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A brunch to make even Portlandians jealous @ Olio in Stamford, CT

24 Apr
Man, we wanna come back STAT!

Man, we wanna come back STAT!  Huevos Rancheros, Olio (Veggie) Frittata, Chorizo Frittata, Steak & Eggs, and Sweet Potato Hash

One of the coolest things for us as bloggers is watching a restaurant grow from a mere idea to a fully working dynamo. We definitely had that kind of feeling when we came back to Olio, remembering when we first sat down with co-owners Moira Hyland and Chef Steve Costanzo.  And, we remembered seeking shelter at Olio during Sandy when we had lost all power. But, it was time for some new experiences…namely brunch, the best meal ever!

Before we even picked out what we were eating, we got uppers (coffee) and downers (mimosas) to start things off right. Then, after much deliberation, we finally decided on our dishes: an order of the amazing Ricotta Doughnuts, Steak & Eggs, Huevos Rancheros, and an order of the sweet potato hash. We brought Kristien’s parents to let them try out one of favorite places and they both got frittatas that they loved and devoured every bite of: one veggie, one with chorizo.

Thanks Mike and Ann!

Thanks Mike and Ann!

As we waited for our food, a super nice couple (Mike and Ann) sat down next to us who we had talked with at Casa Villa a few months back. They were inspired to go after seeing that we had asked our Facebook fans where we should take the ‘rents for brunch. Then, our donuts arrived, so we had to get down to business. They were still as light and fluffy as we remember…and still sooooo freaking amazing.

Kristien devoured her steak & eggs, served with home fry gratin (scalloped potatoes,) grilled strip, and a cilantro parsley chimichurri sauce. The eggs were cooked perfectly: runny yolk that oozed out in a rich yellow. The steak itself was cooked closer to medium rather than medium-rare, but was still excellent. And, the chimichurri sauce took the whole dish to another level with its herbaceous kick. Oh, and that home fry gratin…imagine scalloped potatoes, cooked to a delicate tenderness, placed in a thick cheddar-y sauce.  Seriously nomworthy.

Dan’s Huevos Rancheros was a great brunch item, featuring those nicely cooked eggs, the scalloped potatoes, a Guajillo Chili sauce, and grilled chorizo sausage that was split in half. The eggs (perfectly over easy) and sauce (bright and fresh) were placed atop a blue corn tortilla that added a nice texture to the dish. The chorizo was great, offering a nice bite and a undertone of spice that lingered. If this dish had just a little more salt it could have been super stellar, but still great nonetheless.

The Sweet Potato Hash is something our friend Kelley told us to get, and when we tried it we understood why. There was this amazing contrast going on between sweet and savory, soft and crispy due to the small bits of sweet potato and crispy pork belly.  A must have.

Having eaten here many times over the past couple of years, we can definitely put Olio up there with some of our favorite places to go in the area.  Service is always cheerful, happy, and helpful and the food is inspired, creative, and has heart in it.  It’s really nice to see that they are serving a brunch that is getting people coming in to fill up the place.  Mimosas are just $5, so you can load up without feeling guilty, too…and the rest of the brunch menu has a variety of options like House Cured Salmon, Cinnamon Brioche French Toast, Lobster Eggs Benedict, and Egg in a Hole.  Also, they just started serving lunch again, so you know where to go when you’re in the area…


Olio
Noms: 4
Cost: $$$
Address:  934 Hope Street
Stamford, CT 06905
Phone:  (203) 817-0303
Fax:  (203) 817-0305

Olio Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Pros + Cons, Hits + Misses @ Oak + Almond – Norwalk, CT

15 Oct

Earlier this year (see our post for more details) we shared the news of Oak + Almond‘s opening and we were most excited about two things:

1)  The chef is Jeff Taibe, (brother of chef Bill Taibe from LeFarm and The Whelk) formerly of Southwest Cafe in Ridgefield.  He has received lots of great press, so we definitely wanted to try out his food.

2)  We love their beautiful patio and were excited for a restaurant to come in that could fulfill its potential.

So on a beautiful summer night, we decided to see if we were right on both fronts.

The Oak + Almond bourbon cocktail

The vibe was lively, the fire was roaring in the patio fire pit, the service was attentive, and the drinks were flowing.  The space definitely felt revived from its Tuscan Oven days!  We started with some drinks, because, well, when don’t we? The wine list was pricey, the cocktails creative, and the beer list a bit disappointing.  Nowadays, I think we’ve come to expect some local beer on tap, or at least some awesome craft brews in restaurants that tout themselves as farm-to-table…yet there were none of these things.  So, with that, we both started with the Oak + Almond Cocktail which consisted of Four Roses bourbon, luxardo triplum, almond syrup, fresh lemon, Elemakule Tiki Bitters, and a smoked sea salt rim.  Wow, this is quite possibly our favorite Bourbon drink ever.  Above all, this drink had finesse and balance.  At first you get an orange-y kind of taste, but that quickly fades as the great quality bourbon comes to the front.  The nice touch is the giant ice cube that keeps the drink cold with less water diluting it.  This is a must-order if you love bourbon drinks.

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Inventive, Rich + Flavorful Dishes at The Spread Get the Heart of SoNo Pumping

23 Jan

When Chef Arik Bensimon left his cushy job as Executive Chef at Napa & Company in Stamford, he didn’t really have a set plan in place.  “I didn’t know where I was going to end up,″ he told us in an interview.  Many might think he was crazy to leave a job like that, but a chef with raw talent needs to explore, needs to branch out, and needs to make his own mark on the culinary world. After all, no risk, no reward! After leaving Napa, Arik was fortunate enough to have met Andrey Cortes, Chris Hickey, Shawn Longyear, and Christopher Rasile and they instantly clicked.  It’s like it was a match made in…well…culinary heaven. And from that bond, The Spread was born.

We asked Arik about what was his inspiration for the menu at The Spread, and he shared, “Thanksgiving, doing things family style, bringing people together.  I want people to interact with each other, share, talk, and enjoy.  It brings about better conversation, opens up people a lot more.  I’d love for people to go out, order half the menu, and share it with their friends.  People can just order entrees, too, if they don’t feel like sharing.  There is some adventurous food, but also some nice classics that all people can appreciate.″  You can see, then, how Sean’s idea of naming their new restaurant The Spread jives well with the spread on the table and family style eating.  Also of note is Arik’s commitment to using locally sourced ingredients and cheese for the menu.

Finally, after months of waiting, we got ourselves a reservation and headed into SoNo.  When we walked in, we were nostalgic for Havana that used to be there and where we went on our first date.  Inside, though, things were so different, so modern (yet rustic), so much bigger, and so much more lively.  The tables were full, the bar was full, everywhere was full.  Our waiter later told us that this was one of the busiest nights he’d ever seen.  Hand it to us to go on that night, huh?  That being said, we did have to wait a while past our reservation, but passed the time away by sipping some mixed drinks from the bar.  Kristien had the Tico Juice which was exotic, had just the right amount of sweetness and fruitiness, but needed a little more liquor.  Dan had The Tea Bag (Kristien felt awkward asking for this at the bar) which was also good that didn’t get overpowered because of the tea infused bulleit bourbon…a very nice balance. 

When the time came to order, as is usually the case with us, we couldn’t decide on what to eat because each dish looked creative, exquisite, and exciting.  We decided, though, to go with a few small plates and have two bigger plates for our own enjoyment.  Moroccan carrots, lardo & figs, little neck clams, marinated beets, veal confit, griddled pork belly, and apple crisp…yeah, we were hungry but couldn’t come close to eating all of the 36 parts (not including dessert) of this menu.  Let’s go through our meal together and show you some of the dishes that you’ll need to try when you visit.

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Morello Bistro: A Tour Through Chef Pasternack’s Tasty Tasting Menu – Greenwich, CT

16 Nov

Update:  Chef Forrest Pasternack has left Morello and is now Executive Chef at Bailey’s Backyard.  Taking his place is Executive Chef Kevin Garcia.

One of the great things about being OmNomCT is getting treated to special opportunities for blogger and press dinners. This one was especially tasty.  As we entered Morello Bistro (owned by MARC of London), we were taken aback at how beautiful this Greenwich spot was.  Stunningly beautiful, actually, with massive, tiled arches, and a dome ceiling.  Yes, a seriously amazing place.  Normally you’d think that a place with such natural beauty in the heart of Greenwich would cost you your organs, your arms, your legs, and a few extra appendages, but you’d be wrong.  The crew at Morello Bistro are really trying to keep things at affordable prices.  Brunch entrees range from $9-27, lunch from $13-26, and dinner from $18-38.

We were invited to this press dinner to celebrate not only four years in business, but also Chef Forrest Pasternack’s new gig as Executive Chef.  Now, this guy’s been around the proverbial block a few times.   Maybe that’s because he started young.  He worked at Kabuki, an Asian restaurant in Danbury that his adoptive parents owned.  Soon he found himself as kitchen manager and heading to the CIA (no, not to become a spy…Culinary Institute of America, duh) to fulfill his passion to cook.  Even while he was getting his degree, Chef Pasternack worked at Zoe Restaurant in Manhattan and The Town Crier in Pawling, NY.  From there, he found himself working at some killer spots:  Soho Grand Hotel in NY, Marcus Samuelson’s Aquavit, Mario Batali’s Esca, and David Chang’s oft-praised Momofuku.  In 2009 he took his skills to Greenwich, CT and became executive chef of Terra Restaurant.  Now…well, now Morello Bistro is lucky enough to have him.

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The Spread in South Norwalk (Link to Post)

1 Nov

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Ole! Olio brings amazing downtown flare and flavor to Springdale – Stamford, CT

30 Jul

Living in the Springdale neighborhood of Stamford, we’ve been waiting 5 years for a delicious, downtown-esque restaurant to open up within walking distance of our home. Well, we are happy to say Olio has made it happen! Now if you remember from our last post announcing Olio, it is not Italian like you might think. Actually, it’s kind of hard to put your fork on what exactly Olio is.  It’s sort of New American, Nuevo Latino with Italian influence and it totally works!  Here’s why:

The Service

Kind, helpful, and quick would sum it up.  If the water was close to empty, it was filled. Your wine was poured for you when it ran low.  Don’t you love that? :)  Moira Hyland, co-0wner with Chef Steve, even made her way around the restaurant to make sure things were going perfectly. As we eavesdropped, we heard some amazingly positive feedback.

The Food

Although the menu fit on one page, it was very difficult to narrow down our picks.  In the end, we came up with a great strategy:  we’d share each app and each entree, giving each of us four different tastes.  Oh, but there’s dessert too, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Starting off, you get some soft Italian bread that you can dip in a roasted pepper and olive tapenade or a white bean hummus.  The olive tapenade was salty (not too salty), full of that olive bite, and tangy from the peppers and the white bean hummus was creamy and had nice hints of garlic. We asked for more of that, omnomrific!

We started with seared sea scallops with smoked cauliflower fondue and sweet & sour golden raisins.  The fondue was light, but yet was still full of flavor.  The raisins added a wonderful brightness that balanced out the seafood flavor from the scallops.  The scallops were cooked perfectly, the sauce added a great sweet taste, and the cauliflower creamy. This was our favorite!

Then onto braised pork shoulder with avocado, pickled red onions, coriander, and crispy plantains.    The pork was delicately braised, was tender, and oh so juicy.  On top of the pork was a bright, fresh pickled red onion salad with chunks of avocado.  Steve served all of this on top of flattened plantains, crispy and fried to perfection.  DELISH!

Next was house made ricotta gnocchi with lobster, shallots, a brandy tomato cream sauce, and arugula on top.  The sauce is light and creamy.  The gnocchi is light and pillowy, with a good bite to it.  The lobster was cooked nicely and the tomato added that nice touch of just a little tartness.  Somehow this manages to feel like a light dish.

And lastly we enjoyed the beef short rib with truffle mashed potato, ancho chili, and tomato confit. Mmm, the meat just fell of the bone with a gentle pull and the sauce had this delicious, exotic flavor with a hint of cinnamon that really rounded it out. And the truffle mashed potatoes, oh yeah, just enough truffle flavor, creamy with chunks of potatoes—just how we like it!

Oh, and we washed everything down with a bottle of organic, environmentally friendly Como Sur 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon / Carmenere blend from Chile.

For dessert we had the cinnamon doughnuts with Nutella dipping sauce.  When you bite into these soft and moist bad boys, you can really taste the cinnamon. It tasted like a churro actually. These are seriously the most moist donuts we’ve ever had and found out it was because the chef added just a little ricotta. Good call, chef!  After he talked with us a bit about his donuts, he also made his way around the restaurant, and people were gushing about how awesome their food was.  Yeah, he’s the man.

And the Creme Anglaise bread pudding which had a great vanilla flavor. This was a pretty traditional bread pudding that—although it tasted delish and was moist—was a bit too bread-y for us…we prefer our bread pudding on the creamier side.  We shared both desserts with a nice spot o’ joe from Ward Coffee of Norwalk.

Our Overall Take on Olio

What can we say?  We’re glad that Hope Street and Springdale now have some tasty, super creative food.  Olio is breathing life into the culinary scene and we venture to say this will become a go-to spot for us and many others. Definitely head on down to our neighborhood and check it out!

Olio
Noms: 4
Cost: $$$
Address:  934 Hope Street
                  Stamford, CT 06905
Phone:  (203) 817-0303
Fax:  (203) 817-0305

Olio Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Helping you set expectations for Darien Social – Darien, CT

30 Apr

When we first found out about Darien Social opening, we were excited at the prospects of having a great hangout nearby that featured a wide selection of beer and elevated bar food served as small plates.  Especially since it was created by Nick Biello who was originally behind Burger Bar & Bistro in Norwalk, and once at Habana and Ocean Drive.

As the reviews began to roll in, we were seeing a little of everything–the good, the bad, and the ugly.  People talked about how great the food was, how bad the food was, how the service was great, and how the service wasn’t so great.  Now, we’ve always been the kind of people that take reviews with a grain of salt, so we went in with an open mind so that we could help you guys, our awesome readers, set realistic expectations.

When we sat down to our seats, we were immediately recognized by the General Manager, Baird Van Beever. This is when it hit me that with my flaming red hair, it’s virtually impossible to dine incognito. Danny, being a “hata” is getting fed up with me being the one to always be recognized, so he’s working on a gimmick to make himself more noticeable. We’re thinking perhaps his Space Invaders Converse shoes or his use of fun hats like his Spider-man hat, his Fidel Castro, or his Sinatra. Well, come to find out he remembered us from our review on Red Lulu, which he also use to manage so no gimmicks needed.

Ok, I digress, onto our experience….

Service

Because we were recognized we really can’t fairly judge the service. For us, the service was good, for others we understand it to be an area for improvement. The one issue we did have was that they brought all our dishes out at once, which is a HUGE pet peeve and drives us crazy! When we order a series of small plates, we much prefer to get them in courses so nothing gets cold and we can enjoy each one at a nice pace.

Drinks

The drink menu here is pretty exciting whether you like wine, mixed drinks, or beer.  They even have a local beer selection that changes out weekly. Love that! Just ask your server or check the bar wall to see what brews are available.  Danny asked about the Blue Point (from Long Island) beer of the week that turned out to be the RastafaRye, an award winning copper ale packed full of rye and hops flavor.

Appetizers

Baird was nice enough to bring us out a complimentary plate of cheeses including Gore-Dawn-Zola paired with elderflower honey, Cloud 9 Camembert paired with sour cherries, and Tarentaise paired with cumquat jam.  The cheeses were fresh and were accompanied perfectly with the jams and honey.  A very nice start to the meal.

They also give you bread to start off your meal. The bread was ok, but the honey butter seemed like it had ben melted then was refrigerated again for storage causing it to separate and become grainy in texture.

Small Plates

One of the nicest things about this menu is you can choose from so many small plates.  We wanted to try lots of things, so we went with a variety, some of which were great, some of which were so, so…

Lobster Sliders: Holy crap they LOAD the lobster on these bad boys. YAY! The roll was nice and soft and the drawn butter served as a fantastic dip. The cream sauce, however, was a bit much and probably not needed – oh, and we would’ve loved a side of lemon to squeeze on ’em to complement the heaviness of the butter and sauce. This dish also came with a side of German style potato salad that was nice and tangy.

BLT Sliders: This was a fun twist on the BLT, that fell just a little short. The downfall was the dish came out cold (boo) and the arugula was a little too dry to really replace a romaine type lettuce. The pluses were the pork belly was cooked nicely with a slight crispiness and the aioli on top was creamy and tasty.

Dry Rubbed Chicken Wings: The wings had just the right amount of meat and breading. We hate when wings are either too skinny or too plump with meat, and we hate even more when the yumminess is drowned in a mass of breading. Theirs was right in the sweet spot. The flavor, however, was a little bland which can sometimes be the case with dry rubs. But, we found if you dip them in the hot sauce they put on the side, they end up being tastier.

Mac & Cheese: In case you don’t know, I’m a mac & cheese fanatic. And while I like mac & cheese in any way, shape or form it’s served to me, I have to say this was a pretty darn good mac & cheese. The gruyere, bacon and english peas were the PERFECT combo of creamy and tangy with smokey and chunky and crispy and sweet. Then you top it off with some crunchy bread crumbs and you have mac & cheese heaven. Best dish of the night.

Dessert: Danny and I somehow reversed roles for dessert because he ordered the bread pudding, which is what I ALWAYS order for dessert. I think I was just too full, so I ordered the creme brulee which was not that great. It came out freezing cold all the way through, even though the top was caramelized like it was supposed to be. The brioche bread pudding was only slightly better though. The bread was not rich and creamy like a bread pudding should be, but rather kind of dry and heavy. The rum raisin sauce and caramelized bananas on top, however, were quite yummy!

Final Thoughts

Darien Social has some good dishes and some “meh” dishes.  Nothing mind-blowing (though the Mac & Cheese rocked) and nothing awful (though dessert was a let down). And although decent for us, the service is known to be spotty. If ordering small plates, you should ask for them to be staggered so you have a chance to enjoy them, plate by plate.  If you’re coming here expecting an amazing dining experience, you probably need to set your expectations more realistically.  What you can expect is some decent food and some great drinks if you play your cards right and order the right things.  For now, we have to put Darien Social right down the middle with 3 Noms, but are open to trying it again in the future to see how they’re progressing.

Noms: 3.0

Cost: $$$

Darien Social

Address: 10 Center Street, Darien, CT 06820

Phone: (203) 614 – 8183

Website: http://www.dariensocialct.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DarienSocial?ref=ts

Darien Social on Urbanspoon

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