An Evening At NewBrook Kitchen: Embracing Healthy Eating With Fine Cuisine

Jessica Ryan
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Gracing the Westport restaurant scene NewBrook Kitchen embraces health and well-being with fine cuisine. The brainchild of Chefs Cindy and Danielle Hartog, a dynamic mother and daughter team, the casual café-style eatery was brought to life after the two were diagnosed with separate autoimmune diseases and turned to nutrition to control their symptoms. They found dining out to be a struggle; it was challenging to find restaurants, cafés, and markets able to accommodate their new lifestyle.

I was invited to attend one of their popular Tasting Dinners, and always a fan of healthy dining I was eager to see what NewBrook Kitchen was all about. There’s nothing pretentious or over the top here. This modest, casual eatery is also BYOB, allowing guests to enjoy their favorite wines with a great meal at reasonable prices.

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Seated at separate tables with our own parties, we started our gastronomic as two bite-sized Pulled Pork Stuffed pastries were served to us on a wooden tray. Roughly the size of a small ice cream scoop, these petite pastries with empanada-like crusts were filled with tender bits of shredded pork and topped with a sauce that was more savory than sweet. I imagine that these would be delightful passed around at a cocktail party, perfectly bite-sized – reminiscent of comfort food with an unexpected twist.  

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The Super Green Soup was our next course, prepared with zucchini, Brussels sprouts, yellow carrots, avocado, kale, and topped off with pine nuts. The avocado gave the soup its rich, creamy texture. I’ve come to learn that although avocado has a very distinct flavor on its own, it’s actually quite mild and lends itself well to so many recipes and ingredients. The kale and the Brussels sprout flavors stood out most, and I suppose if someone didn’t care for either they might not have favored the soup. (I happen to be a fan and welcome the Brussels sprout in a new form - the roasted Brussels sprouts phase has been greatly overplayed these past few years.) The pine nuts added a welcome touch of texture, their mild, creamy flavor a pleasant contrast to the pungency of the soup.

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A bite-sized Nut and Seed Bruschetta topped with house made cashew mozzarella and stewed butternut squash and apples was served up next. The bruschetta resembled a dense multi-grain loaf with a nutty flavor, and the mozzarella, despite lack of dairy was surprisingly creamy, balanced off the suppleness of the fruit which juxtaposed the density of the bread.

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Next to arrive, and quite possibly my favorite so far, was a Purple Sweet Potato Pancake topped with scallion creme, smoked salmon, and a fried quail egg. The colors were spectacular – from the base to the top on which sat a delicately fried miniature egg so exquisitely cooked that when I poked at it ever so gently, the bright yellow yolk burst forth as only a perfectly cooked egg will do. The slight sweetness of the potato offered a delicate balance to the saltiness of the salmon. A luxurious little dish with the pleasure brought on by comfort food.

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I wasn’t sure how one would top such an impactful little dish, but they did. Beautifully plated and presented to us was the Duck Leg Confit served with Pommes Frites, Brussels and a Cranberry emulsion. An impeccably prepared leg of duck with its skin crisp and meat tender to the bone and meat so thoroughly cooked that this resembled nothing of the often greasy, fatty meat many are accustomed to. So well seasoned it was that the rich flavors permeated each and every forkful, I kept at it until the bones were practically clean. A few roasted French fries and miniature charred Brussels sprouts accompanied the meat, but it was the duck leg which truly stole the show.

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At this point I was starting to get a little bit full, but I seem to have this extraordinary ability to make room for dessert and when I learned that we would be enjoying an Orange and Chocolate Tart with pistachio ice cream, caramelized orange, and walnut orange crumble, it was almost as though I had hit the jackpot, for orange and chocolate is one of my all-time favorite flavor combinations. This decadent tart satisfied on so many levels. The nutty, sandy crust paired wonderfully with the silky, chocolate-orange filling. I dipped my spoon in, each time trying to identify the ingredients and when I couldn’t quite make them out they were revealed to me. The creaminess was created by nothing more than an avocado (masquerading itself yet again) that was blended with Dutch Cocoa, Maple Syrup and orange juice. How was it that ingredients so simple could create something as rich and complex as this? The pistachio ice cream owed its creaminess to the coconut milk. And here we had it, a gluten and dairy-free masterpiece. They certainly had me fooled!

When the meal was over I got up and walked around. As I wandered over to the window separating the kitchen from the dining area I could not help but notice that no one was in the kitchen with Danielle. She single-handedly created every item, every precisely poached miniature egg, every perfectly cooked duck-leg. She had no help – no sous-chef, nothing. I don’t know how many of us there were, but I do know that every chair at every table in both rooms were filled. This is some feat!

The entire meal was gluten, dairy and soy-free. Indeed, our entire meal was Paleo.  With thanks to NewBrook Kitchen + Market those with gluten, dairy and soy restrictions now have a place where they can dine safely, and without worry.  Ah, but please don’t let this news deter the rest of you. I assure you, as one who enjoys her occasional dairy and gluten, I didn’t miss it a bit.  

NewBrook Kitchen uses only the finest ingredients that are free from gluten, milk, and soy. Cindy and Danielle invite you to stop in for one of their amazing salads, a fresh baked cookie, nitro brew coffee, and a slew of other treats. Pick up a delicious prepared dinner pack, join them for a private farm to table dinner or the candle-lit six course dinner such as the one I attended.