Remember Me? It’s your local reviewer who tends to get distracted by shiny things….
The historic corner waterfront property in the quaint village of Sandy Hook along the Pootatuck River has seen numerous habitants, but we think the current reign causing a stir at the Foundry Kitchen and Tavern are here to stay. Chef Clark Neugold and his magical crew are bringing lots o’ tasty vibes to hungry diners and we are eternally grateful.
But, back to shiny things.
An old foundry is quite likely the best place to spy upon all things shiny and the crew at the Foundry thought so too. The decor is what I like to call “dressed up rustic” with sturdy wood tables and chairs, exposed brick, and plenty of historic metal pieces from the original building circa 1857. Not to mention the metal plated ceiling that glistens when hit by candlelight. I daresay, this is what defined my first (and second, and third) “moment” at the Foundry.
Some people are afraid of change. Not Chef Neugold. Much of his career has been about creating, inventing, and trying new places and flavors. From Connecticut to Hawaii to Charleston, then back again, his very raison d’etre is to experiment, try new things, but commit to quality and great presentation. And, he hopes to do so in a welcoming environment with diners eager to know what’s new instead of expecting the same ol’ menu week after week. With that in mind, eaters at the Foundry will pick up exciting Pacific Asian notes he learned from his time working with chef of television fame Lee Anne Wong (Top Chef, Iron Chef, and Unique Eats) at her restaurant Koko Head Cafe in Hawaii; or, close their eyes in pleasure when tasting Southern fare inspired by Neugold’s time with world renown BBQ Master Rodney Scott.
To round of the experience of the Foundry, hungry locals will also notice some specifically
New England items like clams and Rhode Island calamari. Chef Neugold’s menu will keep you guessing, but there will always be a bevy of options for every palette.
For example, they are by no means an Italian restaurant, but, with the talented Italian Chef de Cuisine Andrea Onetti, the Foundry is creating pasta in house everyday. Onetti even had his machinery sent in from afar in order to keep the quality of the pasta to his liking. One of the first things my feller (uh...an Italian who cooks) and I tried was his incredibly light, pillowy gnocchi. I was astounded since gnocchi can so often hit the tooth as dense and heavy.
Tater Tots, and Tater Tot Poutine no less, seem to be landing on many menus of late, and….
I approve. If it is done well, that is. This one hit all the buttons you want a poutine to hit: carby, salty, ooey gooey. Even the deep gravy bathed each tot, leaving no one sitting alone or naked. To add a “healthier” balance to our carbo bites, we tried the popular cruciferous plate of late, the Garlic Parmesan Brussel Sprouts. With plenty of yummy crispy bits from the shallots, and savory tang from the sprouts themselves, eaters may happily sing once the bacon onion jam that also caresses the sprouts hit your tongue. No B.S. with the Foundry’s Brussel Sprouts.
Enter: the short rib dumplings. You may first be joyfully struck by the mini wooden slab they are presented on. But they delivered on both presentation and flavor. There are just a few so you must savor, savor, savor. My favorite moment with these little dears was the fact that they were crunchy and tasty. So often dumplings have a chincy sear on their front and backside, but these were cooked to crispy all over perfection. Then you get a kapow of the three Asian Superstars: Sesame, Soy, and Scallion. I would run back just for those with a cocktail: either the Rosemary’s Bees Knees or Batcher’s Sour. The combination is Fresh, Sweet, and Tangy. By the way, the cocktail list is quite mighty with over a dozen seasonal combinations, making good use of local breweries, distilleries, and vineyards. They even have several creative Mocktails and carry Cross Culture Kombucha (see CTbites October 9, 2018) from CT’s only Kombucha taproom.
Now, I’m not always a big sandwich fan since the yummy goodness inside often gets lost within the smothering folds of un-interesting bread. HOWEVER, the short-rib sando had sooooo much going on. The bread here actually served as a mellow balance to the party inside: the smoke from the meat, the sharp bite of the cheese, the sweet from the caramelized onions. It was a full, hearty treat.
Time to Get Serious.
I dare say, I was a hot farro virgin. I had only had it before in a cold salad, where it usually fell flat. But the Foundry’s was warm, abundantly flavorful and abutted our buttery cod entree perfectly. Combined with black sesame seeds, scallion, radish and bok choy, I was surprised that the dish was both bountiful and light.
Before rolling out of the Foundry in delight, not that uncomfortable full sensation, we dipped into dessert. The one that hit the mark was the creme brulee. It was a generous portion, displayed on a rustic wooden slab, and had the crackle that is must for a good and proper brulee.
Chef Clark Neugold, his wife and co-owner Kate, Chef de Cuisine Andrea Onetti, and the talented Vito Romano, formerly of Terrain in Westport, who serves as General Manager, have joined forces with a top-notch staff to carve out a special hotspot in Sandy Hook.
In addition to offering the community a great place to eat with your hunny, kids, or friends, the Warner Loft above the main dining room is open for parties and is simply GORGEOUS. It upholds many of the building’s charming features, including the original bar from the 1850s. Keep your eyes peeled for regular music and a rotating Chef Series, classes and intimate dinners with local chefs. For example, on Mondays evenings at 6:15 in the Loft, they are hosting a one hour Yoga Class & Cocktails series; $15 includes class with various local instructors and one drink (beer, wine, or Cross Culture Kombucha; and, something I’m thrilled to hear about, especially as a dark booze novice, they are hosting a monthly four-course Whiskey series with a connoisseurs on hand to walk attendees through details about each spirit. Check their site for dates and details.
And finally, for a memorable laugh, give a nod to the FKT acronym on the staff’s shirts. They say it was an innocent design move. Either way, you gotta love it, and them
Foundry Kitchen and Tavern
1 Glen Road Sandy Hook, CT