Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dolce Vita!

dol·ce  vi·ta:
noun, Italian
: A life of heedless pleasure and luxury.

A brief post today about a delicious meal with a perfect name that my husband and I make together  from one of my favorite local restaurants.... 

Donatello has been a landmark restaurant in the Tampa area for 25+ years and was one of the first places we dined when we moved here.  A beautiful menu, top notch service, old school Italian atmosphere, piano bar, plus every lady receives a rose before leaving after dinner each evening not to mention the food has been wonderful for us each visit.  As Jon Palmer Claridge wrote in his Creative Loafing review, "The place is kind of old-school Italian and a little gaudy, but then so is the Duomo in Siena."  His review is not the most kind, but it is fair and honest and with that I cannot argue with his view - although having visited the Duomo in Siena I think it is perfect.  Rommie Johnson wrote a much more decadent review from the Tampa Tribune a couple years ago - again citing the price as a main issue but how worthwhile it can be on occasion.  Thus - the reason I felt compelled to try to get the recipe for my latest favorite indulgence and save myself some dollars to spend on tea or wine (lol, inside joke for those who have read my previous posts).  :)

I had never tried veal before dining at Donatello but the dish sounded so good -described as Vitello Dolce Vita served with prosciutto, portobellos and black truffle shavings.  This was heaven on a plate -a perfectly rich white wine reduction and layers of flavor.

I enjoyed it so much that I signed up for their email newsletter a few years ago in which they shared recipes from time to time. I requested this particular recipe never dreaming they would share it- much less that I would ever delve into trying to make veal being so new to the dish and not sure what this glorious recipe might entail.  Lo and behold they did share it and I couldn't be happier!

Having made this last night together, I remember how simple it truly is to make- given the right ingredients on hand-this could be tweaked easily into a chicken dish as well.  I am happy to share it with you today.  I think you will find it extremely easy and undeniably worth the ingredients - be it a special occasion or the desire for something a little richer than usual for a Wednesday night  at home.   Of course you can tweak it to your liking and omit the truffle shavings, etc. as I will mention in my own tweaks below... no matter what you will enjoy it!

Ingredients for dinner for 2:
*try not to skimp on the olive oil, wine, etc. it makes a difference in this one.
  • 4 slices veal scallopini (Fresh Market usually carries this thinly pounded veal)
  • flour
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T chopped shallots
  • 2 oz. dry white wine (I used half a bottle for extra sauce)
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 oz. prosciutto (julienned/ cut into small slivers)
  • 2 oz. portobello mushrooms (julienned) *easily omitted or replaced with another shroom
  • 1 t. black truffle shaving *Having none on hand I used a splash of (gasp) truffle oil which worked fine, this too can be omitted if need be.
  • 3/4 C. brown veal stock (*easily substituted but please make or use a low sodium broth)
  • 1 oz. (half a stick) of chilled butter (use the real thing and ensure it is very cold)
Dust your veal with flour - don't over flour and no need to moisten it first- we are not frying it.  You may add some pepper to your flour but please don't add salt at this point- the sauce more than makes up for the need later on - trust me!

Julienne your prosciutto and your portobellos.  Also chop your shallots if you didn't buy them jarred.
Heat olive oil in a skillet and add veal cooking on medium for one minute on each side.

Do not over cook - this thin beef cooks quickly and could become tough if you let it linger.
Remove the veal and keep it warm/covered on the side.

In the same skillet, add shallots and cook for two minutes until transparent, then add the proscitto and cook it for a couple of minutes allowing some brown bits to gather a little on the bottom.  Add the mushrooms and the sage and cook for a couple more minutes.
Add the wine and let it reduce by half.... since I chose to add a half of a bottle for extra sauce this took a good 7 minutes or so.... by reducing the wine you allow the flavors to concentrate.  While it is reducing be sure to use a wooden spoon to scrape the browned bits of meat off the bottom of the pan adding to your depth of flavor.  Once reduced, add in the truffle shavings or truffle oil and then pour in your stock.  You may now place the veal back into the sauce.
Now is the time to check for seasonings- before you added the stock the sauce would be very salty so please hold back on your seasonings until this point and definitely use a low or no sodium stock - homemade of course is the best - chicken or beef stock work perfectly fine.

Place the chilled butter into the pan and cook for two more minutes.

Place the veal onto plates and cover with sauce.

We served ours with some brown rice but pasta is certainly a wonderful option as well - anything to soak in the rich reduction is perfect. I also found that adding some fontina at the end is a nice touch.
My husband even surprised me with some roses before dinner just to make me smile.  This was way better than the after dinner roses and kiss they give you at Donatello's....
Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Epic Day Awaiting Epicurean Delights

Tampa has a new hot spot that everyone is buzzing about and it is still 4 months away from its grand opening! 

The Epicurean Hotel is sure to be a tremendous hit not only for visitors but happily for local foodies, culinary students, roof top loungers, and particularly for wine enthusiasts.... oh and there is the whole  accommodations part lest we forget that is bound to be phenomenal hotel considering they won't even have a formal front desk to check into - versus a personal host for each guest. 

We were so lucky to have seen a contest on the Epicurean Hotel's Facebook Page to enter to win a day with their adorable "epic bicycles" to ride around Tampa and take some cool photos to upload to social media and to tag #epichotelbikes.  The grand prize was to be tickets to their Grand Opening Gala, overnight accommodations and dinner for two at Elevage.  My mouth was already drooling... I couldn't wait to enter the contest and told lots of friends about it as well. 
This is the only photo on this post not taken by us, this picture is from the facebook page of Epicurean Hotel for the contest.

Happily, my husband and I and seven other duos were picked from all of the entries to participate in the bike photo contest finals.  We were to tweet and post our pictures around town evoking the essence of Tampa by utilizing the bikes.  You can check out the hotel's twitter account here

Articles have popped up here, and here and here..... describing the fantastic venue which is slated to be open in December/January.  One of my favorite articles displaying samplings of what is to come was beautifully written by fellow blogger Katie on her blog Ruffles and Truffles which you can read hereSome highlights to note are the hotel's main restaurant which will be called Elevage.  Diners will pass through a hall of wine showing off part of Bern's world-renowned private collection.  The highlight for beverage enthusiasts will be the Edge Social Drinkery located on the hotel's rooftop.  This boutique hotel will also have a culinary theater with tastings, seminars and classes offered to the public. 

I was so excited about the bike contest!!!  When we arrived at the adorable model hotel room that they setup earlier this year during construction to pick up the bikes, we were delighted to find a bottle of wine with a neat chiller bag and card welcoming us!

We were off on our adventures...  first stop was of course at Bern's Fine Wines and Spirits which is a partner with the hotel.  They will be relocating this fine shop across the street and into the hotel which will allow a great space for shopping and especially tasting! 

And aren't these bikes adorable?  Guests will be able to use them when staying at the hotel.
We made our way over to Mangroves for some brunch and relaxing on their outdoor cushiony patio overlooking the Soho area. 

 Riding around, enjoying the sites, tastes and friendly people of Tampa - we stopped off at The University of Tampa which has a  beautiful historic campus right on the Hillsborough River next to downtown.  A couple of students were nice enough to snap a picture of us resting in the shade. 

Suddenly, inspiration struck us!  My husband wanted to take some panoramic pictures with the bikes on the floating docks.

Then I had an idea ... I wished there had been an easy way to get one of these beautiful bikes onto a paddle board- but that was risky and might not look the way I had imagined it for a cool, how could I incorporate the water better....?

I wanted to reflect the beauty the skyline along with the Epic bikes.  Check out the neat wine bottle we brought with us for photo shooting- we had to get one with a bike on it of course (by the way it tasted pretty delicious too)!
I tested different angles....

Still not quite there yet....

Until I finally believed I had taken just the right picture.....encompassing just about everything I wanted it to..... and it was really cool!

THIS was the winning photo.... there was no Doubt in my mind!  I am by no means a photographer but this picture evoked Tampa and the Epicurean name to me in my heart.   We happily soldiered on to continue enjoying our day around Tampa with the vintage bikes....

There were plenty of other pretty spaces for adorable photos throughout Tampa and we stopped, shopped, ate, drank and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and scenery.

We had so much fun and cannot wait to get to experience the Grand Opening prize at this beautiful hotel.  With such genius marketing already in the works and the exciting restaurants and event spaces  - the Epicurean hotel will surely live up to its namesake -it should be Epic! 
A special thank you to ALL my friends & family and strangers who voted for my winning photo- I could not have done with without you!  :)   A very special thank you to my husband for spending that wonderful day with me and helping hold the bikes while I took the winning photo......