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Merci Beaucoup: Marc Penvenne of Méli-Mélo Relaunches Versailles in Greenwich

6 Mar

Versailles_Logo_BEP_rgb1

Now that we’ve been around Greenwich for over a year, we can just scrape ourselves out of bed on a lazy Sunday and head over to one of our favorite breakfast spots, Méli-Mélo.  Despite the annoyance of finding a spot and the sometimes long lines, it’s all worth it at the end when you’re devouring some killer crepes.  If you’ve been to this Greenwich Ave. mainstay and hotspot, chances are that you’ve seen and talked with owner Marc Penvenne.  He’s always making the rounds, helping seat people, and making sure that everything runs smoothly.

Well, he’s been a bit busier as of late.  That’s because he has brought Versailles back to life, breathing new life to the closed (Easter, 2013) landmark restaurant that’s been around since 1980.  It’s kind of ironic, huh?  Marc came to Greenwich from France and began as a manager at Versailles, left to open Méli-Mélo (right across the street), and now owns Versailles.  Quite the full circle.

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Primarily Underwhelmed @ Primary Food + Drink by Graham Elliot – Greenwich, CT

30 Jan
Escape Route (L) and Road to Manhattan Cocktails

Escape Route (L) and Road to Manhattan Cocktails

Our fascination with new and shiny things starts at a young age.  Like Ralphie going for the elusive Red Ryder BB Gun, or when we were kids we had to have that new, cool thing like the Easy Bake Oven or an RC Monster Truck.  Well, some things never change:  we still can’t help ourselves…but now, instead of toys, it’s new, fancy restaurants.

This time around, the new, fancy restaurant was Primary Food & Drink by Chef Graham Elliot, owner of Graham Elliot Bistro and  the now-closed Graham Elliot in Chicago, and judge on MasterChef.  As we shared with you back in December, Elliot took over Thataway Cafe in Greenwich and gave the culinary reins to his long time Director of Operations, Executive Chef Merlin Verrier.  Needless to say, we loved the idea behind Primary:  creative culinary spins on classic American dishes.

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Leafline Salad Co. in Greenwich Offering Free Lunch to Kick off a Healthy 2014

7 Jan

Leafline Salad Co. Logo

Leafline Salad Company, now opened for six months in Downtown Greenwich, wants you to have a healthy start to 2014. On 1/15, they’ll be offering up their chef inspired or seasonal salads, wraps, and quinoa bowls for free from 12-3 pm.  Just stop by and let them know about this offer…and you could tell them you heard about it from us, too. We’d love ya.  Limit one per customer, don’t be greedy now. ;)

Now, a little about Leafline Salad Co.…it’s owned by Robert Kessner who set up shop in downtown Greenwich because he was frustrated in finding options to eat that would fit his new dietary needs.  And, what resulted was a menu of salads, wraps, quinoa bowls, soups, juices, and snacks that were not only good for ya, but also provided for people living gluten-free, dairy free, and even vegan lives.  Robert and crew make all their salads right at the restaurant and also do the same with their dressings.  Plus, they keep their ingredients natural, wholesome, and as local as possible.  

So, you’re probably wondering what you’ll order…well, here are some of the standout housemade options (these can be salads, wraps, or quinoa bowls):

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Got Spoon? Nomworthy List of ChowdaFest 2014 Finalists Named

3 Dec

ChowdaFest 2014

ChowdaQuest, the quest for the fest, was a huge success this year and it placed some amazing restaurants into the 2014 ChowdaFest competition through your votes.  Going down on SOUPer Bowl Sunday, 2/2, from 11 am to 3 pm, ChowdaFest VI promises to be even more awesomerest than last year!  Tickets will be just $10 and benefits The Connecticut Food Bank!  We’ll have more details to share with you shortly, but in addition to everything that makes Chowdafest great like sampling chowders and voting for your favorites, there are tons of new things that you’ll love!  And, speaking of liquid goodness, check out the winning competitors for ChowdaFest 2014 to be held at Webster Bank Arena:

New England Clam Chowder:

Bernard’s (Ridgefield) – first year

Donovan’s (Norwalk) – defending champion

Go Fish (Mystic) - first year

Guvnor’s Brewery (Norwalk) - first year

Mansion Clam House (Westport) – 2 time champ

Old Post Tavern (Fairfield)

Rory’s (Darien)

Wood’n Tap (Orange and various locations) – first year

Traditional Chowder (Manhattan/RI only):

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Char-ming New Hot Spot Opens in Greenwich – Char, Greenwich

16 Jul

Char.  That word evokes beautiful nights outside grilling, steaks perfectly done, smoky cross marks on chicken, and that woodsy flavor.  The char on food takes us back to simpler times. And, as you enter Char, opened just July 2, you get that kind of vibe.  100 year old reclaimed wood from top to bottom adds rustic charm and Long Island brass chandeliers add a contrasting glamorous charm.  And this all comes from the Rugova family who also owns Dolphin and Cafe Hudson in Yonkers.  If you enter from the road, there’s a nice bar with a great lounge area if you’d just like to soak up some cocktails…more on that later.  Or, if you enter from the parking lot, you’ll enter the host station of the dining room.

The Char:  bourbon, muddled blackberries, fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup served on the rocks.

The Char: bourbon, muddled blackberries, fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup served on the rocks.

We took a nice booth in the nearly 240 seat restaurant and were greeted by our server.  He knew the menu extremely well and even had suggestions for us, so it was obvious to us that the staff had great training.  And, finally after months of wondering what the menu would be like, it was set before us: hand crafted cocktails, small plates, salads, and entrees in a Modern American and Mediterranean influenced style.  There were at least twenty items that we wanted to order, but there was only so much room in our bellies, so we thought it over with some drinks.

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Ocean freshness along the Norwalk River-Mediterraneo @ Hotel Zero Degrees, Norwalk

23 May

We were in an interesting position when we were asked if we’d like to attend a Fairfield County Food Writers’ Dinner at the new Mediterraneo in Hotel Zero Degrees on the Rt 7 connector in Norwalk. See, we’ve been to every single restaurant in the Z Hospitality Group (Terra, Sole, Aurora, Acqua) and recently even wrote up Mediterraneo in Greenwich, so, we weren’t sure if there would be a lot of the same stuff at this new spot. Luckily, though, Executive Chef Albert DeAngelis and Chef de Cuisine Ethan Morse were feeling creative and were offering up many different options on this menu. Before we sat down to eat, we got a tour of the newly opened Hotel Zero Degrees. What we love about it is it’s modern, slick and trendy, but it won’t break the bank. We especially loved the big, open spaces with plenty of room to move around and relax. Our little tour ended in the big, expansive dining room, overlooking the Norwalk River and a rushing waterfall (who knew there was a waterfall in the Norwalk River?). The windows open out into a V and you get that beautiful cool breeze that makes dining so nice and relaxing. Ok, so the food. There was definitely an ambitious menu set before us with 10 courses and paired wines for 9 of them. Yes, we know, it’s a tough life that we lead. So, let’s go through a heavily seafood-focused dinner…hey, we ain’t complaining.

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Get a Taste of Westport’s Best Bites and Drinks: 2013

24 Apr

It’s time again for Taste of Westport (we covered this event last year, too).  What’s great about this event is that you get to taste some of the best food that Westport has to offer and you do good at the same time.  Taste of Westport will be on May 2 from 6-9 pm at the Westport Inn and will cost $75 prepaid or $80 at the door.  You can get your tickets easily by going to the purchasing page or calling (203) 226-7895 x144.  Proceeds are being donated to Clasp Homes of Westport and even more will go to Clasp through silent auctions.  Here’s a little bit about Clasp, from their website:  “Our mission is to provide homes and opportunities for people with autism and other developmental disabilities.  We offer high quality personalized services that enhance each person’s independence, dignity, and continued growth.  As a non-profit community organization we are dedicated to increasing public understanding of the people we serve and their ability to be contributing members of the community.”  

Now back to the food…but, we’re not talking about just great restaurants.  Michele’s Pies, the award-winning and Bobby Flay-throwdown-winners, will be on hand.  Plus, there will be lots to drink like Beaver Beer, local Onyx Moonshine, and even more provided by Black Bear Wines & Spirits, Crystal Rock, and Green Farms Spirits.  Here is all the info.

Restaurants

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A Feast of Classic Rustic Italian with Modern Flare @ Bar Sugo – Norwalk, CT

5 Mar

How’s this for a greeting while you’re waiting at the bar for your table?  A manager comes up to you, gives you a plate of prosciutto-wrapped truffle fries, then gives you the following message from the chef:  “It’s about damn time.”  Yeah, it was about damn time we got down to Bar Sugo in Norwalk and Chef/owner Pat Pascarella had the right to call it like it is!  He had invited us several times and had even invited us to the inaugural Vinsotto wine event, but the world always seemed to conspire against us going.  Yet, here we were at the cozy and rustic Bar Sugo, ready for what would be a meal of epic proportions.

We decided that we’d take it easy, sampling a few things on the menu.  Starting off, we’d go with three cicchetti (Italian for small snacks) that were $7.50 each, 3 for $20, or 5 for $30, we’d go for three mozzarellas (same pricing as the cicchetti), the meatball sampler, and we’d end up with the cavatelli that both Mark Famous and Andrew Dominick recommended when they saw our check-in.  It’s cool to have foursquare friends who love to eat!  Well, that was the plan anyway.  Yes, we got our dishes, but Chef Pat provided us with even more so we could get a full taste of what Bar Sugo was all about.  By the time we were done, we tried 24 different items on the menu (that includes the Barrel Aged Negroni and the wine).  Ugh, we think we’re still full! Ready for the most epic review ever captured on our blog?

Asparagus with duck prosciutto, and black pepper

The asparagus came two ways:  raw and pickled.  Having both on the dish was a nice idea, but we really loved the vinegary pickle vs. the bitterness of the raw.  The duck prosciutto was really great and wasn’t overpowering despite the saltiness you expect from a cured meat.

Rabbit loin with lentils, prunes, and mustard oil at Bar Sugo in Norwalk

Rabbit loin with lentils, prunes, and mustard oil

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The Fez in Stamford Hosts 6 Course Starry Night Winery Dinner

15 Feb

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When people meet us out at events or parties, they tend to shoot right to the important question:  what’s your favorite restaurant?  That’s a really tough one to answer, especially because there are so many different kinds, price ranges, cuisines, and such…but, invariably, The Fez in Stamford is always a part of our conversation.  We’ve never had a bad meal there and people that we’ve sent on over have come back happy, satisfied, and ready for more.

If you’ve never been, we have a perfect opportunity to cozy up with this Moroccan/Mediterranean stalwart on 2/19 at 6:45:  a Starry Night Winery.  For just $69, you’ll get six glasses of wine from Starry Night Winery in California paired with some of The Fez’s favorite treats:

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Reap Our First Tastes of Harvest: New American Farm to Table in Greenwich, CT

4 Feb

Mac and cheese can be pretty traditional everywhere you go. Sure, sometimes you might get a fun, surprise ingredient like truffle oil, lobster, bacon, or jalapeno, but usually it’s fairly safe. But, if you’re Harvest Wine Bar & Restaurant in Greenwich, safe and traditional aren’t even in their vocabulary. Instead, their EPIC baked mac and cheese is made from fresh, housemade cavatelli mixed with Cabot white cheddar, fontina cheese, and the pièce de résistance, a hearty amount of short ribs that have been braising in red wine all day, all topped with crispy, crunchy bread crumbs. This awesomeness set the tone for the night of the special pre-opening party!

Short rib mac + cheese

Short rib mac + cheese

During the night we met Vicente Siguenza, owner and manager of the amazing Cava, Scena, and 55 Wine Bar & Restaurant. And, we were geeked out to meet the man behind the food, Chef Eben Leonard. He came out with both our dishes and talked about how he prepared them and how they had evolved over time. Just the day before Eben and his sous chefs cooked every single dish on the menu and all the staff at the restaurant had to taste them. Our server that night said she was throwing the food down like a rock star at first, but then she soon realized the Herculean task set before her and took it a bit easier. The tasting is part of what sets Harvest aside from many other restaurants. They want the staff to know what they are bringing to the table and they want the staff to be able to help people order.

Talking a bit more about the menu, it’s divided up into a few parts that will have you coming back for more. Raw specials (like tartare), snacks and shares, starters, seconds, wood fire grilled steakhouse choices, sides, and desserts. If you’re a wine lover, you’ll be happy to know that they are staring with 120 bottles and will also have 30 different glasses of wine for your drinking pleasure. There are also some beer options, with Half Full taking up 2/3 drafts with their Bright Ale and IPA. Now, back to the food…

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

Kristien sank down into the short rib mac & cheese, and Dan ordered the shaved Brussels sprout salad, atop a parmesan risotto cake, sprinkled with truffle vinaigrette. When Chef Leonard spoke to us about the dish, we were surprised (and a bit scared) when he told us that the dish before us consisted of raw shredded Brussels sprouts. Raw? Regardless, Dan dug in and really loved the strong cheese flavor that was packed into the sprouts. There was really a great contrast going on there: the richness of the cheese paired with the earthy, slightly bitter taste of the sprouts. The risotto cake beneath had a crispy crust and added a nice solid crunch from the crispy crust. The inside probably could have used just a bit more cooking, but that didn’t stop Dan from devouring every last bite.

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