Beyond the Kids' Menu

Kid friendly risotto recipe...


Remember the manufactured brouhaha a couple over Fornino opening without a kids' menu--and then capitulating to parents' demands and adding one after all? I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought 1) all this over ONE GUY'S review on Yelp? and 2) hey HEY hey, aren't pizza and pasta already kid foods? We took our son to the Williamsburg original a few months ago and he had the $9 Margherita pie--which my husband helped him finish--just like when we go to kids'-menu-less Franny's. I'm with Park Slope parent and blogger Grace Freedman in believing that kids can benefit when you skip the kids' menu altogether.

This is the thinking behind Il Trulli owner Nicola Marzovilla's refusal to carry a children's menu, and it's the philosophy behind his own family meals. As he says in a recent New York Times article, “The table is very important... It’s about nutrition, it’s about family; you go right down the line. And the children’s menu is about the opposite — it’s about making it quick, making it easy, and moving on.”

Okay, I've fed my son from the kids' menu while traveling and the free crayons are hard to turn down. And yeah, I like that ordering off the kids' menu buys me 5 minutes of adult conversation. But we usually avoid restaurants with kids' menus. Why? Three reasons: because, like Marzovilla, I want eating out to be a more communal experience in which we share the same food experience; because I want to encourage my son to stretch and learn to eat adventurously; and because I think it's important that he learn that the world does not revolve around his needs and tastes.

In my opinion, "restaurant training" is an important aspect of raising a civilized child. It's not always pretty, but we've made it work, often by feeding our son off our own plates. During Brooklyn's restaurant week I took him to Ici,where he ate most of my delectable short ribs, and where the staff was very sweet and accommodating. Sometimes he orders off the sides or appetizer menu (he's a fan of the beans and rice at Bogota Bistro, though they actually have one of the better kids' menus I've seen). He's a more adventurous eater partly because he didn't inherit food-phobic genes or food allergies from me or my husband--but also because we expect him to try new things.

So I was excited to see that Park Slope newcomer Lot 2 doesn't offer a kids' menu. Instead, they carry sides like a $5 mac & cheese (ehrm, kids' menu in disguise?). Even better, you can order a child's portion of the Sunday Supper at less than half the adult price. We still haven't actually made it there for a Sunday Supper yet but I've gotten a taste of chef Daniel Rojo's cooking thanks to his farro risotto recipe below. "This dish is a great, healthy base for any number of vegetables and cheeses. The farro has a wonderful firm texture (or 'tooth'), and is virtually impossible to overcook," Rojo says. Tooth is right--prepare for a chewier risotto with a light nutty flavor (for a softer risotto, soak the farro in water in the refrigerator for a few hours before making the dish). I was skeptical about farro's appeal for my son but he gobbled it up and then told me he "loved" it. I'm sold.




Farro 'Risotto'



2 cups farro

5 cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup white wine

Salt & freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Grated parmesan cheese (to taste)



- Heat a thick bottomed pot over medium-high heat.

- Add olive oil, and heat it until it ripples (but before it begins to smoke).

- Add farro and 'pearl' (cook in oil so edges become opaque around edges), stirring vigorously until it smells faintly toasted.

- Add white wine and continue stirring until it evaporates. - Add stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

- Cook uncovered until most of the liquid is absorbed (30-40 minutes).

- When only a bit of the liquid remains, turn heat back up to medium-high until all of the stock has evaporated.

- Season with salt & pepper to taste.*

- Add cooked seasonal vegetables (sauteed mushrooms, blanched asparagus, par-boiled peas, fresh herbs, etc.), and stir in grated parmesan.

- Finish with additional parmesan on top and serve.

* Note: At this point, the farro can be spread on a baking pan to cool, then stored for up to 3 days. Just reheat with a little extra stock, and finish with vegetables and parmesan as above.

Where to get farro: Union Market, D'Vine Taste, Blue Apron, Park Slope Food Coop