American, Baking Recipes, Italian, Savory, Uncategorized

Broccoli Bolognese

Hey readers!

This Critiquing Carnivore has been busy! Not to worry though, I blocked out an entire evening to whip up a spectacular dish that was created by none other than Adam Rapoport, editor in chief at Bon Appétit! Shall I remind you that I’m obsessed with Bon Appétit and their test kitchen?

So this recipe was actually published almost two years ago, but it resurfaced recently when Rapoport and chef Molly Baz made the dish for the Bon Appétit YouTube channel. Aside from the recipe itself, the energy and whit between these two in the kitchen was hysterical and electrifying! So naturally I was inspired to make this “Brocco Bolo”.

Now I’m sure you’re all thinking of the red meat sauce that is typically seen when you order a bolognese. Rapoport’s reasoning for calling it a bolognese? Because it sounds better for a magazine…well he isn’t wrong. Let’s say that in the case of this recipe we consider it to be a bolognese because the base is still a creamy, meat sauce. Then with the addition of your steamed and chopped broccoli it really starts to thicken up, add that butter and cheese and it resembles a bolognese!

This recipe is right on point when it gives cooking times. I steamed the broccoli for exactly three minutes, as written, and it was perfect. With the end result the broccoli wasn’t overdone or super mushy. Same with the pasta, for that perfect al dente I cooked it for only nine minutes in the heavily salted water (my new favorite ingredient is pasta water- watch Bon Appétit pasta videos to understand!) because when you throw it in the pan at the end it still continues to cook and you don’t want over cooked pasta.

I probably could’ve broken up my sausage more like they did in the video and as shown in the photograph on the recipe’s website, but I definitely prefer bigger chunks of my sausage- literally just a personal preference; you do you!

When I was looking for the orecchiette pasta, at first I couldn’t find it. To compromise I was going to go with a fusilli or bow tie pasta for looks. Then I found the orecchiette and I’m so happy I did! As explained in the video, this “little ear” pasta is fantastic for a recipe like this because the pasta picks up some of the broccoli bolognese base in its tiny cup; you aren’t having to fight to get a good mix of everything in one bite. I did find this pasta in my standard grocery store, Barilla brand pasta to be exact so you should be able to find it. Let me know if you don’t and what shape you ended up trying this recipe with!

I tried to cook everything simultaneously and, while I am obviously not a professional chef with a lot of the tools they suggest to use, I wish I had done it all more in separated steps: handle steaming the broccoli, let it cool, then it chop it. Then go over to the skillet with the garlic and handle the sausage. I was close to burning myself and was running from station to station trying to accomplish everything while each ingredient was cooking faster than I was actually prepared for. It still, obviously, worked out and tasted amazing, but if you get frazzled in the kitchen easily you may be better off doing everything in its exact step.

I really hope you get the chance to try this recipe! It is definitely one that I’ll keep in my recipe book for future family dinner nights, it would be quite the crowd pleaser at any dinner party! Bon Appétit!

*Another tip: taste it before seasoning! Since you are heavily salting that broccoli/pasta water and using it as your secret ingredient, it does bring a lot of saltiness to the dish. I would say I maybe added a pinch more salt and then black pepper at the end.

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American, Dallas, Fort Worth, Italian, Seafood, Uncategorized

The Charles- Dallas, TX

Driving through the Design District in Dallas on a Saturday night the streets are quiet, barely lit from street lighting appearing to be…lets say questionable. My friends, Diana and Jonathan, are finally taking me to their favorite spot. They’ve constantly talked about this vibrant, dashing Italian inspired restaurant. The Design District, being dark and my first time in the area, made me curious about the spot based on the surroundings (although I could be wrong). Then you walk into The Charles and you are immediately transported into a different world.

It’s 8:45pm and the party is just getting started here at The Charles. The bar full to the brim, every seat filled with happy faces of satisfied and hungry customers. It takes me a moment to adjust to the crowd as we made our way to the bar, where we wait for our table. Every server is squeezing by and weaving through people, kindly acknowledging everyone they may accidentally tap. The bartender, who comes to help us, greets us with a smile and energy that is too hard to explain- an electric charge that exudes around him. One of the collaborators, Chas Martin, knows my friends and makes a point to say hello, give us each a kiss on the cheek, and give off the energy ten times bigger than the bartender. You can tell he has put his heart and soul into the restaurant. You see him fluttering from table to table, person to person, making a point to connect with everyone in his establishment.

The decor of The Charles is like entering the fantasy of someone’s innermost dreams. Exposed beams create an industrial look, light fixtures that resemble bubbles or balloons adorn the ceilings. Dainty wallpaper on one wall contrasts with the leopard print chairs and benches. Boars heads, ancient Italian vases and corbels, and feather looking chandeliers all contribute to the fantasy image that one embarks upon entering The Charles. A different feel and vibe than any other Italian restaurant and I loved every bit that I took in.

When our table was ready, our sweet waitress took the time to explain the concept and idea of The Charles- family style dinner where you order several different courses and share. How very Italian. She, like the other bartender and staff, had a “je ne sais quoi” that is something you have to experience there for yourself. My friends and I all agreed, there must have been extensive or precise training for the staff to have gone through to all make the experience an incredible and special one.

The chef, J. Chastain, and Martin traveled to Italy together to immerse themselves in the Italian culture, look, and food. I learned this from my insider friends who know what’s what, especially in the Dallas food scene. You can tell by looking at the menu that this trip struck inspiration because it exudes Italian inspired items. The chef did his research and created a menu that is exquisite, rustic while also being elegant.

We started with wood fried oysters and I must say that I do not like oysters, but my friends convinced me that these are not your typical oysters. These are wood fired topped with crispy pepperoni and parsley- these will most likely be the only oysters I will ever eat in my life. The texture is not that of a raw oyster, but rather lightly cooked and not the usual slimy touch. The other item that was a first for this carnivore was beef tartare- the theme is that I don’t typically eat anything raw. This tartare was divine though, the bed of beef on top of a toasted piece of garlic bread and adorned with pepper chips and served with ricotta. These menu items I highly recommend for your starters and both are a good introduction to raw proteins.

Our next few courses came out and they are true stars. I’ll begin with the pastas:

Our first pasta is the veal ragu cappelloni which appears to be a fan favorite when you look up The Charles on Instagram. Served in a Parmesan cream sauce the cappelloni was stuffed with ragu and paired beautifully with the light sauce. Secondly we ordered the spicy creste di gallo which is a spicy shrimp, red sauce based pasta dish. The spicy kick compliments the dish as a whole and doesn’t leave your mouth on fire or with that kick stick in the back of your throat. Lastly to round out the pastas we couldn’t resist getting the cacio pepe fritters that had a delectable garlic fromage base and hint of lemon. Each pasta dish was cooked to utter perfection. Having been to Italy before each dish had that Italian inspiration with a twist to it and I felt like I could tell the chef knew what he was doing when it came to cooking the pasta. I highly recommend each of these dishes, but for me the creste di gallo takes the cake.

As for our main entree dish the pork spoke to all three of us. Fathoming this much food was a bit daunting, but the menu really has so much to offer and we couldn’t resist. Thank goodness we didn’t let the daunting task win because this pork was some of the best I’ve had. Boasting fennel, mushrooms, and orange twist the pork was a beautiful pink color inside, juicy and oozing flavor. It cut like butter and as soon as it graced my taste buds I was in heaven. It was extremely flavorful and to my delight immensely, but not overpoweringly, peppery. While there are several eye catching entrees, I would return solely for this pork dish alone (but we all know that I wouldn’t get just the one dish either). The chef really took my breathe away with this pork, to the point where I wish I had bread to collect the sauce (I would say that is the one and only downside to the restaurant, I wish I had something to soak up all the sauces and creams from each dish, seeing that licking plates in public is not necessarily acceptable).

By the end we were stuffed, the idea of dessert out of the question. But this meal was so special and we didn’t want the night to end so dessert was ordered and again we made a great choice. We tried both the infamous olive oil cake and the tiramisu. This tiramisu had a much darker color than the typical one, but still had that the great rich flavor everyone loves. The olive oil cake was moist and fluffy, drenched in almond tuile and bedazzled with grapes and a blanket of mascarpone.

The food at The Charles is obviously the principal of the show, but the soloists and corps de ballet frame the principal to create a performance that is technical, fluid, and stunning. From the interior decoration, the personalities and hospitality of every single person working there, and the attention to detail is what really makes The Charles an experience that you will forget. Accompanied with the great company of fantastic friends, The Charles is a place everyone should treat themselves to, whether it be a quiet date night or a fun night out with a group of friends. Either way you will be welcomed with open arms, just as the Italians do.

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American, Baking Recipes, Italian, Savory, Uncategorized

The Risotto Fiasco

This is the story of how I messed up, improvised, and succeeded at making risotto.

Okay, first of all, this is why I bake. I love cooking and I love how I can be experimental and try new things and make it up as I go, but sometimes it bites me in the ass.

In this case, it’s a beautiful Sunday morning and I’m about to go into the craziest time ever with a triple bill where I’m dancing all three pieces first cast (if you’re new to the blog, I’m a professional ballet dancer…yeah hi) so I wanted to make something really special. I’m single, I have the weekend to myself to rest and recoup so I wanna do a little “treat yo-self”.

When I first thought of what I wanted to make I immediately thought of my mom’s risotto. Creamy and perfectly cooked- my mom is an amazing cook, the best actually. I figured I could totally do this and boy was I wrong.

I called my mom roughly seven times- SEVEN- about how to make it, what kind of rice to get, why is there only organic shit, what kind of wine do I use, etc, etc.

So in the end, I had decided I wasn’t going to make this. I just was too in over my head. And then I found myself in the food store, wandering the rice aisle, and I grab a box that says “Risotto”. I call my mom and try to figure out what kind of wine to get and mention that the box says to add water. My mom said to me, “what did you get, I use chicken broth and it’s a long process. It takes time to make risotto.”

I BOUGHT THE WRONG STUFF. I am a Cancer zodiac sign too so you know I started getting upset and mad at myself. I spent all this money to make a dish that I don’t know how to make and had bought the wrong ingredients. I even had a freak out about having the wrong pot to make this risotto.

I was stuck- but this Critiquing Carnivore rallied herself together. I am my mother’s daughter and I can figure this out as I go and…improvise! *cue jazz hands*

Firstly, I bought Lundberg family farms organic arborio risotto- basically instant risotto instead of plain arborio rice. The instructions on the side say to use 2.5 cups of water, but instead I used 2 cups of water and half a cup of white wine. My mom said to use Sauvignon Blanc, naturally I had already gotten Pinot Grigio (at least I’m sticking to character with getting the WRONG INGREDIENTS). I also added a little lemon juice to add some acidity to it. With classic risotto instead of water you usually slowly ladle in chicken broth a little at a time, letting the rice absorb the liquid. My mom adds in the white wine and lemon juice for taste.*

In the end I added some chopped onions I had quickly sautéed as well, just to add some texture (and I love onions).

So moral of the story is mom’s know best and the risotto fiasco ended up working out. The boxed stuff came out okay (definitely not the same as my mom’s) and once I stirred in extra Parmesan cheese and top it off with parsley, I still felt like a Top Chef Queen.

*the risotto stayed pretty soupy up until the 15 minute mark- if you go the boxed risotto route DO NOT WORRY. The rice will absorb all the liquid in the end and if not just remove the pot from heat. If you cook it too much and the risotto looks dry, I would recommend adding more water…or wine 😉

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY INSTAGRAM: @CRITIQUINGCARNIVORE

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boston, Italian

North Square Oyster- Boston, MA

Ah, to be back home in Boston once again. After taking just, you know, a little trip to the Bahamas for New Years being back in Boston is nice…even if it is -13 with the wind chill. Any-who, its become a sort of tradition now that when I’m home my parents and I treat ourselves to a fancy North End meal. I mentioned this in my Mammamaria post, but treating yourself to a special meal is fun and well worth it. This time we tried Mammamaria’s neighbor, North Square Oyster.

Located directly across the street is North Square, a lovely older building where the restaurant takes up two floors overlooking the square and an adorable little bar next door. The building is timeless, beautiful ceilings that look foreign in comparison to newer buildings in the area. Chairs and booths situated in the rounded out windows make for a cozy feel when sitting there and mood lighting certainly does, well, set the mood!


As we looked over the menu it is not the typical Italian one is expecting. It’s up there with Mammamaria in terms of how upscale and sophisticated the menu is. You won’t find classic rigatoni with sauce, but items like mushroom risotto and gnocchi in a sweet broth. All the items sound superb and any choices we made that night would have left our taste buds feeling a sense of expansion.

The first dish we ordered was actually a special that evening. Gnocchi in a sweet, sour broth. The gnocchi was definitely homemade, perfectly cooked and absolutely divine. The broth was delicious, a different sweetness to it than you’d expect. Not the typical gnocchi dish one would be expecting, but certainly a delicious one.


The next dish we got was the NY strip steak with caramelized onions, trumpet mushrooms, and pommes purée (mashed potatoes). Okay, first of all, I know mashed potatoes are just potatoes and butter, but these pommes purée were insane. So rich and buttery and seasoned perfectly. There really is nothing like good steak and potatoes. The steak was really juicy and had good flavor to it and was cooked well. The onions were so fragrant and had a strong taste to them, certainly fresh and I’m sure picked at the market that morning. 


Lastly, and certainly the best of the three dishes, was the mushroom risotto. I like getting risotto when I go out if I can (and feel like it) because risotto is a rice that needs time, not something chefs on “Top Chef” like to make. This mushroom risotto was just incredible. With pickled chanterelles, maitake and cepes, and pumpkin spiced almonds it was out of this world. So creamy and warm, the flavors coming together between the mushrooms and pumpkin almonds. I guess, and I could just not be paying attention, but I never thought of mushrooms and pumpkin spice together! What a combination! It truly took the risotto up a notch with that hint of spice. 

North Square is a higher end kind of place, being in the same square as Mammamaria you kind of have to be. Both restaurants have a bit of a reputation of serving superb Italian food and I can honestly say that it’s true. Different vibes, but one common goal…to serve incredible, high end, innovative Italian food. As you tour the Paul Revere house when you’re in Boston, think about just going up the street. Whether it be for drinks at North Square’s cute little bar or having dinner there, it’ll be worth every penny…your taste buds will thank you. 

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American, Fort Worth, Italian, Uncategorized

Piattello Italian Kitchen- Fort Worth, TX

Can you believe I found another Italian restaurant that is actually good in Texas? And I’m from Boston, the best Italian restaurants are next door to my house. Well, as Fort Worth is growing and becoming more “cosmopolitan” the restaurants are coming in and adding more depth, culture to the city. Now a BBQ loving country boy can get decent, authentic Italian food. Yet another Italian restaurant has made its debut in Fort Worth, tucked in the back at Waterside, and that’s Piattello.

Waterside, located just past the Trinity River off Bryant Irvin, is just one of the several new business sites in the city. Where the Fort Worth Whole Foods famously sits, Waterside is home to other chain restaurants and some retail stores. The one standout is Piattello, the only non-chain restaurant in the complex. It sits sort of behind everything, just down from Steel City Pops. It has a small outdoor patio that is their own, but opens out to the courtyard area behind Whole Foods and Taco Diner.  With twinkling lights in the trees, children playing, and the fresh air it all adds to Piattello’s ambiance. The inside is pretty subdued, fun light fixtures adorn the ceiling, otherwise there is nothing too special. There is a lot of space, you can see when your waiter has picked up your food, and in one corner I noticed a wine shelf. Again, nothing too spectacular.

Our waiter was very present during our meal, filling our water glasses and checking on us frequently. For a Friday night it wasn’t too crowded, but it was certainly bustling so the fact that he was checking on us as frequently as he did proved how much he was trying. 

We started with the ricotta cheese appetizer, simply just ricotta with olive oil embedded on top and toasted bread. Simple, but very delicious. That bread was so addicting!

Now whenever I am about to go out to a new restaurant I always check Instagram for photos from the restaurant and public posts from other people (that aren’t staged and photoshopped). Photos, even though I’m a blogger, speak loudly and cooking is a visual art. So when I looked Piattello up it seemed to be that the pasta dishes are what makes them stand out. Ten points to Instagram and the general public because this is so true! Even the simplest pasta dish, strozzapreti cacio e pepe (cheese pasta essentially) was scrumptious. Great flavors and mixture of cheeses with parmigiana and pecorino, perfectly cooked pasta, and seasoned just right, nice and creamy. Again Piattello is demonstrating that sometimes you just have to go simple.

With that being said the above pasta dish was great, but I shouldn’t have gotten it. My friend who enjoyed this meal with me ordered the sweet potato ravioli. I should’ve gotten that just to take home for later. In a brown butter and sage sauce, those ravioli were superb. The flavors were spot on, the ravioli constructed and cooked magnificentally, it was by far the better of the two. I almost went to dinner the next night alone just to get the ravioli. They were that good. I mean how dreamy do those look?

Piattello also serves pizza and by photos they look pretty good so definitely will need to get back there to try them out. They also advertise quite a bit about their coffee service in the afternoon so with the nice outdoor space that’s something to check out too. 

Overall Piattello was a great experience. Although there wasn’t a lot of character with the interior, the food spoke volumes and provided great decor, until devoured. The service was good, no complaints there. If you have the chance get over to Waterside and treat yourself to a nice Italian meal at Piattello.  

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American, Fort Worth, Italian, Uncategorized

Cane Rosso- Fort Worth, TX

All of my readers know that I’m extremely picky about my Italian food. I very clearly announce on a daily basis that I do not eat Italian in Texas, just like how I don’t eat Tex Mex in Boston. However, when the word on the street is all about an Italian place in Fort Worth, my curiosity just takes over. I had to check out what all the hullabaloo was about Cane Rosso

Man, I swear every other post I do about a place in Fort Worth is located on West Magnolia. But it’s true, W Magnolia is just popping with exciting and innovative new idea restaurants that keeps people coming back. The area is electric and Cane Rosso fits in perfectly. Located next door to Brewed on the tail end of Magnolia, it’s always been a popular place, people constantly coming in and out flocking around the building. Reminder, they take reservations on Open Table! Definitely suggest making a reservation no later than 24 hours in advance, time slots get taken quickly! It’s super helpful that they do business on Open Table though, as many Fort Worth restaurants don’t, so take advantage of it. 

The vibe is very homey, tables packed closely together, the brick pizza oven behind the long bar. They have some outdoor seating too, which would be beautiful on a cool night. It doesn’t necessarily scream “Italian, quaint, trattoria”, but it is sort of a hipster, Italian look. The ceiling is adorned with several different light fixtures, each one with character and creating some separation in the big main room. 

The menu is adorned with several classic Italian dishes and ingredients. Our waitress did a fantastic job explaining what San Marzano tomatoes and soppressatta are. Even though I know what those are, most Texans won’t, so the fact the staff is educated in these special ingredients and can explain what they are is great and a testament to the kind of establishment they are creating.

We started off with the classic caprese just because it’s so hard not to enjoy. The tomatoes were juicy and the mozzarella tasted like Italy. The balsamic had to have come from a legitimate source bursting with tangy, sweet notes. The bread tasted fresh and grilled perfectly with a drizzle of olive oil. The pesto tasted homemade too, adding another component to the dish.

As the entree, how could we not get pizza? With the san marzano tomatoes and brick oven just behind our shoulder, we would be silly not to try the pizza. It didn’t disappoint. The ingredients tasted fresh and came together harmoniously. We chose the “OMB” pizza with meatballs, sausage, caramelized onions, and calabrian chiles. The onions added a sweetness while the chiles gave a little heat. The meatballs and sausage were fantastic and the dough was actually impressive. It wasn’t sweet like some doughs can be, it only enhanced the flavor. My one critique would be that the crust was flimsy, not crisp. I know not everyone likes a crisp thin crust and that Neapolitan pizza is supposed to be soft, but it still could’ve been cooked a little longer in my opinion.

After this experience at Cane Rosso, I don’t know, I may have to stop saying that I don’t eat Italian in Texas. This is yet another Italian restaurant that has proven me wrong about there not being good, high standard Italian food. I continue to be surprised by the capabilities of the chefs, not only by their cooking skills, but their knowledge of what real Italian food is. These chefs are great and are working for and with fantastic investors, sous chefs, waitstaff, and most importantly serving the community their absolute best. West Magnolia is home to yet another fantastic restaurant that I will certainly be going back to. 

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boston, Italian, Sweets, Uncategorized

Mammamaria- Boston, MA

Pasta is most likely one of the most popular dishes to make, for all ages. From macaroni and cheese to lasagna, kindergarten well into ones adulthood pasta is just universal across the board. I think we can all agree, however, that everyone cooks pasta differently. Some people prefer it to be al dente meaning a firmer bite, others like it to be soft to the point that it practically disinigrates in your mouth. No matter how you cook it though, there is a correct way to cook pasta where its firm yet is still melt in your mouth. It can be hard to tell what that should taste or feel like, but if you go to Mammamaria they’ll demonstrate how to do it perfectly. 

The North End is obviously flooded with delicious Italian restaurants, but you can feel the difference when you go into higher end restaurant like Mammamaria. The ambiance inside makes you feel like you’ve just walked into a movie scene, beautifully placed utensils and exquisite, Italian inspired design plates. Tables placed fairly close together makes it feel like a cozy trattoria. The staff are both inviting and professional, the waiters filling water glasses and clearing plates as often as they can. The beautiful decor makes for a lovely ambiance inside and hearing the room filled with laughter makes for a wonderful evening. 

The select evening menu was filled with all the delicious classic Italian dishes made with local New England products. For our antipasti, or appetizer, we selected the cheese sampler, three different cheeses with fresh colorful tomatoes and drizzle of olive oil. Local ricotta and mozzarella from Massachusetts and bufala mozzarella from Naples are all melt in your mouth on top of the fresh bread. The bufala was the best by far, so creamy and milky, bursting with flavor.

For the main course the menu was full of innovative and different combinations, but I wanted to judge Mamma’s by the classic Italian, bolognese. And Mamma Maria was this bolognese good. The meat was seasoned and cooked perfectly, the sauce delicious with a tangy taste almost and flavorful with every bite. The pasta, as discussed in the opening, was cooked as it is meant to be cooked. Not too soft, not too stiff. A good bite too it and cooked throughout, not a single strand of pasta out of line. Garnished with fresh Parmesan grated right from the block and you are beginning to feel Italian. 

Another notable menu item was the summertime squash ravioli. Filled with green and yellow squash and corn, the filling was very refreshing as well as flavorful. The ravioli pasta was done just right and you can tell delicate hands in the kitchen sculpted the tiny pillows of cheese heaven. 

Finally, a meal like this isn’t complete without a homemade, warm Italian dessert. From a list that made the decision extremely hard, this menu item was a standout. A warm puff pastry that held a mixture of delicious crisp apples and cinnamon spices topped with freshly whipped cream and chocolate and caramel drizzles. Each bite was like a new sensation of the flavors coming together in harmony, the sweet cream, tartness of the apples, and crunch of flaky pastry. 

It is the place to enjoy a spectacular Italian meal, a meal that may be as close as it gets to being in Italy. Meals like this perpetuate meaningful conversation, as you’re huddled together discussing the food as well as family conversation. One thing to point out is that a meal like this doesn’t come cheap, but its a meal few and far between. Savor, enjoy, and love meals like this. Go for it, you can figure out finances down the road, but a meal like this is worth every penny. Not just for the food, but for the memories. 

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