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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

Back 40 Kitchen Makes List of Travel + Leisure Best Farm-to-table Restaurants!

12 May

Can we say how excited we are to see that Back 40 Kitchen in Greenwich was selected by Travel + Leisure as the best Farm-to-table restaurant in CT? They truly embody what farm-to-table is all about: they have their own farm, they use local ingredients in the food and drinks, and they cook from scratch. It’s no small feat to put that much care and attention into the food. 

To read more, click here or here to see the winner from each state. When you do, you might notice that we were quoted by Travel + Leisure! It was an honor to be mentioned and to be asked for our input and thoughts as trusted local bloggers about our favorite spots. Travel + Leisure combed through hundreds of blogs, magazines, and local sources to find the best experts and it was a nice acknowledgment to be a part of this experience. 

Congratulations to everyone at Back 40 Kitchen! When you stop by or make a reservation, make sure to mention that we sent you. :)

Back 40 Kitchen

Noms: 4.25

Cost: $$$

Address: 107 Greenwich Avenue (Park in the area behind the CVS for easy access)

Greenwich, CT

Phone: (203) 992-1800

When you wanna be good, go to b.good Greenwich

3 Mar

Sometimes you just need to hit that restart button on your diet. . . especially, oh say, after a deeply gluttonous vacation in Lake Placid and Vermont jam packed with beer, bourbon, bbq, burgers, Bloody Marys and bacon. Luckily, there’s b.good a couple of miles from us, which makes it easy for us to be good after our trip . . . especially when they have delivery. BOOM! Continue reading

The Granola Bar Crunching into Greenwich w/ 2nd Spot

5 Nov

The Granola Bar, known for their healthy spins on classic dishes, fresh juices, and coffee and other wake-ya-up drinks, has made a name for itself in Westport. We’ve been by their spot many times and dig the cool, relaxed vibe . . . and now we won’t have to go so far anymore because they are moving to where we live now: Greenwich. Continue reading

The Cream of the Crop @ Cannon Grange Agricultural Fair

25 Aug
The best of the season's harvests will be showcased at Wilton's Cannon Grange Agricultural Fair scheduled for Sunday, August 30.

The best of the season’s harvests will be showcased at Wilton’s Cannon Grange Agricultural Fair scheduled for Sunday, August 30.

Coming up this Sunday, August 30, is one of the most anticipated end-of-summer events: the Cannon Grange Agricultural Fair! Just come by from 10-4 (rain or shine) to Grange Hall @ 25 Cannon Road in Wilton and bring along either $2 for admission or $1 with a canned food item that goes to Wilton Interfaith Food Pantry. 

When you get there, there’ll be so much to check out! There will be contests to see who makes and produces the biggest and/or best things like baked goods, preserves, veggies, fruits, flowers, homemade spirits, and more. In addition, you’ll be able to stock up on lots of baked goods and take part in some lunch/brunch options with their concession stand. In addition, there will be live music all day, a watermelon eating contest at 3:30, demos and lessons throughout the day, and an auction of fruit, veggies, flowers, and baked goods that starts at 4:15 in Grange Hall.

CT Farm-Based Back 40 Kitchen Opening Early July in Greenwich; Mill Street Bar & Table on the Way

19 Jun

Back 40 Kitchen Chef DeMarsico

We’ve all been there. You’ve been at a restaurant and the menu blasts in big bold letters: Farm to Table. But, you look and look and you don’t see which farms they get their produce from or where their meat is supplied from. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying that there aren’t Farm to Table restaurants, but we’re just saying that real, true, honest, down to earth Farm to Table spots are much tougher to come by. Well, that’s changing with the opening of Back 40 Kitchen in Greenwich on July 6.

This reimagined restaurant at 107 Greenwich Avenue builds off the success of Organic Planet which occupied that spot and was a hidden gem. But, we have a feeling that Back 40 Kitchen won’t be as hidden as they have lots of great things working for them:

You’re only as good as your ingredients

Back 40 Farm in Washington, CT (photo from Back 40 Farm site)

Photo from Back 40 Farm site

Back 40 Kitchen will be sourcing a large percentage of their produce from their own private farm: Back 40 Farm in Washington, CT. This will help them to keep the menu fresh, vibrant, and seasonal, but also grounds it locally. In addition, they’ll be sourcing other vegetables, cheeses, and meats from other local purveyors such as Fleisher’s Meats in Westport (they’ll be in Greenwich soon, too), Dancing Dog Farm in Ridgefield, Blooming Hill Farm in Blooming Grove, Gaia’s Breath Farm in Jordanville, Cato Corner in Colchester, Beltane Farm in Lebanon, and Red Bee Honey in Weston. 

. . . and you’re even better with an innovative chef

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Major Noms: Citarella Gourmet Market + Liquor Shop Opens in Greenwich

3 Jun

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Months ago we saw a little sign come up on a building (600 W. Putnam Avenue) that’s just a few blocks from our house and was being worked on for months: Gourmet Market. Gourmet Market? We searched, we Googled, we tried every single term, but we had no idea what it could be. But, we were excited, especially because as a part of that building there would be a liquor shop! Months after that a sign went up: Citarella.

Seafood section at Citarella in GreenwichOh hell yes. Turns out that Citarella is a market based out of NYC with Upper Westside, Upper Eastside, and Greenwich Village locations as well as out east on Long Island including East Hampton, Southampton, and Bridgehampton. They developed quite the reputation for producing and selling high-quality food and offering a great variety of fresh products, so we knew that having Citarella by us would be a game changer . . . especially because the market is just a short walk away for us. We can literally walk for a few minutes, grab some choice-cut meats, some killer produce, and a few other ingredients then head home to make a legendary meal.

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Paleo Dieters + Cross Fitters Rejoice; Il Paleo Soon to Open in Greenwich!

1 Apr

No one can deny that eating healthy and choosing a careful diet has become more and more important as food companies increasingly look for dangerous short-cuts and time and cost savings in their food sourcing and production. Modern day pre-packaged, preservative-laden, genetically modified foods have freaked us out all so much, it’s no wonder diets like the Paleo Diet have taken off. Until now, though, Paleo dieters have either needed to rely on themselves to cook meals at home, or ask for meal modifications at restaurants, which isn’t always a great experience. Well, a new restaurant that’s about to open in the Riverside neighborhood of Greenwich is about to change all that.

Chicken with sides at Il Paleo in Greenwich, CT. Photo from Leslie ReiterThe aptly named Il Paleo will feature a completely Paleo menu, a groundbreaking move for the restaurant scene in Fairfield County. “Right now,” says co-owner Hans Pumph, “we’ll have a few high tops near the juice bar, a few banquettes, and 5 tables. We’re going for a high-end, but super relaxed feeling as many of our customers not only work hard, but also workout hard too. We want our restaurant to feel like home, without all the hassle of having to cook (and clean) yourself.”

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Jumpstarting the New Year at Green + Tonic—Greenwich, CT

20 Jan

Have you ever had so much food and drink over an extended period of time, say vacation or the holidays, that the very thought of eating anything rich or taking a sip of alcohol makes you want to either cry or vomit (or both)? Yeah, that happened to us over the holidays. Now, don’t get us wrong, we LOVE good food and drink, but even us hardcore food bloggers need a break. Like when we’re not reviewing a restaurant for you, our awesome readers, we’re eating pretty light and healthy and exercising our butts off (literally) with programs like P90X. It’s all about balance, right?

So when Green + Tonic (Cos Cob, Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan) approached us with the opportunity to try their 3-day Jumpstart Program to kickoff the New Year, we were all ears . . . with a few caveats. See, we wanted to make sure we stayed true to our beliefs if we were going to do this, so we shared with them that we don’t believe in “dieting” and we don’t believe in cleanses or detoxes. We said what we do believe in is balance, and eating healthy, whole, real, organic foods as much as possible, and in giving your digestive track a break from all the junk. The great thing was, Green + Tonic was totally on board with our philosophy and supportive of our approach. So, with a little fear mixed with excitement, we jumped in!

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First Tastes of Dinner + New Menu at The Granola Bar- Westport, CT

31 Oct

Who knew when Dana and Julie started making and selling their OATS Granola a few years back that today they’d have a successful restaurant that people religiously flock to for breakfast and lunch? Of course, when you meet them and experience their passion, energy and strong work ethic you aren’t at all surprised. And, when you add the talented Chef Jess Bengston to hold down the kitchen, The Granola Bar really becomes a sure bet!

As if The Granola Bar wasn’t already rocking in its first year of business, there are some exciting changes to help take things up a notch starting Wednesday, November 5. Brace yo’selves because The Granola Bar will be open for dinner with extended hours of 7 am until 9 pm Wednesday through Saturday and regular hours 7 am -5 pm Monday and Tuesday, and 8am -4pm on Sunday.

In addition, they’ll be rolling out their third menu change since they opened, and spoiler alert, this new menu is awesome! Chef Jess shared that the inspiration behind these changes had to do with what was fresh and in season, which you can definitely see when you look at some of the dishes on the menu like their new amazing grilled cheese sandwich: The Post Road. This was one of the dishes that we tried on Wednesday during a preview tasting . . . and it also ended up being one of Chef’s favorite new items. She shared with us, “Anything that I’ve had total control over where I’ve made and worked with the ingredients is exciting to me like my apple butter. The soup is also something that I’m super excited about.”

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