This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a truly magical evening of fine food and wine at the Scranton Cultural Center. This event showcased a diverse array of food and wine from many of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s best restaurants. Chefs performed a live cooking demonstration of their featured dish and sommeliers were on hand to explain the featured wine pairing. This event was an absolute fairytale in itself and the food was a spectacular fairytale feast!
Upon arrival, each individual was placed into a group and given a label. I landed in the Chardonnay group, which was perfect because that is my favorite wine. 🙂 Everyone then entered the grand ballroom of the Cultural Center to feast on appetizers from different restaurants until we had to separate into our groups.
My first bite set the tone and the bar for the night: a spinach and riccotta ravioli from Angelo Bistocchi’s restaurant in Scranton served by executive Chef GianLuca Fremiotti. This homemade pasta plumply filled with spinach and creamy ricotta cheese and pressed together was delicious. When I asked what Bistocchi’s specialized in, replied: fresh food that is homemade. That’s more than enough reason for me to add Bistocchi’s to my list of restaurants I need to try immediately!
Another notable appetizer was the crab bisque from Coopers Seafood House served with mini toasted croutons. This soup was really a crowd pleaser. The only way I could have loved it more is if I were having it on a beach somewhere with someone else who really enjoyed it too 🙂 Coopers generously provided the recipe, which appeared in Bon Appetit Soups and Salads, Copyright 1983 by Knapp Communications Corporation.
Cooper’s Bisque of Crab Soup
As it Appeared in Bon Appetit
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/2 medium onions, minced
1 medium carrot, finely minced
1/2 stick celery, finely minced
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsely
1 teaspoon seafood seasoning
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 quart heated milk (4 cups)
3 tablespoons cream sherry
1/2 lb of lump crabmeat
Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add vegetables and saute’ until soft. Reduce heat to medium and add flour, whisking constantly until smooth. Cook 5 minutes, whisking frequently. Stir in parsely and seasonings. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly. Add cream sherry, crabmeat and salt to taste and simmer 15-20 minutes. DO NOT BOIL! Serve hot.
If bisque is thicker than desired, stir in the whipping cream or milk to thin.
My next tasting was another soup but this one was very different. Chef Kate Gabriele of the Rustic Kitchen (one of my go-to restaurants in the area!) presented wonderfully light and flavorful gazpacho. Chef Kate hosts a live cooking show every Friday night at the Rustic Kitchen, “Cooking with Kate.” The show is currently featuring a cooking lesson on how to prepare a “Not Your Everyday Chicken Dinner.” Chef Kate also offers an array of personal chef services including personal cooking classes and parties. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other appetizers included a jumbo sized meatball from Gilly’s Steak and Seafood in South Scranton, a grilled shrimp and tortellini kebab from Constantino’s.
The State Street Grill in Clarks Summit prepared a very flavorful mushroom risotto that I would love to get the recipe for so I can have it again!
After feasting on the above appetizers, each group was called to begin their journey into the various rooms of the Cultural Center. Our first stop was the newly renovated third floor of the Cultural Center, which the Masons used to use as a museum. There we sampled food from the eloquent French Manor in South Sterling in the Poconos. On the menu for the night was a tender seven pepper and coffee rubbed filet mignon medallion with horseradish potatoes and pickled twirled red beets with a muchroom cognac cream. A lavender and honey glazed baby carrot delicately accompanied the dish. Each bite was absolute perfection!!!
It was accompanied by an El Portille wine from Argentina, a spicy and peppery wine with notes of chilies and earthy vegetation.
Next we made our way down to the next station: Carmen’s Ristorante, at the Radisson Hotel, also known as the Lackawanna Station. We feasted on kurobuto pork chops with port glazed peaches and red onions, topped over an herbed mashed potato croquette. The chef from Carmen’s gave a really nice and detailed presentation. He told us that kurobuto was the Japanese name for black hooves. He explained that because pigs have no sweat glands, they cool themselves down by wallowing in mud, hence the phrase, “sweating like a pig.” However, these kurobuto pigs get freshwater streams to cool themselves down in – I am guessing that is what makes them so good!
Carmen’s Kurobuto Pork Chops with Port Glazed Peaches & Red Onion
Chef de Cuisine: Stefen Purta
2 10 ounce Kurobuto Pork Chops
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Season Pork Chops with Salt & Pepper. Place on grill for 4-5 minutes on each side. Remove from grill and roast in a 350 degree oven for 7-10 minutes for medium to medium well.
Port Wine Bordelaise
1 Shallot (Minced)
1/2 cup Port Wine
1 cup Demi Glace
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Saute’ Shallots in oil until they turn translucent. Deglaze with Port Wine and cook until flame disappears. Add Demi Glace and reduce sauce by 1/2.
Glazed Peaches & Red Onion
1 Shallot (Minced)
1 Clove Garlic (Minced)
1/2 Red Onion (Julienned)
1-2 Fresh Peaches (Pitted & Sliced)
1 cup Port Wine
1 tsp Sugar
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Saute shallots in garlic and oil until they turn translucent. Add onions and peaches and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add Port Wine and sugar and reduce until liquid is almost evaporated.
Last, but certainly not least, was a tasting from one of my favorite restaurants in Northeastern Pennsylvania (besides the Gramercy, of course!): Fire and Ice on Toby Creek. This place is truly a gem of our area and in my opinion, not given enough credit! Their food is anything but boring. They take risks and it pays off. Executive Chef Gary Edwards was on hand to explain the dish he had prepared: Skate Wing Beurre Noisette Sauvignon Blanc Reduction with Bacon Crushed Potato and Braised Leek Arugula.
I had never tasted skate before but I don’t know why I was worried. Anything prepared by Fire and Ice has been amazing and truly a Fairytale Feast. (Stay tuned for my complete review of my favorite dishes from Fire and Ice … coming this week!) Chef Edwards explained the origins of skate and even handed out a flyer which stated that skate is a mild white fish, often compared to the flavor of a scallop and sometimes to crab or lobster. The French have long appreciate skate (“raie”) and it is also becoming more popular in the United States because of its flavor and quick and easy preparation. It is often prepared in a beurre noisette (brown butter) sauce and finished with capers, lemon and vinegar, or poached in court bouillon (aromatic stock) and finished with fennel, celery root or lightly sauteed arugula or other like greens.
Skate Wing Beurre Noisette Sauvignon Blanc Reduction
6 oz. skate
3 tablespoons of flour
coarsely chopped curly parsley
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
juice and zest of one lemon
2 oz crisp Sauvignon Blanc
1 oz butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minched shallot
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed.
Pat skate wing dry. Season with salt and pepper, dust in flour and sear in hot saute pan with half of the butter and olive oil. Cook for 2 minutes on each side until golden and remove to rest. Add remaining butter and allow to brown slightly. Add lemon, white wine, caper and parsley. Reduce slightly. Sauté arugula and garlic in another hot pan until lightly wilted. Serve fish over arugula and bacon crushed potatoes.
Finally, the guests convened back in the grand ballroom to feast on a gourmet dessert buffet. There was a chocolate fondue fountain.
My favorite dessert was by far the strawberry and rasberry shortcake from Epicurean Delight. I only wish I had the recipe! The biscuits were so fresh and fluffy, the fruit was to die for, and the whip cream on top might have been the best I ever had. Simple, elegant, and tasteful: the perfect fairytale dessert.