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Valentine's Gift Guide

Oh, for the love of....10 Unique CT Valentine's Gifts for your loved one. 

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Friday
Feb052016

Happy Hour at Basso Café in Norwalk

Basso Café exudes an easy intimacy that comes with a chef-owned restaurant whose reassuring presence is felt both in and out of the kitchen. Chef Renato Donzelli has built a loyal following of customers at his Norwalk restaurant who come for both his creative Italian-meets-South American dishes, as well as his charming hospitality and boundless energy. And now, they are coming for a newly added bar menu and cocktail list.

During a recent renovation, Basso Café invested in a new bar area with seating for about twelve, and a special menu of cocktails and snacks, thanks to a hard-won liquor license after eight years in business. Although you can still BYOB, Chef Donzelli has crafted a happy hour menu that can be enjoyed Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 6 pm, as well as a mini happy hour from 11 to 12 noon each day for lunch.

A self-described “hot blooded Italian” who grew up in Venezuela, Donzelli focuses his creative energy on a menu that blurs the lines between dishes from those two countries, creating his own unique cuisine. “I start from the back,” is how Chef Donzelli explains his approach to his menu. The new cocktail and wine list are meant to compliment the food, and long-time diners will be rewarded with a solid selection of shaken and stirred, classic and contemporary cocktails, as well as wine and beer.

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Thursday
Feb042016

The Spread's Chef Carlos Competes on Beat Bobby Flay Feb 11th

Chef Carlos Baez is a local favorite.  He has impressed diners with delicious dishes at The Spread in South Norwalk since 2013.  Now, he’s taking his talents to an even grander stage: Food Network!  He will compete in an episode of Beat Bobby Flay that airs Thursday February 11 at 10pm.

Baez has never met Bobby Flay before, but considers himself a fan of the popular cooking channel.

“I’ve been a big Food Network fan, so I definitely saw the show before,” he reveals.  “When I watched, I put myself in the other chef’s shoes and thought about what I would do.”

It was a conversation with a regular customer from The Spread that turned Baez from spectator into competitor.  She had heard about the casting call for the upcoming season and sent Baez a link.  Within 2 days of submitting his name, Food Network responded.  They expressed interest and asked for additional information, including a bio and application.  Baez says 3-4 months passed before he heard back again.  They had positive news: they wanted him on the show!

The episode was filmed in June of 2015, about 6 months ago. 

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Thursday
Feb042016

Nibble: CT Food Events & Happenings for February 8-14

Match Restaurant is hosting a “Day After Brunch” on the Monday after the Super Bowl.  The special menu will include ingredients from Fleishers Craft Butchery and cocktails sponsored by William Grant & Sons, including Reyka Vodka & Hendricks Gin.  Doors open at 11:30, with the menu running until 3:00.  Please call for reservations ASAP as tables are filling fast.

On Fat Tuesday, February 9, there are 2 parties to check out: The Spread’s celebrates Mardi Gras with dishes like gumbo stuffed jalapenos, seafood jambalaya, and catfish po boy sandwiches. Walrus + Carpenter will be serving up live jazz, Shrimp Po' Boys, Muffuleta, & beignets. 

More exciting news for The Spread… Chef Carlos will make his Food Network debut on Thursday February 11!  He and Bobby Flay will go head to head on “Beat Bobby Flay!”  Tune in at 10pm.

Champagne and oysters?  Yes, please!  Shell & Bones Oyster Bar & Grill is having a special 5-course tasting menu inspired by Roederer Champagnes on February 9.  Chef Arturo Franco Camacho will prepare dishes, like a crispy soft duck egg and porcini dusted dayboat scallops, that complement the champagnes.  It is $135 per person, plus tax and gratuity.  For the menu and reservations, see:

During February, elm in New Canaan will be donating 100% of their Cosmo cocktail sales to “Help Ann Depuy battle ALS” on GoFundMe.

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Thursday
Feb042016

Impress Your Valentine: Baked Oysters Florentine Recipe via Marcia Selden

There’s a reason oysters are a permanent fixture on Valentine’s Day menus! They’re one of the most famous aphrodisiacs and have a reputation for love and fertility. If you’re looking to spark some romance this year, make our delicious and easy Baked Oysters Florentine. 

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Wednesday
Feb032016

Behind The Bar: 3 Winter Cocktails from Mixologist Adam Patrick 

Egg Nog (Jeffrey Morgenthaler version)

Behind The Bar is a new column from bartender Adam Patrick who has graced the bars of venues such as Walrus & Carpenter, Luxe, Match and Can Tiin. He will explore trends, recipes and the cocktail culture from both the front as well as behind the bar. 

One of my favorite movie quotes of all time is, “I won’t tell the story the way it happened, I’ll tell it the way I remember it.” It’s from the late-nineties film adaptation of Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. Ethan Hawke delivers the line in the opening monologue.

There’s something about nostalgia that adds a touch of humanity to our lives. The real world, the world we exist in day to day, can be overwhelming and unforgiving. Take your job, your family obligations, traffic jams, mortgage, credit card bills, your dog destroying your new carpet, and view it all in aggregate, and things can steam roll out of control quickly. And yet, when we look at the past, we find it difficult to remember the mundane, the run-of-the-mill, even though those experiences dominate our lives. Sure, we can generally recall tragedy, or loss, but more than not it’s memories of our childhood, or a long lost love, or a favorite pet, that we gaze back at longingly.

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Tuesday
Feb022016

For The Love Of...10 Unique CT Valentine's Day Gift & Events

Oh, for the love of....! How do you typically finish that sentence? We here at CTBites have a lot of love to share and would like to complete that thought with a whole flurry of creative ways to wooooo your special someone. Show the person you love (like/lust) that they are the peanut butter to your jelly, the mac to your cheese, the frosting to your cupcake. We offer you these delish restaurants and take out spots, seductive surroundings, heavenly drinks, gratifying classes, tasteful gifts...hell, we are making this holiday easy for you. You should send US a Valentine! Take a peek and enjoy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Here are 10 totally unique local CT Valentine's Day Gifts for your loved one...

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Sunday
Jan312016

King & I Thai Kitchen in Hartford and Manchester: A Family Affair 

Blink and you can easily miss the little white house as you drive down Park Street in Hartford’s Parkville section. So keep an eye out, because it’s home to a fine family business specializing in Thai and Lao dishes—generous portions, reasonably priced. And if you head east of the river, you’ll find the exact same menu and great food in Manchester.

There are many choices closer to home when it comes to Thai, but when the craving hits, I make tracks for King & I. It’s changed management over time, but the food remains just as delicious as it ever was. In fact, it’s amazingly consistent. How is that even possible?

The secret to their success starts in a tiny kitchen with their cook. Behind the scenes, the same woman has been busy stirring up deliciousness for the past 10 years. When the previous owner sold the restaurant four and a half years ago, Hongkham Munesaleum was already part of the kitchen. But now, with her husband, Lam, washing dishes, and his daughter Lilly, serving the front of the house (literally!), it’s all in the family.

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Friday
Jan292016

Prime Restaurant from Huntington, To Open in Dolce's Stamford Location

Last week, CTBites reported that Dolce in Stamford had been sold to Bohlsen Restaurant Group, the team behind Prime in Huntington, NY Today CTBites can confirm that the space that once housed Dolce will soon be transformed into another location of the popular Long Island restaurant.  I had the chance to speak with Michael Bohlsen for an inside peek at what’s to come.

Prime, billed as an “American Kitchen and Bar,” opened in 2006.  The restaurant group operates seven other related locations, with an eighth set to debut in February.  Stamford’s rendition of Prime will make nine.  Bohlsen hopes that this newest installation will be open before Memorial Day.

“The Stamford location of Prime will be a little bit different, but the concept will be the same,” explains Bohlsen.  He says that the restaurant’s menu includes steak, seafood, a raw bar, and sushi.  20 percent of the menu is seasonal, which allows them to maintain a level of consistency while still getting creative with fresh ingredients.

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Friday
Jan292016

Friday Froth: Tres Hoppy w/ Olde Burnside, Kent Falls & Two Roads Breweries

This week will be an all Connecticut-brewed, and intensely hopped version of Friday Froth. We start by wishing happy birthday to one of our state's early modern craft brewing pioneers, Olde Burnside Brewing Company, which turned 15 years old this month. Olde Burnside was initially highly visible due to selling their Ten Penny Scottish Ale in 64oz. growlers at retail in area liquor stores, which was 1) a great deal, 2) useful for refilling with anything you chose, and 3) garnered a $1.50 reimbursement when returned, if you weren't so inclined. This came in handy during the years when Connecticut had around five breweries, instead of our current 30ish, and growler filling stations were rare as sober nights at Owl Farm

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Thursday
Jan282016

Michael Hazen Named Executive Chef at Pearl at Longshore Westport Opening March

Michael Hazen has been named Executive Chef at the highly anticipated new restaurant, Pearl at Longshore in Westport, Connecticut. Hazen, an innovative chef with over 20 years experience, most recently launched the concept for the successful Bartaco restaurants and prior to that spent years building the Barcelona restaurant brand. Chef Hazen has designed a menu influenced by fresh seasonal and sustainable cuisine, while honoring the stunning Westport waterfront and the community’s focus on a healthy lifestyle.
 
“The menu at Pearl is centered around the food people love to eat, but also has that element of surprise, something a guest didn’t know they wanted but are glad they had it,” said Hazen. “I wanted to create a restaurant that was simple and delicious, yet adds excitement to Westport’s restaurant scene.” 

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