Essex County’s finest restaurants served up something special Monday night when The Clara Maass Medical Center Foundation hosted its sixth annual signature fall event, A Tasteful Experience. The gastronomic extravaganza, held at the Pleasantdale Chateau, was the perfect fundraiser — incredible food, fantastic wine (thanks Amanti Vino!) and no speeches. The goal for the evening was to raise $75,000 — and the kudos goes to many of Baristaville’s favorite local eateries who helped make it happen, by donating their time, talent and tasteful bites, says Jane Newman Kesler, CFRE, Clara Maass Medical Foundation VP.
New restaurants who helped raise funds to benefit Clara Maass Medical Center programs and services were Stamna Greek Taverna in Bloomfield and Costanera Cocina Peruana in Montclair. One of the most memorable morsels to pass my lips was a one-bite manicotti flecked with black truffle from The Orange Squirrel in Bloomfield, also a first-timer at the event. Served in a shot glass with a spoon, it featured bufala ricotta, Moliterno sheep cheese, smoked tomato froth and micro herbs. It was a first time for Chef Francesco Palmieri at the event; his Orange Squirrel turns two today (drop by and celebrate tonight(11/11), 5-7 p.m. with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and cocktails).
Many restaurants returned for a second, third, fourth and fifth time to support the event. Veteran chefs include Michael Carrino, owner of Restaurant Passionne and winner of Food Network’s “Chopped” (who is planning to donate 350 meals to the Salvation Army with his Feed the Hungry Prix Fixe, 11/17-11/21) and Ryan DePersio of Montclair’s Fascino, Bloomfield’s Bar Cara, NBC’s Today Show and Hot from the Kettle. Top Chef’s Ariane Duarte of Culinariane was another repeat supporter. Baristaville’s newbie, The Southern Belle, was on hand, serving up an incredible pumpkin ravioli topped with pulled pork, as was Salute, Osteria Giotto, Fitzgerald’s 1928 (really good short rib slider!), Toast, Raymond’s, Senorita’s Mexican Grille (amazing chicken tostadas!), Mesob, 32 Church, Whole Foods Market Montclair, and Farm 2 Bistro (formerly Nutley, now Rockaway). A newbie with ties to Real Housewives NJ was Positano, who has gotten a huge new following from folks wanting to try Danielle’s pasta place.
Dessert purveyors also didn’t disappoint– Gencarelli’s Bakery, Miss Nicky’s Gourmet Toffee, Stuffed Cupcakes and Gelato Giuliana were among those who offered a sweet ending to the night.
The restaurants also graciously shared recipes that were compiled into a book for attendees — here’s one from Montclair’s Raymonds that sounded particularly yummy. Are you cooking in or going out to eat this weekend — tell us what/where in comments?
Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Candied Ginger & Dried Cranberry
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup sugar
Pinch black pepper
Pinch ground clove
Pinch ground nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
2 large diced bread, toasted (challah or brioche bread works well)
3 ounces candied ginger, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 stick butter, diced small and chilled
2 1/2 cup roughly chopped roasted squash
2 tbsp light brown sugar
Mix together the eggs, milk, cream, vanilla, sugar and spices. Pour the egg mixture over the bread, then add the ginger, cranberries, butter and squash and mix to incorporate all of the ingredients without breaking up the bread too much. Let stand for 20 minutes to allow the bread to be fully saturated with the custard. Line a cake tray (6 X 9) with parchment and spray well with nonstick spray. Transfer bread mixture to prepared pan, pressing to make sure there are no air pockets. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top and then cover tightly with plastic film and then aluminum foil. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Remove covering and bake for additional 15-20 minutes or until the top has nicely browned and the pudding has set. Serve with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.
Photo by Andy Foster Photo (left to right) Ariane Duarte, Kurt Knowles, Sr., Ryan DePersio, Kurt Knowles, Jr.