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A win win WIN at Judy’s Bar + Kitchen, Stamford (Review)

9 Oct

A while back, our friend Terri Smith, who curates Franklin Street Works in Stamford, reached out for help in creating a fun experience for their annual fundraiser event: the opportunity to review a restaurant with yours truly. We were completely on board (hey, anything for a great local charity), but wanted to pick the perfect restaurant for the experience. We immediately thought of Judy’s Bar + Kitchen, and being the good soul she is, Chef Judith Roll (also of Tabouli Grill) was totally on board! Skip ahead to the fundraiser event, and wouldn’t you know, our friends John and Lori Beth won! That’s the first and second “win” of our win, win, WIN. So, for our first (admittedly overdue) review back, we’re sharing not just our own thoughts, but also what our friends thought about this Stamford hotspot.

First of all, let’s just say how excited we were to be at Judy’s, having been major fans of Chef Roll since we lived in Stamford the first time around ’07-’13 and ordered Tabouli Grill on the regular. And while the Judy’s Bar & Kitchen concept is VERY different, with down home BBQ and comfort food and killer cocktails, we just knew we were going to be in for a treat! (That’s the third WIN, for those of you keeping track with the title.) Continue reading

WUJI Food Ain’t Nuthin to F@$k With – Review, Greenwich

30 Jan

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Yeah, so, we referenced WuTang lyrics, we couldn’t help ourselves, it was too easy. But seriously, WUJI in Greenwich was full of surprises that truly did make it “nuthin to f@$k with.”

The first surprise is we went there on a Tuesday night and the dining room was packed. Random? Or was it because the food is really that good? We were about to find out . . .

Second surprise: At a Chinese restaurant it’s rare to get a free starter (like bread) to snack on at the table while you peruse the menu, but imagine our delight when out came some crispy and flaky fried noodles with your choice of duck sauce, mustard, or soy dipping sauces. Yum! Continue reading

Mason Dixon Smokehouse: Drawing a New Line for BBQ – Stamford, CT

29 Dec

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Update: We have a few things to report on right now:

  1. Nestor left Mason Dixon in early January. He does have future plans and things in the works.
  2. Mason Dixon was closed yesterday for mechanical issues, but they are up and running and are open for lunch right now.
  3. The new Pitmaster, Ryan Cuber, has been working with Nestor since opening and had a BBQ catering company of his own, Savory Smoke Catering.
  4. Ryan left and, soon after, they closed for good.

Once upon a time, Mason Dixon was a line that clearly divided the North and South, but now–in Stamford–Mason Dixon is a Smokehouse that clearly divides killer BBQ from, um, well, pretty much all the rest. Yup, as we shared back on October 1, Pitmaster Nestor Laracuente was on a mission to open up a new BBQ joint, a joint that would clearly draw a new line for BBQ in Fairfield County. When we discovered the Brooklyn Pit Rat chose to open that joint in our very own Stamford, we were thankful AF we were on the right side of the line.

So while we were eager to get in there as soon as it opened, we like to give a restaurant a few weeks to work the kinks out before we review. As you can imagine, the suspense was killing us, even more so because we follow their hot, meaty, BBQ porn laden Instagram account . . . ooooh yeaaaahhh . . . ok, we digress. So yes, we finally dropped in with our friend Nicole and her friend Justin and took down pretty much EVERYTHING from cocktails, to sides, to apps, and of course to the MEATS. So, let’s break it on down: Continue reading

Tablao Brings Spain Back to SoNo in a Big Way – Review

18 Oct

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Big, bold flavors perfectly executed. Fun and lively vibes. That’s what we took away from a recent visit to Tablao, a new Spanish-Mediterranean tapas and wine bar that opened at 86 Washington Street in SoNo back in May. In fact, we enjoyed it so much we can’t wait to go back to this hotspot again. What made it such a nice experience, exactly? Well, you’ll just need to read our review to find out. Continue reading

Gettin’ our authentic Mexican on at Rincón Taqueria

13 Jul

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We don’t know who invented this Taco Tuesday crap, but we think pretty much EVERY day is a perfect day for tacos. Like, say, a few Saturdays ago when we finally hit up Rincon Taqueria in Norwalk after seeing, oh, we don’t know, pretty much ALL of our friends rave about it on Facebook and Instagram. See, we’re kind of taco fanatics, so it seemed a little ridiculous we hadn’t gotten to this authentic Mexican spot sooner.

The long and the short of it is, it totally lives up to the hype we’ve been seeing. Here’s why . . . Continue reading

Welcome to a new ice cream experience @ Milkcraft, Fairfield

28 Jun

The “going out for ice cream” experience is pretty standard these days: you wait in a brief line while browsing frozen vats of available flavors, you order, you pay, and before you know it you’re licking your way to dairy heaven. But, at Milkcraft, the newly opened ice cream shop in Fairfield, the experience has completely changed . . . and for good reason. Continue reading

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

Achieving Our #foodgoals at Miro Kitchen: A Review

16 May

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It’s important to have goals in life. For some people it’s a successful career, for others it’s to buy a home, or perhaps for some, it’s to travel the world. All those goals are awesome, but we like to focus on smaller, more immediately gratifying goals on our path to those bigger goals. You know, like getting our asses out of bed before hitting snooze for a 3rd time, or hitting Tree House on a rare can release, and, well a loooong list of #foodgoals of course!

DSC_4592

Miro Kitchen is right on Black Rock Tpk.

Well, after we met Chef Chris Gonzalez last year when he started up Hapa Food Truck, we knew his new restaurant, Miro Kitchen in Fairfield, had to be at the top of our #foodgoals list. Continue reading

Getting to the Bottom of Barrel House Restaurant + Bar in Stamford – Review

15 Mar

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In 2012, Claudio and Silvy Ridolfi opened Cotto at 51 Bank Street where Tappo used to be. This quickly became a go-to spot for people who wanted some pizza, some Italian . . . and well, of course, some wine. Seeing this success, they recently took over the former spot of Patrizia’s, a few buildings over on Main Street. Like Patrizia’s, they have pizza, but they also focus on smaller plates, burgers, and their beer list. And, with this new concept and location, Barrel House was born. Continue reading

Teff Stamford: A Hands-on Review of Ethiopian and Eritrean Cuisine

14 Mar

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Have you ever gone to another country, sat down at a nice restaurant, then realize you have no idea what the hell is on the menu because it’s not in English? And at this point you’re all excited because this is what you wanted, a legit cultural experience (no English menus with pictures for you, no way), but at the same time you’re terrified you might order the fried beetles or something like that? Yeah, that’s how we felt when we sat down to eat with our friends Kirk and Nicole at Teff, an Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant that recently opened in Stamford.

Sure, we’ve tried a lot of different foods in our day, but we had never had Ethiopian before, so we weren’t entirely sure what to expect. What we did know from a little pre-research is that instead of utensils, you rip off bits of special injera (crepe-like, spongy, and gluten-free made from the teff grain) and use them to scoop up your food. Aside from that, we really knew nothing, and that kind of excited us.

Immediately, we were put at ease by our waiter who took us through the menu and answered all of our questions. Speaking of the menu, it’s very interesting and so unlike any other type of restaurant. There are just two injera-based appetizers on the menu, the rest are portions of meat, veggies, stews, and sautees that come in platters on top of the injera. Most of the dishes are cooking for hours before you even get there at a pre-determined spice level, but if you order a “Tibs” dish, which are made to order, you get the option of mild, medium, or spicy (which actually isn’t too spicy at all). And, even with less options than we’re used to at other restaurants, there is sure to be something that appeals to you, even if you’re gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, or vegan.

Dan went with the Siga Altecha and the Dorho Wat for his meat entrees, and the Shiro, Dinich, and Ful as his three sides for ordering the meat tasting. What are those, you might ask? Read on Omnomivores, read on . . .

Siga Altecha: tender pieces of beef simmered in a mild sauce of Ethiopian curry powder, clarified spiced butter seasoned with garlic, rosemary, ginger and jalapenos (mild)

The steak was amazingly fragrant and had a nice undertone of butter and spices. There was a mild heat going on here, too, which made the meat even better. Some of the pieces were a bit closer to well-done rather than rare (most other cultures cook their meat more than us bloody steak loving Americans), but overall a great choice.

Dorho Wat: tender pieces of chicken leg and thigh slow-simmered in a spicy sauce seasoned with spices and herbs.

This is where it was at! Man, that chicken just fell right off the bone with a simple tug of the fork. And, in terms of flavor, awesome. It was rich, decadent, and had a nice spice level to it.

Shiro: pureed split peas cooked with red onions and garlic (mild.)

So silky smooth. Great by itself with some injera, or it was also nice to add with some of the steak or chicken. Cross pollination all the way.

Dinich: potatoes and cabbage simmered in a spicy sauce seasoned with spices and herbs (medium.)

Probably Dan’s least favorite. It was good, but needed some more flavor and salt. Still, it was good to mix it up with the other dishes.

Ful: fava beans slow-simmered with garlic and cumin topped with a colorful medley of red onions, tomatoes, and jalapenos, tossed with olive oil.

This was a great choice and had a burst of flavors like tangy, spicy, starchy, and acidic.

Kristien ordered the Bey’geh Tibs (spicy) and picked the Ingudai Tibs (medium) and Kik Aletcha as her two vegan sides.

Bey’geh Tibs: cubed lamb marinated and sauteed with berbere, clarified spiced butter, onions, garlic, jalapeños, fresh tomato, herbs and spiced 

The lamb was nice and tender as it should be and the sauce was well-balanced with acidity from the tomato, a kick from the jalapeño, and a richness from the butter. And it had just the right amount of spices to give the dish a unique and distinct taste, without overpowering. Very delicious.

Ingudai Tibs: portobello mushrooms marinated and sautéed with red onions, garlic, jalapeño pepper, fresh tomato, herbs and spices 

This was a great complement to the lamb, bringing a nice earthiness that was, again, rounded out with the tomatoes and jalapeños. Here, too, the spices were perfectly done.

Kik Aletcha: yellow split peas simmered in a mild and flavorful onion and herb sauce

This ended up serving as a great sort of condiment (like the consistency of hummus) to bring the two other parts of this dish together. With every piece of injeri, Kristien would grab a bit of this mild, rich, and creamy dish and then add the meat and veggies on top. It worked REALLY well.

Final Thoughts

Eating at Teff was a fun, interactive, and nomworthy experience that we definitely recommend. The food was excellent, the service was fantastic, prices were affordable ($120 for four people!) and the free BYOB experience can’t be beat. But, you best bring in all your bottles soon if that’s your style because they’ll soon have craft cocktails, world wines, and African beer starting on 3/30. Even still, BYOB will continue, but there will be a corkage fee of $25. All in, we are super excited to go back to try more dishes. You should most definitely dig on in, too!

Teff

Noms: 4.25

Cost: $$-$$$

Hours:  5-10, Wednesday-Sunday

Delivery and pick-up available

Address: 113 West Main Street

                  Stamford, CT 06902

Phone: (203) 998-7474

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