Take comfort in heavier, richer foods
They say we’re biologically wired to crave heavier, richer food in colder months — something about adding some fat to our bones to survive frigid temperatures. And although we might not need it for survival anymore, the desire for comfort food is still there. Several Rochester chefs have tinkered with their menus to satisfy our cravings.
Hearty, heavier food
When I think of comfort food, I think of meat and potatoes. Thank goodness our area chefs are more creative than that.
"People tend to order salads a little less often, and instead go for fall pastas like pumpkin ravioli," says Natalie Victoria, an owner of Victoria’s Ristorante & Wine Bar in downtown Rochester. "When we head into winter, our chef’s page features more dishes with cream sauces as well."
And even if you’re watching calories this season — especially after stuffing yourself for Thanksgiving — there are options that are both hearty and healthy.
"We try to do a lighter twist on heavier food," says Eric Pater, chef and menu designer for Creative Cuisine Company restaurants, including City Cafe, Redwood Room and 300 First. At City Cafe, you can get a fall salmon dish, roasted butternut squash or a fall fruit salad, and 300 First is featuring a pistachio and mustard-crusted marlin served with roasted sweet potatoes.
Wild about meat
Of course, meat is definitely on the menu this time of year. For Victoria’s Tenderloin Bianco, pork tenderloin is sauteed in a white cream sauce that includes garlic and brandy, then topped with prosciutto ham and melted mozzarella, all served over a bed of pasta.
Chef Chris Rohe at Prescott’s continues to feature plenty of steaks and pork and vegetarian dishes, but his other entrees take a different focus.
"I go heavy on wild game for the fall and winter menu," he says. And by heavy, he means there are plenty of options — from buffalo and ostrich to pheasant, venison and three duck dishes.
When pressured to pick a favorite, Rohe goes for the pheasant. First, he marinates the skin-on pheasant breast a day or two in olive oil, sage, thyme, garlic and cracked red chili pepper. Then it’s grilled just enough to crisp the skin, so the meat is still slightly pink.
"It’s not overcooked, so the natural flavor still comes through," he says.
Drinks and desserts
Of course, a night out wouldn’t be complete without drinks and maybe a dessert to complement the hearty menu items. Go for the pomegranate martini, a popular seasonal drink at 300 First. Two desserts at Prescott’s feature local raspberry preserves: a lindsor tart and hazelnut tart. To finish off your meal at Victoria’s, consider Bailey’s Irish Cream cheesecake or homemade bread pudding. Happy hearty eating.
Do you have a favorite seasonal menu item at a local restaurant? Send your tips my way, and I might feature it in a future column. Who knows? You might even see your name in print.
Kimberly Van Brunt is a Rochester freelance writer. Quick Bites runs every Friday in Life/After Dark. Send restaurant news and tips to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.