January 31, 2014

Restaurant Week at Cicchetti!

When Restaurant Week 2014 rolled around I already had the names of a few new spots tagged in my mind, hoping they'd be participating in this newly extended 14-day food extravaganza.  When I checked the list of restaurants my eyes lit up as soon as I spotted Cicchetti (pronounced Chi-ketty).  When I first read about Cicchetti I was immediately impressed by the concept & consideration dreamed up by the owners.  When Cicchetti opened in December it was officially given the Green Seal certification for their use of sustainable materials in both construction & kitchen operation.  Their website also showcases a dedication to viable food practices, simply stating: 

"Cicchetti is the realization of our dream to showcase the great wealth of sustainably produced Midwestern food and spirits in an Italian/Mediterranean context."

 With chef Mike Sheerin, formerly of Blackbird and Trencherman, running the kitchen alongside pastry chef Sarah Jordan, formerly of Blackbird and Boka, the folks dining at Cicchetti are in more than good and capable hands.  We enjoyed every ounce of our meal - the portions were perfectly delicate but not too dainty, and the flavors spot on.  This is one small plates spot I'll be visiting again and again.

Check out Cichetti's Restaurant Week Menu here - and photos of our dinner below!

Cicchetti Restaurant Week menu (L) and regular menu (R)

Inside the front bar

Back dining room

A delicious & affordable red blend of which we ordered not one, but two bottles

La Quercia Prosciutto, slow cooked sweet potatoes, pumpkin seed salsa verde w/ greens

Nonna’s Meatballs, pancetta tomato sauce, ciabatta (these were incredible!!!)

Bruschette Assortite - (clockwise) porkbelly, fennel, golden raisin agrodolce; 
tuna conserva, pickled shallot, parsley; duck liver, cocoa nibs 

White Bean Soup with Speck Crème, pickled escarole (amazing!!!)

Gnocchi with Braised Pork Shank, celery root, pear, buttermilk, dill, chestnut crisps (to die for!!!) 

Braised Short Rib Ravioli, house tomato sauce

Reverse Affogato coffee ice cream, malted crème, anglaise, seasonal doughnuts

Ricotta Cheese Cake braised apples, graham cracker

We were unexpectedly gifted with shots of limoncello at the end of our meal - we left quite happy

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January 6, 2014

Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallows!

Baby, it's cold outside!  I hope you've all been staying warm on this bitterly cold day - and staying safe!  What better time of year to enjoy some hot cocoa with marshmallows - especially if they're homemade vanilla bean marshmallows! Now doesn't that sound nice?

Homemade hot chocolate + vanilla bean marshmallows on Christmas Day

I took my first attempt at marshmallow making a few days before Christmas.  After whipping up my standard holiday goodies I wanted to add something fun & surprising to the mix.  For some reason, marshmallows had been on my mind. I remember one of the only times I really enjoyed a marshmallow was at Hot Chocolate - an incredible restaurant in Chicago.  It was there that I first tasted house-made Mexican hot chocolate with house-made marshmallows.  The combination was unforgettable.  Beyond that - unless it's sandwiched between two graham crackers with a chunk of chocolate & toasted - you probably won't find me consuming these sweet little treats.

I am aware that marshmallows, for the most part, are universally adored.  Little did I know just how huge of a hit these little vanilla-spiked squares would be - particularly with members of my family.  We enjoyed them on Christmas at my brother's house and again at my parents' house in Iowa for our extended family Christmas. This recipe makes about 24 marshmallows (depending on how you cut them) and there wasn't a scrap to be found after our two family get-togethers.  I'd call that a success.

I found a recipe for vanilla bean marshmallows from MarthaStewart.com and followed it almost exactly - it starts out a bit odd (especially if you've never made marshmallows before) but I included some photos to give an idea that you're on the right track.

Recipe below - stay warm out there!

Vanilla Bean Marshmallows - finished product

Sugar, corn syrup + water boiling

Water + gelatin before adding boiling mixture

Scraped Madagascar vanilla bean

Marshmallow mixture setting

Sifted powdered sugar

Lovely little treats

Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

  • *makes about 24 1.5" x 2" marshmallows*


    • - Nonstick cooking spray
    • - 3 (1/4-ounce) packages unflavored gelatin (4 come in a single box)
    • - 1/2 cup cold water
    • - 2 cups granulated sugar
    • - 2/3 cup light corn syrup
    • - 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
    • - 1 vanilla bean, scraped
    • - 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • - powdered sugar, sifted - for coating

    • Directions

    • Lightly spray a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides (like a sling); set aside.

    • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water; let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup & 1/4 cup water. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; boil rapidly for 1 minute. Remove from heat; turn the mixer on high and slowly pour the boiling syrup down the side of the mixer bowl into the gelatin mixture. Add salt and continue mixing for 11 minutes.

    • Add vanilla extract & vanilla bean seeds, and mix until well combined. Spray a rubber spatula or your hands with cooking spray. Spread marshmallow mixture evenly into prepared pan.  Wrap sprayed sides of plastic wrap over top of marshmallow mixture in pan.  Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray and place, spray side down, on top of marshmallows if not all the way covered already. Let stand for at least 2 hours (no more than 6).

    • Remove wrapped marshmallows from pan and place on a cutting board.  Unwrap marshmallows on cutting board.  Using a sharp knife that has been heated under hot water & wiped clean, begin to cut marshmallows into 2-inch squares.  Rinse knife under hot water and wipe clean after every other cut.

    • Once marshmallows are all cut, add powdered sugar to a medium bowl and toss marshmallows to coat, working in batches. Marshmallows will keep in an airtight container for up to 6 days.