Thursday, March 31, 2011

Celebrity Chef Carla Pellegrino opens Bratalian a Neapolitan Cantina to Standing Room only approval

We have been fortunate to have experienced Chef Carla Pellegrino’s culinary artistry for many years and were very excited to visit her new venue Bratalian Neapolitan Cantina by Carla Pellegrino in Henderson just outside of Las Vegas . Carla began cooking at the age of 10 and never looked back. She attended the French Culinary Institute and graduated in the top of her class and her star began to rise. Her dream became a reality when Carla led the culinary team as the executive chef to open Rao’s Las Vegas.

She took ten of the original recipes from the legendary East Harlem's Italian restaurant, added her own traditional North Italian cuisine and built a high volume menu concept keeping in mind quality of ingredients and consistency and at the same time translating the family style operated by Rao’s family at its ten table restaurant since 1886. She finally brings all of her experience in and out of the kitchen to her own restaurant and we could not wait to see what she had in store for us.

Arriving at Bratalian we walked into her quaint cantina complete with “laundry” hanging from the ceiling and aromas of the Italian countryside. GM Walter Cantina greeted us along with Carla and we headed off for a tour of her kitchen. Hard at work was Carla’s Sister Chef Alessandra Maderia.

She has quite a culinary background herself! Starting as Garde Manager at Baldoria restaurant, owned by the same family that owns the legendary Rao’s restaurant she worked her way up to executive chef. She was always working side by side with her sister Carla at culinary events and cooking shows such as the Today show and as Sous chef working with Carla for the Rao’s restaurant group at culinary events such as The James Beard House in 2007, 2008 and March 21st 2009; and others like Degustibus at Macy's and cooking demos at William & Sonoma at Columbus Circle, NYC. Alessandra as been by Carla’s side for years and now she is once again teamed up with her sister at Bratalian.

Carla seated us and we got our palates ready to see what Chef Carla and her sister have created.



 P.E.I clams in white wine and garlic broth

When this dish came to our table, aromas of creamy garlic jumped out at us. The Clams were cooked to perfection with every Clam opening to revel a juicy mouth-watering treat. Sitting in Carla’s white  wine and garlic broth is probably the best we have had anywhere.



 Traditional Beef, Veal and pork meatballs served in Fresh Tomatoes & Basil Sauce

This dish caught our eye right way. Meatballs , yes Meatballs ! We have had Carla’s Meatballs in the past and knew, with her previous experience at RAOs they would be fabulous and they were. Beef , Veal and Pork combined to make  meatballs that are so large they could be a meal by themselves. This dish alone is worth coming back for .



 Spaghetti noodles in Olive Oil, Thinly Sliced Garlic and Crushed Red Pepper sauce

A classic dish with flavours of  EVOO , Garlic and crushed red peppers that show off layers of   light   flavours that we used as a lead in to our larger dishes that were on the way.



Classic Italian Lasagna, oven cooked layered Fresh pasta sheets, Parmesan cheese, Bolognese and B├ęchamel sauce

With Chef Carla tableside with this dish we got quite an education on classic Italian Cuisine. With  aromas of nutmeg in the sauce. Chef explained that this is  traditional Lasagna with no meat  fillings. Layers of pasta sheets with Parmesan cheese , Bolognese and the Bechamel sauce make this a very light dish that most Americans may have never experienced. The nutmeg is a classic Chef Carla touch to the Bechamel sauce that combine with the Lasagna that we will  remember for quite a long time.



Thinly pounded veal, sage and Parma prosciutto topped with melted mozzarella cheese, served with mashed potatoes

When we visit any Italian Restaurant for the first time we usually order a veal dish. In our opinion veal is not that easy to prepare properly. The veal in this dish was perfectly pounded into thin pieces and seasoned nicely with sage , prosciutto and creamy mozzarella . The plated dish with the mashed potatoes was rustic and earthy, just like we would expect from a cantina in the country,



 Classic Fresh Apples pie, served with Caramel Gelato

What a better way to finish a delicious experience with a great Chef than dessert. This Torta Di Mele was a work of art on  the plate and even better with a cappuccino to put an end to 3 ½ hours of some of the best simple , classic , Italian fare we have had.

The dishes we enjoyed show why Chef Carla Pellegrino has the stellar reputation she has in and out of the kitchen. Her passion and dedication can be seen and felt throughout her new venue of Bratalian and judging from the SRO crowd to dine, she has yet another restaurant that will garner a great reputation and why not ? Her name is on this one.

The Cuisineist takes a look at Don de Dieu Ale Beer from Unibroue, making big noise in North America

The Cuisineist , by definition is about Cuisine, however from time to time we visit with a Mixologist or Sommelier or Winemaker at a Wine Dinner , why? because they all are very intertwined . Wine making, Brewing and pairing are more similar that some are led to believe.

This time, we take a look at a very nice Ale from Chambley , Canada from Master Brewer Jerry Vietz. His very nice Don de Dieu is brewed at Unibrouge.From the very beginning, Unibroue has found a special niche in the beer world by producing top quality products rooted deep in Quebec culture.

It made history by becoming the first North American beer maker to use a brewing method inspired by the two-centuries-old tradition developed by Trappist monks in Europe—particularly in Belgium. Over the years, Unibroue has remained faithful to its origins even as it has grown to become an icon of the brewing world.
Jerry Vietz

Jerry Vietz stated , “ I’m very passionate about fermentation in general. I’m not afraid to mix all kinds of stuff, to try new things. I’ve had the chance to experiment with a wide range of raw materials. I really believe that anything that contains carbohydrates can turn into something very interesting when it goes through the fermentation process, depending on the way you manage it. Each cereal, fruit, or sugar has a different profile and they need to be processed and managed differently in order to get a liquid with the desired characteristics I tell people I make "flavorful beers"—that’s the category I brew. For me, the important thing is to express myself through the beer. I brew with passion and I hope that people take as much pleasure to taste my beer as I have to create them!”. After sampling the Don de Dieu we have to agree!

Don de Dieu (Gift of God) was the name of the ship that Samuel de Champlain sailed on his mission to “explore and discover the vast and perilous land of America” in the name of the King of France. His travels led to the founding of Quebec City in 1608 (a modification of the Algonquin word “kebec” which means “where the river narrows”). Inspired by this great adventure, Unibroue created Don de Dieu an abbey-style triple wheat ale refermented in the bottle.

This Ale is ,rich, with a nice head, and aromatic with aromas of vanilla , white flowers , and honey . On the palate, flavors of red and white fruit , nuts and of course yeast. This refreshing triple wheat ale showed a nice orange , gold color in the glass . Just like good wine, fine beers develop with age. Over time they become smoother, sometimes revealing notes of honey and candied fruit and developing a more assertive and lasting flavor. This phenomenon is known as “maderization” and is similar to the aging process of dessert wines like port.

The Don de Dieu has been recognized all over North America wining , The Americas Best Wheat Beer - Strong - 2010 - World Beer Awards,UK ,Silver - 2010 - World Beer Championship, Chicago Beverage Testing Silver - 2010 - Denver International Beer Competition, Gold - 2005 - World Beer Championship, Chicago Beverage Testing Institute, Gold - 2001 - World Beer Championship, Chicago Beverage Testing Institute.

With the summer months just on the horizon, we could not think of nice beer to pair with goat cheese, buchette or even sausage. We enjoyed some very large meatballs made from pork ,beef and veal with this Ale and it paired magnificently . Served at 50F , you cant go wrong. For more on this great beer please visit

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Join Cuisineist Editor-in-Chief Elaine Harris at the Annual Santa Barbara County Vintner's Festival April 15-18th 2011 in Lompoc California

Its that time once again for the annual Santa Barbara County Vintners' Festival Weekend attracts wine lovers from near and far for an opportunity to meet member vintners, taste their wines, and enjoy great food and music over a long spring weekend, April 15th - 18th.

The main event is the Vintners' Festival - a festive outdoor environment on Saturday, April 16th from 1 to 4pm. The Festival features the wines of the 110+ members of the Association, live and lively music, a silent auction and wine country cuisine by the area’s finest chefs. The Festival will once again be held at River Park in Lompoc.

For the first time this year, they will offer VIP Early Entry tickets to the Festival. Be one of the first to enter and experience wine tasting with this early entry ticket.

Cuisineist Editor-In-Chief Elaine Harris

This special Vintner's Festival ticket allows you to enter one hour prior and experience the more than one hundred vintners and winemakers of the organization, who will be pouring their latest releases of the sixty-five plus varietals of wine grown in the county before anyone else!

The many wineries also host events throughout Santa Barbara Wine Country starting Friday - tastings of library wines or barrel samples, vineyard barbecues, winemaker dinners, wine & food pairings. Check out each day's events.

See you there !