The Welcome Back Issue

Welcome back to Big Bites Tiny Kitchen. Thanks so much for coming back after our brief hiatus. After one year it was time for a renovation. We appreciate your patience as we spruced up the place and we hope you like the new and improved look. The kitchen is still as tiny as it ever was, but the food and the stories are growing! We’re adding more recipes and we even have a video series in the works! Please take your time and browse the site. Get familiar with it. Come back often and stay as long as you like. The kitchen is always open. Our goal is to create a table you enjoy sitting around even if just virtually. Because for us, meal time is the most important part of the day. So please, pull up a chair.

Speaking of sitting around the table, a few months ago on a warm July afternoon, we had a really fun and rare visit from my brother Michael and his wife Denise. It was a really great New York day. I took Denise to see a show and the Mikes spent the day exploring the city. Even though we knew the highlight of the day would be dinner at our favorite restaurant, Norma Gastronomia Siciliana, we still wanted to sit around OUR table with them. We needed to plan a pre-game meal. Given our limited time on that warm summer day, it couldn’t take long to prepare and it most certainly couldn’t involve the oven. Times like this call for a meat and cheese board or as the Italians might say, tagliere. We started using this term which means cutting board, influenced by our friends at Norma who offer what I think is the best version I’ve ever tasted.

Generous cuts of cured meats and plenty of cheese filled our largest cutting board to create this meal. For us, a killer board includes all of the food groups: meat, cheese, vegetable and bread. I know. I know. Before you pull out your pyramid, I know that these are not the official categories, but go with us on this. The first thing you need, to create the perfect tagliere is a trusted deli or Italian market. Ok honestly in a pinch a supermarket deli will do just fine. Back in my hometown of Northeast Philly we would undoubtedly head to Dattilo’s without a second thought. Here in NYC we have a couple options ranging from supermarket to specialty shop. The board we prepared for Michael and Denise came entirely from our neighborhood Italian Market, Todaro Bros. and it did not disappoint.  The second thing you need is a cutting board. The bigger the better as far as we’re concerned, but you can start small if you’re unsure. The rest involves just your personal taste, your appetite and for best results your favorite guests. This is where the fun starts. You basically fill said cutting board with all of your favorite deli items and then share it with the people you love most!

A traditional tagliere, I’m told includes meat, cheese, olives and pickles. Our friend and favorite Italian New Yorker, Elisa confirmed this for us. As you might suspect, we usually veer off course a bit and believe that the beauty of the board is that like us, it doesn’t conform to rules. Over time, we’ll share as many variations with you as we can possibly come up with, but when it comes down to it, the best tagliere is filled with only the foods you and your guests like best. We might be taking liberties but we think they can be carnivorous or vegetarian or even vegan if your so inclined. They’re personal and always satisfying. We’ve had them for dinner in a pinch although we don’t recommend it unless you are prepared for a midnight snack to follow!

So on that beautiful Sunday afternoon, even though we only had about an hour or so before Denise and I were off to the theater (it’s so easy to sound fancy in the city), we seriously could have sat around the table all day. I soaked up every minute we had together thoroughly enjoying the rare treat of having Michael and Denise in our New York City home. I probably spent more time shopping for and preparing this grand snack than we spent eating it, and it was totally worth it. The delicious food was only a wonderful by-product. It was the company and conversation that made this meal so special and that’s why I happily put so much effort into it.

Admittedly, I was really jealous when Denise and I left our respective Mikes still sitting around the table enjoying drinks and snacks. For as much as I love the city and I really do love it, I much prefer staying home, sitting around our table when entertaining guests. Suddenly A Bronx Tale didn’t sound quite as exciting as cheese and prosciutto and conversation! Mike and I are not theater people and we NEVER willingly go to Times Square so I was a bit nervous that something would go wrong and I’d be late to pick up our tickets at the box office. I get this way whenever we have out-of-town visitors, especially visitors that aren’t particularly city friendly. I worry about details I normally wouldn’t even think about. The city is easy for me. Crowded subways, busy streets, strange smells all blend into the scenery like the ambulance I barely notice until I’m facing it because I’m used to the sirens. Visitors especially suburban visitors however are a whole different story. It’s like mixing different sets of friends and feeling like you have to apologize for the loud friends who drink too much.

As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. I’m pretty sure Denise had a good time and she even made it through the subway. I think the two glasses of prosecco I poured her helped, but I’m still taking it as a personal win. As I suspected Mike and Mike had a great time without us, wandering around lower Manhattan, taking in stride the weekend subway closures and enjoying the sights. As proud as I am of my Sunday snack, the highlight of the day had to be our visit to Norma. Norma is that elusive neighborhood spot where the food is as authentic and delicious as if your Nonna made it, and they know your name and treat you like old friends and you leave wishing you could stay longer. Everyone should have a place like this.  It’s tiny and crowded in the most charming way and still offers more space than our apartment. It was the perfect way to end our visit. But just to make it a touch more New York, we stopped into Insomnia Cookies so Denise could bring back a treat for the kids. Thanks to social media, they’re big fans! I think this means our Philly visitors might return to do it again.

The next time you are entertaining friends, we hope you will try putting together your own tagliere. It’s perfect for when you need something a little more than a snack but less than a full meal. It’s great for guests or just you! You can take a look at the details of today’s board, but more importantly, tell us in the comments what you enjoy best on a cutting board snack.