T.G.I.F. Cocktail – Transcontinental

Well, here we are at the end of summer. We will all try to cram every summer related activity we can think of in over the next four days so we feel like we really took advantage of the weather, long days and nights with the grill. This week’s T.G.I.F. cocktail, the Transcontinental, seems a perfect, summery festive drink for this, the swansong weekend of summer.

Not one, but two Transcontinentals, as one will probably not be enough.

 

1 oz Bacardi Rum
1 oz Remy Martin VSOP
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
2 oz orange juice
1 tsp Orgeat syrup (almond syrup)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake vigorously, serve in a Collins glass over ice. Garnish with fresh mint. Enjoy!

 

Wine Weekly – Gavi

In Piemonte, Gavi ranks as one of the most enjoyable white wines.  This seems to follow suit at Gigi Trattoria as Stefano Massone’s Vigneto Masera Gavi is definitely a best seller on our wine list.  It wouldn’t surprise any of our avid Gavi drinkers to know that Massone only grows a single grape varietal, the Cortese grape used to make Gavi.  This close attention to detail ensures no compromises are made when creating the Vigneti Masera Gavi. 

At Massone’s estate, quality comes first.  Both of Massone’s Gavi vineyards are grown organically with no use of herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers or systemic chemicals.  Rows of vines are sown with a ground cover which is either tilled or mown and yields are kept very low to assure ripeness.  Sulfite usage is kept to a minimum as well.  Massone takes extreme pride and care when growing the Cortese grapes.

The result of Massone’s delicate touch and organic growing is a lively wine that is definitely a crowd pleaser.  The Gavi is similar to a white Burgundy with ripe fruit but also a clean minerality.  Pear and citrus notes create a lovely nose and an excellent crispness.  This 100% Cortese wine is aged in oak barrels giving it another layer of depth.  We recommend drinking this wine on its own or paired with the Salmone as the citrus of the wine brings out the sweetness of the fish and the minerality balances the saltiness of the olives in the salad. 

It will only take one sip of the Gavi and you will understand why Paul Massone takes so much time caring for his vineyard.  This balanced white is sure to be your “go to” wine if it isn’t already.  For just $10 a glass and $30 a bottle, you cannot find a better deal especialyl on Wednesdays when the Gavi and all our bottled wines are 30% off!

Learn more about Gavi here.

Watermelon-Fennel Salad

This is a great end of summer salad. It provides a refreshing contrast of flavors and textures – crunchy sweet watermelon and fennel; salty, creamy feta; and ever so slightly bitter greens. It is perfect with grilled or seared fish or chicken, or simply on its own as simple first course. Don’t be afraid to add or substitute. Experiment!

Makes 4 servings

2 cups watermelon, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch chunks
¼  red onion,very thinly sliced
¼ fennel bulb,thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon diced jalapeno pepper
Juice and grated zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper to season
1 cup crumbled Farm feta
4 cups baby greens

In a mixing bowl, combine the watermelon, onion, fennel, mint, jalapeno, lime juice and zest and grapeseed oil. Season with salt and pepper and gently stir. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. When ready to serve, mound about 1 cup of baby greens on each plate; divide the watermelon-fennel salad over the greens. Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the salad.

Serving suggestions: Serve the watermelon-feta mixture chilled on its own or over baby greens.

Variations:

* Mix it up using a combination of yellow and red watermelon.
* Substitute any young soft cheese, such as goat cheese, for the feta.

Nutrition: Watermelon gets its vibrant color from lycopene, the same potent antioxidant found in tomatoes. It is also a good source of vitamins A and C and potassium.

Note: This recipe can be found in the Gigi Good Food Cookbook, Hudson Valley Mediterranean.

T.G.I.F. Cocktail – Strawberry Lemonade

As we near the end of August, we embrace the most classic of summer refreshers, fresh squeezed lemonade. Though it sounds so simple, very few take the time to make it the right way with the perfect proportions of lemon juice, cane sugar and spring water. To those celebrating the close of the summer, we will have fresh squeezed lemonade cocktails available all weekend long at Gigi Trattoria. You won’t believe how delicious they are! Here is one of the cocktails we are featuring, strawberry lemonade, though we’ve got a few other suggestions for you; fresh blueberry lemonade, pink lemonade, or the regular old fashioned kind. Be creative! 🙂

Strawberry Lemonade

1 1/2 ounces House Infused Strawberry Vodka
1 Ounce Strawberry Puree
1 Ounce Lemon Juice 
1/2 Ounce Simple Syrup

Comine all ingredients in shaker and fill with ice. Shake very vigorously (you need some of that water from the ice to make the “lemonade” part!) Pour into a sugar rimmed martini glass and enjoy. Delicious!

Gigi Invitational Golf Tournament

Last Saturday, the first annual Gigi Invitational Golf Tournament was organized by Per Paulsson, and held at the Red Hook Golf Club.

Good fun was had by all 12 players, “caddies,” and supportive “fans.”  Thirteen year old Paul Du Toit plucked the prize of “Closest to the Line;” Rhinebeck artist Patrick Madden took “Closest to the Pin;” and Blue Vase CEO, Pete Santoro took second place. The grand trophy, a special edition of Gigi Olive oil, went to Rhinebeck Judge “Willie” Sanchez.

Paul Du Toit

Per Paulsson & “Willie” Sanchez

“Willie” had some amusing remarks upon accepting his prize.

 

Wine Weekly – Sparkling Wine

Some people think that bubbly is only for celebrations, but we think every day at Gigi is a celebration, especially when we have affordable and tasty sparkling wines on our menu! 

Our Segura Viudas Cava and our Gama Prosecco are two of our best selling wines by the glass.  We find, however, that customers are either Cava drinkers or Prosecco drinkers.  The fact of the matter is Cava and Prosecco are so different that one really doesn’t substitute for the other.  Both are delicious bubbly wines, but each is unique in its own way.

Prosecco is the white grape variety (Glera) that generally is used to make dry or extra dry sparkling wines.  DOC prosecco is produced in the regions of Veneto or Friuli Venezia Guilia, and traditionally in the areas of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.   Up until the 1960’s prosecco was unbearably sweet.  But with some improvement in production, prosecco has become a popular sparkling wine.  Unlike Champagne or Cava, prosecco is produced using the Charmat method where the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks.  It has about 11-12% alcohol content.  Prosecco is the main ingredient in a Bellini since its peach and apricot characteristics are enhanced by peach nectar.  On its own or with food such as the HV cheese plate, prosecco is best enjoyed chilled and in a flute.  It even pairs well with a lighter dessert!

The most distinguishable difference between prosecco and cava (other than the fact that one is Italian and one is Spanish) is the way the wine is produced.  Cava, like champagne, is produced using the traditional method where the 2nd fermentation occurs in the bottle.  Yeast and sugar are added to the base wine for fizz and a 1-1.5% increase in alcohol.   The sediment of the dry yeast gives this wine a bit of a savory flavor.  Also unlike prosecco, cava is named for the type of wine not the grape.  It is produced mostly from Penedes near Barcelona.  The majority of cava is made with Macabea, Parellada, Xarel-lo grape varieties.  Recently even some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes have made their way into cava.  With its outstanding effervescence, cava holds up to even richer dishes and actually is a refreshing accompaniment to our Tuscan Fries. 

Next time you are in the mood for a celebration, stop by Gigi Trattoria for a little bubbly.  We recommend sampling the Gama Prosecco next to the Segura Viudas Cava and deciding which one is your favorite.  We would love to hear your feedback!  And if you are in on a Wednesday, whichever bubbles you chose will be 30% off by the bottle!  Now that is something to celebrate.

Learn more about Segura Viudas Cava here.

Learn more about Gama Prosecco here.

Staff Spotlight – Nico Vasquez

The hard work and commitment of many have helped build Gigi Trattoria. We are now one of Rhinebeck’s premiere restaurants and a relevant part of the Hudson Valley local food scene. While many have been involved in the process, there are a few standouts who come to mind, like Nicolas (“Nico”) Vasquez.

Nico began his employment at the Trattoria in October 2001, just one month after the opening. He is not only our most veteran employee but also the one most treasured by me, the staff he works with and especially our customers.  All of our loyal “regulars” look for him and feel comforted when they see him in the dining room attending to their tables. It’s getting difficult for him to carry plates because he is constantly shaking the hands of his adoring fans. 🙂  He is shy, but confident and proud of his position and the food and service that Gigi Trattoria is known for. He cares, and it shows.

What everyone doesn’t know is all he does behind the scenes. Nico is not only a stellar food runner, he’s also an amazing prep and line cook, and is incredible at one of the most difficult, high pressure positions in the restaurant – expediting or “EXPO.” In this role he coordinates the timing and “firing” of dishes that might add up to 400-500 in a single shift. I’ve seen many melt down in this role, Nico is always cool, collected and in charge.

I know we have a problem when I see his eyebrows furrow … When Chef Wilson Costa and I need  more information about where and why there may be issues, we include Nico in the discourse so that we can correct them expeditiously. He sees all, and with some gentle arm twisting he gives us his very valuable opinion. Of Chef Wilson, Nico tells me, “I like working with him, he’s happy, positive and I respect him.” 

When he’s not at the Trattoria, Nico enjoys his daily workouts at IXL (he has a fan base there too), trying new restaurants and cooking at home. His favorite dishes to cook include braised lamb shank, some traditional dishes from his native Oaxaca, Mexico and Italian fare. Nico cooks with soul and passion and its all there on the finished dish.

Laura & Nico, Halloween 2004

Restaurant life is tough, fun, rewarding and frustrating.  I could not have embarked on my Gigi journey without the help of Nico. In 2003, when I bought out my then husband and partner, I was terrified as to whether I could run a restaurant. The quiet support, hard work, and loyalty of Nico helped me significantly. He says, “Gigi is in my heart forever.”  Nico is in mine forever.

-Laura

T.G.I.F. Cocktail – Chili Cantelupo

It’s August and we are finally getting to enjoy ripe, sun-soaked cantaloupe…wonderful on it’s own but known for being highly versatile (think of the classic cantaloupe and prosciutto combination.) It’s so highly versatile, that it takes well to other many herbs and spices. This week, to highlight this delicious fruit, we’ve put together a drink that is refreshing and has a nice kick of spice to liven things up.

To add a Mediterranean twist, we’ve taken the name from Cantelupo in Italy!

5 chunks cantaloupe (about 1 inch squares)
5 Basil Leaves
½ oz Simple Syrup
1 ½ oz Lime Juice
2 oz Chili Vodka*

Muddle together cantaloupe, basil leaves, simple syrup and lime juice in a shaker. Add Chili Vodka. Fill with ice and shake vigorously, strain into an ice filled Collins glass. Garnish with a sprig of basil. This drink is at once lightly sweet, spicy and absolutely refreshing. “Possibly problematically too good” as one of our taste testers put it. Enjoy!

* At Gigi Trattoria we make our own house infused toasted peppercorn & chili vodka, you can experiment by making your own, or pick up the ready-made version at your local liquor store.

Wine Weekly – Non Confunditor

This week in our Staff Spotlight, server Corey Lenko recommended the Non Confunditor.  We thought it would be the perfect tie in to share some information with you about this Toscano Rosso in this week’s Wine Weekly post.  

The Villa of Argiano, home to the Non Confunditor, dates back to the Renaissance.  It was built by the Peccis, a noble family from Siena.  After several decades, it was passed down to the counts of Pieri, who bequeath it to the Marquis of Ballanti Merli and to the Duchess of Caetani from the Counts Lovatelli. In 1992, it was acquired by the Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano. (Got that straight? There will be a pop quiz at the end. 🙂 )The Lovatelli Gaetani d’Aragona family came up with its Latin crest, the Non Confunditor.  Later, the wine from this Villa was baptized the Non Confunditor in honor of the prestigious and glorious past of Argiano.

The Non Confunditor is a unique blend of Tuscan and French grapes that is full-bodied with soft tannins and a long finish. This blend of Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon is best enjoyed during early to mid term.  With notes of spicy black currant, hints of earthiness, a touch of sweetness, and the warmth of red fruit, this wine is lovely on its own or with many different foods including the Gigi Bistecca or Tagliatelle Berta. The bright acidity of this wine leaves a fresh finish with these full-flavored menu items. 

Even though red wine is not a typical recommendation for the summer months, the Non Confunditor is an exception.  Due to the blend of different grapes, this wine is balanced enough to enjoy even on the patio and holds up wonderfully to grilled meats.  We recommend joining us for a bottle sometime soon. Come in and order it on Wine Wednesdays and get 30% off (along with the rest of our bottles)!

Staff Spotlight – Cory Lenko

Want to know more about a bottle of wine?  Can’t decide on something to drink?  Ask Gigi Trattoria server Corey Lenko and he will have the answer. Gigi is proud of our staff, especially those that go above and beyond.  Corey does just that.  In the year he has been at the Trattoria, he has been busy working as a server and a host. Yet, he also found the time to come up with a study guide of our wine list for his fellow colleagues.

Corey is clearly very passionate about wine.  Currently studying for part two of the sommelier test, Corey hopes that in 5 years he will be getting his Master Sommelier Certification with the goal of opening his own place.  It is not surprising that after a successful night at work, Corey goes home to drink a good bottle of wine.  The best bottle of wine this 21 year old has ever had was an Amarone.  It probably would pair wonderfully with one the pizzas Corey makes on his spare time.  His favorite to make is topped with fresh tomatoes, basil and prosciutto.  And, he makes his crust from scratch!

Wine is not Corey’s only strength as a server.  He loves reccommending cocktails or drink specials as well.  Whenever we have a drink special Corey loves to share it with the customers.  He once sold 8 quarts of our Summer Berry Sangria in one night!  If you are dining with us and can’t decide on a bottle of wine, Corey would recommend the Non Confuditor. This balanced red wine is moderately priced and pairs well with many of our menu items.  If you have trouble deciding on an entree, Corey recommends the Bistecca.

Come on in and meet our future sommelier, Corey Lenko.  He will be graduating from the Culinary Institute of America with a Bachelor’s Degree on October 18th.  We are so proud and excited for him and his future endeavors.  Like many delicious wines, Corey has matured and developed in the past year.  He will only continue to grow and become more successful with each step of his career.  Hope you get to see him in action!

 

Gigi Tomato Jam

Tis the season for making full use tomatoes! It seems to go from drought to flood overnight when they start turning red in the garden. This simple recipe helps you enjoy their sunny flavor throughout the fall and long winter. Try it on crostini with a shaving of Parmesan or a small dollop of goat cheese, smear on your favorite toasted bread or use as condiment for slow roasted braised dish – many of you have enjoyed it complementing our succulent lamb shanks during the fall and winter at Gigi Trattoria.

Photo by Evan Sung for NYT

 Makes approximately 1 ½ -2 cups

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ Vidalia onion, diced
1.5 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
.5 cup sugar
1 pinch of saffron
1cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes  

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until it softens and becomes fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.

Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, then pour into hot, sterilized 8 ounce jam jars, screw the lids on and turn the jars upside down to cool completely.

T.G.I.F. Cocktail – Peach Green Tea

This week’s TGIF cocktail is quite a treat, though it’s not the easiest one to slap together quickly…so we’ve decided to have it available to you as a drink special all weekend long at the Trattoria! It’s many components make a truly balanced, refreshingly light and delicious libation. However, if you don’t happen to have all of these ingredients at home, just come on in to Gigi Trattoria this weekend and have us do the work for you, it would be our pleasure. You will love it!

 Peach Green Tea

2 ounces Hendrick’s Gin
3 slices muddled cucumber
8-10 mint leaves
2 ounces organic peach nectar
2 ounces green tea (We use Harney & Sons)
½ ounce honey simple syrup
½ ounce lemon juice

 Muddle mint with honey simple syrup in shaker. Add cucumber, continue to muddle. Add remaining ingredients, fill with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into ice filled Collins glass. This would also make a great punch bowl or pitcher drink if you are serving a group, it’s sure to impress. Enjoy!

Wine Weekly-Manzoni Bianco

Gigi Trattoria is always looking for new interesting wines that are exclusive to our restaurant.  When our good friend Stephen Strumza brought us a taste of Villa Brunesca’s Manzoni Bianco, we knew there was a home for it on our wine list!  This vine was created by Luigi Manzoni, the Principal of the Viticulture and Enology School in Conegliano.  He made a hybrid of Riesling and White Pinot resulting in a truly exceptional wine. 

Villa Brunesco is the birthplace of some other delicious wines including the Gama Prosecco and the Sauvignon which also made it on to our wine list.  The Villa was built in 1845 by Sponza Ship owners, but they did not start bottling and selling wine there until 1922.  The vineyard of about 70 hectares has balanced soil including clay, lime and sand.  Being close to the sea, a summer heat and late summer breeze gently allow for the grapes to ripen and for flavor to develop.  After being picked, the Manzoni Bianco grapes mature in steel vats for about 4 months.  The end result is a balanced wine that has notes of peach and apricot as well as an elegant acidity characteristic of a Pinot Bianco. 

We’re of the opinion Mr. Manzoni had a stroke of genius when he created this hybrid.  Pairing this wine with our summer menu is a dream. The balance of fruit and citrus in this wine would be a lovely accompaniment to the Bigoli Al Pesce Spada, the Salmone or the Hudson Valley Cheese Plate.  And of course, it is lovely on its own! Don’t miss coming in to the Trattoria to try this unique wine.  A glass of Manzoni Bianco is just $10, but you are going to want to get a whole bottle for just $30!  Stop in this Wednesday (or any Wednesday) when all of our bottled wines are 30% off! 

Learn more about Villa Brunesca here.

 

T.G.I.F. Cocktail – Summer Berry Sangria

Summer is the time of gathering with friends, relaxing and keeping things simple. This week, we focus on a weekend favorite (making it the perfect T.G.I.F. cocktail) at Gigi Trattoria, the Summer Berry Sangria. We have simplified some of the preparation so that it’s easy to make at home. While everyone may have their own favorite sangria recipe, try this one, it is  delicious! Whip up a pitcher of Summer Berry Sangria for you and your guests, relax and enjoy!

 

1 Cup Strawberry or Mixed Berry Puree*
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
3/4 Cup Simple Syrup 
2 Cups Lemon-Lime Soda 
1.4 cup Triple Sec
1/4 Cup Vodka
1/4 Cup Berry Liquor (we used Chambourd)
1 Bottle of dark, dry Rose Wine (we use Lurra Garnacha 2011, Spain)

 Add all ingredients together into a pitcher and add ice. 

 *Should take approximately a pint of strawberries, or even better a mix of strawberries and raspberries. Rinse fruit and cut the tops off the strawberries, hull them if they are tough and not at peak ripeness. Toss berries into blender with some water, adding more water until desired puree consistency is achieved. 

**Shout out to our Adrienne Chiaramonte for whipping this up for us on her day off! 🙂

 

Wine Weekly – Lugana Limne

In the southern shores of Lake Garda, 50 meters above sea level, is the home to one of Gigi Trattoria’s most popular and beloved wines.  Lugana Limne, 2010, produced by Tenuta Roveglia, is 100% Trebbiano di Lugana. This straw yellow wine has aromas of peach and vanilla.  Classic of Luganas, it has a fruity accent with a dry, subtle and elegant finish.  The strong structure yet delicate and refined bouquet make this wine not only wonderful paired with food but delicious on its own especially as an aperitif.

It isn’t surprising that Tenuta Roveglia is considered the premier cru area of Lugana. The land that is Tenuta Roveglia has been producing wines since the Roman ages when Poet Catullo heralded this region for its wine. Not only is this region esteemed for superb wines but it is also breathtakingly beautiful. The clay soil indigenous to the terroir of this DOC region create vibrant green vines and of course extraordinary grapes.  

Whether it’s the ancient heritage of the land or the picturesque environment that the grapes are grown in, something about the Tenuta Roveglia Lugana makes it simply irresistible.  Whenever we have tried to take if off the glass list at Gigi Trattoria it has been yearned for. So we have decided not only to sell it for $10 a glass and $33 a bottle, but we now sell it at Gigi Market! If you have never tried to the Tenuta Roveglia Lugana, you must come into Gigi to see just what we are talking about.  And don’t forget on Wednesdays all of our wines by the bottle are 30% off!  

Learn more about Tenuta Roveglia here.
Learn more about Lugana here.