Hot From the Kettle: Talking Tomatoes with Ariane Duarte

Culinarian tomato still.jpgFor me, there are few things more delicious than in-season Heirloom Tomatoes. When Ariane Duarte, owner and chef of CulinAriane, lends her Midas touch to these lutein packing beauties, their flavor exceeds expectations – – it’s gold.
Ariane and her husband, Michael, a fellow Culinary Institute of America graduate, and pastry chef, opened CulinAriane, initially as kitchen space for their catering business. The restaurant was very much secondary, with only ten small tables. Soon, however, popularity began to grow and CulinAriane became one of the stars of the Baristaville dining scene. Then Top Chef came calling and the rest was culinary (and reality tv) history.


Ariane believes in eating and preparing fresh, seasonal foods, and changes the CulinAriane menu about eight times a year, according to the seasons. Ariane allowed Baristanet into CulinAriane to give us a demo of her “famous,” but very easy, Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon & Feta Salad. She slices an Anaheim Stripe Tomato, then an oh-so-meaty Purple Cherokee, then wedges a citrusy Green Zebra. Then she adds a few pieces of seedless watermelon, some firm Greek feta cheese, fresh basil, a demitasse spoon of Mediterranean sea salt, and finally drizzles it so simply with aged balsamic and extra virgin olive oil. Watch the video to see how it’s done.

Ariane is what my grandfather might call a “real firecracker,” full of energy, and excitement. Over the Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon & Feta Salad, Ariane and I had occasion to speak briefly. Despite all that she’s accomplished, Ariane’s focus is to take care of her “baby,” CulinAriane, and perhaps take a vacation eventually, maybe to India.
Have you been able to get a table at CulinAriane? How was your experience? And, about that other big tomato question — is it sauce or gravy in your house?

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8 COMMENTS

  1. I was lucky enough to finally eat at CulinAriane last month and it was a wonderful experience. The service was perfect and the food even better. My friend ordered this tomato, watermelon & feta salad, and had to fight me off of it once I had a taste.

  2. I can’t stand when Jersey Italians say Gravy. I’m Northern Italian (Blonde Hair Iatlian, not Moor Italian) Some people on this site will tell you that real Italians call it gravy which is far from the truth because real Italians that are from Italy do not. Its not even an italian american word. Its from “the jersey shore” and “real housewives of NJ” italians

  3. I think the Italian Immigrants in New Jersey put their own spin on a lot of things. I don’t have any Italian genes but my Italian friends have educated me over the years how to pronounce certain Italian foods, i.e. cavatelli “gavadeel” Mozzarella, “muuzarell” My northern Italian boyfriend who has spent time in Italy tells me the Italian Italians don’t use these pronunciations. They’re all ours. The same for Gravy. It is an Italian American invention. I never heard red sauce called gravy until I roomed in college with my Italian roomate from Hoboken.

  4. We call it sugo, and for the first time in three years, our deck-grown tomatoes made it to harvest. There was no blossom-end rot and the mysterious disease that killed them all over the place last year passed us by. We defeated the squirrels by draping bird netting over the plants and fastening the nets to the rims of the pots with spring clips. Just brought in around two dozen romas and patios, cooked them up (adding one can of San Marzanos) with a ton of our fresh basil, garlic, oregano, and sweet onions. They are resting in preparation for the weekend when we will grill some hot sausage from Mastriano’s and sauce them appropriately.
    It is too bad that so much Italian-American street dialect is passed around because it is not Italian. Italian is one of the most beautiful and lyric of languages, and the way it is bastardized by these cetriolos shows no respect. And you know how il padrino treats disrepectful people…
    And speaking of fluent Italian, has anybody heard from FrankGG lately?

  5. The pronunciations that Mr. Thompson describes are to the best of my knowlage, Sicilian/American. Anyone who has made even a casual study of Italian dialects knows that the language spoken in the North near Switzerland sounds remarkable different than that spoken further down the “boot”. And Sicily? Pasta en Fagioli becomes Pasta Fazool. My Italian girlfriend’s family refers to any gravy (even for roast beef) as sugo. And my second mother who was born in Italy used “gravy” to describe the tomato sauce that was cooked with meat. Meatballs, sausage, beef chunks, etc.? Gravy. Lobster, squid, clams, etc.? those were referred to as sauce.
    Like the debate about the word “Jewish” to describe a language a little while ago, I suggest that most folks seem to think whatever their family did…was the correct version. Maybe it’s the same with spagetti gravy. I DO know that all over the northeast, Italian-Americans refer to “Sunday Gravy”. 😉

  6. We’ve eaten there at least 5 times in the last 2 years and, for my money, its the best restaurant in the area, for both food and service (if the space was a little bigger and less cramped, it would be perfect). The food is always perfect, and the waiters know the menu items well, are very attentive and even decant your red wine rather than just popping off the cork and serving it (if the bottle you bring justifies it).

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