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Chef’s Best: The Pusateri Cowan Experience

Chef’s Best: The Pusateri Cowan Experience by Mass Foodies at UxLocale

The seventh installment of the ever-growing Chef’s Best dinner series at UXLocale celebrated the humble memories and attachment to family cuisine and the innate culinary skills of Chef Elaine Pusateri Cowan.

UXLocale is a newcomer to the infrequent food scene of Uxbridge, MA and it has proclaimed itself as a destination eatery. Combining the picturesque backdrop of rolling green hills and mother nature with a sincere menu of Italian influenced cuisine, UXLocale is a one-of-kind twist on modern country. “These are the dishes that have been built through my family and every dish is connected to a specific experience, tradition or celebration,” said Chef Pusateri Cowan. From grandma’s original recipes to her son’s perfectly thumbed gnocchi, Chef Pusateri Cowan’s menu for Chef’s Best gave us a private seat at her family table.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage & Vodka Sauce: House-made Italian sausage & gnocchi, crushed tomatoes, rosemary, Asiago, Pecorino Romano, vodka, cream.
Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage & Vodka Sauce: House-made Italian sausage & gnocchi, crushed tomatoes, rosemary, Asiago, Pecorino Romano, vodka, cream.

Unlike past Chef’s Best, the menu was undisclosed prior to the event, leaving eventgoers in high anticipation of what to expect.  But UXLocale delivered a night of memorable dishes, insightful discussion about the influence of family and the value of passionate cooking. From the beginning, Chef Pusateri Cowan, introduced the elegance and simplicity behind Italian cuisine.

Starting with the Antipasto Di Mare Misto – a dish comprised of tender calamari, plump shrimp and sweet Vidalia onions marinated for three days in a lemony vinaigrette paired with crispy fried smelts over hollandaise – it was an instant palette awakening. The crispiness of the fried smelts and the freshness of the plump shrimp and tender calamari created a smooth transition to the richness of the Oyster Mushroom French Onion Soup – a soup combined of braised blue and white oyster mushrooms, caramelized onions in a rich marrow broth topped with crostini of their house-made bread and melted gruyere. The Oyster Mushroom French Soup reiterated Chef Pusateri Cowan’s emphasis on locally sourced foods and the need for fresh ingredients. “We have partnered with Lettuce Be Local, to ensure freshness in our dishes and expand our menu options with great finds from local farms by Lynn Stromberg,” said Chef Pusateri Cowan. Paired with the Domaine de la Guintrandy Cotes du Rhone Vielle Vignes, a wine from the south of France, it enhanced the richness of the Oyster Mushroom French Onion Soup with a smoky and spicy after taste.

Followed by an extensive dive into the world of homemade dough, fresh tomato sauces and rare toppings, the Trio Di Pizza could have stood as the main dish of the evening. Presenting three pizzas to a table, the sounds of utter enjoyment could be heard throughout the room. The Margherita – a pizza of fresh crushed Pomodoro tomatoes, mozzarella, freshly torn basil, and hint of oregano –  was the first pizza. Refreshing the taste palettes, it provided a unique connection between the Funghi Pizza – a pizza comprised of Gruyere, thinly sliced apple, rosemary-infused Portobello mushrooms and caramelized onions – the Spinaci Mostarda – a pizza of spinach sautéed in garlic, yellow and black mustard seeds, ricotta “kisses” and drizzle of honey – and a glass of La Stoppa Trebbiolo Rosso.

The Roasted Chioggia Beet Salad – a salad of roasted Chioggia beets over a bed of dressed arugula topped with a crumble of chevre and freshly snipped micro-greens – harmonized effortlessly with a glass of Haut Marin Les Fossils Blanc, giving an extra hint of freshness through a floral and honeysuckle flavor. “The beets were a must for this dish. They are beautiful and look like a kaleidoscope,” said Chef Pusateri Cowan.

As the final entrée dish, Chef Pusateri Cowan presented a Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage and Vodka Sauce – a dish with an extra delicate touch from her son and sous-chef, Chad, as he thumbed the individual gnocchi to emphasize the innate culinary skills behind the Pusateri Cowan family. A house-made Italian sausage and gnocchi with crushed tomatoes, rosemary, Asiago, Pecorino Romano and Vodka cream was the dish of the night, adding in a breath of fresh air with every bite. Paired with a Francesco Rinaldi Dolcetto d’Alba Roussot – a red wine from Piedmont, in Northern Italy, founded in 1870s – the dish infused an earthy flavor and resonated with the sentiments that align with comfort dishes.

While nights in Italy, finisce tutto a tarallucci e vino, at UXLocale the night ended with a French press and Ricotta Pie. Labeled as the “Italian Cheesecake,” the Ricotta Pie was a smooth, cheesy and creamy cake slash pie highlighted with hints of lemon and it was a flawless transition to the night’s end.

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Chef’s Best: The Gjonca Experience

Chef Alex Gjonca at Nuovo Restaurant talking to the group during the Chef's Best dinner event.
Oven Roasted Levrek – Branxino in brodetto, garlic, black pepper, parsley, vinegar sauce from Nuovo Restaurant during Chef's Best (Photo By Erb Photography)
Oven Roasted Levrek – Branxino in brodetto, garlic, black pepper, parsley, vinegar sauce from Nuovo Restaurant during Chef’s Best (Photo By Erb Photography)

With its sixth installment of the very popular Chef’s Best dinner series at Nuovo Restaurant, Mass Foodies celebrated a night of Albanian traditions and cultural enrichment. Defined as “The Gjonca Experience,” guests arrived for an evening of culinary fun as Executive Chef Alex Gjonca created a unique and flavorful dining experience for his guests.

Nuovo Restaurant, known for its diverse menu, upholds its name with a modern twist on classic Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. Combining flavors and textures that are the fundamental building blocks of growing up Albanian, Chef Gjonca’s dishes tell a story of its people and their culinary influence. “Albanian food relies heavily on olive oil and flour. It is influenced by Greece, Italy and Turkey,” said Chef Gjonca. “We incorporate a little bit of everything from the surrounding countries and it’s hard to not enjoy every bit of it.”

With a curiosity to indulge into the culinary cuisine of Chef Gjonca and his Albanian heritage, expectations were high…and Nuovo delivered with a night of traditions and elegance. From the beginning of The Gjonca Experience, there was immediate introduction to the powerful flavors behind the Mediterranean influences. Fried cubanelle peppers stuffed with feta cheese and garlic, spinach and leek cheese pies, and Kernacka (Albanian meatballs) lined the appetizer table as Chef Gjonca teased his guests for what was to come with the main courses.

Starting with the Pasha Qofte Soup – a mini rice and meatball soup in a chicken, egg yolk and yogurt broth – was a delicate introduction to the palette and a smooth transitioning dish to the Chobani Salad – a fresh salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green peppers, black olives, fresh garlic, olive oil, vinegar and feta cheese. Served in large bowls to be shared around the table, the Chobani Salad emphasized what Chef Gjonca said was essential to dining at Nuovo – the feeling of being part of the family. Staying true to its authenticity, the Pasha Qofte Soup and Chobani Salad were only but a sneak peek into the inspiration for the three main courses.

The Imam Bajalldi – a stuffed eggplant with caramelized onions, garlic, fresh parsley and fresh tomatoes – stood on its own as a flavorful first dish. Bursting with the warm sun kissed flavors of the tomatoes and the freshness of the parsley, the Imam Bajalldi appealed to all the senses with the wine pairing of an Albariño. Shifting his focus from vegetables to fish, Chef Gjonca’s second dish surpassed the first in flavors. The Oven Roasted Leverk – a branzino in brodetto, garlic, black pepper, parsley and vinegar sauce – paired with a glass of Masi Tupungato Pass Doble Malbec – was a dish that spoke to the Albanian heritage with its hearty sauce and strong garlic flavors. Soaking the fresh bread in the fish stew surrounding the branzino was highly encouraged by Chef Gjonca and his guests eagerly obliged.

Chef Gjonca truly “saved his best dish for last” with his Lamb Cutlet served with baked orzo. This dish comprised of two lamb cutlets over a bed of orzo truly were the center of attention as guests became utterly quiet to fully experience the flavors behind the famous Mediterranean meat and spices. Ultimately, it was the incredibly sweet sponge cake served alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a sweet fruit drizzle that ended the night. Small, in size, the cake was the perfect portion to satisfy the sweet craving after a long journey through the Albanian culinary expertise of Chef Gjonca.

One of the many tables at the Nuovo dinner for Chef's Best.
One of the many tables at the Nuovo dinner for Chef’s Best.

The Courses

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The Experience

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