Twelve years of apprenticeships and hard work are now benefiting Chef Carlos Baez, the newly appointed Executive Chef at The Spread in SONO. Baez started his career at the age of 19 and gained his culinary experience through diverse roles including a sushi chef; he smiled as he told CTbites, “I was the only Mexican sushi chef in the restaurant.” He then worked as a line cook in two of the top-rated local restaurants, Le Panetiere (Rye, NY) and Napa and Company (Stamford) before arriving at The Spread as one of its opening chefs.
After a few months in his new Executive Chef role, CTbites spent an afternoon with Chef Carlos to sample a few of his newly introduced additions to the menu. The current menu has a varied approach to the cuisine, with influences from American, French, Italian and Spanish cuisines while adhering to The Spread’s philosophy of offering high quality, locally sourced options, with entrées priced less than $25. I enjoyed many of the dishes but found that a few of them were a little over- or under-seasoned.
Chef Carlos showcased his talent with the “Seared Foie Gras.” A generous portion of foie gras was sautéed and served atop delectable fried slices of buttery brioche and accompanied with caramelized slices of sweet apples. The richness of the foie was perfectly complemented by the sweetness of the brioche and apples and the addition of the port wine reduction created a wonderful flavor complement. The brioche was so delicious it would be a great addition to breakfast on any given Sunday. I would order this dish every night.
The “Marinated Beets” was one of the better versions that I have tasted in the area and included arugula, a whipped honey-infused whipped goat cheese topped with roasted walnuts and finished with ginger vinaigrette. The beets were presented in large pieces and were delicious. The arugula added a hint of peppery background; the whipped goat cheese complemented the preparation with creaminess while the roasted walnuts added an earthiness and crunch. The combination of textures and flavors was excellent.
The “Hamachi Crudo” was a simple preparation with the tuna slices marinated in Meyer lemon vinaigrette and served with celery and topped with coriander. The lightly cured Hamachi maintained its rich flavor and softness while the celery added textural contrast. This unpretentious preparation was very flavorful, but the Meyer lemon overshadowed the delicate flavors of the Hamachi.
The “Braised Octopus” was a great preparation. My wait for some spice was satisfied by the house made chorizo that accompanied the octopus. The octopus was braised to obtain just a little bite to the texture while the accompanying chorizo added a tremendous amount of flavor and a perfect level of spiciness. The fingerlings potatoes accepted the spices from the chorizo and the finely sliced scallions and basil oil were a great finish
The “Sautéed Asparagus” were topped with pickled ramps, prosciutto and finished with a fried egg. The soft texture of the asparagus was offset by the crunchy ramps, which also added a great sour component. When the fried egg was split the yolk added creaminess and the thinly sliced prosciutto brought a little saltiness. The pickled ramps were the highlight (their season is behind us and Chef Carlos pickled the last of these seasonal delights) with the asparagus more limp than firm and the dish was slightly over-salted.
The “Salmon Tartare” was freshly chopped salmon, finely diced Jalapeño peppers, cucumbers, tossed with a touch of cilantro oil and finished with lime juice. The tartare was served with delicious house made potato chips. I was disappointed in this rendition; I would have preferred more crunchiness from the vegetables and assumed that the jalapeño peppers would have contributed more spiciness than was present.
All of the three entrées the Chef Carlos prepared were unpretentious but solid renditions of classic dishes.
The “Wild King Salmon” filet was perfectly prepared, moist on the interior while maintaining a nice crispy skin. This unassuming fish preparation was counterbalanced by the creamy spinach that screamed richness from the addition of roasted garlic, butter and cream. Again, to my palate, the dish suffered from a little too much salt that was sprinkled atop before serving.
The “Pan Seared Pork Loin” again brought spiciness to the menu. The loin was first seasoned, seared and finished in the oven before paired with Hen of Woods Mushrooms and Brussel sprouts. The large portion offered delicious flavors and the mushrooms (one of my favorite varieties) were a perfect choice to complement the pork and the traditional accompaniment of Brussel sprouts and Pork Jus created a great balance to the dish. Unfortunately the pork was a little dry from being slightly over-cooked, but the flavors worked very well together.
The “Veal Milanese” was a delicious and simple version. The pounded and breaded veal chop was crisp on the exterior and maintained its moist interior. An uncomplicated salad of greens and heirloom tomatoes with mild lemon vinaigrette adorned this classic dish.
With a few months as Executive Chef under his belt, Chef Carlos Baez is slowly converting the menu at The Spread to his vision. The additions to the menu show his years of culinary experience in various cuisines and I look forward to the preparations improving and where he takes the menu at The Spread.
THE SPREAD - 70 N. MAIN STREET - SOUTH NORWALK, CT – 203.939.1111
- Marinated Beets
- Seared Foie Gras
- Braised Octopus
- Hamachi Crudo
- Wild King Salmon
- Veal Milanese
- Pan Seared Pork Loin
Did Not Like
- Sautéed Asparagus
- Salmon Tartare