By Ashley Eames
Capital Cooking Contributor
Mike Isabella is one busy man. With two successful D.C. restaurants under his belt, a “Best New Chef” accolade from FOOD and WINE Magazine, and numerous highlights from the ever popular show Top Chef, Isabella can now add cookbook author to his long list of credentials. Isabella recently hosted a launch party and signing at Graffiato to unveil his first book, Mike Isabella’s Crazy Good Italian.
The recipes featured in the book are a reflection of Isabella’s childhood. When asked about his favorite recipe, he couldn’t pick just one. They are all favorites, which is why they ended up in his book. He fondly recounted holiday meals where he enjoyed his Aunt’s Pepper Rings, a signature family recipe.
The chef shared several recipes from the book. One can only hope to recreate the depth of flavor in each dish. It was truly impressive how well balanced each bite could be.
The Charred Asparagus was fresh and bright, served over creamy homemade ricotta and a spicy harissa vinaigrette. The dish was simple, but the different colors, textures and flavors blended together wonderfully. I thought that the heat from the vinaigrette would overpower the dish, but it actually heightened the flavor of the other components.
The Crispy Baby Goat with Goat Cheese Polenta was one of the most impressive dishes I’ve ever eaten. The goat was served over a velvety polenta with a saba vinaigrette. The recipe reminded me of the Hunkar Begendi dish at Zaytinya, where Isabella was previously head chef, but with an Italian flair. Isabella shared his secret to getting the goat so tender - oil-poaching the meat for hours before crisping it up in a pan. The braised goat was incredibly flavorful and the saba sauce, similar to balsamic vinegar, gave an underlying sweet note to the dish. It will go down in history as one of the best things I ever ate and I can’t wait to recreate it.
The party was capped off with Italian-inspired desserts from the cookbook, including a napoleon-style rainbow cookie and nutella pudding with grappa whipped cream and a hazelnut crumble.
Even Top Chef alumn and co-owner of Volt Restaurant, Bryan Voltaggio, came to the event to show his support.
All of these amazing dishes can be found in Isabella’s new cookbook for those who want to try their hand at being a Top Chef at home.