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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

Baked Apple Brie with Caramelized Onion and Bacon Recipe from Balducci’s

21 Dec
Brie Photo

Oh dear God, look at that. Pic from Balducci’s.

Balducci’s is a great spot to check out if you’re looking to put together your holiday meal! They not only have some great, fresh, and hard-to-find ingredients, but they also have a great selection of prepared apps like Beef Short Rib and Roquefort Hand Pie, Balducci’s Osetra Caviar, D’Artagnan Foie Gras, and Maison de la Truffle Cheese. And, if you don’t like coming to the party empty handed, they have different gift baskets available like their Market Basket that is perfect for snacking, the Office Fiesta to elevate the mood at work, and their Celebration basket full of awesome goodies. Continue reading

Stew Leonard’s Expands Cheese Shoppe; Plating Suggestions for Parties

21 Dec
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Cheese . . . cheese as far as the eye can see, Timmy!

Think your addiction to Stew Leonard’s can’t grow any more than it is now? Well, prepare to dig deeper into the wormhole of awesomeness that is one of the best grocery stores around! That’s because they have expanded their already large selection of their Cheese Shoppe! Now you’ll be able to find more local and world-renowned cheese than ever! How much more? Try twice as much! BOOM! Continue reading

Holiday Must: Charcuterie Class @ Fleishers Greenwich 

11 Dec
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How beautiful is this spread? Wanna learn how to slice up, arrange, and source something like this? DONE! (Pic from Fleishers site)

Charcuterie. It’s hard not to love delicately sliced meat, especially when it’s put out all nice and pretty on a platter with some fine cheeses. But, really, we’ve been spelling it for years but still can’t manage to get it right all the time. We’re getting better, though, and think we’ve finally found the secret. 

But, we digress. Fleishers Greenwich knows charcuterie . . . and they know it so well. Just take a look at their display case and you’ll see amazing meats that not only are full of flavor, but are also sustainably and organically procured. Well, lucky for you because they are putting together  a Charcuterie class next Thursdays, 12/17, from 7-9. Continue reading

5 Cocktail Recipes to Make Your Holidays Sparkle via Whole Foods Market

25 Nov

Getting ready for tonight, the biggest drinking day of the year, prepping for Thanksgiving, or need some cocktails in your back pocket and ready to go for the big day itself? Well, we’re happy to share some amazing cocktail recipes that Whole Foods Market shared with us to give to you, our awesome and wonderful readers. The awesome thing? You can quickly snag up the ingredients right at Whole Foods, making your life even easier.

We hope you have the best Thanksgiving ever and enjoy the heck out of these recipes.  Continue reading

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 Food News, Vol. 8: Rare Booze, Beer, Trux, Festivals, + Fun

12 Jun

 

Old news is not new news, people…that’s why we’re getting ya some of the freshest nomworthy bites of food news for Fairfield County (and beyond) for this weekend and next week, too.  This week we’re talking booze, br/lunch, food news, food trucks, festivals, farms, and farmers’ markets.  Full event listings here.  

Beer and Liquor Get Ya There Quicker

6/13:  Harry’s in Fairfield is hosting “Harry’s Open that Bottle Event” that will feature rare and exclusive Scotches, Ryes, and Bourbons that they’ve been stocking up on over the past few months.  Sample these awesome spirits from 5-8 and get some (or something similar) for yourself or dad this Father’s Day.

6/19:  Jack’s Abby launch party with co-founder Sam Hendler at 7 pm, held at Cask Republic Stamford.

Coalhouse Pizza in Stamford will also soon carry Thimble Island of Branford AND Jack’s Abby.  What what?
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Harbor Brew Fest 2014 Exclusive Details: Food Trucks, Pricing, On Sale Date

16 May

September 20, 2014…that’s the official date of the Harbor Brew Fest at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport.  In terms of brewfests, this happens to be one of our favorites.  And, this year promises to be even better with even more beer options and 12 13 14 (count ’em, 12 13 14) food trucks!  You’ll want to save the date now—we’ll wait for you to put it on the calendar now—because this will be an awesome way to spend September 20, 2014.

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Lost + Found Bazaar to Raise Money for Trackside Teen Center Ain’t So Bizzare

15 May

Lost and Found Wilton Trackside

There’s nothing too crazy or bizarre going on at the Lost and Found parking lot on May 18 from noon-5 pm.  Well, maybe crazy good food, crafts, clothes, and accessories.  It’s all put together to help raise some money for the Trackside Teen Center in Wilton.  Here’s more about what TTC is all about, right from their site:

“Acting as a hub within the community of teen activity – designed by teens and for teens – Trackside provides ample opportunity for teens to engage in healthy alternative activities. From open hours and afterschool activities to weekend events, Trackside supports Wilton teens in developmental tasks by providing them a place within the community, other than home and school, where they can be involved in healthy socialization and gain experience in participating as a citizen in a productive manner.”

Admission is free and here’s what you can check out:

Food and Bubbles

Little Pub will be on hand, offering up some of their best dishes for you to nom away on during the bazaar.  Spiked Seltzer, which we wrote about yesterday, will be there giving you samples of their bubbly, refreshing, all-natural, adult beverages.  Also, Dough & Co. from Rowayton will be there with some cookies, lots of baked goodies, and more.  Plus, you’ll be able to purchase things like popcorn, water, and other snacks.

Games

The Lost and Found Bazaar has plenty of fun for kids and big kids of all ages.  There will be face painting, hourly Cake Walks with prizes provided by Dough & Co., chances for kids to Go Fish! for prizes, and our favorite game of all time…cornhole!

Shopping

Of course you’ll find Lost and Found at the Lost and Found Bazaar.  They’ll be featuring some classically cool refurbished and repurposed vintage and antique furnishings and accessories, as well as some upcycled and handmade products.  You can also check out the Coast to Coast Mobile Vintage Shop that will have a selection of men and women’s vintage clothing.  Third up is Bella & Co. that will have a variety of jewelry, accessories, and signage.  The fourth shop that you can check out is Vagabond’s Daughter who is offering hand-dyed scarves, throws, and pillows.  And, last of all, is Lizzie, Izzie + James who will have a selection of handmade felt children’s hair and head accesories…including crowns.  Yeah, ditch those Burger King crowns and go with these #FTW!

 


 

Lost and Found Bazaar

5/18/14 from noon to 5 pm

Cost:  free

Lost and Found Parking Lot

Crossways Plaza

300 Danbury Road

Wilton, CT

 

This Spud’s for You: The Tater Truck Eyeing to Roll into Stew Leonard’s

12 May
Giant Idaho Potato Tater Truck Tour

Coming to Stew’s in Norwalk! Pic from http://bigidahopotato.com

Recently on the 5th grade Connecticut State Math Test, we saw this question:  

If you take a handcrafted Idaho potato that is 12 feet wide, 13 feet tall, and 72 feet long, what would be the volume?  Once you find the volume, take into account that this potato is 12,000 pounds and calculate (round up if necessary) how many people this potato can feed in one day.  Take into consideration that the average person eats 1 1/2 pounds of potatoes a day.  Show all of your work.  

Unfortunately, it was reported that a vast majority of students got this question wrong, making the state rethink this question…thanks a bunch Common Core!  While we don’t even know the answer ourselves, we do have some stats to share from a recent press release about this giant Idaho Potato that will be stopping by Stew Leonard’s Norwalk on May 31 from 11-4 pm:  

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