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A Salute to Geoffrey Zakarian’s The National – Greenwich, CT (Review)

28 Nov

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When we interviewed Chef Geoffrey Zakarian back in September about his new restaurant coming to Greenwich, his confidence, enthusiasm and dedication made us SUPER eager to try it out and see if all that energy translated to an amazing experience. So, when The National finally opened, located at the bottom of The Avenue in Greenwich, we had to get our butts in there STAT to find out. And, like the dedicated food bloggers we are, we hit up Fairfield County’s newest restaurant on Thanksgiving Eve with our friends, John, and Jenn. Because what’s wrong with two days of gluttony in a row, right? Continue reading

How Do They Do the Voodoo that They Do? A Review of Hoodoo Brown Barbeque in Ridgefield

26 May

We know, we know, the “professionals” say that you’re NEVER supposed to go to a restaurant during the first few weeks of opening, let alone the first day! And we totally understand why, but what you gotta understand is, after Dan RAAAAAAAVED about his preview of Hoodoo Brown Barbeque a few weeks ago (when Kristien was at a 6.5 hour hair appoint–yeah, WTF?), saying it was some of the best BBQ he’s ever had, Kristien HAD to get in ASAP to confirm his declarations. Apparently we weren’t the only ones excited because even way before their opening at 5:30 on May 23, there was a line that stretched down the parking lot with people ready to get down and dirty with Nestor Laracuente’s Texas outlaw BBQ. Pretty awesome for a first night in business, huh?

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A Fresh Look at the Spring Festival Menu @ Bistro Versailles in Greenwich

21 Apr

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French restaurants often get a bad rap, but maybe there’s a reason for that. Many of them give off a snooty, better-than-you, hands-off, 1% kind of vibe. Plus, you need to be prepared to foot a major bill that may require you to sell off one of your kidneys at the end of the whole experience. But, then there are some really great French restaurants that offer an authentic experience without all that baggage. And, yes, Bistro Versailles in Greenwich is one of those great places.

Recently, we attended their La Soirée Printanière event to celebrate the start of spring. The dinner consisted of 8 courses that were paired with 7 different French wines: yeah, they definitely went all out. But before we even dug into that they kicked things off with a few different hors d’oeuvre like freshly smoked salmon and pate on toast, a rich and flavorful housemade chorizo with flavorful chayote, and a cocktail made of pureed cantaloupe, rum, and orange. All the small bites were tasty and the cocktail was very refreshing, with an exotic, on the beach in Cannes taste to it (or at least that’s what we imagine a drink on the beach in Cannes tastes like–hopefully next year we’ll find out for sure).

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Matsu for Monster Good Sushi – Westport, CT

5 Jan

When we lived in Westport back in ’04, we became rabid sushi eaters. A typical week saw us picking up or getting sushi delivery at least twice a week. You might say we had a problem, though we’re sure Matsu Sushi didn’t think so since we usually got it from them! They were not only conveniently located right down the street, but their sushi was always fresh and delicious.

But, it’s been a loooong while since we’d been, so long in fact that we hadn’t realized that when we were invited to check out Matsu, that this was the restaurant we had always ordered from. Quite a happy coincidence!

Parking was very easy across the street at the Library (which we *think* is legal after hours, but we can’t be held accountable if not, lol). That particular night we had the pleasure of dining with one of the owners, Paul Teoh and his partner. They took us through their menu, their history, sushi culture, and seemingly every single dish on their menu.

So let’s dive in…

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Go Old-school Italian (for Better or Worse) at Viale, Black Rock

9 Dec

Although we’ve always been obsessed with discovering and sharing great places to dine out in CT, back in 2006 (when we lived in Black Rock) we were just developing our professional eating and dining abilities. We’d check out the hottest spots in the area, and (of course) we’d also try out the newest restaurants. One such restaurant was Viale, which we saw being built, start to finish. Ever the intrepid explorers, we had a meal during the first few weeks of their opening. While we didn’t remember all the details of our first meal so many years ago, we do remember the meal to be decent, but no amazing.

Now, fast forward to a few weeks back when we were invited to come in and try Viale again. We were very interested to see if things were the same or if they’d improved, especially now that we have so many great places to compare it to.

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What’s in a name…a review of Salsa Picante – Port Chester, NY

2 Sep

…that which we call a Mexican restaurant by any other name would taste just as amazing. Right?

See, we heard about Salsa Picante in Port Chester well before it opened a little over a month ago, but we didn’t really give it any thought because the name made it sound like the same ‘ole, same ‘ole quick service Mexican joint. But then, like magic, we were walking down the street in Port Chester and the new spot caught the corner of our eyes. We peeked in and saw that it seemed to be more than what we thought it was, so Danny ran in to snatch a menu and Kristien immediately whipped out her phone to see what the word was on the street. Both searches turned out to be fruitful as the menu looked ah-mazing and people were RAVING about the food online. So, naturally you know what we had to do next…

The very next day (Sunday to be exact) we headed on over early, around 6PM…which we’re glad we did because by 6:30 there were people lining up outside to get in.  To be fair, the restaurant itself is pretty small fitting about 30 people. It has a simple, casual, cafe type feel with Mexican art work all around the darkly painted walls.  The sounds and sizzles of the grill are heard through the open kitchen and the chachacha of drinks being mixed are like music to diners’ ears.

Alright, let’s get into the drinks.

Before we did much of anything, we ordered some drinks. Lucky for us they got their liquor license just about two weeks before we visited.  That means they had margaritas, sangria, basic cocktails, wine, and beer available!  We went with margaritas for Kristien, sangria for Dan.  The margarita is made with house tequila (though we upgraded to Patron), Cointreau, and freshly squeezed lime and orange juices (we watched the bartender squeeze them by hand). It was a very simple, but well-balanced, fresh tasting margarita. Dan’s White Sangria was light, refreshing, and just sweet enough with a nice peachy undertone from the Schnapps.  Dan later got the Red Sangria (because you HAVE to try both, duh) which, again, was nicely balanced and not too sweet.  We later talked with owner David Dolores who shared that the sangria is made with at lest five different kinds of liquors, making them very complex.

Onto La Comida!

There was definitely lots of options to choose from on the menu like appetizers, tortas (sandwiches), burritos, and lots of classically authentic Mexican dishes.  We decided to start off with their Ceviche Misto, which was good, but we had two major issues:  they were pretty heavy on the lime so it was very acidic and, perhaps because of that, the fish had a bit of a mushy consistency. The shrimp and calamari, though, had a good consistency. Here, too (like the Margarita) it was very simple and traditional.  We also tried one of the specials for that day:  a lobster quesadilla.  The lobster, actually, wasn’t overcooked and had a nice consistency.  While we know lots of people say it’s a horrible sin to pair cheese with seafood, we have to say that it worked nicely here with the crispy tortilla and melty cheese playing off the lobster quite nicely.

Elote at Salsa Picante in Port Chester, NY

Next up is one of our favorite dishes from Latin spots, Elote.  They served two corn on the cobs with mayo, Cotija cheese, and chili powder.  David was accommodating with Dan’s loathing of mayo and kept it off of his ear.  The corn was spicy sweet, and rich from the cheese and mayo, just like we like it. The only issue was it was just warm rather than hot.  We would have preferred it to be hot, if not steaming. We also love those charred grilled marks on the corn, which we didn’t see.

For our entrée we decided to share the Taco Platter.  You got your choice of any 3 tacos meats plus onion, cilantro, lime, rice and beans, tortillas, and guacamole.  When the dish arrived, we were so excited:  it’s essentially “Do it Yourself Tacos”!  David explained to us that this is how they do things in Puebla, Mexica where he’s from:  family style, just like us Italians!  We had decided to go with the fish (tilapia), Carne Asada, and Al Pastor tacos because, well, those are some of our favorite flavor combos.

Fish (tilapia) taco at Salsa Picante in Port Chester, NY

First up was the tilapia that came out red (from paprika), moist, and delicate.  We made ours with cilantro, onion, radish, lime, and a touch of their orange sauce.  Then we both made our own Carne Asada tacos!  The beef had nice grill marks, giving off even more flavor.  We threw everything on this taco, using the smoky red sauce on one and the orange sauce on our seconds.  And, finally, we made our Al Pastor tacos. Unlike most variations we’ve had, you can actually taste (and see) the pineapple along with the pork…which we loved!  We decided to make ours with cilantro, onions, lime, and the orange sauce, though the red sauce did help to highlight the pork even more, too. We had enough meat and toppings to make 6 tacos each and even asked for more tortillas so we could make two more tacos at home. All in all a tasty (and again, simple and traditional) dish!

And last, but never least, dessert.

We couldn’t decide which to go with, the Quatro Leches (ooo that’s one more leche than normal) or the Churros. So guess what? Yeah, we did both…don’t judge!

The Quatro Leches was ridiculously moist, and only a little sweet unlike most we have that hurt our teeth. The chocolate syrup on top gave it a nice little warmth/depth. Honestly, this was one of the best we’ve ever had.

The Churros were stuffed with cream and Cotija…OMG. They were super crispy on the outside and oh so ooey gooey on the inside.  Man, that cheese really sent this dessert over the top. Yum!

So, would we say Salsa Picante lived up to our expectations of its name, or did it far exceed those expectations? Well, if you’re looking for a traditional, simple, affordable, authentic Mexican experience that is a major step up from quick service Mexican spots, then this is most definitely a great place to go. If you’re looking for modern twists, fancy cocktails, a hopping ambiance, and complex flavors, you can stick to one of our other fave trendy Mexican spots, like Bodega.

Noms: 3.25

Cost: $$-$$$

Address: 110 Adee Street.

Port Chester, NY 10573

Phone:  (914) 481-5488

Salsa Picante on Urbanspoon

Morello Bistro: Old World Italian Charm with a Modern Twist – Greenwich, CT

28 Aug

Exterior Morello Bistro Greenwich

From the outside, Morello Bistro in Greenwich appears to be a cute, maybe even unassuming restaurant with a brown and white awning and a few outdoor tables.  But, as you enter, the beautiful domed ceilings, archways, terra-cotta colored columns, and second-level balcony really set the mood for a contrasting old world, yet modern Italian experience. We were excited to have that experience again when General Manager, James Branigan invited us for a special tasting since we haven’t been to Morello Bistro since the first time we tasted their menu back in November ’12 when Chef Pasternack ran the kitchen.

We started the night chatting with Olivier Flosse, Beverage Director for MARC (Mardon Abela Restaurant Corporation).  Not only is Olivier in charge of wine and cocktails at Morello, but also A Voce, Bistro du Midi, and FPB. We loved talking with Oliver because he oozed passion and excitement for his job! We talked about wine, cocktails, and his pairings for the night as he shared insights and observations in the world of adult beverages. He talked about how cocktails seem to be returning to classic liquors, how St. St. Germain has made a huge comeback in cocktails because it is, in the words of Olivier, “pure and elegant.” And, he kinda blew our minds when he told us about a cocktail that he has at A Voce:  Il Tartufo.  It’s made with a 10 year bourbon infused with three different vermouths and black truffles.  Then, they put white truffle honey on one side of the rim…DAMN!

Well, enough foreplay, let’s get down to business:

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Ibiza Tapas Restaurant + Wine Bar: a taste de las tapas Españolas en Danbury

4 Aug

After taking a trip to Barcelona, Spain a couple years back we became a little “tapas shy” back here in the states.  Ok, we know what you’re thinking, OmNomCT shy about anything, let alone food?  Yeah right!  It’s true though!  We had such amazing tapas in the motherland that we were afraid we might be a bit disappointed by the local tapas spots.  But, after Ibiza owner, Ignacio Blanco assured us that his tapas were the real-deal (and he should know, he’s from Spain and has spent a lot of time there), we said, what the heck, let’s do it!So last Sunday evening we headed on over after we worked up an appetite failing miserably at a round of golf in Southbury.  The restaurant is in a bit of an odd location within a strip mall, but they’ve done a nice job making you forget that once you get in.  The walls are sleek and dark, the lighting dim, and there were some festive brightly colored paintings throughout, much like many of the tapas spots we went to in Barcelona.  The scene wasn’t too lively, but it was a Sunday night which usually tends to be a chill night for restaurants.  Before we went at it, we talked with Ignacio a bit and learned more about his experiences in Spain and his other restaurants, including Miegas (another tapas restaurant) in Norwalk which we LOVED but never got a chance to write up back in 2010. Continue reading

Our new go-to spot + probably yours too: Port Chester Hall + Beer Garden

5 Jun

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Update:  we have been back a few times since our review and we have had mixed results. At times we have good service, at other times service is spotty and slow. During our last visit, the food wasn’t as good as it used to be. The burger, in particular, was bland, mushy, and disappointing while the chicken sandwich was also bland and uninteresting. 

Last year when we heard that Heartland Brewery was opening up a new brewery in Port Chester, we darn near jumped for joy. First off, we live just a few minutes away. Secondly, we think that Port Chester is the most underrated place in our area and were psyched for people to show it some love. And thirdly, mmmm, beeeeeeer.

Now, a few months back we got a little worried and upset when we learned that it wasn’t actually going to be a brewery, but our frown got turned upside down when we learned that it would become a beer hall and a beer garden with beer pumped in from Heartland Brewery.  So, when the weather this past Saturday turned out to be beautiful, we knew what we had to do…

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Our Search for BBQ Perfection at Dinosaur Bar-b-que – Stamford, CT

12 Jan

Our first (and awesome) experience with Dinosaur Bar-b-que in Stamford was their opening party where we were treated to a buffet of meats and side dishes. We were able to get a real taste of Dinosaur and were very impressed with everything. But, being the good little OmNomers we are, we wanted to make sure we came back (um, a few times) to try things without all the opening hoopla so we could get the real experience everyone else would get.

The first time we decided to hit up Dinosaur it was Friday night at 9:40, so we thought we’d have no problem getting in, but, alas, there was a 30 minute wait.  Yeah, this place is hot so it was quite busy.  We decided to head to the bar and were greeted by a perky and fun hostess who asked if we wanted to be seated right away in a “secret spot.’  Duh.  She shuffled us off to a somewhat private dining area by the side of the bar.  A hidden gem, so now you’re in the know…you’re welcome!

The service that night was excellent! The food came out quickly, our waitress was super attentive and friendly and the food was amazing as ever.  Everything from the meats to the sides were seriously perfect! With two great experiences under our belt, we decided to go back twice over the holiday break with friends and family and our brand new fancy camera! YAY food porn! Through our 3rd and 4th gorge fest we discovered some new favorites, and the service was consistently impeccable, but we also were just a little disappointed by some of the dishes that we had previously liked.  Here’s the rub:

Dinosaur Ape Hanger Ale:  made for Dinosaur Bar-b-que by Middle Ages Brewery in Syracuse was just $5 a pint and was worth every penny.  It was wheaty and that beautiful taste lingers with you for a bit after you drink. Goes great with BBQ and is super easy to drink!

Nice char and sauce on the wings

Nice char and sauce on the wings

Jumbo BBQ Chicken Wings: BEST chicken wings EVER and winner of best wings in our 2012 OmNomys! Seriously! These bad boys are smoked for four hours then they are grilled.  There’s such a beautiful smokiness and char around these wings with just the right amount of sauce.  Ah.  You can get them in Wango Tango (hot), Garlic Chipotle (hotter), Devil’s Duel (hottest), and the mild Honey BBQ or Sesame Hoisin.  Even the hottest of these sauces aren’t too much to handle, but will definitely leave a nice burn on your tongue. But then again, we’re tough like that.

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