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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

Update:  CT News has just reported that Primary Food & Drink is now permanently closed.  There was no reason given why.  

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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Fine Food for a Cause: Benefit Dinner for Stamford YMCA and Children’s Health

15 Jan

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As adults, we can pick and choose what kind of food we’d like to eat. Maybe we eat healthy all week, but decide to treat ourselves once a week. Or, maybe we get a few quick take out meals because we’re just so busy. But, there are plenty of people in the world and even here in Fairfield County who don’t have much of a choice.  Time after time, studies have shown that lower-income families often purchase unhealthy food because it’s cheaper, easier to access, and keeps everybody in the family fed.  Unfortunately, these fatty, processed, and preservative laden foods lead to obesity and major health problems.  And, nowhere is this more seen than with children who are growing, developing, and are incredibly susceptible to obesity.

Lots of people have taken stands on this issue such as Michel Nischan of Wholesome Wave who fought tirelessly to let food stamps work (and work better) at farmers’ markets. Lawmakers, too, are taking steps to kill off trans fats, and make school lunches healthier too.  And, there is also a group of people, restaurants, and organizations that are coming together to help out locally, too. You can be a part of this just by simply attending Fine Food for a Cause at the Palace Theatre in Downtown Stamford on 1/27 starting at 6:30. The night of music, food, awards, a live auction, and celebrity guest appearances all will be in place to help raise money for the Stamford YMCA. With the money raised they will bolster their youth development and healthy living programs and build a youth/teen wing.  The center of this new extension to the YMCA will be a teaching kitchen that will be used to help teach healthy and nutritional cooking techniques and recipes to teenagers and families.

Tickets for Fine Food for a Cause are $150. And there are different levels of sponsorship for individuals and businesses, too, if you’d really like to get more involved.

Now, onto the night itself…

We’ll be there and we hope to see you there, too.  Even if you can’t make it, consider a donation or helping out with a sponsorship.

Fine Food for a Cause

Date: 1/27/14

Time: 6:30 pm

Place: The Palace Theatre

Address: 61 Atlantic Street

                 Stamford, CT

Blackstones Steakhouse Opening Third Location in Greenwich on W. Putnam Ave.

19 Sep

Ugg.  Man, woman need steak.  Man, woman need red meat.  Man, woman need celebrate ‘cuz Blackstones Steakhouse is setting up shop in Greenwich.

Picture from Blackstones websiteYes meat lovers, the same Blackstones in Norwalk that has garnered a reputation as one of the best steakhouses in Connecticut.  Blackstones Greenwich will be located at 28 West Putnam Avenue, just two doors over from Barcelona.  The Greenwich location will be a bit smaller than their Norwalk location and will open near the middle of October, just about a month away.  This marks Blackstones’ third location with their Mt. Kisco location opening up this past March.

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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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Local Beer, Restaurants, + More @ A Novel Affair Fundraiser for The Ferguson Library

15 Apr

If you didn’t know, Dan teaches middle school English.  So, it’s no surprise that he values reading, literacy, and the pursuit of knowledge. Hey, life isn’t about just food.  Also, we both value libraries. They educate, they bring the community together, and they move the world ahead. That being said, we are all aware of the money crisis throughout America and we know that libraries often end up on the chopping block. And, being former Stamford residents, we have seen hours cut and worse, but we have also seen people work together to keep the local library system going. For example, local businesses such as Citizens Bank and Pitney Bowes have sponsored Sunday hours at The Ferguson Library.

The three bbq sauces at Bar Q B.B.Q.

The three bbq sauces at Bar Q BBQ and Saloon

And, another major source of funds comes from The Ferguson Library’s annual fundraiser, A Novel Affair. This year the food, drinks, music, fun, and auctions are going down on Thursday, 4/25, starting at 6 pm. Tickets are $125 and can be purchased here.  Let’s share with you some of the amazing things that you can look forward to:

Drinks

Noms (that’s food in our language) 

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The Capital Grille Stamps out Childhood Hunger with Share Our Strength…and a Bottle of Cab Sauv

1 Mar

George Miliotes with The Capital Grille Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon

Kristien and I are big fans of wine.  We try to check out as many vineyards as we can during the year, especially when we are on vacation.  Believe it or not, we’ve actually created our own wines, too:  first a Cabernet Sauvignon and just this past summer, a Super Tuscan.  So, when The Capital Grille wrote us and told us about their Third Annual Artist Series Wine Event, we knew we had to share the details with you.

Starting March 19 at The Capital Grille in Stamford and other locations, you’ll be able to buy a limited production of their Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon and $25 of the $75 cost will go directly to Share Our Strength.  Share Our Strength is an amazing charity that is doing its part to stamp out hunger in children.  They are a great organization to support and to follow by e-mail or twitter.  Under 1,000 cases were produced, so be sure to get into The Capital Grille to take advantage of this great offer.

This unique and limited pressing was produced at Freemark Abbey Winery (in Napa Valley) in collaboration with Ted Edwards and George Miliotes.  George is one of only 186 Master Sommeliers in the world and is also the Master Sommelier for The Capital Grille.  Only a master could put together an impressive wine menu that spans 350 different bottles from around the world.

Another really great thing about this bottle is the art work on the outside.  Artists were asked to submit their own labels and the winning painting was “Complexity,” by Julie Agee from Missouri.  You can see it on the header picture, above, and in person when you buy the bottle. ;)

So, when you head into The Capital Grille, order this bottle and enjoy the good stuff:  the wine and the good feeling that comes with helping out.  The knowledgeable servers will be able to help you to pair your meal with the Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon, so get ready for an amazing meal.  A beautifully cooked steak and some fresh seafood awaits you, amigo.

The Capital Grille

Address:  230 Tresser Boulevard

Stamford, CT

Phone: (203) 967-0000

Site:  http://www.thecapitalgrille.com

For reservations, please call or scroll down to “Reservations” on their main site.

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Madonia Will Have You Shouting Madonna Mia Like a True Italian! Madonia: Stamford, CT

20 Nov

Tuna Tartare FTW

Just a little bit north off of exit 34 on the Merrit, Madonia is seemingly all by itself on Long Ridge Road.  Which makes it the perfect place to go to escape the hectic Stamford downtown scene without sacrificing quality.

We have been wanting to try Madonia for quite some time now, but it wasn’t until we were invited to our very first press dinner that we finally got ourselves out there.  We were super excited about it. Excited to meet other writers, excited to try the much talked about Madonia, and excited for a great meal.  Except that, well, I’m an idiot and got the dates mixed up.  The press dinner was next Wednesday.  Doah! But no worries, when we got in we were greeted by the owner and chef, Enzo Bruno.  He just so happened to have the menu on hand from last night’s press dinner, so he treated us to this complimentary tour of his culinary genius. How nice!

At first, we noticed there was a large dining room with a table in the middle that had grated cheese, quality olive oil, crushed red pepper, and other essential goodies to have at an Italian restaurant.  What followed was one of the best Italian meals that we have had in Fairfield County.  Our guide, Enzo, is a true Italian, coming over from Calabria, Italy 16 years ago.  He opened up Madonia just a few years ago and has brought it to new heights with his culinary expertise.  He also works as the sommelier for the restaurant because he feels that you need to understand your food to understand how to pair it.  He’s the DaVinci of Italian food, we swear.  So, signore e signori,  come along on our viaggio through Madonia. That’s ladies and gentleman, take a voyage with us, for you non-paesans.

1st Course:  Tuna Tartare

Fresh and tasty.  The corn really brings nice texture contrast to the tuna and the creaminess of the avocado.  Add the contrast of the sweet and spicy mango-wasabi drizzle and all the flavor spots will be happy.  Enzo paired this with a dry and crisp Prosecco from Villa Sandi, which was a genius pairing. Not too sweet, nice and dry to compliment this complex dish.

2nd Course: Autumn Salad

The vinaigrette was one of the best we’ve had. It was a bit tangy with lots of hints of spices such as ground mustard seed and rosemary.  The Autumn Salad had field greens, roasted beets and pears, figs, and some feta.  All the flavors jived well together and it was another great pairing with a Torrontes 2010 from Tierra de Luna.  Kristien totally nailed it when she described it as minerally and soft… a little like a steel aged chardonnay, but not quite. You should’ve seen her face light up when she saw this wine was a Chardonnay blend. She loves when she gets a wine right!

3rd Course:  Sole Riviera

A beautifully cooked and delicate Sole fillet with charred peppers, peas, aceto di moscato, and fresh mozz all atop of Sardinian couscous.  Sardinian couscous.  We had no idea there was such thing, but there is.  Just imagine bigger pearls of couscous.  The couscous itself was cooked nicely with an earthy taste to it from the mushrooms.  That added a nice balance to the fish.  You come out with sweet and sour flavors bouncing you around.  We wanted to have more tomatoes to give more contrast with the acids in the dish to contrast the heaviness of the couscous.  Enzo gave us a 2009 Falanghina from Terredora that was slightly citrusy and matched nicely with the sole and the earthiness of the broth and mushroom couscous.

Palate Cleanser:  Raspberry Sorbet

Yummy!   Full of raspberry flavor that burst onto your palate.  Whenever we hear palate cleanser, we think of Web Soup’s special part of the show after you are assaulted with “Things You Can’t Unsee.”

4th Course:  Homemade gnocchi

Melt-in-your-mouth-awesomey-goodness!  The sauce was tangy and tomatoes, not too sweet, just right.  The gnocchi light and fluffy like it’s made in Italy:  a real treat if you’re a gnocchi lover and you’ve never had it freshly made.  Tip:  when Enzo or your server asks if you’d like pepper or cheese, add some crushed red pepper for a kick and some freshly shaved park for bite.  The 2008 Barbera d’Alba from Batasiolo Sovrana had a medium body and was fruit forward which cut nicely into the sauce and starch from the gnocchi.

5th Course:  5 hour short ribs

Delicate short ribs that flake at the smallest touch of your fork covered in a rich chianti glaze.  OMG.  It was served atop a helping of horseradish mashed potatoes and some cabbage.  This was killer enough, but Enzo put a homemade onion ring battered with Peroni Italian beer.  Yeah, just a ridiculously good dish.  We were given a 2006 Super Tuscan from Coronoto to pair up with the short ribs that was jammy and had nice depth. A smart pairing for this rich dish.

Overall Impressions

Madonia won’t disappoint.  Whether you go for their Tuesday-Thursday 3 course dinner at a mere $25, for a brunch with half off bottles of wine and live jazz, or you just want some great, authentic Italian food made with love…well, this is your spot.  We plan to be back, take Kristien’s parents, and to recommend Madonia to people who are looking for Italian restaurants that rise above the rest in Fairfield County.

Noms: 4.25

Cost: $$$

Madonia Restaurant & Bar

Address: 1297 Long Ridge Road

Stamford, CT 06903

Phone: (203) 322-8870

Site: http://www.madoniarestaurant.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/madoniarestaurant

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/madoniastamford
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Chef Prasad attains culinary Nirvana. Thali-Westport, CT

10 Apr

Our uber-cool seat right by the kitchen. Slam!

Thali, led by Executive Chef and owner Prasad Chirnomula, sits in a little strip mall nearby Trader Joe’s in Westport.  The very same Prasad Chirnomula who owns Thali in New  Canaan, Ridgefield, New Haven, and Westport.  He’s also opened up the vegetarian Thali Too in New Haven and a new Mexican bar and restaurant, Oaxaco Kitchen.  Did we mention that Prasad is a James Beard Honoree?  Yeah, you know this place will be off the hiz-ook before you even look at the menu.

Semolina dosa crisp crepe...'nuff said

As we made our way to our seats, we were greeted on the left by a massive white Ganesh, the bringer of beginnings and the remover of obstacles.  Our seats were nice and cozy and were set right next to the kitchen, seen through funky lit strings (seen in the picture above).  I think this really shows what Thali is about:  classic, gourmet Indian food with a modern twist.

We decided to go with a bottle of Gruner Vetliner which proved to be a great pairing with the spicy and flavorful food that awaited us.  It was fruity with a nice crisp apple taste and wasn’t overpoweringly sweet like Riesling can be.  This balanced out some of the heat that was about to hit us.  Rather than start with an appetizer, then have an entrée each, we decided to get more of a sampling of Thali.  After all, you’ll notice that their menu really puts the focus on small bites!

We began with the semolina dosa crisp crepe (say that 10 times fast)– a crispy and light crepe that was stuffed with potato, onion, and chile.  This was a monster dish, taking up the entire plate, but we quickly devoured it.  Four sauces on the side were great accompaniments to the crepe:

1) Coconut:  a thick sauce that was light in flavor and had a very subtle coconut taste.  It was good, but we wanted more coconut taste.

2) Mint:  this sauce was probably the best mint sauce we’ve ever had–it wasn’t too minty at all.

3) Tomato:  this was an excellent sauce with nice smoky flavor throughout.

4)  Vindaloo:  spicy and so good–warning, will cause pain if too much consumed. ;)

Baaahhdd? No freakin' way! Grrreeeaatt lamb croquettes

As we finished the crepes, we were brought the lamb croquettes.  They came out looking like meatballs, but the taste was drastically different from how Grandma used to make.  Mixed with cumin, coriander, ginger, mint, mustard, and other spices, the meaty goodness of the lamb really took this dish sky high.  There was a very subtle amount of sweetness to this dish, adding a nice touch.  The lamb croquettes were dense, that’s true, but Kristien and I disagreed about the moistness.  I thought that it was great this was, but Kristien wanted it to be a bit more moist, though she still did love them.

Finally, we got our entrée:  Chicken Vindaloo!  Beautifully cooked chicken smothered in a spicy tomato sauce that had just the right amount of kick to it (of course, we like it pretty spicy).  Chunks of potato were mixed in, too, giving this dish some nice contrast.  We poured this on top of the rice they gave us and, once again, we were in nirvana with Lord Ganesh by our side.  With the Vindaloo, we also ordered the garlic spinach–a light and creamy puree mixed in with cumin and other spices.  Kristien dipped the hell out of everything in sight into the cucumber yogurt side which was cool, refreshing, and oh so cucumbery.  Last of all, we enjoyed the walnut and raisin naan.  The naan was baked so well and came out crispy, yet doughy.  The walnut taste was great and took over the dish, but we wanted more raisins to balance things out.

Chicken Vindaloo, our naan, and the killa garlic spinach

Thali in Westport is an incredibly solid restaurant that won’t disappoint you.  With Prasad’s focus on small plates, you can try an amazing amount of dishes, over and over, amen and hallelujah!  If you want Indian food, done right, this is your spot.  This takes me back to my second birthday that I spent with Kristien.  She had a bad experience with Indian at Kashmir Indian Kitchen in Norwalk.  I think at that point her stomach felt like it would implode, then explode.  The ever brave soul she is, she took me on my birthday to Thali in New Canaan a few years ago.  Guess what?  Prasad made us both disciples, and I feel that we’re even more devoted to him now after this visit.  We will go where you lead, o mighty chef, because Thali is by far the best Indian in Fairfield County!

Noms: 4.25
Price:$$$
Address:376 Post Road East
Westport, CT 06880
Phone:  (203) 557-4848
Site:  http://www.thali.com/wp1.html
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/ThaliWestport/391402881736

Thali Westport, Regional Cuisine of India on Urbanspoon

Get married or renew your vows at a Darien landmark! The Waters Edge at Giovanni’s-Darien, CT

7 Feb

Giovanni’s has always been on our list of places that we need to try ever since we moved to Stamford a couple of years back.  It stares at us, inviting us in as we pass by it on the way to the beach during those beautiful summer days.  Well, they told me about a pretty amazing opportunity at The Waters Edge at Giovanni’s today that I felt I needed to share.  On Valentine’s Day, there is going to be a group wedding ceremony for couples, same sex included.  You can either get married or have your vows renewed. The ceremony itself is free, but you’ll need to take care of getting your marriage license (info below), pay for any pictures that you like from the photographer, and pay for the prix-fixe meal that comes with a champagne toast if you would like it.  If you’re getting your vows renewed, you don’t need a license, cuz, duh, you’re already married.

This made me think back to our wedding on the Syracuse University Campus on August 5, 2006.  Yes, we’ve been together that long and she hasn’t killed me.  I did give my vows before there was such thing as Angry Birds, though.  Perhaps I should renew vows and work that in:  “To love, honor, and cherish, ’til green pigs do I destroy.”  I’ll need some more time to work on my vows, so I’ll be thinking things over with Kristien at Coalhouse Pizza for their beer dinner.  Enjoy some of those awesome shots from our wedding.  Oh, and yes…they dropped me. ;)

Info and Press Release

Pickle infused vodka, Fez Burger, killer fries, and avjar. Avjar? The Fez–Stamford, CT

31 Jan

Kristien’s parents, Tom and Linda, were in town and wanted to try The Fez after reading our review.  We were certainly not going to protest considering we declared The Fez our favorite restaurant in Stamford!  Again this time we were lucky enough to have Thami as our waiter. Thami is the kind of waiter you hope for at restaurant, friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable, so much that he even great he remembered exactly what wine we ordered last time and even some of the food.  And, the owner, Eric, said hi to us again.  I have to say, it was nice being back…they really make you feel welcome and make the whole evening a fun experience.

There’s been lots of talk about the infused drinks at The Fez.  First, our friend, Terri Zimmer, talked about them on FB, then Amy from ctbites.com asked us about them.  Well, I am proud to be your culinary and drinkiary ambassador.  So, I asked Eric about them.  Turns out they serve pickle infused vodka, orange blossom infused vodka, and cherry infused vodka.  I stuck with the first two in the list, though the cherry did sound good.

Well, onto the meal.  Unlike last time, I decided to switch things up and go with small plates.  I started with a very creamy hummus that had toasted pine nuts on top.  Served on the side was avjar:  a kind of salsa, only they use red peppers, some garlic, and possibly some eggplant.  A light, smoky flavor runs through the avjar.  We dipped into the hummus and the avjar with crispy (Fez) pita chips that were sprinkled with cinnamon–nice touch.  Even though this was my dish, Kristien and her parents couldn’t help themselves from stealing from me–even with dirty looks.

So, you’re probably wondering…what’s up with the pickle vodka? The waiter asked me how I wanted it and I wasn’t quite sure what to say. Then I said something I never thought I’d say, “Pickle infused vodka on the rocks please.”  Scary! Well, the pickle taste wasn’t overpowering at all and the vodka was good, though I realized that it was better to drink with food, not by itself.  The cucumber added a nice flavor when I took a bite then took a sip.  It’s worth trying, definitely!  I know my sister, Ren, used to drink pickle juice, so just consider this the adult version.

I also needed to get the Pizzet Aroub again because it was just that

amazing.  Last time I really wanted the Fez Burger, so I thought, hey, today is all about adventure so let’s do it!  This burger was really amazing.  First of all, it was cooked to a perfect medium rare.  Secondly, crispy and thin fingerling potato shoestring fries.  Damn, damn, damn.  Thirdly, we’ve got the burger, a mixture of lamb and beef.  I liked the mixture because the lamb was balanced out by the beef.  Crispy lettuce and juicy tomato lay beneath the patty and on top were some savory roasted onions and peppers, kept together with a green spiced sauce.

I also tried the orange blossom infused vodka which was quite different than my pickled vodka.  The vodka seemed much stronger with this infusion with a very subtle orangey/citrusy taste.  In a moment of pure inspiration I squeezed the blood orange on the rim into the vodka and that actually cut into the strong vodka taste a bit.  I enjoyed the pickle vodka more, actually, wouldn’t you know it?

Surprise, we ended with the briwats again.  Still a fabulous dessert that kicks baklava up a notch!  We really noticed this time a floral accent in the briwats and Thami told us it was orange blossom.  Thami also offered me a complementary port so I tried the 20 year old Tawny.  This was probably the smoothest port that I’ve ever had and I’d recommend it as a kick ass aperitif.

Before I wrap this up, I should mention that Kristien loved her sag and feta rolls that had Kalmata olives on the side and her small plate of succulent lamb chops with anchovy bread crumbs.  Tom enjoyed the meatball tagine and took any vestiges of the dish home to Upstate NY.   Linda enjoyed the chicken stuffed with feta and peppers that came with a side of cubed sweet potatoes–one of the specials that night.  As you see, Kristien was asked to come up and dance with Adina, their very sweet belly dancer!  I was actually hoping Tom or Linda would go up and dance!  I would have loved to have seen that and would have recorded it for all of you to see.  Sorry, next time maybe? ;)

Noms:  4.5

Cost:  $$$

 
 
The Fez
Address:  227 Summer Street
Stamford, CT 06901
Phone:  (203) 975-0479
Site:  http://thefez1.com

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