Monday, December 28, 2015

Best of Fairfield County Food & Drink 2015

Looking back on 2015, I have so many great memories of fabulous meals, interesting people, fun food-centric festivals, and tempting Instagram posts.

Now it's time to share my picks for the best of what Fairfield County had to offer in 2015 - here's to another year of great eats ahead! If anyone has recommendations for where I should go in 2016, please let me know!

Best Pizza


Frank Pepe's, Danbury, Fairfield, New Haven, Manchester
Obviously they're a gold standard in Connecticut, receiving accolades all over the place. Their white clam pic is the most famous, but I recommend chicken and spinach. Pepe's is the only place where I order that combination, and it's amazing.

Bar Sugo, Norwalk (pictured)
Obsessed. That is all. Check out any of their dishes; you won't be let down.

Best Cocktails 

Because what is food without a drink in hand?

Match, South Norwalk
Great vibe at the bar, too. Really friendly, engaging bartenders.

Best Beer

Two Roads Brewing Company, Stratford
Awesome brewery space and tasting room, plus they have food trucks parked outside.

Best Happy Hour


Barcelona Wine Bar (pictured)

Cheap tapas, cheap drinks - both their amazing cocktails and selections from their wine list, one of the largest Spanish wine collections in the country!

The Spread

Food and drink specials plus $1 oysters on Tuesdays. Need I say more?

Best Italian


Strada 18, South Norwalk (pictured) Check out my review here.

Rizzuto's, Bethel, Westport, West Hartford

Solid, no frills Italian food. My first job in the hospitality industry was at Rizzuto's in Bethel. They have the BEST penne all vodka ever.

Best Seafood

The Whelk, Westport

Best French

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich
Attending a press dinner and was just utterly wowed by everything I tried. Click here for my review.

Best Spanish

Brasitas, Norwalk, Stamford

Best Brunch

Bar Sugo, Norwalk

Yep, they're a winner in two categories.

Best Sushi


Toro, Newtown (pictured)

Ichiro, Danbury

From the outside, you'd not expect it to be good. It's not fancy on the inside, either, but the sushi really is delicious.

Best BBQ

HooDoo Brown, Ridgefield

Absolutely a hands down winner. Crazy good. These guys are the real deal. They also carry a nice selection of CT beers!

Best Outdoor Dining

bartaco, Westport (pictured)

Rowayton Seafood, Rowayton

Best Coffee Shop

Tusk and Cup, Ridgefield

Not only are the lattes great, but they serve the best coffee, Shearwater Organic Coffee Roasters, which is the first organic roaster in Connecticut.

Best Casual Dining


Little Pub, Ridgefield, Wilton, Cos Cob

Redding Roadhouse, Redding
Plus there's a lounge upstairs with a full size (free) pool table and fireplace.

Best Deli Sandwiches


Tony's Corner Deli, Ridgefield (pictured)

O'Neil's, Bethel

Best Food Festival

Greenwich Wine and Food, Greenwich (I didn't take a picture this year; last year's will have to do!)

All photos copyright me, Adeline!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cask Republic in South Norwalk: Way More Than Just Great Beers

Cask Republic, a beer lover's haven with 2 locations in Connecticut, recently opened a 3rd in South Norwalk. Previously The Gingerman, the space has been revamped with a more open floor-plan and a mix of regular tables, communal tables, and a private wine vault in the back that accommodates 4 diners.

Cask Republic retains The Gingerman's impressive selection of beers, and though they have reduced the number of taps from 42 to 37, it's for an exciting reason: they now also offer 10 wines on tap, 4 cocktails, and nitro coffee. Personally, I think 37 taps of beer is more than sufficient!

Cask Republic is ready to expand its reputation from a great place for beer to a great place for food, too. After trying 9 of Culinary Director Carl Carrion's dishes, it's clear they're on the right track.

First, spiced lamb empanadas, pork belly mac and cheese, harvest salad, shrimp and grits, braised short ribs, and bacon popcorn from their "Small Plates" menu. The two standouts were the shrimp and grits, which were topped with perfectly cooked shrimp (I'd happily eat a plate of them solo or add to a salad), and the braised short ribs. Topped with a soft cooked egg and accompanied by grilled crusty bread, this dish got gobbled up immediately. Order two; you won't want to share!

Next, some dishes from their "Large Plates" menu: mustard crusted Canadian salmon over green onion risotto, maple brined double cut pork chop, and IPA citrus marinated chicken with jalapeno grits, wild mushrooms, and roasted brussels sprouts.

The salmon was flaky and tender, and the tangy mustard crunch of the crust was a delicious counterpoint. I'm not a fan of risotto, but I'd love this served over the brussels spouts that accompanied the chicken.

Speaking of the chicken...WOW. Who would think that chicken would be a star? Cask Republic's was juicy, perfectly charred, and wonderfully accented by the IPA marinade. I highly recommend it.

Rounding out the meal was a thick cut grilled pork chop so juicy it made a bit of a mess...but that was a good thing. Flavorful, tender, and quickly devoured, this would satisfy any meat lover.

Cask Republic is located at
99 Washington Street
South Norwalk, CT 06854
(203) 354-0163
Twitter: @TheCaskRepulic Instagram: @caskrepublic

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Kicking off Fall with Another Fabulous Fundraiser for Mark Twain Library

What do movie stars, award winning gardens, and a giant spoon have in common? Read on...

Last year, Redding's resident comedian/actor/author Michael Ian Black wanted to do something special for Mark Twain Library. He went to the library's greatest cheerleaders, board members Pam Robey and Jen Wastrom, on a mission to raise funds while celebrating the art of comedy. Thus, the Pudd'nhead Prize for Outstanding Humor, named after the novel by the king of wit and library founder Mark Twain, was born.

The inaugural prize went to Roz Chast, celebrated New Yorker cartoonist and Ridgefield resident known for her wry worldview and humorously neurotic characters. Her prize was presented during a special fundraising gala at InSitu, Michael Marocco's absolutely gorgeous 8 acre Redding property that has been featured in Architectural Digest and Metropolitan Home.

In Situ made for a magical backdrop to a special evening. 
This year, Marocco again offered his stunning property as the gala venue. As was the case last year, supporters of the library spent the evening wandering the extensive gardens, enjoying drinks and live music by the swimming pool, and mingling with celebrity guests including funny lady Janeane Garofolo and the evening's honoree, the endlessly talented and hilarious Ben Stiller.

Stiller accepted his trophy, a giant 4 foot long silver spoon (for eating large quantities of pudding, of course), with amusement, and Black led a Q&A session. Among the highlights was Stiller kindly indulging the audience's request for a rendition of his iconic "Blue Steel" look from his movie Zoolander.

Merriment in the tent as Michael Ian Black presented the Pudd'nhead Prize spoon to honoree Ben Stiller. Top left, from left to right, Janeane Garofolo, Ben Stiller, Michael Ian Black, Jen Wastrom, Martha Hagen-Black, and Pam Robey.
Bottom right, me, with my boyfriend Bill (we like to consider ourselves celebrities).  :-)
The evening was a wonderful success, filled with good company, good will, and good humor, and I am so pleased to count myself among the many Redding residents who support the Mark Twain Library. It is an incredible asset to the town (and beyond), hosting events for all ages and offering a beautiful place to read, study, and relax. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

In its 5th Year, the Greenwich Wine + Food Festival Wows Again

My favorite food festival of the year is Serendipity Magazine's Greenwich Wine + Food Festival, held on the waterfront in Roger Sherman Baldwin Park. It's a beautiful setting for an impressive celebration of the region's best food drink, and chefs. Proceeds benefit the Hole in The Wall Gang Camp, a charity founded by Paul Newman to provide healing for children and their families coping with cancer, sickle cell anemia and other serious illnesses. 

Photo courtesy of Serendipity Magazine
With events taking place Wednesday through Saturday, the Festival is a feat of planning and coordination, and this was the third year I've had the pleasure of experiencing Saturday's "Culinary Village," a tented smorgasbord of over 150 opportunities to taste the offerings of top restaurants in the area. As was the case the past two years, the tent was packed with an enthusiastic crowd of appreciative eaters, wine glasses in hand (there are plenty of wine, liquor, and beer representatives mixed in with the restaurateurs). 

There were also talks by celebrity chefs, both local and national, including Alex Guarnaschelli, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Adam Richman. As the day wears on, there's a burger battle (Plan B Burger Bar reigned supreme again this year) and BBQ cook-off, followed by live entertainment, this year by Little Big Town.

The atmosphere this year was one of happy appreciation for such a perfect afternoon. Even in an incredibly crowded tent full of people stopping at random moments to take pictures, bumping into each other, and vying for spots at every vendor's table, there was not a single sensation of tension. Who could be unhappy in the presence of fabulous food, wine, beer, spirits, and a gorgeous view? 

Standout dishes this year were Parallel Post's steak and rosemary potatoes, and Harvest Wine Bar's tuna tartare. I also tried the best cocktail in recent memory, a whiskey based concoction from Rye House in Port Chester. After all that food, I started to fade, and Shearwater Coffee Roasters' organic cold brew was just the pick me up I needed. 

I truly cannot recommend attending this event enough. Over 5500 people attended over the course of the four day festival; make sure you're one of them next year!

Check out my coverage of last year's festival, and 2013's festivities. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Pearls of Wisdom: Oysters 101 from Serendipity Magazine

September is the unofficial start of oyster season. Here’s what you need to know about the popular shellfish, from cooking to slurping. Whether you’re a novice or aficionado, these tips will guide you on how to shop for, shuck and serve oysters.
At a Restaurant
Enjoy them whenever you want: Myths endure about eating shellfish only during certain months of the year. For instance, it is often said that warm weather (aka non-“r” months) would encourage the spread of toxins among oysters. This is no longer a concern. “Most oysters are farmed now,” says Lisa McKiernan, co-owner of Ruby’s Oyster Bar in Rye, NY, and the quality of the water where the shellfish are raised is much more reliable. Still, experts say they taste best during those colder months. So welcome to the beginning of prime time for oysters!
Do some taste-testing: Eating only one kind of oyster is like drinking only one type of wine. “There are literally thousands of varieties,” says Jim Thistle, co-owner of Fjord Fish Market (, locations in Greenwich, Westport and New Canaan, CT) whose shops trade mainly in Blue Point varieties from Long Island, NY, Wellfleet and Duxbury from Cape Cod in MA and Village Bay from Canada. East Coast oysters are known for their briny, salty taste and meaty flesh. West coast examples, including the popular Kumamoto, tend to be smaller and creamier with a mellow cucumber-like flavor.
Ask if they’re shucked to order: True oyster lovers slurp them down without any adornment. At most restaurants, however, raw oysters are almost always served on a bed of crushed ice, with lemon wedges, cocktail sauce or mignonette sauce (red wine vinegar, shallots and cracked pepper). However you eat them, ask if they’re shucked to order, which McKiernan says is key. “Left out in their shells too long, they dry up.”
Eat them like a pro: “Forks are dainty, but slurping is definitely allowed,” says Drew Smith, author of Oyster: A World History ($30, Just be sure to chew the flesh instead of swallowing it whole, to release the flavors.
Know the facts: The scientific evidence that oysters are actual aphrodisiacs is murky. Still, zinc (which oysters are rich in) has been shown to improve fertility.

This article was reprinted with permission of Serendipity Magazine. This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue. Cover photo by Nicholas Maggio for Serendipity magazine.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Showcasing Summer's Best at Bar Sugo in Norwalk, CT

Sometimes I get to try restaurants that I've never been to, and sometimes I get to try new dishes at existing favorites, which was the case recently at Bar Sugo. I cannot say enough good things. It's a favorite of mine in general, whether I'm trying their smaller plates, pizzas, house made pastas, or fabulous brunch dishes. I've never been disappointed. 

Most recently, I experienced some of Chef/Owner Pat Pascarella's summer menu items, and was, once again, impressed. From gnocchi with sage, zucchini blossoms, and brown butter to heirloom polenta topped with wild mushrooms and a 60 minute sous vide egg, each dish was a hit. 

Bar Sugo also serves some of the best pizza I've ever had, and often with unexpected toppings that turn out to be magic. Last summer, my favorite was robiola, corn, almonds, and bacon jam. Sounds weird, right? I'm still craving it. For something more traditional, try the sopressata pie with caramelized onions and balsamic reduction. At this most recent meal, I tried a light, simple combination of mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil (from Chef Pat's garden), crowned with dollops of fresh burrata. Mmm....

You also cannot go wrong with Chef Pat's Cacio e Pepe, a classic rustic pasta dish of cheese and cracked black pepper. Comfort food at its finest. 

What is late summer without tomatoes? Try the panzanella salad, full of juicy heirlooms accented with pesto. I could have eaten a giant bowl of this. Their other, leafy salads are made with hydroponic lettuces from "Green Up," and vegetables (in the salad I tried, radishes) from Sport Hill Farm.

Have I made myself clear? Bar Sugo is a must-try.

Click here for more photos.

Bar Sugo is located at 102 Wall Street, Norwalk, CT 06850. Follow them on facebook for events, news, and more. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Table 104: Elevated Italian Cuisine Accompanied by a Welcoming Atmosphere

There has been a well deserved buzz lately about Table 104 in Stamford, CT. One of my friends told me about it, and it was on my list of new places to try, and then I received an invitation to attend a press dinner there. Perfect timing!

An Italian restaurant in Fairfield County has to do something special to set itself apart, and Table 104 rises to the task. Their dishes are fresh and light, with little twists that make them memorable.

Walter Capelli, co-owner of Table 104, is one of the nicest, warmest people I've met. He was so gracious and welcoming. It's clear that he is passionate about what he does, and takes pride in offering a special dining experience.

On to the food....

My favorite appetizer was grilled shrimp with fresh mint and sliced almonds for a zippy crunch. This dish would be the perfect start to a summer meal paired with a crisp rosé wine.

One of my tests of a chef's skill is how well they can cook octopus (or shrimp, if octopus is absent from the menu.) I had already experienced perfectly cooked shrimp in the first appetizer, so I had high hopes for this one. Happily, I was not disappointed. I've had some fabulous octopus, and some absolutely terrible, and this one ranks near the top. The right amount of char, tender, with a citrus vinaigrette that made the flavors pop.  

Their shaved brussels sprouts salad, while not unique in form, was elevated in flavor. I took a greedy second helping of this dish.  
I also enjoyed crostini with roasted tomatoes, prosciutto, arugula, and house made ricotta. Nicely presented, and perfect for sharing. 

My favorite dish of the night was a twist on carbonara. House made fettuccine (fabulous) with cauliflower puree instead of endless butter and cream, with a soft cooked egg on top. Really excellent. My photo really doesn't do it justice. The cauliflower was very subtle, and the creaminess it added was impressive. The house made linguini was the best I've had. 

Another favorite was crispy branzino with clams. I love how many seafood dishes Table 104 offers (and makes well).

Their generously seafood laden spaghetti is another great choice.

Lastly, we tried the pizza, fresh from an imported Italian oven. Simple, quality ingredients and a nice toothy yet thin crust make for a delicious pie.

I'm not usually a dessert person, but I couldn't resist trying their lemony ricotta pancakes. I believe they are also available at brunch. Order them. You won't be sorry, I promise.

If you're looking for satisfying Italian food that's not heavy or predictable, try Table 104. It's a welcome addition to the Stamford dining scene. Table 104 is located at 299 Long Ridge Road, Stamford, CT. Follow them on facebook here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Grab Your Glowsticks, Because this one's a Rave: Bistro V in Greenwich

A fixture on Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich, CT since 1980, Bistro Versailles & Patisserie has been in the capable hands of Marc and Evelyne Penvenne, who also own Méli-Mélo Crêperie & Juice Bar across the street, since 2014. The couple hails from the Bretagne region of France, and have brought a freshness to the atmosphere and cuisine at Bistro Versailles. The interior feels like an upscale yet relaxed French cafe, and the food is both delicious and beautifully presented. 

Get ready for a rave review; each course topped the last, even when it had seemed like nothing could possibly be more delicious than what was already in front of me.

My evening began with a novel 
a splash of Byrhh (fortified wine flavored with herbs and cinchona bark, a natural source of quinine) added to crisp champagne. The combination was unexpected and refreshing, and paired nicely with the warm garlic parsley wafers that arrived as our group filtered in. 

We were also treated to smoked salmon on rye with dollops of tart crème fraîche, and toasts topped with Pâté and cornichons. The evening was off to a tantalizing start, but the magic was yet to begin. 

First, something i had never experienced: watermelon and ricotta salata salad with candied watermelon rind. Lighly drizzled with tart lemon vinaigrette, this was a refreshing dish and the rind was unexpected but I loved it.

The chilled poached Maine lobster, drizzled with cilantro emulsion and accented by hearts of palm, was a mix of textures. I had some tail and some claw; the claw was sweet and tender but the tail was less so. I mention this only because I fear a reviewer who only tried the tail might be unimpressed with this dish, when the claw was actually excellent. I was particularly a fan of the hearts of palm in tandem with the cilantro.

Now I'll start raving. Once the next dish, crispy skinned Branzino, arrived, I was blown away from the first bite to the last nibble of dessert (and this was the consensus at my table as a whole, it seemed). 

The fish was sweet, flavorful, tender, moist - all the words we use to describe something delectable. The skin was perfectly, completely crispy. The shaved fennel underneath was laced with lightly sweet citrus that offset the savory fish beautifully. 

This course was paired with a Lebanese white wine, Ixsir Altitudes, that was excellent and unlike any wines I've had in the past. Every course, in fact, was expertly paired with a wine that enhanced the experience. Wine is always good with food, but sometimes wine can take excellent food and make it transcendent. This was the case at Bistro Versailles. In addition, I had the pleasure of sitting across from Anatoli Levine, who is not only a food writer but a wine connoisseur, and his insights made for an educational evening (you can check out his website here.)

Steak tartare is a favorite of mine and I was excited to try it at a restaurant that was proving to be quite a special place. No surprise, it was wonderful. Executive Chef Erik Erlichson, a classically trained French chef and graduate of New York Restaurant School, blends the traditional tartare accoutrements, mixes them into the meat, and then adds them in chopped form for texture. This method made for a richly flavored tartare.

My favorite dish of the night, difficult as it is to choose just one, was the crispy Hudson Valley duck breast with a salad of confit, snap peas, and carrot ginger dressing. The table fell silent (except for a few delighted sighs) while we cleaned our plates, and then erupted into excited commentary about how excellent this dish was. Two people at my table said they don't even like duck, but loved this dish. 
Dinner ended with a giant platter of steamed mussels, bathed in white wine, lemon, garlic, parsley, and thyme. I would have drank the sauce straight if only I had no sense of social graces. So good. We were also presented with hot, perfectly oily, house made pommes frites, which disappeared at lighting speed. 

Dessert was a chilled fruit soup and tart frozen yogurt which was light yet satisfying, and very refreshing.

If it isn't abundantly apparent already, I'll reiterate: this was one of the best meals I've had in a long time.

Bistro Versailles is a must visit restaurant. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay informed of specials and events. They are located at 339 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich, CT.

All photos are copyright me, Adeline Crites-Moore.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Paloma: Highs and Lows at a Waterfront Hotspot

When I saw Aarón Sánchez at last year's Greenwich Wine + Food Festival, someone said, "Oh look! It's Aarón Sánchez," and I said, "Who?" 
I've never really followed the Food Network; the chefs I follow and admire are ones whose restaurants I've dined in and loved (Nick Martschenko of South End in New Canaan, for example), or whose food I dream of trying (Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns comes to mind.) I try to be a little more aware of pop-culture's revered chefs these days, but I greatly prefer to eat food than watch its preparation on a screen. 

Now I can say that I have both seen a TV personality in the flesh and eaten "his" food (of course, Aaron did not personally cook the dishes I tried, but they are his creations nonetheless). It was a mixed experience, but there were some definite standouts despite a couple serious misses. First of all, Paloma in Stamford, CT gets major points for ambiance. The large glass building sits directly above the water, and unlike its predecessor the Beer Garden at Harbor Point, it's in a neighborhood that feels trendy and buzzing with activity. Just a couple years ago, Harbor Point felt deserted and industrial; now it boasts, in addition to Paloma, The Sign of The Whale with its packed rooftop, World Of Beer with its impressive lineup of suds, and soon, Fortina (which I've been dying to try) and Bareburger will join the list. At a recent dinner, I had the pleasure of dining waterside and sampling a parade of beautifully plated dishes. 

For appetizers, two seafood tostadas: crab salad and fried glazed shrimp. The crab was sweet, tender, and the delicate dressing did not interfere. I didn't even eat the chip, it wasn't necessary. The shrimp was tangy and offset nicely by mango salsa. It reminded me of the Bahm Bahm shrimp appetizer at B.J. Ryan's in Norwalk. Sometimes I go to B.J. Ryan's just to have a beer and that appetizer (I can't recommend a visit for any other reason.)

Two big hits were the sweet and tangy Mexican street corn with chipotle crema and cojita cheese, and a skillet of queso fundito with wild mushrooms. I also greatly enjoyed the albondigas, meatballs with chipotle broth, mint, and cojita cheese. Mint was a very interesting addition that really made these pop.

Next, another round of seafood: snapper crudo and lobster ceviche. The crudo was on top of a delicious sauce that I couldn't identify, but it was excellent. I have to say though, this dish was reminiscent of a hamachi crudo I had last year at The Spread in South Norwalk, and it made this one pale in comparison. 

The lobster ceviche was the only dish of the night that I would call terrible. It was tough, half shredded chunks of lobster drowning in what tasted like mango orange juice. However, another blogger commented that he'd had it on a previous visit and it had been totally different and totally delicious.

The standout entree of the night was short rib with ancho-cacoa rub and seasonal vegetables. It was fall apart tender, and richly meaty. The general consensus was that it was slightly dry, but would have been just perfect with a little more gravy. I was a fan, despite the sauce issue.

I liked the garganelli pasta with ground chorizo, but it was odd. Very strongly flavored and oily. Like late night drunk food, which isn't to say it wasn't tasty! 

I also tried the Cuban style roasted chicken, and enjoyed the unique tamarind fried rice that came with it; I'd order it as an appetizer all by itself. 

The failure of the entrees was the Camarones Mojo de Ajo. Like the lobster, they were tough and the sauce was strange. Oh well, not everything can be a hit, and anyone who thinks everything is wonderful is usually either lying or just convinced that a pretty plate means something must be good. 

The evening certainly ended on a high note with dulce de leche topped churros worth killing for. I would make a deal with the devil if it meant I could consume these endlessly and never gain weight. Andrew Dominick of Food Dudes managed to eat an entire fried, cinnamon sugary ball in one heroic bite. These churros make you lose all sense of reason, what can I say? 

Conclusion, go to Paloma, sit at the bar, soak up the waterside ambiance, order the crab tostadas, short rib, and churros. You'll have a great time, I promise. Just pass on the lobster ceviche. ;-)

Paloma is located at 15 Harbor Point Road, Stamford, CT 06902.
Click here to follow them on facebook, instagram, and twitter.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Beer on the Lawn at Lyndhurst Mansion: Big Brew NY is Back!

Use discount code ADELINE for $10 off your ticket!

Big Brew NY is always a beer-fueled blast, but I'm extra excited for this summer's festival. The fun is moving outside and festival goers will imbibe in the shadow of historic Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, NY. 

Presenting Sponsor WFAS AM in Westchester will broadcast live from the Festival, and there will be over 200 Craft Beer styles (unlimited tastings) available. Gourmet food trucks (including local favorite Handsome Devil BBQ) will be on the scene to soak up the suds. 

Take advantage of my discount code and early bird pricing! Click here to purchase tickets.

Partners for the event include DeCicco’s, intoxiKate and DrinkHV
Full beer and food list will be made available soon.