Friday, May 18, 2012

Sea Faring Foodies: Part III, Italian and Brazilian Extras!

…And I’m back, again. Sorry about the delay, but at the office we just finished our spring fundraising season, whew! I hope you all did something nice for your mom this Mother’s Day. We focus on moms every spring, like the meal recipients who are moms. A lot of people think of their moms and then they think of women who are alone on this special day. We make sure they have a nice meal on Mother’s Day, and a card signed by someone who made a donation for Mother’s Day. They know they are not forgotten, not today, or any day of the year.

Now, I can finally finish Sea Faring Foodies Trilogy MWAHAHAHAA! These were the places The Fisherman and I had to pay extra in order to eat there. In sum, it was totally worth it. First up is Mama’s Italian Restaurant, a really nice Italian place, makes you think you’re on the water in Tuscany, almost. Then, we checked out Moderno Churrascaria, a Brazilian barbecue meatfest.

At Mama’s the atmosphere was very warm, very Mediterranean, really nice. We got the antipasti platter, beef carpaccio, salad with fig and pancetta, pizza margherita and cheese tortellini with creamy pesto.

The antipasti was really nice, a change from what I grew up eating as antipasti, veggies and cold cut cubes (delicious, but not exactly authentic). From top left, roasted tomatoes which were actually sweet and didn’t taste like crap (as most tomatoes do nowadays, sad). Then some prosciutto, which is always delicious. I’m so glad the Fisherman like Parmesan and prosciutto, these are not for the novice! 

Next were some lovely olives. The Fisherman is not a fan because he thinks all olives = canned black olives. Then roasted red peppers, a wonderful addition to ANYTHING, so good! Finally, something I never had before, but was quite impressed, a sort of zucchini frittata. It was light, not dense at all, cold, but not super wet as cold egg dishes can get, more so with any squash in the mix. A nice start before appetizers.

Next we tried beef carpaccio. I never had it before and it was really tasty. The olive oil makes it so silky and the pepper and greens make it zippy. It inspired me to want to try carpaccio again, and again and again.

I got the salad, but this is why: figs AND pancetta? Yeah, I was going for that. A little richness balances out the salad greens so you don’t have to be weighed down, but you also won’t eat it and then say “Uh, that’s it?” Nicely balanced. Notice in the lower middle, that glowing jewel or porktasticness, like a pancetta ruby.

For main courses, The Fisherman got the pizza margherita, and since we kept hearing about the pasta, I opted for the cheese tortellini with creamy pesto. The pizza was really good, not quite pizza from back home, but pretty close. We live in NYC, it’s a hard pie to compare it to. The crust was nice and crispy, the cheese was super gooey, but the one turn off for me was the tomatoes. 

Now, I love veggies on pizza, but when you go heavy on toppings like vegetables (which have lots of water), or large pieces (such as these tomato slices), one bite causes said topping to slide off, with the poor crust all by its lonesome. It’s so, so sad to separate crust from cheese and topping. It should be considered a war crime. Overall, a formidable pie.

The pasta was really nice, the most tender I’ve ever had. I’ve also never had fresh pasta before so this was an extra special treat. It wasn’t gummy, or dry, it was a totally different texture. I’ll have to investigate more fresh pasta from now on. The creamy pesto was really nice, something I never thought of trying before but will now…This was right up my alley as a major Italian cheese head.

All in all, it was a very nice experience. Like a trip to Tuscany on the sea.

Now, Moderno Churrascaria was a place we were very lucky to go to, since it opened a day or so before we were to come back to NYC. 

Boy, was there meat. GLORIOUS MEAT! As you can see the menu was long and lovely. Just like me. Yeah, I couldn't resist. 

For those new to the art of churrascaria, you have some object, in this case a paper square, sometimes something that looks almost like an hour glass. One side is painted red, the other is green. When the object is flipped to green, it means BRING ON DA MEAT! Guys with skewers of carnivorous delights come by your table and keep loading you up. When you flip it to red, it means NO MOAR!

Note, see at the top, between the drinks offered and the meat is this thing called a “salad bar”? Think of it as a “sad bar” and save your stomach (and calories) for the meat. It’s meant to distract you from the meat. I did try some ceviche for giggles. Not that exciting, but luckily I was really full anyway, I had my meatfill.

We had some Brazilian cheese bread, pao de queijo, reminded me of pandebono, but waaay less dense.

The meat which is incredible, the best I’ve had. We were offered picanha (a prized cut of sirloin known for its rich flavor), garlic beef (center cut sirloin marinated in garlic and sea salt), costela (slow cooked tender juicy beef ribs), filet mignon (succulent filet of beef seasoned to perfection), frango (chicken leg marinated in lime juice, sea salt and garlic), chicken breast (wrapped in smoked peppered bacon), costela de suino (pork ribs marinated in red wine and spices), linguica (Portuguese sausages flavored with herbs and garlic), chorizo (Spanish sausages flavored with red wine and Parmesan cheese), costela de carneiro (flavorful lamb rib chops from the spit). Yeah, it was awesome.

For the sides, we were given buttered rice (since you need butter after MEATFEST), savory black beans, garlic mashed potatoes, and fried sweet bananas. I loved the bananas the best, but I’m a sweet fiend. The others were good, but really, this is all about the meat. And I think these pictures speak louder than anything I can type up.

Sadly, I don’t remember which meat was what, but I remember that it was all incredible. The problem is you fill up really fast on all that protein. Yet, there is always room for dessert. The choices were papaya cream (a blend of papaya and vanilla cream and crème de cassis liqueur), coconut flan (traditional flan with toasted coconut), and mango rice pudding (sweet mango with dulce de leche). We went for the flan and the rice pudding. 

The flan was creamy and custardy with a nice coconutty flavor. I think if there was toasted coconut on top, or on the bottom and flipped over, it would add a nice crunch as you would expect with the word “toasted” in the description. The rice pudding I found to be really sweet, more than even I could appreciate. The bottom had the sweet mango, it was almost like jam. Not bad to try, but I’d go for the flan if I got a do over.

These two restaurants were definitely worth the extra cost. Mama’s was $10 a person and Churrascuria was $20, TWENTY per person. The closest Churrascaria to us in Queens is DOUBLE that price, for less quality selection, and the last time we went, was crawling with possibly mid level gangsters/drug dealers. Really. Doesn’t help you appetite when you feel like you fell in the snake pit.

So, that wraps up the Sea Faring Foodies Trilogy, finally. Wow, I can’t believe that was two months ago. Boy does time fly. Now, we’re back to our regularly scheduled program. We start with a visit to a local Malaysian/Thai spot, Coco.

Until then, mangia!

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