Wednesday, December 31, 2014

10 Foodie Instagram Accounts You Should Be Following

I see a lot of "Best Instagram" account lists, particular in the realm of food. I'm often disappointed to discover, after spending the time to look up recommended accounts, how many of them are not actually very active or focused on food. There are endless accounts that really are great, and it's a ton of fun to browse. I've spent many hours on instagram, and certainly have a long list of favorite accounts. Some of them are hugely popular and not location specific, but there are also many that focus specifically on Connecticut and New York City, my usual stomping grounds, and I often use them to find new places to try. Now I'm sharing my favorites here, and I know they will not disappoint! 

In no particular order (though I start with the locally focused accounts):

She may not have a ton of followers, but I think that will be changing quickly! Her photos are awesome, and feature a wide range of cuisines.

All Connecticut, all food, all the time. Love it. 

- CTDRINKS: Highlighting the best of Connecticut's drinking scene, alcohol or otherwise.

Hugely popular, and a very active account. They also have a fabulous website and fun twitter account. Partially focused on NYC, but also Chicago, San Francisco, and Denver.

I love this guy's account. It's almost all photos of his own cooking, often showing several steps of the recipe, and they're always mouthwatering. Props for the fun username, too.

Restaurant Editor at Food and Wine Magazine. 'Nuff said.         

Another member of the Food and Wine Magazine team, and since he's in the test kitchen, there's always something new to check out. Lots of fun to see what goes on behind the scenes. 

Based in Canada, so I won't be visiting any of the places he highlights any time soon, but at the very least I can drool over them digitally. 

Not sure what her bio is, but I love her photographs.

Hey, I'm vain! I admit it. I think my pictures are great. And if you like kittens, I post some pretty cute photos from time to time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mini Review: Hitting the Bar at the Newly Reopened Georgetown Saloon

Note, April 2015: Sadly, the Saloon has closed yet again. Stay tuned.

Mention Georgetown Saloon to any Redding area local, and you're sure to hear a fond memory or a tale of a wild night. It's a dark, no frills hole in the wall with a Western feel that leaves you wondering if a real cowboy is going to walk through the swinging saloon doors. Much to the chagrin of the many who posted up at the bar with a pint on a regular basis or danced the evenings away there, Georgetown Saloon closed its doors last year. 

The story goes that the building was left unattended, pipes burst, and the whole thing was a moldy, expensive nightmare. Popular opinion was that there would be no reopening, but then the news spread: someone was taking on the challenge! After a summer and early fall of waiting, Georgetown Saloon is open again, and continuing the tradition of live music, unpretentious eats, and a cowboy friendly vibe (though I was heartbroken to discover that those swinging saloon doors are absent now). 

I stopped in on a whim with some friends the other night, and we had the place completely to ourselves, so it was the perfect opportunity to get the inside scoop from the bartender while enjoying a beer from their selection of 30 taps, an incredible number for this area. And they aren't just pouring the standards, they have a list that's full of beers I'm not familiar with, which is exciting. 

The kitchen (remarkably) stays open until midnight, though I wonder if that will be sustainable in an area that gets quiet by 9. For now, that's great news, and is the latest that any kitchen in the area is open. We ordered three appetizers and enjoyed them all: "Menage a Tot," a trio of stuffed potato skins, one bacon, one veggie, and one truffle, Biscuits and Gravy, and mini cheeseburgers. It's quality, delicious bar food for markedly lower prices than similar spots in the area. 

The menu, we were told, is changing in the next day or so; I am interested to see what they keep and what they add. They have also just started serving brunch, so of course that's high on the list of "must check out" meals. 

We learned from the bartender that there have been good crowds on the weekends and steady business during the week, with a great response to the food so far, and a lot of customers who are not familiar with craft beer but very enthusiastic about tasting and learning. 
Live music was always the defining feature of Georgetown Saloon, and it seems that the owners intend to continue this tradition while adding far better food and a formidable craft beer list. 

Sounds like a killer trifecta. I'm impressed. 

Cheeseburgers with smoked aioli and side salad

Biscuits and gravy
Menage a tot

Georgetown Saloon is located at 8 Main Street, Redding, CT 06896

Friday, December 12, 2014

Awesome Eats in the City: Thrillist's Fest of The Best at Villain

If you know me at all, you know how much I love Connecticut. If you don't know me, just look at the title of my blog, and you'll get the idea. But living in Fairfield County means regular trips to the city and its many excitements and one of my favorite resources for finding fun in NYC is the website Thrillist. When I saw that they were hosting a “Fest of The Best” featuring a bunch of great restaurants in the city, I knew I had to go. Luckily, I was able to procure press access, so off to Brooklyn I went.

Photos by Kimberly Mufferi (and the photo booth!)

The event was held in Villain's large warehouse event space, and was a smorgasbord of great food, cocktails made with Grey Goose Vodka, and beers from Saranac Brewery. Wandering amongst the guests was saxophonist Kareem Wilkes, a touch I found very cool. DJ Kasey Berry was spinning all afternoon, and instagram-happy foodies milled about excitedly. This was the first “foodie” event I have attended where instagramming one's food was not met with a single sneer. In fact, there was a “VIP Food Porn Lounge” sponsored by Samsung and featuring two food stylists, Alexa Mehraban of EatingNYC and Chloe Wynnof THEPICURIST, on hand for photography tips!

After hitting the photo booth and grabbing a cocktail, it was time to start sampling the fabulous eats! Each guest was given a poker chip for voting, and one restaurant would reign supreme, so I got my taste buds in gear and forged a path through the crowd. There were thirteen restaurants featured, and photos speak louder than words...

Clockwise from top: Sweetgreen's Rad Thai salad (organic arugula, organic mesclun, sprouts, carrots, shredded cabbage, spicy sunflower seeds, cucumbers, basil, citrus shrimp & spicy cashew dressing), BLT Fish's James River oysters with wasabi peas & nori, and The Monarch Room's seared octopus with fennel, celery and citrus. Photos credit: Me
Clock wise from top left: Two Hands' Avo Toast (thick-cut wholegrain pullman loaf, smashed avocado, olive oil, sea salt, cracked pepper, chili flakes & a lemon wedge), Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue's wood-fired sliders with all-natural organic beef, salt, pepper, burger sauce and a fridge pickle on a potato roll, Two Hands' Cortado, Seoul Chicken's Next Day Fried Chicken (double fried chicken thighs, served on Kings Hawaiian rolls with habanero spiced honey, kimchi pickles & miso mustard aioli) - Photos by Kimberly Mufferi
Clockwise from top left: Bacchanal
​ with a mint-olive-caper relish​, French Louie's snails Merchand de Vin with Falls Mill grits (snails, bordelaise sauce, mushrooms and grits), and Crave Fishbar's Shetland Island salmon crudo with charred cauliflower, lemon prawn oil & prawn dust - Photos by Kimberly Mufferi

After getting our fill, it was time to cast votes for the best. I stole my date's chip and made both votes, which went to French Louie's incredible snails Merchand de Vin and Crave Fishbar's Shetland Island Crudo. They were truly excellent, but the official win went to Bacchanal's confit lamb shoulder. Ultimately, everyone was a winner (except for a few places that ran out early and I didn't get to try...lame. But I won't name names!) The afternoon was a smashing success and a wonderfully indulgent way to spend a day out of town.  

Special thanks to Lauren Coombs, Communications Coordinator for the Thrillist Media Group

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

New Kid on The Block: Brick + Wood in Fairfield, Connecticut

Downtown Fairfield is a charming strip of shops and eateries that all too often gets forgotten in the midst of Westport and South Norwalk's well publicized hot spots, but it also makes for a great evening out on the town. Much to my excitement, it seems more and more restaurateurs have realized that Fairfield is a great location for opening up shop.

I had the pleasure of checking out one of Fairfield's newest restaurants, Brick + Wood, and if you're a fan of great wine, upscale Italian comfort food, and wood fired pizzas, you're in luck. 

As the name implies, the restaurant is outfitted in a mix of rustic wood and exposed brick, with a large brick pizza oven. A cozy bar and a large, open dining room and pizza bar where you can watch the chefs in action make for a comfortably casual atmosphere that's nice enough for date night.

Brick + Wood offers something that sets them apart from other brick oven pizza spots: wines on tap. Yep. How cool is that? Several years ago, I experienced Chardonnay on tap at City Winery in NYC, and loved the novelty as well as the taste. Finally Fairfield County has caught on! We enjoyed wine flights served in mini stemless glasses on wooden boards - a nice touch. In addition to wines, there is a rotating selection of cocktails on tap (plus a regular cocktail menu). I tried the Fig Martini and Pomegranate Martini, and both were fruity, sweet, and went down smooth; I knew I'd be back for the bar even if the food turned out to be average. 

Of course, one cannot live on cocktails alone, and we migrated to the dining room, where an impressive array of appetizers began to fill the table. First, Loaded Baked Potato Crochette, which looked like fat mozzerella sticks but instead of cheese, were the insides of a loaded baked potato, deep fried. Yes, they were as good as they sound. Certainly a great choice for adults and kids alike. Next, Fritto Misto with calamari and shrimp, served with a smoky chipotle aioli that I would buy by the bottle if I could. Continuing the fried food extravaganza, we tried 4 Cheese Arancini with Vodka Sauce, which were standard.

In addition to their unique "wine on tap" feature, Brick + Wood offers another treat: fresh burrata, made in house. We tried two versions: their classic served with meat and vegetables and their truffle burrata with prosciutto and arugula. I personally do not love burrata, but the truffle-y creamy goodness was absolutely delicious. These two dishes were met with pleased murmurs from the whole table. We also sampled Girelli, thin layers of fresh mozzarella layered with eggplant, prosciutto, and roasted peppers. We enjoyed a mixed green salad, which was dressed in the owner's own signature balsamic dressing, which was noticeably superior to many others I've tried.

Of course, I was waiting with bated breath to try the cornerstone of Brick + Wood's cuisine: the wood fired pizzas! Three kinds arrived to the table, and I attacked them heartily. First, the Diavola with spicy soppressata, garlic, jalapenos, and oregano. It had a nice spicy kick but wasn't overwhelmingly spicy, and the crust (which can make or break a pie, whether the topping are good or not) was nice and chewy with the smoky charred spots that characterize a wood fire baked pizza. My favorite pie was a special that evening with shrimp, corn, and pancetta; a somewhat unusual combination, but completely delicious. The delicate shrimp paired with sweet tender corn and smoky, meaty pancetta is a magical trio of flavors. Lastly, I found room for a slice of classic Margherita pizza and sank into a happy food coma.

Brick + Wood is absolutely worth a visit, as is the town of Fairfield in general. Small shops, many restaurants, and a more relaxed vibe than in neighboring Westport make for a pleasant experience. Bring the family for a Main Street stroll, or wait until nightfall for a romantic evening out.

Brick + Wood is located at 1275 Post Rd #7, Fairfield, CT 06824
Follow them on Facebook & Instagram

Photos by Jason Varga

Thursday, December 4, 2014

72 Bottles of Spiked Seltzer on the Wall: My 30 Day Challenge Comes to an End

My trusty companion on the train to NYC!
Since bars there don't serve Spiked Seltzer (yet), I brought my own! 

It's already December, and my challenge, to switch from beer to Spiked Seltzer for a full 30 days, has come to an end. I've been amazed at the total lack of the usual negative side effects of alcohol in the past month. I have not experienced any morning headaches or sluggishness from a night of drinking, i imagine thanks to the low sugar content in Spiked Seltzer (and it's gluten free).

Though I am a beer lover, the light, crisp flavor of Spiked Seltzer is deliciously addictive, and certainly more refreshing than a heavy beer. I love that is isn't sugary sweet at all. Now I find myself drinking club soda instead of a second beer when I'm out at a bar. Hooray for fewer calories (and less money spent)!

Drinking in style, as always... :-)

Beyond the fact that it tastes good, and didn't ever give me a hangover, I am also pleased to report that I lost a couple pounds. I usually drink double IPAs, but Spiked Seltzer is only 140 calories, and I saved about 100 calories per drink by making the switch!

If you're in the New England area, give Spiked Seltzer a try - even the most loyal beer drinker may find themselves converted!

Click here for a list of retailers and restaurants that offer Spiked Seltzer.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Black Hog Brewing at Spotted Horse Tavern: Drink Local and Eat Well!

Connecticut is delightfully awash with breweries, some new and some more established, and I am always thrilled to try the output of any of them. I recently had the pleasure of receiving an invitation from George O'Connell, owner of Spotted Horse Tavern in Westport, CT, to attend a beer dinner with Black Hog Brewing. Co-owners and brothers Jason and Tom Sobocinski, who also own two great spots in New Haven, Ordinary and Caseus, were in attendance (head brewer Tyler Jones was not, but it's clear from his beers that he's quite the talented guy) and offered a great education about each of their featured brews for the evening. 

With my fitness blogging, beer appreciating friend Courtney in tow, I headed to Westport ready for a great meal and new beer experiences. Our first beer of the evening was Strawberry Gose, a German style wheat beer with pink Himalayan salt, coriander and over 100 lbs of fresh organic strawberries from Massaro Farm (Woodbridge, CT) added during secondary fermentation. It was light (4% abv.), drinkable, and delicious.

Next, we headed out to Spotted Horse's cozy covered patio and began the dinner portion of the evening. More beer arrived, "Easy Rye'Da" session IPA. Jason Sobocinski is a motorcycle enthusiast, and a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of Easy Rye'Da goes to the national motorcycle safety foundation. This easy drinking hoppy brew was paired with warm soft pretzels and a bacon cheddar dipping sauce. Yum. They were so well received that George decided to add them to the regular menu!

Oktoberfest Pretzels

We then enjoyed a fresh, light kale salad with cranberries and roasted squash. I liked the use of baby kale instead of full grown kale, which can sometimes be overwhelming. So much chewing! This course was accompanied by "Autumn Nugget," a wet hopped ale with vanilla pean, pink peppercorns, nutmeg, and cinnamon. I was surprised by how intensely it smelled of vanilla, but I couldn't taste it once I took a sip - instead, the spices really came through. This is a complex beer, and great for the winter.

Tuscan Kale Salad
We were offered a choice of either smoked and grilled pork chop with apple chutney, red cabbage, and potato pancake or seared scallops with wine and caper reduction, julienned vegetables and sweet potato mash. Luckily, Courtney wanted the pork and I wanted both, so I got to steal some of hers. Both dishes really were excellent, and everyone turned their full attention to their plates, creating a silence punctuated only by occasional comments on how delicious everything was. This course was paired with my favorite beer of the night, "Ginja Ninja," a red ipa brewed with 6 lbs of fresh ginger in every batch and hopped with centennial, cascade & bravo hops. This beer was originally created for head brewer Tyler's wedding! 

Grilled Smoked Pork Chop
Seared Diver Scallops

Stuffed to the brim, our final beer arrived alongside an indulgent warm brownie with ice cream. It was torture being too full to finish it, but the bites I managed to take were happy ones. The beer, "Nitro Coffee Milk Stout" made with brewed Organic Columbian Supremo and Espresso Roasted coffee, was rich and creamy, and if it wasn't socially inappropriate, you could drink it in the morning instead of coffee, I swear. So so good. 

Black Hog Brewing may be new to the scene, but they hold their own against more established breweries. I look forward to seeing them continue to grow! Their brews are inventive and delicious. Spotted Horse Tavern was already one of my favorite spots in Westport to grab a drink, as their bar is cozy and unpretentious, but now that I have had an opportunity to try the food, I'll be going there for dinner too. Many thanks to Jason, Tom, and George for a wonderful evening. 

The Aftermath

Spotted Horse Tavern is located at 26 Church Lane, Westport, CT
Follow them on facebooktwitter, & instagram

Black Hog Brewing is located at 115 Hurley Road, Building 9A, Oxford, CT
Follow them on facebooktwitter, & instagram

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Spiked Seltzer 30 Day Challenge

Connecticut is awash with fantastic craft breweries, and I'm always ready to try a new brew. Thanks to food blogging, covering food festivals, and enjoying checking out new restaurants and drinks in general, I end up drinking a fair amount, and it's 90% beer. Then I saw a post on Spiked Seltzer's facebook wall about a challenge: they were looking for a beer drinker willing to switch to their product for 30 days.

I had experienced Spiked Seltzer a few times already; the company was offering samples at The Greenwich Wine and Food Fest, Moffly Media's Best of the Gold Coast Party, and is always one of the drink choices at The Aldrich Museum's First Friday Cocktail Parties. It's light and refreshing, very different from my usual strong IPAs, but I really like it. It's also much lower in calories than the average IPA, gluten free, and still pulls off a 6% abv, the same as my usual brews. I was intrigued to give this challenge a try, and was pleased when the company told me I had been chosen to take it on. 

I try to stay active, go to the gym (though I don't go nearly as often as I should), and eat healthy, but it's pretty difficult when there are so many fun events based primarily around food and drink. In the year and a half since I began really getting involved with food blogging, I've gained about 8 pounds, which on my small frame is enough for me to notice. I've done the math, and if I drink Spiked Seltzer instead of beer (I'll use the calorie content in a Dogfish 60 Minute IPA, as that's what I drink most often at bars), I should save about 4,000 calories over the course of 30 days.

I'm 12 days into the challenge, and it's turned out to be a great experience so far. I have only had one hangover, and it was the morning after I cheated and drank beer. Otherwise, I've felt great, and that means I've been healthier in more ways than just cutting calories: waking up with no trace of a hangover means I don't eat junk food in the morning and I don't feel as sluggish and therefore unwilling to work out. 

So far, I'm a big fan. I won't give up beer forever, and there's nothing like a glass of red wine with a steak, but I absolutely will replace some of those drinks with Spiked Seltzer after the challenge ends. It also makes a nice mixer, and I'm going to start experimenting with some cocktail recipes. 

Stay tuned!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Westport's Little Barn: Where You Just Can't go Wrong

There is no greater pleasure when writing a review than the ability to wholeheartedly and genuinely report a completely positive experience. After attending a blogger dinner at Little Barn in Westport, I now have the opportunity to do exactly that. 

From a purely aesthetic standpoint, the restaurant is cozy but not suffocating, features two fireplaces (one indoor and one outdoor), a lovely patio, and a rustic bar with an entire wall of sliding windowed doors for breezy summer dining. We began the evening outside by the fireplace and were greeted by Scott Beck, personable and witty co-owner of Little Barn, and gracious General Manager Dave Studwell.

Giant soft pretzels with spicy stout and honey mustard dipping sauces from Little Barn's Oktoberfest menu and a pint of Pumpkin Porter from Thimble Island (a Branford, CT based brewery) got us started, and while the pretzel was warm and delicious, I knew better than to eat too much and start the evening already full.

Inside we went, and dish after dish began to arrive. First, a series of appetizers served family style. Seared sesame encrusted Ahi Tuna over avocado puree and topped with pineapple pico de gallo were just right; very lightly seared and completely raw in the center with crunchy sesame seeds and a kick of sriracha served on the side. 

Two different trays of tacos, char grilled filet tips with roasted pineapple, guacamole, and pico de gallo, as well as grilled chicken with pico de gallo and chipotle mayo arrived at the table. Wow. These are great tacos. The lightly charred tortillas and smoky spice of chipotle peppers made for an addictive flavor combination. There's a certain taco place in Westport (rhymes with martaco), and I've always been a fan, but now I've discovered a new favorite. 

Usually salads are the least "fun" part of a meal (at least not for my pizza-addicted palate). Not so at Little Barn. A shaved brussels sprouts salad tossed with crispy pumpkin seeds, crunchy granny smith apples, and chewy dried cranberries, dressed in a mustard vinaigrette and sprinkled with parmesan cheese, was the best use of raw brussels sprouts I have yet to experience. I was also pleased to see the correct spelling, "brussels" on the menu - almost every other restaurant, take note. 

The raw kale and shaved fennel salad with candied pecans and red wine vinaigrette earns the same "best I've encountered" status. I had three helpings. I want to eat more right now. It's a must order dish, even if you have disliked kale in the past.

Thai chicken lettuce wraps with hot chili sauce and peanuts were flavorful but not overpowering, and a great dish for sharing with the table. 

For my entree, I chose sesame and wasabi crusted tuna with warm soba noodles. Even though we had already tried the tuna appetizer, I was ready for more. The entree was even better, with larger, thinner cuts of Ahi tuna and noodles with just the right combination of peanut flavor and salty sweetness. For vegetarians, a bowl of these noodles would be totally satisfying. 

After such a great meal, I was not sure there was room for dessert, but of course I could not resist. A warm brownie with caramel sauce, whipped cream, and gelato was indulgently chocolatety, and the pumpkin pie was well received.
But the absolute star of the trio, and perhaps of nearly every dessert I've ever had, was fried chocolate chip cookie dough bites with vanilla gelato. My taste buds did not know how to handle the deliciousness of these bite sized delights.

Stop reading this review, and go straight to Little Barn to try them. They combine the classic carnival treat of fried dough, texture combination of fried ice cream, and the indulgence of eating cookie dough straight from the mixing bowl.

It is surely obvious that I highly recommend a trip to Little Barn. It's suitable for both family dining, watching sports in the bar, or date night by the fireplace. And the food...well, my compliments to Chef Jeff Spence. 

Little Barn is located a1050 Post Road (near Barnes & Noble), Westport CT, 06880
Phone: 203-557-8501
Follow them:

All photos by Jason Varga

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fall Wine Dinner at Picador in New Canaan: an Intimate Evening of Fine Fare and Libations

Picador in New Canaan already has a solid standing on my list of favorite restaurants, and after their Wine Dinner earlier this week, my enthusiasm has only increased. The evening ran so smoothly, and I learned much more about wine than I have at any wine tasting. The Head Chef, Frank Barrese, outdid himself with the evening's menu, and it was a pleasure to overhear the comments of other guests; I was clearly not the only one who had a fabulous time.

Upon arrival, guests were welcomed by Picador's owner, Ray Rivera, directed to a lovely spread of cheeseboards, and handed a glass of Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs. Jana Waite, a representative from Eder Brothers, shared details and tasting notes about each wine throughout the evening, and explained that Schramsberg is served at the White House to international guests. The room buzzed with anticipation and guests mingled happily. As the restaurant filled, we drifted to our seats, and soon the main event was underway.


A delicious glass of Stags Leap Chardonnay set the stage for the first course of the evening, seared diver scallops with butternut squash and borsin au gratin. I was excited to try these from the moment I first saw the menu, as I had experienced some of Chef Barrese's other scallop dishes, and this interpretation lived up to my high expectations. The scallops were tender, delicately sweet, and quickly gone from my plate.


While we ate, Jana explained that the Chardonnay we were drinking was a great choice for this kind of meal, as it goes well with both seafood and meats, as it is crisp and not too sweet. The flavors of the wine, she continued, open up as the wine warms to room temperature, and she was absolutely right. I am a Chardonnay drinker, and this was excellent. 


The second course, braised oxtail stew, arrived next. I was impressed by the timing of the courses; often at these kinds of dinners, everything arrives too rapidly, and you feel both rushed and stuffed right away. The leisurely pace of Picador's dinner made for a markedly more pleasurable experience. 

Callejo Crianza accompanied the stew, and when Jana stopped by our table, we asked several questions about what it means when wine has "legs" and why you tip the wine to the side of the glass to see the color of the liquid's edge. Jana is a great teacher and is amazingly knowledgeable; she explained that the longer a wine is aged, and the warmer the climate, the more it evaporates and becomes thick, which is why it both clings to the inside of the glass and doesn't have a clear edge when tipped in the glass.


My taste buds, already thrilled, found themselves in heaven upon tasting the third course, a dry brined bone in rib eye with foie gras twice baked potato and rosemary demi glace. This was the best steak I have ever had. It was tender, juicy, and incredibly flavorful. I completely ignored the rest of my group and gave all my attention to this dish, all social graces forgotten. The twice baked potato was equally enticing, and I finished it and then stole some of my date's, too. Paired with a glass of Silverado Cabernet, the flavors came together for a seriously memorable main course.


The man behind the magic, Head Chef Frank Barrese, emerged shyly from the kitchen at the urging of Ray, and accepted his well deserved applause from the room. Everyone was impressed. Barrese is a gifted chef, and I have yet to be anything less than wowed by his creations.


Spanish sherry and a goat cheese custard topped with strawberries and hazelnuts finished off the meal, and Jana shared some final words about the great wines we had experienced, all of which are available at Stewart's Wines in New Canaan. Ray, always a gracious host, continued to mingle with guests, and the beaming smiles on everyone's faces served as further proof that the evening had been a great success. 

If you missed this dinner, never fear - there is a beer dinner in the works! Sign up for Picador's newsletter to be alerted when more details are available. 

Picador is located at 15 Elm Street, New Canaan, CT
Call 203 972 9999 for reservations, or find them on opentable
Follow them on facebooktwitter and instagram

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bistro 7 in Wilton: New Menu, New Chefs, New Leaf

Since discovering Bistro 7 in Wilton, CT last year, it has been a favorite spot, and I have recommended it to anyone who cared to listen. A great Happy Hour (the best in town as far as quality and price), a friendly vibe, and a charming and caring owner, Breno Donatti (as well as his equally enjoyable wife, opera singer Jeanette Vecchione-Donatti), brought me back again and again. My friends and I were at the bar at least three nights per week.

After many months of nothing but positive experiences, our enthusiasm started to wane in the spring as Happy Hour changed and some of our favorite menu items vanished, and others became a bit inconsistent. Still, we went on occasion, and our loyalty to Breno and his vision for a true "farm to fork" experience never wavered.

I was thrilled when Breno told me that the restaurant was undergoing some significant changes. A new menu, new Sous Chef Harrison Schaefer, and a new Head Chef, Marcelino Martinez. Martinez was previously the Pastry Chef, and I had experienced his culinary talent firsthand. Plus, they were bringing back the Happy Hour I so missed, and strengthening their commitment to working with local farms through partnerships with Debra Sloane of Sloane Farm and Donna Simmons of Pound Ridge OrganicsThe Bistro 7 I had first fallen in love with was returning!

After closing for a few days in preparation for the grand reopening, patrons were invited to experience a selection of new menu items. Of course, I was there and excited to give it all a try. 

Knowing that Bistro 7 had reigned supreme in the "best bisque" category at last year's "Chowdafest" with their butternut squash bisque, I chose the roasted root vegetable bisque to start. It was rich and thick, a great choice for a cold winter night. I think their butternut squash takes the cake, but this bisque was still solid.

Next, beef empanadas drizzled in Bistro 7's cilantro lime sauce that I am so addicted to (really, it's fabulous. Order a side of this magical sauce and dip french fries into it). They were crisp, not too heavy, flavorful, and delicious! They went perfectly with the cold beer I was sipping; I guarantee I will be ordering these at Happy Hour soon!

For entrees, I chose the pan-seared salmon with bok choy, my companion chose pork roulade with zucchini and squash "linguine," and we split the two. The salmon was the best I've ever had. It was cooked perfectly, delicately flaky with a moist center. Salmon is all too easy to overcook, and I was extremely impressed with this dish. Really the standout of the meal.

The pork, another easily overcooked meat, was unfortunately just that. The flavor of the stuffing was great but the pork was dry. I would be willing to try again, as I know this would be a great dish if it had just been taken away from the heat a few minutes earlier. The vegetable "linguini" was delicious and amazingly flavorful.

I wholeheartedly recommend a trip to Bistro 7 - I've been a fan for a while now, and it's clear to me that things are only looking up for what was already a charming spot. Look for me at Happy Hour! :-)

Bistro 7 is located at 991 Danbury Rd, Wilton CT 06897
203-587-1287 |

Monday, October 13, 2014

Gastro Bar: Tapas with a Twist in Stamford, CT

I recently had the pleasure of dining at Gastro Bar in Stamford, CT, and it proved to be a great new addition to Stamford's ever-expanding restaurant scene. The large interior maintains an intimate feeling for date night, and long raised tables would be perfect for a larger group. Gastro Bar also offers Happy Hour, which is always appreciated.

We began our evening with a few appetizers at the large, inviting bar. First, crispy oysters with avocado puree, grapefruit, and radish that were not only pretty to look at but a pleasing combination of hot crunch oysters and cool, smooth avocado. Next, fried calamari with smoked aioli was nice and tender, with plenty of tentacles, my favorite! A margherita pizza with heirloom tomato, buffalo mozzarella, and basil left us happily full before dinner had even begun, but upon seeing the tempting menu I knew room would have to be made.

If I see salmon tartare on a menu, I will always order it. I've had quite the range of experiences from heavenly to terrifying, but luckily Gastro Bar did it right with just a hint of jalapenos, shallots, crispy potato, and cilantro Their tartare is fresh, light, and the flavor of the salmon shines through - there's nothing worse than a heavy, strong dressing that obscures the salmon itself - what a waste!

Another favorite food, brussels sprouts, arrived next in the form of a shaved salad dressed with truffle oil and lemon juice and served atop a crispy risotto cake. If you are a brussels fan, this is the salad for you! If not, this will not be the dish to convert you, as it really lets the brussels sprouts be the star of the dish and does not drown them in dressing. 

My favorite dish of the night was the eggplant parmesan with prosciutto, mascarpone, and ricotta cheese. This dish was so flavorful and satisfying! I am not a fan of eggplant, and I do not particularly like cheesy dishes, but I absolutely devoured this!

Another favorite of the night was Cavatelli with short rib ragu, black truffle, and cream. The sauce was not too heavy, though it was very richly meaty. I thought, based on the menu, that it would be a cream sauce, but I was happy to see that it was really just a touch of cream to help bind the sauce to the pasta. 

Albondigas (lamb meatballs) with baby kale and tomato sauce were underwhelming, especially compared to the inventiveness and careful preparation of the other dishes. 

Our meal ended with paella, and while I was already too full to move, I couldn't resist a generous helping of clams, shrimp, mussels, chicken, calamari, peas, chorizo, and saffron rice. Gastro Bar does a solid job with their paella, but the shrimp and chicken were overcooked. I did appreciate the generous dose of saffron. This dish was fragrant and hearty, and well received by the whole group. 

Gastro Bar is conveniently located in downtown Stamford, and absolutely worth a visit, whether for cocktails and tapas at happy hour or a full dinner. 

78 West Park Place, Stamford, CT ‎06901
Phone: 203-817-0392
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