Entertaining With: Amanda Agati

Amanda Agati

Entertaining is a skill that takes practice to acquire but when you’re a guest of Amanda Agati’s, she makes entertaining seem effortless. Amanda and her brother Greg hosted an elaborately catered pool party for about thirty guests last weekend. And Amanda herself presented us with a colorful variety of summer dishes poolside.

With an eye for food and fashion, Amanda’s culinary prowess is as impressive as her own. Amanda’s astute preparation allows her to wine, dine, and schmooze her guests without worrying about the food. Amanda’s charm paired with her divine seasonal fare make her an excellent hostess and an even better caterer.

Amanda’s attention for detail in the kitchen is apparent and appreciated in her execution. From appetizers to desserts, you can tell that the components in each dish were meticulously placed which is what makes them so refined.

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad

Grilled Vegetables

Amanda says she never follows any one recipe. When asked about how she comes up with recipes Amanda says, “I create new recipes of my own based on dishes I’ve eaten, recipes I’ve read, and my own ideas. Anyone can follow a recipe, but to create a new dish that is completely your own is really challenging and rewarding, but it is also exciting- and that is where my passion stems from.”

Moroccan Chicken

Steak Fajitas

The elegant presentation of Amanda’s food is reflective of the sophisticated ingredients she takes care in using such as the arugula and ricotta salata in her Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad. But with her favorite foods & ingredients being lobster, truffle oil, rabbit, and homemade pasta I’m not surprised! In regards to her sophistication Amanda says, “I have a high appreciation for fine dining since my parents exposed me to a variety of fine cuisines at a very young age. In college, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, a place I consider to be one of the great food capitals of the world. I also traveled extensively throughout Europe exploring regional cuisines. Enjoying great food is one my many pleasures in life.”

Entertaining by definition is to hold someone’s attention and Amanda Agati has clearly mastered that! At 24, this young and beautiful caterer has captured my attention with her enthusiasm for both food and life. Amanda is a third year law student at Fordham Law School and is currently interning with Burberry’s Intellectual Property Legal Department. Her interests include dancing, traveling, the culinary arts, and fashion. Amanda caters for small gatherings and intimate dinner parties, and can be reached at TheCutieFoodie@gmail.com to plan your event.

To be able to cook for people and share my love of food with them brings me great satisfaction,” Amanda Agati

Chocolate Cheesecake

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Best of: Fancy Food Show

Fancy Food Show Although Sunday was a lovely warm day filled with sunshine, I spent the entire afternoon indoors at the Fancy Food Show. With hundreds of booths distributing endless samples of artisanal cheeses, specialty spreads, pastas with gourmet sauces, rich chocolates, assorted teas and other goodies, food quickly took the place of sun.  I was practically glowing as I walked from isle to isle perusing all of the wonderful new foods and products I had yet to try. I had my work cut out for me.

The Fancy Food Show attracts over 20,000 attendees and 2,000 exhibitors representing 81 countries. Now that’s a lot of people AND a lot of food in one place. And with a sampling of 250,000 products including confections, cheeses, coffees, snacks, spices some even ethnic, natural, or organic. One would think you’d be satisfied in every culinary area with the vast amount of vendors. But to my surprise, the Fancy Food show seemed to be dominated by cheeses and antipasti such as cured olives, artichokes, and roasted red peppers. Although cheese happens to be one of my all time favorite foods, after a while my palette was completely desensitized to flavor and all I could grasp were textures. Clearly I had reached my capacity for sampling but at the same time I couldn’t help but think how these products differentiate themselves in the marketplace?

Cupcake Haribo

Fancy Food Show Cheese Fancy Food Show Funky Popcorn

As I strolled through countless rows of similar products I began to be more discerning of which samples I chose to try. The two things I judged each product by were:

1. Packaging

2. Sales Pitch/Customer Service

As a marketing and advertising professional, I’ve learned that its all about the packaging and presentation. Innovative designs draw the eye and a consumer’s curiosity. And a friendly and knowledgeable presentation can go a very long way in the marketplace.

And after four hours and approximately 40 samples later, I managed to escape with some great take away items. Some of my favorite and most innovative products from the Fancy Food Show are listed below, in preferential order. And be sure to check back over the next few weeks for my new Hot Product features.

Smart SpiceSmart Spice

“Every cook has a chef inside”. These pre-packaged single-serving spices are ideal for new cooks, moms, and even experienced chefs. Smart Spice was my favorite product at the show because of their innovative presentation of spices as well as their attractive packaging and staff.

LT BlendersLT Blender’s Frozen Concoctions (in a Bag)

Add liquor and water, shake freeze, and squeeze! LT Blender provides nearly instant frozen cocktails without the hassle of using a blender AND the ability to take your cocktail on-the-go. With over 10 varieties including margaritas, mudslides, and peach bellinis, there’s a flavor to suit your every mood. Check out their website for easy recipes to spice up your mix.

Prepara "Herb-Savor"

Prepara “Herb-Savor”

Prepara herb-savor will prolong the life of your fresh herbs for up to 3 weeks so you can enjoy fresh, flavorful meals every time you cook. And it comes in two sizes!

Au Printemps Gourmet Caramelized Onion and Blood Orange Confit

Though it’s not yet out on the market this outstanding condiment was just awarded the Sofi Gold Award for one of the most outstanding foods this year. This sweet yet savory marmalade pairs especially well with cheese and crackers. The onion and blood orange really bring out the flavors in the cheese its paired with.

Mozzarella CompanyMozzarella Company

Out of all the cheeses I’d sampled, the Mozzarella Company was my favorite. I tried so many gourmet varieties that I can’t remember which were which. But what I do remember was the creamy cottage cheese created especially for Kent Rathman’s Blue Plate Kitchen in Dallas.

Betsy's Cheese Straws Betsy’s Cheese Straws

This all natural southern snack was introduced to me by a family from Alabama. They were nice enough to give me a small bag to try at home and suggested pairing it with a cold glass of white wine. Similar in taste to Cheese-itz these straws have more body and crunch and are available in seven flavors, sweet and savory.

Kitchen Table Bakers Cheese Crisps

Kitchen Table Bakers Gourmet Cheese Crisps

Their low-fat gluten & sugar free cheese crisps are pretty tasty and are a well-developed niche snack.

Peanut Butter Cocktails? Yes Please!

 

CastriesAt Tuesday’s Indy Spirits Expo one liquor stood out above the rest and that was Castries Peanut Rum Cream. Castries is a new peanut butter liquor thats unique in both flavor and design. Its innovative packaging likely represents the subtle waves of roasted peanuts, cream, and aged rum that gives it that special something.

Served as a cocktail or a dessert, this sultry liquor is a smooth as it is versatile. Castries pairs exceptionally well with vanilla and espresso vodkas, caramel, chocolate syrup, and can even reduce into its own sauce – sweet or savory. Creamy. Seductive. Senusual. Pure. It’s everything you want in a man, I mean a rum. But there’s much more to Castries than its looks, or taste rather.

Castries is the creation of CEO David Jones and president Clyde Davis Jr. The two first collaborated on the idea when they met in business school in 2002. But David had envisioned recreating this wonderful concoction long before that. As a Barbados native, David grew up on a traditional Caribbean drink called peanut punch, similar in style and texture to a Lassi. By bringing it to the states, David wanted to intrigue peanut lovers and stay true to the essence of what traditional peanut punch tastes like. The liquor needed to appeal to consumers but also needed to stand up to other cocktail ingredients when mixed. He had his work cut out for him.

David was motivated by the fact that peanuts were consumed mainly as a snack and felt that they had much more to offer. The peanuts used are actually grown in Castries, the capital of Saint Lucia a country in the West Indies. As Castries heritage is a large part of why it was created, its only natural for its ingredients and distillation to take place in its birthplace.

So, if you’re dying to try this exotic version of peanut punch you can purchase it for $30 at Astor Wines or try one of many tantilizing drinks at a number of New York’s finest bars and restaurants here. You can also get a full assessment of Castries on Scotte’s Rum Pages.

For more memorable liquor from the Indy Spirits Expo, check back later.

Food Happenings & Happy Hour Wednesdays 6/22-6/28

Around the World

IndyExpo_BrandsI don’t know about you, but the last time I played around the world was in a fraternity house during rush at the University of Wisconsin. But tonight’s INDY SPIRITS EXPO bring us back with walk around tastings featuring vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila, mezcal, cognac and more.

General Admission tickets are priced at $50, but $75 gives you the full VIP treatment. Meet the distillers, brand owners, importers and others who make it possible for you to enjoy a great a variety of small batch, unique and artisinal spirits from around the world.

 

Pledge Allegiance to the Bar

NY Liberty Bar TourLooking for yet another reason to indulge in some afternoon cocktails? Home-bound on July 4th and looking to celebrate America’s birthday a week early? Then head over to the New York Liberty Bar Tour this Saturday from 1-9pm. The drinking begins at T.G. Whitneys and crawls your favorite Midtown East bars. Tickets start at $8 or enter to win a free pass here.

 

 

 

Get Your Eat On, Fancy-Style

FancyFoodShow

 

 

Get a taste of the most innovative food and beverage products at the 7th annual FANCY FOOD SHOW being held June 28-30 at the Jacob Javitz Center. Thousands of exhibitors from around the country and the world will be dishing out their latest products and that means samples! For $35 you can enjoy a three-day pass to this fancy display on everything from candy to cheese!

Past guest chef appearances that I have met are: Marcus Samuelsson (Aquavit, Merkato55), Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa), Heidi Klum (Klum Candies)

 

Wednesday is the New Saturday, for Ladies

Midtown East & Murray Hill bars are giving ladies a new reason to celebrate hump day with specials that we just can’t refuse.

Public House – Half priced martinis 5pm-12AM

Tonic – Ladies drink free 8-9pm

Van Diemens – Half priced drinks for Ladies

Choice – Your choice of 2 appetizers & 1 bottle of wine for $35

If you know of another GREAT HAPPY HOUR DEAL, post it here!

The Healthy Breakfast Cupcake

Although I believe cupcakes are on their way out, in terms of food trends, I can’t escape them. And with Buttercup Bake Shop and Crumbs on either side of me, let’s just say my consumption of cupcakes isn’t decreasing anytime soon.And the more cupcakes I eat, the more inclined I am to create my own and not just because I’m tired of paying $3.50 a pop.

Cupcakes seem fundamentally simple:

  1. Mix flour, sugar, butter, milk
  2. Bake
  3. Frost

So why are they so difficult to replicate in a healthy form? The reason is because the blending of butter and sugar gives cupcakes that fluffy light batter that very few healthy combinations can replicate. But through trial and error I will eventually create that winning combination of flavor and calories that will be THE HEALTHY CUPCAKE. But until I’ve found that perfect recipe, I’ll continue to perfect my Healthy Breakfast Cupcake.

The Healthy Breakfast Cupcake is really just a Banana Cupcake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting. This cupcake is a hybrid between a muffin and cupcake that makes for the ideal breakfast when you’re craving something sweet. Because the cupcake batter is made up of applesauce and Splenda, rather than butter and sugar, the texture of the stump tastes more like a muffin than it does a cake. But the sweet & creamy cinnamon cream cheese frosting gives it a touch of sweetness reminiscent of a cupcake that compliments a nice cup of coffee.

HEALTHY BREAKFAST CUPCAKE RECIPE (Banana Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting)

Banana Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Banana Cupcakes

Ingredients

Cupcake

  • 1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp Splenda Sugar Blend
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1 tbsp Canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed banana (about 4 ripe bananas)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Frosting

  • 4 oz low-fat cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts (for topping)

Preparations

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, Splenda sugar blend, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. Make a well in center of flour mixture. In well, mix together apple sauce, Canola oil, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Stir to incorporate flour mixture (do not overmix). Dividing evenly, spoon batter into muffin cups.
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. While cupcakes cool, lightly toast walnuts in a sautee pan over medium heat for about 4 minutes or until fragrant.
  5. While the cupcakes and walnuts cool, mix the cream cheese, butter, cinnamon, and vanilla with a hand blender. Gradually add the confectioners sugar to taste. The cream cheese mixture should no longer taste tangy but slightly sweet.
  6. Spread cupcake tops with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting. Top each cupcake with toasted walnuts. 

* Be sure to refrigerate these cupcakes if you have any leftovers since the cream cheese will spoil if left out!

Adventures in Late Night Eating: Silver Dollar Pancakes

After a wonderful evening of sipping cocktails and dancing up a storm, there’s nothing better to help you sleep than a nice hearty plate of silver dollar pancakes and bacon. And yes, at 2am, probably not the best thing to be eating but I just couldn’t supress the craving. So where did I go… MOONSTRUCK!

Sure, Moonstruck was packed to the brim with twenty somethings trying to prevent morning hangovers but so what? The satisfaction of late night eating is something that I just don’t think I could live without. And its a good thing I’m not the only one! My sister and my friend Allie joined me on our late night eating adventure to Moonstruck. And after giving the menu a QUICK once over, I decided to stick with my silver dollar pancakes and bacon. We also ordered cheddar cheese fries and a toasted corn muffin for Allie.

Moonstruck Silver Dollar Pancakes 

Moonstruck Corn Muffin

Moonstruck Cheddar Fries

Naturally I ate it all… and I must say that their silver dollar pancakes are phenomenal. Now this isn’t just my 2am hunger speaking. Despite the hour or my blood alcohol level, I still have tremendous judgment when it comes to food. And last Sunday morning, Moonstruck was dishing out superb late night fare.

So please, do yourself a favor and try the silver dollars!

MOONSTRUCK

449 Third Avenue (at 31st street)

200 West 23rd Street (at 9th avenue)

250 E 58th St (at 2nd avenue)

Giada’s Stress-Free Pasta

After watching an episode of Giada that focused on stress-free Italian cuisine, I couldn’t wait to make her Fusilli with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Now I’ve been known to watch quite a few cooking shows, so I am not easily tempted. But something about the combination of flavors in this dish inspired me.

Like all Hartley Confections recipes, I’ve revised Giada’s dish to suit my budget, available ingredients, and tastebuds. Hartley Confections’ Gemelli Medley features a hearty pasta accompanied by a medley of hot sausage, fresh cherry tomatoes, and spinach. Despite slight variations (using 7 items from the Top 10: Must-Have Kitchen Ingredients) all of the flavors remain the same and are equally delicious. I hightly recommend using gemelli pasta, which is probably fusilli’s sister, as it has a similar spiral shape though it is thicker and more narrow. I’ve found gemelli to be an easy pasta to keep al dente as it takes a great deal of time to overcook this particular type of pasta. I also recommend starting out with less cheese, and adding more as needed to keep the fat to a minimum!

I’ve halved the recipe which proves to be about three large servings that are great for stand alone meals. The Gemelli Medley is easily re-heated and makes a tasty, recession friendly, on-the-go meal which can made in 30 minutes!

GEMELLI MEDLEY

Gemelli Medley

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound Italian hot sausages (pork or turkey), casings removed
  • 1 (8-ounce) can artichoke hearts
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1  cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 8-12 ounces (1/2 – 3/4 of a package) gemelli pasta
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
  • 1/2 bag fresh baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves (optional)
  • 4 ounces fresh or shredded mozzarella, drained and cubed, optional
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preparations

  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the sausages and cook until brown, breaking up the meat into bite-size pieces, about 8 minutes.
  3. Transfer the sausage to a bowl. Add the artichokes and garlic to the same skillet, and saute over medium heat until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the broth and wine. Boil over medium-high heat until the sauce reduces slightly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Next add the cherry tomatoes.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the gemelli in boiling water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta (do not rinse).
  6. Gemelli MedleyAdd the pasta, sausage, 1/2 cup Parmesan, spinach, basil, and parsley (if using) to the artichoke mixture. Toss until the sauce is almost absorbed by the pasta. Stir in the mozzarella.
  7. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve with additional parmesan cheese, if needed.