Local Culinary Stars Shine At “Tasteful Experience”

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
3 eggs
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.

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  1. Years ago, I had a secretary who made “pumpkin pie” for our office–and she used squash, thinking the two were interchangable–they were not, at least in her recipe.

    I’m sure somone will remind us all that pumpkin is somewhere in the squash family tree, but when I try this recipe this coming weekend–and it does look delicious–I think I’ll err on the side of caution and use clearly labeled pumpkin.

  2. Where do these ingredients come from? Are they flown from all around the world on carbon-belching jets? Is the ginger grown in California, the milk taken from Iowa cows, the eggs stolen from Canadian chickens? This amounts to theft, pillage and rape. If law enforcement had a true planetary perspective, it would prosecute each one of these establishments for hate crimes and violating the human rights of animals.

  3. Have plans to try Stamna and Southern Belle this weekend, both for the first time. And now that I think of it, it’s interesting since my father is from Greece and my mother is from Mississippi.

  4. If you are going to Stamna, Georgette, you must try the Otkapodi, the char-broiled octopus appetizer. It is absolutely wonderful! Also, if you order a dish that offers a side, the greek potatoes there are excellent — almost as good as the Naxos Patates we had in Greece late last summer. Thee folks who run Stamna are from the islands, so the seafood dishes are not to be missed. Yamas!


  5. Sorry Monty — been trying to confirm names for two gentlemen in photo. Ryan DePersio is wearing the hat – Ariane Duarte from Culinariane is also pictured.

  6. I’m kind of curious how one “chops” roasted squash (which I’m guessing refers to either acorn or butternut). When squash is roasted, after all, it softens. Even hard squash chunks cut from a raw squash soften in the oven. And how long is one supposed to “roast” the squash in the first place?

    Come to think of it, why not simply use canned pumpkin? Some members of my mother’s generation, her included, still made their pumpkin pies from scratch, but I doubt very much too many people do today. For one thing, the “right” pumpkins, the white or “cheese” kind, are hard to find in early fall and well-nigh impossible at tis time of the year.

    Plus, TWO loaves of challah or brioche? I make a key lime-custard bread pudding (for some reason Stop & Shop carries key limes year round, nowhere else does) in the same size pan with ONE loaf, and it serves 6 nicely.

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