Celebrating The Year of the Snake

Chinese New Year“A Uber Stylish Chinese New Year’s Dinner inaugurates Canada House”

My good friend Toni Canada and I christened her new pied-a-terre (hereafter dubbed Canada House) and ushered in the new year (the Chinese one that is) with a fabulous dinner party in her stylish new Gold Coast home. The setting – her over-sized dining room which was transported to the far east with a table filled with potted orchids (tagged as gifts for departing guests), vintage silver chop sticks and antique blue and white porcelain (collected by Toni and her sister), rolled lunar calendars with favor boxes at each place (I learned I was born in the year of the dog), and dramatic white paper lanterns hung in each of the three gigantic windows (a dramatic contrast against the illuminated city scape beyond).


The ten guests began their evening in the living room with 5-Spice Pear Cocktails created by dinner guest/mixologist Amanda Puck (a signature drink she created for the Evening). Dinner started with a velvety smooth hot and sour soup made from scratch by Toni (see recipe at the end of this post) and homemade pot stickers which we pan seared. We divided and conquered on the 4 entrees, each created from scratch, and all served family style. There was Rainbow Chow Fun (wok fried noodles with lobster, chicken and filet), a classic General Tso’s Chicken (lightened up a bit with crispy white meat), Fiery Garlic Shrimp (spicy Schewaun flavors were a common across all dishes) and Dry Woked Green Beans with Mushrooms. And for dessert a deliciously light 20 Layer Crepe Cake ordered from Lady M’s in New York (served with fortune cookies of course).

The evening was a huge hit. Our main takeaways: authentic woks make the cooking process loads easier (I loved the Joyce Chen Carbon Wok I bought for us at Sur Le Table), the organized and pre-prepped mise an place made cooking à la minute possible (there was grated ginger and garlic for days), the steamed white rice we picked up from a Chinese take-out place next door was a super smart call (it easily reheated in the microwave and saved us that step while we were simultaneously woking the 4 entrees), surprisingly all of our ingredients could be found at Whole Foods (however using authentic Asian brands made the difference flavor wise) and I personally couldn’t have made my portion of the menu without the wisdom of blogger Diana Kuan (her book The Chinese Takeout Cookbook is now stocked at our store). And finally we both gained a heightened appreciation for ordering Chinese in. In fact we considered finishing the night by going next door to the aforementioned Chinese restaurant to buy the kitchen staff a closing round. But instead I somehow ended up toasting our success around the corner with a last call martini at Gibson’s.

Canada House Hot and Sour Soup
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I ♥ Torrisi Italian Specialities

image“old school charm meets culinary innovation at a standout spot in NOLITA”

Torrisi WindowI first discovered Torrisi Italian Specialities while walking down Mulberry Street during a New York buying trip two summers ago.  It was a midday and I was intrigued by the long line forming out the door of this tiny spot. The lace curtains draping the storefront windows, with their gilded lettering, strongly resembled the Little Italy created by Frances Ford Coppola in The Godfather II.  Evocative of a different era, Torrisi certainly could be a next door neighbor to “Genco Pura Olive Oil Company.”  When I mentioned the place to my foodie friend Jen, she explained it was a tiny 18 seater, serving classic Italian American lunch fare (like Chicken Parm and Turkey Heroes) during the day, and then at night it morphed into an elevated, but still decidedly Italian American, prix fix dining spot. And of course they didn’t take reservations. And it was white hot.

imageGladly today they do take reservations (but only 30 days in advance) and the lunch fare has spun off into a second spot next door (the appropriately named Parm). I have since had the pleasure of dining at Torrisi twice; once last fall and then again last week.  Both times I was charmed by the experience and thoroughly impressed by the quality of the food delivered by owners and chefs, Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi and their team.  The menu changes daily, but the format remains the same. For $75 per person you are served four assorted “antipasti,” one pasta, an entree choice of either meat or fish, a dessert and a delightful takeaway box of small cookies and candies.  For both the pasta and main course you are offered a choice of two options, but the rest of the menu is fixed.

Torrisi Italian SpecialitiesMy Foodie Valentine to Torrisi Italian Specialities

The wine list is well edited and surprisingly reasonable. The service smart and brisk. And the food is beyond delicious. Last week’s highlights included Warm House-made Mozzarella with DaVero Olive Oil (served with delicious toasted bread slices), A Boar’s Head Grilled Panini (yes I was nervous, but the meat was so tender and toothsome) and Surf and Turf Carpaccio (a paper thin slice of raw beef with lump seafood and sausage). Both my pasta – Sheep’s Milk Gnocchi with Chestnut Ragu (the light as air pasta paired perfectly with the earthy sweet chestnuts) and Jim’s – Seashells di Mare (shell shaped pasta with a delightful medley of fresh seafood) – were exceptional.  The Lemon Cake was beautiful, the just right balance of sour and sweet. And the small white box of cookies tied with baker’s twine was the perfect grace note for the experience (it included their signature red, green and white layered cookies – as featured in Bon Appétit).

I can’t think of a place where I’ve felt so tucked in and taken care of. And spotting Cameron Diaz across the small dining room during our last dinner certainly added a few extra watts to an already bright winter evening. All in all two exceptional evenings spent in very capable culinary hands.

Torrisi Italian Specialities
250 Mulberry St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 965-0955

reservations are accepted up to one month in advance