Tag Archives: small plates

Unsuspecting spot brings approachable farm to table food to Wilton. Bistro 7 – Wilton, CT

15 Aug

Back in October of 2011 Breno Donatti followed our blog and encouraged us to try out his, and his partner Matt Criscuolo’s, Piccolo Gelato Bar & Cafe in Ridgefield. Well, turns out Breno and Matt were up to more than just slinging gelato, they were also opening up the brand new Bistro 7 in Wilton!

So when Breno invited us to come out to Bistro 7 for a special blogger preview dinner, we had to oblige! Before even getting there we were excited for the food.  With Chef Kris Grossman‘s focus on fresh ingredients from local sources, his love of organic food, and making food from scratch, could we really go wrong?

Well, we couldn’t and we didn’t.  Starting things off, we were greeted by our nervous server, Carolina.  Not nervous because OmNomCT is scary, but just because she wanted things to be great and just right.  She did a great job all night, checking in on us and making sure that we were enjoying everything.  Carolina also serves triple duty here, also tending bar and creating desserts as the pastry chef.

When our orders for drinks and food were in, we had a chance to talk with Breno and got a taste of what it was like to run a farm to table restaurant.  Starting off, Chef Grossman has to be very flexible in terms of the menu and ingredients.  Sometimes you just can’t find the right items locally or they are out of season.  Also, because they won’t freeze or store large amounts of food (potentially wasted), they could run out of ingredients much faster than other restaurants that usually fall back on frozen ingredients.  So, they solve these challenges by creating new dishes all the time and keeping the menu quite large.

Well, let’s dig in and give you some snapshots of Bistro 7: Continue reading

Bar Q B.B.Q.: OmNomCT Noms on the Menu, Bite by Bite – Stamford, CT

1 Jun

This post has been updated as of 8/12/12. After our second visit we found a lot of the opening kinks were worked out and the food was even tastier. Giving credit where credits due, we upped Bar Qs score to 3.5 noms!

When we broke the news about Bar Q B.B.Q. back in February, people couldn’t stop talking about what Bob LeRose had in store for Stamford.  What could be better?  Snack and tapas sized portions of BBQ mixed in with drinks that you wouldn’t be able to get enough of.  Well, we thought not much could be better, so we decided it would be a great way to kick off our Memorial Day weekend. And, we knew it was such a great concept, we had to go back went back during the summer to update our review.

Starting off, we love the menu.  It’s pretty simple:  one side has food, broken down into snacks, BBQ, and fixins. The other side has beer, cocktails, bourbon, and wine.  Let’s give you a taste of what we got a taste of…

Drinks

An impressive 26 brews on tap, with a good bunch of those being local.  Drafts are divided up into 5 categories, too: Pilsner, Imperial Pint, Weizen, Beer Shifter, and Seasonal.

Dan decided to go with a super refreshing Huckleberry Lemonade.  It was made with Huckleberry 44 North Vodka and fresh lemonade.  They served it with a sugared rim and fresh blueberries inside.  From the second you drink, you get a nice berry taste, then the lemonade.  The liquor wasn’t overwhelming at all, so this is a nice choice if you want an alcoholic beverage that is still a nice cool glass ‘o summer. Kristien went with the Allagash White Weizen.

Sauces (ranked mild to spicy)

Bourbon X:  good, you get the bourbon and some mesquite.

Vinegar XX:   tart at first, but then finishes with a very subtle heat.

Bold XXX:  just a bit spicy, smoky.

Snacks

Spicy honey chicken and waffles: this was our favorite of the night.  A thickly breaded bit of fried chicken sits atop a tiny waffle.  Add a spicy honey drizzle all over the fried chicken and you’ve got a bite of deliciousness you could just keep poppin’!  The kick from the honey actually does hit you a bit…it’s a nice touch.

Baked jalapeño brush poppers:  just like at Bobby Q’s, these are pretty tasty with creamy cheese and bitsof sweet corn stuffed inside.  Definitely on the spicy side, so be prepared.

Southern Egg Rolls: Sound bizarre? Oh, they are. Pulled pork, pulled chicken, collard greens fried up egg-roll style topped with a mustard BBQ sauce. Yeah, totally bizarre, but totally awesome. Our waitress said these are customers #1 favorite and we can see why. Very unique, very flavorful.

BBQ

Sausage:  there was a nice crisp to the skin and it was flavorful as one would expect of sausage.  But, the meat, itself didn’t have that snap you come to expect from bbq.

Brisket:  this was nice and tender and full of flavor. Cooked very nicely. We liked the BBQ jus that it was on top too.  That brought an added flavor and warmth to the dish.

Candied pork belly:  there was a nice smokiness and a mesquite taste.  The flavors jived well with the fattiness of the pork belly.

St. Louis Cut Sticky Ribs: Our favorite of the meats. A nice, slightly sweet BBQ sauce glazed these soft, tender, flavorful ribs. Quite tasty!

Fixins

Fried green tomatoes:  thick breading coated the tomatoes.  We felt this dish was a little bland on our first visit, however Bobby informed us that they improved the recipe and has been getting some excellent feedback. We’ll have to try them next time.

Mac  & cheese:  ahhh a nice crispy cheesy layer atop a warm, creamy bowl of cheesey macaroni yumminess. The new and improved mac & cheese is DELISH! We couldn’t get enough.

Fiesta Cornbread:  some cheese, corn, and jalapeno all mixed up into thick cornbreadyness.  We would have loved more kick from the peppers, but all in all it had a lot of flavor and was just the right amount of moisture for cornbread.

Hush puppies:  yummy bites with bits of corn inside.  The hush inside was just right…not dry, not soggy.  It had a nice give and take and was moistilicious. Delish!

Sweet Potato Crumble:  We were very excited for this dish on our first visit, because who doesn’t love mashed sweet potatoes with a nice buttery crumble on top?  Unfortunately, the spices were too overwhelming, namely the nutmeg.  However, this, too Bobby says has been addressed. We wanted to order this again on our second trip but had no room. Next time for sure!

Overall thoughts

After being open for a couple of months now,  Bar Q has made a good amount of improvements in the food and the service. Although the service was friendly on our first visit, it was quite slow. On our second visit the service was the way it should be–both friendly and attentive.  And, as you can see, the food was quite good to match.

We’re thrilled to see this improvement because the concept of taking all that we love about BBQ and serving it up in small plates is absolutely brilliant. We definitely recommend Bar Q as a nice place to meet up with friends, graze on some tasty BBQ and small plates, chill at the bar, or just hang out.

Bar Q

Noms:  3.5

Cost: $$$

Address:  15 Clark Street

Stamford, CT 06901

Phone: (203) 316-0278

Bar Q BBQ on Urbanspoon

A World of Flavors, Local Flare @ Harlan Social – Stamford (Harbor Point), CT

23 May

What to look forward to:  all photos by Evan Sung

Grand Opening – Tuesday, August 7th!
– Lunch service begins Wednesday, August 8th
– Brunch service begins Sunday, August 12th

Executive Chef Stephen Lewandowski has been all across the world, and has honed his culinary skills at some of the best restaurants in NYC.  We’re talking about Executive Chef at restaurants such as Tribeca Grill and the Myriad Restaurant Group.  As the opening of Lewandowski’s new spot drew near, we began to wonder about his new gig over at Harlan Social in Harbor Point, Stamford that would be opening in mere weeks.  How was construction going, what is his philosophy on food, what would be the focus of Harlan Social, and what would Harlan Social add to Stamford?  Well, we took our questions and released them upon a very kind, enthusiastic, and passionate Chef Lewandowski.

International Local Flavor Factor

Stephen has made it clear that he’s in love with travel and food from across the world.  On the Harlan Social Site, he says that he’s been to over 30 countries.  When I asked him about his favorite cuisine, he hesitated a bit.  “I can’t pinpoint my favorite, but I did enjoy Vietnam a lot.  The history, the culture, and the different flavor profiles of the food over there are amazing.”  Another great trip he had was to Southern Bulgaria, in a small mountainous farm area.  He relaxed and ate freshly made cheese with cucumber, tomato, and just-picked basil.  “The food was so simple,” Stephen excitedly shot out, “but so great.  Simple food.  They use the environment around them to craft their meals.”

This passion for local food shines through with the menu at Harlan Social.  The menu will change based on the season, but Chef Lewandowski doesn’t want to be limited to just that.  One of the greatest joys for him is changing up the menu whenever he wants.    Another great joy?  Translating the flavors and cuisines from his travels into amazing dishes such as plays on bánh mì and a braised short rib pierogie.

Snacks and Small Plates

Getting down to more of the food, Kristien and I noticed that the menu at Harlan Social is full of snacks and small plates, though there are entrées available also.  I asked Stephen why this was and he said that he loves a variety of food and choices.  “I want to take people out of the classical, ordinary, three course meal, ” Stephen proudly stated.  “You just order, food comes out…order a bunch of things, we’ll pace it out for you.”  There’s also a nice nod to vegetarian food because his wife, Heather Rae (Harlan is her maiden name), is veg herself.   Plain and simple, Harlan Social is taking a typical restaurant experience and is cooking outside of the box.

Events, Brunch and the Cheese Station (OMG)

At Harlan Social, they’ll be pulling some fresh mozzarella three times a day at the 13 seat cheese station.  Expect an amazing variety of other cheeses, too, that you can snack on while sipping on some wine, beer, or cocktails.  As for the events, get ready for some cooking classes that will teach you techniques, special food pairings, cheese nights, roast pig nights, wine tastings, and a natural chef’s table that makes it feel like you’re in the kitchen.  Harlan Social will also have a brunch that might prove to be a game changer.  Stephen told me there would be a big emphasis on the brunch.  “The cheese bar will turn into a crepe/waffle station and there will be one set price.”  We want brunch and cheese now…when can we start?

Drink Up!

Harlan Social will be featuring local and craft brews on tap, will have a nice wine menu, and will have fun and creative cocktails.  Drink up at your table or at the 55 person bar.  Yeah, that’s so big we can’t even imagine it!   Also, when you order a draft, check out where it’s coming from:  an iron clad draft beer cooler.  Swanky!

The Look, the Feel, of…Harlan

There certainly will be no lack of space at Harlan Social.  5,000 square feet with 20 foot high ceilings.  The dining area will be divided by a massively immense wine wall that measures in at 20 feet by 24 feet wide.  That will be a sight to be behold, but so will the ladder.  Yes, you know those fun ladders that hook onto library walls that can be slid across then climbed?  Yeah, they’ll have that!  The wall will not only be beautiful, but will also break the restaurant up into two parts.  The back half can be used for private dining that is attached to an outside patio.  Al fresco dining, here we come.

Stay Tuned

When we talked, there were a bunch of ideas floating around surrounding the opening.  Stephen talked about offering up special events and soft openings for their Facebook followers.  Some of the plans include a friends and family night and some special spots that might be auctioned off on the FB page.  You can’t get these chances unless you’re following, them, though.  So, keep an eye out for the opening of Harlan Social and check back here for a date, too.

They’ll be open when the timing is just right…you can’t rush culinary perfection.

Harlan Social (by Fairway Market)

Address:  121 Towne Street

Stamford, CT 06902

Phone:  (201) 264-7959

Harlan Social on Urbanspoon

For Italian tapas in Stamford, Zaza takes the canoli! Zaza Italian Gastrobar- Downtown Stamford, CT

6 Jun

The Bar (and the vino of course)

• The place was hopping, so we had to saddle up to the bar for some wine while we waited. Chris, the bartender, was excellent. We were able to order a bottle at the bar to take to our table and luckily Chris had a good knowledge of wine to help us choose. He suggested the Apothic Red, a complex and lovely Zin, Syrah, Merlot blend off their “Interesting Reds” list.  Wow, this wine rocked with dark red fruit flavors and a hint of dark chocolate. YUM!

The Mozz

• They have a nice selection of fresh mozzerela here:  bufala, Wisconsin, burrata,  affumicata, and stracciatella. We went with the burrata and we were damn happy about that.  The inside was creamy and melted away the second it touched your tounge, while the outside of the burrata was softer and denser–but not too dense.  All mozza is served with fresh and delicate prosciuto, eggplant, roasted peppers, and olives (and of course the bread you get before the meal).

The Small Plates

• We started with the fried ricotta cakes.  The breading was crispy, seasoned well, and coated the filling well.  Oh, and the filling.  Ricotta was mixed in with some sauce, giving it a pink color.  It had a similar taste to ala vodka sauce, but the ricotta kicked it up and brought a much creamier taste.  It did come out kinda luke warm, not hot, but this was still only their third night of service.  The greens that came with it were starting to brown over so they weren’t the freshest, but the tomato sauce for dipping was good and added another great contrast.

• Creamy lobster polenta!  Seriously, folks…this is a must try if you love seafood and polenta.  The lobster was in nice, big tender chunks cooked perfectly. The polenta was creamy and so flavorful.  Even better?  Nice, creamy, melty mozzarela pooled in the middle!  Dip the polenta into the mozz here and there for the win.

Osso bucco with a vegetable ragu sauce.  The osso bucco here falls off the bone, so no knife is needed.  The sauce is earthy, but also tangy from the tomatoes in the sauce.  A nice balance to the lobster polenta. 

Spicy calamari with white beans and roasted tomatoes.  The flavors in here were a nice mix, the calamari was cooked perfectly, and the white beans added some texture contrast to the calamari.  We spoke to Nick Jr. about this after our meal and we said we really liked this dish, but wished it was spicier.  He said that next time we should ask for it cooked in the hot oil.  Tip for Omnomavores: hot oil.

Potato gnocchi in a butternut squash cream sauce.  Our absolute favorite here. And while the gnocchi wasn’t handmade fresh like we prefer it, it was still one of the best gnocchi dishes ever tasted by OmNomCT in the states.  The dish, at first, looks like mac & cheese, but as you dig in you get butternutafied.  The sauce is buttery, sweet and creamy coating the hearty gnocchi.  Think of how comforting and tasty Thanksgiving is and you understand 10% of the gnocchi’s awesomeness.  Kristien swears she could eat a vat of this dish if Zaza could provide it.  I’d have to help her with that, if she doesn’t bite my fingers off.

The Dessert

• Canoli dip.  We saw a person eating a canoli and we knew what we had to do.  The plan changed, though, when we saw canoli dip on the menu.  Our waitress brought a bowl of smooth and creamy canoli filling with bits of canoli crust to dip into.  This was a fun dessert to end with and wasn’t too heavy at all. 

The Final Verdict on Zaza Italian Gastrobar

As we waited for Bar Rosso and Zaza to open up in Stamford, we honestly thought that Bar Rosso would have an advantage over Zaza.  Well, we were wrong when we tried Bar Rosso and had the Racanelli’s new restaurant to compare it to.  Zaza is clearly beating Bar Rosso so far with the flavors, seasonings, and service.  We realize that Zaza is another iteration of Molto in Fairfield, but that has only seemed to make Zaza stronger.  Italian spots in Stamford, take notice:  Zaza‘s in town. ;)

Also, check out our post on brick oven pizza in Stamford, featuring Zaza.

Noms: 4

Cost: $$$

Zaza Italian Gastrobar

Address:  122 Broad Street
Stamford, CT
Phone:  (203) 348-2300
Site:  www.zazagastrobar.com 
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001854911680 
Twitter: http://twitter.com/zazagastrobar 

ZAZA Italian Gastrobar on Urbanspoon

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

The Fez on Urbanspoon

An Italian Gastronomic and Wine Lovers Wonderland. ZAZA, Stamford

27 Dec

Photo by Alex Racanelli

Update, 6/2/11:  ZAZA is now open and here’s our review.  Also, Nick Jr. took us for a private tour and here’s the goods.

We all know that Stamford has a ton of Italian restaurants, so the choices can be quite overwhelming. As you listen to people’s recommendations and try each of them out, you notice that many of them are just the same old boring formula:  drab pizza, expected salads, bland pasta, and some rubbery chicken parm.  Who is brave enough to break this boring monotony in Stamford?  Well, there are two newcomers to the scene that will prove to add some gusto to Downtown Stamford.  First, we’ve got Bar Rosso that’s opening up in 2 weeks and we’ve got ZAZA, who we’re also so damn excited about!

What’s the big deal?  Let me break it down for ya, paesan.  The owners (Nick  Racanelli Jr. and Sr.) are the creators and operators of MOLTO in Fairfield, CT.  Nick Sr. is the same person who created and built Remo’s Brick Oven Pizza and Lucky’s on the restaurantly-rich Bedford Street.  So, there is clearly amazing culinary experience  and passion going into ZAZA.

Photo by Alex Racanelli

Let’s get onto the kind of food that ZAZA will have to offer.  To begin, ZAZA is going to be an Italian gastrobar.  You can think of a gastrobar as a restaurant that serves gourmet bar food, unlike most bar food that goes for hot oil baths and takes you down for the count.  The menu will be quite similar to the one at MOLTO, with a focus on small plates, table sharing, and their famous thin-crust, brick-oven pizza.  I’m excited about the white clam pie and also the hot oil pizza, which is always killer.  Something else that I’m hoping for is that they’ll carry over their plates of mozzarella (5 different kinds) that come with olives, roasted peppers, and eggplant.

Now, you also need something to wash all that Italian yumminess down with, right?  Why not try one of their over 100 different bottles of wine?  As of right now, Nick Jr. is telling us that there will most likely be over 40 of those bottles available to buy by the glass.  That’s a really great variety, and with the glasses going from $5-$15, you can get your drink on without going broke.  The bottles will also prove to be quite affordable, starting at $20.

The meals will also  be quite inexpensive with $10 pizzas and a ton of entrees under $20.  I have a feeling that this will quickly become a Stamford favorite, especially for the 30+ crowd.  You’ll have great quality food, an excellent dining experience, a plethora of wine choices, and all for not too much money.  This is the perfect formula for a restaurant to thrive upon so I definitely think that Nick Jr. and Sr. know what they’re doing!

Expect to indulge in rich mahogany, a stunning white carrera marble bar, and plush red leather booths.  So, let’s all welcome ZAZA to Stamford.  I’m starting to have dreams about this place already…opening Spring, 2011.

ZAZA
Address:  122 Broad Street
Stamford, CT
Phone:  203-348-2300
Site: http://zazagastrobar.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/zazagastrobar
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001854911680&ref=ts
 
 

ZAZA Italian Gastrobar on Urbanspoon

A sensory explosion. Red Lulu Cocina & Tequila Bar, Norwalk (SoNo)

19 Dec

Calling Red Lulu Cocina & Tequila Bar a sensory explosion is an understatement. In fact, as soon as you walk into their mammoth doors you’re hit with the first two sensory explosions: sight and sound. Ok, not just hit, but more like “You got knocked the f@$k out” like Smokey says to Teebo in Friday. Let’s take them one at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed with the awesomeness.

Sight

Wow. No, wow doesn’t even sum it up. This place is freakin’ ridiculous. Dare I say the coolest looking restaurant in Fairfield County? Yes I dare. It starts with the rich, red, velvety, damask wall paper, then moves over to the gorgeous variety of antique/crystal/iron/goth chandeliers dangling from the ceiling, over to the swanky lounge and bar area bustling with trendy locals enjoying concoctions from their fabulous drink menu, along to the cross-shaped mirrored table in the middle of the restaurant next to a giant brick wall showcasing an eclectic variety of movies, ending with the plush, red, velvet seats nestled in cute little dining nooks for a little privacy among friends. Absolutely stunning… sexy even, rarrrr.

Sound

As busy as this place gets, you would expect it to be incredibly noisy. Luckily, the acoustics are excellent (must be all the velvety goodness soaking it up). Instead, all you really hear is fun and energetic music loudly (but not annoyingly) playing throughout the space.  And although we’ve not been to Red LuLu late at night or for a special party, I hear the musical entertainment can get quite intense!

But enough about all that, what about the foooood?! Here we move onto the two very interconnected senses:

Taste and Smell (with a twist of sight)

Once we were seated up on the wrought iron surrounded balcony overlooking the gorgeous cross table, we were greeted by our friendly waiter carrying a complimentary stainless steel bowl of steaming granita, to which he offered a splash of tequila to accompany it. Of course, we obliged! What a refreshing way to clear the palette for what was to be an amazing meal.

Then, we were presented with another complimentary dish of wonderfulness–a HUGE bowl of warm chips and a plethora of sauces and salsas for them to bathe in, including a spicy chipotle cream sauce, a fantastic spicy, sweet habanero mango sauce, an acidic and flavorful green tomatillo, and a nice, smokey roasted tomato salsa. And, to complement this variety of delish, we added one of their three guacamoles–the picante guacamole, with hell’s chile oil and fresh, hot green chiles. Not as spicy as we hoped, but still yummy! Yeah, and we totally couldn’t help ourselves from eating the entire bowl of chips with all of this! Oops.

Next up, drinks! What we thought was going to be an easy decision (margaritas, DUH), was anything but easy. With over 100 tequila choices (who the heck knew there were even over 100 tequilas on the market?), three sangria choices (including a rose, which you NEVER see), a wide variety of beers, and creative variations of margaritas, we weren’t sure where to start! We finally landed on the Red Lulu margarita for myself, an absolutely PERFECT mix of Sauza Hornitos, Patron Citronge, fresh lime, infused imperial cranberry cane syrup, and unsweetened crushed cranberry, and the Diablo for Danny, a harmonious blend of Lanazul Reposado, Luxardo Triplum, serrano chile, blood orange, and fresh pineapple, and strawberries.

Moving on, we have appetizers. As usual, stuck between about 10 different dishes, we picked the tres ceviches. As lovers of all things ceviche, how could we refuse a sampling of three different kids? Our absolute favorite of the three was the sangrita, a glorious combo of shrimp, scallops, tomato, fresh orange, hot sauce, and avocado. OMG. Second favorite was the traditional blend, consisting of grouper, fresh lime juice, serrano chile, and red onion. Very fresh and light. Although Danny thoroughly enjoyed the last one, called coco, the jury’s still out for me. The coco ceviche started with nice, fresh ahi tuna, drowning in coconut milk, a splash of fresh lime, cilantro leaves, and jalapeno. While I absolutely LOVE coconut, I feel like the coconut milk was just too heavy for a ceviche. It wasn’t bad by any means, but perhaps if they were lighter on the coconut milk and heavier on the lime, it would’ve been the perfect mix.

Now for course 2 (technically 4 if you count the granitas and chips, man we can eat), the main course! Danny had the carne asada, a grilled, marinated skirt steak (one of my faves) with flour tortillas, salsa roja, grilled red onions, and jalapenos. Holy hell, it was AMAZING (yes, of course I tasted it too)! The steak was perfectly cooked medium rare, which can be a challenge for thin skirt steak. The red onions were slightly spicy with just the perfect amount of vinegar to give it a nice, fresh acidity. And it even came with surprise, nicely seasoned french fries, like we needed that! Next time we go, I’m SO ordering that! And for me, I had the carne de vaca enchiladas from the appetizer menu, which was so huge it was anything but an appetizer. These unique and rich enchiladas consisted of slow-cooked short ribs, Negro Modello red chile sauce, and tobacco onions. While the ribs were cooked to perfection, soft, not tough or stringy at all, I would probably not get this dish again only because the Negro Modello sauce was just too rich, sweet, and overpowering for me. Though I think this is purely a taste thing, and no reflection of the quality of the dish… just look how amazing it looks in that picture. Puuurdy!

And last, but so very, very not least was dessert. Holy crap, where did we fit it? We indulged in the buenos noches, a warm, deep chocolate, espresso bread pudding (my favorite dessert of all time), topped with coffee ice cream, brown sugar caramel and hot fudge sauce. Oh wow, wow, wow, it was fantasical!

Then, just when you thought we were done, they bestow upon us the last of three complimentary dishes, a heaping serving of green apple cotton candy! How can you not fall absolutely in love with a place that ends every meal with a pile of sugary whimsy? You simply cannot, so at 4.25 noms, go here now, and go here often because it is more than a pleasure to all your senses.

Red Lulu Cocina and Tequila Bar
Noms: 4.25
Cost:  $$$

Address:  128 Washington Street
Norwalk, CT 06854
Phone:  (203) 939 – 1600
Website: http://redlulumexican.com
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Red-Lulu-Cocina-Tequila-Bar/114553975261899?ref=ts

Note: Reservations not accepted for parties under 6. Usually a long wait after 7:00PM, so go early if you can’t wait 45 mins +

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¡Que Bueno! New Mexican Spot Offers Classics and Twists. Lola’s Mexican Kitchen, Stamford

19 Dec

There’s nothing that makes a long day of jogging on the treadmill and playing Zuma Blitz better than sipping (or gulping) on some margaritas.  Kristien and I had made reservations at Lola’s Mexican Kitchen, a new Mexican restaurant at 135 Bedford Street, which had only been open since December 9.  This restaurant is just a baby, time wise at least.  When you order their food, you’re probably think much different, though! The spot was very simple and elegant.  The atmosphere was lively, and as we ate our meal the crowd scene by the large bar began to grow.

To start, we ordered a pitcher of the Classic Margarita made with Patrón.  You can’t deny the power of Patrón!  They came out a little strong, but the waiter–Cody–had more mix put in and that made it real nice (yeah, we’re wusses).  Our waiter was kind, informative, never rushed us.  He has just finished his culinary training, so we all wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors in Omnomitivity.

Getting back to the pitcher, it cost $25 for the pitcher plus an upcharge of $10 for the Patrón–a very reasonable price comparatively. We’ve paid $40-50 in some places here in Fairfield County.  A nice and warm bag of tortilla chips then came to our table, accompanied by a very fresh tasting salsa.  The salsa had less of the large chunks in it like we like, but was still flavorful.

We then had the Trio of Guacamole.  We got more chips (we were in chip heaven), a bowl of fresh, chunky, tangy pico de gallo (much better), and three very distinct bowls of guacamole.  The black bean guacamole was good, though it tasted more like a black bean dip rather than a guacamole.  We both felt like we wanted more spice and a kick.  The classic guacamole was ok, we think it could have been a lot better and fresher.  Take Riviera Maya, for example:  they make the guacamole right in front of you.  It doesn’t get fresher than that, plus you get to choose your own flavors there.  The last guacamole, mango and habenero, was great, though.  The guac brought me back to summer with its freshness and its bright flavor.  The taste of the habanero was there, though I wish it would burn.  Why do we enjoy being in spicy pain so much?

I had to fight every urge in me, then, not to order too many of my favorite dishes off the menu.  The tacos looked amazing, but I fought the urge.  The burrito platter looked ridiculous, but I fought the urge.  So many classics looked great, but I fought the urge!  Instead, I decided to have a dinner of two small plates.  I really do love ceviche, so I ordered that to even out the heaviness of the Mexican pizza.  When the ceviche came it was presented in a fun way and looked almost too good to eat.  The calamari and shrimp tasted great and weren’t “overdone” as is sometimes the case with ceviche.  My disappointment with this dish was that a fishy taste and smell overpowered the citrusy taste, indicating to me that the fish was not fresh. Kristien had the same issue with her fish taco, which she did not like. She did, however, say the Carnitas taco, with slow roasted pulled pork, Oaxaco, and pickled red onion, was the best she ever had.

The Mexican pizza, on the other hand, was just plain perfection.  Kristien loves to bother me about my loathing of certain cheeses, which I suppose I have earned.  I decided to go out on a limb with a new cheese (Oaxaca) that  I hadn’t had before, one that I couldn’t even pronounce nonetheless!  The pizza came with a nice medium thickness crust and with Oaxaca smothered and melted across.  Top that off with chunks of spiced tomatoes and some of the smokiest and best chorizo I’ve had.  This is one of those plates you can’t put down and wish there was more of.  You need to order this–it’s a killer!

I was very full and wasn’t sure if there was any more room, but we saw the churros at another table and needed those bad.  When the churros arrived we couldn’t wait to dig in!  The cinnamon and the sugar on the outside was the perfect mixture to coat the crispy crust, yet the inside was still soft. Cody told us, are made fresh and to order.  This explains why they tasted so amazing.  I know they have flan and tres leches, but I think I’d have to order the churros again, as should you.  Really, really great.

So, the lowdown on Lola’s is that this place will most likely become a gem in the crown of downtown Stamford with just a few adjustments.  The really great thing about Lola’s is that they are listening to what people say about the menu and adjusting where they need to and taking chances.  The manager came to our table and shared this with us and told us that one of the best selling items is the Habanero edamame, which I have to try next time.  It’s hard to believe that they’ve only been open for about 9 days because things are running pretty smoothly. Lola’s definitely has the potential to be a 4 Nom restaurant and I’m sure they’ll make it there with their good manager, excellent waitstaff, and a wonderful menu.  Right now they have 3.25 Noms, but hope it won’t be long for that to change.  Definitely check this place out!

Noms:  3.25

Cost:  $$$

Lola’s Mexican Kitchen
Address:  135 Bedford Street
Stamford, CT
Phone:  (203) 674-5652
Site:  http://www.lolasmexicankitchen.com
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/lolas.stamford?sk=wall
 
 

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Experience the divine trinity: Amazing food, wine & music – The Fez, Stamford

21 Nov

We’ve walked by The Fez several times since they opened this past summer uttering the words, “We have to try that place someday.” But it always seemed that when we had the chance, we’d say, “Hmm, not sure I’m in the mood for Moroccan food.” Now we know, that was a BIG mistake.  With their large and eclectic menu of snacks, small plates, and entrees inspired by a variety of flavors across the Mediterranean, there is something absolutely fabulous for whatever mood you’re in.

So no point in writing this huge blog post to work my way up to our final verdict. Let’s just get it out there now. The Fez is officially our favorite restaurant in Stamford to date with 4.5 noms. Yep, it’s that awesome. Here are the many reasons why:

Upon entering we were immediately struck by the amazing smell of  Mediterranean spices. One quick look to the left revealed the specials of the day on a little chalkboard. Walnut and currant glazed lamb chops with mushroom gnocchi caught my eye. Wow, I’d never seen such a unique combination.  A glance over the left revealed a small bar, intimate little tables, colorful Moroccan decor, and a small stage area for their vast array of nightly entertainment. We knew right away we were in for a great experience.

I know I’ve said this before, but we had an incredibly hard time choosing what to order, to the point where we were asking each other if we were hungry enough to eat six different dishes! We expressed our indecision to our first waitress, to which she offered up the owner and resident wine expert, Eric, to help us choose the perfect dishes and the perfect accompanying wine.  Meeting Eric was a very nice experience–pleasant, passionate, and smart. He informed us that the wine list isn’t up-to-date because they can’t keep up with his thirst for discovering and purchasing new wines, especially from Lebanon and South Africa. Love it! We let him take the reins on recommending a bottle based on our taste. He popped open a California blend that I didn’t love. His response? “No problem, I want you to love the wine, and if you don’t we’ll keep trying options until you do.” The next bottle was ‘the one.’ A medium-bodied blend from Lebanon, the 2007 Reserve du Couvent by Chateau Ksara had forward fruit flavors and a slight spiciness. The perfect pairing to what we were about to enjoy.

Danny and I started off by sharing two phenomenal dishes from the “snacks” section of the menu. The caramelized cauliflower with brown butter sauce, golden raisins, and pine nuts was a delicate and flavorful fusion of French and Moroccan flavors.  I typically don’t like cauliflower, but this was perfecto! Then, we thoroughly enjoyed the Pizzet Aroub, where Italy meets the Middle East– a unique combination of soft and perfectly sweet braised onions, sumac, olive oil, and pine nuts. On to the main dishes. I HAD to order the special I mentioned earlier–walnut and currant glazed lamb chops with mushroom gnocchi. Words cannot explain how intensely delicious this dish was. Perfectly cooked lamb (just under medium), slightly sweet and oh-so savory currant sauce, glazed walnuts, and hand-made gnocchi from the Bronx with an earthy mushroom sauce was one of the most fantastic flavor combinations my taste buds have enjoyed in a long time.  Danny ordered the grilled seven spice sirloin with tomato jam and fingerling potatoes. The sirloin was also fantastically seasoned and perfectly cooked at medium-rare, and the flavorful, but not overpowering, tomato jam was the perfect complement.  We then ended with Moroccan coffee, spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom and the Briwats for dessert, which is basically an Israeli baklava but not as teeth-hurtingly sweet. It was quite delicious!

After sharing our enjoyment with our very friendly and knowledgable second waiter, Thami (who happens to actually be from Morocco), he informed us that before they even opened they had a French chef from a 4-star hotel in Dubai and a Moroccan chef working together to craft and test this perfect menu… and perfect it was.

And, to finish off this divine trinity was the entertainment. We we were lucky enough to be there on a Friday night, which is belly dancing night (as is Thursday). Around 9:00 the beautiful Moroccan music suddenly became louder, then a roar from the diners as the beautiful and smiling Adina danced her way around the tables. I was impressed by her skill level.  And she didn’t just dance up there on the stage for the world to adore her. She also came out to the tables and had a great time dancing with a few willing diners. In fact, when she saw me dancing in my seat a little (I can’t help myself), she came over and wisked me up on stage to dance with her. Of course, after eating all that food, I thought I was going to die, but it was a blast.

By the time we left we discovered that we’d been there for 2.5 hours! The time just flew by, and despite the line of people hoping to get in, they never once rushed us to leave.

Reservations are not just recommended, they are pretty much required on the weekend if you don’t want a long wait.  And be sure to check them out on the weekdays too since there’s entertainment every night, including jazz bands, turntables, and singer/songwriter night (last week they had one of Paul Simon’s guitarists playing).

So no more “not in the mood for Moroccan” excuses, The Fez is a MUST-DO for everyone!

Noms:  4.5

Cost:  $$$

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

The Fez on Urbanspoon

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