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Bareburger Opens In Ridgefield CT w/ Organic, Grass-Fed Burgers

Connecticut's first Bareburger, the micro chain restaurant known for organic ingredients, grass-fed humanely-raised protein, and sustainable practices, opened this week in Ridgefield. CTbites tagged along on a Friends and Family earlier this week with fellow Ridgefielders and had the chance to meet its trio of partners, Bareburger’s chef, and taste a couple of their burgers (elk and wild boar, to be exact).   

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"My Signature Dish," Chef Jodi Bernhard of Fortina in Armonk

"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 stove. 

Jodi Bernhard hardly hesitated when choosing her signature dish at Fortina, Christian Petroni’s "casually hip" Italian restaurant in Armonk.  Her eyes gleaming, she said, "It's our Pork Braciole." Braciole, hip? 

If you grew up Italian, you probably hold memories of Braciole near and dear.  This classic rolled, stuffed meat roast, usually serves as centerpiece for those sprawling homemade Italian dinners that lazily linger across Sunday afternoons into evening.  Braciole invokes home.  And family.   Instant Nostalgia.

Ok, so how does a chef modernize a memory?  Autograph a treasured family photo? 

“That is the gist of our approach at Fortina,” Jodi explained. “ We try to not stray too far from ‘mom's’ version, but still make it a restaurant dish with our stamp on it.  We are true to simplicity and flavor.”

The notion of putting  “Mom’s dish” on Fortina’s playful, hip menu was Christian’s, one of the restaurant’s owners.  (Patroni and and Jodi once cooked together at Barcelona in nearby Greenwich.) Though she and Christian work as collaborators, the task of “restaurantizing” this homey meal was largely up to Bernhard.  

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ROUGE Brasserie & Oyster Bar Opens in Byram, Greenwich

CTbites recently attended a press dinner at ROUGE Brasserie & Oyster Bar, a brand new dining venture in the eclectic Byram section of Greenwich, owned by the cb5 restaurant group, which formerly owned Bleu on Greenwich Avenue. Chef Josh Moulton returns to cb5 in Greenwich after his role as Executive Chef at the Monkey Bar and Moda in NYC and West Restaurant in Los Angeles. The menu features hearty French bistro fare including classic steak tartare, sautéed foie gras, onion soup gratinee, skate meuniere, poulet en croute, and short rib Bourguignon.

The restaurant, which previously housed the sexy Lolita Cocina (also owned by cb5), was graciously redefined with huge ornate white mirrors, exposed brick walls, elaborate chandeliers, and a more subtle color palette. It's playful but elegant, and the perfect spot for a first date. 

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Friday Froth: Out Of The Black

I watched the International Space Station arc overhead last night at about half past five. Six crewmen from the U.S., Russia and Japan traced a fast arc overhead - a bright golden light from the hidden Sun, long since fallen below the horizon, reflected off their solar arrays and into my retinas, hundreds of miles below. I wondered if anyone was looking back, right at that moment. The station, five and half thousand days in Earth orbit at the time, faded away, long since over the north Atlantic, and I was left looking at stars like scattered grains of salt on a black sky. My throat burned from breathing the cold air. I headed inside, into light and warmth. 

Winter beers are a different breed. That's what they're meant to do - bring you in out of the cold, if only figuratively, and supply a bit of metaphorical light in this darkest of months. Cold isn't an object - it can't be added to something the way we add a layer of clothing or a memory. Cold is the lack of energy, of heat. It's like when we say we want to make a room darker, but that's impossible, too. What we're really doing is taking away the light.

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The Weekly Nibble: Upcoming Food News & Events

Thursday December 12 at 7:30, Ancona’s in Ridgefield will host a high end wine tasting.  Cost is $30/person. To RSVP please call (203)544-8958 or e-mail

On Friday December 13 from 7:30-10pm, try out a class at Muse Paintbar, a combination between a painting studio and beer & wine bar in downtown Manchester, CT.  10 beers & 12 wines will help bring out the artist in you… and you’ll go home with a painting.  $39pp. View more info here. 

Every other Friday, Half Full Brewery holds an “Open House.”  From 5:30-8:30pm, the taps are open and guests can try their hand at bags, life-size jenga, draw on the chalkboard wall, and hang out. $15pp. Details here.

Lidia Bastianich will be spending some time in Stamford on Saturday, 12/14 at Fairway Market.  From 1-3 pm you can meet her at the store and she’ll sign your copies of her brand new book, Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking:  150 Delicious and Simple Recipes Anyone Can Master.  While there, you’ll be able to try out and buy some of Lidia’s pastas and sauces, too, with demos and tastings.

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CTbites Speaks With Lidia Bastianich

Like Oprah or Madonna in pop culture, Lidia is one-name-famous to foodies,  a television star  (Lidia's Italy -- PBS), renowned restaurateur (Felidia, Eataly, Delposto, Becco), a worldwide brand  (Lidia's Sauces and Pasta), bestselling author (Lidia’s Commonsense Guide to Italian Cooking is her latest), mom, grandmother, whew,  one name so many roles. 

So CTBites was delighted that Lidia carved out time from her hectic schedule to chat with us prior to her book signing this Saturday at Stamford's Fairway Market (details below.)

Incidentally, Lidia is no stranger to Connecticut.  Her son Joe and his family live in Greenwich, she tapes her PBS show in Norwalk, and of course the Bastianich clan is associated with Tarry Lodge in both Westport and Port Chester. 

We began the conversation, wondering what Lidia the little girl would think if she could peer into a crystal ball and see the famous Lidia of today.   

“When I was nine years old we had fled from Communist Yugoslavia and my family was in a refugee camp,” she told us, “I think that little girl, her mouth would be open at what I’ve accomplished.”   Then Lidia thought about that youngster for a moment and resolutely stated, “But you know, I always had confidence I was going to amount to something   And food was so very important to me, because we didn’t have much.”

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CTbites Editor Picks: 2013 Holiday Gift Guide

Amy Kundrat, Executive Editor

A Day in the Litchfield Hills: Kent, Community Table & Arethusa Dairy Store

"I prefer an experience-as-gift over a gift-wrapped box any day of the week. One of my favorite local experiences is a day in the Litchfield Hills. It almost always begins with a stop for some book browsing and shopping in Kent, an early and always amazing dinner at Community Table (do save room for Tommy Juliano's desserts), and a late stop at Arethusa Dairy Store to load up on milk, cheese and ice cream."

Reservations at Hours and information at

Glengoyne Scotch

“I love collecting single malt Scotch of all styles. But my go-to dram is a 12 or 15 year-old bottle of Glengoyne. It’s unpretentious, unpeated, well-rounded, and nicely priced. A Highland Scotch, Glengoyne still use wooden “washbacks” for fermentation, air dries their barley (they'd would never dream of using peat smoke), and distills their whisky more slowly than any other Scottish distillery.

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Wine Pick: Michael Keenan of Keenery Winery Talks Shop

Michael Keenan spent about half of our time together describing his wines.  He spent the other half apologizing for his colorful language.

“Once in San Diego I participated in an elegant dinner- 10 wines with 10 courses.  I found out later there was a secret contest to see how many times I would drop the f bomb during it,” he admitted with a look of mischief in his eye.

When our giggles subsided, someone asked, “So how many times were there?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “At least 18.”

If a stereotypical winemaker is arty and even a touch pretentious, Keenan proved anything but.  His spirited attitude and knack for lively storytelling won me over immediately.  The story of his wines begins when his father, Robert Keenan, purchased 180 acres of abandoned land in 1974.  The property on Spring Mountain in Napa used to be a well-established vineyard called the Conradi Winery.  Unfortunately, it fell into disrepair during prohibition.  Robert saw hope in it though and hired a contractor to begin the ambitious task of breathing new life into the land.

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Hot Buttered Rum Cocktail Recipe via Saugatuck Grain & Grape

When the leaves on the trees in New England start to fall, my cravings for cocktails change a bit. I tend to lean towards drinks that will warm me up next to the fire. The aromatics of cinnamon and clove just seem to pair so well with the scents that come from the fireplace. To me, a Hot Buttered Rum cocktail is the essence of New England in Winter. 

This is an easy drink to prepare. You build it in a coffee mug. There isn't any stirring or shaking or muddling. You don't have to be an expert mixologist to make a perfect Hot Buttered Rum. You just need a dark, aged rum. Here, I use my favorite, Ron Zacapa 23 year old. You can certainly use other brands, as Ron Zacapa can reach premium prices. Some less expensive options that work well in this drink would include El Dorado 12 year or 15 year, Angostura 5 year or 7 year, Diplomatico Anejo Rum or Blackwell Jamaican Rum. 

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Meet Lidia Bastianich @ Fairway Market Stamford December 14th

Come to Fairway Stamford on December 14th from 1-3PM to meet Lidia Bastianich and get a signed copy of her latest book, Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking

Bastianich is the author of eight cookbooks, the host of Lidia’s Kitchen on PBS and owner of Felidia, Del Posto, Becco, and Eataly. Shoppers will also have the opportunity to sample some of the LIDIA’S line of pasta and sauces.

In her beautifully illustrated new cookbook, Lidia Bastianich lays out a comprehensive curriculum of wise cooking tips--from the cutting board to the kitchen table. Channeling the instructive elements from her TV show, she teaches us that a good dose of common sense is the key ingredient to a stellar meal. As storyteller and chef, she draws on anecdotes to educate and illustrate. Recalling lessons learned from her mother, Erminia, and her grandmother Nonna Rosa, Lidia pays homage to the kitchen sages who inspired her.

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