OTTO

It was all a numbers game a few weeks ago at OTTO where I held my twenty-second birthday dinner extravaganza, with seven people, three courses, a single and singular Bear, and countless delicious moments, pun definitely intended. Otto means “eight” in … Continue reading

Lupa

While it’s become glaringly obvious that the Brunch with Bear team seems to be obsessed with Italian restaurants—in fact, blogging about them almost exclusively—you ought to know that I love Rome. I love the city, I love the symbolism, I love the stories. … Continue reading

Arte Café

Last Saturday was a bit of an unfortunate incident. So far, Brunch with Bear has been able to avoid any major scenarios (see Il Tesoro) but as the universe would have it, our luck can only go so far. After a disappointing downward spiral from a rather pleasant meal, Arte Café has failed to make the list.

Arte Café is actually a really beautiful little place tucked into one of my favorite neighborhoods—the Upper West Side. It’s located on 73rd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. If you’re going on the subway, it’s a short walk from the 72nd Street station on the 1, 2 or 3 lines. It has great natural lighting and plush chairs. The decor is a little kitschy but in a cozy, not a creepy way. The waitstaff is friendly and professional, and everything is very clean. Their brunch menu is fairly simple, with half breakfast items and half pasta dishes.

IMG_0342    IMG_0340    IMG_0344

I informed our waitress about the allergy situation, and she pointed out several things on the menu. I asked her if there was anything easy to make without dairy (i.e. cheese, milk, cream, butter, etc.) and she told me to get what I wanted, and she would ask the kitchen to do it for me. I ordered the rigatoni con pollo, because I felt like I should try to eat some Italian food at an Italian restaurant. Our waitress told me that she would have the kitchen make it in a plain tomato sauce, rather than the usual sauce, which had cream.

IMG_0345

The food came out, steaming with delicious smells. After the initial ten-minute wait, I proceeded to clean my plate, because I was incredibly hungry. (NOTE: Every time I have an incident, it was because I was too hungry to stop eating. Please do not make this mistake). The pasta was actually really delicious, and everything felt fine. The rest of the meal seemed to progress normally, and I had plans later to be at the Met.

IMG_0346

After finishing brunch, I felt like my face was redder than normal, and my throat was feeling funny but not necessarily the same way that it does when I usually eat something unsafe. My lips were feeling puffy, but I do happen to have rather puffy lips anyway. The main thing was that my breathing was not irregular; if it had been, that would have been a more alarming warning. I decided to ignore the inkling in the back of my mind; as you probably already know, this decision was a terrible one.

The walk over to the museum was relatively normal, but once inside the lobby, my stomach began to hurt and I felt much, much weaker. After taking a few Benadryls, my boyfriend managed to take me back home safely. I spent the rest of the evening sleeping and wallowing (as is my usual custom after these things).

Today, almost a week later, I called the restaurant to inform them of the incident. When the staff member on the other end of the line picked up, I explained to her that I had been to the restaurant last weekend and while I had a good experience in the restaurant, I had a serious allergic reaction after leaving. She apologized immediately and transferred me to the manager.

The manager was also very concerned about the incident. I explained that I had told the waitress of the situation and that I ordered the rigatoni con pollo, and he seemed very surprised that anything had happened. He said that whenever he is at the restaurant and they have an allergy request, he personally supervises in the kitchen to avoid this sort of situation; however, he must have been out that day and there was probably some cross contamination. He also told me that they usually get these sort of requests, and they do try their best to accommodate all the customers. They even have a special computer code for allergies to put it in their system. He apologized several times, telling me that the dish I had ordered should really have not had anything in it, and to please let him know if I would be coming back so that he could take care of me better. I wrote down his email address and thanked him for the conversation.

If someone had asked me right after the reaction if I was going back to Arte Café, I would have definitely said “no.” After such a pleasant interaction with such a concerned manager, my response has changed to “maybe.” I’m still not positive that it would be a safe experience, especially because it was a major reaction as opposed to just hives or puffy lips. Something in the kitchen must be seriously contaminated or just handled carelessly for such a mistake to happen. However, if the manager is there to oversee and guarantee safety, the experience may be different. I enjoyed the atmosphere a lot, and it may be worth another shot if all goes well, but, for now, there are other places to try first.

Bear Makes Brunch: Pretty Pasta Dish

Hello again, Brunch with Bearees! I know, I know, I promised an update and then failed to deliver. However, now I am attempting to get out of the sophomore slump and I thought I should update again—with pictures! While we haven’t been brunching for a while, we did make a fancy but easy pasta dish a couple weeks ago. This pasta is something my aunt taught me how to make last summer, and while it’s a little time-consuming to cook, it’s really delicious and easy to customize.

Pasta is one of those dishes that heats up really well, so I tend to make a large amount and save some for the rest of the week. This particular pasta dish has garlic, mushrooms and parsley in it, and the sauce is olive-oil based. The fun begins when you choose your own pasta shape! My personal favorite for this particular recipe is rotini, or corkscrew pasta. Angel hair or penne also works well! As usual, I got all these ingredients at Trader Joe’s.

Before you start preparing everything else, make sure you get your water for the pasta boiling. Consult your pasta package about ratios, but filling up your pasta pot about halfway to two-thirds of the way is a good marker. I like to add a little salt to the water so that the pasta has more flavor. Keep an eye on the pot, as the cooking process requires a bit of multi-tasking and you don’t want the water to boil over.

While you’ve got that going, you can assemble the garlic, parsley and mushrooms. If you want to use fresh garlic, crush and mince eight cloves—or more, if you, like me, love garlic! If you are lazy and want to use pre-crushed garlic, consult the jar for the proportions of spoon-cloves. Also rinse and mince eight sprigs of parsley. If you like, you can also use a teaspoon of lemon zest. I personally am not a big fan of lemon in pasta, but we like to encourage creativity!

IMG_0235

Somewhere between mincing all the ingredients and putting them on a pan, the water that you previously set to boil will be boiling. Add your pasta, and be certain to stir a few times so that the noodles do not stick together. Set a timer so that the pasta will not overcook; the pasta should actually be a little firm—al dente—because it will be cooked more when added to the sauce. Consult the pasta package for the suggested cooking times.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a frying pan and add three tablespoons of olive oil. Tilt the pan so that the oil distributes evenly. When the oil is hot, carefully add the garlic and the parsley to infuse the oil with flavor. At this point, I like to add a handful of white mushrooms. With the Trader Joe’s pre-sliced mushrooms, about half the package is a good amount. Sauté the mushrooms until they begin to lose their pink color and start turning a little golden. You may need to add more olive oil to fully coat the mushrooms.

IMG_0233

By the time the mushrooms are beginning to brown, the pasta should be ready or nearly ready. Let the mushrooms stay on low heat and check the pasta. You may choose to taste-test a few pieces for consistency and texture. Reserve a cup of the starchy pasta water before removing the noodles from heat. This pasta water will be used later to create the sauce.

IMG_0238

When the pasta is finished cooking, drain the pot into a colander and rinse the noodles with cold water. Rinsing the noodles stops the noodles from sticking together.

IMG_0231

Add the pasta to the frying pan and stir to distribute the olive oil and mushrooms. Add the pasta water that you reserved previously and stir to combine. You can put a lid on the pan if you want the pasta to simmer a little. Keep stirring until all of the pasta is coated with the olive oil sauce.

IMG_0229

At this point, you may choose to add baby spinach, Italian sausage, or other finishing touches. As you can see, I have chosen to add grilled chicken to my pasta.

IMG_0241

This pasta is one of my favorite dishes to cook, and lends itself well to a variety of occasions. I often associate pasta with red sauces—which I love, but it’s nice to have a change every now and then. This a pasta that reheats well, either on the stove or in the microwave, which makes it the perfect dish to make on a Sunday night and eat for the rest of the week. It works a a snack, a side dish, a bed for salmon or chicken. The colors lend itself to entertaining and it can be a great starter dish for a pasta bar. Basically, this pasta is pretty perfect!