Tag Archives: farm to table

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

You’ll Definitely Wanna Come Back to Back 40 Kitchen – Greenwich (Review)

4 Aug

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Back 40 Farm, Dancing Dog Farm, Gaia’s Breath, Hemlock Hill, Red Barn Bakery, Blooming Hill Farm, Marcia Tucker, Western CT Craftsmen, Jaw Workshop, Farming 101, Shearwater Coffee Roasters, Red Bee Honey, Sea to Table, Blue Moon Acres, Ridberg+, Chaljeri Farm, Beltane Farm, Cato Corner Farm, Social Comments, Deidre Mannix, and Mountain Rose Herbs.

This is the impressive list of suppliers that are proudly displayed at Back 40 Kitchen, a new rustic, quaint farm-to-table spot in Greenwich. Yup, this list lets you know that when it comes to the farm part of farm-to-table, Back 40 Kitchen ain’t messin’ around. They take their ingredients very seriously, and without giving too much away, it shows . . . BIG TIME!

And, speaking of ingredients, you could say that they are very careful about not only what gets into their kitchen, but what comes out on your plate . . . or in your glass, for that matter. The majority of their food comes from local sources, whether it’s CT or NY. Then, Chef George DeMarsico transforms those ingredients into something greater, making apps and entrees from scratch without even a single whisper of gluten. The same approach can be found behind the bar, as Jennifer DeMarsico (Manager and cocktail curator) creates the drinks and ingredients inside of them from “scratch” like her cherry syrup that we mention in the next section.

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2nd Farm-to-Trumbull Series Continues at Gilbertie’s Herb Garden in Easton

29 Jul

Parallel Post Logo

If you didn’t have the chance to attend the last Farm-to-Trumbull dinner series, you’ve got another chance next Sunday. But, this ain’t going down at Parallel Posts restaurant in Trumbull . . . nope. It’s happening at Gilbertie’s Herb Garden right in Easton on August 9 from 3-7. Here are the deets that you need to know:

The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook1) It’s a reception style dinner, so there will be chef stations throughout the garden. Nom away on some small bites or take some big boy bites with entrees. And, don’t forget to finish up with their killer dessert bar! Food will be created by James Beard Award Nominated Chef Dean James Max, Executive Chef Chris Molyneux, and Chef de Cuisine Erik Waybright. Please note that the menu is carefully crafted from local sources and is seasonal in nature.

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Book This Dinner: Chef Plum Pops-up @ Minor Memorial Public Library in Latest Dinner Underground Series

30 Jun

Chef Plum continues to kick ass and take names with his ever-popular and continually-sold-out Dinner Underground series. This time, though, it’s a new deal for him, as he takes over the Minor Memorial Public Library in Roxbury! And, what he has in store for undergrounders will be pretty damn awesome. Before we check out the menu, here are the down and dirty deets:

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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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Spend the weekend of your (food) dreams at Saybrook Point Inn + Spa, Old Saybrook

10 Feb

What’s better than a wonderfully relaxing weekend getaway at a charming inn and spa in beautiful costal Connecticut? Oh, you know, a wonderfully relaxing weekend getaway at a charming inn and spa in beautiful coastal Connecticut, centered entirely around amazing food! Yeah, that’s happening at Saybrook Point Inn and Spa in Old Saybrook and you need to get in on it, stat!

Saybrook Point Inn and Spa’s Food Lovers Weekends offer “food enthusiasts” an amazing opportunity to go behind the scenes of their highly acclaimed casual fine dining restaurant, Fresh Salt. Executive Chef Leslie Tripp and his team will be your tour guide through the whole experience, not only telling you about the restaurant’s philosophy and practices with local farmers and food suppliers, but also walking your through, step by step, how to create culinary masterpieces. You know you’re in great hands with Chef Tripp since he’s a graduate of the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and spent some time at Michelin Starred Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in England alongside our hero, Gordon Ramsay, when he was just a sous chef for the legendary Master Chef, Raymond Blanc.

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Bailey’s Backyard Teams up w/ Berkshire Mountain Distillers + 109 Cheese for Decadent Dinner

10 Nov

Have you ever felt that tingle in your stomach, that feeling when you realize you’ve just fallen in love and your world will never be the same? Well, we’ve got to say that we felt the same kinda way when we first tasted the food of Chef Forrest Pasternack at Morello Bistro in Greenwich. And, having been to his new restaurant, Bailey’s Backyard in Ridgefield many times, we can safely say that it’s in our Top 5 restaurants here in Connecticut. But, it’s not just Chef that makes it amazing: it’s also the inventive and precise bartending skills of Bryan Walsh. That guy can mix up amazing drinks that are, like the food at Bailey’s, seasonal, local, and crave-worthy.

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In Bloom: A Review of Chef Pasternack’s Spring Menu @ Bailey’s Backyard in Ridgefield

13 May
The back room at Bailey's Backyard also opens up to the outside for warmer weather...

The back room at Bailey’s Backyard also opens up to the outside for warmer weather…

It’s been a year since Sal Bagliavio and Executive Chef Forrest Pasternack worked together tirelessly to give Bailey’s Backyard a new vibe, a new focus on local food, and a new soul.  When we went for a pre-opening dinner back in April 2013, we were excited to see what Chef Pasternack was up to since he left Morello Bistro in Greenwich, where we first met him.  Our experience was amazing and we came back lots of times alone and with friends and family.  We came with our buddies Renato and Alicia, Jay and Ali, and even Kristien’s parents…closing the place down each time.  We even sent friends and colleagues, like Ashley and Rudy, Kristien’s hairdresser Ashley, Fran, Kelley & Mike, and many more… all who reported back with RAVE reviews. So, we couldn’t say no when we were invited back for a special writer’s dinner to introduce us to the spring drink and food menu, using local, in season ingredients.

Lucky us got the chance to literally taste almost the entire menu, and lucky you, we’re going to share all the juicy details!  Let’s take each dish in order of menu headings. Here we go…

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Bailey’s Backyard Hosts Local Farmers for Ultimate Farm-to-table Dinner

28 Oct

It’s always a strange moment.  

Invariably, people will ask us what our favorite restaurants are when we meet them or when they discover we have a food blog.  Although we spend countless hours writing about some of the best places in Connecticut and trying new places, our minds always seem to draw a blank.  But, then, we remember some of the best meals that we’ve had.  And, one of those places that we always mention to people is a quaint little restaurant in Ridgefield called Bailey’s Backyard.  We’ve been there three times already and plan to come back three hundred more times.  

Bryan Walsh is not only the mixologist, but is also in charge of the drink program at Bailey's

Bryan Walsh is not only the mixologist, but is also in charge of the drink program at Bailey’s

You might remember back in March we interviewed Executive Chef Forrest Pasternack (formerly of Morello Bistro in Greenwich) and we saw how deeply devoted he and Sal Bagliavio (the owner of Bailey’s) are to the farm-to-table principle.  Yes, we know that word gets thrown around and is quite overused.  But, at Bailey’s Backyard it’s a literal interpretation.  Forrest and staff hit up the local markets and visit nearby farms to build their menu on a daily basis.  

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Vote in Your Fave Green Restaurants for Nature’s Plate Awards

7 Oct

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The Nature Conservancy recognizes restaurants throughout the country that fit the ideal of “Green Restaurants” with the 2013 Nature’s Plate Awards.  What does that mean exactly?  It means that the chefs and owners focus on sustainable seafood, free-range and grass-fed meat, they use organic food, they thrive on local and seasonal food, and even serve up tap water instead of bottles of water.  What it comes down to is that each Green Restaurant focuses on using sustainable food and making it awesome.

Now, it’s your chance to help pick your favorite Green Restaurant!  Just click here to go to the main landing page, then vote in the restaurant in your area that is your favorite by 10/15/13 by 5 pm PST.  We’ve listed all the restaurants in the semi-finals from across the country that are up for voting, with Connecticut and New York highlighted first.

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