Food Adventures

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

This picture was taken on our balcony last Friday, after the first big winter storm of the year. If it seems a little blurry it's because I was in a hurry to take it since it was freezing outside. For those of you not living in Chicago, what you see is nothing compared to how it will be in January and February. You ask why some of us are crazy enough to live here? Well, I am not sure I have a good answer.

Now that it is really freezing, it seems only appropriate to make some winter foods. So, on Friday, I decided to try and recreate the Bolognese I had at Terragusto on Thursday night (see previous post). It might not be fair to call what I tried to do 'recreate' since I used a recipe from Mario Batali's cookbook, so I knew that the sauce was not going to turn out exactly like Chef Theo's. I was really surprised to see that Mario's sauce uses olive oil, instead of butter. I am pretty sure that real Bolognese is made with butter (and lots of it!), but I decide to trust Mario and try his recipe if for no other reason then because I'd be able to critique it. (My vegetarian friends can stop reading here because what follows will not make them very happy.) I used ground pork, ground veal, and ground beef and despite the fact that I used half the meat that Mario's recipe calls for and the full amount of liquids (wine, milk), after about an hour and 15 min, when the sauce was done, it was somewhat drier than I expected. I like dry sauces, but I can see how for someone who likes sauces a little saucier, this might not be enough. I didn't want to randomly start adding either wine or milk because I didn't want to change the flavor (for some reason, I thought that adding one or both the liquids at the end of the cooking might significantly change the flavor; I guess we'll never know now).

Of course, I couldn't serve the Bolognese with just about any pasta, so I made some fresh pasta, using my new rolling pin (it's serious rolling pin!). Now that I have a rolling pin that does half the work for me, I will be making pasta even more often that before. J

Everything tasted delicious although the sauce tasted nothing like the Terragusto one. You couldn't even have guessed that it was supposed to be the same sauce. I think the Terragusto sauce has more butter and milk (and it's certainly not as dry). Next time I make Bolognese, I will have to try a different recipe (or make up my own).

Friday, December 01, 2006

Last night, Michael and I managed to get a table at Terragusto, for the first time since the show aired. For those who might not have gotten one of my many emails about my recent appearance on Check, Please! (,5), I recommended Terragusto because of the quality of the ingredients and the fresh pasta.

You can read a summary of the review at

The pasta at Terragusto is the only pasta in town that tastes the way real pasta should taste: fresh, perfectly cooked, and dressed just enough to enhance its flavor (not drenched in sauce). It's also perfectly seasoned, enough salt to enhance the flavor and make it linger in your mouth. Since my first visit to Terragusto in the spring of 2006, I have returned many times and always have the pasta (since I started making pasta at home on a weekly basis or so, Terragusto is the only restaurant where I order pasta).

Of course, after the show aired, Terrausto was packed and the couple of times I called they were completely booked up. So, it had been a couple of months since my last visit and the call of the Bolognese sauce was too loud to ignore. On a cold, wintry night like last night, with the entire city bracing for a huge snow storm, we decided to warm up with pasta Bolognese and some good red wine at Terragusto.

I was a little nervous because I wasn't sure how the "Check, Please! Effect" had affected my favorite new restaurant, so in the interest of full disclosure when the waitress asked us if we had ever dined at Terragusto before, I told her that I had recommended the restaurant for the TV show. She was very nice about it as was Chef Theo who came out of the kitchen to meet us right after our waitress informed him of our presence. It was a pleasure to finally meet the chef whose pasta I admire so much and have a chance to chat. He's very pleasant and friendly and seemed to appreciate the fact that I had recommended his restaurant for the show. I told him how happy we were to be back and how much we enjoy his food. We even talked about risotto (as those of you who might have read this blog know, I have been trying to perfect my risotto and, in the interest of doing that, Michael and I have been dining on risotto a couple of times a week for the past several weeks).

The pasta, as expected, was divine! The waitress had told us that there were only two servings on the pasta Bolognese left, at which point I begged her to put in my order for one of them. The Bolognese sauce and the pork sauce are my absolute favorites at Terragusto and both are served with perfectly cooked fresh pasta. Last night, the Bolognese sauce was over their Swiss chard pasta, which is my favorite Terrausto pasta (I often buy it to make at home). It was a perfect combination of some vegetable flavor (from the pasta) and a rich, smooth, heavenly-tasting meat sauce, the perfect food for a cold winter night. Michael's pappardelle with vegetable ragu was also very good and it was good to have two such different dishes to share. Throughout the meal, we kept commenting on how great the food was and how glad we were that Terragusto had opened (and so close to our house). The meal was so wonderful that I could not eat dessert (despite the fact that the crème brulee looked good), and those of you who know me even a little bit will be shocked to hear this.

I am determined to try making Bolognese sauce at home again. Last time I made it, I used venison in an effort to recreate a great venison Bolognese that we had tried at Enoteca Roma (next door to Letizia's bakery), but the venison seemed too lean and it dried out a bit. This time, it will be an authentic Bolognese, following Mario Batali's recipe. Stay tuned!