You may think that, while a whole week into December, we’re free and clear of fresh fruit harvesting, but you would be wrong! Surprisingly, the harvest season for pears is very late because of the process pear farmers undertake to ripen them. Pears taste bitter when allowed to ripen on the vine, so growers harvest the unripened pears in the fall, and then chill them to start the ripening process. It may take up to 3 to 5 weeks for a pear to actually ripen to a taste that we like! So December being National Pear Month works out perfectly: they’re just “in-season,” ripe and sweet for everyone to enjoy. Pear trees grow naturally in Europe, North Africa, and Asia, but now they are cultivated all over the world. There are over 3000 varieties of pears worldwide! But here in the United States we only get a few of them, including Bosc, Anjou, and the apple-looking Asian pear. I enjoy pears way more than apples or other seed fruits: they tend to be sweeter and softer than apples, and I love munching on one plain, whereas with other fruits I like to use them in cooking or baking projects. Either way, I really enjoy pears, and this is the perfect time to get them in any meal you can!
I’ve already highlighted the most famous dessert involving pears earlier in the year: Pears Helena is a delicious, decadent dessert that will hook anyone onto the mild sweetness of a pear. But some people are just savory fiends, and you don’t find many fruits involved in appetizers or entrees. So today I wanted to highlight some of the best pear dishes in New York City–that you don’t have to eat for dessert!
I’ve mentioned a lot of restaurants in New York City that are a product of the great partnership between the Bastianich clan of restaurateurs and celebrity chef Mario Batali in the past year, but most of them have shown that Batali’s “cuisine reigns supreme”, like Babbo and Otto Pizzeria. But Lidia Bastianich is no stranger to making excellent Italian cuisine and having her own level of fame in front of the camera! One of her restaurants in the Bastianich empire, Felidia, shows that she’s no slouch in the kitchen. Opened in 1981, Felidia has the class and style of a modern Bastianich/Batali restaurant but serves rustic, home-inspired Italian dishes that an Italian grandmother–like, well, Lidia herself–would make. One of the dishes you just have to try are her ravioli, filled with poached pears and pecorino cheese. You wouldn’t think that this would be a winning combination, but the lightness of the pear taste makes this an elegant dish with a surprisingly effective flavor profile. The price is hefty for a primi plate (first, or pasta dish in traditional Italian restaurants), but if you land a table at Felidia, it’s worth it to splurge on this dish.
243 E 58th St (between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave)
“The food at Felidia is delicious and very hearty. I sampled the pear and pecorino ravioli; it was the perfect combination of sweetness, saltiness and cheese. I also had the pasta special — fettuccini with garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes — which was my favorite dish of the night. It managed to taste both rich and fresh.”–New York Social Diary
“A culinary marvel, my birthday dinner at Felidia–a Lidia Bastainich (of Lidia’s Italy) restaurant. Every bite was adventurous but so perfectly executed. Cacio Pepe e Pere, fresh ravioli stuffed with pear and pecorino cheese, was like a little pillow of flavor that floated down from heaven.”–Food: A Love Story
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The third course was the first pasta course, and probably my favorite out of all the courses we had: Pear and Pecorino filled Ravioli. Now, some may feel that fruit has no place in a savory ravioli, but the ravioli, surprisingly, was not overly sweet. The homemade pasta was clearly the star. The pecorino was very smooth, and you could taste a hint of the pear, but not enough to make it sweet. The only downside, was the portion size, as the ravioli were rather miniscule.”–David N.
“Pear and Pecorino Ravioli – Down right the best pasta I had! Being the carnivore that I’m, I’m surprised how scrumptious this meatless dish tasted. The sweet filling goes so well with the savory pecorino cheese.”–Jack N.
Finding the mild-tasting pear in a high-end, completely balanced ravioli dish may seem credible, but what if I tell you the next savory pear dish is pear…on a pizza?! Don’t close that window yet! Trattoria Cinque has a specialty pizza that will not only keep you on the page, but re-align your philosophy of what a delicious New York slice should taste like. Much more than just a plain pizzeria, Trattoria Cinque offers great food and Italian-based cocktails for the hours after the office, including a selection of gourmet pizzas. You can’t head down to Ray’s and expect to find a white pizza topped with gorgonzola cheese and sliced pears, now would you? This massive thin-crust pizza is crispy and charred in ways that saucy, super-cheesy pizzas never get, and the unusual ingredients used both surprise and please the palate. The strong gorgonzola mixes well with the mild sliced pears, and a hint of truffle oil pulls everything on the pie together. Just one order is good enough for a whole group of friends, but still gives you some room in your belly for Trattoria’s drinks menu.
363 Greenwich St (between Harrison St & Franklin St)
“When our first appetizer arrived, it demonstrated another gimmick: gigantic servings, making the prices on the menu seem more pleasant after the food appears. The gorgonzola and pear pizza ($12) sails in on a wooden plank, a three-foot oval that’s enough to satisfy three or four diners. Luckily, the crust turns out to be wafer-thin, and the blue cheese not so pungent as to be revolting.”–The Village Voice
“The 10,000-square-foot Trattoria Cinque has a warm, glowing feeling, with brick archways, farm tables and beautifully lit bottles of limoncello, Aperol and Campari lining the walls. After-work crowds gather at the marble bar for Italian-themed cocktails (Aperol spritz, Bellini) and snacks like thin-crust pizza with Gorgonzola and pears or buffalo mozzarella-stuffed arancini (rice balls) with spicy arrabbiata sauce.”–NYC Go
“If you love ultra thin crust pizza with creative toppings head to Tribeca’s Trattoria Cinque where they are served with Chef Mirco Grassini’s other Tuscan specialties. We sampled the Lardo with Rosemary, seen here on the left, and the Margherita, right, to which the staff added some prosciutto for us. The Gorgonzola with Sliced Pears featured the most delicate blue cheese I have ever tasted.”–Hip Entertaining
“The pizza…ooohhh the pizza. I really wish I had my camera for this pizza. Being in New York, you’d think I’d be used to having good pizza, but one thing I never get used to is unique pizza with fantastic, unusual ingredients. The mix of gorgonzola and pear was nice but the addition of the truffle oil sealed the deal. I’ve realized (as I’m sure many people have realized) that I absolutely adore truffle. If only it wasn’t so darn expensive, I’d pour truffle oil on my cereal!”–Hungry Girl Chronicles
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“My first few visits, I spent at the bar trying different Italian wines and snacking on the AMAZING pizza! It is heaven sent. The margherita is delicious and light, but the pear gorgonzola is the real specialty. The thinnest crust I’ve ever seen in New York, this pizza truly resembles the good stuff from Italy. The gorgonzola/mozzarella blend is always delicious and is perfectly complimented by white truffle oil and pear. I think this pizza is the reason I stuck to the bar the first few times I came – I didn’t think it was possible to taste anything more delicious! Boy was I wrong!”–Alexandra M.
“The best thing about this pizza is it arrives straight from the oven, the super fresh and flavorful mozzarella-gorgonzola still oozing as you pull a slice away from the pie. It’s all made extra fragrant by the truffle oil and pop of fruit from the pear. This was eagerly consumed – no, devoured – by all!”–Tracy K.
Finally, speaking of fine-tasting libations…I bet most people reading this blog have had their share of glasses of sangria in their day. A punch-like mix of chilled wine and sliced fruits, sangria is a Spanish drink that always says “party.” Typically, when making the sangria out of red wine, chefs will add citrus fruit slices to brighten up the flavor of the dark wine, like lemons and oranges, and white wine sangria (the rarer of the two) is made with light summer fruits, like melons and grapes. But have you ever tasted a blush wine sangria? It may be considered a wine no-no to even touch blush wine (friends don’t let friends drink white zinfandel!), but the super-sweet wine lends itself well to sangria, which is sweeter than regular wine by definition. Las Ramblas in the West Village will make all three types of sangria to your liking, and their special ingredient in the mix is sliced pears, not a fruit that’s typically found in a sangria. The white and red sangrias are tasty enough, but the mix of the mild pear flavor with a blush wine sangria is absolutely outstanding. Try it for yourself, and you’ll get the full picture to how surprisingly appetizing pears can be–for appetizers, entrees, and even in your drink!
170 W 4th St (between Jones St & Cornelia St)
“Las Ramblas is a cozy little Spanish gem (so not good for large groups or strollers) with large windows, exposed brick and warm lighting. We had mussels, shrimp in garlic sauce and an eggplant bruschetta that were all tasty garlic goodness. The red pear sangria is the best I have ever tasted. It was made with a dry smooth red wine that was not watered down with ice.”-Traveling MomP>
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Saturday night, 9pm, this place was hoppin’. We had to wait a bit for a table, but started on some lovely red pear sangria while we waited (only $23 pitcher). And it is TASTY sangria – not cloying, not bogged down with mushy fruit, just slightly sweetened with a few slices of pear.”–Erica D.
“Thankfully, you don’t have to be in Spain for good food, you can get authentic Spanish food in Las Ramblas. The restaurant is small but so don’t bring too big of a group and be prepared to possibly wait. We started off the meal with a pitcher of pear sangria (there are a few other flavors as well). The pear sangria was excellent and there is actually real pear in it. The service was great and they kept coming to top up our glasses.”–Stephanie Q.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!