CT Food News, Vol. 15: Pepe’s Takes MA, Festivals, Contests, CT Beer Props, Updates, and more…

31 Jul

August is a bittersweet month:  the last bits of summer are dripping down, parents, teachers, and students are ready to head back to school, and the boys of summer are gone (points for the reference).  But, screw that bittersweet crap:  we’re talking ’bout just sweet for the next two weeks!  In CT Food + Beer News, Volume 15, we’ve got openings, restaurant updates, fairs, restaurant specials, and more.  If you’d like a full list of events that we’ve covered in previous posts, check out our Events page up above.

Restaurant Openings and Updates

Pepe’s Pizza will be opening up a restaurant in Brookline, MA, further expanding their cheesy empire.  Pepe’s will be replacing The Fireplace restaurant, formerly owned by Jim Solomon.  Other locations include the original Pepe’s in New Haven, and their pizza satellites in Danbury, Fairfield, Manchester, Mohegan Sun, West Hartford and Yonkers.

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Black Hog Brewing in Oxford Premieres 4 Brews + We Taste Em!

30 Jul

Black Hog Brewing, based out of Oxford, announced last Saturday that their brews would soon be on tap at bars and restaurants throughout CT.  We know people probably wet themselves with excitement…and we were part of the wetters.  Our curiosity with Black Hog was stoked back April when we had the chance to talk with Jason Sobocinski who along with brother Tom (both of Caseus in New Haven) and Head Brewer Tyler Jones (formerly of Portsmouth Brewpub) would open up Black Hog in the former Cavalry Brewing building in Oxford.  They got everybody excited and, if your favorite spot didn’t have it, people were urged to ask.  So, we did what most people here in the Stamford area would do:  we got in touch with Gerard Robertson, owner of Coalhouse Pizza.  Turns out he already had them on tap and had all four Black Hog brews  that they are launching their brewery with.

So, after we judged the Fairway Firefighter Cook-Off, you best believe we hit up Coalhouse with fellow judge, beer savant, and Stamford Advocater, Scott Gargan.  Our mission:  try all 4 brews and report back to you.

Well, here we go:

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Eat for Equity Stamford Preps for 10th Benefit Dinner on August 16

29 Jul

New Eat for Equity Stamford Logo

If you’ve been following our blog, it’s no secret that we are huge supporters of Eat for Equity Stamford.  And, what’s not to love about a group of volunteers who put together meals with all money raised going to local charities?  And, just as exciting, what’s not to love about local businesses like Saugatuck Craft Butchery and Shop Rite Super Grade A who come together to provide high quality food that is also local?  It’s a marriage of everything awesome…plus, after each dinner, you always leave feeling good, feeling like you’ve helped to make a change in the community, and you probably have made a few new great friends in the process, too.

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CT on Tap: New Beer Festival in Danbury Focuses on American Craft Beer

28 Jul

Watch out CT, you’ve got another beer festival on the way!  Yup, yup…get ready for Connecticut on Tap at Ives Concert Park in Danbury on 9/13 from 3 to 6 brought to you by i95 Rock and Townsquare Media Danbury.  Think of it:  over 120 different craft brews being poured out for you and your hop-happy friends.  Tickets are either $35 for GA, $55 for VIP, or even a special price for designated drivers on the day of the event.  Now, here’s what you’ll experience at both price levels:

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CT Food + Beer News, Vol. 14: Dinners, Events, Lots of Openings, Booze, and More…

24 Jul

After that unseasonably cool week, you knew what was bound to happen.  Yes, the inevitable heat, sticky, hazy days of summer are back, but remember the alternatives.  If anything, we should be grateful for the hot weather because it gives us a reason to drink our body weights worth of beer and booze, and it gives us a chance to eat outside under umbrellas or the stars.

So poetic…okay, let’s go:

Events

7/24 Everybody’s favorite barista/owner/awesome-person Leyla Dam of Lorca will be talking about coffee on the third floor auditorium of the Ferguson Library from 4-6 today.  She’ll talk about the process of making coffee from bean to cup and she’ll have samples, too!


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The Meat Truck Chomps Down on New Haven and Sets Paws on Fairfield County

23 Jul

There are days when we want to go light, there are days when you might mix a little light with something heavier.  Then again, there are days when you break out into a hardcore, primal, carnivorous rage and take down meaty dish after meaty dish.

So, Jose Perez did like any American, food (and fun)-loving person would do:  he decided to open up a food truck:  The Meat Truck to be exact.  Their first launch was on July 4 weekend and they sold out of all their food on that day. If  that’s any indiction of their future success, then we think they’ll do very nicely.  While we haven’t had a chance to try the food yet, we did snag an interview with Jose to let you know more about what you can look forward to when The Meat Truck hits up Fairfield and New Haven Counties.

What gave you the inspiration to start a food truck?

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Take a Culinary Tour Through Latin America via Aarón Sánchez’s Paloma in Harbor Point, Stamford

22 Jul

Let’s just put it out there now…we haven’t had the best of luck with celebrity chef restaurants over the past few years, with the exception of Gordon Ramsay’s Maze and Michael Psilakis’s Kefi both in NYC.  More often than not we’ve had disappointing meals like our experience at the recently closed Primary Food & Drink by Graham Elliot and at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in Las Vegas. We’ve found that a celebrity chef putting his or her stamp on a restaurant and menu doesn’t guarantee anything.  So, you’ll have to forgive our skepticism when Aarón Sánchez made plans to open up Paloma in the Harbor Point area of Stamford (where The Beer Garden used to be). Would Chef Sanchez, from Chopped and Cooking Channel’s Heat Seekers (with partner in crime Roger Mooking), be a rare exception?

Well, you better believe we wanted to find out ASAP.  We just so happened to see an ambiguous announcement on Harbor Point’s Facebook page Saturday evening so we made a bee-line for Harbor Point to see if it was really open.  To our delight it was a soft opening and we were lucky enough to get a table.  SCORE!  So, let’s get down to biz-natch… Continue reading

From Catering Intern, to Chopped, to Kitchen Pro: an Exclusive Interview with Hannah Bukzin of Westport, 14

20 Jul
If only she'd be lucky enough to get tomato as a basket ingredient.  It'll probably be something like Spam or blood pudding.

If only she’d be lucky enough to get tomato as a basket ingredient. It’ll probably be something like Spam or blood pudding when she competes on Chopped!

Think back to being a teenager and try to remember the things that you accomplished.  Maybe you had a job and maybe you did a few great community service projects, but let’s be honest.  You probably spent 1/4 of your time playing video games and hanging with friends, 1/1000 of those years doing HW, and 1/2 just putzing around.  But that’s not the case with Hannah Bukzin, 14, of Westport. She has already done some amazing things like win The Marcia Selden Ultimate Dinner Party Contest with Judges Marcia and Robin Selden as well as “Sweet GeniusRon Ben-Israel.  Also, she recently kicked off her summer internship with Robin, Marcia, Jeffrey, Nicole and the amazing crew at Marcia Selden Catering and has been having a great time.  And, yes, she’ll be on a little show airing 7/29 at 10 on Food Network that you might have heard of:  Chopped.  Hannah’s episode is Part Three of the Teen Tournament, so if she goes on to win she’ll face the three other winners at the Finale on 8/12 and pull in a $25,000 culinary school scholarship.  

Well, we had a chance to talk with Hannah about cooking, her favorite foods, what it’s like working with adults, interning, and more.  Here we go:  

When did you first realize that you loved cooking?
So, when people used to ask me this question I said, I’m not really sure.  But after some deep thinking I realized that it was probably around 6 or 7 years ago.  I was going through a stage where I only ate pasta and lettuce (as I used to say, a salad) for dinner.  I started realized what other people were eating and there were other foods out there!  I decided it was time for me to make a change, and voila!  I made my first piece of tilapia with some sautéed carrots.  I still have the photo!  My, have I come a long way from that.  
What’s your favorite dish to make, whether it’s simple or complex?
I get asked this question a lot and it’s really a difficult choice.  I love experimenting with different flavors but if I had to choose it would definitely be a marinated skirt steak with a homemade chimmichurri sauce- roasted potatoes on the side
We can’t get enough Latin food, but how about you?  What’s your favorite cuisine? 
Ironically I actually really like Latin food too!  I can tell you I love to eat Italian food better than anything else!  Cooking wise, though, I would say its not my favorite cuisine that matters as much as my style – classic dishes with a modern twist.  This can go with any and every cuisine that I cook.

The dreaded Mystery Basket!!! Photo from Foodnetwork.com

What are some of your favorite restaurants in the area?

I definitely love Local and Geronimo’s in Fairfield.  If I’m looking for comfort food its Grilled Cheese Eatery all the way—but I can’t eat there too much!!
 
What’s one thing that people really don’t understand about you being young and a protegé in the kitchen?
Wow, a protegé?  I didn’t know I qualified!  Well, it’s really difficult to understand how much it really takes to put yourself out there in the kitchen.  Many people I have worked with have strong personalities (which I love) and are much older than me.  It is difficult to sometimes stand out and really show that I am not just another annoying kid who walks in thinking she knows everything.  Despite this, I am lucky to have worked with some amazing people who have made me feel welcome and make my job of “being an adult in the kitchen” much easier.
How has the internship at Marcia Selden Catering been going? What are some of the amazing things that you’ve been doing there?
This internship is one of the best things I have ever done in my entire life.  I am so lucky and grateful for this amazing opportunity to work with fantastic chefs and people.  They definitely threw me right in!  I am doing things that I never knew that I could do—I told my mom that this isn’t an internship where they are babysitting me.  The chefs in the kitchen, Robin and Marcia are counting on me to put out great food that represents Marcia Selden Catering Company in the light they deserve.  I have done everything from plating up to-go meals to prepping for a wedding tasting.  Who knows what is coming next?
How did it feel to be selected for Chopped Teen?
It was absolutely amazing!  A once in a lifetime opportunity.  All I did was send in an application like thousands of other kids and I was elated when they called me!
Your episode will air on 7/29, but we’re wondering if you’d share anything that you learned from competing against the three other teen chefs and being on tv? 
Unfortunately, I can’t make any comment on the show but I did meet some amazing people and I can’t wait for it to air (even though I won’t watch it)!

We can’t blame Hannah for not watching!  The tension is already too much for us to bear, and we didn’t even compete.  If you can’t watch live or if you don’t have a DVR, you can also watch her episode on 7/30 at 1 am, 7/31 at 11 pm, 8/1 at 2 am, and 8/2 at 6 pm.  Lots of luck Hannah!

CT Food + Beer News, Vol. 13: Openings, Closings, Parties, and Drinks

17 Jul

We hate to say this, but the summer is fluttering fast by us with August soon on the way.  So, let’s slow things down a bit and soak up all the awesome things ogling on this week and next week.  Trust us, there’s a ton to do like a bunch of food events and parties, liquor tastings and classes, openings and closings, and of course…beer news.

Food Events and Parties

7/19  Before (or after) you head over to Fairway Stamford for the Firefighters Cook-off, stop by Stop & Shop Ridgeway from 10-1 for a food drive run by Backyard Humanitarian.  They need cereal and other non-perishable goods.

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In-depth w/ Kory Wollins of BSF: Burgers, Making Mooz, Life, and the Heart of a Perfectionist.

16 Jul
Chances are, this is the man you see every day when you come into BSF Greenwich...

Chances are, this is the man you see every day when you come into BSF Greenwich…

A family of four walked through the door, haggard disappearing into happy, and Kory Wollins was already on them like white on rice.  “Hey, how’s it going?  Is this your first time here?” he asked as they looked a bit overwhelmed as they tried to figure out their orders.  It turns out they were there from Texas and visiting family in Norwalk for a wake, so they stopped at Burgers, Shakes & Fries, hearing about their reputation.  We know they like it big in Texas, so Kory broke down the menu for them.  They got their order in and Kory (owner of BSF Greenwich and co-owner of the Darien spot) kept talking to them about Texas, Connecticut, and just life in general.  When they got their burgers, the buttered-toast hamburgers didn’t last too long, quickly being devoured by the hungry Texans.

This was just 10 minutes of one day (while even more people came in to order during this time), of one week, of one year at BSF, but to that family, Kory made a difference.  On that day, Kory met with Dan and they talked about burgers, the restaurant biz, blogs, his quest to conquer making Fior di Latte mozzarella, and waxing philosophical about life.  During previous conversations they talked a lot about how blog culture tends to bury the good restaurants that have been around in a while in favor of the newest and hottest spots.  There was one comment that stood out from our most recent conversation that we want to start with:  “In the end the most important question to ask is, ‘Did you walk out with a smile when you left?'”  We always smile when we leave, especially when we have the smell of burgers and fries wafting from our bag as we speed our grub home.  So, let’s dig in and grill Kory for a bit…hey, he’s not the only one who can grill.

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