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Ultimate CT Foodie Gift Guide 2013

This year, Thanksgiving is coming late, Hanukkah is arriving early and the Christmas holiday almost seems shortened before it has even begun. Have no fear, though, your holiday shopping will not bear the brunt of this crazy calendar...not with some of our suggestions. From unique food products, photographs, jewels and books, there is just about something for all the folks on what seems to be your never-ending list. How could so many people have been so good this year? Buy them some of these goodies and they’ll know...oh, they’ll know....

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Little Pub's "The Order of Ancient & Auld Ales" Beer Events

The order of ancient and auld ales is called to order. By and large it’s been found that aging hi octane beers made them better because after a few years the alcohol mellows out and the nuances and flavors really begin to shine through. (sorry to get all wine enthusiast on you, just channeling our inner Robert Parker here.)

Armed with that knowledge, Little Pub in Ridgefield started stockpiling high octane beers whenever we could get our hands on them. “Dogfish 120? Sure send us 6 logs”, “Sierra Bigfoot? Sure send over 4 of those”, and we kept stashing and stashing like mad squirrels until we ran out of space.

Now that they're out of room it’s time to start pouring some of these beasties turned beauties.

Little Pub is going to launch a different aged beer every monday* night through the rest of the 2013 and into 2014 as well (like we said, we stashed  a lot of stuff away).  *fine print: except for Monday Dec 2 which will be moved to Tuesday Dec 3.

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Baró & Mecha Noodle Bar Cocktail Throwdown Contest for PopShop

Are you great at making cocktails or have just perfected drinking them? We want your help!

Baró and Mecha Noodle Bar are going head-to-head in a mix-off to create the official cocktail of PopShop Holiday Market's BarCar. We need your expertise in deciding which cocktail has the best bite (or kiss) and should headline PopShop's signature BarCar at the PopShop Holiday Market on December 15th

The rules are easy: From November 27th through December 10th pop into Baró and Mecha to get a taste of the competition—literally. "Buy one, get one half off."

1 Sip down the cocktail contenders

2 Snap a photo of the winning cocktail and tag them either: #barowinner or #mechawinner and tag them to PopShop Markets Facebook page or CT Bites

3 The cocktail hashtag with the most photo uploads wins!   

Baro and Mecha will be handing out cocktail competition cards. If you decide to try the cocktail your card will be stamped. Bring the stamped card to the other spot and receive the competitor’s drink half off!

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Mecha Noodle Bar Brings Asian Noodles & Street Food to Fairfield

Post opening tweaks are commonplace during the first few months after a restaurant's opening. With Mecha’s minor changes completed, it now firmly fills the belly rumbling void of Southeast Asian Noodles and street food, popularizing Ramen, Pho and South East Asian comfort food.

Owner Tony Pham, who also owns Pho Vietnam in Danbury, saw an opportunity in Fairfield, to capture the hearts and hungry stomachs of the Fairfield U student bodies by opening a Ramen noodle bar. This small, but cozy, space is an architecturally clean, eye pleasing mix of Modern Asian décor...with a long community table in the center and block style tables around its perimeter. There is some additional seating circling the "bar" with colorful Asian ceramic stools adding some pop and a touch of elegance to this casual space. Pham is committed to keeping his two restaurants a "family affair," and you may be seated, served, or cooked for, by one of his family members! 

When I first visited with Tony in September, Ramen noodles were the main attraction on his menu. Several months later, Mecha’s menu is now representative of Japan’s different regional nuances with the current soup bases including Shoyu, Miso and Chicken.

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3 Fave Thanksgiving Side Dishes via Food Design’s Michael William Batt

Ready to talk Thanksgiving Menus? Food Design's Chef Michael Batt has a few ideas for you:

Michael Batt was recently named a winner on Food Network's "Chopped" program, but is his day job he provides great catering for clients including Ron Howard and Kathy Hilton and caters charitable events of all sizes for The American Red Cross, Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, and more. He has a few favorite Thanksgiving side dishes that have proved tried and true, and Chef Batt  has offered to share his recipe with us. Check out these great recipes for: Sweet Potato puree with Maple Syrup, Vanilla bean, Cinnamon & Orange; Brussels’ Sprouts with Roasted Garlic, & Roasted Baby Carrots & Parsnips with brown Sugar & Sage.

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Fairway Market's Fabulous Potato Latkes Recipe

You don't have to be Jewish to love latkes.  And it doesn't have to be Hanukkah to set aside your fear of frying and indulge in a steaming stack of crisp and creamy sautéed  potato patties slathered in sour cream, applesauce (or even served a la mode).   Indeed, the cold weather holidays offer the ideal excuse to serve warm, welcoming, and festive Latkes.

Fairway Market has brought us a recipe for latkes that is perfect for holiday cooking, secular or sacred, starting with Thanksgiving.  Not only are these yummy pancakes a seasonal treat, but they work wonderfully as a do-ahead.  After frying,  keep the latkes warm in a low oven for up to two hours.  You can also make a day ahead, refrigerate and then re-heat on a cookie sheet for five minutes in a medium oven.

Why are these latkes different than all others?  Rebecca Martin of Fairway, who created the recipe, says there is no secret, but the following steps make the prep virtually foolproof.

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The Weekly Nibble: Upcoming Food News & Events

Mama’s Boy Southern Table & Refuge in Sono hosts a blues brunch on Sundays from 1-4pm.  On November 24 and December 1 you can enjoy the Walter & David Blues Duo. More information here.

On Monday November 25, Barcelona in West Hartford will offer a Thanksgiving Prep cooking class.  Guests can learn to make chorizo stuffing, red chimchurri for the turkey, and more. The class starts at 7pm and costs $35pp, plus tax and gratuity. 

The Spread in Sono will have a pre-Thanksgiving Party on Wednesday November 27. Get the details here. 

Tuesday, November 26 Fairway Market will partner with Fox Radio to hold a food drive to benefit the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County. 8am-7pm. 

On November 30, Breckenridge Beer Company is partnering with the Craft Beer Guild of CT for a wine and cheese class.  The class is $20/person, limited to 12 people due to size.  Class begins at 4PM at Grand Vin Fine Wines of New Haven 28 E. Grand Ave.  More information here.

Red Stone Pub in Simsbury, CT will host a Beer Festival on November 30th from 1-9pm.  There will be live music and a wide selection of craft beers. 

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Guide to Catering Thanksgiving in Fairfield County

Thanksgiving is the most anticipated and sometimes the most daunting meal of the year. But, in the end, it is all about food, friends and family. Depending on the number of guests in your party, there are several options for celebrating the holiday that don't involve slaving away in the kitchen for days.  Here are a few resources for those who would prefer to get a little assistance. (Readers: If you know of other Thanksgiving catering resources, please add them.)

Rosie in New Canaan can handle all your Thanksgiving needs. A full menu of classic sides such as Rosie’s homemade herb gravy, haricots verts with shitakes, & celery root apple fennel soup. Call (203) 966-8998. 

Le Farm/ The Whelk will be closed on Thanksgiving, but will be offering LeFarm's Whipped Chicken Livers with bacon marmalade and/or The Whelk's Smoked Trout Dip to serve your family and friends for the holidays! Call to order: (203) 557-3701

Aux Delices in Greenwich and Westport can prepare your entire Thanksgiving meal. They will be open from 8:00 am - 6:30 pm Wed., November 27th and offer everything from turkeys in varying sizes, soups, sides and dessert. View the full Thanksgiving menu here. 

Sugar & Olives: Everything but the turkey...but everything is REALLY tasty. Fig and Apple Stuffing Muffins, Pecan and Bourbon Turkey Glaze, Brussels Sprouts w/ Pomegranate Molasses + Duck Bacon. Call for more information: (203) 454-3663

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My Signature Dish: Chef Scott Ostrander from Mama's Boy in SoNo

"My Signature Dish" is a new CTbites column featuring a rotating cast of chefs, and the dishes that define their cooking style, or simply make them happy to fire up the oven. 

We looked forward to learning about what Scott Ostrander had chosen as his signature dish at Mama’s Boy in SoNo, a Connecticut restaurant featuring Southern cooking and cuisine. But he was reluctant to tell us much about it.  “We’re dealing with some major issues,” he confided.  “Trying to dodge disaster.”

Issues. Disasters.  Great.  The stuff of a good story.   We urged him on.  But Chef Ostrander demurred. “I just can’t get into it right now,”  he apologized. 

The next time we met, the chef was all smiles.  Problems solved.   Scott shared the back story, one that reveals how a gifted chef deals with and solves both business and culinary challenges.

His new signature dish at Mama’s Boy is Crisp Pork Shank, an osso bucca-like braised pork shank with a dramatic Southern twist. Traditionally, slowly simmered meat is tender, juicy, and deeply flavored.   But its soft texture is monochromatic.   For his shank, Scott wanted contrapuntal textures.  Soft.   And Crunchy.

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4B Festival: Beer, Bourbon, BBQ, & Bacon Converge in New Haven

The 4B Festival announced the area’s first of its kind festival of specially curated beer, bourbon, barbecue and bacon is coming to New England. Happy Holidays to me!

4B concepted this indulgent experience in honor of two cornerstones of American heritage – fermented grains and salted meats – and to help drive local businesses and tourism. A portion of proceeds from ticket sales and sponsorships will go to the CT Craft Brewers Guild to help support local businesses.

From microbrews to pork belly, the 4B Festival will bring together national and local purveyors all in one place to offer the most delicious and creative samplings to “4B” aficionados, all highlighted with musical performances, interactive art displays and live competitions among home brewers, BBQ taste tests and a bacon eating contest for the real meat eaters. From food samplings from pit masters, chefs and restaurants to bacon-infused treats to tastings at beer and bourbon stations with a souvenir shot glass.

“After family there are very few important things in life, and we’ve narrowed them down to these four - Beer, Bourbon, Barbecue & Bacon,” said David Salinas

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