To say there was an abundance of tantalizing edibles at the Great Googa Mooga Festival in Prospect Park over the weekend is an understatement. To say the lines for said edibles were long is putting it mildly. But there was one stand, tucked away amongst the row of sweet treats, that seemed to slip by under the radar. A shame for all those who missed out, but a triumph for me at having discovered it and relished in the lack of a line of people clamoring to get a taste.
Dirt Cake. I first caught sight of this delectable in the eager hands (and soon thereafter all over the face) of a girl, maybe three years old. I wanted one of my own. The delectable, not the three year old.
After some serious detective work tracing it back to its source, it became a toss-up between one of these chocolate concoctions or a Shaved Ice from Wooly’s nearby. The length of the stagnant line at Wooly’s made the choice pretty clear. And a good choice it was.
This thing was heaven. Smiling ladies in paisley bandanas plucked plastic cups out of a large glass box filled with crumbled cookies made to look like dirt. The cup was filled with a velvety milk chocolate pudding, dotted lightly with sea salt and small crunchy chocolate balls. Slivers of candied jellied orange were tucked within the chocolate and square chunks of soft brownies sat on top. A trace of rich, salty caramel swirled down between the brownie bits, and the whole thing was topped off with a cloud of orange-infused whipped cream. Peeking out through the hole on the plastic lid were candied jelly worms, slightly tart, that lent an intriguing texture in contrast to the smooth pudding. Needless to say, it was gone pretty quickly and I wanted another.
And I should’ve had one, too, since this was a one-shot deal. As the stand attested, the woman behind these treats was Katzie Guy-Hamilton, the pastry chef at the Grand Hyatt hotel, who has no plans to grace other fairs and festivals with her confections. Makes me wonder if there might just be a big glass planter of crumbled cookies stationed somewhere in that hotel. Man, I hope there is.
She caught me.
As my dining companion and I stood hovering over the coveted bar seats at Osteria Morini, awaiting the moment of glory when we could snag a couple of our own, a server squeezed past carrying trays of beautifully vibrant charcuterie and assorted artisan breads. “You literally just licked your lips when you saw those go by,” the hostess mused, “It was amazing.”
from New York Magazine
Though the move had been completely subconcious on my part (I don’t even particularly like charcuterie), the food at Osteria Morini proved to be more than worthy of the impulse.
The menu at this more casual destination from chef Michael White (Ai Fiori is the more elaborate counterpart) lends itself to eating simply yet indulgently. The offerings may seem numbered for the antipasti, pasta and secondi (and certainly so for the wine list) but there are enough tempting options to make choosing quite a task.
Selections of crostini are plated on small wooden boards: crisp baguette toasts with delicately shaped quenelles of combinations such as buffalo ricotta and nepitella pesto or cannellini bean and artichoke. The subtle salinity in the ricotta was mouth-watering in exactly the way that an antipasti is meant to be; the hint of lemon in the cannellini bean and artichoke was refreshing and lent a cleanliness to the pleasantly light spread.
Pastas were chosen by a process of elimination (there seemed no other way), resulting in a nettle-potato gnocchi with fennel sausage, mushrooms and escarole as well as lumache verde, (stunning short and fat corkscrew pasta, turned bright green by its spinach base) with lamb ragu, artichoke, fava beans and ricotta salata.
The gnocchi were small and dense but still pleasantly yielding, in a gentle white wine sauce that was creamy without being excessive. There was an occasional burst of bitterness from the escarole balanced beautifully against the woodsy, light maple sugar flavor of the mushrooms. The lumache verde sang of springtime; the al dente pasta complimenting the tender ragu and the garden’s bounty peeking through in the robust artichoke hearts and sweet favas. The commitment to seasonal fare (as evidenced by the nettles, ramps and fennel splashed across the menu as well as the visually stunning colors) is delightful, not overbearing. One of the evening’s specials was a whole artichoke, simply cooked, cut in half and served on a plate with a bagna cauda sauce (olive oil and garlic). It was sold out by 7:30 pm.
There are deals to be found amongst the smattering of wines by the bottle, and with some patient guidance from the bartender, we went with a Malvasia from Emilia Romagna. It tasted of pears and apricots and spring flowers but had a clean acidity and enough body that it stood up well against the varied flavors in the pastas.
They are working on amending their wine program and will soon be featuring new selections of wine on tap, out of big wooden barrels nestled in behind the bar.
I will be back to taste those, and hopefully that artichoke and, well, the rest of the pastas, either before or after they change to suit the flavors of summer. And at some point I’ll probably surrender to a charcuterie plate. The impulse is clearly already there.