Category Archives: Cheese

Obica, Mozzarella Bar in NYC

Obica was founded in 2004 to showcase the mozzarella di bufala of the Campagna region of Italy, a mozzarella with DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) designation.  It was patterned after Tokyo’s sushi bars.  The owner, Neapolitan Silvio Ursini, wanted an Italian restaurant that presented Italian food in a similar way.  Obica now boasts locations in the UK, Japan, Dubai and the United States.  I visited the Flatiron location here in NYC for lunch, specifically to try the mozzarella.  I got two appetizers,

carciofini, or roasted marinated artichokes



and caponata alla Siciliana, or Sicilian eggplant casserole.


I also tried the Bufala Classica (right) and the burrata al tartufo, mozzarella with black truffle.


Ursini’s goal is to present fresh Italian food in a simple way.  I think the dishes I tried reflect that idea.  The bufala mozzarella is fresh, and the burrata, creamy with a nice earthy bite from the truffle.

Poole’s Diner

I have been wanting to try Poole’s Diner for a long time.  I’d been to Beasley’s, one of Ashley Christensen’s other Raleigh restaurants, and I thought the food there was very good.  I got fried chicken and waffles.  It was delicious–and I don’t even like fried chicken.  However, I was not crazy about the uncomfortable seats and the chalkboard menus.  Poole’s has the same chalkboard menus but normal seating.  We got here early, one of the first customers, and we waited until the restaurant officially opened.  We were seated quickly then and the dining room took no time to fill up.  I did notice that, despite the fact that we were one of the first people there, food kept coming out of the kitchen and going to other tables while we waited for our order.

We started with the pimento cheese appetizer.  Both of us thought it was a little hotter than we like pimento cheese.


Of course, we got the famous mac and cheese.  I really liked it.  I love a creamy mac and cheese.  My friend was hoping for a more traditional mac and cheese.  But I think the blend of Jarlsberg, Grana Padano and white cheddar is fab.

Poole's Diner macaroni and cheese

We also got the root vegetable au gratin, and maybe it was because of the mac and cheese, but I wasn’t tasting the au gratin part very much.


I got the special of the night, a pork chop with escarole and bread pudding.  The pork chop was a tad dry, which is better than undercooked pork which I sometimes get when I order pork chops.  I liked the escarole.  The bread pudding tasted a bit like Thanksgiving stuffing.


For dessert, we shared a chocolate church cake with hazelnuts.  This cake was great.  If you like rich chocolate ganache, you’d love it.


Scandinavian Roast Dill-Scented Chicken and Potato Gratin

potato gratin

New Scandinavian Cooking with Andreas Viestad is one of my favorite cooking shows. He’s always cooking outdoors on some makeshift stove, so I love to see what he’s going to do next. I have his cookbook and decided to make this roast dill-scented chicken with leeks and this potato gratin with parsnips and rutabaga.  I thought both dishes were very good, but I found that I didn’t like the taste of the parsnips in the gratin. I really like the rutabaga and potato together though. The chicken was perfectly moist with a nice hint of dill and leek.

roast chicken


New and Old Favorites at the 2015 North Carolina State Fair

The 2015 NC state fair has a lot of new food this year.  I can’t get into some of the ridiculous fried stuff at state fairs like peanut butter pickles.  But I will taste some of the more tame fried food.  Here are some new things at the fair this year:

Fried pimento cheese wonton’s from Woody’s–These are a winner.  What’s not to like about pimento cheese?  (These are easy to find if you just look for the big balloon blimp in the sky.  Do not follow the festival food map because it lists Woody’s in a different location.)  WINNER

pimento cheese

Fried s’mores–Hmm, this was a little disappointing. I was expecting a square smore deep fried, but this was just marshmallow deep fried with chocolate syrup–no graham.  If that’s your thing, you’ll like it.

s'mores, smores

Nu Jersey Turnpike sausage baguette from Baguettaboutit–A mild Italian fennel sausage with a roasted red pepper sauce in a crusty baguette.  My friend always gets sausage and pepper sandwiches, and this was a really nice change–especially the good bread.  WINNER


And Baguettaboutit also has delicious vegetarian sandwiches like this one with Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Tofurky Italian Sausage + Cracked Pepper and Parmesan Sauce.  WINNER


Candied yams ice cream from Lumpy’s–I love Lumpy’s ice cream.  But this flavor fell a bit flat for me.  Yam/sweet potato ice cream can have a starchy mouthfeel.  This one had some marshmallows scattered throughout, but I think a sweet syrup would’ve masked some of the starchiness.


Sour lemon ice cream from Country Folks Creamery—I always like to get the ice cream that’s churned with a John Deere tractor.  This year’s new flavor is sour lemon.  It is sour, which I like, and definitely real lemon.  It reminded me of lemon gelato.  It’s really good.  WINNER

sour lemon ice cream

White chocolate mini baguette from La Farm Bakery–I love white chocolate, so I had to try this baguette.  La Farm makes great bread, but this just didn’t do it for me.  It was a bit too sweet and I just didn’t taste the white chocolate like I wanted to.  I was hoping it would be melted in the middle but it was mostly bread.  We also got an asiago parmesan bread for the road that’s great!

white chocolate

In addition to the new food at the fair, we got some old staples that we know we like.

Fried cheddar nuggets from Wisconsin cheese

fried cheese

a cinnamon sugar elephant ear

elephant ear

I also got some barbecue and slaw at Big Al’s in Raleigh


And my friend got mini donuts–these tasted like they were made with funnel cake mix–I’m not a fan of that flavor but if you are, you’ll like them.

mini donuts, mini doughnuts

Muscadine grapes are from North Carolina, and this muscadine grape slushie was a sweet, refreshing drink!

muscadine grape

I checked out my favorite things at the fair–like the cake decorating contest.  This cute cake was the winner.

NC state fair winning cake

I love the folk crafts at the Village of Yesteryear, the gardens and bonsai trees, and the North Carolina pottery tent.  I even took a stroll through the soybean farmers’ tent with a wall of the Bayer logo.  I tried not to think about all the soybean oil I ingested and had a good time!  (I did see a food booth somewhere at the fair advertising that all its food was cooked with olive oil.)  Anyway, a good time was had by all!

The Real Fettuccine Alfredo


Fettuccine Alfredo is one of the most well-known Italian dishes.  However, most people don’t know the history behind it and what its real ingredients are.  Fettuccine Alfredo was invented by Alfredo di Lelio in 1914 at his Roman restaurant, Alfredo’s.  As the story goes, his wife couldn’t eat after she gave birth, so he created this dish.

Fettuccine Alfredo is fettuccine in a creamy butter and parmesan “sauce.”  At this point in time, this dish was really a basic pasta dish, pasta with butter and cheese, already eaten by Italians on any kind of pasta, and it is still eaten by  Italians and Italian Americans today.  Pasta with butter and cheese is not something one would typically find at a restaurant.  It is something that is eaten at home.  In fact, one can omit the cheese and just have pasta with butter as well.  The typical Italian/Italian American doesn’t use this much butter or cheese when making this dish.  So the novelty of Alfredo’s dish is that it contained a lot of butter–which makes sense because he was trying to nourish his wife who had just given birth and was having digestive problems.

The difference between the Italian and American versions is that in the Italian version, only butter and parmesan are used, and together, they create a silky butter sauce.  Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford ate fettuccine Alfredo at Alfredo’s in 1920 while on their honeymoon and brought the dish back to America.  In the American version, heavy cream is also used to get a more creamy, saucy consistency.  This, however, is not how the dish was intended.

There are a number of ways to prepare fettuccine Alfredo.  I tried Todd Coleman’s version from Saveur magazine.

Fettuccine Alfredo

1 1b. fettuccine (Cook according to package directions.)

2 sticks unsalted butter

1/2 lb. grated parmesan cheese (Parmesan from Italy is best here.)

The trick to making fettuccine Alfredo is to have a large platter, preferably warmed under hot water or in the oven a few minutes.  Cut pats of butter all over the platter.


Drain pasta but reserve some pasta water.  Add the pasta to the platter along with the cheese and 1/4 cup pasta water.


Toss with forks until the butter melts and all is well mixed–about 3 minutes.  Add more pasta water if you need to.  I used about 1 cup.

I think it is tricky to keep this warm, so if I make it again, I may try doing it in a skillet as recommended elsewhere or the quicker version Coleman suggests.


Pasta with Mascarpone and Peas

Peas are a great spring vegetable.  While looking for a pea recipe, I found this pasta dish from British Italian chef Antonio Carluccio in his cookbook, 1oo Pasta Recipes.  I improvised with what I had on hand and also doubled the recipe.  He used marille pasta, and I used strozzapreti.  He used fresh basil; I used dried.  He used parmesan; I used pecorino.


Pasta with Mascarpone and Peas

1/4 cup butter

2 lbs. chopped tomatoes (I used Pomi.)

14 oz. frozen peas

basil to taste

2 8 oz. containers mascarpone cheese

1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese

red pepper flakes to taste

salt and pepper to taste

2 lbs. strozzapreti pasta

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add tomatoes, peas, basil, mascarpone, pecorino, red pepper, salt and pepper.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Cook pasta in salted water for 10-12 minutes until al dente.  Drain.  Serve with sauce.

Pizza Chiena or Pizza Rustica

Pizza Chiena or Pizza Rustica, or Savory Italian Easter Pie

pizza chiena, pizza rustica

Pizza chiena or pizza rustica is a savory Neapolitan pie served at Easter time.  My family is from the area surrounding Naples and they called it pizza chiena, pronounced like pizzagaina, or pizzagain, as they pronounce the hard ch sound as a hard g in Neapolitan dialect and the last vowel is often left off.

pizza chiena, pizza rustica

Pizza Chiena

For the crust:

Some people use pizza dough for the crust.  You can get it from a pizzeria or make it yourself.  There are many different ways to make the crust.  You can experiment and see what you like.  Some people use lard, butter or oil instead of the shortening.  Some people don’t use eggs.  Some people use yeast.  Some people add pepper or salt.  The dish itself is pretty salty with the meats and cheeses, so I would opt for no extra salt.

5 cups flour, not sifted

3/4 cup shortening

4 eggs

warm water

olive oil

Put your flour on your work surface.  Dot with shortening and incorporate until it becomes crumbly.


Make a well and add eggs, incorporating them.  Add enough warm water until you have a workable dough.  Knead for about 5 minutes.  Put a little olive oil in a bowl.  Add the dough ball.


Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest for about a half hour.

For the filling:

People use different ingredients in the filling.  It usually always has ricotta, eggs, grated cheese and salami.  From there, it varies.  You can also use soppressata, capocollo, mortadella, Italian sausage or provolone.  We only used soppressata, capocollo and salami.  One of my grandmas used provolone.  Also, some provolone can be sharp and you don’t want it to be too dominant a flavor.  Some people lump all the ingredients in there, some people chunk it, some people dice it very small, some people layer it.  It’s all your preference.  My two grandmas did it differently.  This is kind of a combination of both of theirs.

1 lb. ricotta (Use a good brand with no added gums or thickeners.)

1 lb. basket cheese (If you can’t get this where you are, you can just use another pound of ricotta.  Or you can let one pound of ricotta sit in a colander or in cheesecloth the night before to drain out water.)


1 cup salami, diced


1 cup prosciutto, diced


8 eggs

1 cup grated pecorino romano cheese

1 cup fresh mozzarella, diced

black pepper to taste

egg yolk for egg wash

In a bowl, mix all ingredients.  Just stir it all together.  No mixer needed.  I like it a little chunky.

Grease and flour a 10-inch springform pan or a 13×9 rectangular pan or a large cake pan or pie dish (depends on how much filling you have).

Cut off 2/3 of dough.  Roll it out into a circle and line springform pan.


Fill with filling.


Roll out remaining dough into a circle.  Top pie with it.  Brush with egg wash.

Bake at 375 degrees for 1/2 hour.  Lower heat to 350 for 1 more hour.  Let cool for a few hours.  Refrigerate.  We eat this at room temperature or cold from the refrigerator.