Best Suburban Restaurants

Our 10 day trip to Europe

Rainy Morning Market Visit - Split

John & I have just returned from a whirlwind trip to Italy and Croatia. Three countries in 10 days with 5 of them at Vin-Italy in Verona, then a visit to Emilio Bulfon and his amazing estate in Fruili, then on to Trieste and finally a drive across the border and through Slovenia, down the spectacular coastline of Croatia arriving finally in Split. After several days there and a visit to John’s family to say hello and see their winemaking facilities we headed back up to Italy to stay at Lake Garda for a night before braving the Milan traffic for the flight home. All in all a fantastic trip which energized us and filled us with inspiration for the spring & summer menu and of course wine events.

Over the next few weeks we will share the trip with you and introduce you to some of our favorite wines & winemakers from the trip, many of whom you will have the chance to meet at the restaurants in coming months. Also, look for some new entries from our chefs on techniques they use in the kitchen and of course more on the greenhouse & patio!

On Jasci Atteso Pecorino…..or…”How I Learned to Love a Non-cheesy wine”…. by John Aranza

Jasci Atteso Pecorino

Pecorino, one may recall, is a tasty cheese from the Adriatic side of Italy. Known for its beautiful briny quality that is reminiscent of salt & sea. But did you know it is also and incredible under-dog of a varietal once on the verge of extinction?

My first encounter with this illusive grape goes back 11 years to Verona during Vin Italy. Traveling with my mentor Henry Bishop, I felt Robin to Batman….and as was typical of him, carefully laid-out plans led to an introduction; which I pleasantly can say made a remarkable first impression. This was also my threshold moment into what a wine was capable of outside the expected norms.

This obscure varietal originates in the Marche region of Italy (central-east). The name is rumored to come from the fact that the sheep of the region would nibble these grapes along with their requisite grasslands as they were being herded to lowland pastures. These journey’s resulting in the eventual milking of the sheep and this milk being used by the artisan cheese-makersof the area using this milk to produce lush and salty Pecorino cheese. As it typical with Italy the elements of a region are often brought together harmoniously resulting in exemplary food & wine.

Small vineyards producing this grape are found scattered throughout the Marche & Abruzzo, which is where ours is found. The Pecorino we serve currently is not typical, very rich & structured where these wines usually offer a lighter, less intense expression of the grape. The grape itself is very white and thin-skinned. The fragility of the grape is in fact the reason it almost faded into legend, as it’s slight-physique can lead to early splitting and sometimes rot. Fruit yield then, understandably is limited.

That which survives however is quite the go-getter…. usually reaching full ripeness by September being it is well-suited for the harsher climate of these regions. The result is a rich, viscous, yellow-fruit nose which leads to a salty, minerality which is quite unexpected. Jasci produces this very limited, bio-dynamic, 2007 juice in Abruzzo. Suggested pairing would be our goat-cheese tortalacci, which has a brown-butter sauce complimented by black truffle…or simply enjoy with any sheep’s milk cheese, and reminisce about the great lengths this vino has traveled to become a food-driven-contender!

To Henry!

Henry Bishop III

Wine Recommendations & Recipe for A Gnocchi Side

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and as Shakespeare said ” Dining is always a great artistic opportunity” and in that spirit we are suggesting some inspirations to change up your usual turkey day table.
We began by talking with our Wine Director, John Aranza, about some different ideas to change up your wine selections. These are not the usual pairings but make for some fresh new flavors to pair with the usual fare. He has selected a white, and two reds from lesser known producers in the Mediterranean, which will pair nicely with the usual suspects on your Thanksgiving table. We also have included a recipe for our butternut squash gnocchi, a wonderful change up to the usual mashed potato or stuffing side. Several guests have asked for the recipe so here it is…happy hunting and Happy Thanksgiving!

For a departure from the usual chardonnay or pinot gris you might choose for your table, we suggest a tasty Pecorino. Our list includes a very full bodied example from Jasci, called Atteso. This particular Pecorino has an uncommon sweet & savory quality that will really punch up a pairing with poultry. For reds he recommends the 2007 Lini Lambrusco (on the lighter side) and a Teranum from Croatia (for a fuller bodied red).

The Lambrusco is spritzy and a little sweet with hints of stone fruit while the 2008 Piquentum Teranum is earthy and fuller bodied with lush fruit, great with Turkey or game meats. The grape in the Teranum is a kissing cousing to Italian Refosco.

So that takes care of the drinks….now on to the recipe for our Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Brussels Sprout leaves and Mushrooms, courtesy of our Sous Chef Matt Saccaro…..Making gnocchi is not for the faint of heart, but if you can master it, it makes a great new addition to your sides. So here we go……..

(makes an 8 oz portion so adjust up if you need to make a bigger batch)

30 oz. Roasted butternut squash
2 Cups whole Milk
2 Cups Semolina Flour
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
3 Eggs
2 Oz Butter
Pinch of Nutmeg

Place all ingredients into a wide flat pan. Cook over low heat constantly spreading mixture around the pan until it forms a tight dough and there are no lumps. It should be just slightly tacky. While hot, roll out dough into strands about 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut into half inch rounds. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Ingredients for sauce

4 oz Mushroom Stock*
1/4 cup sliced yellow onion
1 handful of picked brussels sprout leaves
1/2 cup sauteed cremini mushrooms
1 oz. butter
Handful of Sage Leaves (roughly chopped)
Olive Oil
Grated Pecorino


In medium saute pan pour about 2 tbsp. olive oil and heat. Add onions, cook onions over medium heat until lightly browned (caramelized). Add add brussels sprout leaves and 4 oz. of mushroom stock ( Recipe below) to pan until leaves are gently wilted. Add 1/4 cup sauteed mushrooms and a few leaves of chopped sage. Add gnocchi (make sure that heat is not to high or gnocchi will stick to pan). Cook until liquid is reduced by 2/3rds. Finish sauce with one ounce of butter. Pour mixture into serving vessel and garnish with grated pecorino. Serve.

Mushroom Stock

8 oz dried Porcini mushrooms
4 cups water
2 onions diced
1 carrot diced
3 stalks celery diced
4 Sprigs Thyme
5 bay leaves
1 head of garlic – crushed
Tbls Black Peppercorns

Combine all ingredients in stock pot, brink to simmer and reduce to three cups. Strain and set aside.

A Weekend at The Farm – Part Deux, Croatian Wines

When we first started to look at wines for the program at Autre Monde, our goal was to bring original, affordable wines, showcasing the rich variety of the Mediterranean to our guests. We also plan to showcase some domestic and even Midwestern wines, ( Michigan and Ohio are doing some nice Italian varietals – story for another entry). Wine is one of those things where local, in the Midwest is still a bit hard to achieve if you want to have a serious wine program. Our criteria with winemakers will focus more on the technique and farming practices of the vineyards on our list.

With that said, at the outset however, we had not considered Croatian wines. Not because they aren’t a fit, the Adriatic Coast of Croatia is across the water from Italy where the coastline of Slovenia and modern day Croatia is a mirror image of the boot. However, the long and difficult history of the former Yugoslavia, meant that the coast of Croatia remained a relatively closed society that only recently became a real tourist destination. The country has much of the same charm, cuisine and dedication to all things grape and olive as its neighbor across the sea. Jackie Kennedy is rumored to have favored it over all other places when visiting the Mediterranean.

Our interest is personal as well. My husband John has family near Split on the Adriatic Coast. On his first visit to Vinitaly, he and our friend Henry Bishop took a side trip to visit them and try some wine back in 2003. Henry helmed the wine program at Spiaggia for menu years and knows the wines from Italy about as well as anyone could. Just a short ferry ride from Ancona to the Croatian coast, they found a place where a new generation of wine makers are reinventing classic styles and making some exciting wines. Henry was as interested and impressed as we were and actually brought a few Slovenian whites and a Dignac back for the Spiaggia list. While they raved about the trip, I drooled over the video of the haltingly beautiful, unspoiled coastline. In the past few weeks, we happened upon an importer who is bringing in a number of Croatian wines and we quickly signed up for a tasting. What we enjoyed with Sasha confirmed that these wines are really coming into their own and will be a great addition to our list. (more…)