Spring has finally sprung!
Chefs are introducing their new spring menus and restaurants are returning tables to their patios for guests looking to enjoy ‘al fresco’ dining. On a semi-crisp April evening I ventured to Locali in New Canaan to sample Chef Mogan Anthony’s newest additions to the spring menu, plus his version of the quintessential CT pizza - the clam apizza.
There were several delicious additions to his small plates.
The Granola Crusted Goat Cheese Fritters were delightful. Chef Mogan coated orbs of “Hudson Valley” goat cheese with granola and then deep-fried them. The cheese balls were then nestled in roasted strawberry marmalade and sprinkled with garden herbs. The exterior of the balls was crispy and was complemented by the softness of the mildly-melted interior. The marmalade was pleasantly sweet and the combination was excellent. A new modification to the Bruschetta di Bufala included house-made pine nut oil relish, market vegetables (in this version sweet peas) and Saba. The Burrata was wonderfully creamy and paired nicely with the sweetness of the Saba. The pine nut oil added just a touch of pungency and the peas were almost mid-season sweet.
I also enjoyed the Asparagus Plancha. The peeled asparagus stalks were perfectly grilled to maintain a sift bite, and sat atop a whipped mustard, a dollop of honey pine nut praline and were accompanied by a few orange segments. Toasted grains were sprinkled atop the asparagus. The mustard and citrus were a great spicy-sweet combination with a pop of citrus. The pine nut praline contributed a shot of sweetness. The crunchiness of toasted grains took a little time to get used to…the crunch added a bit of earthiness to the dish. It is unusual for me to order a salad in a restaurant. The Organic Mother’s Grain Salad is an exception. A swath of cultured yogurt is joined by a combination of farro, quinoa, buckwheat, chopped hazelnuts and almonds, raisins, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and sliced red onion, all topped with a mound of alfalfa sprouts. There were enormous flavors and textures in this healthy salad and the yogurt tied it all together. The two ingredients that stood out were the nuts and the raisins that both gave the dish a wonderful nuttiness and sweetness.
The Just Dug Crispy Potatoes are a long-time favorite of mine. Since it now includes an herb pesto, smoked tuna flakes, aioli and Parmesan cheese, look for a name change shortly. The crispy fingerling potatoes were creamy and the smoked tuna flakes was reminiscent of crispy pancetta, a perfect combination. The aioli added additional richness and a little pungency. This continues to be one of my favorite appetizers at Locali.
It’s spring and my pizza focus is moving from wintery pepperonis and sausages to the cleaner tasting toppings. What better way to start this venture than with a Clam Pizza “Brooklyn Style”? Locali’s dough is one of the best around; add a good measure of Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced garlic and top with fresh clams (still in their shells) a few lemon wedges and a sprinkling of Pecorino. Remove the clams from their shells, squirt a little lemon juice and take a slice. The liquor from the clams remain on the pie and a knife and fork are almost required…the effort is worth it. And do not forget to dip the edges in the clam broth. The combination of the sweet and briny clams, the mozzarella, dough and garlic make for a perfect, spectacular slice.
Locali’s new additions to the menu are wonderful. From the crisp asparagus to the healthy multi-grains salad, a beautiful evening eating fresh, delicious food is a great way to start the summer.
32 Forest St - New Canaan, CT 06840 - (203) 920-1440