Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Strada 18 in SoNo: a Return to Italian Classics and a Beverage Program to be Reckoned With!

There are plenty of restaurants billing themselves as “Italian,” but so many of them offer generic dishes that are more like “pseudo (read: totally Americanized) Italian” than anything else. If you’re craving authentic Italian food like your grandmother (or perhaps an Italian friend’s grandmother, in my case) used to make, Strada 18 in South Norwalk, Connecticut really delivers. 

At a recent dinner, Executive Chef/co-owner David Raymer and co-owner Steven Semaya explained how Strada 18 has evolved over the years, always producing quality dishes but perhaps straying from their original concept upon opening over 20 years ago. Now, they’re returning to their roots with a focus on Italian “comfort food,” and the results are delicious. 

In the ever changing landscape of downtown South Norwalk, a 20+ year legacy is a testament to the quality of a restaurant. Since childhood I have seen so many places come and go that I can barely keep track, yet Strada 18 has been on Washington Street as long as I can remember. 

In addition to delicious food, Strada 18’s beverage program, led by Henry Rosenbaum, offers an impressive wine list that far outstrips my knowledge, though he was a patient and helpful tasting guide. While many people think of Strada 18 as a wine bar (including me, until recent revelations), they have quite the beer list, too! I tried my first Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine while swapping favorite beer rankings with Henry, and then sipped another new favorite; Ama Bionda, a collaboration between Brooklyn Brewery and Amacord Brewery in Apeccio, Italy. It’s crisp, light yet flavorful, and the bottle is absolutely beautiful. 

There are several standouts on the menu. First, house made fresh mozzarella with a drizzle of EVOO and aged balsamic. I am ashamed to admit that I don't particularly like cheeses (unless they're melted on pizza), but this was an exception. It was light, creamy but not overpowering, and slightly sweet. Other appetizers I sampled included standards like arancini, and fried calamari, which were heartily satisfying and quickly gobbled up.

Next, my favorite dish, the spaghetti carbonara. It's not cloyingly creamy or cheesy, but bright and clean tasting with just a snap of smokiness from the bacon. I unabashedly slurped every last strand from the bowl.

An important note for those on gluten free diets: Chef Raymer’s wife abstains from gluten, and he has made it his mission to create great gluten free pastas and pizzas. The gluten free pizza crust that I tried was not a pre-made, cracker like disappointment, but rather a doughy, delicious experience that I would not have guessed was sans gluten had I not been told. His pastas, too, are excellent, and even his hearty bolognese sauce was not too much for them to handle.

I also tried the chicken parmesan, which was good but paled in comparison to some of the other dishes. Chef Raymer’s “Sunday Sauce,” a meat laden adventure in hearty eating, was so good that I was sad it came at the end of the meal when I was too full to properly gorge on the sausages, meatballs, and spare ribs that it contained. 

Desserts did not disappoint. You must, without exception, try their mascarpone gelato. It’s heavenly. Order it “affogato” (a shot of hot espresso poured on top) and you just might lose your mind. If you have room, order the homemade oreos, too.

Strada 18 is located at 122 Washington St.  (between Main & Water Sts.) in South Norwalk, CT 06854. Call 203-853-4546 for reservations. Follow them on facebook, twitter, and instagram.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ticket Sales for my Favorite Food Event of the Year are Open!

I was so excited to receive this year's Greenwich Wine + Food Festival info! 
Check out my coverage of last year's festival, and 2013's festivities. 
Here are all the details for this year:

The fifth annual GREENWICH WINE+FOOD FESTIVAL, presented by Serendipity magazine (www.greenwichwineandfood.com) and benefiting Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and The Greenwich Department of Parks and Recreationwill be taking place September 24 through 26 at the Roger Sherman Baldwin Park in Greenwich, Connecticut. The festival will feature a Dinner Under the Stars on Thursday, the Most Innovative Chefs Gala on Friday and the Culinary Village, featuring Little Big Town’s performance, on Saturday.

The official weekend kickoff on Thursday evening brings the first Dinner Under the Stars to the festival. This intimate event will accommodate 60 guests to enjoy a five-course dinner, accompanied by awarded select wines. More details on this event will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Most Innovative Chefs Gala on Friday evening will feature the 2015 Most Innovative Chef winners from restaurants across Fairfield and Westchester Counties serving an incredible tasting menu (honorees to be announced). The evening will also include elite wines, premium liquor, an exclusive auction and a live musical performance (TBA).

On Saturday, the Culinary Village, the center of the entire GREENWICH 2015 WINE+FOOD FESTIVAL, will offer tastings and demonstrations from more than two hundred food, wine, spirits and product vendors. Culinary demonstration tents and stages will house cooking presentations by celebrity chefs and local talent. Guests will also enjoy sommelier presentations, celebrity chef book signings, the fourth annual Burger Battle, the second annual Top Bartender’s Showdown, Barbecue & Bluegrass, and a live musical performance by Little Big Town. A special ticketed event, Saturday on Stage Dinner, will give 100 guests the chance to enjoy the headliner performance on an elevated stage while enjoying a special dinner (chef TBA), premium liquor, wine and beer. In addition, VIP ticket holders will enjoy a VIP Big Easy Dinner, celebrating the culinary, musical and festive atmosphere of New Orleans. This tented event will feature a traditional Louisiana jazz marching band, the Festival’s Ambassador Chefs serving up signature small plates with a New Orleans Twist, premium liquor, wines and beer, and a private, early-evening concert with the world-renowned band Funky Meters, comprised of Art Neville, Ian Neville, George Porter Jr. and Russell Batiste Jr. VIP ticket holders will also enjoy a premium viewing area for Little Big Town’s performance.

Visit www.greenwichwineandfood.com for more information and updates about the event schedule, participating celebrity and local chefs, musical talent and more. Ticket sales are now open (with the exception of Thursday's evening event) and are available through www.greenwichwineandfood.com or by calling 203.588.1363. The event’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/GreenwichwinefoodFestival, will be announcing restaurant participants and schedule updates, as available. 

The GREENWICH 2015 WINE+FOOD FESTIVAL is a three-day event that benefits The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a nationwide organization dedicated to providing healing to children and their families coping with cancer, sickle cell anemia and other serious illnesses, as well as The Greenwich Department of Parks and Recreation. The festival is hosted by Serendipity magazine in conjunction with other event sponsors.

Photos by me, Adeline Crites-Moore :-)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Spring Wellness: Six Healthy "Foodstagrammers" to Follow

Spring is here, and the promise of warmer days is a reminder that I'll be showing more skin in the coming months. While I could never give up pizza, it's certainly a goal of mine to eat healthier. However, an instagram feed full of tempting fried foods, beautiful #pizzaporn, and and carb laden cupcakes, it can be difficult to go eat a salad. Luckily, there are plenty of inspiring instagrammers who share beautifully tempting photographs of foods that are far from fried. 

Here are six foodies whose shots are just as satisfying as all those tempting pizza photos: 

From salads to smoothies and desserts, Phoebe Conway shares great recipes on her website, and lovely photos on her instagram feed. 


If you're interested in paleo or whole 30 diets, Deanna is your girl. 

Mere shares meals and products that aren't intimidatingly complicated, which is perfect for someone like me who doesn't really have the time for elaborate meals (and I'm sure I'm not alone in that situation).

This one's a serious feast for the eyes, as every photo is within the same color range of rich purples and blues. Christy's diet is also nut-free. 

Jordan Bourke is a chef, food stylist, and author of 2 cookbooks, so you know there's going to be some great content on his feed. Check out his website for his recipes and events. 

Vegan food doesn't have to be boring, as made clear on Jen's feed. Maybe one day. I'm far from ready to make that commitment! 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Support Community Plates' Food Rescue Mission at "Food for All" Next Month!

I had an absolute blast helping out at last year's "Food for All," and can't wait to do it again in May! Here are all the details:
 Community Plates, the technology-fueled, direct-transfer food rescue organization dedicated to ending food insecurity in America, is thrilled to present their signature fundraiser, “Food for All”. The event highlights Community Plates Fairfield County’s goals for the coming year, celebrates its accomplishments, and pays gratitude to the many volunteers and supporters who share in the desire to put an end to food insecurity in our community.

Hey! It's me, taking a drink and photo-op break. :-)
Food for All, in keeping with Community Plates’ forward thinking and innovative methodology, is an event like none other in the area. The high octane evening features Fairfield County’s newest restaurants and artisans, in addition to Food for All’s popular craft cocktail bars spearheaded by creative mixologists. An added highlight this year is the Dessert Café, which will feature sweet treats and libations. Attendees will be treated to a special surprise upon their arrival by one of Community Plates’ legacy restaurants, setting the tone for a delicious and celebratory evening. 

Another fundraising element to be featured at Food for All is a photography exhibit where attendees have the opportunity to purchase works from some of the food industry’s most provocative food photographers. An eclectic array of photography which infuses various food elements and takes them into a more artistic direction will be on display for all to enjoy and purchase with 100% of the profits going to Community Plates

Community Plates has already picked up and delivered well over 5 million meals at a value of almost $9 million to food insecure people in Fairfield County. This means over 8 million pounds of food has been kept out of landfill and gone to where it’s needed most. Every bit of this food rescued has been completed by volunteers from all over our area, caught up in this food rescue revolution, powered by our GoRescue technology and our innovative hunger relief model. We’re focused on meeting the need of 110,000 people right here who struggle to know where their next meal is coming from, “ says Kevin Mullins, executive director and co-founder of Community Plates, “The Food for All 2015 fundraiser helps sustain and propel us toward our mission of bringing hunger to an end here in Fairfield County. Our current impact is twenty meals rescued and delivered for every one dollar donated! This type of impact would have been unheard of before and offers real hope for ending this senseless problem. Food for All is a lot of fun. The food and the energy in the room is amazing - and we do a lot of good in the process.”

Attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about Community Plates and their GoRescue application, the organization’s award-winning web and smartphone enabled interactive food rescue scheduling tool. GoRescue connects food-service organizations that gather and donate food that would otherwise be wasted; to food runners, who give of their time to pick-up and deliver food donations; to the receiving agencies that ensure donated food gets to those in need throughout the community.  

About Community Plates
Founded in January 2011, Community Plates is committed to ending American food-insecurity through direct-transfer food rescue. Established as a 501(c)3 non-profit food-rescue platform, Community Plates is focused on transferring healthy, usable foods to where it can help feed those in need. This volunteer-driven, technology fueled process coordinates with restaurants, grocers, bakeries, caterers and other food-service organizations who have foods destined to be thrown away, and delivers the food to soup-kitchens, food-pantries and other hunger relief organizations who serve food-insecure individuals and families. Since launching in Fairfield County, Community Plates food runners have rescued over 5.3 million meals, saving over 8 million pounds of food from going into landfill. Community Plates currently operates in Columbus, OH; Albuquerque, NM; New Haven, CT; New Orleans, LA; and Fairfield County, CT with plans to open six to eight additional sites in 2015.

Event Details:
Thursday, May 7, 6-9 PM at The Loading Dock, 375 Fairfield Avenue, Stamford, CT

Featured Restaurants (as of 4/1/15):
Abigail Kirsch, Aji 10 Latin Cuisine & Pisco Bar, Amore Cucina & Bar, Cafe Madrid & Tapas Bar, Dante's Restaurant & Bar, Fortina, Golden View Firenze, Greenwich Cheese Co., Jax & Co., K is for Cookies, LeRouge Chocolates, NEAT, Palmwich, Paloma, SOOSH, Strada 18, Table 104 Osteria & Bar, Vespa

Featured Craft Cocktail Bars:
bartaco, The Fez, The Spread, Walrus & Carpenter