Monday, January 2, 2012

The Beers of Eataly

On the corner of Broadway and 23rd street, just a short walk away from Penn Station, is a huge indoor market where you can find NYC’s best Italian food and drink under one roof.  There are merchants selling cheeses, gelato, vegetables, wines, beers and much more. It’s all a little overwhelming.  At least, that’s how I felt when Doreen and I first walked in.  It felt a little like a crowded department store where the ailes are purposely kept narrow so customers keep bumping into products they might want to buy. 

Along with all the retail shops, there are six restaurants to choose from. The only problem is finding a seat during lunch time.  Most had hour long waits for a table, but we were lucky enough to wander into a large open Piazza with standing tables.  As we walked in, a couple was just vacating their spot so we sidled right in their place.  A waiter materialized in seconds and minutes later we were enjoying our first Eatalian drinks. 
Doreen ordered a fine Pinot Noir and I started with a Birra Moretti La Rossa (7.2 % Alc.).  Moretti has been brewed in the northern Italian town of Udine for more than 150 years.  Made with water that flows from the nearby Austrian Alps, these beers have have won many awards including a gold and silver medal at the 2006 World Beer Cup.  My first choice was also a real winner.  La Rossa’s sweet caramel smell and malty taste combined wonderfully with our cheese plate. We were also served fresh bread with various dips including a honey and amaretto dip that sent my sweet tooth to Nirvana. 

We walked the market some more amazed at the selection of food and drink. After a couple tries, we found an eatery that had seats at the bar and we jumped at them.   Manza Ristorante specializes in local meats and fresh pastas. As an appetizer, we ordered mozzarella cheese with almonds, brown butter and guanciale, which is an Italian bacon made from the pig’s cheek.  The cheese was smooth and creamy and so delicious that we bought the ingredients on our way out and Doreen made the dish a few days later.
On our waiter/bartender’s recommendation, Doreen had a G. Menanrea e figli.  This amber lager was also a medal winner at the World Championships in 2002.  She found it light and refreshing with plenty of carbonation.  I had an Strada s. Felice Grando Plato  ( 8% Alc.) brewed in the town with the happy-sounding name of Chieri, Italy.   This amber ale is brewed with chestnuts grown in the Piedmont region and tastes of toffee and caramel.  Doreen chose the riggioli with duck ragu and foie gras, which is made from the “fat liver” of the duck.  I dined on spaghetti alla chiterra with lobster, tomato and basil.  Both dishes were excellent in their own way.
After our meal we walked the market and found a sign that said Birreria.  Now I don’t speak the language but I translated this to mean “beer area”.  Actually, it means brew pub or brewery. Underneath the sign, were some of the finest beers from Italy and what I think is one of the best American Breweries, Dogfish Head. Sam Calagione from DFH and Teo Musso of Baladin and Lurisia Breweries helped with the selection. 
They also helped develop the Birreria on the 14th floor.  By this hour the pub was mobbed and we were just able to grab a corner of the bar and one of the few DFH beers I haven’t had yet, Immort Ale.   At 11% alcohol it was way too strong for a post-meal beer, but at least I can add it to my list.
The bar crowd was friendly and the place apparently has an outdoor sitting area that I would have liked to see.  We were feeling a little cramped so we made our way back to the elevator and down to street level to purchase some of the treats we experienced today. 

So if you are looking for a taste of Italy but can’t afford to travel there, just jump on a train and in a flash you can be experiencing great Eatalian Cuisine.

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