft cocktails next door for the adults, courtesy of Donna. Guests who make a purchase for the puppet show, which begins at 4 p.m., can show their tickets to receive two-for-one drinks at the cocktail bar afterwards.

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What’s Happening This Weekend: Free Beer, Mutzfest, Cochon 555, and ChiliFest

Next weekend is all about getting comfy on the couch if you’re a sports fan (or a Super Bowl commercials fan/nachos fan/party fan), which means you have all the more reason to get out and explore this weekend. Here’s a look at what’s happening around the city.

 

Free Bronx Brewery Tasting, Nolita Mart & Espresso Bar, 155 Mott Street, Saturday, 4 p.m.

If you haven’t checked out the Bronx Brewery yet, it’s worth signing up for a tour. If a trek up to the Bronx isn’t in the cards in the near future, though, you may want to stop by this free tasting first, where you’ll be able to supplement your beer with cheese and pickles. The brewery will offer up a few of its trademark concoctions, and those of us with growlers can take advantage of the mart’s craft beer selection.

Mutzfest, Hoboken Elk’s Club, 1005 Washington Street, Hoboken, NJ, Sunday, 2 p.m.

The battle for local deli supremacy comes to an end as one sandwich scion will take home Hoboken bragging rights for best “mutz”. Homemade mozzarella and, perhaps, meatballs will fly as the crowd is serenaded by Frank Sinatra wannabes via karaoke. There’s also a cannoli eating contest as well as actual musicians performing — though watching someone you know butcher old blue eyes might be worth the price of admission. Tickets are $20 and a full list of delis where you can purchase them can be found on the mutzfest website.

Cochon 555, The Ritz Carlton New York, Battery Park, 2 West Street, Sunday, 4 p.m.

Raising awareness about heritage bred pigs — and why we should all be eating them — is the focus of this friendly competition pitting chefs against one another. Participants — including Market Table’s David Standridge and Tertulia’s Seamus Mullen — will craft six courses from a 200 pound pig in an attempt to win over the crowd and judges. In addition to food, there will be wine and beer stations throughout the event and a butchering demo in case you want to try this at home. Tickets start at $130.95 for general admission and can be purchased through the festival’s website.

NYChiliFest 2014, Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Avenue, Sunday, 7 p.m.

If you haven’t tried chili as a remedy for winter weather woes, give it a shot this weekend. A line-up of Chelsea Market vendors along with entrants from Mile End and La Esquina will dole out bowls of piping hot chili to determine which chef is cooking up the best batch. Representatives from Sam Adams will be on hand for those looking to cool down with a brew, and celebrity judges in attendance include Chopped judge Amanda Freitag and Umami Burger founder Adam Fleishman. Tickets start at $50 for the all-you-can-eat affair.


 

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Hoboken’s Roast Beef Battle

Fiore Deli’s Italian roast beef hero, including cross-sectional view

One of the stunning achievements of Italian-American cooking is the invention of the hero sandwich. Whether stuffed with cold cuts or cutlets, with cheese or without, served warm or at room temperature, dressed with tomato sauce or oil-and-vinegar, they stood for the opulence, abundance, and cheapness of food in the New World.

The equivalent production at Vito’s

One of the most opulent of all, and most extreme, is the Italian roast beef hero, a specialty of both Brooklyn and Hoboken, and still available today, if you know where to look for it. Made on an Italian-American baguette or demi-baguette, rare roast beef (or sometimes medium rare) is layered on the sandwich and topped with freshly made mozzarella. Then brown gravy is poured extravagantly over every interior surface before the thing is snapped shut. Gravy, cheese, and meat ooze out the ends.

Two groceries in Hoboken, Fiore’s and Vito’s, have established a reputation for their roast beef heroes. Fiore’s assembles them only on Thursdays and Saturdays; Vito’s makes them every day of the week. Both places develop enthusiastic lines waiting for the sandwiches. Both places brag about their homemade mozzarella, which is itself an obsession in the riverside town, as demonstrated by the recent Mutz Fest.

An intense rivalry has developed, of course. But which is best? Both have their advantages. Fiore’s squirts the gravy a little more judiciously, and the roast beef is rarer. The cheese is denser and squeakier.

Vito’s uses roast beef done almost to medium, and the cheese is softer and plainer. However, the gravy is ladled on with a bit more enthusiasm, making the thing nearly impossible to eat. Wear a raincoat. I mean, really.

But which is better? We leave that to you. FiTR advises you to try both.

The interior of Fiore’s House of Quality, founded 1919

The interior of Vito’s Italian Deli, founded 1987

Fiore’s House of Quality
414 Adams Street
Hoboken, New Jersey
201-659-1655

Vito’s Italian Deli
806 Washington Street
Hoboken, New Jersey
201-792-4944

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Head to Hoboken for Mutzfest

Over the bridge and through the PATH train to Hoboken we go.

This Sunday the New Jersey neighborhood will celebrate the First Annual Mutzfest. Hoboken has become known as one of the best places near NYC to get mozzarella. Shocking to some, but you can’t deny great mutz. The hood is filled with family-owned Italian delis where the cheese is handmade.

Join the mozz madness by tasting samples and watching demos from Biancamano, Fran’s Deli, Lisa’s Deli, Vito’s Deli, and Losurdo Brother’s Bakery. Guests will vote on their favorites and the best mozzarella makers in Hoboken will compete for top dog. The shindig goes down at Elk’s Club from 2 to 6 p.m.

Tickets are $10 but kids get in free. Proceeds will benefit the Hoboken Family Alliance and the Rebuild Hoboken.

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Burrata From Faicco’s, and How It Got There

Burrata is Dish #38 in our countdown (serving suggestion shown)

Welcome to 100 Dishes to Eat Now, the tasty countdown leading up to our “Best of 2012” issue. Tune in every day (weekends, too!) for a new dish from the Fork in the Road team.

Edward Faicco from Sorrento, Italy — just southwest of Naples along the Bay of Naples — founded Faicco’s Pork Store in 1900. Almost from the beginning, the place made and dispensed mozzarella, a fresh full-milk cheese popular in southern Italy, where it’s known as fiore di latte (“flower of milk”).

Just recently, Faicco’s started selling tubs of burrata imported from Italy, an interesting addition to a stock of meats, cheeses, and groceries that are partly from the U.S., partly imported from Italy. Burrata is another soft milk cheese, but one that is made by stuffing cheese shells with cheese strands and full cream to make a cheese that’s rich and soupy in the middle, perfect for bread or scooped with crudite.

Why does Faicco’s import the cheese? Couldn’t they have been making it all along, since burrata is clearly a cousin of mozzarella?

Because burrata was not invented until 1920, when it originated in Apulia, the heal of the boot. And that was long after the founder of Faicco’s had left the old country.

in fact, Faicco’s has been playing something of a catch-up ball game as new Italian fads — of which burrata is one — have swept across the city. But now you can visit this venerable old store in the West Village for things like single-estate olive oils and boutique-y dried pastas never known to Italian immigrants of the last century.

Faicco’s Pork Store
260 Bleecker Street
212-243-1974

 

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San Matteo Panuozzo’s Burrata Sandwich

San Matteo Pizza and Espresso Bar’s East Village spin-off, which opened last month, specializes in a relatively new addition to the takeout-pizza canon — the panuozzo. These sandwiches use pieces of pizza dough baked in the Neapolitan style and lightly swiped with tomato sauce as bread to house hearty fillings like roast pork, sausage and broccoli rabe, and pancetta and artichokes.

Though pork-sandwich options abound at San Matteo, the vegetarian burrata panuozzo is not to be missed. Two thick cuts of burrata — fresh mozzarella cheese with a creamy center — are placed on top of a handful of micro-arugula, sweet roasted red peppers (that are not slimy or limp), and a dash of truffle oil. The Italian guys making your sandwich to order behind the tiny shop’s wooden bar won’t skimp on the filling, making this panuozzo’s price ($9) seem reasonable for a quick lunch. 127 St. Marks Place, 212-979-8000

 

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What Happened to the Parmigiano Reggiano in My Hero?

The ridiculously large and delicious Italian roast beef hero at Fiore’s House of Quality in Hoboken

Colin F. asks: I’m a fan of hot Italian heros, those big sloppy sandwiches with meatballs, sausages, and veal cutlets in them topped with melted cheese. But I’ve been wondering for a long time, what happened to the parmesan cheese? They’re all called “parm,” right? But all they have is mozzarella. What happened to the “parm” part?

Faicco’s meatball parmesan hero

Dear Colin F.: I’m right with you, Colin F. For years I wondered the same thing, and had figured out an elaborate explanation involving the weird form of mozzarella used in neighborhood pizza parlors (some say as a result of coercion of the part of organized crime), which seems to be much drier than real mozzarella, but wetter than parmesan. Could pizza mozzarella be some sort of substitute for both cheeses?

Well, that was just idle speculation on my part, and the truth is more direct and simpler: the “parm” in meatball parmesan refers to the northern Italian city of Parma, where many great cured meats and dairy products come from. These sandwiches are Italian-American inventions, made by cooks who suddenly had access to opulent quantities of the meats and cheeses they were mainly deprived of in southern Italy.

To them, “parmesan” was a cooking style they associated with Parma, where anything made with parmesan cheese and prosciutto was referred to as “alla parmigiana.” Here, luxuriant quantities of fiori di latte (what we call mozzarella) were substituted, due to continued expensiveness of parmigiano reggiano here. And good Italian tomato sauce — not as popular an ingredient in northern Italian cooking — was added here, too.

The Meatball Shop’s version of the meatball hero

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5 Ways to Carboload at Caffè Storico

For this week’s review, I paid a visit to Caffè Storico, the new eatery inside the New-York Historical Society. It’s a gorgeous restaurant, all white and marble, and seemingly influenced by Dutch modernism and American colonialism. Yet the grub’s from neither ilk — it’s Italian, with a slight Venetian influence. Most of the food from chef Jim Burke is very good, though the pastas are the menu’s true standouts, a good deal more inventive and tastier than the mains. Here’s how to carboload your way to happiness there.

1. Cavatelli with lobster and black trumpet mushrooms. Hello, yumminess. Probably my fave of the eight pastas on the menu. Think of it as a bit of surf and turf over noodles. The lobster — of which there’s actually an ample portion — is sweet and tender, while the mushrooms lend an earthy quality.

2. Artichoke mezzaluna. The tricky thing about mezzaluna and other ravioli-like stuffed pastas is that the fillings are regularly, well, all filler. That’s fortunately not the case here; these little half-moons are bursting with finely minced fresh artichokes, and sauced with a lemony butter sauce and garnished with porcini mushrooms. Another must-order.

3. Pappardelle with duck ragu. This is a dish you’ll find at many Italian restaurants throughout the city, but this version is pure winter comfort food. Although I’ve heard complaints that it’s been too chocolaty, the times I sampled it, I detected only a hint of cocoa underscored by orange zest.

4. Garganelli with cauliflower, pine nuts, and bottarga di muggine. One of the heftier, creamier pastas on the menu — for when you seriously want to pack on the pounds. I didn’t discern a lot of bottarga in this one, but the hand-shaped noodles have a great chew. Don’t underestimate its richness; you’ll need to share it among friends.

5. Mozzarella in carrozza. This is basically a fried mozzarella cheese sandwich. Need I say more?

Mozzarella in carrozza = grilled cheese for grown-ups
Mozzarella in carrozza = grilled cheese for grown-ups