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Restaurant Files: C Salt, A Wow Dining Experience on Cape Cod

August 4, 2015 7 comments

C Salt Wine Bar and GrilleCape Cod, a small strip of land off the coast of Massachusetts, is a vacation land. Of course people live on the Cape, as it is often abbreviated, throughout a year, but ask anyone about Cape Cod and the first reflection would be “vacation!”.

Cape Cod is located in the part of the USA which is collectively called New England, and I like to call it a quintessential New England. On Cape Cod, there is a tremendous focus on preserving that traditional “New England/Cape Cod” feeling. There is traditional style for everything – architecture, landscaping, re-purposing of the old houses as shops, bakeries and restaurants, and of course, the food itself.

When it comes to the food, it is not surprising that “traditional Cape Cod” cuisine is focused on the fresh seafood – remember, it is a strip of land surrounded by the water on all sides. So the seafood it is, and in most of the cases it is either deep fried or oven baked – we can also call it a part of that tradition. One more observation, while not directly food related (more of a cultural norm), as Cape Cod is an easy going vacation land, shorts and t-shirt are the most popular attire anywhere, including the restaurants.

Every once in a while, even during the lazy Cape Cod vacation, you might want your dining experience to be more elevated (not the Michelin-star necessarily, but a bit more than just a casual comfort food – what do you say?). I’m glad to report that this is experience is not too difficult to find on the Cape, and I have a perfect example for you – C Salt Wine Bar and Grille in Falmouth.

On outside, the restaurant looks exactly as a re-purposed cape-style house – actually I think from the back you would even never guess that this is a restaurant. I also really like the fact that the restaurant had its own parking lot in the back, which is not usual on the Cape, and looking for the parking on the busy Main street is always a hassle. On the inside, the restaurant was rather small, so we were definitely glad that we made a reservation – the restaurant completely filled up withing 15 minutes of our arrival at 5:30.

First, of course, were the drinks and the wine. Pear Martini was not too sweet and refreshing – this is what I’m always looking for in the cocktail. Overall, the cocktail list had good variety, including few of the barrel aged cocktails. The wine list was also very good, with reasonable selection of the wines by glass and half bottles (excellent selection of half-bottles). Lots of wines were priced close to the double retail, which always wins points in my book. We settled for 2011 Waterbrook “Reserve” Merlot Columbia Valley , Washington, which was perfectly classic Bordeaux style, dry, earthy and nicely restrained, excellent overall. It also worked quite well with various dishes we had.

For the appetizers round, we settled on two dishes: Crispy Thai Calamari (Lightly Battered and Fried, Hot & Sour Vinaigrette, Baby Spinach, Mango Pea Shoots, Grapefruit, Cashew) and Sesame Hoisin Wings (Ten Lightly Breaded and Crisp Fried Chicken Wings with Sesame Hoisin Sauce). While Calamari and Wings sound pedestrian, it is all the matter of execution. I would say that our family are connoisseurs of the Calamari – if we are in the restaurant, and Calamari are on the menu, 9 times our of 10 we would order them. The Calamari dish at C Salt was outstanding – a very unusual combination with mango, grapefruit and spinach, but perfectly crisp despite the presence of the fresh fruit. Really a delicious dish.

For the wings, again – what can be unique and different, right? It appears that it is not just the sauce which can be different – in this case, the wings themselves were outstanding – not a tiniest drop of fat left, they were perfectly crispy and super tender – may be the best rendition of the chicken wings I ever had (bold statement, I know).

For the main course, each one of us got different dishes (but of course we shared the taste – we are a foodie family 🙂 ). I personally had Grilled #1 Sushi Grade Tuna (Sushi Grade Tuna Grilled Rare, Crispy Jasmine Rice Cake, Sesame Stir Fried Baby Bok Choy, Wasabi Vinaigrette, Soy Syrup, Pomegranate Syrup, Lime & Cilantro) – perfect quality fish, perfect execution, an outstanding balance of flavors, perfect amount of heat – very tasty. My wife had Five Hour Root Beer Braised Short Ribs (Caramelized Brussels Sprouts), which was a melt-in-your-mouth type of dish. Short ribs generally is one of my favorites – when cooked right (slowly), at home or at the restaurant, the flavor and texture are incredible – and this dish was a perfect example. Kids went for Statler Chicken Breast (Whipped Potato, Grilled Corn & Tomato Salad with Sriracha Aioli Drizzle, Pan Jus) and 8 oz. Grilled Filet Mignon (Organic Wild Mushrooms & Roasted Cipollini Onions, Choice of Sauce). Everybody cook chicken at home, so what can be exciting about chicken, right? Well, visit C Salt and try for yourself – chicken was delicious, great flavor, and grilled corn and tomato salad was just a perfect accompaniment.
The steak was perfect in its own right (I know I’m abusing the word “perfect”, but this is the right word to use here). The crust was perfectly crispy and satisfyingly salty to properly contrast sweetness of the meat. C Salt offers a choice of sauces for the steak, and the Cabernet reduction was simply elevating already very tasty bite to the next level. One of the very best steaks I ever had, period.

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We also took two additional side dishes to share – Roasted Sweet Potato Steak Fries and Chef Style Whipped Potatoes (mashed potatoes with addition of bacon) – both were very tasty.

What is left? Dessert! We were quite full already, but considering the great experience we had with the meal, we had to try the desserts. “After Hours” Brownie (Ale Brownie, Irish Whiskey Ice Cream, C Salted caramel, Brown Sugar) was gooey and delicious. “Mason Jar” Chèvre Cheesecake (Creamy Goat Cheese, Lemon and Poppy Seeds, Rhubarb Raspberry Compote, Graham Cracker Streusel) was fluffy and light, and it was an excellent ending to our delicious experience.

I can’t end this post without commending our server, Sarah, for the wonderful, helpful, smiley and attentive service throughout the eventing. If you are looking for the upscale dining experience in the Cape Cod vacation land, visit C Salt Wine Bar and Grille, and leave me a thank you note after. Cheers!

C Salt Wine Bar & Grille
75 Davis Straits
Falmouth, MA 02540
Phone: 774-763-2954
http://www.csaltfalmouth.com/

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

June 19, 2015 15 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cozymeal – A Unique Dining Experience

May 22, 2014 6 comments

What I want to share with you today is a guest blog post written by Nanette Wong and Samad Nasserian, presenting unique and interesting dining concept Cozymeal. I like the concept, and I think it nicely expands your Friday (or any other) night dining options. Cozymeal is available today only in San Francisco and Northern California, but they plan to expand to East Coast very soon. Please read below and feel free to comment. Cheers!

Picture this: It’s Friday night, and you’ve made reservations at the hottest new restaurant in town. When you arrive, you still have to wait a little bit, despite making reservations. No big deal (sort of). Finally, you’re seated and everyone’s ordered. The food comes out, and it’s pretty good, but it’s a tiny space and you keep bumping elbows with everyone. It’s a little noisy too, so it’s hard to carry on a normal conversation. On the way out, splitting the bill gets complicated and everyone is a little frustrated with how it’s done. Does this scene sound familiar at all?

We’ve all experienced situations like this before, and that’s where Cozymeal comes in. Cozymeal is offering a new way of eating and enjoying the benefits of a restaurant, without the not so pleasant parts. Also, you can have the cooking classes with the chefs, so you can even eat the delicious foods you cook. Pretty cool right? It’s a complete foodie experience.

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Here is how it works. Cozymeal is a trusted community of food lovers and home chefs who share their passion for food. In order to enjoy a Cozymeal, all you need to do is to browse through the offered Cozymeals, find the dining style you like (or a cooking class) and the date which works for you (or you can request the new date), book it and then come to enjoy a great evening of great food and conversation in cozy and comfortable setting – it is as easy as that!

There’s a wide array of meals offered. From Peranakan Food on a Boat to Old Style Nordic Cuisine to a French Country dinner, there’s a meal to fit everyone and anyone’s taste buds. And that doesn’t even cover all the cooking classes offered as well!

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One of the most popular cooking classes currently offered is James’ Italian Comfort Meal cooking class, where you learn to make your own, fresh pasta! Located in the colorful Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, professional chef James will teach class participants how to make a scrumptious egg tagliatelle, topped with slow cooked pork sugo.

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And that’s not even the main course. The main course is a slow-cooked beef brisket, simmered in white wine and milk. The whole meal is rounded off with a creamy La Quesada (think if cheesecake met flan) and fresh, local berries.

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Another unique dining experience is Desiree’s Peranakan Dinner on a Boat. With Desiree, you can enjoy a sunset dinner on her boat docked at the Berkeley harbor.

She is half Hainanese and half Peranakan, and offers an authentic fusion meal for Cozymeal diners. The meal starts off with crispy sardine puffs, followed by chicken nut stew and jasmine rice. A simple yet flavorful and traditional tofu dish also appears on the menu. And of course, can’t forget dessert, which are a sweet, fluffy Kaya puff.

What’s most interesting about the whole experience is that professional chefs, or really talented home cooks, not only put the effort into creating this meal, but they also welcome you into their home. You get to interact directly with them, chat about how they cooked the meal, and pretty much ask them whatever you want! (Can’t guarantee they’ll spill all their secrets though). This is also being a great benefit for travelers. How often had you traveled abroad, hoping to taste the authentic food of the nation, but are limited to restaurants. And let’s face it, the restaurants are probably catered to tourists. Now that we think about it, it’s kind of being in Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, where you’re Guy Fiery and the chef is sharing his food with you in his own home! Pretty awesome. Anthony Bourdain ain’t got nothin on you.

Cozymeal is growing rapidly and will be expanding to the East Coast very soon. If you are interested in becoming a Cozymeal host in the East Coast, West Coast or anywhere else, reach out to us by visiting our host page.

Check out Cozymeal here, or visit us on Facebook.

 

 

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