Archive | October, 2014

Ragú National Pasta Day event

17 Oct

Happy National Pasta Day!

Now this is a day I can get behind.

This past week, Ragú was kind enough to extend an offer for me to come to a cooking event in honor of National Pasta Day.


We went to a lovely cooking space, My Cooking Party Loft


There was a twist, however, as all the recipes we would be cooking were IMPASTAS. (AKA… dishes made WITHOUT pasta and using veggies in their place).

First dish we were learning was a (super simple) cauliflower “mac” and cheese.


We also learned about spaghetti squash with Chunky Tomato, Garlic, and Onion Ragú and veggies.


And eggplant “lasagna” made with the classic sauce.


First we had a quick demo of how to cut onions and garlic before learning how to prep the dishes by our enthusiastic and knowledgeable Chef Joanne Kohlhepp.




Then we were to find our assigned partner and start to cook!  Making our own spin on the dishes.


We each received a tray of some items that were precooked and the ingredients we would need, making it nice and easy.


Then a table of ingredients to choose from to bump up our recipes and make them our own.DSCF3549

Of course, my selected addition to our dish was MEAT.  We grabbed some Pat LaFrieda ground beef and browned it up with onions, then added it to our eggplant lasagna.


And the photographer even got an action shot as I layered and sauced.


We also made the cauliflower “mac” and chee.  This was so easy.  Parboiled cauliflower, cheese sauce, topped with breadcrumbs toasted in butter.  We followed the recipe for this one and really enjoyed.


I was partnered up with the lovely Pam from Triple Threat Mommy and Food Editor of The Shopping Mama.


We had a great time preparing our dishes together, though you will notice that I have a homemade name tag below.  Why? You might ask… Well… smart me accidentally put the baking dish on top of my original name tag and I guess it stuck. So a few minutes later when we smelled something burning. Someone luckily checked on our dish and found my little name tag, hanging from the bottom of the casserole dish, about to go on fire.  Go me.


All the bloggers did a great job at preparing our various dishes.DSCF3562

And we proudly gathered around our creations…


Before sitting down to devour our meals together.


It was a great event and the food really came out delicious.  We all enjoyed our meals and left very full.  I was impressed at how easy these recipes were (though having some things prepped and someone to clean everything up sure was nice) and all of these could be a very healthy, gluten-less weekday meal.  And I hardly missed the pasta!  (I really didn’t miss it too much… but come on… I LOVE pasta)

Ragú will be holding a Twitter Party later today if you want to join in on the fun and have a chance to win some prizes:

When: Friday, October 17, 2014 at 1PM EST
Where: #NationalPastaDay on Twitter

Follow: @Crowdtappers & @RaguSauce
Prizes: $725 in Visa gift cards
Questions: Ask @Crowdtappers

 Thanks, Ragú, for the invite!  While this was a sponsored event, all opinions are solely my own.

New Restaurant Opening: Marta

13 Oct

A few years ago, when I worked in the slightly no man’s land neighborhood of midtown-ish, just north of Gramercy but not quite Murray Hill, there were very few food options.  Dos Caminos was basically all we had, and sometimes Houston’s (now Hillstone, which appears to be mostly the same but under a new name).  In the last few years since I have returned, it is a whole new world. Cannibal and Resto, Ai Fiori, The Nomad and The Nomad Bar, and the Breslin (to name just a few off the top of my head) are all within a 5-7 minute walk from my office.

And now, a new Danny Meyer’s pizza restaurant, Marta, has opened in the Martha Washington Hotel on 29th Street between Madison and Park.



(In the picture above, you can see a giant door-looking object. Do not be deceived. This is not a door.  Do not tug on it while hapless diners stare at you in fear and curiosity from the inside.  The entrance is all the way to the eastern side of the restaurant where you enter the hotel.  This recommendation is from both personal tugging experience and from the insider-looking-out POV where many a frustrated diner-to-be tugged while we ate and looked on.)

Inside is a soaring space with two giant pizza ovens and a large marble bar.  There are many tables around the room and the dining room feels big, but surprisingly never loud. I have now had two lunch meals here and both times I was surprised at how easy it was to have conversation with my fellow diners.



The bar for drinks (rather than pizza) is cheerful.


The tables are beautiful wood with a casual paper placemat and nice dishes. It gives the place a very laid back vibe but still polished. Perfect for a nicer pizza place.


The wine menu is quite extensive.



While Chef Nick Anderer certainly has a great pizza menu, there are also a number of other delicious sounding dishes on the menu, especially from the grill (which I did not yet try, but after seeing the lamb chops on a fellow diner’s table, I will need to go back soon!)


We started our first meal with the Radicchio salad, which came with treviso, quinoa, peaches, almonds, and ricotta salata.  This was very, very tasty and I especially liked the peaches mixed in.


For the pizzas, we tried the (stunning) Fiori di Zucca (with mozzarella, zucchini flowers, and anchovies) and the Capricciosa (mozzarella, artichokes, prosciutto, olives, and egg).


The combination of the all the flavors on the Capricciosa won my heart (and tongue), as did the nicely crispy crust that had some sections that were perfectly charred.


The Fiori di Zucca was the stunner, however, and also very tasty.  I felt a little like the anchovy flavor took away from the delicate flavor of the squash, so it wasn’t as great as the Capricciosa, but still very tasty.


And so pretty I made it my model for the moment and even added it as the main graphic on the NYCNomNom Facebook page.


On my second visit, I had to get the Capricciosa again and it was even better the second time around.  Those charred, super crispy bits of crust really thrilled my palette.


And this time we also tried the Patate alla Carbonara, which was new to the menu since my first visit.  This new gem came with potatoes, guanciale, black pepper, pecorino, and egg.

It was a tough call to decide which I liked more. I LOVED the potato on pizza. It’s such a great flavor.  And the seasoning was perfect.  Great depth of flavor and texture.


And this time we packed up half our pizza (and I shared with Mike later that night… lucky boy) and saved room for dessert.

We chose the Ice Cream Panino with salted chocolate biscotto, pistachios, and mascarpone gelato. This was like a bumped up ice cream cookie sandwich made with super gourmet ingredients. The salt and chocolate and ice cream and pistachio all came together beautifully for a great dessert.  Great way to end the meal.


I really enjoyed Marta on both visits.  The pizzas are very, very good and the space is a great place for a work lunch (and I’m sure breakfast and dinner as well).  I still slightly prefer the truffle and egg pizza from Otto, which changed my truffle life, because the truffle is just so damn good, but the crust on these Marta pies win out a little bit (though the center was definitely a fork and knife only enterprise).

Very happy to have them in the neighborhood.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

It Started with HELLO (is it me you’re looking for?)

3 Oct

When I was contacted about a campaign for a new chocolate from Lindt, I was thrilled. I am a lifelong Lindt fan, picking up a truffle (or two) when I need a little special treat.  This campaign was for their new line, Lindt HELLO chocolate, which includes Lindt HELLO chocolate bars (the variation I found) as well as sticks and mini sticks.   The campaign is “Lindt It Started with HELLO.”


There is a fun web series on the HELLO YouTube page with videos co-produced by Ashley Tisdale. I couldn’t help but giggle at some of the funny scenarios and I love the “choose your own ending” variations.

They are also running a great #ItStartedWithHELLO Sweet Connections sweepstakes.  You just need to visit the landing page and enter your email address.  You can enter every day until 10/14 and there were 5 weeks of prizes and 2 weeks are left:

Week 4: Sweet Staycation (10/1 – 10/7)
• Lindt HELLO treats you to a pampered night in – movies, books + chocolate!

Week 5: Besties Reunion (10/8 – 10/14)
• Reconnect with your bestie at the spa for a day + Lindt HELLO chocolate to sweeten the deal.

*No purchase necessary. Open to legal residents of the 50 U.S. & D.C., 18 years or older (19 in AL or NE and 21 in MS). Void where prohibited. See Rules at for weekly sweepstakes entry periods, prize descriptions, odds and other details. Ends Noon on 10/14/14. Void where prohibited. Sponsor: Lindt & Sprüngli (USA) Inc., One Fine Chocolate Place, Stratham, NH 03885.


So how about the chocolate?

To answer the title question… YES! It is you, HELLO, I have been looking for.

I was on a business trip with my new colleague in LA and we were running from meeting to meeting, getting to know each other and trying to avoid too much sun exposure in the 100 degree plus October weather (LA… I expect better from you!)  We realized we were running late for a meeting and didn’t have a chance to grab a bite.  Her coveted stash of trail mix had melted in the hot car, however, I had just found two of the HELLO bars flavors as I picked up some necessities at a pharmacy and, thankfully, they had not melted.  I explained to her that I was actually blogging about the product and she was excited to try it with me.  I had picked up the Crunchy Nougat and the Strawberry Cheesecake and my colleague opted for the nougat.


One bite and we were both hooked.  It was all the delicious, rich chocolate taste of Lindt but with a caramelly, buttery, slightly crunchy center.  When I get a box of chocolates, I stick my finger nail in the bottom of them looking for the ones that have this filling. My colleague and I kept remarking about how good it was and then she said “well this made my entire day!”  She said that she was going to go get a few bars of this immediately to bring back to share tonight with her friends.  I can’t blame her.  I will be pursuing this little gem of a treat for a long, long time.  And what a great treat to sustain us through our whirlwind of meetings.

A few hours later and I am now on a plane back home, with a blissfully empty seat next to me.  I decided it was time to try the Strawberry Cheesecake flavor.  HELLO to making air travel better!

This time I took more care opening the bar (as opposed to ripping it open in the car) and the packaging is quite cute.


They are doing a great job with keeping it cheeky and fun.


And they gave chocolate a real personality.


The inside of the Strawberry Cheesecake also has great texture.  There is the definite flavor of the graham cracker crunch, creamy cheesecake, and then the strawberry flavor.  The strawberry flavor reminded me of the one that is in ice cream sundaes.  Really nice flavors and textures.


Though I definitely loved the Crunchy Nougat even more.


I am looking forward to sharing these with my husband, a fellow chocolate lover, when I get home.  I need to keep searching around to find the Cookies and Cream flavor (since that is right up his alley) and the Caramel Brownie (which is right up my alley) as well as the sticks and mini-sticks bag.  YES PLEASE! More HELLO!

Can’t wait to try them all!

Don’t forget to enter the sweeps and check out the video series with new celebrities and YouTube stars coming out each week!

Full disclosure:  Today’s post is sponsored by Lindt HELLO, but my new love for HELLO and #ItStartedWithHELLO is all my own.