i mentioned a couple of weeks ago that i was starting a dinner series called mangia!. i hosted brunch as my first (mostly because i needed the proper light so i could document it properly) and it turned out to be the best sunday funday i’ve had in a long while (but made for a terrible monday).
i dubbed it mangia! because it literally means “eats” in italian. i grew up with that word engrained in my head. full after your first helping? mangia!, my nona would say. full after your second helping? mangia! even typing this i can hear her voice in my head and it makes me smile. for as long as i can remember, eating has brought my family and friends together around the same table. the best part of being in love with food is that hunger is something everyone will always have in common. i wanted to start a dinner series as a way of bringing people together in a more intimate setting than a restaurant; to fill the desire of sharing with people, even strangers, my love of food and the comfort i find in it.
every menu that i plan, i want to be serving people exactly what i’d want to eat; the things i crave when i go to restaurants, the dishes that keep me thinking about them for days, and hope that they enjoy it just as much. for brunch, that meant a mix of sweet and savoury, and plenty of mimosas. i wanted my guests to walk into my apartment and immediately say “damn, that smells good”.
that ended up being a big slab of pork belly, purchased from the lovely folk at bespoke butchers in liberty village. pork belly is like bacon’s hotter, curvier sister. covered in a layer of delicious fat that crisps up in the oven, it’s meaty and salty and indulgent and so much more fun to eat. paired with fluffy french toast and caramelized bananas, it was the perfect ratio of sweet and savoury i was craving.
i also wanted my guests to leave with something to remember the event by – nothing fancy like a swag bag – but a little homemade parting gift they could enjoy later. i made little dino, rino and elephant gingersnap cookies in cute little bags. in an ideal world, they would have been perfect with an afternoon coffee to ward off the mimosa hangover, though we decided to keep drinking.
it was really the perfect kick off to the series. lots of laughter, good food and champagne. and i can’t wait til the next one. stay tuned!
mangia! will be hosted on the last weekend of every month – if you live in the area and would like to attend, friend me on facebook to be added to the event page 🙂
caramelized french toast & roasted pork belly
french toast (taken from my french toast recipe and doubled)
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teapoon vanilla
splash of dark rum or bourbon (optional)
3-4 pound slab of pork belly
5 garlic cloves
salt and pepper
•to make pork belly: remove pork belly from the fridge at least 1 hour prior to cooking. pork belly should almost be at room temperature. preheat oven to 500 degrees and score the fat of the pork belly (be careful not to cut the meat). slather fat side with olive oil and salt and pepper. place garlic cloves in the bottom of a shallow baking dish. place pork belly on top and put into pre-heated oven. cook, undisturbed for 40 minutes, or until skin starts to get crispy. turn oven down to 350 degrees and roast for another 90 minutes undisturbed. remove from pan and cover with tinfoil to let come to room temp then shred.
•make french toast according to directions here. keep warm on a cooling rack placed over a cookie sheet in a 300 degree preheated oven.
•to make caramelized bananas: while making french toast, heat butter and sugar a non-stick skillet over medium heat until melted. cut bananas in half and then in half length wise and add to pan flat side down. add liquor if using. cook for about 4 minutes or until bottoms start to brown, and flip, spooning syrup mixture overtop.
•to serve, place 2 pieces of french toast on a plate and top with bananas, spooning syrup mixture over top. dust with icing sugar.