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The Craft of Simple Food

July 10, 2010

Tom Colicchio wears many hats. Top Chef judge. James Beard Outstanding Chef. Springsteen enthusiast. Creator of the best sandwich ever, a zesty, refreshing chickpea salad on bread. Owner of a dozen restaurants across the country, including Craftbar, where Keith and I went to dinner last night.

Colicchio is known for using fresh, quality ingredients in simple ways (hence why I have grand designs of making his chickpea salad sometime soon). That style was on display yesterday. Since we had dinner at 10:30, Keith and I ordered a bunch of small plates: polenta fritters with golden raisins and jalapeños, pecorino risotto balls with spicy tomato sauce, pork shoulder with tomato molasses and butter lettuce and a fava bean salad with gorgonzola, hazelnuts and crisp prosciutto.

The risotto balls are a staple of my visits to Craftbar, and the wine-y tomato sauce is the perfect balance of acidity for the cheesy richness of the risotto and the crisp fried outer shell. The polenta fritters were delicious too, a little sweet and a little spicy. The pork shoulder was tender and the tomato molasses tasted like barbeque sauce with its tangy sweetness.

But the star of the night was the fava bean salad. The fava beans were crisp and paired well with the pungent gorgonzola and salty prosciutto. Had me wondering if fava beans are hard to make.

Dessert was a crème fraîche panna cotta with strawberries and chocolate-pistachio biscotti. While it was good, it didn’t have me running to the kitchen to make.

Hopefully I’ll get to make the fava bean salad – and the chickpeas – soon.

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