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
Concept of “food” is multidimensional. At home, tasty food and family (and friends) around the table is usually all you need. Mix in a bit of ambiance and a glass of a good wine, and you got a great experience, right there.
When it comes to visiting the restaurant, you need a bit more than just food for the great and memorable experience – good service is important; another element which is near and dear to me is cost. This is not even the “cost” in the absolute terms – it is more the perceived value which matters, the infamous “price/performance” – an amazing burger for $20 might be a great experience, and tasteless, rubbery steak for $15 will not be the one.
As you can see in the title of this post, I want to talk about “off the chart” experience. The source of this exuberant designation was our recent visit at the Portside Tavern in Hyannis on Cape Cod (love weekend getaways, even with 5 hours in traffic). To go along the lines of a great experience in the restaurant, I was with the family, food was amazingly tasty, service was great, and the value was unbeatable – that’s all.
First, of course, was the wine. Don’t get me wrong – the restaurant also offers full bar with interesting cocktails, but my attention was on the wine list, which offers lots of great options, both by the glass (most of the wines priced in $7 – $12 range), and by the bottle (prices starting from $30 and some even for less). I couldn’t pass by the 2013 Ken Wright Pinot Noir Willamette Valley for $50 – talk about value – even if you can find this wine in retail, which is not easy, it will cost you at least $25, so I consider $50 at the restaurant to be a great value. After a bit of the breathing time, the wine was gorgeous, dense and powerful, with the signature Oregon aromatics of earth and cocoa.
Next, there was a pure indulgence from start to finish. Chowder (Local clams, new potatoes, applewood smoked bacon, cream) was not too heavy, not too thick, very well balanced in flavor.
Watermelon Gazpacho (Sweet basil drizzle, whipped feta) was different and refreshing – outstanding on any hot day, light, and again, very tasty.
One of my favorite ways to cook chicken wings is to slow roast them at a low temperature (say 215ºF or so) – they develop great flavor and then easily fall off the bone this way. I was happy to find the same style chicken wings at the restaurant – Confit Chicken Wings (Choice of harissa, rhubarb BBQ, or sweet basil sauce – we chose BBQ sauce) were super-tasty and the chicken wings were literally melting in the mouth. Continuing to deliver a great dining pleasure was Poutine (House cut fries, cheddar curds, foie gravy) – love this interpretation of French fries. This rendition was on par with best of the best I had in Quebec – flavor, texture, cheese, gravy – everything was just spot on. Finishing our divine appetizer experience was perfectly executed Mac & Cheese (Gemelli, local cheeses, buttered crumbs) – again, very tasty.
Our main course dishes were equally delicious. Chicken Risotto (Asparagus, prosciutto, baby tomatoes, balsamic reduction) was very well executed, great smokey flavor, nice contrast of balsamic, very tasty. Half-Pound Burger (Caramelized onions, bacon, garlic aioli, tomato jam, brioche) had an excellent fresh beef flavor, was cooked as requested and overall was very enjoyable.
Cuban (Braised pork, ham, Gruyere, dijon aioli, house-made pickle, grilled french bread) was done exactly as I like it – good amount of meat, flat pressed bread, great combination of flavors – one of the best Cuban sandwich experiences. It was also served with a side of Wedge salad (one of the available choices), which is one of my favorite salads any time I see one. Grilled BBQ Chicken Pizza (Bacon, red onion, cheddar) was delicious, good crust and again, great flavor combination.
As you can imagine, we were absolutely full at this point. But considering how good all the food was, we had to try at least one dessert. After back and forth, we settled on Double Chocolate Cookie (Vanilla Ice Cream), which was more resembling a chocolate lava cake, and was instantly devoured with the help of four spoons.
72 North Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
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
Do you like restaurants with charm? In a lot of cases, people go to the restaurant for the good food and good service. Don’t get me wrong – these are my priorities too. But for me, experiencing a pleasure of just “being inside” is a great bonus too. You walk in, just glance around and say “ahh, I like it here” – this is what I mean by “charm”. You are at the restaurant, waiting for your dining companions to arrive, then you are walking to your table, get seated and situated, and all that time you are thoroughly pleased with surroundings and the atmosphere – I hope you get what I’m talking about here.
If you happened to be in the Washington DC, and would like to visit a restaurant with the charm, I got a recommendation for you – Tabard Inn Restaurant in the area known as Dupont Circle. The restaurant is located inside of the actual hotel (I would designate it more as a B&B) under the same name – Tabard Inn, with the rooms available throughout the three adjacent townhouses – but as I didn’t have a pleasure staying there, we are, of course, will be talking only about the restaurant.
I’m assuming you got my point about the atmosphere and ambiance (relaxing, pleasant, “old glove” comfortable), so let’s talk about food and wine – starting with the wine of course. I really liked the wine list at Tabard Inn – lots of good selections with reasonable prices. The wine list was well rounded internationally, so we managed to make two very interesting ( and highly successful!) choices. For the white, we had 2013 Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko Santorini, Greece (14% ABV, 100% Assyriko, $55 at the restaurant). The group I was dining with typically prefers red wines. However, after trying this wine, the waiter had a hard time to keep the open bottle on the table – the wine was disappearing very quickly. Delicious nose of the white fruit, same white fruit on the palate, crisp, refreshing, medium-bodied, perfectly round – this was one excellent wine (Drinkability: 8).
I managed to surprise myself with the choice of red. It is seldom that I would consciously choose Bordeaux at the restaurant, don’t ask me why. Somehow this wine caught my eye – 2006 Bordeaux for $52. 2006 was a good year in Bordeaux, so why not? When the wine arrived, there was a nice surprise – it was from even a better vintage, one of the best from the 2000 decade – 2005. 2005 Chateau La Croix St André, Lalande-de-Pomerol (13% ABV, 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc), was at the peak of maturity. Stunning depth of dark fruit with spices, black currant, eucalyptus, classic, concentrated and delicious (Drinkability: 8+).
While Tabard Inn restaurant is not necessarily advertised as “farm-to-table”, the menu is focused on the seasonal ingredients and changes all the time. As the group, we usually like to share some appetizers, but somehow this time around, everybody were really focused on conversation (and the wine 🙂 ), so pretty much no food sharing took place. That simply means that I can only tell you about the dishes I selected for my dinner.
For the appetizer I had Tuna Tartar – very tasty, served with the sesame crisps. My main dish was Gumbo (Andouille sausage, shrimp, chicken confit, swordfish, fried oysters) – overall it was tasty, but when I hear “Gumbo”, my first thought is “Louisiana Gumbo” – the dish I had was lacking spicy heat for my personal preference (try to guess if I left anything on the plate because of that).
I had dessert in both standard and liquid forms. I’m a sucker for a bread pudding in any form, so when I heard that dish mentioned by our waiter, I had no choice – and it was very tasty. For the liquid dessert we shared a bottle of 2014 Elio Perrone Sourgal Moscato d’Asti Piedmont DOCG, which was perfectly balanced, not overly sweet, with fine bubbles and nicely refreshing, just a right finish for an excellent dinner.
Looking for the restaurant with the ambiance, charm, great wine list and delicious, seasonally-appropriate food in Washington, DC? I think I just told where to find it. Cheers!
1739 N St NW
Washington, DC 20036
Who doesn’t like brunch, raise your hands. Yep, I thought so. It is literally impossible not to like the slow flow of the delicious food on Sunday, when you still have some of your weekend left, and the late breakfast becoming an early lunch is one of the indulgences of the weekend time with the family.
When it comes to brunch, you have to make some choices. I don’t mean “to drink Mimosa or not”, but most fundamental choice is between brunch buffet and the regular a-la-cart brunch menu. There are pro and cons for both, but this is not a subject of today’s post. What I want to talk about is a recent experience at one of the newest restaurants in lower Fairfield county in Connecticut – Oak+ Almond in Norwalk, CT.
Oak + Almond opened in the Fall of 2013 at the same location where Tuscan Oven restaurant was located for almost 20 years. Oak + Almond is classified as new American cuisine, which I think is quite fitting – lots of focus on local farms and products – you know where the cheese came from, you know where the chicken came from, you know where the eggs, berries and produce came from. As much as possible, everything is fresh and local, which is definitely a trait in the new American restaurant style.
The place is nicely decorated, reusing some of the components of the old Italian restaurant to their advantage, such as the pizza oven (those are always nice to have on hand, aren’t they). The decor overall should be classified as retro modern (or modern retro, whatever way you see it), with some very unusual lighting and heavy dark oak furniture. Here are the few pictures for you:
Charred Octopus (guajillo squid ink sauce. potatoes. andouille. celery) – well done, octopus was just as exact “chewiness” where it is pleasant (I think cooking octopus without making it into a rubber is an art).
Funghi Flatbread (charred green onion. fontina. balsamic) – this was a masterpiece – with all due respect to all other dishes, the mushrooms were soooo … mushroomy! If you like mushrooms – don’t miss it.
O+A Margherita Flatbread (Hamden burrata. tomato. calabrian chile) – this was okay, but slightly… pedestrian, especially comparing to the previous flatbread.
We also had 3 “communal” boards to share – the Artisan Cheese Board (fruit preserves. nuts. crostini), the selection of 6 local cheeses – Cremont, Nancy Camembert, Nettle Meadow Kunik, Fiscalini Bandaged Cheddar, North Coutry Blue and Ocooch Mountain, all from the Artisanal Cheese); Meat Board (hand selected meats, pickles, crostini) and House Cured Salmon. All three dishes were well done and quite tasty.
Oak + Almond
544 Main Ave
Norwalk, CT 06851
Looking for the Southern hospitality, great food, great cocktails and a great time? Shhhh… I got a place for you. Read on, but…may be you should eat something first, as there will be pictures. An aspiring food porn pictures. Yes, consider yourself warned.
And the Connecticut bloggers got together again! This time we visited a restaurant in Norwalk, Connecticut, called Mama’s Boy. The restaurant defines itself as “southern table and refuge”. On outside, the restaurant is located on the first floor of the ultra-modern glass-and-metal building. Inside, it is rustic, simple and inviting. You know you will be comfortable from the moment you walk through the door and set your foot on the dark wooden floor.
The first thing not to miss in Mama’s Boy is the bar. The bar is well stocked, showing the top shelf full of great southern favorites – bourbons and whiskeys. When you get the cocktail from the list, you know exactly what you are getting – it will not be just some vodka of questionable pedigree – depending on the cocktail you know that you are getting Ciroc, or Three Olives, or Fire Fly.
We had a few cocktails to start. The Dirty South (Homemade Sweet Tea, Fire Fly Vodka, Lemon) was outstanding and super dangerous – you have a full impression of drinking just a nicely sweetened iced tea with the slice of lemon, delicious and refreshing. You think you can have many of those. Until you realize that you talk slower. And need more time to move around.
Then I had the Blood Orange Jalapeno Margarita (Chinaco Blanco, Blood orange puree, Jalapeno). First of all, I was very impressed with the fact that they actually used Chinaco – this is very rare and one of the absolutely best tequilas you can find. And the taste was purely spectacular – a perfect balance of spicy and refreshing, with just enough sweetness. This was definitely my best cocktail I ever had. Until Chris, the maestro behind the bar counter, offered something which was not even on the menu – gin-based, barrel aged cocktail which didn’t have the official name, so it was called The Drink.
The Drink was based on gin, but then there were cucumbers of a different kind, as well as many other ingredients – it was a pleasure watching Chris really engaged in the process of creation of this masterpiece, tasting, adding, tasting again – until he reached the point of perfection. Once I tasted it, I realized that while previous cocktail was spectacular, The Drink was simply amazing – it got my “best ever” title, with the refreshing and uplifting combination of all the ingredients.
And then, there was food. The bread was presented in the form of a basket of warm cornbread muffins, accompanied by butter and a tangy “jelly”. The first dish which already was on the table was Redneck Edamame (Georgia peanuts boiled in house spice blend) – believe it or not, but these peanuts had practically complete textural identity with edamame! Definitely this was a very interesting dish to start with.
Next up – Deviled Eggs (house-smoked Tasso, okra pickles). I’m very particular about devilled eggs, as this was one of the dishes I grew up with, and we make it quite often at home. The Mama’s Boy devilled eggs were outright delicious, very generous, with bacony goodness of Tasso perfectly coming through in the creamy filling.
Fried Chicken Skins (pickled beets, jalapeno-garlic honey) were perfectly resembling fired calamari – I actual think it should be renamed on the menu into Redneck Calamari – but then they already have one Redneck dish listed : ) Light, crunchy, delicious – if you don’t read the name “chicken skin”, you would never guess what this dish was made out of. The sauce was delicious, tangy with a spicy twist.
Charleston Crab Cake (creamed corn, house smoked bacon, red pepper, green onion) came up next. As we tasted it, Valerie, who was sitting next to me, commented that she spent many years in Maryland, and she knows real crab cakes – and this one was probably one of the best she ever had (I fully concur). Big lumps of crab meat, perfectly seasoned, nice creamy corn goodness surrounding it – that was one delicious crabcake.
Once we were done with the crab cake, we were given small bowls, and then the big pot showed up in a middle of every table – Low-country Bouillabaisse (Grouper, white shrimp, mussels, house-smoked andouille, baby corn, potato, shrimp broth). I’m big fun of bouillabaisse dishes – if there is one on the menu, there is a high probability that it would be my choice. I know I’m abusing the word “perfect” throughout this post – but it is very difficult to fully represent the food and try to stay within the precise culinary terms – so let me continue abusing “perfect” and “delicious”, as there is not much else I have to say. This dish was Delicious! Touch of heat from andouille sausage, sweetness of mussels and baby corn, all perfectly wrapped around together. I’m glad we had bread, as it would be a crime to waste a single drop of that broth…
So at this point I was practically full (okay, not yet) – but I didn’t expect anything to topple our experience so far. And then the BLT Salad (fried green tomato, candied bacon, artisan lettuce, buttermilk-herb dressing) arrived… What can be so special about BLT, right? Well, everything, if B stands for lightly candied bacon, L stands for super-fresh and crunchy lettuce, and T stands for fried green tomatoes – every bite was ahh so good!
Tired of the food pictures – here is the a little break for you – the back of the shirt of one of the waiters, and then Greer Fredericks, one of the owners of the Mama’s Boy, talking to Bonnie from The Home Place and her husband:
Next up – Shrimp and Grits (white shrimp, Fall’s Mill grits, house-smoked Tasso, spring onion, pimento cream gravy) – yes, I had no doubts that we will experience a southern favorite such as Shrimp and Grits. Beautifully presented, very delicious – creamy grits, perfectly cooked shrimp, nice complement of smoky bacon – all in all, an excellent ( and very filling) dish.
Next The Little Yardbird (marinated country fried game hen, corn bread waffle, braised collard greens, Brookside Farms maple syrup, habanero jelly) arrived – the cornbread waffle was perfectly supportive of the maple syrup, and the whole dish perfectly worked together, as you would expect of “chicken and waffles”.
Last but not least was Crispy Pork Shank (Sea Island red pea maque choux, herb infused braising liquid) – the peas and the borth were immaculate, and the shank was incredibly crispy and succulent at the same time. This was the only moment when people at the table regret having each other’s company – this shank required quiet, intimate one on one time with two hands on the bone…
We finished our southern food extravaganza with Trio of “Home Made” Cakes – that included Red Velvet Cake, Spice Cake and Carrot Cake. While I think consensus favorite was the spice cake, my personal winner was the carrot cake – I’m a carrot cake junkie, and I love when it is balanced in flavor so cinnamon and cloves and overall sugar are all together – so this cake was exactly like that.
You know how it is easy to understand that you just visited a great restaurant? If the next day you crave the food you had the day before, that is clearly the sign of greatness. While the group was torn between Bouillabaisse and BLT, we were all chatting next day how great it would be to experience that wonderful food again – this constitutes glowing endorsement in my book. All left to say here is thank you – Thank you, Chef Scott Ostrander, for the wonderful meal. We will be back…
Disclaimer: I attended the dinner as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.
19 North Water Street
South Norwalk, CT 06854
It seems that one of the unwritten rules of the blogosphere is that everybody tends to share positive experiences, and for everything else – well, that is what critics are for. Yes, we rant from time to time, but more to discuss a general problem, and not for any particular reason. Thinking about it, having a true picture is important. If someone provides mediocre product or service, we often just “vote with our feet” – instead, providing some criticism could be the best thing to do, as this is the only way for someone to find out that improvements are needed. As you already got my point, this post is about experience which could’ve being better.
We went to the Bar Q BBQ & Grill in Stamford during the restaurant week (a couple of weeks ago). This was our second visit – we were there last year at about the same time (also during the restaurant week), and we had a very tasty experience, so we were very much looking forward to visiting the restaurant again.
As you can guess from the name, Bar Q is focused on serving the American barbecue. Their wine list is very limited, but the draft beer selection is excellent (and the beer is more appropriate for the BBQ anyway). Also, the menu offers to create a beer tasting flight – 3 oz of beer, 4 beers in the flight, all for $9.
Our flight included Allagash White, Belgian style wheat ale – perfectly refreshing, Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat – had a bit more weight compare to Allagash, still quite refreshing, Woodchuck Amber Draft Cider – very dangerous to have in the presence of kids, as in appearance it is not any different than Ginger Ale – light, fizzy taste with some sweet notes – perfectly quaffable. The last beer was Blue Point Toasted Lager, which is in the category of so called Red Lager – it had some bitter notes, medium weight on the palate – quite enjoyable as well.
So the beer flight was great, the service was also very good – friendly and prompt, but the food – not so much, unfortunately.
We always like to try different things, so we ordered 4 different appetizers.
Out of Truck Stop Queso Dip, Pig in a Blanket, Chipotle Meat Sliders and Potato Pig Skins, only Queso Dip was tasty, and the sliders were okay. The potato skins were mushy and had no taste, and the pig in the blanket was a tasting disaster.
Our “main course”, a variety of BBQ items, was not great either.
We took pretty much everything from the BBQ “small plates” menu which was not a poultry – St. Louis Cut Sticky Ribs, Classic Pulled Pork, Sliced Beef Brisket, Beef Burnt Ends, House Smoked Kielbasa Sausage, Grilled BBQ Shrimp, Smoked Pork Belly and Memphis Dry Rubbed Baby Back Ribs. Most of the dishes were okay, but none of them was at the “wow” level. “Burnt ends” dish was a disappointment by comparison – last year we couldn’t get enough of it – it was so flavorful and delicious. This time, it was only “well, okay”. And the smoked pork belly was a disaster – a blob of dribbling fat, smothered in the BBQ sauce. Yes, it was cooked, but the piece itself was such that in my opinion it should be never served in the restaurant as a dish (may be only used as a cooking fat). The sides dishes were [unfortunately] the best part of the meal.
To conclude, I wouldn’t put this as a “terrible experience” – it was an okay food experience, and drinks and service were excellent. But the problem is, this restaurant is no longer on my “I would love to do it again” list. No, I’m not asking for an absolute perfection – but, there should be at least one “wow” moment, an anchor which will pull us back – and this time around, Bar Q clearly didn’t have one. I hope it might be different in a future, and I will be glad to give Bar Q another try – but someone will have to convince me that it is well worth it.
Bar Q BBQ & Grill
261 Main St. (Behind Black Bear)
Stamford, CT 06901
Boy, is the glass full today… I got a lot of stuff to share, hopefully your glass is big enough.
First things first – here is the answer for the wine quiz #54, Grapes trivia – Merlot. In this quiz you were supposed to answer five questions related to the Merlot grape:
Q1: Merlot was named after a: A. town, B. person, C. bird, D. song
A: C, bird. The name “Merlot” comes after French “Merle”, which means “young blackbird” – the play is on the similarity of the color of Merlot grape and the bird.
Q2: Name the movie where Merlot was dissed on uncountable number of occasions
Q3: One of the grapes from the list below was assumed to be a Merlot – but it was not. Do you know which grape was mistaken for the Merlot? Bonus question – name the country where confusion took place: A. Mourvèdre, B. Carignan, C. Carménère, D. Cinsault
A: C, Carménère – for a while, some of the wines produced in Chile were thought to be made out of Merlot – until 1990s, when genetic studies were conducted and concluded that the grape thought to be Merlot actually was Carménère.
Q4: Some place, some time ago, Merlot successfully crossed (by accident) with Cabernet grape, and formed a new grape which produces pretty unique wines. Can you name that grape?
A: Caberlot – a very unique grape growing in Tuscany, a cross of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Wine is called Il Caberlot and produced by Il Carnasciale, only in magnum bottlings
Q5: Chateau Petrus in Pomerol, France makes some of the very best (and most expensive) wines in the world, and those wines are 100% Merlot. Then there is another 100% Merlot wine, made in another country, which is considered a successful competition to Petrus and done very well against it in a number of blind tastings. Can you name that wine?
A: This was definitely a controversial question, where more than one answer was expected. The wine I had in mind was legendary Masseto, a super Tuscan produced by Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia, but Tua Rita Redigaffe and Le Macchiole Messorio (also Super Tuscan wines) are equally qualified – all three made out of 100% Merlot and can give Petrus good run for the money.
Thus EatwithNamie becomes our champion, as she correctly answered all five questions, but thedrunkencyclist gets honorable mention with 4 correct answers out of 5. Great job and enjoy your unlimited bragging rights!
Now, to the interesting stuff around the net!
As you know, I’m
a little REALLY obsessed with the concept of balance in wine, where all the taste components – acidity, tannins, fruit, alcohol – are in full harmony, and none of them stands out more than another. I remember once reading an article about “harmony points” in taste of the wine, and then for the long time I couldn’t find it again. So finally I spent time and found a lot of interesting reading materials evolving around the concept of “balance”. Here are two articles (first link and second link) regarding the reverse osmosis process which allows you to achieve precise alcohol content in wine, which seems to be completely changing the perception of balance – as an example, exact same wine tastes completely different at 13.5%, 14.1% and 14.5% alcohol. I think these articles are worth reading. On related subject, here is a link to the article from the Wine Spectator, talking about balance in wine – be sure to read through the comments section, there is a lot of interesting polemics among professionals and not.
Today is 3rd annual World Malbec day! Did you have your glass of Malbec yet? If you did not, don’t worry, you can still celebrate in style. Here is the link to the Malbec celebration events around the globe.
Now, a few words about food. First, here is an interesting article about five foods which can rev things up in the bedroom, coming from the Eat and Sip in the City blog. One out those five foods sounds a bit surprising to me – but read the post first, I wonder what you would think.
I also want to bring to your attention a series of events called Dishcrawl – you can buy a ticket for a certain date and time, which allows you to take a “tasting tour” of a group of restaurants located in close proximity to each other. You don’t know what restaurants you are going to until 48 hours prior to the event, so there is an interesting surprise element here. Tickets are reasonably priced – here is an example of the event in Greenwich, CT, which is unfortunately sold out – but you will get the idea.
And one more food-related note. The Capital Grille, one of my favorite restaurant chains, is starting their Spring $18 three course lunch – I took the advantage of these events in the prior years, and it definitely worth your attention.
That is all I have for you for today. The glass is empty. Until the next time – cheers!
Very interesting wine ordering experience during the last dinner at The Capital Grille in Paramus, New Jersey. The Capital Grille restaurant itself needs no introduction, of course – whether you like steak or not, every visit there is a dining experience (you can find my previous excited post here). I have to also acknowledge that part of our great experience during this visit was our waiter, Andre – his service was absolutely impeccable.
Ok, so let’s talk about ordering wine. Wine List at the Capital Grille is quite extensive, plus I’m very particular when it comes to wine ( who would’ve thought?) – and one of the things I’m always looking for for is QPR – I want to find the bottle which will taste good, and will have reasonable cost (have a real problem with paying triple-retail in a restaurant). So after 10 minutes of intense reading I finally decided on Ladera Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – I like the wine very much (you can find one of the previous posts here), besides, at $58 it is less than double retail – makes me very happy. So I ask for the bottle of Ladera 2006, Andre comes back in a few minutes to inform us that they out of Ladera 2006. He start offering 2007 Cabernets – and of course, 2007 Napa valley Cabernets are lauded all over wine press, however, my experience with 2007s is less than stellar – a lot of them simply not ready yet (do I dare to say that they might be just not?). So I refuse his advice, and ask for Central Otago Pinot Noir, Amisfield 2006 – it is outside of QPR comfort zone at $69, but at least I know it is a good wine. Andrea comes back to inform us that they are out of that wine as well. No problems, I was almost ready for that (a bit surprising – two out), so my next choice was Ernesto Catena Locura 2006 blend from Argentina – I didn’t have that before, but at about $55 it was an interesting wine to try. Well, time to ask questions. Do you think we got that wine?
This time Andrea didn’t even show up. Instead, we were approached by the Sommelier (unfortunately we didn’t catch her name) with the bottle of Ladera 2007 in her hand. So we manage to ask for 3 wines from the wine list, which were not available! Of course it happens that the restaurant doesn’t have the wine you ask for, but 3 of them? Wow, we were impressed with our wine picking ability.
Anyway, after Sommelier assured us that she tried that Ladera 2007 and liked it very much, and moreover, if we don’t like the wine we can send it back – we decided to give a try. Oh boy, that happened to be a very good decision, as the wine was beautiful. Soft layered black and red fruit, just right amount of silky tannins, all perfectly balanced with acidity – that was a perfect wine for our dinner, and I would highly recommend this wine to anyone – it is ready to drink now, but as they say, the California Cabernet need about 13 years to shine – it will be interesting to put a few bottles in the cellar and enjoy them later.
So I’m glad to say that this story has a happy end (sometimes restaurant experience can be quite different). Also, if I can give you an advice, for the actual happy ending of the dinner (meaning: desert), try the Cheesecake – it is literally the heaven on earth, and I have to commend Andre for his recommendation – it is the best desert in the house. Until the next time – wishing you all great restaurant experience. Cheers!