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It’s ’bout Time We Dined @ Sugar + Olives: A Review of a Farm-to-Table Mainstay in Norwalk

9 Jun

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We have a huge “must try” restaurant list that seems to get bigger and bigger every month with all the awesome new restaurants opening up around here. So you can imagine how sometimes restaurants that have been around a while that we’ve been meaning to try, somehow end up getting pushed back. This is exactly what happened with Sugar & Olives in Norwalk . . . that is until we finally got our acts together and booked a table a couple of weeks ago. I mean we’re suckers for legit (and local) farm to table, so it’s pretty embarrassing that we waited so long.

How long exactly? Well, we were instantly psyched about Chef Jennifer Balin’s concept when she opened Sugar & Olives . . . that was even before OmNomCT was born! Whoa.  Her concept centered around being a dependable go-to spot for farm-fresh food, whether it was in the form of dining at her restaurant, picking up some eggs or milk within the tiny market inside, or for cooking classes which she hosts regularly. Then, the cherry (or should we say garnish) on top was when they added their new mixologist, Chris Grimm, who has quite the reputation for his creativity behind the stick.

When we finally arrived for dinner (yes, they’re much more than just a lunch/brunch spot), Chris greeted us and showed us right to our seats. The first order of business? Yeah, you know us so well . . . drinkey times! Here’s what we tried:

Esmerelda cocktail at Sugar & Olives in NorwalkEsmerelda: Chris shares, “The Esmeralda is Tequila Blanco, Grapefruit Liqueur, and Lime Juice, in a Mezcal rinsed glass, garnished with ground black pepper.” This was refreshing, vibrant, and has a juicy gush from the grapefruit liquer and the lime. Very nicely balanced and a definite must order if on the menu.

Gold Rush cocktail at Sugar & Olives in Norwalk CTGold Rush: Kristien went gaga for the one. Again, this drink was very well-balanced with bourbon, lemon juice and honey syrup. The sweetness from the Red Bee Honey made in Weston marries so well with the bourbon. Really just the right amount of kiss from the honey, making this a drink we’d just sit with and drink all damn day.

Ramp Gibson: Apparently, ramps aren’t just for dishes and for seeking after like the rarest kind of Pokemon. The ramps in this drink were pickled at their peak and add a strong kick and wildness to this drink. That garlicky-spicy punch blends in nicely with the gin which comes through as a slightly stronger flavor. This is Chris’ play on a dirty martini, mixed with gin, dry vermouth, ramp brine, and pickled ramp. Super creative, super tasty!

Il Palio cocktail at Sugar & Olives in Norwalk CTIl Palio: There is an undertone of cherry going through with bourbon up front making a nice Manhattan. As the drink melts more it evolves into a Boulevardier. Chris uses a Campari ice cube, bourbon, sweet vermouth, and housemade orange bitters with this drink. Definitely a fun and interactive experience, with a nice balance to make it well worth the wait.

Chet Baker: The rum is up front, a fun drink, with a nice punch, but like his other drinks, not overpowering. Chris describes it as a, “Cool cross between a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned, using dark rum as the base ingredient, instead of whiskey. Dark Rum, Sweet Vermouth, Honey Syrup, on a big rock”

While we were there we serendipitously ran into Chef Bill Taibe of The Whelk and Kawa Ni with his wife and they asked us to join them and their friends, Lori Cochran from Westport Farmers’ Market and her husband . . . and that’s when the feasting began. 

Up first? Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Radicchio, topped with a Pomegranate Molasses Dressing. It was fresh, bright green, bright citrusy, and the pumpkin seeds added a nice tastiness. Exactly what you’d expect from a fresh Brussels Sprouts salad.

Taco platter at Sugar & Olives in Norwalk CTThen, Tacos Featuring Fish, Chorizo, and Veggie. Although we thought this dish would be three tacos, one taco filled with each of the aforementioned fillings separately, it actually was a mixture of all three fillings in all three tacos. Surprisingly though, it worked. The fish was moist and delicate, the veggies had a nice bite, and the chorizo added a fatty, smokey tenderness. The Cesar’s special sauce also had a solid kick, so if you like a steady slow heat, this is it. Overall, we were very happy with this dish.

 

Our next course (you know we can eat a massive amount of food, right?) was a series of the Chocolate Bread Toasts. Yes, we know, you’re wondering . . . chocolate bread? Does it work? Yes, it sure does, especially because it’s not even sweet, with just a hint of that real cocoa taste peeking through. The first we had was the Pea + Leek which featured a silky and gentle puree of pea and leek, topped with a vinegary and garlicy bite of foraged and pickled ramps. We did like this one, but did want a little more flavor punch in the puree. The Bacon Jam toast, however, is where it’s at. That jam was savory, smoky, with the cocoa playing nicely off of it. It was all topped with a perfectly cooked sunny-side-up duck egg that just oozed out all its fresh deliciousness onto the bacon. And, we also tried the Sun Dried Tomato toast that had a beautiful fresh and slightly-acidic bite. Rounding it all out and playing so well with the tomato-forward tapenade was a generous portion of goat cheese that cut the acid and added a nice creamy tang.

Trout a la plancha at Sugar & Olives in Norwalk CTWhile we were waiting for our other dishes to come out, Chef Balin brought out the Whole Trout a la Plancha, served over quinoa paella with lemon beurre blanc. The fish was moist and wasn’t dry one bit, but it really lacked seasoning or any flavor really. In addition, the quinoa underneath also lacked flavor, offering nothing but a texture contrast to the delicate fish. We didn’t eat much of this because we wanted to save room for dishes that ended up being far superior.

Lovely Lamb Burger at Sugar & Olives in Norwalk CTUp next we tried the Lovely Lamb Burger, made with May-Tag Blue, caramelized onions, ancho chile ketchup, leaf lettuce, all topped with an English muffin and served with roasted carrots. The lamb was top quality and had that exciting wild and gamey undertone that was powered up with the bold fattiness of the cheese, and toned town with the slightly sweet and spicy ketchup. A must order, no doubt.

The Pulled Pork Ragout also caught our eye, so you know what we had to do. The ragout itself was rich, earthy, and had a nice spice undertone with flavors like cinnamon and clove. The pork inside was cooked just perfectly and flaked off well, too, jiving well with the sauce. And, the nice touch for us was the creamy, cheesy, and silky polenta underneath. It cut into the richness of the sauce and brought even more complexity to the dish. Very nice.

Chic pea busted scallops at Sugar & Olives in Norwalk CTAnd, we rounded out our meal with an order of the Chic Pea Busted Scallops, served with lentil stew and ramp oil. This, people, was a legit dish. There was this amazing crust on the outside with some extra crispy bite from the chic peas, while on the inside it was that perfect cook with a little bit of give to it. The lentils were cooked nicely and the ramp oil brought out a garlicy explosion to the dish. This dish was fun, was fresh, and was a nice play on textures, which we’re real suckers for.

Olive Oil Cake at Sugar & Olives in Norwalk CTWell, the meal might have been over, but we still had dessert on the way . . . and you know it’s kind of like a second meal, right? Chef Balin was so blown away, she asked if we were hiding food somewhere . . . um, yeah, in our freakin’ bellies. So, up first we really needed to check out the Citrus Olive Oil Cake because, well, Citrus Olive Oil Cake. How do you NOT order the potentially moistest, not too sweet thing ever, especially when there’s a note on the menu that says, “THIS IS GOOD”? Well, we agreed. The cake itself was exactly what we hoped for: moist, but not too sweet, and the citrus came through so well with a nice toasty nuttiness to finish it off. For us, though, the thing that just took this dessert over the edge was the mascarpone cream, which added a nice tart bite and richness.

We wrapped up the meal with some dark and bold French press coffee that you can order in three sizes . . . oh, and a cookie. How could we resist a cookie? Especially Mexican Chocolate Cookie! It was delightfully dense, yet moist, chewy, and had notes of cinnamon running throughout the chocolate chips. YUM, we want again right now as we write this.

Final Thoughts

We are very happy that we FINALLY had the chance to check out Sugar & Olives. The space itself is great, super cozy and chill. It has a big patio, a warm and comfy bar, and a small market of milk, eggs, and other produce and products. Also, there’s a large space for events and parties off to the side as you enter, there’s a beautiful kitchen where you can take cooking classes, and plenty of tables in the main and side dining room to accommodate everyone.

In terms of what Chef Balin is putting out, it’s harder to get any closer to the farm than what she’s doing at Sugar & Olives. Just look at some of these producers that she works with: Arethusa Dairy Farm, Homefront Farmers, Speckled Rooster Farm, Fort Hill Farm, Millstone Farm, Sport Hill Farm, and Ox Hollow Farm. And, mix in the spot-on, creative, and well-balanced drinks of mixologist Chris Grimm, and that makes it a nice place to check out. With the majority of the dishes being solid in terms of flavor, balance, and how they were cooked, we feel like this is a great place to check out when you’re looking for real, fresh, and rustic flavors. We need to head back for brunch too!


Note: While some of what we ordered was given courtesy of the kitchen, the thoughts, comments, and observations in this post are our own . . . cuz that’s how we roll.


Sugar & Olives

Noms: 3.75

Cost: $$$

Address: 21 Lois Street

                 Norwalk, CT 06851

Phone: (203) 454-3663

So good, it’s a sin. South End Uncorked (Review)

7 Jan
South End New Canaan OmNomCT_3779

A typical night at South End Uncorked with a full house . . .

Forgive us readers, for we have sinned. It has been far too long since our last visit to South End Uncorked over the summer when we tried their cocktails and we must confess, we were complete idiots to wait this long. Why? Because (spoiler alert) it’s amazing! Not that we had any doubt since we’ve experienced the magic of Chef (and owner) Nick Martschenko and Director of Operations and mixologist extraordinaire Michelle Mauro at their other New Canaan restaurant, South End.  Continue reading

A peek inside the vault at Cask Republic SoNo (Review)

6 Jan

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The news came as a shock to many people when Ginger Man SoNo  announced it was closing its doors. But quickly after the shock came relief when the owner, Christian Burns, shared the reason why: they wanted to refresh the darker and more compartmentalized Ginger Man into something brighter and more open. And with that change they wanted to bring a fresh, new menu, and a name change to go along with it. The new name was one we were all familiar with: Cask Republic, which is the same Cask many have come to know and love in Stamford and New Haven. Continue reading

+ All That Jazz: 9th Note Jazz Supper Club Opens Today in Stamford

6 Nov

9th Note Supper Club of StamfordNew Haven’s loss is our gain! That’s because the extra popular 9th Note Jazz Supper Club that used to be at 56 Orange Street in New Haven is opening today, 11/6, in Stamford. Although things didn’t work out how they would have liked in New Haven, they found a perfect spot in The City that Noms. They took over the sexy cool spot where GRAND used to be at 15 Bank Street.

So, why is this a spot that we’ll all need to check out? Well, first of all the music scene there will be killer good with plenty of stellar jazz and blues acts. But, it’ll be lots more than just music, there will also be burlesque dancing . . . hopefully in Star Wars gear! ;) Continue reading

The Chelsea: Innovation, Dependability + Plenty to Sink Your Teeth Into (Review)

29 Oct

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There are some big names in the Fairfield County dining scene and Chef Matt Storch is definitely one of them. His restaurant, Match, in SoNo remains a steady force in the Norwalk dining scene. Sure, restaurants close around him, unable to withstand the shaky Norwalk market, but Match has consistently stayed strong because people know they can always get an extremely well-executed, dependable, delicious meal . . .  yet there’s always something new thanks to Chef Storch’s creative spins. 

So it only makes sense that he’d bring that same killer combo of dependability and innovation to The Chelsea in Fairfield, alongside his partner Scott Beck and his Chef de Cuisine, Eric Felitto. Sure, the Chelsea has been open and successful since 2012, but Chef Storch knows there are always new people coming into Fairfield, so he invited us bloggers in for a wonderful dinner so that we could let our readers know about all the awesomeness they have to offer. Continue reading

OmNoming our way through 12 Dishes + 6 Drinks @ Mill Street Bar + Table in Greenwich (Review)

6 Oct

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We’ve been to plenty of restaurants before they open, but few of them seem to haunt us like Mill Street Bar + Table has. We somehow knew, from the moment we entered to talk about drinks before they opened, that this place would be trouble for us . . . especially since it’s 3 minutes from our house. Our blogger-senses were tingling so we finally headed down on an early Saturday night a couple weeks after opening to finally dig in. And boy, did we dig in, consuming over 12 dishes and 6 different drinks . . . shared with another couple of course. Even WE can’t eat THAT much food. Continue reading

The brunch stakes have been raised, Fairfield County @ Amore Cucina + Bar – Stamford, CT

20 Apr

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That title is pretty much ’nuff said for our review of Sunday brunch at Amore Cucina & Bar (11-3), but in typical OmNomCT style, we’re going to give ya every mouth-watering detail just in case you’re one of those people that needs to see their odds of a killer meal before they place their bets on a new spot.

First off, let’s talk drinks. In addition to their regular drink menu, they also have a plethora of brunch must-haves: a soon-to-be famous bloody Mary bar with 40 different toppings and bottomless mimosas and bellinis in various flavors for $15. Then they get even more creative with some surprises: Magic Milk, featuring brandy, milk, vanilla bean, and chocolate, and different shots too, including a breakfast shot, which Chef Jared Falco (a French Culinary Institute grad and former Executive Chef at Washington Prime) lined up for us a couple times throughout our brunch. This shot is like buttah, made of Jameson Irish Whiskey and butterscotch, chased with a shot of OJ. Yeah, that goes down waaaaaaaay too easy.

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Mercado: Street Food + Rave Takes a Bite Outta Stamford

17 Feb

Three60 Events Mercado Street Food Rave

When we went to Barcelona a few years ago, we checked out La Boqueria. It was an amazing experience with fresh food, veggies, and fruits that seemingly went on for miles aisle after aisle. And, mixed in around the mercado were restaurants that specialized in foods like pizza, empanadas, coffee, fresh squeezed jugos, seafood, and more. Well, Barcelona is a bit far to travel for that kind of experience, but checking out Mercado on March 1 isn’t so tough.
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The NEW Georgetown Saloon: same chill vibe, now w/ awesome menu to match! – Redding, CT

14 Jan

The OLD Georgetown Saloon was known for that no frills, down and dirty, neighborhood dive bar vibe that locals can’t get enough of. The NEW Georgetown Saloon still is that, but this time around new owner, Chris Forland, and new chef, John Brennan (formerly Executive Chef of Plan B Burger Bar) kicked it up about a million notches with kickass, modern comfort food and creative cocktails that fit the vibe perfectly. So in honor of that super chill vibe, let’s just get down and dirty with the experience, food, and cocktails.

The Experience

From what our friends tell us, the restaurant itself still has a lot of the same decor elements it had back in the day, but Chef Brennan himself amped it up by picking out some new, fun, modern additions (like graffiti), perfecting that neighborhood, roadhouse vibe that makes you want to hang there all night. There’s still a great stage for fun entertainment (we were there for Open Mic Night on Thursday) and TVs for the sports lovers. In fact, once the word gets out about all the new awesomeness Georgetown Saloon has to offer, we can see this place getting PACKED with fun entertainment every night.

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The 2014 OmNomys: Celebrating the Best in Food in Fairfield County

15 Dec

Logo for OmNomys

Well, here we are, already at the end of 2014. Man, how time flies. But fret not friends, because the end of another year means another celebration of the best of the best in Fairfield County. That’s right, it’s time for the 4th Annual OmNomys! By now most of you know how this works, but for those of you new here, this is a list of the best that we’ve experienced in 2014… NOT necessarily the best EVER in Fairfield County. If your favorite spot or food didn’t make it on here, maybe it was on our list back in 2011, 2012, or 2013… and if not, let us know so we can check it out in 2015! 

So, without further ado, here we go:

Best Ambiance: Cask Republic, Stamford

With not one, but two fireplaces, Cask Republic has a warm, rustic, and down-homey kind of vibe going on. It’s hard to think of a chill spot with more class. It’s the perfect place to meet up with friends, have some drinks (from which there are many to choose), and try out some great gastropub grub.

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