Let me make a bold claim – Southern Cuisine might be the only authentic cuisine in the United States. Yes, New England got lobster and clam chowder, Maryland got blue crab and crab cakes, but it hardly constitutes a “cuisine”. Even barbeque is more of a cult or a culture if you will, but more often than not, the word “barbeque” would simply associate with the specific method of cooking rather than a cuisine in general.
Say “Southern cuisine”, and immediately the words and images for “shrimp and grits”, “chicken and waffles”, or ‘fried green tomatoes” pop in one’s head. Same as Thai, Japanese, or Mexican, Southern cuisine is something we can easily identify with.
While the Southern cuisine is, of course, better experienced in the South, over the last few years we were lucky here on the East Coast of the USA with a number of restaurants representing the cuisine very well. Today I want to offer you a perfect example – Peaches Restaurant in Norwalk, Connecticut, officially known as Peaches Southern Pub & Juke Joint. Peaches is the newest endeavor of the serial entrepreneur Greer Frederick, who is deeply involved in Connecticut restaurant scene for many years.
I love the rustic decor at Peaches, very homey and calming, but very modern at the same time:
Of course the restaurant visit started at the bar. Spicy Okratini (Oola Aloo Vodka, dirty okra juice, pickled okra) had a nice bite and literally no sweetness, which I really appreciate. Bee’s Knees (Bar Hill gin, fresh lemon, Mad Hatter honey) was made with an artisan Mad Hatter honey, which we also had an opportunity to taste. Again, despite the honey base, the cocktal was perfectly balanced with right amount of acidity and sweetness. Peaches’ Old Fashion (Rittenhouse Rye, Damerara sugar, Angostura bitters, Fee Brothers Peach bitters), was very tasty, but also a bit too generous with alcohol.
Once we got to our tables, the little bowl with various pickles was the very first plate arriving in front of us – not overly sour, quite tasty. Then our first appetizer showed up – Devilled Eggs (beet brined eggs, braised bacon, pickled okra). Definitely a very creative dish, an unexpected color of the eggs, nice touch with the bacon crumble on top, creamy. Devilled eggs are very popular in Russian cuisine, so I’m more accustomed to a different style, but this was still a tasty dish.
The Chopped Kale (charred corn, pickled beets, green goddess dressing, cotija cheese) was one of the best kale salads I ever had. Additional of charred corn worked very well, and creamy dressing was outstanding, very flavorful. The Fried Green Tomatoes (tomato jam, country ham, buttermilk ranch), a timeless Southern classic was excellent as well – great interplay of textures, and I would eat that tomato jam by the bowlful. Our last appetizer, the Country Fair Bacon (funnel cake batter, braised bacon, black pepper maple) was good, but maybe a bit too simple to my taste.
We started our entree round with another Southern classic – Shrimp and Grits (andouille, smoked shrimp broth, pickled okra, heirloom grits) – the grits were creamy and super-flavorful, one of the best ever, and the shrimp had a perfect amount of spice and cooked very well – that was one delicious experience. The Pork Shank (black eyed peas cassoulet, pickled veg, onion jam) was a standout. It was a huge hulk of meat on the bone, marinated for 36 hours and cooked at 275F for 3.5 hours – I can’t even describe how comforting this dish was. The meat was falling apart, and all you needed to do was just to savor ever little bite. Outstanding.
And then there was Bucket O’ Chicken (pickle-brined fried chicken + Nashville style cornbread, coleslaw, collard greens, mac ‘n’ cheese). Do you like properly made Southern style fried chicken? Then get away from the screen and head over to the Peaches right now – that dish was a quintessential Art of Southern Cuisine right on the table. We had both regular and Nashville Hot style – in both cases chicken is brined before cooking, but the Nashville Hot style has the addition of a hot sauce (smoked paprika, brown sugar, cayenne, oil) brushed on after the chicken is fried. It was also served with lots of different side dishes – cole slaw, collard greens, mac ‘n’ cheese and delicious corn bread – every bite of chicken was tender and bristling with flavor. It was also served with apple cider vinegar on a side, which, as Greer explained, is considered a Ketchup of the South. Great experience all in all.
Peaches is not called the “Pub and Juke Joint” for nothing. The restaurant has a second floor with another bar, perfectly suitable for dancing or as an event space, as well as an outdoor patio – definitely the space with a lot of potential.
We finished this outstanding meal in style with Old Fashioned Southern Peach Cobbler (brown sugar peaches, vanilla ice cream) – delicious dessert, candied pecans packed a lot of flavor.
I hope that the pictures and my notes explain my point about the Art of Southern Cuisine – this was truly a soulful cooking, and we experienced the tasty food with unmistakable personality – like the familiar face we are always happy to see in the crowd, the Southern Cuisine is something we can now spot anywhere we go.
Hope I didn’t make you too hungry. And if I did – oh well, I’m not going to apologise. Cheers!
Peaches Southern Pub & Juke Joint
7 Wall St
Norwalk, CT 06850
Phone number (203) 831-0399
There are lots and lots of restaurants in Fairfield County in Connecticut (in 2014, Fairfield county had the second highest number of restaurants per capita in the country, don’t think it is any different in 2016). That means that every dining out night has a great number of choices – in case you are craving Italian, Japanese or creative American, may be French, Thai or Indian. But what if you still want something else, something different? I might have just a place for you – MIRO Kitchen in Fairfield, Connecticut.
The restaurant describes itself as serving “Pacific Rim” cuisine. On the plate, it means a unique blend of flavors, with elements of Southeast Asian cuisines, Hawaiian, Filipino, Cambodian and other influences, bringing the seesaw popular term “Fusion” to the new height – at least in my personal dining experience. MIRO Kitchen serves truly unique and different food, and to deliver that “unique and different” experience, no effort is spared. To give you one example: our dessert course included Filipino ice cream, called Ube, made primarily out of yam (Ube is a Filipino word for yam), which was absolutely spectacular in flavor and texture. There is only one source of this ice cream on the East Coast, in Jersey City (about 70 miles from Fairfield), which means that every week someone have to take a trip there to get that “unique and different” treat – if you have ever driven around New York city, you would agree that it means “going an extra mile” (pun intended).
Just wanted to give you an example – but it’s way too early to talk about dessert, let talk about our whole dining experience from the beginning. Once again, I visited the restaurant with the group of bloggers, so we really had an opportunity to try lots of different dishes MIRO Kitchen offers and experience the full range of Pacific Rim cuisine.
We started with the cocktails, and you know what – I continued with the cocktails throughout the dinner – don’t think I ever had that many delicious, unique cocktails. The cocktail list at MIRO Kitchen is not that large, so I tried almost all of them: Saketini (Vodka, nigori, cucumber) was excellent, not too sweet; Thaigarita (tequila, Thai chili, calamansi) – love the presentation; Old Fashioned Green Tea (Bourbon, citrus, green tea) – outstanding with noticeable bourbon notes, delicious; Cambodian Mule (coconut vodka, sake, kaffir lime, fresh Ginger) – soft and tasty, Weng Weng (white and dark rum, tequila, gin, vodka, st. germaine, tropical fruit juices) – a nod to the famous Long Island Ice tea, not too sweet with tasty pineapple profile; Hala Kahiki (pineapple vodka, amaretto, sake bubbles) – beautiful presentation, tasty and refreshing.
Now, let’s talk food! We started with the selection of Hors D’Oeuvres. Our first dish was Ahi Bruschetta (Tomato, balsamic glaze, avocado) – great flavors, very nice crunch, following up by
Hanger Sushi (Miso glaze, wasabi crema) – this was a standout, both in the presentation (sushi style) and the flavors, with the sauce served on a side.
Our first official course was a soup sampler. What was almost mind boggling is that in Saimin Noodle Soup (pork belly, mushroom, scallion, soft egg), which is a Hawaiian version of Ramen, the pork belly was still crisp. The Curry Noodle Soup (curry, coconut milk, vegetables) was literally heartwarming – I would gladly eat it any day, but it is an ultimate cold winter night treat.
The soup followed by the selection of Tacos – Tako Taco (braised octopus, roasted corn relish) and Duck Taco (Hoisin, cabbage, peanut sauce), both very tasty.
Our Pacific Rim cuisine exploration continued with Togarashi Lobster Mac and Cheese (Japanese seven spice, panko crust, bacon) with a unique, delicious, spicy flavor and then General Tso’s Cauliflower (sweet chili sauce, crispy potatoes), which could be easily my most favorite dish of the day. I love Cauliflower in any form, and in this dish, it was perfectly cooked and the flavor was simply outstanding – couldn’t stop eating it.
Next up were Lo Mein (Chinese wonton noodles, vegetables), very tasty, then Crispy Shrimp & Grits (coconut shrimp, white cheese grits, hot oil) – another wow dish with unique “fusion” blend of spices on the shrimp. We finished our dinner with Macadamia Kalamansi Cod (wasabi sticky rice) which was simply outstanding.
And finally, the dessert! We had a pleasure of sampling three desserts – Malasadas (miso caramel), Banana Bread Pudding and Mansana Turon (apple spring roll), served with the Ube ice cream – all “wow” flavors, a stunning finish to an absolutely delicious meal.
There you have it, my friends – unique and different experience. In the sea of restaurants, MIRO Kitchen is clearly a standout – from crafted cocktails to unique dessert, offering vegan, dairy free and gluten free dishes – something you owe it to yourself to check out. You can thank me later. Cheers!
1876 Black Rock Turnpike
Fairfield, CT 06825
Ph: (203) 332-0001
If I will describe a restaurant as “classy rustic”, would that make sense to you? Can you walk into the restaurant and feel that time and place all of a sudden changed on you? The modern, fast, noisy city disappeared, and instead, you find yourself in the cozy shack up in the woods?
That’s what Tavern 489 does to you. You walk in and instantly taken by the ambiance – no detail of decor is left to a chance – every element is used to create that tavern feel, the rustic ambiance – and it puts you in the right mood.
We visited restaurant back in May, when it was only opened. Eric Monte, a well-known restaurateur in Stamford, CT and an avid wine collector, put together a special dinner menu for us, with all the dishes paired with the different wines.
And not only the wines. Tavern 489 is the only restaurant in Connecticut which serves Moosehead Lager, the beer made at the oldest Canadian brewery (founded in 1867) – and Moosehead Lager was our first pairing of the night.
Before we get to food – yes, of course, there was a cocktail to start the evening. Tavern 489 is located on the street called Glenbrook Road, one of the oldest streets in Stamford – how you can pass on an opportunity to taste the Glenbrook Mule cocktail (which was very tasty)?
Our first dish was Venison Balls (red wine green peppercorn sauce), served with the Moosehead Lager. The balls were nicely spicy, and the beer was working perfectly with the dish. And what I loved the most was the presentation – perfectly fitting for the tavern food.
Next up was Cold Spring tomato Soup, and we also switched to wine to continue our dinner. Our first wine was 2013 Les Costiéres de Pomerols Picpoul de Pinet AOP – touch of honeysuckle on the nose, clean, simple palate, tart. The wine didn’t work with the soup (how many wines do?), despite the fact that the soup was very tasty. But it perfectly complemented Taunton Bay fried oysters (lemon, tamarind, curry, tomato sauce), which were delicious and again, beautifully presented dish – we eat with our eyes first, and the oysters were a pure delight on the plate.
Remember I mentioned music? So the music has a special place at the Tavern 489 – right in front of the house, and it is live. Tavern 489 brings in many musicians, so all you really need is a glass of wine (or a Moosehead Lager), sit down (or stand for that matter), and get carried away:
The food continued with the selection of the burgers – Bison Burger, Blackened Angus Burger w/Blue Cheese and Tavern Burger w/Pesto Truffle – my favorite was the Blackened Burger – great flavor, and of course it is hard to resist a blue cheese topping. With the meat, the new wine showed up – this time red, 2010 Grand Palais Bordeaux Supérieur – typical Bordeaux nose, green bell peppers, supple palate, good balance. This wine perfectly paired with my favorite dish of the evening – Charred octopus (Kidney bean, tomato, shallots, garlic, parsley, pomegranate chimichurri dressing) – this dish had both perfect finess of flavor, and just a rustic, homey, comfort food feel – simply a wow.
Our main course was a true carnivore dream and a masterpiece in the presentation – Dirty Tomahawk steak – bone-in thick ribeye steak (served with Chef Suggestions – potatoes, broccoli rabe, bacon-wrapped asparagus). Definitely a treat, and if you are into the meat, that is your dish. Another wine was served with this dish – 2012 Shooting Star Blue Franc Blaufrankisch Washington State – generous, rich, brooding – delicious wine overall. The wine was unique and different – how often you get to drink wine made in the USA from the Austrian/German grape such as Blaufränkisch? Definitely a treat – and an interesting story on the back label.
And finally – the dessert – very tasty Chocolate Mousse, light and delicious.
489 Glenbrook Road
Stamford, CT 06906
Translated from Spanish, the word “Tabla” has a few different meanings, but the one of interest for us here is a “board” or a “plank”. If you stop by the recently opened Tablao restaurant in SoNo district or Norwalk, Connecticut, the wooden planks on the walls will definitely attract your attention – and if you are a oenophile, you can’t help but to keep looking for all the familiar and coveted names (uncontrollable drooling will be excused, but please behave):
For sure I was very happy to observe all those wooden boards when I visited the restaurant for the bloggers dinner a few month ago. This time around, I arrived even a bit early, so I had an opportunity to snap a few pictures of decor and ambiance:
While I love wine, I would never skip the bar – after all, nice cocktail is a nice cocktail, a great way to start the evening. The bar at Tablao didn’t disappoint. To be entirely honest, it even exceeded my expectations, as soon as I saw a bottle of Del Maguey Mezcal. Del Maguey makes absolutely spectacular Mezcal, which is rare and almost impossible to find. If the restaurant carries it, it gives me a good pointer for what to expect.
Tablao offers a nice selection of cocktails and wines by the glass:
We had a few of the cocktails, and the wines were prepared for our dinner in advance. I really liked the cocktail called Charred! (charred Serrano pepper, Chinaco Blanco – another sign of high-class – rare and beautiful tequila, Vida Mezcal, lime, agave, optional egg white) – nice balance, good spicy bite. From the wines, my favorites were 2011 Guimaro Mencia Ribera Sacra which was earthy and showing nice ripe fruit, and 2014 Desierto25 Cabernet Franc Patagonia, Argentina, which was unexpected (Cab Franc from Argentina? wow) and stunning – smooth, balanced, with an excellent fruit profile:
While we were mingling, the food started to appear:
Cheese Croquettes were very tasty, with nice amount of spice. Potato Croquettes were my favorite, again, well cooked and very tasty, with good amount of seasoning, and then Grilled Chorizo – who can argue with Chorizo?
The first dish to arrive at the table Charcuteria, which is offered with a very nice selection of meats and cheeses at Tablao:
Our first course consisted of three different Tapas: Brussels Sprouts Salad (Fontina risotto cake, black truffle shavings, truffle olive oil, lemon, parmesan cheese) – memorable presentation, the salad itself was tasty, but the risotto cake was a touch too dense to my taste. Next up was Salmon Tartare (Jalapeños, red onion, ginger, lemon juice served with house-made potato crisps) – nicely made, good flavor and then Calamari a la Plancha (Vinaigrette of vegetables and salad) with a good char on the octopus.
The second course brought in Hanger Steak (Green chimichurri), Asparagus (Parmesan, red pepper vinaigrette, balsamic reduction) and Chorizo Español (figs, beans), all nicely prepared:
And then, of course, showing all the Spanish cooking heritage, the Classic Paella (Chorizo, Chicken, Port, Clams, Mussels, Shrimp). Let me explain how good this paella is: you know how every once in a while you are setting next to the dish, you are full – I mean, completely full – and you still are going “let me just get another bite, just one more, please, I promise” – yes, that was the Paella experience at Tablao.
To finish our night in style, we got the trio of the deserts – Tres-Leches (Dense 3 milk cake), Strawberry Panna Cotta (Served with coconut ice cream) and Housemade Chocolate Tart (Chocolate & Goat Cheese) – all very tasty.
That’s all I have for you, my friends. If you are looking for a tasty (and different!) drink, a glass of good wine and a tasty bite of food, Tablao in SoNo can provide them all – with a bonus of a perfect ambiance. Cheers!
Tablao Wine Bar and Restaurant
86 Washington St
Norwalk, CT 06854
Ph: (203) 939-9602
When it comes to the so-called “tableclothed” restaurants in the USA, Italian restaurants are the most popular category (Italian cuisine is the third most popular overall, as you can’t beat Chinese restaurants, present at least on every other block in our cities and towns). With such a popularity comes a question – how can you differentiate yourself? Every Italian restaurant can serve fried calamari, mozzarella sticks and penne alla vodka – and this is what people want, the traditional comfort food. But you want people to come back to your restaurant, so you want to keep the tradition, but make the dining experience memorable – how can this be done?
Talking about “how”, I have an example for you – TerraSole Cheese Wine Bar Ristorante in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The restaurant serves food which is unmistakably Italian, with heart and soul, but the word which comes to mind to describe it is elevated – from ingredients and preparation (for instance: 85% of the pasta is made at the restaurant, 15% is imported directly from Italy) to the presentation of all the dishes – I tried my best with the pictures below to give you an idea – the pictures might not do the justice to the food, so you might need to visit restaurant on your own.
I visited TerraSole few month back with the group of bloggers, with the torrential rain pouring outside (was well soaked by reaching inside from the parking), so I forgot to take any interior pictures which I like to start the post with – and thus let me just jump straight to the food. Well, no, the drinks first.
The restaurant offers a nice selection of the cocktails. We started with the cocktail called Chanel #6 (Kettel One vodka, Prosecco, Chambord, Pineapple juice) which was refreshing and not very sweet, something I always appreciate in the cocktail.
The restaurant owner, Pietro Polini, pre-selected the wines for our dinner, which I definitely appreciate. For the white, we had 2015 Cantina Terre del Barolo Roero Arneis, which was excellent, with a nice fuller body and touch of sweetness. I don’t drink Arneis all that often, but this wine was definitely a notch above any other Arneis wines I tried before. For the red, we had a few different wines, and 2015 Vecchie Terre Zensa Primitivo Puglia was my favorite – perfect balance, nice dark roasted berries, espresso, mint – an excellent wine overall (looks like the wine was imported directly from Italy as wine-searcher can’t find it anywhere in the USA).
Now, let’s talk about food. There were lots and lots of food. Imagine that proverbial Italian mother, making sure you will eat well – Pietro Polini played her role, making sure we will fully experience what TerraSole got to offer. Here is my usual warning for this type of posts – if you are hungry, please stop right here, or proceed at your own risk.
I tried to format all the food notes alongside the menu as it was presented to us. But even with such a huge menu, it still didn’t include all the dishes served. We actually started with Charcuterie, which is excellent at the TerraSole restaurant, and features lots of tasty options – I’m including two of the menu excerpts so you will see it for yourself:
I love the idea using cut up corks as a pointers to what we are eating. And everything which was on that Charcuterie board was delicious – creamy La Tur cheese, spectacular Humbold Fog, Duck Prosciutto and every other piece of cheese and meat.
After Charcuterie, the dinner proceeded with the selection of Antipasti:
Imported black truffle Burrata, imported Prosciutto San Daniele aged 16 months, organic tomatoes, roasted peppers, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved black truffle topped with truffle balsamic drizzle
INSALATA DI GRANCHIO
Salad of Alaskan King Crabmeat, red quinoa, fresh Fava beans, avocado, organic multicolored tomatoes
Sicilian Eggplant & Porcini veggie balls served with San Marzano tomato sauce and shaved Ricotta Salata
From this selection, Burrata was excellent, and I really liked the Polpette, which was unusual and tasty.
Next up – couple of salads:
INSALATA DI CAVOLETTI
Shaved miniature Brussels sprouts salad tossed with toasted hazelnuts, crispy imported Pancetta in a truffle Parmigiano vinaigrette with Westfield goat cheese croquettes
Grilled organic baby artisan romaine heart with creamy Parmigiano dressing, Parmigiano crisp & Grissini
Shaved Brussels sprouts salad had truffle vinaigrette, which translated into an incredible flavor – I didn’t know truffles would work so well with the brussels sprouts. And Caesar salad with grilled Romaine hearts was a pure standout, simply fantastic. I have to honestly admit – I tried to grill so Romaine hearts on my own, and failed – but this is definitely something worth mastering.
This is an Italian dinner, so it is time for pasta!
PAGLIA E FIENO CON CARNE MISTE E FUNGHI
Homemade yellow and green fettuccine with mixed braised meats and organic Japanese mini mushrooms
CAVATELLI CON SALSICCIA
Homemade Cavatelli infused with broccoli rabe, baked hot with and sweet sausage and San Marzano tomato sauce topped with whipped Ricotta
PASTA DI GRANO ARSO CAPRESE
Imported Grano Arso pasta made with “burnt” semolina grain, tossed with roasted organic eggplant, San Marzano cherry tomatoes, basil & imported truffle Burrata
Homemade fettuccine dish was nice and light, Cavatelli had an amazing flavor, excellent texture and a bit of the spicy kick – all three dishes were delicious.
And finally the main course – various types of grilled meats, seafood and chicken:
GRIGLIATA DI CARNE
Platter of grilled meats: lollipop rack of veal, lollipop rack of lamb, sliced skirt steak, duck breast and Luganica sausage, served with Shishito peppers and marble potatoes
GRIGLIATA DI PESCE
Grilled seafood platter: Branzino, head-on Maya prawns, calamari, King salmon, fresh Maine lobster finished with lemon, cold pressed EVOO, local farm vegetables
POLLETTO DELLO CHEF
Panko crusted organic chicken breast wrapped around Prosciutto, wild baby arugula & Truffle Burrata cheese, finished with natural chicken broth over truffle mashed Peruvian potatoes & sautéed baby spinach
Presentation, flavor and overall execution were perfect on all three main dishes – all three were simply a “wow”.
You don’t expect us to leave without the desert, don’t you?
Espresso was perfect (it is generally expected, but often not the case), and profiterole together with the chocolate liquor was a perfect finish for the delicious meal.
I really would like to thank Pietro Polini for the delicious meal. And for all of you, my friends, if you will happen to be any anywhere in a proximity of Ridgefield in Connecticut, and craving a delicious, creative Italian food, TerraSole is definitely the place to visit. Cheers!
3 Big Shop Ln
Ridgefield, CT 06877
Ph: (203) 438-5352
Our selection of the appetizers started from the Shrimp Skewers (old bay seasoning) – perfectly cooked, excellent flavor profile.
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:
And 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:
Sign Of The Whale
6 Harbor Point Road
Stamford, CT 06902
Ph: (203) 883-8282
As a self-proclaimed foodie, I pride myself with having no favorite cuisine or a type of restaurants – when asked “which restaurant would you prefer for dinner”, my typical answer is “I eat everything”. It is true, of course, but may be not entirely. One example – Indian cuisine. This might be on the subconscious level, as one of my very first encounters with Indian food happened on the “Indian hot” spiciness level, which leaves some unforgettable scars on the uninitiated, but an Indian restaurant would not likely be my top choice given a list of possible dinner options.
But again, as a foodie, I feel almost obliged to work over my own limitations, and keep trying different cuisines. Thus when I was invited to visit Tawa Indian Cuisine restaurant in Stamford, I saw a great opportunity to deep dive into the Indian cuisine once again and see what I might be missing.
I loved the decor at Tawa – quaint and sophisticated, very tasteful. Nothing is really glaring at you that you are in an Asian restaurant, not even aromas in the air.
Once the dinner started of course there was no question of what kind of food is in front of us. I will give you a detailed account below, but to describe the experience as a whole, I have to mention the perfect balance. The food had brilliant colors, and none of the dishes where shy on flavor – this is why I called this post “dazzling flavors” – but all the spiciness was balanced, it was like a perfect dance, where you mesmerized by the perfection of movement and forget the time. This was also explained by the Chef Kausik Roy – his goal was to present the variety of flavors of the cuisine of the vast country without overwhelming – and this was clearly showing in the food we had an opportunity to taste.
This was my second encounter with Chef Roy, and I love the fact that I get to learn something interesting from him. Last time I was learning about curries, this time it was cilantro. It appears that cilantro is used in the 95 out 100 Indian dishes, so it is a very important herb. But what is interesting is how you use it. When I use cilantro, I would chop mostly just the leaves with a bit of the stems, and add them at the very end of cooking. But to extract the deep flavor, you need to use whole stems and simply cook with them from the beginning.
Okay, let’s talk about our dinner. We started with the cocktails (yep, in Indian restaurant), and they were tasty. I generally don’t like overly sweet cocktails, and from the description I was a bit concerned that they might be – but both Watermelon Ginger Margarita (Tequila, Ginger, Watermelon Syrup, Dekuyper Triple Sec, Lime Juice) and Tawa Madras-Tini (Ketel One Vodka, Mango Juice, Dekuyper Triple Sec) were just excellent, not very sweet; Watermelon Ginger Margarita had very nice level of spicy heat with it.
Tawa offers somewhat small, but well thought through wine list. We had 2013 Saint M Riesling Germany, which had a touch of sweetness and bright acidity, excellently complementing many dishes. We also wanted to have a red wine with the dinner, and I was very happy to find 2013 If You See Kay Red Blend Lazio IGT, Italy on the list – one of my perennial favorites, with great concentration of the dark fruit and good acidity, this was definitely an enjoyable wine.
We started our dinner with Tawa’s Signature Tropical Mango Salad (Tropical mango, baby greens, Mango onion seeds dressing), served with a crispy naan – fresh and light, good way to start the dinner. Next up was Mulligatawny Soup (Yellow lentil soup, finished with coconut cream and fresh lemon), made with the vegetable broth and finished with a touch of yogurt. Mulligatawny actually means “pepper water”, so it is supposed to be very spicy, but this is not how Chef Roy does it. Soup was delicious, and a double treat considering cold and rainy weather outside.
Next dish was Aloo Tikki Chaat (Indian spiced potato patties topped with garbanzo beans, tamarind chutney, raita & roti crisps) – great spices, delicious and then Coconut Pepper Shrimp (Lightly battered shrimp, smoky black pepper, chutney mayo), with that chutney mayo been pretty spectacular. Last one of our appetizers, Indo Chinese Lasuni Gobi (Crispy cauliflower florets tossed with tangy tomato garlic sauce and spring onion), not only had an amazing crunch, but also texturally was indistinguishable from nicely cooked meat. Wake me up at any time and offer me this dish – I would be super-happy.
Our dining extravaganza continued with selection of Naan, an Indian bread which is one of my absolute favorites (I have to always stop myself from devouring the whole “basket”), following by Kebab Platter. Grilled pieces of chicken, lamb and salmon were colorfully presented on the wooden board, and the taste was on par with the presentation – tender and flavorful.
The main selection of our dinner (like what we already had was not enough, huh) consisted of the various Curry dishes – both traditional vegetarian and meat dishes were included in the selection. Everything was perfectly cooked, and all the sauces were absolutely delightful. My favorite meat dish was Signature Lamb Dampak (Tender lamb cube cooked in a sealed copper vessel), starting with the “opening ceremony”:
We also had Chicken Sahi Korma (A true Mughlai delight, lightly sweet and spicy with flavor of cardamom), Shrimp Madras (tomato coconut curry tempered with curry leaves and mustard seeds) and Goat Roganjosh (Tender Bone in goat meat cooked in onion & tomato gravy flavored with spices), followed by equally traditional Sag Paneer, Crispy Okra (my absolute favorite!), Yellow lentils and Matter Paneer:
The trio of desserts nicely concluded our deep immersion into the Indian cuisine:
That’s all I have for you, my friends. This was a great journey into the world of Indian cuisine, and with the masterful execution by Chef Kausik Roy, I can’t recommend Tawa highly enough. Definitely a deviation from the every day food for many people here in the US, but I’m sure your taste buds would appreciate a different flavor, and you will enjoy the experience. And if you are already accustomed to the flavors of the Indian cuisine, come and taste what the Tawa has to offer. Cheers!
Tawa Indian Cuisine
487 Glenbrook Rd
Stamford, CT 06906
Brunello needs no introduction for the oenophiles. Quintessential, coveted Italian wines, coming from the heart of Tuscany, made from the signature Italian grape Sangiovese (Sangiovese Grosso clone, to be precise). Brunello di Montalcino was the first area in Italy which received in 1980 the status of DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), top quality level designation for the Italian wines; Brunello are some of the most expensive wines coming from Italy today, with some of the bottle prices exceeding $500 on the release (Biondi Santi, Soldera). Wines had been produced in Montalcino for a very long time, going back to the middle ages – it is said that King Charlemagne frequented hills and taverns of the beautiful region – however, back then Montalcino was known for its white wine, called Moscadello. In the 1600s, the red Brunello started to take over the Moscadello, and today, most of the people don’t even know that the white wines are produced in the Montalcino region, as it is the powerful reds we all associate Montalcino with.
Podere Brizio is a relatively young estate in Montalcino, founded in 1996. The estate has about 30 acres of vineyards, practices sustainable viticulture and in the process of becoming certified organic. The grapes are harvested by hand, natural yeasts are used in the winemaking process. Folks at Podere Brizio love the Montalcino history so much that they put “10 Parpagliola coin, coined in 1556 as a symbol of the Republic of Siena in a year in which about 600 noble Sienese families took refuge in the fortress of our town in order to keep the Sienese Republic alive” on the labels of their wines. Podere Brizio produces about 50,000 bottles annually, with the whole production consisting of 3 red wines – Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino Riserva.
Now, let’s talk about the dinner, which took place at the restaurant called Vespa in Westport, Connecticut. Not only Vespa offers delicious Italian and Mediterranean food, but the restaurant boasts a wine list which has a lot of unique and interesting wines – when was the last time you saw Erbaluce from Piedmont, Cinque Terre Bianco from Liguria, Frappato from Sicily or a “wine geek special”, Rosso del Contadina from Frank Cornelissen, Sicilian maestro of natural wines? Owner Bobby Werhane has special affinity for the uncommon wines and not afraid to put them on the wine list, which of course makes Vespa a perfect food and wine destination for any foodie and wine aficionado alike – and Vintage Vespa is the series of the wine dinners which serves as a testament to that.
We tasted through 4 different wines from Podere Brizio – 2013 Rosso, and Brunello from 2010, 2007 and 2001 vintages, so in essence, this was a vertical tasting. There was one small challenge – the wines were not sufficiently decanted prior to the tasting. Brunello typically are big wines, and they need an ample time in the decanter, or they will not show all its beauty – as you will see from my tasting notes below, this is what happened.
Our dinner consisted of 4 courses. We started with Chicken Liver Pate (Red Onion Mostarda, Toasted Brioche) which had great texture and was absolutely delicious. To my surprise, 2013 Podere Brizio Rosso di Montalcino worked very well with the dish, contrasting the sweet nuances with its tart acidity.
Our second course was Ricotta Cavatelli (Braised Pork Shoulder, Tuscan Kale, Golden Raisins, Toasted Pine Nuts) – again, outstanding, touch of heat and great flavor, hearty and heartwarming (sorry, 2010 was too tight for that, so no pairing notes).
Our main course was Prosciutto Wrapped Veal Tenderloin (Pickeld Sautéed Carrots, Almond Purée) – my notes mostly consist of the exclamation points – wow! flavor! presentation!, so yes, the dish was a treat for the eyes and taste buds alike. After decanting, 2007 Brunello was an excellent complement to this dish, and 2001 Brunello worked very well too.
The desert was outstanding – Coffee Crunch Profiteroles (Mascarpone Cream, Cappuccino Gelato) – imagine a marriage of a classic Profiterole with classic Tiramisu – yep, that was good. And no, we didn’t try to pair the dessert with the wine, we just enjoyed it by itself.
I did my best taking the tasting notes, juggling both delicious food and conversations with other guests, so for what it worth, my tasting notes are below:
2013 Podere Brizio Rosso di Montalcino (13.5% ABV)
N: Tobacco, earthy undertones, violet
P: Clean acidity, medium body, tart cherries, blackberries, tobacco
2010 Podere Brizio Brunello di Montalcino (14.5% ABV)
N: Violet, raspberries, blackberries
P: closed. Hint of tart cherries, but not much else
V: the wine was not decanted initially – and this is way too young, needed lots of time in the decanter. No rating.
2007 Podere Brizio Brunello di Montalcino (14.5% ABV)
C: Dark Garnet
N: Touch of plums, but mostly closed
P: Plums, nice tannins, good acidity.
V: 7+, needs time – should be decanted for at least 2 hours
2001 Podere Brizio Brunello di Montalcino (14% ABV)
C: dark Garnet, not a sign of age
N: Intense crushed berries, tar, leather, blackberries
P: Fresh tannins, great acidity, open, vibrant, great concentration and structure
V: 8/8+, just started to open, will shine in 5-10 years.
There you have it, my friends. Delicious food + Great wines = Vintage Vespa. Make sure to keep an eye on Vespa (probably their Facebook page is the easiest) so you will not miss the next wine dinner. Or better yet – head over to the restaurant and just make your own wine dinner – I’m sure you will not be disappointed. Cheers!
2A Post Rd West
Westport, CT 06880
No, “Bistronomie” is not defined in Merriam-Webster, not yet anyway, but I expect that you have no problems understanding its meaning – a Gastronomy experience in a Bistro setting, right? It also means that you can eat dessert when you want, but we will talk about it later. Before we continue, I have to give the usual warning – there are lots of food pictures ahead, proceed at your own risk (not sure if “risk” is a right word, but I’m sure you got my point).
Welcome to the recently opened Noir Restaurant in Stamford, Connecticut, which identifies itself as an American Bistronomie. The restaurant looks nice and cozy from the moment you enter, sporting dark quiet decor with interesting paintings on walls – your brain tells you “ha, that looks interesting”, putting you into the right mood, or rather anticipation, for the food to come.
We visited restaurant for Sunday brunch, so what do you typically start your brunch with? Let me rephrase this: when greeted with “what would you like to drink” as you get situated [during brunch], what is the first thing which comes to mind? You might be better than me, but my brain stops at a very pedestrian “mimosa!”. The mimosa was very tasty, but then I actually noticed the cocktail menu – small, but each item on the list looking very intriguing. I had an opportunity to try a number of cocktails and they we all very creative and delicious – and needless to say, visually appealing. I can’t even name a favorite cocktail – well, may be 3 favorites – The Jazzy Latina, The Cabo Mule and The Piscomatico – as I was going from “wow” to “excellent” and back to “wow”.
Our brunch started somewhat traditional with Devilled Eggs (caper aioli, bacon, pimentone) – I love devilled eggs, so I really had to contain myself to behave (meaning: not to move half of the serving dish into my plate), also this was just the beginning of the meal. The dish was very tasty, and as we eat with our eyes first, I can’t help not to commend the presentation.
Our brunch continued – first surprise – with Fresh Fruit with Yogurt. A peculiar side note: few days ago, I read an article suggesting that we eat our fruit all wrong at the end of the meal, which is not right for our digestive system, and instead, we should start our meal with the fresh fruit. I can’t really comment on that, but I can tell you that the fruit was nice, fresh, ripe and tasty.
Next up – Biscuits and Gravy (Homemade buttermilk biscuits, savory sausage gravy). I don’t know even how this works – I don’t have strong cultural connection to the South, where this would be a typical dish – but I love fresh biscuits and savory gravy – this dish was superb. The dish which followed was Pastelon (sweet plantains, seasoned beef, mascarpone cheese), and it even prompted me to do a little research – it appears that “Pastelón is a sweet and salty Puerto Rican version of lasagna or casserole”. I can easily see the similarity with lasagna – the dish had nice layers. I have to also say that it was not overly sweet.
At this point we are in a middle of our meal, and the next up is … remember what I told you before about the Bistronomie? Well, it is not that it is mandatory feature, but yes, we arrived at the dessert in a middle of our meal! First we had Monica’s French Toast (caramelized challah bread, Grand Marnier, browned butter), which was delicious, and it was followed by Banana Foster Griddle Cakes (spiced pancakes, caramelized bananas, praline pecans) which was “please give me a big spoon and everybody leave the room”.
Done with dessert, back to savory! Eggs Benedict, anyone? Isn’t it a classic brunch dish? Yes, I think so. And topped with a little crab? Yes, I know I’m now talking. Crab Eggs Benedict (jumbo lump crab, toast English muffin, hollandaise) – outstanding.
Following an American classic (I always think of Eggs Benedict as a French dish, but it was actually created in the USA) was another Southern specialty – Crispy Chicken and Waffles (home fried crispy chicken, jalapeño maple syrup). I have to tell you that chicken was crispy and tender, and jalapeño maple syrup was simply a stand out. Then we were served Short Rib Hash (slow braised short rib, home fries, fried egg) – isn’t fried egg makes everything look and taste better? I think it does. Overall, this was very tasty dish with one little gripe – the short rib itself was too salty – for sure for my personal taste.
Finishing up on the high note was one last dish, yet another Southern classic – Shrimp and Grits (Cajun Herbed shrimp, creamy grits). While shrimp were perfectly cooked and very tasty, the creamy grits were simply out of this world.
All in all, this was a spectacular meal, and I can’t recommend Noir Bistronomie high enough as location for your next dinner, brunch or simply a place to have a drink at. And before we part, I also would like to thank Chef Francisco Ciciliano who came to speak to us for a few minutes at the end of our food journey.
And of course I have to acknowledge and thank the staff at Noir Stamford for all the wonderful drinks and for taking great care of our group.
So, what do you think about the Bistronomie? Are you going to ask for it now by name? Cheers!
225 Summer Street
Stamford CT 06901
Tuesday thru Thursday 5PM – 10PM
Friday & Saturday 5PM – 11PM
Sunday Brunch 11:30AM – 3PM
What do you think of the following evening – fresh, super-fresh burrata (burrata any fresher is still inside the cow), pizza – made right in front of your eyes, and a flight of wine. How is that for the definition of a good life? Yep, I thought you would agree. And you know the best part, my friends? I can tell you where you can have all of that and much more!
Brick+Wood in Fairfield, CT is it – the new restaurant where you will find burrata, pizza, fried calamari, an Italian street food called Panzerotti and lots more. And to top it off, the wine flights! How many restaurants do you know where you can build your own wine tasting flight? Here you can! And as an extra bonus, Brick+Wood is probably one of the most cheerful restaurants I ever been to – just look at the t-shirts the staff is wearing (aren’t you making your reservation yet?)!
Let talk about cocktails and wines first. We started with two cocktails – The Brick and The Wood – it was purely unintended, only when I started to write the blog post I realized that we got cocktails to match the name of the restaurant. Nevertheless, The Brick (bulliet rye, aperol, fresh mint, lemon) was very potent and refreshing. The Wood Martini (orange flavored vodka, limoncello, campari, fresh squeezed orange juice) was surprisingly not sweet, with the good balance of flavors.
Now, let’s talk about the unique wine program at the Brick + Wood. The “unique” part is that all of the wine on the list (about 30 in total between whites and reds) are available in any size you want – by the tasting pour (2 oz), glass (6 oz), carafe or a whole bottle. You can build your own flight and have a tasting or pair different wines with the different dishes – everything is possible, and all the wines are priced quite reasonably. The selection represents California, Washington, Oregon, New Zealand, Argentina, Spain and Italy – you can see fragments of the wine list in the picture below:
Okay, time to talk about the food. We started from what was called in the menu a “Neapolitan Street Food”. House Made Crostino was very simple but every bit delicious (you can’t go wrong with prosciutto which is sliced right there at the kitchen table). Loaded Potatoes were very tasty, boasting tangy cheese. Next we had Panzerotti (fried dough stuffed with salamino, fresh mozzarella and basil, marinara sauce) which were even served as the street food would be, wrapped in the parchment paper. Fritto Misto (Fried Calamari and shrimp with cherry peppers, chipotle and miso aioli) was excellent, crispy and light, complemented very well with the aioli. Last in that part of our dinner were Arancini (4 cheeses, vodka sauce), which seems to be all of a sudden a very popular appetizer and every and each Italian restaurant around.
I don’t know if this will sound right, but culmination of our dining experience happened right in a middle of our dinner – we were introduced to the Mozzarella and Burrata Bar at Brick+Wood. Imagine the mozzarella been pulled right in front of us, and stuffed with the cream to become a burrata, tied up and served to us right at that very moment. Yes, as I mentioned before, the mozzarella any fresher will still be inside the cow. Here is a series of pictures which will show you creation of burrata – but pictures don’t do the true justice to the food wizardry – you better get yourself to the Brick+Wood and taste for yourself:
Next it arrived at our table – Burrata (house made mozzarella with a cream filled center, assorted meats and vegetables) was served two ways – regular and with truffle oil. The addition of the pungent truffle flavor to the burrata created yet another level of magic – the melding of flavors was just spectacular.
Next dish was yet again nothing short of spectacular – Girelli (thin mozzarella layered with the eggplant, prosciutto and roasted peppers) – I never had mozzarella sliced so thin, used as a perfect dough-like wrapper – it was definitely a wow dish. Last dish in this part of the dinner was Irving Salad (mixed greens, dried cherries, glazed pecans , goat cheese) – fresh, light, with delicious combination of flavors and the goat cheese which even goat cheese haters would be able to enjoy.
Remember I mentioned Pizza in the title? Yes, Pizza time! Brick + Wood sports a wonderful wood-fired oven where you can see pizza been made, right there, right then:
We had 3 different pizzas, all made with the double zero flour: Margherita (San Marzano tomato sauce, basil, fresh mozzarella, evoo) – very good crust, nice flavor profile; Spizy Pizza (San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, sopressata, prosciutto cotto, bacon and jalapeno, red pepper infused honey) – perfectly spicy!; Mare a Monte (shrimp, corn and crispy pancetta) – delicious with the nice sweetness, the corn was very interesting on the pizza.
Last but not least – dessert! We had Maple Cheesecake, which was excellent, and Peanut Butter and Nutella Pizza, which had a great combination of salty crust with Peanut Butter and Nutella – simply outstanding.
There you have it, my friends – a delicious evening and a unique and different experience. If you are in the area and looking for a great food and wine, in good company of friends, accompanied by a great service with the smile, I can’t recommend Brick+Wood highly enough.
Have fun and cheers!
Disclaimer: I visited restaurant as a guest of the management. All opinions are my own.
Brick + Wood
1275 Post Rd Ste 7
Fairfield, CT 06824