What a food-centric weekend we had! I guess that's to be expected from a food blogger, eh? But what fabulous finds I've got for you today, my friends. Read on...
Those adorable (and scrumptious) little cupcakes pictured above are from the wonderful dinner we enjoyed at the soft opening of Bar Cara Friday night. Bar Cara is the new offering from the DePersio family (of Fascino fame). While Fascino is all dark red banquettes and elegant food, Bar Cara is hip and rustic at the same time. The space is colored in soft, muted, almost spa-like colors, with a definite coolness factor in the air. Bar Cara has a liquor license (Fascino is BYO) and a great bar area to enjoy a pre-dinner drink.
Here's where the rustic part comes in. For the past year, Fascino has been offering "Traditional Tuesdays" with Chef Ryan DePersio's modern spin on Italian favorites (such as Veal Parmigiana and Sausage and Peppers). Some of those items have made the trip to Bar Cara along with sensational pizzas, a fabulous pork burger, great zucchini fries, and Ryan's addictive polenta fries.
When we heard that pastry chef and family matriarch, Cynthia DePersio, made all the dough for the pizzas, we had to start the meal with one. The crust was incredible - light, airy, with just the right amount of chewiness. I was so busy oohing and aahing over the crust, I didn't get a picture!
I loved my entree of Braised Sausage with Creamy Polenta - my idea of the perfect comfort food. If there is a burger on a menu, Barry cannot pass it up. So, true to form, he ordered the Pork Burger on a delicious brioche roll.
Finishing up the meal brings us back to the delectable cupcakes at the top of the blog. Perfect little bite-sized morsels of lusciousness, these cupcakes are! A trio times two, made for sharing: carrot, banana, and chocolate. Hello, Cupcake!
Finally, North Jersey has a great spot for a glass of wine and a pizze, or a burger and a beer, or a civilized cocktail. The DePersio clan has done it again.
The restaurant's web site will be up shortly (bar-cara.com), so in the meantime, here are the details: 1099 Broad St., Bloomfield, NJ; 973-893-3681. The restaurant officially opens tonight, Saturday, January 23.
As if that wasn't enough, Saturday brought us to Tarry Lodge in Port Chester, NY. Savvy readers will know this as the latest endeavor of famed chef, Mario Batali, and wine partner, Joe Bastianich. The partners took a run down lodge first built in 1906 and renovated it back to beautiful saloon-like grandeur. As you would expect from this group, everything is done to perfection, with no stone left unturned. Port Chester is a hard-scrabble town and Tarry Lodge is a little out of place here, but at lunch today, it was packed. Obviously, this is a destination restaurant and gracious service has found a home in Port Chester - from the reservation confirmation call, to the host who seats you, to the perfectly, unobtrusive service. And how nice it was to be able to enjoy a Batali restaurant without having to go into New York (love NYC, but honestly, sometimes it's just not worth the trouble).
Reminiscent of our Friday night meal at Bar Cara, we started with pizza (you know the old saying: "one can never have too much good pizza!"). The group choice: Capricciosa, Artichokes, Prosciutto Cotto, and Crimini
A rectangle of moist, tender beef surrounded by creamy polenta with a few shards of horseradish in a barolo reduction. Are you a short ribs fan? Make your way to Tarry Lodge.
Other entrees enjoyed by our table: Black Fettucine with Shrimp and Artichokes and an Artichoke Fontina Frittata with Sopresatta Vinaigrette (on the specials menu).
Not one to skip dessert if presented with out of the ordinary options, Tarry Lodge offers some great choices, but I am so predictable: Apple Crostata with Cinnamon Gelato. Delicioso! The other dessert of choice was the Chocolate Cake with Bitter Oranges and Pistachio Gelato (nary a crumb was left).
So there you have it - two fabulous meals in one weekend. And sometimes that's all you need to get you through the dark, cold days of winter.