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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mulberry's Restaurant

Thirty five years and fifty one weeks ago I married my lifelong love, so when you have been married this long where do you go to be sure your anniversary dinner is just right. We live in Niagara Falls home to many very good restaurants (and too many very bad ones), Niagara on the Lake is just minutes away with fine dine restaurants on every corner, or Toronto is just a 90 minute drive down the QEW and you know the restaurants are great there. Then of course just a 20 minute drive and a journey over the Peace bridge is Buffalo NY, some fine restaurants here too.

Buffalo is no culinary capital but has given the world a few famous choices, Anchor Bar and Grill where Buffalo chicken wings were created, or how about a beef on Weck. The German answer to the French dip. In the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, NY, Joe Gohn (1862-1949) purchased a small saloon which he called the Delaware house, located at Delaware and Delavan Streets. The street car ran right in front of Joe’s small ten room hotel always loaded with hungry patrons. Joe employed a German baker and together they decide to serve hot roast beef on kummelweck rolls a kasier style roll topped with rock salt and caraway seeds. Thus the first Buffalo creation.

Another famous Buffalo culinary experience was the Chef’s salad. Attributed to chef Victor Seydoux at the Hotel Buffalo, a Statler Hotel in Buffalo, New York, although there is some debate on this as well.

Nevertheless Buffalo does have some exceptional dining spots for any occasion, we however are celebrating nearly thirty six years of marriage (a feat in its self). We decided that Buffalo would be the place to dine but where?

A friend of Dianna suggested at a quaint restaurant in Lackawanna (a suburb of Buffalo) called Mulberry’s. So based on her recommendation we called and made our reservation.

Located at: 64 Jackson Street (corner of Jackson and Spruce) Lackawanna, NY 14218 (716) 822-4292

This truly is a neighborhood restaurant, driving down Jackson St. There is nothing but housing from the 1930 era. Then you come upon the restaurant, there is parking beside the restaurant and across the street but get there early for these spots don’t last.

This one busy little Italian restaurant , you're greeted at once by a friendly hostess and made to feel as you have been a regular here for years. You enter into the bar of the restaurant and can dine there if you choose. Given it was our anniversary we decide on the dinning room. The entire restaurant reminds one more of a sports bar rather than an Italian restaurant. The sports memorabilia covers every inch of every wall, but each item most likely has some meaning to the partner owner/chef Joe Jerge. One thing he did get right was the background music great tunes of the best crooners.

Of course it is about the food and here Joe does not disappoint in any way. I don’t know how a restaurant with an Irish name became an Italian hot spot but Joe’s customers are certainly happy he has chosen to venture this cuisine. The restaurant offers Italian food just like Nonna would make, See the video on their website, huge baseball size meatballs, a different lasagna every day, house made pasta and the finest in sauces. You’ll not only leave very satisfied but also very happy.

I seldom recommend a restaurant but hands down this one serves some the best food in the Niagara and Western new York regions. Well worth the trip from anywhere with driving distance. They offer a tasting menu as well and this what Dianna and I chose for our dinner.

A four course dinner of: Astice: Maine lobster with Stracciatella cheese, Basil pesto oil, a roasted cherry tomato and eggplant funghetto. Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms with corn relish and balsamic reduction Short Rib Agnolotti with beef reduction, Honshimeji mushrooms Braised Veal Cheeks with fingerling potatoes, Autum cauliflower, barbequed onions and pan jus.

The recipes:

The first course was first-rate the lobster was cooked in a court bouillon, then chilled it was sweet and firm, served with the cheese basil oil and the cherry tomato, however neither of us found the eggplant funghetto. This al funghetto, means "eggplant cooked in the manner one would cook mushrooms," Stracciatella is a stringy, sweet type of gourmet Italian cheese. Made from the very rich milk of water buffaloes, it is a soft member of the Mozzarella cheese family. In Italian, “stracciatella” means “to shred,” and you’ll sometimes see this word used in the Roman egg-drop soup called Stracciatella alla Romana. The fresh mozzarella is soaked in cream and then stretched out in strings. All the recipes that follow for this menu are Chef Ks and not those used by Mulberrys we do hope we honor them with a recipe that would be similar.

Lobster In Court Bouillon
2 medium white onions, sliced into 1-inch rounds
2 large carrots, cut into thirds
2 stalks celery, cut into thirds
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 large bay leaf
1 750 ml bottle dry white wine
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
12 live lobsters, about 1 1/2 pounds each 1 pound
(4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
6 lemons, halved

Place onions, carrots, and celery in a large stockpot. Make a bouquet garni: Gather thyme, parsley, and bay leaf; tie into a bundle with kitchen string, then add to the stockpot. Fill stockpot 2/3 full with cold water; set over high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and let simmer about 30 minutes. Add white wine and peppercorns; simmer about 15 minutes more. Return to a boil. Depending on the size of stockpot, quickly add 4 to 6 lobsters to boiling court-bouillon, making sure the liquid covers all the lobsters. Allow court-bouillon to return to a boil again, and cook lobsters about 12 minutes. Using tongs, remove lobsters, and transfer to a platter or large bowl. Repeat with remaining lobsters, working in batches if necessary. Serve lobsters hot with melted butter and lemons. Or chill and serve cold as they did at Mulberrys.

Melanzane (Eggplant) a Fungetiello
4 1/2 pounds eggplant
Olive oil for frying Parsley or basil minced
10 ripe plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped.
1/4 pound black Gaeta olives (you will likely want mild olives here)
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

Dice the eggplant, salt it, and let it sit for an hour, then rinse the pieces and pat them dry. Fry them, about a third at a time, in hot oil, and drain them on absorbent paper. Put 2 tablespoons of oil in a pot, sauté the garlic until it is golden, and stir in the tomatoes and the herbs. Simmer for ten minutes, then add the eggplant, capers and olives. Simmer for a few minutes more and it’s ready

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

2 pounds cherry tomatoes on the vine
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil Kosher
salt and freshly ground black pepper


Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the tomatoes on a sheet pan and drizzle over the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the tomatoes collapse, about 10 minutes.

Our next course was the Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms with corn relish and balsamic reduction. Dianna really enjoyed these blossoms, they were cooked prefect, tasty and crunchy. The corn relish was as fresh as could be, it had that just picked flavor to the corn.

Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

1 cup ricotta
1 tablespoon freshly chopped mint
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Zucchini blossoms

Vegetable oil (for frying)
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1teaspoon kosher salt
12 ounce chilled Pilsner, lager-style beer, or club soda

Zucchini blossoms (stamens removed; about 2 dozen) Zucchini blossoms are sold at farmers' markets, better supermarkets, and Sea salt Preparation

To fill about 16, combine ricotta, mint, and lemon zest in a bowl. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Using a spoon, fill each blossom with about 1 Tbsp. ricotta mixture. Zucchini blossoms In a large pot, heat about 2" oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°. Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl, then whisk in beer until almost smooth (some small lumps are welcome—don't overwhisk or you'll deflate the batter). One by one, dredge the blossoms in batter, shaking off the excess; gently lay them in the oil, without crowding the pan. Cook, flipping once with a slotted spoon, until golden brown, 2-3 minutes total. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with sea salt and devour while hot.

Corn Relish

2 cups diced ripe tomatoes
2 cups fresh corn kernels
12 Oz-can black beans, rinsed well, drained
4 green onions, sliced thin
1 or 2 green jalapeño, seeded, diced fine
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 fresh lime, juiced
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste


Toss all ingredients in a large glass or stainless steel bowl to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. May be made up to 8 hours ahead. Toss well before service.

Balsamic Reduction

Traditional balsamic vinegar has been made for over 1000 years in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, in the provinces of Reggio Emilia and Modena. The name balsamic comes from balsam and balm which refer to its attributed medicinal properties since it was used to soothe and heal and to protect against the plague. Local grapes, such as the white Tribbiano and the red Lambrusco varieties, are harvested at the very end of the season to maximize their sugar content. They are then crushed and the resulting juice (or must) is then cooked in a large open pot over a direct flame and simmered for a day or so. Once the evaporation stage has been completed, the juice will have been reduced by about half into a sweet syrup and allowed to cool before transferring to a large ventilated barrel. Yeasts in the air ferment most, but not all of the sugar into alcohol and then aceto bacter bacteria in the air convert the alcohol into acid. The vinegar is then aged for a minimum of 12 years in a series of progressively smaller wooden barrels, called a batteria. I have one which is over 100 years old. The batteria consist of at least 3 and up to as many as 7 barrels ranging in capacity from 100 to 10 liters. Each barrel, made from a different type of wood such as oak, chestnut, mulberry, juniper, ash and cherry, imparts color and a unique flavor to the finished product.

Chicken stock, 3 cups
Balsamic vinegar, ⅓ cup
Porcini mushroom, 2 tablespoons (chopped)
Butter, 1 tablespoon
Pepper, ½ tablespoon (freshly ground)
Salt, ¼ teaspoon
Fresh rosemary,
2 sprigs Garlic clove,
1 (peeled and minced)


Pour in the chicken stock in a large saucepan and add the porcini mushroom and fresh rosemary sprigs. Bring the chicken stock to a boil and cook over high heat for 15 to 20 minutes until the mixture has reduced to almost half. Now add the balsamic vinegar and simmer over low heat until the mixture has the consistency of a sauce. Remove the saucepan from heat and strain this mixture through a fine wire mesh. Discard the rosemary sprigs and the porcini mushroom pieces. Return the mixture to the saucepan and stir in the butter so that it is completely combined. Add salt and pepper and stir the mixture once more.

The Thrid Offering This one was my favorite, each little pasta pillow was excellently prepared, then cooked perfectly and sauced just right.

Braised Short Rib Agnolotti
Agnolotti pasta is a type of pasta normally stuffed, roughly similar in size to ravioli and tortellini. The Piedmont region of Italy is well known for their many agnolotti recipes. Today the pasta is becoming increasingly more popular in the US, with numerous famous chefs suggesting agnolotti pasta dishes and fillings. The name agnolotti, means "priest’s hat," which does suggest that the crescent shape agnolotti pasta is more traditional than the square or rectangular type. Some agnolotti pasta is square or rectangular in shape, while others form a half moon circle. Instead of taking two layers of pasta dough, adding the filling and then cutting them all around to produce square ravioli, agnolotti are simply folded over. You’ll notice one side is smooth, while the other sides, or half if the pasta is circular are pinched together.


3 lbs short ribs
3 T flour
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 bottle of good Italian red wine
2 large onions, sliced
2 carrots diced
½ bunch rosemary, minced
1 bunch beets, diced
5 cloves garlic
1 quart veal stock

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Brown ribs: Season ribs with salt and pepper and dust in flour. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the oil and brown the ribs on all sides. Transfer ribs to a braising pan (a shallow roasting pan or similar). Sauté aromatic: To the same sauté pan, add the vegetables. Sauté until soft. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Add to the ribs in the braising pan. Braise: Transfer pan to the oven and cook at 300° until done (tender and falling apart, about 2 hours), turning occasionally. Finish sauce: When done, remove meat from braise and rough chop or shred it; keep warm. Strain sauce into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to saucy consistency.

Toss the ribs in sauce and serve over pasta, or combine ribs and sauce and use for pasta filling as below.

Fresh Pasta
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups semolina flour
1 pinch salt
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil


Thoroughly sift together all-purpose flour, semolina flour, and pinch of salt. On a clean surface, make a mountain out of the flour mixture then make a deep well in center. Break the eggs into the well and add olive oil. Whisk eggs very gently with a fork, gradually incorporating flour from the sides of the well. When mixture becomes too thick to mix with a fork, begin kneading with your hands. Knead dough for 8 to 12 minutes, until it is smooth and supple. Dust dough and work surface with semolina as needed to keep dough from becoming sticky. Wrap dough tightly in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Roll out dough with a pasta machine or a rolling pin to desired thickness. Cut into your favorite style of noodle or stuff with your favorite filling to make ravioli. Bring water to a boil in a large pot, then add 4 teaspoons salt. Cook pasta until tender but not mushy, 1 to 8 minutes depending on thickness. Drain immediately and toss with your favorite sauce. Roll out with a pin until paper thin and then cut into 2”x3” rectangles. Set aside. Place one tablespoon of filling in the center of each piece, leaving a small margin. Fold the bottom third of the pasta up to cover the filling, pinch the sides closed, and then fold the packet over onto the top third. Pinch the sides closed again (use a tiny bit of water with your fingertip to seal the sides if needed), set aside, and repeat until all the agnolotti are made.

Honshimeji mushroom The Honshimeji mushroom grows in bunches of delicate, compact white stems 1 to 2 inches high, topped with small light brown or off white caps. The flesh of this mushroom is crisp in texture, providing a crunchy and juicy meat that may taste somewhat nutty or herb flavored when cooked. It is not a good mushroom to serve raw, since the flavor and the ability to digest it will not be favorable. Saute’ in a small amount of butter and top on the pasta.

The Main Feature This dish was prepared with care and style however admirable this dish was the veal cheeks were a little on the dry side from over cooking. Overall a very good dish.

Braised Veal Cheeks
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil
10 veal cheeks, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
5 black peppercorns
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups veal stock
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard


Preheat oven to 325°. Combine breadcrumbs and next 3 ingredients. Set aside. Sprinkle veal cheeks with salt and pepper. Heat oil in an ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook veal cheeks, in two batches, 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove from pan. Reduce heat to medium, and add onion and next 3 ingredients. Cook vegetables 5 minutes or until browned. Add thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Add white wine, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of pan, and cook 2 minutes. Add veal stock, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Return veal cheeks to pan. Bake, covered, at 325° for 1 1/4 hours. (Veal cheeks are done when a small knife inserted in the middle slides out with no resistance.) Remove veal cheeks from pan; keep warm. Strain braising liquid, return liquid to pan, and reduce over medium-high heat to about 2/3 cup. Place veal cheeks on a roasting pan, and brush with mustard; sprinkle with herbed bread crumbs. Broil 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with reduced braising liquid.

Barbequed Onions
4 Vidalia or other sweet onions (each 14 to 18 ounces)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 strips bacon cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slivers
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup sweet red barbecue sauce
Freshly ground black pepper

You will also need 2 cups of wood chips soaked in water to cover for 1 hour, then drained and 4 strips of aluminum foil twisted into a doughnut-shaped rings.

Peel the onions. Using a sharp paring knife and starting at the top (opposite the stem end), cut an inverted cone-shaped cavity, about 2 1/2 inches across and 1-inch deep (the core will come out in a cone-shaped plug). Finely chop the pieces you remove from each onion. Set the onions, stem side down, on the foil rings. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet. Add the bacon and chopped onion and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the pecans after 2 minutes. Drain the bacon mixture in a strainer over a bowl, reserving the fat. Place a spoonful of bacon-mixture in the cavity of each onion. Spoon in some barbecue sauce and place a pat of butter (cut from the remaining butter) on top. Grind some fresh pepper on top of each onion. Brush the sides of the onions with bacon fat. The recipe can be prepared several hours ahead to this stage. Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a gas grill, place the wood chips in the smoker box or a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, toss the wood chips on the coals. Place the onions on the grate away from the fire. Indirect grill until onions are golden brown and tender, 40 to 60 minutes. To test for doneness, pinch the sides of the onion--they should be squeezably soft. If the filling starts to brown too much before the onions are fully cooked, tent with foil. Transfer the onions to a platter or plates and get ready to experience the lowly onion elevated to the level of art.