Tag Archives: American

Refining the Craft of American Comfort Food @ Craft 260 in Fairfield, CT

9 Jun
The whole restaurant speaks to the word CRAFT, even the decor

The whole restaurant speaks to the word CRAFT, even the decor

Craft 260 has been on our to-eat list since it opened on February 13 of this year, but sometimes we’re bad bloggers and get too lazy to haul our asses up to Fairfield. It’s not that we don’t love Fairfield…we do.  In fact, it use to be our old stomping grounds. It’s just that we get sidetracked by all the nomworthy places in between here and there…like food blogger A.D.D. But, our good friends Kevin and Aly recently moved up that way, so we knew it was about time…

We weren’t sure where exactly Craft 260 was, but quickly figured out it was in that little shopping center/strip mall with Michael Gennaro’s Steakhouse, Giove’s Pizza Kitchen (No Name Pizza all day!), and a vodka bar that’s coming soon. An odd location for sure, but we weren’t going to let that deter us.

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Breakfast from the farm to our hungry bellies at Estia’s American in Darien, CT

3 May

The local farms and shops that Estia’s American works with

A few weeks ago we told you about Colin Ambrose and Carissa Waechter starting up Estia’s American in Darien, an offshoot of Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor, NY.  One of the best parts about Estia’s American is their focus on fresh, local food from farms.  You notice this almost immediately when you walk in and see a chalkboard listing where they get some of their food.  Expect this to change with the season and especially as they make more connections with local farms, butchers, and shops. Very exciting!

We came during lunch time, but we had that “we need breakfast food badly” kind of feeling going on.  The kitchen staff was able to work with us, so we could to satisfy our bellies with breakfast.  Coming in, Kristien already knew what she wanted:  The Red Flannel Hash.  I struggled with my choice because everything looked so good, especially on the lunch menu.  I decided, though, to stick with Robbie’s Gringo Hash.

The Drinks

We had two coffees that our waitress filled up whenever we were close to empty.  Don’t you love that?  I don’t think our coffee was ever empty.  That’s how breakfast should be!   Kristien also ordered a nice raspberry and mango cup of wake-you-up-fresh-goodness from the juice bar.  They have daily specials in addition to the standard choices and you can even make your own combos.

The Food

Red Flannel Hash with two beautifully poached eggs

Well, onto the food.  Kristien had been salivating over the Red Flannel Hash ever since we found out about Estia’s American.  It all goes back to a similar dish that changed her world in a little bistro up in the Berkshires.  The dish served here has chorizo, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, onions, corn, and two poached eggs.  Carissa and Colin recommend having your egg poached and you’ll be so glad you followed their advice.  The eggs were cooked perfectly and just oozed out all over the hash.  Ahh, don’t you just love to dip into the yolk?  As for the hash itself, there was lots going on, but it all worked well. Kristien said that perhaps she could’ve done without the sweet potatoes because it took away from the savoriness of the dish, but overall she really liked it. If you’re feeling a bit daring or want to try new combos of tastes, try the Mojo and Rosito sauces with your meal.  The Rosito is a red sauce made with Guajillo pepper and onion and is a bit spicy.  The Mojo is a green sauce with mint, parsley, garlic, jalapeno, and lime juice.  It was bright, yummy, and seemed to have more of a kick than The Rosito.

Robbie’s Gringo Hash with poached eggs and nice chunks of queso fresco

I had a similar hash, though mine had more of a Mexican twist.  Robbie’s Gringo Hash has red beans, rice, spicy chorizo, eggs, two eggs, avocado, and flour tortillas.  Again, I went with the chefs and got my poached eggs.  You can really see and taste the difference between store bought and local eggs.  The eggs at Estia’s American seem brighter and more flavorful.  The star of this dish, to me, was the chorizo.  It was cooked nicely, getting the crispy skin on the outside.  There was a nice gentle heat to it, too.  Take advantage of the tortillas that come with this dish and make up your own little burritos.  Overall, a good dish, but I would have liked a bit more spice and flavor to really make this dish knock it out of the park.

The awesome lemon banana beignet with candied lemon halo

After all of this, we were treated to an awesome dessert of a lemon banana beignet.  The beignet itself was crispy on the outside, while still doughy on the inside.  Oh, but where was the inside?  Carissa had hollowed it out and pumped in an amazing spiced banana puree.  My favorite part of the dessert was actually the candied lemon.  It was so sweet, so bright, and just broke away into bits when I chomped down.  I had no problem eating my slice and the rest of Kristien’s, rind and all.  Really, an awesome way to end the meal.

Overall Thoughts

Although we went for breakfast, we’ll have to return for lunch, and then return for dinner when they begin service sometime around May.  The food was fresh, prepared well, and our waitress worked hard to make sure we had a great breakfast.  We even had a chance to meet the man himself, Colin.  He was very nice and thankful for us coming out.  In fact, he was talking to everybody in the restaurant.  We love the theme of Estia’s American, we love the fun play on Mexican food, and we love the use of local ingredients.  Now you can check out Estia’s American for dinner, too!  Two green thumbs up!

Estia’s American

Noms: We’re going to hold off on giving Estia’s a rating until we try dinner, but so far, we’re thinking maybe 3.75-ish.

Cost: $$$

Address:  1020 Post Road (in the back lot by 1020 Post)

Darien, CT

Phone: (203) 202-7051


Estia's American on Urbanspoon

Fresh ingredients + fine food + fellow foodies = A fantastic Friday! Nicholas Roberts Gourmet Bistro, Norwalk, CT

18 Jan

In a very unsuspecting spot in Norwalk  you’ll see an ordinary looking sign inviting you into an ordinary looking place in an ordinary looking strip mall.  But things aren’t so ordinary at Nicholas Roberts Gourmet Bistro, they’re more like extraordinary.  On our most recent visit, we had to wait a bit. But, for good food, we don’t mind, especially when we’re with good company on a double date (which you know we love). Our double date this time was with the lovely Alicia, a fellow stellar food blogger, and Renato Ghio, cameraman, and producer extraordinaire for their company, RmediA, who happily waited with each other while I spent 20 minutes trying to find a parking spot. Yeah, warning: parking is very limited.

Once a table freed up, our waiter seated us.  After seeing us all talking and talking and talking, the waiter swooped over to focus us and get us on track.  Every ounce of my being was begging for the Hangar Steak Frites that I got last time, but I’m proud of myself for choosing something different.  I decided to start off with the Napoleon of Sriracha Tuna Tartar & Avocado, followed that up with the Arugula & Parmesan Salad, and then end with the Coffee Rubbed & Stout Braised Short Ribs of Beef. Kristien started with the–surprise!–Beet & Goat Cheese Terrine, shared the salad with me, then finished off with my beloved Hanger Steak Frites. Renato started with the same (and seemed to enjoy it by how quickly he put it away… hey, I’m not judging, I did the same) and Alica started with the Crawfish Beignets which she said were very delicious, especially with the cajun aioli to give it a kick!

For me, the tuna came out, served nicely, with some avocado sandwiched in between the layers of goodness.  Throw in some tortilla chips on the side for scooping, and I had a great meal starter.  Now, the real trick to this meal was to try new bites of flavors with each chip.  I always got some tuna and avocado on the chip, but I also threw on some of the tangy daikon that was served on the side. Amazing flavor combos.

We were washing our meal down with a lovely bottle of Petite Petit and a reliable Spellbound Cabernet Sauvignon.  Nicholas Roberts is BYOB, so make sure you bring lots of the sweet, sweet nectar of the Gods to get you through all your courses. Another great thing about Nicholas Roberts is their approach to food.  They get their food as locally as possible, and support sustainable and organic farmers.  This is why, I believe, the food tastes fresher and better here.  Getting back to the meal, we had a great salad that was cut deep with the salty and crunchy goodness of fried pancetta.  The pancetta, itself, was worth ordering this salad, but the arugula, parm, and delicate lemon vinaigrette held it all together.

So, let me introduce you to the star of the meal:  Coffee Rubbed & Stout Braised Short Ribs of Beef!  There was a knife right in front of me, but let me tell you, there was no need for that silly thing.  The meat peeled away, so juicy, so delicate, as I gently slide my fork into this fine cut of meat.  Resting on top were roasted tomatoes, while below was a healthy helping of mashed potatoes.  Bringing it all together was a meaty, earthy gravy that kicked in lots of flavor, but wasn’t too overpowering.  The only thing that I wanted more of was a texture contrast because everything was soft or delicate.  Still, I would order this again.

Kristien’s steak was amazing, once again.  As she struggled to finish the meal, our very friendly waiter came by and threatened her:  “You have to finish the fries.  That’s the rule of the house.  We’re famous for our fries.”  He’s definitely right, so I took it upon myself to help my wife complete her goal.  If I need to take one for the team, I’ll take it to the gut.  These fries, these fries, these rosemary seasoned fries that entice you even as you walk in the restaurant.  Oh, it’s a dish you need to try. Renato seemed to thoroughly enjoy his dish, which was the duck special and Alicia loved the Black Pepper Spiced Pecan Crusted Pork Loin with OMG mac & cheese, fried leeks, and brussel sprouts which she said were cooked to perfection.

So, onto dessert! Perhaps because Kristien and I looked pathetic after telling us there was no bread pudding left for dessert, our waiter took some mercy on us and stole one piece from a batch reserved for a private party (shhh, they’ll never know).  I like all kinds of bread pudding, and this was definitely one of those kinds.  This is the kind of bread pudding that is thick and heavy, a brioche I believe.  The consistency reminded me of a nice and fat piece of french toast.  Our meal was over, but we weren’t rushed out.  We all sipped on some of New Canaan’s own Zumbach’s Coffee and dragged out the last minutes of freedom before we hit the cold, snowy, and icy streets of Norwalk.  All this together came out to 4 noms, definitely a great, reliable place you could become a regular at.

And while that fantastic double date night had to come to an end, we’re already planning the next one at Plate (now Cello) in Ridgefield so stay tuned!

No reservations

$5 corkage fee per bottle, but no fee if you buy the bottles from Nicholas Roberts Fine Wine.

Noms:  4
Cost:  $$$
Address:  75 Main Street
Norwalk, CT 06851
Phone:  (203) 229-0035
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/NicholasRobertsBistro
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/ChefCake

Nicholas Roberts Gourmet Bistro on Urbanspoon

The Schoolhouse at Cannondale has some learnin’ to do. Wilton, CT

10 Jan

So by now you’ve figured out that we really love to go out to eat.  Like reeeeeeaaaaaally. But there is one thing we love even more than that–going out to eat on double dates! Because a meal shared with friends ALWAYS tastes better. It’s true!  This time around our double date was with two of our favorite CT foodies and wine lovers, Dave and Kathleen.  In talking with Dave, we agreed that since our double date was over the holiday week, we’d pick something outside our normal Stamford/Norwalk comfort zone.  Also being a big fan of local/farm to table type restaurants, Dave suggested The Schoolhouse at Cannondale.  After one quick look at a sample menu on their website and reading some of the reviews, we were game!

When Danny and I pulled up (after getting a little discombobulated with the directions… it’s kinda tucked away), we fell in love with the cute little schoolhouse building. So quaint and New Englandy. The entry way was adorable too with a little welcome station, coat rack, and an old-school (pun intended) chalk board. Once everyone arrived and were all seated, we opened up the menu to dive in. I was so engaged in conversation that I didn’t even notice the menu was actually personalized with our name on it. (Thank you Kathleen for pointing that out!) What a great little surprise, even if our name was spelled wrong. Being in marketing, I’m super appreciative of those little added touches!

The menu was set up into four courses, the fourth being dessert, yum! There were two options for all four courses along with wine pairing suggestions for each. While typically the four of us have been known to polish off a bottle of wine or four (what?), we all opted for the pairings. Why mess with the experts, right? We all went for the parsnip and apple soup with ricotta gnocchi, shaved ham, and chives for the first course.  For the second course Kathleen and I went for the celery root ravioli with black trumpet mushrooms and a foie gras (which after reading about how it’s sourced, we will NEVER, EVER eat again) brown butter emulsion while Dave and Danny went with the duck roulade with a root vegetable hash and a sunny side egg. Switching it up in the third course, Kathleen and Danny went for the pork shoulder with cauliflower puree and broccoli rabe, while Dave and I went for the bronzini with saffron risott0 (I aaaalways go for the risotto), preserved tomatoes, fennel, and parsnip chips. And last, but never, ever least, for dessert everyone except me went for the brown butter chestnut cake with mulled red wine, poached blood oranges, eggnog ice cream, and warm chocolate cream, while I went for the wildflower honey panna cotta with gingerbread spiced caramel corn, star anise honey, and earl grey sorbet. PHEW! As I’m sure you can imagine, we were so excited to dig in and were all convinced we were in for the treat of a lifetime.

So before I get into the details of any particular dish, let me get to the point of why the headline of this post sounds like things didn’t really go the way we were all expecting. (It’s about time, right?)  When you’re going to a restaurant as expensive as The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, that also happens to be all about local, fresh, farm food, you have certain grand expectations of perfection. Perfect service, perfectly cooked food, and perfectly seasoned flavors. Now, while everything was generally good, they pretty much just missed the mark across the board. The biggest issue was that most of the food was lukewarm / room temperature. A HUGE pet peeve of mine.  I like my food piping hot. It not only tastes better that way, but it implies freshness.  Then, in general, everything was just a little off–too seasoned, or not seasoned enough, over cooked, a little too fatty, etc.  As example, a TRUE test of a chef’s skill is his/her risotto. If they can rock a risotto, they can usually rock everything else. But like many places out there, the risotto was overcooked.

And lastly, the service.  Danny and I have been to enough fancy-schmancy restaurants to know the more you spend, the more you expect the service to be outstanding. This just wasn’t. With a little too much time between courses and at least 4 different waiters but not one single person asking us if everything was ok or if we needed anything… nothing. Just waiter after waiter dropping our food off and walking away. I suppose it could’ve been worse, like if the waiter asked each of us who ordered what at each course (OMG I hate that), but really, at this type of place, they should have been borderline annoyingly present.

So, now that I put it all out there, a few more details about the food. As I mentioned before, everything was good… just not that good. The parsnip and apple soup was creamy with a nice, smooth consistency, but just a tad bland, no particular notes of any one thing that stood out, all just pretty much in the same palette range.  Now, Dave and Danny said the duck was actually very good other than being cold. Perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned, and delicious with the yolk running all over it. But as for the raviolis, well, they too were room temperature, but the flavor was actually quite nice. Again, nothing really interesting on the palette, just an overall good taste. Moving on to the bronzini, this was cooked nicely… flakey, not too fishy so I knew it was fresh, but it was definitely too salty. And as I mentioned the risotto was overcooked, though the flavor was nice. (How could you not love saffron?) As for the last course, well, this is where The Schoolhouse at Cannondale really excelled. The group raved about the chestnut cake and egg nog ice cream saying it was the perfect winter treat and my panna cotta was quite tasty with the spicy gingerbread balanced by the smooth earl grey tea sorbet. YUM! And, I do have to say whomever chose the wine pairings did do a good job on the flavor pairing, especially the Pares Balta from Cava, Spain with the parsnip soup and the Pie de Palo Viognier from Mendoza, Argentina with the ravioli. The light whites complemented the heavier creamy dishes very well.  I am, however, incredibly disappointed in the low quality of the wines they chose, most running at about $10 a bottle retail, which for a classy restaurant, is pretty silly.

I have to say, it actually makes me kind of sad to have to write a ho-hum review of The Schoolhouse at Cannondale. (I’m so emotionally invested in my food experiences, ha!) I had such high expectations for the place based on the concept and the buzz. I do truly believe that this place holds sooooo much potential and with some refinement this place could easily go from decent to fantastic. But for now, we’re going to have to go with good, but not nearly good enough at 3 noms and a whopping 4 $$$$.  I’d say, if you’re going to spend this much bling, there are many many better options in our area.

Noms: 3

Cost: $$$$

The Schoolhouse at Cannondale
Website: http://www.theschoolhouseatcannondale.com
Address: 34 Cannon Road
Wilton, CT, 06897
Hours: Wed – Thurs:  5:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Fri – Sat:  11:00 am – 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Sun:  10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Schoolhouse-At-Cannondale/195679980340

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Fast food, redefined – Station Eats (Filling Station), New Canaan

21 Nov

I’m just going to admit it:  I cannot live without hot dogs or burgers and I don’t care if the high-class, oh-so-sophisticated foodies knock me.  Besides, when you’re at Filling Station (now called Station Eats) it’s not your average, weak, thoughtless, passionless, grill-um-up-and-spit-um-out burger and dog shop.  This place has chops, character, and a great philosophy behind it:  eat well, eat organic, eat local.

Let me give you a play-by-play of ordering, so you don’t seem like such a noob (which I ended up seeming like ’cause I forgot.)  Take a look at the delicious menu that’s posted on the wall when you enter, order one (or more) of two sized burgers, sloppy joe, or dog by the burger presses, then step on down by the register.  When your burger or dog’s grilled, they’ll ask what toppings and sauce you’d like to add and help you to customize your own bit of nirvana.  You have an arsenal of toppings to choose from, most free, some premium at a dollar per choice.  Oh, it’s worth it.

Well, we both wanted to try the famed Fall Turkey Burger.  You’ve got free range turkey from Lancaster County, tomato, lettuce, fresh sage, thick cut bacon, smothered in a decadent and tangy cranberry aoili sauce.  FANTASTIC! Crinkle cut fries with this did the trick:  they were crispy on the outside, yet soft right in the middle.  Really good fries, and organic too.  Their burgers are fairly sized–not too big or small, just right.  By now you might realize that I can take down my food nicely, so I definitely had to order a hot dog to go with that.  I had two premium ingredients on top:  chili with beef from local and organic Wolfe’s Neck Farm and apple-braised sauerkraut.  To that I added raw onions and jalapenos. The peppers added a nice kick to the pup, the chili gave a nice meaty contrast, and the sauerkraut finished it off with an amazing bite at the end.

I was already in heaven, but you really do need something to wash all that amazing food down.  Sure, they have water, but one of their specialties here are their nice and thick milkshakes.  It just so happens that this month they have a special one that brought me to my knees upon the first sip:  pumpkin milkshake.  The shake was thick, yet very creamy.  The taste was outstanding and spot on.  Have you ever tasted a really great pumpkin pie?  Yeah, that’s this shake.  Well done, because they didn’t overpower you with too much spice.

We got to talking with Seth, one of the owners and he shared his passion for his shop and for burgers in general.  He’s been all over the country, tasting burgers whenever he can.  He has a real love of the restaurant and that exudes from him. Kristien and I talked about coming here when the shop opened when he asked if we had one of the regular burgers and he said that they’ve really been tweaking the burger recipe.  Seth asked if we’d like to try them on him, the new and improved versions.  Who are we to refuse?  Two highlights to my burger:  the fried curly onions I asked to be put on top and the fact that it was approaching medium in terms of being cooked.  That made the burger juicy, fresh, and flavorful.  Fantastic burger!

Be on the look out because Filling Station has got some great things in the works…you just might see them open up somewhere else nearby soon.  If it’s any closer than New Canaan, I might have problems.  Serious burger problems!

They definitely deserve 4.5 Noms.  This is the kind of place that you can go to time after time and still order new variations of a tried and true favorite.  I haven’t even tried their sloppy joes yet, so there’s even more reason for me to head back.

Very inexpensive, coming in at only $27! Cash or check only, btw.

Tres Leches Shake/Cinco de Mayo Burger, Caramel Sea Salt Shake/Bacon Bleu Cheese Burger,

Cap’n Crunch Shake/Guinness Chocolate Shake/Buffalo Wing Burger, Original Review

Noms:  4.5

Cost:  $$

Filling Station
Address:  19 South Avenue
New Canaan, CT 06840-5411
Phone:  (203) 966-4445
Site:  http://fillingstationco.com
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/fillingstationco

Filling Station on Urbanspoon

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