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Taste of Stamford 2016

March 3, 2016 2 comments

Chamber of CommerceCity of Stamford (that is in Connecticut, not in England) sports vibrant “wining and dining” scene, with more than 300 restaurants (321, according to TripAdvisor – not bad for a city of about 126,000). City of Stamford also is well known for its business culture and as one of the biggest financial hubs outside of New York city, with Stamford Chamber of Commerce always hard at work to have all the businesses and people well connected. To showcase the love of good tasty food and wines, Chamber of Commerce organizes annual event called Taste of Stamford, which brings together purveyors of the fine food and willing patrons of the same, now in 23rd reincarnation.

I had a pleasure of attending the Taste of Stamford event, which took place last Thursday, and sample offerings of many Stamford’s fine restaurants. Even as portions were perfectly sized, it was literally impossible to taste everything – yes, “too much of a good thing” is real. I tried my best, but yes, failed. There were also good number of wines, beers and even some scotch – I limited myself to the wine only, and there were few nice discoveries there. So what I have for you here is [a very long] collection of pictures from the event – yes, most of them are about food, so if you are hungry, proceed at your own risk.

I also want to share an interesting observation – it seems that Southern Cuisine is a king (a queen?) in Stamford – the amount of pulled pork and grits in various reincarnations coming from many different restaurants was staggering – not something you would see even 5 years ago. Or may be pulled pork is the easiest tasty dish to make in the mass quantities – don’t know, but this is an interesting fact any way you want to look at it.

In no particular order, here are some of my highlights from the Taste of Stamford 2016 event:

Brown Dog Fancy Mustards – a very interesting collection of mustard, available in the number of locations in Stamford or over mail order ( free shipping). Horseradish was good, and Honey Dijon was particularly distinct, with expressive taste of honey clearly coming through.

Amore Cucina & Bar – tasty pork belly with polenta:

Sign of the Whale – were serving tasty Ahi Tuna Tacos and oyster shooters:

Judy’s Bar & Kitchen – very tasty pulled pork and Mac’n’Cheese:

David’s Soundview Catering – shrimp and grits, pulled pork and grits – delicious!

The Capital Grille – serving their famous Lobster Mac’n’Cheese and Kona crusted Filet Mignon (tasty!!):

Franklin Street Works offered a nice selection of the bite size appetizers:

Kona Grill – tasty sushi rolls, excellent presentation:

Columbus Park Trattoria – Italian all the way!

Olio Restaurant, Cantina Southwest Grill & Tequila Bar and Tawa all had tasty dishes (curry chicken from Tawa was spectacular):

One of the biggest surprises for me was the display from the local chain of supermarkets, ShopRite. We like ShopRite bakery very much, this is where we get most of the birthday cakes for various family occasions. It appears that ShopRite also offers great selection of the party platters. And the sushi which they were making right there at the event were outstanding:

BevMax, one of the biggest wine stores in Stamford, provided most of the wines at the event. I tasted a number of wines, and most of them were quite good. There were a few of Cabernet Sauvignon wines presented at the event – 2014 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley, 2013 Joseph Carr Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley and 2014 Iron Side Cabernet Sauvignon California – all very tasty, with good classic profile. My favorite wine was 2013 Gnarly Head 1924 Double Black Limited Edition California, “A dark red blend inspired by the field blends made popular during Prohibition.” – while powerfully boasting 15% ABV, the wine was smooth, polished and perfectly balanced.

And last but not least – dessert! Di Mare Pastry Shop stand had Cannoli 10 ways (okay, may be not 10, but lots of them in any case), and lots of other pastries – if you like cannoli, this was a cannoli paradise:

That is all I have for you, my friends – definitely was one tasty evening. Cheers!

True Passion: Amore Cucina and Bar, or a Visit with the Dough Scientist

June 19, 2015 15 comments

I’m sure that everyone involved in the craft, no matter what it is, has passion for what they do. Sometimes the passion simply shows through their work. But every once in a while we come across the person who simply exudes that passion, readily sharing it with the world through the words and deeds. In this series (as an engineer, I like to organize things), which I call “True Passion”, I plan to share my encounters with such a True Passion.

Amore RestaurantCan a visit to the pizza restaurant blow your mind? I mean the mind first of all, not even the palate? In the nation raised on Pizza Hut and Little Caesars, pizza is such a no-brainer, isn’t it?

We (bloggers) got together for the dinner at Amore Cucina & Bar in Stamford, Connecticut. Amore has an interesting story – in essence, it was the second oldest restaurant in Stamford, originally opened in 1975. In 2014, the original owner of the restaurant sold it, so we were visiting a new reincarnation of the Amore.

As we were finishing our customary chat and the round of cocktails before the dinner, the man walked in with a glass jar in his hand. Bruno DiFabio, Six-time World Pizza Champion and a new owner of Amore restaurant, came to share with us his passion about the … dough. Look, I love bread and all the things made out of dough, but I never even tried to think about dough as something which can solicit emotions (no problems, you can call me whatever you want, I’m still a student of life, one moment at a time). The dough for me was something you can quickly put together, or maybe buy at the local supermarket for a $1 for a big plastic-wrapped ball.

Make no mistake – dough can be an object of passion. Have you heard of the mother dough, essentially a dough which is always alive and used to start a new batch of dough every day? How about foraging your own wild yeast, from the different and totally unexpected places, every morning? How about super-digestible pizzas, which are a rave now in Europe – heard about those? When you meet a person like Bruno, you realize how the true passion looks like. And don’t discount the Pizza passion – having both gas and wood-fired oven in one relatively small restaurant? I think it really means something.

Well, this is the post about Amore restaurant, so as much as I would like to continue talking about our conversation with Bruno, I want to move on to the food, so I can inundate you with pictures. But if you want to know more about Bruno, here is the link – besides, visiting Amore restaurant might be a right thing to do as well.

Okay, let’s talk about our dinner, which was a true demonstration of the Bruno’s Pizza magic, and mastery of the Chef Jarred, who joined Bruno after his previous gig at Washington Prime. As usual we started from the cocktails. I had French Quarter (G’Vine Floraison Gin, St. Germain, Green Grapes, Basil Leaves, Lemon Juice, Fever-Tree Tonic), which was nice and refreshing. The the food started arriving on the tables, in multiple sets, above and beyond our expectations.

We started with the Bruno’s Bread w/ Sunday Sauce – very simple, but delicious. By the way, according to Bruno, it is a myth that you have to cook tomato sauce for hours and hours – you can pretty much develop the flavors within an hour, there is not much else you can achieve with the extra cooking time.

The next section of our menu was called Round Pies. The Round pie pizza at Amore is a thin-crust pizza, cooked in the wood-fired oven. Here is what we had:
New Haven White (little necks, Amore bacon, house mozarella, smoked lemon juice) – this pizza is a tribute to the Connecticut staple, Frank Pepe‘s White Clam Pizza, and it was excellent.
For the Queen (San Marzano, flor di latte mozarella, pecorino romano, basil, local egg) – while we think that adding egg to many dishes is a new discovery in the US, it appears that Italians had put an egg forever on Margherita Pizza – I love that food learning. The pizza was outstanding.
The Holy Cheesus (House Mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano, pecorino romano, fontina, burrata) – that was simply a Wow. No further comments.

Next up – Square Pies. This is a Neapolitan style pizza, also known as deep dish. This pizza is made in the gas-fired oven, where the temperature can reach 900F. It all comes down to the dough – I always thought of the deep dish pizza as heavy, but it is not in Bruno’s hands…  Here is what we tried:
Juliet (Houze Mozzarella, gogonzola dolce, fig jam, prosciutto, agrodolce) – excellent, great combination of flavors.
Pitt Master (Pulled pork, red onion, mozzarella, BBQ sauce, agave nectar) – different and excellent again

You must have Greens with dinner, right? So rest assured, we had a salad – pretty unique:
Arugula and Beet Salad (Goat cheese and candied walnuts) – what is unique about beets and arugula? How about beets which were braised in veal and chicken stock, and then pureed? This is not your typical beet salad, isn’t it?

And then there were Plates – with literally no holds barred. Take a look:
Meatballs (Sugo, house ricotta, agrodolce) – these were okay, a bit dense.
Octopus Puttanesca (Tomato, Sicily olives, garlic, n’duja sausage, capers) – this was excellent, the capers were deep fried, very nice heat overall.
Tuna Crudo (Calabrian chiles, toasted pumpkin seeds, red onion, torn parsley) – outstanding.
Shrimp & Polenta (tomato, house bacon, polenta) – that sweet polenta was just something else – another wow dish.
Lasagna Balls (Bolgnese and sugo) – forget arancini – this is what you really want to eat. Perfect crunch, and you can taste real lasagna, inside and outside. Yep, another wow.
Chicken Scarpariello (house sausage, peppadew, garlic, Italian polenta, green shallot) – spectacular flavors, really an excellent dish.
Whole Branzino, roasted and fried – wow!
Pasta Carbonara (linguine, guancalle, parsley and egg) – and wow again – so fresh and so light, you just can’t stop eating it.

After all that food do you think we still had room for Dessert? Well, actually, we did – but luckily, only for one:
Budino & Fat Pizelle (butterscotch, whipped cream, berry reduction) – a delicious concoction.

Yes, this was the end of our evening. I hope you were not too hungry before you read this post – sorry, forgot to give you my usual warning. If you are local, or if your travel will take you to Stamford, Amore Cucina & Bar might be your little neighborhood gem… Until the next time – cheers!

Amore Restaurant
921 Hope Street
Stamford, CT 06907
Phone: 203-357-1066
http://amorecucinastamford.com

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