Batali Family Dinner at the New York Botanical Garden
Imagine spending a sunny, Sunday evening in a beautiful garden, eating a three-course meal made with fresh produce grown a few feet away. That’s how my Sunday was at the New York Botanical Garden for the first Family Dinners with Mario Batali’s Chefs of the season.
The Edible Academy at the Botanical Garden is a rich platform for interactive education programs for families to learn about growing and preparing vegetables, fruits and herbs. Together with Mario Batali’s Kitchen Gardens, chefs from Batali and Bastianich Hospitality Group cooked up a family-style menu featuring seasonal ingredients in the Whole Foods Market Family Garden Kitchen.
Walking into the garden, there are rows of vibrant produce, a rainbow of vegetables: bright green and yellow squash, red and yellow swiss chard, green tomatoes, fire engine red cherry tomatoes, deep purple red onions just to name a few. Along the garden, stands are crowded with kids shaking up their own Italian vinaigrette, designing their own aprons and potting a basil plant to take home. While waiting for dinner to start, I strolled through the garden and sat on a bench in the garden sipping on a selection of paired white and red wine (Librandi Cito Bianco and Librandi Ciro Rosso) and chamomile lemonade.
Once the bell was rung (yes an actual meal triangle was rung!), it was time to corral everyone to the picnic area with Chef Josh Laurano of Lupa Osteria Romana and Chef Dan Drohan of Otto Pizzeria. Here’s an overview of Sunday night’s menu:
Marinated Zucchini (with garlic and oregano)
Slices of green and yellow zucchini were marinated overnight in Sicilian oregano, garlic, white wine vinegar. They were nicely crisp, slightly wilted, delicate and acidic.
Cool Roasted Baby Carrots (with orange thyme vinaigrette)
Yellow and orange garden carrots, sliced lengthwise were perfectly tender, exactly how a carrot should taste.
Green Beans (wrapped in prosciutto, with mozzarella and cherry tomatoes)
Salty prosciutto wrapped around green and white string beans,a perfect bite with leaves of basil and tomatoes.
Eggplant Parmigiano (with bianca aglio olio, white garlic oil )
Thick slices of eggplant, breaded, stacked like a napoleon with layers of cheese and stewed tomatoes in between, topped with a layer of cheese. Served with thin pizza dough, cooked on a flat top, like a pita bread accompaniment in olive oil.
Mint & Lemon Semolina Cake (mint sauce, plum sauce and whipped creme fraiche)
Zesty lemon flavor prominent in the moist semolina cake slice. Drizzled with a pink plum jam and a concentrated green mint sauce topped with whipped creme fraiche, as beautiful on your palate as it was on your plate.
Overall it was a pleasant, family-friendly dinner in the garden. A calming and refreshing Sunday to recharge before the week ahead.