Per La Famiglia + A Giveaway

Okay let’s get all the disclaimers over with first.

Disclaimer 1: I received this cookbook free from the wonderful folks over at Whitecap Books.

Disclaimer 2: Emily Richards is my friend.

Nonna Ortenzia's Meatballs

Nonna Ortenzia’s Meatballs

With all that being said my opinions are 100 percent my own and none of the above influences any of the wonderful things I want to say about Emily Richards new book Per La Famiglia.  Because all I can say is wonderful things.  This book is absolutely brilliant. Aside from possibly one other book on my shelves I have never cooked so many things from one source and still haven’t covered all the sticky notes protruding along the pages. And everything worked. And was so freaking delicious.  It brought comments of “these meatballs are spectacular” to “please don’t make any other salad other than this one….ever again.”

Mixed Green Salad

Mixed Green Salad

Let me dial it back though.  One thing I pride myself on is keeping my reviews; whether it be cookbook, products or restaurant, in the realm of “profile”…not “review”. Flavours and preferences run such a spectrum across the food consuming community that who am I to say that something is the worst or best.

Baked Pasta with Sausage and Ricotta

Baked Pasta with Sausage and Ricotta

So let me tell you about this book and why it may just be what you have been waiting for.

Per La Famiglia is a collection of Southern Italian recipes from the life of Emily Richards. Dishes “for the family”. With each page she invites readers into the stories and memories of her close knit food-centric family, showing cooks how to make simple dishes like her mixed green salad, to homemade gnocchi and preserves to roasts and seafood specialities.

Garlicky Green Beans

Garlicky Green Beans

She makes seemingly difficult tasks, like homemade pasta, refreshing and uncomplicated.  Pizza, pasta, meats and vegetables all get their fair share in the limelight as you turn pages and discover more and more dishes to mark for later. She invites you into her home with her voice and you begin to feel like maybe you went to family dinner or two.

Its recipes like the filling in this Squash and Hazelnut Rotelle was almost devoured before it made it to the sheets of pasta, yet once it came together I regretted not having those early bites to make one more roll for later.

Per La Famiglia (5 of 7)

And this Polenta with Sausage and Rapini? I had plans to eat it all week for lunch. Then my co workers tried it.  I got it for lunch one day.

Per La Famiglia (4 of 7)

For anyone looking for gorgeous, simple southern Italian recipes bursting with flavour Per La Famiglia is the book you want on your counter.

Thanks to Whitecap books, Emily and an amazing group of bloggers we are offering you a chance to win your own signed copy of Per La Famiglia. I don’t know if you noticed in the picture of meatballs that gorgeous shred of cheese? That and all the cheese I needed were effortlessly grated using one of my many Microplane cheese graters. And thanks to the wonderful folks over at Microplane; the winner will also receive an Elite Grater/Zester set along with the cookbook. Perfect for all of the recipes you won’t be able to resist.

Mixed Peppers and Bocconcini Pasta Salad

Mixed Peppers and Bocconcini Pasta Salad

For multiple chances to win make sure you visit all the participating  sites.  These brilliant writers and photographers are also cooking their way through Per La Famiglia and can’t wait to share what they think as well.

Jenny from The Brunette Baker

Julie from Dinner with Julie

Chrissy from The Busy Baker

Brittany from My Daily Randomness

Libby from Libby Roach Photography

Kristy from She Eats

Gwen from Devour and Conquer

Tiffany from Eating Niagara

Nancy from Gotta Get Baked

Amanda from Once Upon a Recipe

Nicole from Culinary Cool

Carole from The Yum Yum Factor

Kelly from Kelly Neil Photography

Christina from Strawberries for Supper

So check them out and enter here to win that fabulous prize. Make sure you leave a comment (mandatory for entering) telling me which of the above recipes looked the tastiest.(Oh and don’t forget to read the legal)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is open to all legal residents of Canada who have reached the age of majority at the time of the contest in the province or territory in which they reside.

Void in Quebec.

No purchase necessary to enter.

Giveaway will run from Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at 12:01am to end on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at 11:59pm. Winner is chosen at random via Rafflecopter. Winner will be contacted via email and given 48 hours to respond. If not, a new winner will be chosen. Winner selected MUST correctly answer a skill-testing mathematical question. Winner’s name will be displayed on Rafflecopter widget. Email address will never be given out to any third party or anyone for that matter.

Prize value is approximately $75CDN.

Eatalia

Eatalia (4 of 15)

The first thing you will notice when you walk into Eatalia Restaurant is the architecture.  Housed in a 20th century bank on Brant Street in Burlington this circular space is a perfect blend of modern design, symmetrical lines and historical surprises that help create an atmosphere appropriate for casual business meetings, romantic first dates or small wedding receptions.  Bench seating, tall bistro tables and concrete topped tables are arranged in the wide open room that allow for the perception of separation from your fellow diners while floor to ceilings windows create the appearance of  size.

Eatalia

A semi private room off to the side with round wooden table that seats 8 is perfect for private parties or a large family gathering and for fans of nostalgia the old bank vault has been brilliantly converted into a wine cellar still with its original intercom, just in case you get locked in.

Semi-private dining space

Semi-private dining space

Spanish born Chef Jose is something of a marvel himself developing his love for Italian food during a student exchange program. Having been at the restaurant over 6 months he expertly executes a compact yet robust menu. Classic dishes like pizza, bruschetta and spaghetti bolognese are interspersed with creations such as parpadelle in porcini cream sauce and polenta fries with truffled brown butter escargot.  Special features highlight dishes cooked with seasonal ingredients and are changed about every 3 weeks. Desserts are not even listed as they are regularly changed and rotated through the kitchen.

Bank Vault Wine Cellar

Bank Vault Wine Cellar

An expanse wine list further enhances the food with some vintages originating from small winery across Italy not normal sourced by the local LCBO.  We had the chance to try a great red wine from the Venito region, a Valpolicella Ripasso.  A light, fruity wine it was the perfect accompaniment to an assortment of foccaica bread, a spicy yet flavorful chili oil and an amazing homemade hummus.

Focaccia with Hummus and Chili Oil

Focaccia with Hummus and Chili Oil

Thanks to our incredibly attentive and knowledgeable server it didn’t take long to decide what to order. Our meal started with a sample of both traditional bruschetta with tomatoes and bufala mozzarella and a wild mushroom and asiago cheese version.

Bruschetta

Bruschetta

The first was as expected.  A nice mix of tomato, basil and garlic atop a crunchy baguette slice, simple and classic.

Tomato Bruschetta with Bufala Mozzarella

Tomato Bruschetta with Bufala Mozzarella

The mushroom version was superb with perfectly sauteed wild mushroom and the nutty flavor of asiago.

Mushroom and Asiago Bruschetta

Mushroom and Asiago Bruschetta

Also ordered as an appetizer was the meatballs with ricotta cheese.  A generous serving of meatballs, slices of grilled baguette and a large dollop of creamy cheese all covered in a chunky and rich tomato sauce this dish was a meal in itself.  Both my guest and I agreed that paired with a nice salad this would be a perfect winter lunch.

Meatballs with Ricotta

Meatballs with Ricotta

The menu offers both white and red style pizzas with several different varieties of each to choose from. The pizza bianca was liberally topped with bufala mozzarella, caramalized onions, double smoked bacon and fresh ripe tomatoes.  Thin crusted and mildly spiced this pizza had a  wonderful smoky flavour and the bites of fresh tomato were incredibly refreshing.

Pizza Bianca

Pizza Bianca

Pasta dishes included both classic and specialty dishes.  This parpadelle in truffled cream sauce, poached chicken, double smoked bacon and spinach was rich and full of flavor.  Perfect sized streamers of pasta were coated with just the right amount of cream sauce to let the other ingredients shine through but to also bring it all together.  While I would have enjoyed a bit more spinach in my bowl the chicken was just how chicken should be in a pasta dish like this one.  Not overly seasoned yet fork tender and in generous supply.

Parpadelle with chicken, spinach and bacon in a cream sauce

Parpadelle with chicken, spinach and bacon in a cream sauce

Desserts are not listed on the main menu as similiarily to  the special features they are regularly changed to reflect seasonal ingredients.  The cheesecake with orange coulis was light and airy while the flavor closing resembled that of an orange creamsicle.

Cheesecake

Cheesecake

The death by chocolate cake was just that.  A chocolate chip crumbled base, layers of chocolate cake, creamy chocolate buttercream and topped with a rich ganache one forkfull was more than enough for this vanilla lover. For the chocolate lover it is decadence in every bite.

Death by Chocolate Cake

Death by Chocolate Cake

The final dessert was a refreshing palate cleansing watermelon gelato. The restaurant make their own gelato and you tell when talking with staff they enjoy developing new flavors. During the summer months three to four flavors may be available while the winter temperatures pare down the choices to one or two.

Watermelon Gelato

Watermelon Gelato

Eatalia offers a late night menu (after 11pm to close) for those who come to the restaurant to enjoy a cocktail or two while a DJ offers up tunes for anyone that wants to hit the dance floor.  Here the chef can be seen experimenting away from his Italian cuisine with offerings of grilled chicken tortillas and stuffed calabrese peppers.

Anyone wanting a great location to have a fantastic Italian dinner should look no further than Eatalia restaurant.  Great atmosphere, great staff and outstanding food we know we will be making this location a regular dining spot.

Eatalia Restaurant
527 Brant Street
Burlington, Ontario, Canada
905-634-3300

Eatalia

Celli’s Osteria

Celli's Osteria

Great food is served best with great company. I had the pleasure of enjoying both during my recent visit to Celli’s Osteria in Burlington.

There is something to be said when you put 6 food bloggers together at a dinner table.Food is talked about, food is eaten, the next time to get together and eat and talk about food is decided and planned.  Oh and food is photographed. Your plate, the plate across the table, the plate beside you. Nothing is left uncaptured.

What brought us all together?  Well a combination of things.  Four of us initially met up at the Taste of Burlington launch, a  event showcasing the restaurants participating in its upcoming culinary season. A discussion about which restaurants we may try followed and from it sprang a potential Food Bloggers of Canada mini reunion.  A restaurant was picked, a date was decided and a call to other Toronto area food bloggers went out.

Celli’s Osteria was my first choice when deciding where we should all gather.  During the launch party I had a great conversation with  their staff  how they felt about food bloggers coming to their restaurant, taking photos, talking to the chef and reviewing their food.  I asked that question to most of the restaurants there that night and much like Celli’s they made it clear that we were entirely welcomed and in fact encouraged us to pay them a visit.  It was heartening to see a group of food industry veterans appreciating and validating what we do as food writers.

Finding a date and time that would work for all four of us was surprisingly simple.  Who knew we were so accomandating and flexible? So on a clear, warm Monday evening we all came together to enjoy some great Italian food and outstanding company.

Celli’s Osteria prides itself on serving rustic Italian food with a modern twist while keeping true to using locally sourced ingredients.  Their main menu offers up classics dishes from calamari and mushroom risotto to more adventurous plates of braised rabbit and roasted sea bass.  But given the context that brought us all out I stuck to the Prix Fixe Taste of Burlington Menu.

Fried Fiore di Latte Cheese

Translated crudely into milk’s flower, this appetizer was a simple breaded cow’s milk cheese, deep fried and served with marinara, basil and giant parmesan shavings.  While the marinara was not as  chunky as advertised it was probably one of my favorite aspects to this dish. I lean towards more cream or rose sauces since tomato based sauces have a very hard time pleasing my taste buds.  The majority I try are usually sweet and overly seasoned while I prefer a more robust and deep flavour.  This sauce was just where my palate wanted it.  Not too powerful, just enough to bring out the basil but sutble enough that the creamy flavour of the cow’s milk is still in evidence.  And may I add that each petal of cheese was perfectly crisp.

Fried Fiore de Latte Cheese from The Tasty Gardener

Other appetizer options included a shaved fennel and citrus salad with sunflower seeds and crispy prosciutto or this classic, incredibly fresh looking red and yellow tomato bruschetta.
Bruschetta

Veal Scallopini al limone

On most occasions when I dine out at a new restaurant I like to pick main dishes with ingredients that I don’t eat or cook regularily.  Veal is one thing I rarely consume yet each time I always wonder why I don’t since it’s  so enjoyable.  The veal in this dish was fork tender, melt in your mouth delicious.  The “al limone” had me to believe it would be done in a lemon sauce however all I could taste was the carmalized onion reduction.  It was very delicious and worked well with the veal but a slight disappointment when you are expecting more tartness.  It was served with fingerling potatoes and exquisitely cooked asparagus.  While it seems minor how a chef cooks out of season vegetables really showcases their knowledge of  ingredients.

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Since there were six of us that evening and five were ordering from the fixed menu it was almost a sure bet that each entree would be ordered.  The other options included this simple pasta dish tossed with summer vegetables, parmasan, basil, garlic and oil. I love the generous shavings of cheese.

Spaghetti aglio olio

And a roasted rainbow trout with almonds, capers, asparagus and fingerling potatoes.

Roasted Rainbow Trout Flourless Walnut and Chocolate Cake

Served with a tangy whipped ricotta and sweet chunks of walnut praline, this dessert ruled with the majority.  Similar to a moist, light brownie this cake didn’t knock you down on the chocolate factor and was a perfect end to a delish meal.  I almost wanted to order just the walnut praline they were so amazing.

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Those who decided to go with the second option were treated to Celli’s signature tiramisu with blueberry compote.

Tiramisu with blueberry compote

Let me also mention that like all good Italian restaurants bread and olive oil for dipping were offered the minute everyone had sat down and was replenished without any hestitation from the staff when asked.  To set themselves apart from other restaurants the olive oil had big chunks of roasted garlic and sprigs of rosemary in the bowl that we were all fighting over to get a taste.

With each course being moderately sized and the time between courses reasonable I finished my meal neither famished or stuffed, just perfectly sated. Being a Monday night the restaurant was fairly empty and we pretty much had the staff  to ourselves (which meant my water glass was always full, a bonus). Though serving 6 slightly critical and incredibly boisterous food bloggers can never be an easy task.   As I said in the beginning the food was as great as the company and since we are all in agreement that we want to spend more evenings dining together like that it’s also fair to say we would all come back to Celli’s Osteria again in the future.