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Restaurant Files: Fun Evening at the Sign Of The Whale in Stamford, Connecticut

June 21, 2016 2 comments
Sign of the Whale entranceWhat makes the restaurant visit “fun”? Good company and good conversation? Check. Good food? Check. Good drinks? Check. Good music, preferably live? Check. The view? Would be nice. Check.
Okay, now that we have the magic formula, I have a place for you, where you will be able to mark all of the above check boxes (well, you are in charge of your own fun company – can’t help you there) – Sign Of The Whale restaurant in bustling Harbor Point neighborhood in Stamford, Connecticut.
From the moment you walk in, you are greeted by spacious and noisy place – the noise is a sign of any happening restaurant where people like to stop by after a day of work, have a drink and discuss… whatever they feel like discussing. And let’s talk about that drink. The restaurant offers nice selection of cocktails. We had an opportunity to try a few – Raise the Roof (Silo Barrel Aged Gin, Apple Bite Cidre, black walnut bitters served over ice) was nice and refreshing (gin’s aromatics was somewhat dialed down though), Strawberry Mule (Leblon Cachaça Rum, lime juice, agave nectar, strawberries, ginger beer. Strawberry Garnish) was very pleasant and Spiked Fall Tea (Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka, Cranberry vodka, lemonade, sugar rim, lemon garnish) packed a nice punch.
I have to also mention the wine list at the Sign of the Whale. While it is rather on the short side, it sports an excellent selection of the interesting wines. I had a glass of 2013 La Galope Rosé Côtes de Gascogne – fresh, tart strawberries profile with great acidity. Another wine which I liked very much was 2014 Insurrection Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Blend South Australia – balanced fruit, overall nicely restrained and well complementing our steak (see below).

And then, of course, there was food.

Our selection of the appetizers started from the Shrimp Skewers (old bay seasoning) – perfectly cooked, excellent flavor profile.

shrimp skewers at the Sign of the Whale

Coming right after was Seafood Tower (clams, shrimp, lobster, two types of local oysters) – presentation alone makes you salivate profusely.Lobster and shrimp had perfect texture, and oysters were delicious.

Our dining experience continued with Chopped Kale Salad (Tuscan and Baby Kale tossed in sesame vinaigrette, topped with oranges, avocado, fennel and cucumbers) – to say that it was one of the very best kale salads I ever had would be an understatement – perfect balance of flavors with crunchy texture; sesame vinaigrette was simply spot on. Next arrived Ahi Tuna (Ahi Tuna tossed in soy ginger sauce, served over avocado cream, topped with yuzu aioli, and served with wonton chips and wasabi) – again, excellent flavor, very tasty.

Two more appetizers were completing first part of our dinner. Lobster Minis (Claw, tail and knuckle meat, lightly mixed with mayo, lime, lemon, and blood orange) were texturally good, however, the flavor was lacking for my taste. Fish Tacos (Haddock fried in tempura batter, with pineapple, apple and pickled red onion) had nice crunch on the fish, and apples with pickled onions were providing nice refreshing component.

Not to be outdone, our main course followed, starting with Seafood Cavatelli (Little hollow pasta shells, tossed with Lobster, shrimp, chopped clams and capers in lobster cream sauce), which I can describe in one word – delicious.

Our next dish, 16 oz Bone-in Rib Eye (Grilled, served with caramelized onions, Parmesan steak fries, sauteed spinach, chickpeas, shallots and house steak sauce) was easily everyone’s favorite at the table. Here my description will be even shorter – wow. Perfectly executed steak, triple-fried (!!) potatoes were amazing, house steak sauce was perfect, so all together was simply a wow.

Our last main dish was Pan Seared Atlantic Sea Scallops (U-10 scallops served with vegetable orzo pasta salad, finished with a Blood orange beurre blanc) – it was perfectly executed both in presentation and the texture of the scallops, but what spoiled the dish for me was the amount of salt on top – just too much.

Along the way we also had a pleasure of listening to the Chef Brian Murphy who came to check on us a few times and use the moment to talk about our delicious experience:

Chef Brian Murphy , Sign of the Whale

Chef Brian Murphy , Sign of the WhaleAnd now, let me  present to you the desserts! Remember I told you that today we are talking about concept of fun at the restaurant? So to make sure it is fun all the way, how about some adults desserts? Yep, you got that right – these would be the desserts which also have an addition of so called “adult beverages”. And I don’t know if any other place can do it better that the Sign of the Whale – even presentation of those adult beverages is an art form.

From the Tidal Wave Drinks menu, we had The Blue Whale (Smirnoff Vodka/Coconut Rum/Blue Curacao/Pineapple Juice/Sprite) and Old Man’s Orange Potion (Smirnoff Orange Vodka/Triple Sec/Orange Juice/Sprite) – tell me if you think those are not the fun to share:

More exciting desserts followed, like Ice Cream sandwiches, Adult Root Beer Floats and Seasonal sorbet. And for my ultimate happiness I can tell you that the regular coffee was excellent, which is more of a rarity nowadays.

You know what is also great at the Sign of the Whale?  The outside seating on the roof deck! Here is what you can see if you will wait until it will get dark outside:

Roof Top at the Sign of the Whale

harbor Point vew from Sign of the Whale

View from the roof top of Sign of the WhaleI hope I gave you enough reasons to go and check Sign of the Whale on your own. And if you will not – well, it will be your loss… Cheers!

Sign Of The Whale
6 Harbor Point Road
Stamford, CT 06902
Ph: (203) 883-8282
http://www.signofthewhalect.com/

Sign of the Whale Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wine On The Go: SF Uncork’d

May 15, 2016 2 comments

wine flight at SF Uncork'dMy main line of work (the one which pays the bills) includes good amount of travel, which I don’t mind, as I like traveling. Well, yes, four hours delay, and especially a night of sleep on the airport floor make me reconsider this statement, but still. Different people have different approach to the travel logistics, of course. One of the sales people I worked with before would always say – “ahh, we still have an hour and a half before the flight, let’s go have dinner, I know a great place” – granted, it was in pre-9/11 days, but I believe this “style” is still used by many. I, on another hand, prefer to wait at the airport for another hour as opposed to biting nails in the standstill traffic.

Last week, coming back from San Francisco, I did exactly that – arrived to the airport with solid few hours to spare. Which translates into an opportunity to have a glass of wine – assuming, you can a place for that. Wondering through United gates section of Terminal 3, I noticed the place called SF Uncork’d. I’ve been through the same section of the airport many times before but never saw the restaurant – I believe it was simply a store selling California wine – at the airport prices, so I was never a big fan. Now, this was a restaurant sporting wine everywhere, so I had to wander in.

First glance at the menu made me pretty happy – not only were many wines listed by the glass (reasonably priced), but SF Uncork’d also offered a good number of wine flights at very reasonable prices ($10-$12), each flight consisting of 3 wines. In my typical snobbish fashion, I’ve chosen most expensive ($25) flight called Fab Cabs and consisting of Stuhlmuller, Jordan and Nickel & Nickel Tench – well, I think $25 is a reasonable price for an opportunity to taste 3 of California classics.

Care to guess which one was my favorite? Let me give you my brief tasting notes, and you will figure it out.

Generally, Jordan is one of my favorite California Cabernets. This 2012 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley had nice aroma of the fresh blackberries and mint, however on the palate it was rather hot. It had some fruit, but nothing of the signature clean Jordan style. The wine was dispensed from the preservation system (you can see it below), so I can’t tell if the issue was simply the temperature or there was something wrong with the dispenser, but the wine was definitely not what I expected.

Wine Preservation system at SF Uncork'd

Next I had 2013 Stuhlmuller Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley, which had somewhat of a closed nose with a hint of red fruit, but on the palate this wine was singing – black currant, eucalyptus, good acidity – delicious Cabernet Sauvignon by all means. Last wine was 2013 Nickel & Nickel Tench Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Napa Valley – and it was mostly closed both on the nose and the palate. I probably would be able to give you some nuances, but the big picture was simple – the wine was not ready to drink by all means – at least this is what I think, as I never had aged Nickel & Nickel. I don’t know if you guessed correctly, but as you can tell now, Stuhlmuller was my favorite wine. An interesting ‘sidebar” note – Stuhlmuller retails for about half of Jordan, and Nickel & Nickel is 1.5 to 2 times more expensive than Jordan. Yep, go figure…

Of course SF Uncork’d is not only about the wine – food menu looks good too. I settled on the salad and sandwich. For the salad I had Raspberry Walnut Salad (Spring Mix & Butter lettuce, fresh tomatoes, candied walnuts, crumbled Gorgonzola, fresh raspberries & a side of low fat raspberry vinaigrette) – served very nicely with fresh raspberries and raspberry vinaigrette on a side in a little jar – salad was fresh and tasty.

Yes, of course you will be paying airport prices, which means at least 30% higher than at the average retail store, but – everything has the silver lining – SF Uncork’d wine prices are still significantly less compare to Duty Free stores.

If travel will take you to the Terminal 3 in San Francisco, now you know where to get a good glass of wine, good food and good service, so Happy Travels. Cheers!

SF Uncork’d
San Francisco International Airport
Terminal 3 Next to Gate 83 (Post-Security)
San Francisco, CA 94128
Ph: (650) 821-8975
http://sfuncorkd.com/

SF Uncork'd Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurant Files: Grand Experience at Bistro V in Greenwich, Connecticut

July 25, 2015 7 comments

For the past 2 years, I had an opportunity to experience many great Connecticut restaurants, often in the group of passionate foodies (also known as bloggers), and to share those experiences with the world. Majority of our visits included food and wine, but I would say that food was always a star. Don’t get me wrong – we had a lot of wonderful cocktails and wines at most of the places we visited, but we had to connect food with wine on our own.

What would make dining experience “Grand”? To me, this is simple – proper pairing of food with the wine completely changes your dining experience. When the wine “works” with the food, the result is greater than the simple sum of two – it is totally different, elevated experience, a true celebration for your taste buds. This is exactly what I experienced at our recent visit to Bistro V & Pâtisserie in Greenwich, Connecticut. Every dish on the menu had its own wine pairing – and most importantly, not just a pairing, but very successful pairing.

Bistro V originally opened in 1980 on the busy Greenwich Avenue strip of shops and restaurants in Greenwich. In 2014, Marc and Evelyne Penvenne (originally from Burgundy, the owners of another successful Greenwich eatery, Méli-Mélo Crêperie & Juice Bar) took over the Bistro V and since then reintroduced it to their customers, maintaining dining experience as French classic as it can be.

We started our evening with the cocktail of Byrrh and Sparkling wine. Byrrh is something I never heard of before. According to Wikipedia, it is “an aromatised wine-based apéritif made of red wine, mistelle, and quinine”. Byrrh was created in 1860s, and it was very popular as an apéritif in Europe and US. It disappeared in US after the Prohibition, and was reintroduced back only in 2012. The cocktail of Byrrh and Monmousseau sparkling wine was excellent, light, refreshing and very easy to drink ( dangerously easy).

While we were enjoying our apéritif, two Hors D’oeuvres showed up, perfectly single bite size – tiny toasts with smoked salmon and similarly sized Paté toasts. Both worked extremely well with our sparkling apéritif.

As we situated at our tables, the bread baskets arrived. It is not for nothing there is a word Pâtisserie in the name of the restaurant. Baking is an indelible part of Bistro V, and while these were not the pastries, which Bistro V is famous for (well deserves a separate post), these rolls were incredible – fresh, yeasty, comforting, crusty, warm and fuzzy feeling-inducing. Nope, can’t describe it – but this bread alone is well worth the restaurant visit.

Fresh made dinner roolsOne fun part of been in a group of bloggers (besides the fact that no dish arriving at the table can be touched until multiple cameras with flash and without would be deployed for the good period of time – and also nobody would scream at you about using the flash) is that you get to see and do things which would be impossible if you just come to eat at the restaurant as a regular customer. For instance, to visit the kitchen. We were given an opportunity to step into the kingdom of the Executive Chef Erik Erlichson and snap a few pictures as the food was ready to be brought out – definitely a fun thing to do.

Watermelon and Feta Salad ReadyOur dinner started with Watermelon Salad (Ricotts salata, Candy-pickled rind, pine nuts, baby arugula, lemon vinaigrette). The contrast of sweet watermelon and sharp cheese was perfect, and addition of peppery arugula and pine nuts provided both spicy undertones and the texture. The intended wine pairing was Barone Fini Pino Grigio from Veneto. I have to tell you that inner snob got in the way here, and I expressed my surprise with the Italian Pinot Grigio at the French restaurant to our server – as the result, my pour was very small and I finished it before salad arrived – I think they would work together well, but I was unable to establish that.

Our next dish was Chilled Maine Lobster (Court-Bouillon-poached, hearts of palm, radish, tomato, cilantro emulsion). With this dish, there was a slight inconsistency, which is probably unavoidable when serving tasting portions – the portions which had mostly the claws were excellent, but the other part of the body were rather chewy. But in any case, the dish paired perfectly with 2014 Domaine La Colombe Rosé, Provence, which was excellent, clean, with touch of strawberries and perfect balance.

Next up – the Iron Skillet Grilled Branzino (Shaved fennel in citrus emulsion, orange “oil”) – an outstanding presentation to begin with. Crispy skin and very tasty dish overall, with an excellent balance of flavor. Here we were first introduced to the range of wines from Lebanon. 2012 Ixsir Altitudes White, Lebanon (blend of Muscat, Viognier, Sauvignon, Sémillon) had a touch of white fruit on the nose, spicy balanced palate of white peaches and a hint of spices, overall an outstanding wine. The pairing was excellent, the wine really boosted the flavor of the dish, moving the whole experience to the next level.

Next dish was Crispy Hudson Valley Duck Breast (Salad of confit, snap peas, carrot ginger dressing) – this was simply a perfection on the plate – every component of the dish was excellent by itself and delicious together. The wine pairing was very surprising – Cabernet Sauvignon blend from France (I would rather expect to see a Pinot Noir with duck), but once again, the wine complemented the dish spot on, delivering the next level of hedonistic pleasure. “F” Cabernet Sauvignon by Dave Phinney, France (15% ABV) had nice red fruit, touch of herbs, dark fruit on the palate, mint, touch of earthiness, nice spice and excellent balance, making the high ABV absolutely unnoticeable.

At this point in the dinner my relationship with the server completely restored after the Pinot Grigio fiasco, and I got to taste the wine which was not a part of the wine program for the evening – 2012 Ixsir Altitudes Rosé, Lebanon, a blend of Syrah and Caladoc (a new grape for me!) which was excellent, crisp, with strawberries on the palate and clean acidity, very refreshing.

Question: have you come across a new phenomenon (for me, at least) – a natural mineral water from Bordeaux? I saw one recently at the wine store, and we got to taste one at the restaurant – we had Ô Muse Grand Cru de l’Eau Natural Mineral Water from Bordeaux, both still and sparkling. I wouldn’t claim that I noticed any difference with any other regular or sparkling water, but I still wanted to mention this as we should expect to see those more often.

Let’s get back to food. While all the dishes were outstanding, I still had a favorite of the evening – Versailles Steak Tartar (Filer Mignon pf grass-fed beef, house sauce, traditional condiments, baguette toasts) – my notes only say “wow! wow!” – do I need to say more? This dish was a fiesta of flavor, simply spectacular. If you like Steak tartar, you owe it to yourself to come and experience it at Bistro V. The wine pairing was absolutely spectacular as well. 2010 Ixsir Altitudes Cabernet Blend, Lebanon (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Caladoc, Tempranillo) had the nose of herbs, tobacco, smoke and red fruit. The palate was concentrated, with the nice tannins, dark fruit, firm and well structured – an excellent wine overall.

Our dessert was very simple, but uniquely refreshing and delicious – Chilled Fruit Soup (Cedric’s frozen yogurt). It also paired perfectly with Pineau de Charentes, a fortified wine made from the lightly fermented grape must with addition of neutral Cognac brandy.

At the end of the evening, we had an opportunity to thank Executive Chef Erik Erlichson for the delicious meal and inundate him with questions.

Chef Erik ErlichsonThere you have it, my friends – Grand Experience at the Bistro V in Greenwich, Connecticut. If you live in the area or plan to visit, I highly recommend you will make Bistro V a part of your dining plans. Cheers!

Bistro V
339 Greenwich Avenue
Greenwich, CT 06
Phone: 203-661-6634
http://versaillesgreenwich.com/

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Restaurant Files: Paloma in Stamford, Connecticut

June 28, 2015 11 comments

Paloma RestaurantI don’t think I ever confessed my love to the city of Stamford in this blog. Meanwhile, it is the city where I live for the past 20+ years, and it is one of my absolute favorite places in the US (yep, I’m biased like that). Compared to many towns of the same size (about 128,000 people live here), it has very unique and different architecture, beautiful downtown, and lots of areas directly adjacent to the water – the Atlantic Ocean (Long Island Sound, to be more precise). You don’t have to take my word about “unique and different” – come for a visit one day.

Over the past 5-7 years, number of areas in Stamford completely changed their appearance, especially at so called South Side (this is the area mostly by the water). The industrial landscape of the small repair and hardware shops and construction companies was replaced by the beautiful apartment buildings and brand new stores, such as Fairway Market, with obviously lots of people now living in the area. So all those people have to eat somewhere, right? Besides, Connecticut is considered one of the primary “foodie” areas, so it is a given that the newly developed areas attract new and interesting restaurants.

This is exactly what I want to present to you today – recently opened (second half of 2014) Paloma Restaurant at Harbor Point district of the city of Stamford, a brand new development which is still sporting lots of construction cranes as the major decoration. Paloma is a Latin-themed restaurant, part owned by the celebrity chef Aarón Sánchez. We visited restaurant with the group of bloggers, so as usual, I would like to share with you our experience (don’t continue reading if you are hungry, please – I’m not responsible for any excessive drooling and its consequences).

We started with cocktails before the dinner. Allegre Hemigway (Avion anejo tequila, atlantico reserve rum, lime, ruby red grapefruit, maraschino liquor) was nice, may be somewhat simplistic, but refreshing enough. The Bacon Old Fashion (the duke’s baconized bourbon, simple syrup, bitters) was somewhat disappointing. My problem is that if it says “bacon”, I need to taste that bacon – this was not the case here. It was definitely very potent, but I was unable to taste any bacon. If anything, I would probably serve this cocktail with a piece of bacon in it – well, I finished it anyway.

You know that I have to talk about the wine next. The wine list at Paloma is short, but well constructed with a good international selection of wines, both by the glass (generous 6 oz pour), and by the bottle. For the white, we had 2013 Adelsheim Pinot Gris Willamette Valley Oregon – bright flowers and white stone fruit aromatics on the nose, dry, crispy and restrained on the palate. For the red we had 2013 Casas del Bosque Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva Maipo Valley Chile – typical mint and black currant aromatics of Chilean Cabernet, velvety texture, perfect balance, dark fruit with a touch of herbs, full body – one delicious wine with a great QPR ($41 at a restaurant). I can tell you that Casas del Bosque is becoming one of my favorite Chilean producers – I recently had their Rosé, Carmenere and now Cabernet Sauvignon – all excellent wines.

Before we get to the food I have to mention that the wine list at Paloma greatly extends into the Bourbon, Scotch, Tequila, and my perennial favorite, Mezcal. I should’ve probably mentioned that as an “after-dinner” element, but while we are talking about all the drinks I would like to make sure you will be aware of that. I had one of the beautiful Mezcals from Del Maguey, which at $12/pour was an excellent value – and it was delicious. If you like this type of drinks, don’t miss it when you will visit Paloma, as they probably have the best list in Stamford in both selection and the prices.

Now, to the food! We started with Shrimp Tempura Tostadas (creamy aji mirasol, mango salsa) and Crab  Tostadas (chile arbol aioli, avocado puree) – nice single bite appetizers, good flavor and very easy to eat.

Our selection of appetizers continued with Lobster Ceviche (passion fruit, habanero sauce) – pleasant, but too sweet to my taste. Next, Tai Tiradito (snapper crudo, aji rocoto sauce, crispy hominy) – the snapper had nice crunch to it; overall, this was very spicy, but refreshing. Albondigas (meatballs, chipotle broth, mint, queso cotija) had very good texture, nicely done. But to be entirely honest, Mexican Street Corn (chipotle crema, queso cotija, herbs) was one of my two most favorite appetizers – an excellent array of flavors, very delicious. Combination of spicy chipotle crema and cotija cheese was just spot on. And the Queso Fundido (huitlacoche, wild mushrooms, corn tortillas) was another favorite – there was not a morsel of a crunchy cheese left in the skillet – everyone at the table loved it.

Next it was the time for the main course. Cuban Style Chicken (Cuban marinated roasted chicken, pickeled salad, tamarind chicken fried rice) was perfectly cooked, with lots of flavor in the meat – it was definitely well marinated. Fried rice was excellent, and the sauce was marrying all the dish’s components perfectly together. Braised Short Ribs (ancho-cacao rub, seasonal vegetables, horseradish gemolata) was one big chunk of beef – fork-tender and very flavorful, one of the definite highlights of the evening.

Camarones Mojo de Ajo (jumbo shrimp, chile de arbol butter, crispy grits cake) were first of all beautifully presented. The shrimp was perfectly cooked, but the real star of the dish was the crispy grits cake, as it had an excellent texture and flavor profile. Garganelli Pasta (chorizo, cauliflower, grilled escarole, tamarind reduction) was a comfort food – homey, satisfying, delicious; something you can poke at for a while, just trying to stretch the pleasure.

Now the last but not least – desserts! First, we had Churros (dolce de leche and agave-vanilla crema) – an absolutely delicious rendition of one of my favorite treats; a different shape, but a very familiar taste. Cheesecake (salted caramel, cherry chunk cookie cumble, ice cream) also had an unusual presentation, and the salted caramel component made it into a perfect after-dinner treat.

On the subject of the liquid desserts I would like to once again mention the excellent drinks selection at Paloma – from the liquors to bourbons and on to the mezcal, this is definitely something not to miss.

Overall, it was definitely a very good meal, and I’m glad we have another interesting dining option in Stamford. Hope you enjoyed the pictures. Cheers!

Paloma
15 Harbor Point Road
Stamford, CT 06902
Phone. 203-998-7500
http://www.palomagrill.com

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Restaurant Files: Gastro Bar in Stamford, CT

September 29, 2014 8 comments

Stamford, the town where I live, is a vibrant, “alive”, modern city, with no shortage of the restaurants (according to the Trip Advisor, Stamford, a city of about 123,000 has 390 restaurants – I believe that accounts for McDonalds “restaurants” as well, but still). And nevertheless, when I think about new interesting restaurants or when I’m asked to recommend a restaurant in Stamford, I almost start mumbling – especially, if the request is for the new restaurant. I can easily recommend places in Norwalk and other towns near by, but Stamford is always a challenge. This is why I was very happy when I was invited to yet another bloggers dinner at the new restaurant in Stamford, called Gastro Bar.

I like it when the name of the restaurant becomes part of the experience, as it builds anticipation. Think about it – when you are planning to visit a restaurant called “Corner Cafe” – does it create any level of expectations and excitement? Not unless you do the research and figure out what people think about it and what is served at such a restaurant. At the same time, when you hear the name “Gastro Bar”, such a name right away creates a feeling of excitement, as it hints at the upcoming gastronomical experience.

Gastro Bar is located in one of the busiest restaurant enclaves in Stamford – Columbus Park. From the street you walk into the nicely decorated space – it has charm, but doesn’t overwhelm. The front wall of the restaurant is pretty much made out of glass, so even while you are inside, you have a feeling of the open space and feel connected to the street outside. Bar is very substantial, and looks very appropriate for the place which has the “Bar” as part of the name. As usual, we started our visit from a few drinks. The cocktails list was small, but the drinks were outstanding. Slow & Low (Slow & Low whiskey • muddled oranges & lemon • ginger beer) had delicious fresh orange, very refreshing. Gastro Mule (Hendricks Gin • pineapple juice, triple sec • St. Germain • Rose wine) was my favorite – I really don’t like sweet cocktails, and this was a perfection – very tasty and again perfectly refreshing. Wine list had a good selection, mostly focused on California and Italy. We ended up choosing 2011 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles – the wine was rich, with dark fruit and tobacco notes, beautiful depth and excellent balance; this was definitely a spot on selection for our dinner.

And then there was food. We started with the Fried Calamari (Smoked Aioli) which had a very good texture. Next appetizer was Oysters (Crispy oysters, avocado, pureé, grapefruit & radish), which were deep fried and served in a very unique way, with avocado and grape fruit. We had two pizzas, which were more of a tart style, with a very think and crunchy crust. Fig Pizza (goat cheese, 10 year balsamic, prosciutto, arugula) was delicious with large chunks of prosciutto and fig wonderfully balancing the goat cheese. Mushroom Pizza (mushrooms, bacon, fontina) was outstanding, with each ingredient contributing its own flavor profile, and every bite been cravingly delicious.

Up next – Salmon Tartar (Jalapeños, shallots, crispy potatoes, cilantro) – perfectly salmon, perfectly clean profile with nice heat in the back and textural contrast of crispy potatoes. Brussel Sprout Salad (Shaved Brussel sprouts, truffle oil, lemon juice, crispy risotto cake) was also very tasty, a nice combination with risotto cake. Fried Quinoa (Mango Chutney) had perfect balance of flavor and was quintessentially Mediterranean, very much resembling falafel – and it was very tasty in cobination with the mango chutney. Artichoke-stuffed Portabello Mushrooms also had an excellent balance of flavor, with artichoke complementing and extending the mushroom flavor. Albondigas (lamb meatballs, pomodoro, baby kale) had a clear lamb profile, and the dish worked perfectly with the Cabernet Sauvignon we were drinking. Crab Cake (arugula, fresh tomato, cherry pepper sauce) finished our appetizers selection, and what finish this was! Beautiful presentation, and the freshness of the crab cake was on par with the best crab cakes I had in a restaurant in Chesapeake Bay, made from the freshly caught crabs. Even thinking about this crab cake makes me salivate…

Out entrée started with Panzotti (butternut squash, toasted almonds, brown butter), delicious homey pasta, a perfect comfort food. Baked King Salmon (horseradish, beets, whipped potato, braised celery) was outstanding all the way. While salmon was perfectly cooked, for me the stars of the dish were vegetables – sweet beets and braised celery were just spectacular.

Then Chef Fernando Gomez showed up to personally present the Paella:

Chef Fernando Gomez presenting PaellaPaella (clams, shrimp, chicken, mussels, calamari, sweet peas, chorizo, saffron rice) was excellent, great flavor and texture, very well executed.

After all this food, I’m very glad that dessert was of a reasonable size. The Cheesecake had very nice density – not too hard, but not easily falling apart either. And as I like all the things coffee, the Espresso Crème Brûlée was just a wow finish to this outstanding meal with its clear coffee profile.

As usual, a big thanks to the Executive Chef Fernando Gomez, and I’m also glad that I had an opportunity to include into the picture our tireless guide to all the culinary extravaganza – Lin Kavanagh.

Linda Kavanagh and Chef Fernando Gomez

We are done here, folks. I hope I didn’t make you too hungry. And I’m also glad that Stamford now has restaurants such as Gastro Bar, where classic perfectly mingles with innovation and creativity. Cheers!

Disclaimer: I visited restaurant as a guest of the management. All opinions are my own.

Gastro Bar Stamford
78 West Park Place
Stamford, CT 06901
203-817-0392
http://www.gastrobarstamford.com
Gastro Bar on Urbanspoon

 

…And Dinner Becomes an Experience

August 22, 2014 16 comments

The dinner is a dinner is a dinner. Sometimes we eat just to satisfy the basic bodily crave for energy. We put something in the mouth, doesn’t really matter what, hopefully chew on it (or not) before gulping it down, and we are done. Then there are family dinners, let’s say spaghetti and meatballs – everything is home made and tasty, but the school day, upcoming play and huge homework project due tomorrow take over the whole experience. And then there are dinners where the food is perfect, the wine pairing is spot on and the good company of friends is amazing – those dinners become the experience.

We have a tradition with our friends – an adults getaway during late summer or early fall. Find B&B to stay within 2-3 hours of driving distance, visit nature trails, little towns and museums, visit wineries, have a good dinner, have fun and most importantly, enjoy the company of each other. Simple, isn’t it? This year would be the our fourth time doing this, and most of our trips had been described in this blog to the various degree. In 2010, we had a great time in Milford, Pennsylvania, and our dinner was definitely an experience. For that dinner, we were allowed to bring our own wines, so we managed to create the special experience (you can read about it here). The next year we went to the Grafton, Vermont – of course we had a great time, but when in Vermont, the cheese is much bigger deal than wine, so it didn’t really make it into this blog, and dinner didn’t make it into the “experience” level. Last year we stayed in the little town in the area of Woodstock, NY (the town was called Palenville), and the highlight of the trip was the visit to the Hudson Distillery (nope, dinner didn’t make it again). This year, we happened to stay in my home state, Connecticut, in the town of Norfolk. We had a great time visiting Connecticut wineries and visiting places in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts (yep, you can move through all three states within 20 minutes of driving), but the highlight was … yes, you got it – the dinner.

Norfolk, a little town in northern Connecticut, is not exactly a Michelin-starred restaurant oasis. However, does the food needs to be acknowledged with the Micheline star to be good? Not really. It only takes a little bit of love and a little bit of soul. And when we take the soulful food, we can elevate it to the next level with … wine, of course (you didn’t expect me to say coke, didn’t you). And this is how you create an experience – one dish, one wine.

Once we had our plans for Norfolk set (meaning – we reserved our B&B), we reached out to the few restaurants in the area. We said that we are coming in a large group, and we asked for the special tasting menu, which we can pair with wine (preferably brought by us). Chef Heidi Dinsmore of the Wood Creek Bar and Grill offered a tasting menu – and graciously allowed us to bring our own wines without even charging a corking fee. The rest is history – one of the best dinner experiences ever, which you can see (sorry, only see) below.

Appetizers

Crostini with Roasted Pear Gorgonzola and a Balsamic Drizzle

Wine: 2009 Graham Beck Brut Rosé, South Africa

There was a nice combination of flavors in crostini, but we could probably use more pear and less cheese, and the toast itself could probably be a bit less garlic-y. The South African sparkler was very classic, with nice toasted nose, touch of yeast and fine mousse. As for the pairing, I would call it “unoffensive” – both the crostini and wine stayed in its own universe, and they didn’t collide nor complement each other.

Micro greens with Strawberries and a Lemon Vinaigrette

Wine: 2013 La Ferme Saint Pierre Cuvée Juliette Rosé Côtes du Ventoux, France

Salad was nice and fresh (what else do you want from the green salad, right?), and the wine had a nice strawberry profile. The pairing was excellent, the wine really complemented and enhanced the dish, despite the “simple salad” nature of it.

Shrimp with a Champagne Beurre Blanc

Wine: 2011 Bodegas La Cana Albariño Rias Baixas, Spain

Shrimp was cooked perfectly, and Beurre Blanc sauce was outstanding. La Cana Albariño is one of my favorite wines, and this bottle was no exception – bright fruit profile on the nose, but restrained and delicious on the palate. And the pairing? Spectacular, simply spot on. Wine’s acidity was a great complement to the sauce, so the dish was greatly enhanced.

Main Course

Poached Halibut over Spinach, Saffron Heirloom Tomato Sauce

Wine: 2012 Buil & Giné Joan Giné Blanc, Priorat DOQ, Spain

Halibut, which is one of my favorite types of fish, was done “just right”, and together with spinach and the sauce was creating just one spectacular flavor pop. And then the wine… This wine deserves a whole blog post dedicated just to that wine by itself. White Priorat, a blend of 40% White Grenache, 36% Macabeo, 20% Viognier and 4% Pedro Ximenez had stunning complexity – orange peel, white stone fruit, minerality – really an excellent wine, rivaling best Chardonnays. And together with the dish? Another spectacular, spot on pairing, complementing and greatly enhancing flavor.

Beef Tenderloin over Mashed Celery Root, Bordelaise, Tiny mini Potato au Gratin

Wine: 2010 Château de Pibarnon Bandol Rouge Les Restanques de Pibarnon, Bandol, France

Beef was perfectly cooked, and together with the celery root and Bordelaise sauce, every bite was literally divine. The Bandol wine, which is 90% Mourvedre and 10% Grenache, had a warm spice flavor profile, so together with the steak the pairing was just outright delicious.

Guinness Marinated Pork, Cherry Au Jus, Arugula, Crispy Polenta

Wine: 2011 Bodegas Caro ‘Amancaya’ Gran Reserva Malbec – Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina

The pork was melting in the mouth and the combination with cherries was excellent. The wine, made from two of the Argentina star grapes – Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, had an open nose with spicy, cherry-loaded palate. As you can imagine, cherries in the sauce and in the wine played together wonderfully, creating – yep, again – a super-successful pairing.

Dessert

Fresh-made Sorbetto – delicious, clean, refreshing. Perfectly restored the palate before the dessert course.

Chocolate Tart with Fresh Fruit

Wine: 2000 Philip Togni Vineyard Ca’ Togni Sweet Red, Napa Valley

You can’t go wrong with the chocolate, and this dessert was a great proof of that – every bite was a decadent pleasure. And the wine… What can I tell you? It was definitely a mature wine, fragrant, with some sweet cherry notes and balancing acidity. Based on the information on producer’s web site, this wine was inspired by the famous South African dessert wine Klein Constantia, and it is produced from the grape called Black Hamburg (known as Black Muscat), which is quite rare in Napa Valley  – and it is also a new grape for me (!). The wine perfectly complemented and literally added a new dimension to the chocolate tart, so our final pairing was again “just perfect”.

Chef Heidi Dinsmore

Chef Heidi Dinsmore

As we were settling into the dessert, Chef Heidi Dinsmore, the creator of the delicious experience, came to talk to us, so we had an opportunity to thank her and to tell her how much we enjoyed our evening, and how delicious the food was. If you are ever in the area of Norfolk, Connecticut, Wood Creek Bar and Grill should be on your list. Ahh, and I also have to say a very big thank you to our waitress Jessica, who did an amazing job managing our wine program, opening the bottles, changing the glasses and of course serving food – she was absolutely fantastic.

There you have it, my friends – the food, the wine and the company – a simple recipe for an unforgettable experience.  Cheers!

Wood Creek Bar and Grill
3 Station Place
Norfolk, CT 06058
(860) 542-1200
http://www.woodcreekbarandgrill.com
Wood Creek Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Files: Modern Classic or Classic Modern? Carl Anthony Trattoria in Monroe, CT

July 18, 2014 11 comments

Restaurant Ready for serviceWhen it comes to the Italian cuisine, or probably any cuisine for that matter, what constitutes a “classic cuisine” for you? Old familiar dishes, which stay unchanged for many many years (if it works, don’t touch it)? And then another question is what is the “modern cuisine”? You change the recipe all the time, just to make sure you use ingredients which are “in vogue” (like pork belly or Brussels sprouts today)? Or do you take the familiar dish and put a spin on it? If you ask me, I’m all for the “tasty” – I’ve had classics such as fried calamari or mozzarella sticks done in many unusual ways, so I generally don’t trouble myself with classification “classic versus modern” – if it tastes good, that’s all I want (okay, it is definitely a bonus when food also looks good).

Let me explain why I am taking about this classic/modern relationship. Few weeks ago we visited restaurant called Carl Anthony Trattoria in Monroe, Connecticut. The restaurant had been around for 15 years, and while it has a decidedly Italian flair, the menu represents that exact combination of classic and modern dishes I’m talking about here. You know what – forget this classic and modern – creative is the right word – and I think you will agree with me when we will be talking about food. But – let’s start with cocktails and wine.

The cocktail list was very creative (aha, see, I used that word again) – and here are some of the cocktails we tasted: Mambo Italiano (Averno Amaro, muddled mint and lemons, ginger ale), Black Cherry Mojito (Cruzan Black Cherry Rum, muddled mint and cherry), Cucumber Gimlet (Pearl Cucumber-fresh basil, lemon and lime juice on the rocks) and Clementine Caipirinha (Leblon Cachaça, St. Germain, clementine, orange & lime). Caipirinha was nice, but not necessarily my favorite – I simply prefer more lime.

The highlight of the cocktail extravaganza was the concoction called Campfire (graham cracker glass rim drizzled with chocolate syrup, Smirnoff Fluff Vodka, Baileys, flaming marshmallows). While I didn’t taste it, I captured it in the making:

When it comes to the wine, we didn’t really get a chance to look at the wine list, the wine were preselected for our dinner. The choice of red was 2011 San Giuseppe Pinot Noir Veneto IGT (12% ABV). I’m yet to find a Pinot Noir (or a Pinot Nero as it is typically called) from Italy which I would like – this was definitely not the one. This wine was flat and boring – it was drinkable, but really had no life in it (Drinkability: 7- ). The white wine, 2012 Donnachiara Fiano de Avelino DOCG Montefalcione (13% ABV) was very good – sweet fruit on the nose, plump, open, with touch of minerality and fresh cut grass, nice acidity (Drinkability: 8- ).

And now, to the food!

We started with the two appetizers: Bleu Chips (hand-cut potato chips, gorgonzola fonduta, fig jam, bacon) – a delicious combination, and besides – who can say no to the potato chips? And then the “Original” Balsamic Calamari – the name says it all – it is fried calamari, drizzled with the balsamic reduction – a somewhat unexpected, but a very tasty combination.

Our dinner continued with more appetizers. First, Heirloom Tomato Salad Bruschetta, where you could actually taste a difference in the tomatoes (many times I bought so called heirloom tomatoes in the store which tasted exactly the same as regular tomatoes). Next dish, Charred Hierloom Carrots (straciatella cheese, cilantro-honey citronette) was one of my favorites, as it was simple, yet delicious (I since made the carrots on the grill in the same style, and everybody loved them). Kobe Meatballs (tomato sauce, garlic bread) were very nice, but not necessarily better or worse many other well-made meatballs ( which to me means that they shouldn’t be too dense, and these were just fine). Burrata (bacon jam, pepperoncino) was traditionally delicious, but my very favorite appetizer was Fig & Beet (baby greens, goat cheese ricotta, onion, wildflower honey toasted oats, marcona almonds, Vincotto) – I’m very impartial to the beets salad in any shape and form, and the flavor combination of the beets, marcona almonds and figs was just spot on.

Next we had two entrees family style. “Loaded Baked Potato” Gnocci (hand-made potato pasta pillows, smoked bacon, broccoli, Italian cheddar) was can’t-stop-eating-this delicious and incredibly satisfying. I would even say “homey”, but – this is a descriptor for the next dish. Italian “Ramen” (hand-made noodles, chicken broth, local egg, parmigiano, pepperoncino) had such a surprising simplicity to it, nevertheless the whole table went “wow” after the first sip. I don’t know if chef Sam used some kind of magic potion on this soup, but despite the hot day, this soup was literally warming up the whole body and soul, and this dish alone will definitely worth a separate trip as the temperatures will stop dropping. Our  last entree was served on individual plates, and consisted of Pig Roast (slow roasted “Porchetta alla Romana”, broccoli rabe, pickled farm stand tomato) and Wild Ivory King Salmon (spicy spinach, Sultana raisin vinaigrette, walnut romesco aioli). The Pig Roast was perfectly done – meat was falling apart, while the skin was delightfully crisp. And the Ivory King Salmon? Wow. This was my very first encounter with the white salmon – delicious, mild flavor profile, again, very comforting and satisfying.

Believe it or not, but we still got dessert after such a meal. Blueberry Upside-down cake was every morsel delicious. Then Coffee & Doughnuts. I can tell you that in general, I’m not a fan of doughnuts. But this cappuccino/chocolate semifreddo sauce was beyond delicious, it was divine – together with the doughnut, it was one incredible flavor combination. And the Quattro Crème Brûlée? You must love this dish for the presentation alone – and as a bonus, it was outright delicious.

As usual, we had an opportunity to talk to the Executive Chef and Owner Sam DeVillis:

Executive Chef Sam DeVillis

and of course we thanked him wholeheartedly for the spectacular meal.

There you have it, my friends. I can’t tell you if our dinner was more of a classic or modern, but it was top notch creative, and in and out delicious. As Carl Anthony Trattoria celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, I can only wish Chef Sam and his team best of luck to continue satisfying all the demanding foodies for many many years ahead. Cheers!

Disclaimer: I visited the restaurant as a guest of the management. All opinions are my own.

Carl Anthony Trattoria
Clocktower Square
477 Main St
Monroe, CT 06468
(203) 268-8486
http://www.carlanthonys.com/index.htm

Carl Anthony's Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Come for a Glass of Wine, Stay for the Food – Vinoteca in Greenwich, CT

March 7, 2014 13 comments
Vinoteca wines

Vinoteca Wine List

It is Friday night, and you are thirsty. Not the Dos Equis thirsty, necessarily, but may be a glass of wine thirsty. Or a cocktail and a glass of wine. Or may be couple of glasses of wine. Bottom line – you want to go out and have a glass of wine. So, where do you go? Yes, I know – this is beyond rhetorical – you can find wine at any restaurant today. But – if you just want a glass of wine, or you want a glass of white, and then glass of red, or you are simply in a mood to taste a few of the different wines, you have two issues. One – by the glass selection in a typical restaurant is limited, or may be even very limited, depending on your luck. Two – by the glass selection in many restaurants is grossly over-priced. When you look at the $16+ by the glass selection, the first reaction is “I’ll just have a glass of water”. Well – the purpose of this post is not to complain about by the glass restaurant prices. My whole point here is to let you in on a little secret and to tell you that I just found a solution to this wine glass craving issue, and I want to share it with you. The solution? Vinoteca Restaurant and Wine Bar in Greenwich, Connecticut.

As you walk into the restaurant, the first thing you see is a wine bar. And then you see another bar. And then the wine list, where each and every wine is available in the glass pour of different sizes and by the bottle. No exceptions. You want to build a flight of Italian reds? No problems. Are you in a mood for a few of the California whites? No problems at all. You want to compare classic Italian Sangiovese with the one from California? You got it. The wine list has just perfect size – there is enough variety, but you are not feeling overwhelmed with the task of finding the wine you want to drink in the foliant you can barely hold in your hands.

The core of the wine list is Italian, but there is still enough variety (California, France, Germany and more). The prices are quite reasonable as well. During the course of the evening we had a number of different wines which our gracious host Sasha kept bringing over. Here are my brief notes:

2012 Gundlach Bundschu Gewurztraminer Sonoma Coast – I read about Gundlach Bundschu wines in many blogs, but never had an opportunity to try them, so when I saw Gundlach Bundschu on the list, I really didn’t care what exact wine was it, I just had to try it. The wine was very nice – Gewurztraminer wines, in my opinion, don’t have the middle ground – they are either good (can be spectacular, yes), or terrible – they don’t have the “well, okay” range – so this was a nice Gewurztraminer, well balanced, with hint of honeydew, spicy with good acidity. Drinkability: 7+

2012 Ferrari-Carano’s Fumé Blanc Sonoma County – a classic California Sauvignon Blanc, with fresh gooseberry and lemon notes, good acidity, a bit too sweet to my taste. Drinkability: 7+

2011 Abbazia Santa Anastasia Contempo Nero d’Avola Sicily IGT – excellent, herbaceous undertones, warm, smooth, inviting, toasted oak and fruit notes. Drinkability: 8

2011 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County – cassis on the nose, nice tobacco notes, touch of espresso, round and simple. Drinkability: 7+

So what happens after you have your first glass of wine? Yes, you want food. And food we got – plenty and delicious. The menu at Vinoteca is somewhat similar to the wine list – concise, but very diverse, with the good selection of “ahh, I must to try this” dishes.

We started with the nice selection of appetizers:

Polpettini (house made meatballs, whipped ricotta) – excellent, very tasty sauce, meatballs had nice texture.

Cozze (Prince Edward Island mussels, red curry, french fries) – well prepared mussels don’t need any explanations, right? The only thing which they demand is … yep, extra bread.

Panetto “Italian grilled cheese” (fontina, San Marzano sauce) – perfect comfort food, very tasty sauce.

Next, we had a few Pizzas to share – one better then the other:

Qauttro Formaggi (ricotta, gorgonzola, parmigiano, mascarpone) – was probably my favorite – very intense, cheeeesy

Rustica (charred tomatoes, olives, sea salt, olive oil) – perfectly fresh and delightful

Spicy Lobster (mascarpone, habanero, corn) – excellent spiciness, nice bite, and nice pieces of lobster. I would never think that lobster would work on the pizza – but it actually does!

As we were not fed enough yet, here came the salads:

Italian Wedge (bibb, iceberg, gorgonzola,tomato, crispy prosciutto) – The Wedge is one of my most favorite salads, ever since I tried it for the first time. Crispy bittersweet lettuce and salty bacon prosciutto – just perfect.

Kale (Bosc pears, walnuts, pecorino) – yes, I know kale is healthy and good for me … but it is just not my thing ( but other people loved it).

Greek Chop (cucumber, watermelon, feta cheese, red onion) – a nice version of the Greek salad, very fresh and light.

You think that was enough food? Apparently not! We got to taste a few more dishes:

Parpardelle Bolognese – believe it or not, but this was my single most favorite dish of the whole dinner. This pasta was served family style, and I swear I could’ve eaten the whole “family portion” just by myself – so homey, so comfortable, so delicious.

Pollo Scarpiello (cherry peppers, sautéed spinach, spicy sausage) – wood-fire roasted chicken – delicious! Perfectly tender chicken, and you can tell that it was roasted over the wood fire. Tasty!

Salmone Al Arranciata (mascarpone mashed potatoes, asparagus, blood orange) – I personally didn’t taste this dish, but people were very happy about it.

And finally – desserts!

Assorted Desserts – Cannoli Cake, Cappuccino Cake, Tiramisu, New York Cheesecake – do you think I can give you detailed notes on the desserts? Yep – I can’t. After that amount of food, the desserts were almost an afterthought. They all tasted good – however, none of them stood out. Note the presentation  – I like the choice of the stand out plates.

 

That’s all, my friends. By the way, today is Friday – but even if you are not reading this post on Friday, you are probably in the mood for the glass of wine and some tasty food anyway, so why not give Vinoteca a try? I’m sure you will not be disappointed! Cheers!

Disclaimer: I visited the restaurant as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.

Vinoteca Restaurant & Wine Bar
33 Lewis Street
Greenwich, CT 06830
203-661-2354
http://vinotecagreenwich.com/
Vinoteca Restaurant & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Style and Substance – Rouge Brasserie & Oyster Bar in Greenwich, CT

December 6, 2013 12 comments

Before you get to this post, just a little word of caution – if you are hungry, can I ask you to go eat first? Please?

Let me ask you a question: when it comes to the restaurants, how often can you recall the exact decor of the restaurant? Well, let me be careful with this – of course this question is intended for the foodies and not for the interior design majors. We typically remember great food and wine experiences (yes, extremely bad experiences get stuck in the head too – I still remember the worst spaghetti in my life in the little restaurant by the Lake George). Sometimes the exceptional service is also staying with you. But I would bet that decor for the most cases would be the last thing you would remember, especially if you visit the restaurant only once. But then there are exceptions. I still remember old Tavern on the Green, with all its imperial embellishments, or the wonderful Belgium restaurant we visited on Aruba, called Le Dome, which had 4 different dining rooms, each decorated in its own unique style. Why am I asking all the questions about remembering the decor? Please read on, you will see in a second.

Okay, so the goal of this post is not to take you on the memory lane, but to share our recent dining experience at the new restaurant in Greenwich, Connecticut called Rouge Brasserie & Oyster Bar. We happened to come in a bit before our dining companions, so I had a little bit of time to walk around. The unique decor and variety of styles within somewhat of a limited space were strikingly different from most of the places I’d been to. The way the different sections were appointed were going from country French to cozy corner to the Royal French – all tastefully decorated and oh so different. Yes, as usual, I plan to inundate you with pictures, so take a look:

As it almost became customary, we started our evening at the bar. While the list of cocktails at Rouge is not too long, everything we had was very well made and very refreshing. Brigitte Bardot (cognac, fresh Lemon, sugar, raspberries and champagne) and Broken Heart Margarita (tequila, elderflower liquor, fresh sour, cointreau, raspberry grape & pink peppercorn) were both done just right, not too sweet (I’m really not a big fun of the sweet cocktails), withgood amount of alcohol, but very balanced at the same time. And it was just fun sitting by the shiny, well lit bar and watch Kelly compose the tasty concoctions.

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Before we talk about food, I need to say a few words about the wine. I didn’t get a chance to see the wine list, so obviously I can’t comment on it – but during the evening, we were drinking two wines which were both, shall I say it, surprisingly outstanding. Our white wine was 2012 Domaine Saint-Lannes Côtes de Gascogne IGP  (80% French Colombard, 20% Gros Manseng) – perfect nose of the bright white fruit, very inviting, light and round on the palate, with white apples, touch of lemon, dry and refreshingly crisp, excellent balance (Drinkability: 8). May be the fact that the white wine was good was not all that surprising, but for the red… Our red wine was 2010 Chateau Gobert Bordeaux AOC. Can you point to the “surprising” part just based on the name? I remember when I was just starting with wine, which was a bit more than 10 years ago, the year 2000 was declared the “Vintage of the Century” in Bordeaux, and I decided to try those best wines, buying Bordeaux AOC wines for $7 in the discount supermarket in New Jersey. When I tried to drink those wines, which were green, branch-chewy and plain harsh, for the life of me I couldn’t understand how that can be a great wine (of course I would never admit it in public). As I was learning about the wines, and especially listening to the Kevin Zraly’s explanations about circles of quality, I realized that basic Bordeaux, sourced from the grapes from the whole region, in general is something to avoid. Now, at the dinner, the red wine was poured (I didn’t see the label), and my first impression was “wow, this is very nice” – soft dark fruit on the nose, quite fruit forward on the palate, but without much exuberance or going over the top – some plums, ripe raspberries, touch of green bell pepper in the back, soft tannins, nice acidity, overall very balanced (Drinkability: 8-). When I saw the label, my first reaction was “Really?” – for a few seconds, I couldn’t believe this was actually a basic Bordeaux red wine. I will have to start paying attention to the Bordeaux AOC wines again, as this was one eye opening experience. And I want to complement whomever selected these wines for the restaurant – great choice!

Okay, time to talk about the food! In a word, we were treated royally at the Rouge – it was literally no holds barred type of dinner – everything you can think of was on the table – the caviar, the oysters, the lobster, and lots more.

First, our bread arrived in the form of tiny, but ohh so tasty baguettes, accompanies by the butter, fresh young radishes and cornichons:

From our appetizer course, the very first dish was Fish Eggs and Chips (house made potato chips, Crème fraîche) – as you can see from the name, it was a play on “Fish and Chips”, only instead of the actual fish we had something which could’ve become a fish – both black and red caviar was sprinkled over the house made potato chips:

I understand the word play here, and the dish overall was interesting – but I would probably use something more neutral as a medium instead of potato chips – some kind of white bread crackers or even crispy water crackers would play better with the saltiness of the caviar. But again, I can’t complain about the caviar as a starter – not at all.

When you start with the caviar, what is the next thing you should expect? The best selection of the fresh seafood, of course. And the best it was! Plateux De Fruits De Mer had fresh oysters, fresh clams, lobster tails and claws, and prawns, accompanies by the trio of sauces (shrimp cocktails, mayo with herbs and onion/vinegar for the oysters). Fresh and immaculate, one of the best seafood platters I ever had. I’m generally not a big fun of fresh clams – and these were delicious.

Seafood platters can be served in different types of restaurants, but nobody would argue that with Escargots Bourguignon (shallot parsley butter) we are getting into the real French traditional cooking. The escargot  were excellent, succulent and satisfying. My only complaint was that I would serve the escargot separately from the toast, as the toast was completely soaked in butter in and out, but then I heard a number of people praising that exact butter-soaked toast. Anyway, this was definitely a delicious appetizer.

From French Classic to the French Classic – our next dish was Classic Steak Tartare (hand cut prime filet with charred country toast) – I tried steak tartare in Paris for the first time, and while I was scared with the plate put in front of me (raw ground beef was glaring at me,  asking “will you dare put me in your mouth”), once that raw ground beef was mixed with all the condiments, it became one of my favorite dishes of the French cuisine. In our case, the steak was already premixed, so all we had to do was to put it on the toast and enjoy – which is exactly what we did! It was very tasty.

Our last appetizer was Warm Onion Tart (tomato confit & nicoise olives) – if you look at the size of that thing, it was literally the whole pizza! It turns out that the restaurant inherited a real pizza oven from one of the restaurants located before in the same space, so they definitely took a full advantage of that. That tart was delicious, withcrispy crust, and mild bitterness of arugula perfectly complementing sweetness of the onion. Great dish!

This was the end of our appetizer round, and while we were quite well fed already, the best was yet to come.

Our entrees included:

Skate Meuniere (parsley new potatoes, lemon brown butter) – outstanding, perfectly cooked fish, very meaty, nice lemony bite, without any fish aftertaste (you know, like the one you get sometimes from tilapia or catfish). This dish made many of us wonder why we don’t eat skate more often.

Moules Frites (white wine, garlic & fine herbs) – may be the best mussels ever. The sauce was soooo tasty, we had to request [lots of] additional bread. Simply delicious. Mussles were also served with very tasty french fries.

Short Rib Bourguignon (red wine sauce with pearl onions & truffled potatoes) – is there any other food in this world which spells “comfort” better than the slow cooked meat? Probably not. We were really full at this point, but nobody could resist that voluptuous (interesting word to describe the cooked meat, huh?), succulent meat. Sauce was exceptional, just perfectly savory without any unnecessary sweetness. Great finish to our wonderful meal.

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Well, of course there was a dessert – luckily a small one, but super tasty! Chocolate French Custard was just perfect, not too sweet, with the very light and fluffy texture. And by the way, while we were at dessert, I learned something new! It appears that when you eat dessert (at least the one like this custard), you are supposed to turn the spoon upside down in your mouth, so the tongue with all its tastebuds will get in contact with the food, and not with the back of the spoon. I had no idea!

Last, but not least at all, we had a chance to talk to and express our heartfelt Thanks to the Executive Chef Josh Moulton, the mastermind behind this exceptional experience, Diego, our Maître D’,  and Fabiana, the designer who created all that exceptional style I described at the beginning of this post.

If you will have an opportunity, I definitely recommend that you will ignore all my writing and go experience Rouge on your own. For those who are too far away, sorry, but you will have to take my word for it – this was definitely an outstanding meal, with great style and substance. Cheers!

Disclaimer: I attended the restaurant as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.

Rouge Brasserie & Oyster Bar
230 Mill Street
Greenwich, CT 06830
Phone: (203) 813-3555
ROUGE Brasserie & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Creative American Cuisine Experience at Bistro B in Bridgeport, CT

November 22, 2013 2 comments

As soon as we finished our drinks at the Barnum Publick House, it was the time to walk for the whole 20 seconds to our dining destination – Bistro B in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The restaurant inside is definitely done in the modern, simple style – leather, woods, clean colors, clean lines, solid high chairs. If interested, you can even take a pick into the kitchen from outside, to admire all the stainless steel marvels and busy people.

As we already had cocktails, it was the time to chose the wine. Bistro B features quite an interesting wine list. It is somewhat short, but the important fact is that it is extremely reasonably priced. Absolute majority of wines are priced within $24 to $30 range, with few occasional splurges to $36, and one, the most expensive wine at $40 – you don’t see this type of wine prices in the restaurants all that often ( no, it doesn’t sport Yellow Tale, Sutter Home or Crane Lake, if you are wondering). At the same time, majority of the wines were either quite safe or completely unknown to me, so as a self-admitted wine snob I had some challenges deciding what to drink.

We started with 2011 Pieropan Soave from Italy – the wine had hint of white stone fruit on the nose, simple and dry on the palate, with good acidity, but somewhat single-dimensional. Probably the issue was with my expectations which were rather based on my prior experience with Pieropan wines during Vinitaly tastings earlier this year (the two wines we had there were outstanding). Drinkability: 7

From Pieropan we switched to 2012 Mohua Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand – typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but pleasantly restraint – there is enough grapefruit and lemon notes both on the nose and the palate, but not overpowering, not smash-in-your-face-grapefruit type of wine. Vibrant acidity, good balance. Drinkability: 7+

It was hard for me to chose the red wine (I’m a snob, remember?) – most of the choices didn’t pique my interest. I settled for 2010 Carmen Petite Sirah Gran Reserva Maipo Valley, Chile – dark garnet color in theglass,good amount of dark fruit on the nose, ripe raspberries and dark chocolate on the palate, acidity in check, overall very balanced. Drinkability: 7+

And then there was food. We started with the selection of Small Plates (appetizers).

First up was House Cured Salmon (Star Anise Pickes, Horseradish Mustard Cream, Brown Bread) – the salmon itself was impeccable, perfect texture and flavor (I cure my own salmon myself, so I’m very particular about it). The horseradish cream had some unusual perfumy component (not my favorite), but overall this was quite a successful dish.

Next up were BLT Sliders (Braised Pork Belly, Roma Tomatoes, Iceberg, Maple Aioli) – the sliders were not bad, and you really have to like pork belly to order this type of dish – but definitely this dish has a point for the interesting twist on BLT concept.

Chicken “Lollipops” (House Made BBQ Glaze, Best Blue Cheese Dressing) definitely gets thumbs up for originality and creativity (just caught myself feeling that I’m watching way too much of the Iron Chef, and take it way too seriously – I promise to get over it) – I like the concept, understand the idea and never saw it done before – unfortunately, the “lollipops” were a bit dry, I think this dish can be improved a bit in terms of texture. At the same time, overall flavor profile was excellent.

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For our Garden Plates we had Lambs Lettuce (Crispy Artichokes, Roasted Garlic Hummus) – crispy artichokes were particularly tasty, but so was the salad as a whole – and I liked very much the colorful presentation.

Then the Large Plates came. Potato and Onion Encrusted Halibut (Forest Mushroom Ragout, Asparagus Tips, Truffle) was first – perfectly seasoned and cooked, delicious, flaky fish worked very well with mushrooms (spectacular flavor profile by itself) and asparagus. Definitely an excellent dish.

Next was Pork Schnitzel (Cucumber Salad, Mustard Honey Pan Roast) – this was my least favorite dish – the meat was too dry and too lemony for my taste. The side of cucumber salad was quite tasty.

Then the Roasted Hangar Steak (Pomme Frittes, Roasted Pears), which was served next, was, in a word, outstanding! Meat was perfectly done (medium-rare), and together with the sauce and that Carmen Petite Sirah it simply created a heavenly combination.

And when I thought nothing can beat that steak, the “Chicken Fried Chicken” (Crispy Amish Chicken Breast, Black Pepper Gravy, Cinnamon Spiced Baby Carrots) arrived, and the whole table had gone silent, and then very loud again – inexcitement. The chicken was spectacular –moist, flavorful, perfect crust on outside – and was absolutely delicious with the sauce. This dish definitely finished our main portion of the dinner on the high note.

Do you think we left restaurant without having the dessert? Think again – of course this is not possible. First, we had absolutely delicious coffee, maid in French Press right at the table – yay! Our dessert consisted of Butterscotch Pudding and Flourless Chocolate Cake – both were very tasty, but this is about all I can tell you at this point – hopefully the pictures give you an idea.

That concludes our great experience with the Creative American Cuisine, and as usual, I would like to finish this post by thanking Chef and Owner Jason Milanese and Chef Joe Italiano for the wonderful meal. Until the next time – cheers!

Disclaimer: I attended the restaurant as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.

Bistro B
1006 Broad Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604
E: info@bistrob.net
P: 203-908-4224
W: http://www.bistrob.net/

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