Staff Spotlight – Adrienne Chiaramonte

This week we are shining a light on one of our Trattoria managers, Adrienne Chiaramonte.
Her passion for hospitality in the restaurant business started at a very
early age. Adrienne cites her late mother, Arlene, as her role model and
inspiration. Whether it was a holiday gathering, a family party for 90, or a Wednesday night dinner around the kitchen table, Adrienne’s Mom made every meal feel special. Small touches like choosing the right music to accompany a meal, or lighting candles to create a lovely mood, were always important.

Arlene with granddaughter Teagan, Christmas, 2010

Arlene believed attention to detail was vital and always insisted
that everyone should always enjoy the absolute best. It was this respect of gathering at the table, & creating memories with friends and family that cemented Adrienne’s love of the business. The creating of these experiences (they were more than just meals); from raising the livestock, growing the produce, assisting with prep and baking, to cleaning up as a family, were all a part of daily life in the Chiaramonte household.

It is now Adrienne’s mission to create for others what she was lucky enough
to have experienced for so many years. Adrienne says that her dream guest is
one that puts themselves in the competent hands of the Gigi staff and is
open to suggestions for both food and wine. She is proud to work closely
with her front of house team and loves helping to create an excellent guest
experience.

Outside of work her hobbies are growing produce, bike riding,
visiting Montauk and making meals for friends and family with her husband
John at their home in Hyde Park.

“Gigi is a perfect fit for me. It’s a thrill to see the farmers bring in the produce that will be used for that night’s dinner, to know how much care and thought Chef Costa and his team put in to the meals they are creating, and it is bliss when it all comes together seamlessly on a busy weekend night at the Trattoria. When I’m busy seating guests and saying goodbye to those that have just enjoyed a fabulous dinner, and the room is buzzing with energy, it makes me so incredibly happy.” You could easily say “it’s just dinner,”but we all know that it is much more than that.

T.G.I.F. Cocktail – Blackberry Sour

The end of another long work week. Excellent. As we are wont to do, we wanted to give you a T.G.I.F. cocktail that was delicious and seasonal, but we also wanted to put a twist on it. You might be surprised at one of the ingredients, but trust us, it is delicious!

This is our take on the traditional Amaretto Sour. We’ve partnered up with Rhinebeck’s hottest new store Pure Mountain Olive Oil. Their all natural flavored balsamic vinegars are appearing in our cocktails, salads and sauces. I’ve also introduced them to my colleagues at Just Salad and we hope to be making new dressings with them there soon! Their balsamic vinegars are wood aged in the 900 year old Modena tradition; they are rich, syrupy and balanced in acidity. Since it’s Blackberry season (berries are ripe for the picking at Greig Farm), we asked our Gigi bartending phenom, Lisa Butenhoff,  for her take on a traditional cocktail using this finely crafted artisanal product and local blackberries. We’re serving it “up,” but you could also lighten this up to a “spritzer” by serving over ice and adding a nice splash of seltzer.

1 ½ ounces Amaretto (we use Disarrono)
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon of Pure Mountain Blackberry Balsamic Vinegar
Handful of fresh blackberries

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake vigorously to combine. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Optional garnish: fresh blackberries and orange slice strung through a long decorative toothpick. Enjoy!

-Laura

Wine Weekly – Txakoli

A unique white wine from Spain has been recently making an impact in the states.  Called Txakoli, (pronounced “choc-o-li”), this delightful wine has recently begun making an appearance on wine menus and in wine stores around the U.S.  The  wine became popular in the 1980’s, though it actually originated in Spain hundreds of years ago, around the 18th century.

Drinking Txakoli or txakolina within about a year of bottling is recommended and when served, it is traditionally poured from a height.  This is done in order to decrease some of the effervescence, causing it to be soft and light on the palate.  Found most often in the Basque region, this white wine is dry with a low alcohol content and high acidity.

After much research, Gigi Trattoria found an affordable but delicious Txakolina from a vineyard right outside of San Sebastian.  Mokoroa Getariako Txakolina is fresh and balanced with notes of peach, apple and fresh grass.   The Mokoroa Tolosa family began producing high quality txakoli just four years ago on their 7 hectares of land.

The Getariako varietal of txakoli is grown using a trellis system.  The vines are grown at a greater height above the ground with the foliage forming a continuous canopy.  This not only results in a wonderful wine but an aesthetically pleasing landscape.

Since txakoli is becoming so popular in the US, it is difficult to find many good quality txakolis that are moderately priced.  At Gigi Trattoria we’re proud to offer the Mokoroa Getariako Txakolina for only $30 a bottle.  The price is even more reasonable on a Wednesday when all of our bottle wines are 30% off.  Come on in for a taste of the Basque region!

To learn more, you can visit:
http://www.polanerselections.com/wine/antxiola-getariako-txakolina
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Txakoli
http://www.vinemerchants.com/mokoroa

Farm Fresh Hudson Red Creamed Corn

I had the honor and priviledge last week of participating in House Beautiful’s 2012 Kitchen of the Year event in New York City, where I was invited to do a cooking demo. Wanting to focus on local ingredients, I decided to make a farm fresh Hudson Red Creamed Corn.

At Gigi Hudson Valley, we buy as much of the local corn harvest that Chuck Mead and Ken Migliorelli will sell to make this creamy Italian take on an American favorite. At Gigi Trattoria, it’s served in individual cast-iron crocks, arriving to the table bubbly brown and deliciously fragrant.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

6 ears fresh corn (about 4 to 5 cups kernels)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium Poblano pepper, seeded and diced (optional)
2 tablespoon fresh chopped Italian parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup dry white wine (optional)
2 teaspoons sugar (optional—taste a kernel of corn to see if it’s needed)
1 tablespoon flour blended with 2 tablespoons water
1 1/3 cups Ronnybrook Farm milk or half-and-half
4 ounces Hudson Red cheese, in small pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Laura at the House Beautiful 2012 Kitchen of the Year event

Cut the kernels from the corncobs, then scrape the cobs with a sharp knife to get all the milk and pulp; reserve the kernels separately from the milk and pulp. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion softens, 3 or 4 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, stir in the kernels, parsley, and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing or stirring often, until the kernels are cooked and lightly brown, about 4 minutes. Add the reserved pulp, the milk, and the white wine and sugar (if using) and cook until liquid has almost completely evaporated. Stir in the flour-water mixture, then whisk in the milk or half-and-half. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and stir in the herbs. Remove from the heat and stir in the Hudson Red cheese and chives. Serve immediately, or transfer to oven-safe crocks or ramekins, sprinkle the tops with the Parmesan, and broil under high heat until top is bubbly and browned.

Variations:

  • Substitute your favorite cheese (goat, grated manchego, taleggio or even cheddar) for the Hudson Red.
  • Spice it up with some diced jalapeno instead of smoky Poblano pepper. Add them when you sauté the corn kernels.
  • Cream it up: by pureeing 1/3 of the corn mixture in a food processor or blender and adding it back to the mix.

Leftovers: Before adding the breadcrumb topping, this dish reheats well.

Nutrition: Use milk instead of half-and-half to lower the fat. You can replace the Hudson Red cheese with 1/3 cup grated Parmesan to lend big flavor with fewer calories. Corn is rich in vitamins A and C and lutein, a potent antioxidant.

Enjoy!

-Laura

*This dish has been adapted from Hudson Valley Mediterranean.

T.G.I.F. Cocktail – Apricot Julep

The classic julep it a hotly contested beverage, with many preparation variations, though the basic ingredients are generally always the same; bourbon, fresh mint, sugar and crushed ice. We scored some beautifully sweet apricots from Rose Hill Orchards in Red Hook this week and we decided to take a twist on the classic julep and add fresh apricot.

It’s incredibly delicious. Though this isn’t the simplest drink to make, we promise you it’s worth it. The Kentucky Derby may have come and gone, but the Julep is a great sipper all summer long. 

2 ripe fresh apricots (available locally at Rose Hill Orchards)
Approximately 20 mint leaves
3 ounces Bourbon (we used Maker’s Mark)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 ounce simple syrup (may be adjusted to preferred sweetness desired)
 

Throughly muddle 20 mint leaves (stems removed) with 1 teaspoon sugar. The granular quality of the sugar will work to break down the mint as you muddle, eventually turning it into a fragrant mash. Add quartered apricots, pits removed. Continue to muddle until apricots are broken down and integrated into the mint mash. Don’t worry about the skins, they will be strained out. Add the bourbon and simple syrup and fill the shaker with enough ice to reach the top of the liquid. Shake until the outside of your shaker is frosty and all components are integrated. Pack an Old Fashioned glass or Julep cup with crushed ice (almost to overflowing.) Strain drink into glass, garnish with a mint sprig. Serve with a short straw so that the fabulous fragrance can be enjoyed while sipping. A multi-sensory explosion of goodness to kick off your weekend!

Staff Spotlight – Dave Meltzer

This week’s staff spotlight shines a light on our master baker, Dave Meltzer. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Dave grew up associating baking with the loving times spent in the kitchen with his mother Frieda, who passionately cooked from Love and Knishes throughout his childhood. This is how he came to make his first challah and bagels, which are still two of his favorite preparations. When he first came on board the Gigi Team, we were all skeptical about producing our own bagels — I clearly remember saying, “If they’re not as good as H&H or Ess-a-bagel, I don’t want to go near it.” Needless to say, Dave nailed it and we now have golden bagels ready for toasting and enjoying with our local butters, jams, cheeses and spreads.

Dave formally studied baking at Orange County BOCES and has taken continuing education courses over the years at The Culinary Institute of America. Most of his knowhow however, results from experience and intuition.  Dave has owned his own bakeries in the past, including Rock ‘n Rolls in Highland, NY. Last year he decided to sell his partnership and take leave of the joys and headaches of self-employment once and for all. After many years of the alarm clock going off at 3AM, and managing the administrative side of the business, Dave decided it was time to just enjoy his passions for baking and simplify his life. His intention was to spend more time with his fiancé Leslie. Tragically she passed away earlier this year.

Joining the Gigi Hudson Valley team, Dave moved from Poughkeepsie up to Tivoli, late this spring. He describes the area as “comforting” – long drives in the pastoral countryside are helping him heal and move forward. He also says, “Joining the Gigi team has been a great move for me. There is kindred spirit, helpfulness and flexibility in allowing creative outlets.” One of Dave’s Gigi experiments includes Cheddar Jalapeno Sourdough that always sells out quickly. He also provides us with one of the best multigrain I’ve ever enjoyed and a delicious crusty Italian baguette.

What’s he working on for fall? A yeast leavened pumpkin bread that we’ll be selling by the loaf and adding to both of our brunch menus (Trattoria and Market) in the form of scrumptious French toast.

Dave dreams of one day writing a book, saying, “I love sharing recipes and that is the philosophy at Gigi, sharing.”  He feels like he’s having fun.  As he points out,  “Who works these hours if they aren’t having fun?” I couldn’t agree more.

-Laura

Wine Weekly – Lambrusco

One of the most recent debates at Gigi Trattoria is if our delicious Lambrusco should be served in a flute or a red wine glass.  Despite the split amongst our staff members and customers, this Graparossa di Castelveto Lambrusco produced by Barbolini is simply superb. 

Lambrusco grapes are most often from Emilia-Romagna where there are five DOC (denominazione di origine controllata) regions. Graparossa di Castelveto is one which the Barbolini family owns.  It is the smallest wine producing region in Modena, where 85% of the wine must be Lambrusco Grasparossa to be called a lambrusco.  The Barbolini lambrusco is 100% Lambrusco Grasparossa. This is one of the most tannic lambruscos out there, making it perfect for Gigi Trattoria since it pairs beautifully with pizza or in our case Skizza. 

You may be thinking summer is not the right time to drink a red wine let a lone a tannic one. However, the fact  that the lambruscos are “frizzante” (slightly sparkling) makes them incredibly enjoyable and refreshing even in the heat.  Served in a flute as Gigi has been doing it for years, it is elegant and drinks like a red sparkling wine.  Served in a red wine glass it gives off aromatics of violet and fruit, especially darker berries. 

Stop in to Gigi Trattoria to try the Graparossa di Castelveto Lambrusco both ways.  Either in red wine glass or a flute, this effervescent wine is $10 by the glass and $32 by the bottle.  If you happen to be dining with us on Wine Wednesday, you can order a bottle for 30% off!

Kale Two Ways

Tuscan kale, also known as Lacinato kale, Tuscan cabbage, Italian kale, Dinosaur kale, cavolo nero, and black kale, thrives during all three growing seasons of the Hudson Valley. It’s especially available during these steamy summer months, and we’re taking full advantage….  We present it to you direct from Migliorelli Farms in our retail cases at Gigi Market and throughout our menus in both locations.  I thought I’d give you two different approaches to enjoying it; cooked and raw.

Cooked Kale

Gigi ‘LACINATO’: Sautéed Kale with Towne & Country Sausage

This is a new lunch and dinner side at the Trattoria in Rhinebeck, and part of our new summer menu.  Enjoy this sautéed Italian black kale with Towne and Country spicy sausage or simply with garlic and Gigi extra-virgin olive oil.

Makes 2-3 servings

1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
4 ounces (about 2 links) Towne and Country spicy sausage, sliced or crumbled
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ pounds Tuscan kale, stems removed and leaves chopped, then rinsed and spun
Salt
2 tablespoons white wine
1 cup water

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the shallots, sausage, and red pepper flakes, and cook until the shallots and sausage just begin to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and toss to combine. Stir in the kale and season with salt. Cook the kale, tossing or stirring to evenly wilt, then add the white wine and cook until fully evaporated. Add the water and cook until the kale is tender and the pan is almost dry, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and enjoy hot or at room temperature.

Click here to watch a brief video of this dish being made.

Raw Kale

Massaged Kale Salad

My friends (and Gigi devotees :)) Peter Amendola and Jerry Paglieri, shared this “massaged” raw kale salad with me, saying they often make it when entertaining and receive consistent raves from their guests. The acidity in the lemon juice “cooks” the thinly sliced kale making it tender and flavorful. Jerry became a fan when first trying Aati Sequeira’s recipe; as a confident cook he fined tuned it to his tastes and made it his own.

Makes 4 servings

1 large bunch Tuscan kale stalks removed and discarded, leaves thinly sliced
fresh juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey
freshly ground black pepper
2 ripe peaches or nectarines, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds

In large serving bowl, add the kale, half of lemon juice, a drizzle of oil and a little salt. Massage until the kale starts to soften and wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside while you make the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk remaining lemon juice with the maple syrup and a healthy amount of freshly ground black pepper. Stream the olive oil into the bowl while whisking.

Pour the dressing over the kale, and add the peaches and pumpkin seeds. Toss and serve.

Enjoy!

-Laura

T.G.I.F. Cocktail – Plum and Honey Spritzer

The heat of summer is already starting to settle into our bones. Flushed and sweaty, we end up with hair don’ts instead of hairdos, as the humidity wrecks havoc. Hot car seats burn our thighs as we struggle to keep our cool.  We are in definite need of a delightful and refreshing T.G.I.F. cocktail this week!

Voila – the plum and honey spritzer!

2 ripe yellow plums (available locally for your picking pleasure at Mead Orchards)

1/2 ounce honey simple syrup*
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1 1/2 ounces gin (we use Hendrick’s for it’s clean and refreshing taste)
2 ounces dry sparkling wine such as Prosecco or Cava

Cut plums in half and remove pits and skins. In a cocktail shaker, muddle plums with honey simple syrup and lemon juice. Add gin and fill enough ice to come to top of liquid. Use your muscles to shake this one, you want to shake it hard enough to fully liquify the muddled plums. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with your favorite dry sparkling wine. Enjoy!

*Honey simple syrup is made by combining equal parts honey and very hot water. Stir until it reaches a syrup-like consistency and refrigerate. 

 

Taters on the Grill

This is a quick, easy and healthier alternative to potato salad, summer’s tasty but heavier side dish. This basic recipe is simple; just potatoes, good quality olive oil and sea salt. Perfecto! If you want to spice it up, consider adding some smoked paprika, red pepper flakes or even curry or turmeric. Enjoy warm or make in advance and serve at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings

4  (about 5 ounces each) of your favorite potatoes, medium sized. (My suggestions include: German Butterball, Yukon Gold, or for starchier tastes Russet)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt to season

Wash the potatoes and prick them with a fork. Microwave until tender but still firm, 4 to 6 minutes (depending on power of oven.) Slice the potatoes in half on the bias and toss with the olive oil and sea salt. Place potato halves on pre-heated grill and cook 1 to 2 minutes, or until potatoes can easily be lifted with tongs getting grill mark all sides of the potatoes.

Plate and enjoy!

Wine Weekly – Côté Est Catlan

At Gigi Trattoria we are always changing our wine list. With that said, there is one wine that is not only a crowd-pleaser but also a staff favorite.The Lafage Côté Est Catalan is a lovely blend from the Roussillon region of France. This 50% Grenache, 30% Chardonnay, and 20% Marsanne is perfect for summer. The crisp and aromatic blend of wine expresses notes of citrus, white flowers and light minerals.

The young Jean-Marc Lafage has found a way to produce beautiful blends of wine. Though only in his thirties, he has almost 15 years of experience creating juicy and flavorful wines on his 200 hectares of land overlooking the Pyrenees of France and Spain.

Côté Est Catalan & a Bianca Skizza

This wine is best enjoyed chilled (especially on the Gigi patio.)  It pairs well with our mussels, Pollo con Tostone, Barbina salad, most fish specials, and our personal favorite, the Bianca Skizza.  It is also refreshing and delightful on its own and would be a perfect picnic accompaniment. Sold for $9  by the glass and $27 by the bottle, you must try out this gem of the Roussillon region next time you are in Gigi Trattoria. And if you happen to be dining with us on a Wednesday, a bottle of Côté Est Catalan or any of our bottle wines are 30% off!

Chin chin!

 

Staff Spotlight – Wilson Costa

For our second staff spotlight, we decided to focus our attention on the kitchen. If you have eaten a delicious meal at Gigi Trattoria in the past seven and half years, you have our wonderful Chef, Wilson Costa, to thank for it.  Wilson is constantly coming up with creative new menu items using local and seasonal ingredients and pushing himself and the rest of the kitchen staff to excel and keep things fresh and inspired.

Wilson and Tadeo

When he is not in the Gigi kitchen or making sure the dining room is in tip-top shape, he is most likely spending time with his beautiful family including his two sons Otto, and newborn, Tadeo.

Not just a chef and a loving father, Wilson also loves to fish and is an avid bike rider.  He comes into work each morning refreshed after a 6AM bike ride!

Having been part of the Gigi family for quite some time, Wilson has really seen it all, although he admits the high point was cooking for Bill Clinton when he came in to the Trattoria.

From a food perspective,  Wilson loves when certain local ingredients come into season.  Local ramps, plums & broccoli rabe are three items you will see on our menu or specials list when the time is right.  Wilson’s favorite item to make is creamy Risotto Nero. The dish features cuttle fish, bacon and squid ink, which gives it its wonderful intense black color.

So next time you are sitting at Gigi Trattoria and are savoring that bite you just took, think of Wilson behind the scenes.  His inspirational, innovative and comforting style of cooking is what makes the food at Gigi Trattoria the best in Rhinebeck!

 

 

Vanilla Buttermilk Panna Cotta With Berries

The Fourth of July is upon us. While we would all prefer it was on a Friday instead of a Wednesday, we will still enjoy the day and all it represents. We thought we would give you a beautiful dessert that incorporates delicious seasonal berries and of course, red, white, and blue! Enjoy!

Vanilla Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Seasonal Berries

Makes 8 servings

Equipment – 8 4-ounce disposable aluminum baking cups

3 tablespoons cold water
3 teaspoons gelatin powder
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3 cups buttermilk
3 teaspoon vanilla extract

Berries

1 pint fresh blueberries
1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Berries: In a small bowl combine all ingredients and set aside. The sugar will help extract the juice from the berries to create a nice sauce for your finished dish!

Panna Cotta: Line your disposable cups up on a small cookie tray and lightly spray each with non-stick pan spray

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water, set aside.

Bring the heavy cream, sugar and lemon zest to simmer, then lower heat; do not boil. Add the bloomed gelatin and whisk to be sure the gelatin has melted. Whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla extract. 

Ladle mixture into each cup.  Refrigerate for 3 hours or up to 2 days in advance.

To remove panna cotta from cups, flip each cup upside down on serving plate. Poke the top of each cup with a small knife to release. You may have to shake it a little for it to come out. Spoon berries and their released liquid over the top of the panna cotta.