Iaria’s has been around since 1933. So don’t expect Fusion or Cuisine Minceur when you go. What you will get is Old School Italian dishes from very Old School recipes.
The establishment is composed of a dining room and a bar room that has several tables and booths.
They use plenty of glass blocks in their decor. I think the blocks are great. They were out of favor for a while but they are making a comeback,from what I hear. Iaria’s had them before they were cool.
As soon as Pat and I decided on Iaria’s we both started having a “taste” for Italian. Pat Alfredo me Piccata,with capers. I had it on good authority they offer an outstanding version with grouper. Pat stayed with his first thoughts,after much rumination. As for me as soon as I walked into the aroma of fresh bread,tomatoes and garlic I knew it had to be red sauce and red wine.
Pat and I decided to split a half carafe of Malbec for $15, good for 3 glasses,but actually a bit more. It was really a pretty good wine choice. Pat decided on it because he abhors whites. I would have been happy with that or Cab. Once I decided to go red it was an easy decision for my lunch. Spaghetti with red sauce and a meatball. For a 75 cent up charge I got a link of their homemade Italian sausage. Both of our lunches came with a soup or salad choice. Pat;obviously chose salad. I chose a cup of the homemade Minnestroni soup.
It was pretty good,not outstanding,but good. They also had a SOD; a chicken gnocchi. In the future I will give the SOD a try. As for the main course it was what you would expect from folks that have made sauce for so many years. While some red sauces are too sweet or too tart. Too thin or too thick. Or too much or too little. This was Goldilocks “Just Right”. The amount was enough to wet the pasta, enough leg to properly coat and just enough sweetness to whet the appetite and not sate it.
As for the star of the show,the meatball. It was expertly seasoned and nicely formed. It may have had a bit too much compaction for my tastes. But different boats etc. This brings us to the sausage. Now this was a wonderful sausage. A great fennel presence with a touch of crushed red pepper for some heat. I think the sausage stands right up their with any I have eaten
Both of are lunches were about $8 with soup or salad and a basket of homemade bread and butter. They also offer pizza and sandwiches. I think the most expensive lunch item was the Grouper Piccata for $11.95. They do a very brisk lunch business with lots of regulars and I can see why. Cozy surroundings,very good food and charming and friendly service. Worth a visit.
Here is a link to their website
http://www.iariasrestaurant.com/ Since Zomato seems to have fallen down on the job.
Like any good fella with OCD I try to be thorough. In addition to trying to understand the science and mechanics of cooking I have been fascinated by the history of food, particularly sauces.
Over the weekend I engaged in a conversation with a blogging buddy about Sauce Bolognese. She commented that the only must haves are chicken livers and cream. My contention was that pancetta and dairy were the only essentials. So. That tete’ de tete’ got me to thinking. Maybe I was wrong. Most of my info was from long ago readings and conversations I had with older cooks. I went back through my older books ( the ones I have still ) and the notebooks I could find and the inter net. What I determined was there is a whole bunch of disparate recipes for this one classic sauce from Northern Italy.
First thing I must say is Italy is just like most nations. Authentic cooking is not a recipe card you find from Betty Crocker. It covers a big area with different climates and different resources.
Back on topic. As far as I can tell the first written recipe of this sauce was by Pellegino Artusi in a book he authored in 1891. Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Living Well. Sometime in the 1980’s the Italian Academy of Cuisine translated and published a copy in the US. That is how I discovered it. I had a copy, but lost it. Amazon has it for $35. My copy cost maybe 8 bucks. I think he just called for minced beef and pork and a sofrito. The sofrito is a mixture of fine diced onion, celery and carrot. Culinary folks would call it a mirepoix. I have made this sauce a bunch of times. For personal use and for dinner service at various joints. For the most part my take on this comes from contemporary cookbooks and anecdote. Meaning I have talked with a bunch of cooking folks, both pro and amateur. This weekend I did peruse the ether world and determined that there is a bunch of different ways to build this dish.
So to the “bottom” line. Northern Italy is about beef and pig and dairy. So dairy should be a component to Bolognese. Some say cream, some say whole milk. Pancetta is almost a must, in my opinion. Beef and veal is considered appropriate, but also ground pork. The important thing is the cutting of the stuff. The pancetta should be 1/4 diced, the other meat should be minced as well as the veggies. The whole idea is to meld all the ingredients into a seamless taste. The fat used varies from olive oil to butter to lard. The pancetta should be crisp as should be the sofrito. After the minced meat is added a good beef stock as well as a good wine should be added and reduced a bit at a time. This sauce ain’t no 30 minute meal. The tomato is a secondary yet essential ingredient. The amount is small compared to some Italian recipes. You can use canned paste or peel and seed and reduce your own. As for the dairy that is added at the end. As for seasoning nutmeg is almost obligatory anything else is up to you. When it comes to the liver that is really an enrichment component. Liver is a rich addition to any sauce. The use is similar to the use of anchovy. In either event the livers should be cooked independent of the sauce. For what it is worth. I don’t always use chicken livers, but when I do I poach them in the same stock or wine I am using. Then either pulverize them in a processor or, if you want to be rustic use a mortar and pestle with a bit of poaching liquid and coarse salt.
Well I think I have abused this moment. You can find different recipes everywhere on the inter net. So go for it.
Well, this post will not have any pictures. I forgot my camera and my cell phone and Pat has a new phone that he hasn’t figured out yet. It’s a shame too. They have a new,very photogenic draft system online and a center of the bar chalk board that has a very colorful beer menu. Complete with original artwork. Indeed a shame. Oh well it is all about the food after all.
If you may or may nor recall they have their own proprietary meat blend for their burgers. A mixture of chuck, sirloin, brisket and short rib. Similar to Bru Burger;if I recall. That was one of the reasons I was insistent on going back. My first try at a burger was a fail. But before the burger I ordered a cup of SOD. Cream of spinach and cheese. Intriguing. Actually it was pretty tasty. A nice light and creamy, cheesy soup with a touch of celery. The spinach was pretty much along for the ride. And they serve little packs of oyster crackers with their soup. Now who can not like oyster crackers?
Well enough of the foreplay ( in the original sense of the word) on to the main event. The Burger. As soon as I got it I cut it in half. First to facilitate the eating of same,and second to confirm it was indeed mid-rare. As soon as I cut my sandwich in two and exposed its moist and bloody insides to the world the rain stopped. The thunder ceased and the clouds parted. Seriously. Well maybe I exaggerate. But it was an excellent sandwich. Their combo of cow cuts was definitely worth the effort. The basic burger is $9 and comes with the usual cold set and choice of side. Cheese is an additional 50 cents. So their prices are in line with other downtown joints.
Pat ordered Four Cheese Pasta. Cavatappi with yellow and white cheddar,provolone and parmesan cheeses. It is served with a side salad for $9. When he ordered it our server asked him if he wanted to add some bacon or shrimp to “spice it up a bit”. A little “up sell” is always appreciated. A tip of the hat to our server. Pat opted for shrimp. He got 5 or 6 nice 21 count shrimp. A thoughtful portion, I thought. I think that up charge was $3.
After we ordered, the co-owner arrived and she appears to enjoy chatting nearly as much as I do. We spent quite awhile talking about some of the menu changes coming up. She told me they were adding a smoked pork loin. Smoked pork,thin sliced on a brioche bun. Makes a return trip mandatory. They have already added 2 salad dressings to the menu. Originally all they offered was an orange vinaigrette. Now they offer a bleu cheese dressing and a Dijon vinaigrette as well. While we were there they debuted a prototype humus plate, for the bosses to try out. It was a healthy dish of home-made humus and an oval plate loaded with accoutrement. Pita,celery,carrot,grapes and onion and tomatoes. It was a good-looking plate.
One more bit of “gossip”. Ember’s has a nice and wide front porch,and they are planning on using it. They have all the permits in order to have outdoor seating. That is always a great draw. They are even planning on having live music on select nights. Now that would make it even more special.
When Pat and I first started going out to lunch and writing about it. We only had one rule, only independent restaurants, diners or bars would be considered. For the most part we have managed to stick by that. With all kinds results. Both bad and good. We decided on lunch because he didn’t want to fall into that “old man-trap of early bird specials and 3 PM dinners. Besides Pat needed to get home and get dinner ready for his wife when she got home from work. However our list of places to go is getting smaller with every passing week. So we decided to try Jonathan Byrd’s cafeteria in Greenwood. So bring on the blue haired ladies. The joint is well-known for its homemade food. And it is a large and attractive space.
At the very beginning I made a rookie mistake when visiting a cafeteria or buffet; I did not check out all the options first. In the cafeteria they will put the deserts at the front of the line with the salads; in order to entice you to eat and spend more. With buffets it’s nearly a war of attrition. They try to spread things out so you will spend as much time walking as you can. So what I’m getting at is I got too much food. Again. Pat, almost always the sensible one ate rationally. He had a nice piece of breaded fish with a side of steamed broccoli, a side of carrots and a nice whole-wheat dinner roll. Although the fish had been fried. He blotted any excess grease off prior to eating. They did have a baked option for fish, but the portion was much larger. Pat’s lunch was tasty, filling and nutritionally fulfilling. Very much keeping in line with the man of his maturity.
Now me, on the other hand, picked a lunch fit for two. Pasta salad, Boston cream pie (why it is called a pie. I don’t know why. It is obviously cake). Having picked the beginning and the end of my lunch . I needed something for the middle. So, I opted for a side of corn bread dressing with a touch of gravy, Turkey pot pie and a biscuit with butter.
The pasta salad was tasty. One of the better versions I’ve had. Multi colored tortellinis with grape tomatoes, and thin slices of red radish. All in a dressing reminiscent of Buttermilk Ranch. The cornbread dressing was very “genteel”. Fine textured and mildly flavored. But considering the rest of my food it fit in well. The biscuit was nice and fluffy but considering I already had pot pie it was redundant. The pie was rather unique. Don’t get me wrong it was very good. Just in my estimation different from the usual Boston cream pie. The cake was fluffier than I am accustomed to and the chocolate glaze was more milk chocolate, then dark chocolate. As for the cream filling. It was sweet vanilla cream. What’s not to like. However, the winner, winner, turkey dinner was the pot pie. it had a top crust only which was more than sufficient. The crust was handmade and flaky, barely containing a large , thick portion of filling. Big chunks of turkey with carrots and peas in a rich gravy. I cannot imagine this dish being done better. The peas even had a slight bite to them. Meaning they were not cooked into mush. If you have an opportunity to try this. I strongly recommend it.
As soon as we sat down we unloaded our trays. We didn’t want people thinking we are institutionalized.The prices were quite reasonable. I believe the whole tab came to less than $19 and we got a lot of food.