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Chef: Rob Rubba
Dish: Grandma’s Zucchini Bread with Foie Gras Mousse
Whose Recipe: Rubba’s grandmother
My grandmother, Hazel, was not an extravagant cook. Meals at her house in the summertime were dropping a crab net and steaming them up with butter. However, zucchini bread was always her specialty. It wasn’t until years after she passed that I found the recipe again and dusted it off. At the time I was at Tallula and we had a dish that was foie with gingerbread. I gave grandma’s zucchini bread recipe a try and it was awesome with the foie. We basically saved it for the opening of Hazel, because it was that special. Now in the kitchen at Hazel, we still use the exact recipe she did (just with a little better ingredients).
Chef: Rob Weland
Dish: Aebleskiver (Danish Donuts)
Whose recipe: Weland’s mother-in-law
My wife and business partner, Amy, grew up in Denmark and her family adopted the tradition of eating these delicious little spheres of dough fried in a special pan around Christmastime and other special occasions. You eat them warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar and jam. When it came time to write the brunch menu, it was a no-brainer—I picked up the phone and got my mother-in-law’s recipe and she kindly sent me her pan too.
Restaurant: Brookland’s Finest
Chef/Owner: Shannan Troncoso
Whose recipe: Troncoso’s great-grandmother
My great-grandmother came to the United States from Naples, Italy, when she was 16 years old with her older sister. She settled in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1918. My extended family still lives in the same area today. It’s a recipe that’s been passed down through each generation, as they cooked them side-by-side growing up.
Restaurant: Casa Luca
Chef: Fabio Trabocchi
Dish: Guiseppe’s Braciole
Whose recipe: Trabocchi’s father
One of my favorite recipes, this is also one of my father’s favorites. One reason is, of course, that it is delicious, but the other may be that back when he was living on the farm, the prime cuts of pork usually went to the countess who owned the land. My father’s family was left with the so-called lesser cuts, such as pig’s brains, which were said to be good for kids. When the chance came to cook some prime cuts, my dad, the grill master in the family, was happy to show his stuff. I am willing to bet you could go back through all the generations of the Trabocchis and you will find them equally skilled at and in love with this classic charcoal-grilled, marinated pork chop. The herbs and citrus rind in the marinade are a perfect foil to the powerful meat flavor.
Restaurant: Kingbird (The Watergate)
Chef: Michael Santoro
Dish: Grandma Marigliatis Veal Ragout
Whose Recipe: Santoro’s best friend’s grandmother
My earliest food memory as a young child was having dinner at my own mother’s house, which would be typical English/German-type food and then going immediately over to my friend Nicholas’ house to eat some of his family’s home-cooked meals. A smorgasbord was made almost every night at their house consisting of homemade ravioli, breads, sweets, stews, gnocchi, and I literally ate two meals a day there for 18 years. I remember reaching above the stove into a large pot with the most gigantic joints of lamb/beef/pork I have ever seen. It was some of the best cooking I’ve ever tasted. When I told Nicholas’ grandma that I was putting her gravy on the menu, she broke out into tears over the phone.
Restaurant: The Royal
Owner: Paul Carlson
Dish: Pork empanadas
Whose recipe: Carlson’s mother
I love empanadas, not only because they are delicious, but also because they remind me of my childhood. I remember my mom, and co-owner of The Royal, making them as a snack or a full meal. Growing up in Colombia, she learned how to make them from my grandmother. The most popular version in the Carlson household is the empanada stuffed with pork (currently on The Royal’s menu), but the cheese empanadas with sugar sprinkled on top are a close second!
Chef: Meredith Tomason
Dish: Cocoa Crinkle Cookies
Whose recipe: Tomason’s grandmother
My grandmother was an avid baker. When I was little, in the summer we would spend a lot of time at our grandmother’s house down the shore in New Jersey. She was definitely influential in me getting bit by the baking bug, and the entrepreneurial bug for that matter. She used to sell a few baked goods to local shops in town, just for kicks. She also knew that if she wanted me to do something, a cookie bribe would usually do the trick. At first it would be something simple like a yummy chocolate chip or her delicious gingersnaps, but once the cocoa crinkle cookies came on the scene, I was hooked. They are the perfect balance of soft yet chewy, and just the right amount of chocolate. We add a touch of espresso powder to ours at RareSweets to heighten the flavor a bit. I like having these cookies on our menu, because it makes me feel like she is a part of our bakeshop team, even though she is no longer with us.