Ed Freedman, Fairfield County’s passionate organic coffee roaster, and owner of the successful Shearwater Coffee Bar in the Brick Walk area of Fairfield, has announced the opening of a new location in Westport, on The Post Road. Named One of the 15 Best New Coffee Roasters in America by the popular digital lifestyle magazine Thrillist.com, and bestowed a 92 rating from CoffeeReview.com for their Organic Homacho Waeno Ethiopian roast, Shearwater introduced its small batch coffee roasts to Fairfield County in September of 2013 and was soon touted by java junkies, major gourmet food markets, and reputable area chefs as one of the leading coffee brands in the state.
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Tony Capasso has developed quite the reputation earning himself quite the following. After spending nearly 20 years at Valbella! and Gabriele’s Italian Steakhouse, the veteran Maître d’ now has a steak place of his own at the JHouse, a boutique hotel in Greenwich. Tony is warm, affable and charming. He has a special way with his customers as he circles around to each table offering quick yet challenging trivia questions for all to answer. His eyes twinkle. His smile is infectious.
I wouldn’t have expected the steady stream of customers this past Wednesday afternoon at Milkcraft, all lining up for nitrogen infused ice cream despite the chilly temps outside. And yet, after tasting my P B & J Roasted Banana in the signature Bubblecone, I understand the customers’ urgency. Who needs hot chocolate when one can delight in these fresh, chef driven flavors honoring the winter season? The Bourbon Breakfast and Smokin’ Choco de Leche and will hold me over until the summer just fine.
Rejoice, New Haven residents. You can now enjoy Milkcraft in New Haven! The New Haven location (280 Crown Street) is the largest of the locations to date, at 1500 square feet.
Cafe Silvium has been open nearly 18 years. I first heard about it six months ago. Yeah, stuff like that happens. I couldn’t possibly know about every single restaurant in this part of Connecticut, could I?
What bugged me about Cafe Silvium is the number of random people who dropped it in casual conversation. And there was no collusion here. Every mention of it came from different aspects of my life or from loosely connected friends. The first whispers of Cafe Silvium came from a Bumble match. No, we didn’t ever meet up for a meal there, in case you were wondering.
Nestled alongside I-95N in Mystic, CT, you will find what many say is the best pizza in New London County. Mango’s Wood-Fired Pizza Co. is the perfect place for a pit stop and quick bite. The restaurant is named after a tour guide, Mango, who the owner met on vacation. Connecticut is known for its New Haven pizza. However, this pizza, in my opinion, can compete with best of them, and is why the restaurant was packed on Easter weekend. The variety and creativity in the menu keeps customers coming back.
My family and I stopped at Mango’s on Saturday morning at around 11:45 am, where we found the place already hopping.
Winfield Street Coffee will open at The Ferguson Library this summer. The coffee shop, which will offer Counter Culture Coffee, Battenkill Milk and Hudson Valley Harvest produce along with other local products, will also serve fresh baked goods, their renown breakfast and lunch sandwiches, as well as salads. It will open in the former Starbucks space once renovations are complete, probably in mid-August.
Owner Breno Donatti also operates the Winfield Street Italian Deli in Westport and another Winfield Street Coffee at the Croton-Harmon train station in Croton-on-Hudson New York. He lives in Stamford with his family.
There’s no doubt that Garden Catering’s chicken nuggets—with cones—are the star of their show. GC’s fans are guilty of copping and crushing “The Special,” many times over. If you’ve ever deviated from their legendary nuggs, chances are you cheated with a Nugget Wrap or the Hotsy, both are arguably the runners up to the nuggets.
Well, things are changing!
Oh, don’t worry, those two sandwiches are staying, but two new ones are making their grand entrance on Garden Catering’s menu…Fried chicken sandwiches.
Chef Emily Mingrone (of Fleisher’s, Match & Jesup Hall) is turning a long time dream into reality with the upcoming opening of her own restaurant, Tavern On State. Tavern On State will be a classic American tavern with a modern twist, located in the East Rock, New Haven, neighborhood. Mingrone had been working on this project for years, but she couldn’t find the right location. When her old drinking haunt, Cojones, became available, she knew it was meant to be.
“I’ve learned so much working with Chefs Storch and Taibe, and I’m so grateful for those experiences,” says Mingrone. Now it’s HER time. We are thrilled to see another female chef in the Connecticut restaurant scene, and we are excited to see what this seasoned chef has in store for us.
Speaking with Mingrone, she describes Tavern on State as having a “simple concept in menu and design.” “One of my biggest frustrations as a consumer is sometimes you just want a really good steak or delicious shrimp cocktail, and there is no place to get really great classic American fare. At Tavern On State, I want to make simple flavor focused, properly made tavern food.” Think oysters on the half shell, but garnished with yuzu vs mignonette; interesting versions of the classic shrimp cocktail, grilled octopus, burgers, and sexy steaks.
Spring is always a welcome thing, but as part of the CTBites team it also means that a trip to Prime Stamford is in order to check out their spring offerings and we are always eager to see what magic Chef Julio Geno has up his sleeve. As we waited to get a sampling of the Easter Menu we sipped some of the restaurant’s most popular choices, the Babylon Express, made from Crop cucumber vodka, St. Germaine, lime and pineapple juices, the Pineapple Mojito and the Passion Cosmo, made from passion vodka, passion fruit purée, triple sec and lime and cranberry juices.
Chef Dan Kardos (Liberty Rock Tavern, Oar & Oak) is rolling out something new for CT taco (and lobster) lovers. Kardos has bought himself another truck, and this time we’re talking tacos. Flaco Taco is the name, and Kardos is in the process of getting it ready for the summer season. The truck will be serving up $4 tacos and some tasty sides…but wait, there’s more…there will also be an epically delicious $24 Lobster roll (ya know…just ‘cuz).
Let’s talk about them tacos. CTbites have seen a preliminary menu, and Kardos admits things may change by June, but here is the basic situation. Tacos range from Crispy Fish with spicy slaw and lime, to Southern Fried Chicken with buttermilk ranch, and Braised Beef Shank with spicy tahini. Yes please. Sides will likely include classics such as street corn, Guac’ and his famous watermelon and cucumber salad (think Liberty Rock Truck).
Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday B L TTTT, Happy Birthday to You. Guess who’s been on the block for a year already?
Ok, close your eyes. When I say Willy Wonka, what do you see? I see Gene Wilder’s crazy hair and wild eyes, amidst the bright colors of the funky psychedelic clothes of the 60s and 70s. Well, beyond that, Willy Wonka represents a fantasy where all your favorite things appear right before your eyes and everything flavorful is heightened to the nth degree. Am I right? Well, this is a little of what is in store for you at Chef Jim Casey’s haven, BLT (Bridgestreet, Libations & Temptations). It’s a mouthful of a name, but this place is worth your time, money, and palate. The casual brick exterior and extra low key vibe inside is a facade for the eating extravaganza you encounter on your plate.
Something I struggle with living in Norwalk is having a go-to Asian spot for a quick lunch or affordable takeout. There are plenty of neighborhood Chinese restaurants but they’re mostly mediocre, and I haven’t liked any of them since Red Bean sold their business. Ever since they took their American General Tso’s chicken (and actual Asian specialties) out of my life, I’ve been lost, searching for something halfway decent, even branching out to nearby towns out of desperation.
Cue a Southport newbie, Mama Chow, that’s been open for barely three weeks. I heard about it from CTbites Boss Lady, Stephanie Webster, who sang its praises and insisted I try it. Damn, was she ever on the money with this one.
Mama Chow is a fast-casual Asian street food concept featuring popular grub from Malaysia, Japan, and Vietnam.
Exciting Ramen news from Connecticut Magazine…
The tables and chairs were not designed with eating in mind and, through no fault of its own, Conspiracyis located more than an hour away from my house. Even so, I can’t wait to go back.
One word: Ramen.
OK, three words: Ramen, cocktails and atmosphere.
Let’s start with the atmosphere. Conspiracy is undeniably cool. Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack cool. Accessible by an easy-to-miss doorway on Middletown’s Main Street, the second-floor space has the feeling of a secret club straight out of a film noir. Lounge chairs snake around an L-shaped room with painted-white brick walls. Edison bulbs hang from lofty ceilings, casting their warm light over a showstopping square bar. Behind the bar, bartenders twirl, mix and shake various liquids as they prepare alcoholic elixirs, often from historic recipes.
The story of Mothership on Main Bakery in Danbury began eight years ago, after owner Anna Llanos had just finished treatment for cancer. Instead of applying for a job, “like a normal person,” she did what most of us would not dare to do in the easiest of times, she turned the Airstream trailer in her driveway into an espresso bar and bakery. After opening two more kitchens in commercial buildings in Danbury, she realized that she wanted to find a location where she could be a part of the larger community. This is how she eventually set up shop in a converted 1930s-era gas station on Main Street, where fans flock for breakfast, lunch, and all the baked goods they can eat in between.
When Jeff Taibe opened Taproot in the second half of 2017, our Amy Kundrat summed up this Fairfield County gem beautifully. “Creative, seasonal, down-to-Earth, and hyper-local” (because damn near every ingredient comes from Connecticut farms) are all words she used. That summation is dead-on accurate.
And yeah, you should run there. I wish I listened to her closing sentence and didn’t wait so long for a stellar culinary experience. Bethel isn’t THAT far, and Taproot is worth the drive. When I did go, I deserved the ribbing. “Hey, man! It only took you a f*cking year to get here!” Taibe joked.
From the shareable, addictive apps, to carefully crafted cocktails, and braised pork cheeks that flaked apart with a slight twist of my fork, it was my favorite meal in Connecticut in 2018.
All of the above is a well-deserved shout-out, but I’m not giving you a Taproot update. I’m dishing on the restaurant’s one-Sunday-per-month mood swing called “Bushido.”
Bushido, as you can probably surmise, is a Japanese pop-up concept. The birth of Bushido is a story in itself.
Back in 2015 I was invited to a new Chinese restaurant concept in Westchester by veteran restaurateur Jody Pennette. Skeptical as to how this type of cuisine could be different and better, I went. What I experienced was indeed that and more. Chinese food, I soon learned, could be delicious, even healthful, sticking to simple flavors and using organic ingredients while placing these dishes in the middle of a dynamic and upscale setting.
Fast forward and I am invited to Greenwich to check out Pennette’s latest Chinese food adventure. Once again he pushes the envelope with another, though similar, take on this ethnic fare, bringing us LuLu Chinese with its lighter brighter versions.
Over the past few years, Hapa Food Truck and chef/owner Chris Gonzalez have gained quite the following. I’m guilty of following up a few weightlifting sessions at Crunch Gym with a Hapa Burger or tacos when Gonzalez parked his trucked at the Priceline building. So, yes, I’m a fan just as much as all of you are. But every winter, Hapa goes into hibernation, leaving many of us yearning for warmer weather and his Filipino-Hawaiian inspired food.
Well, friends, you don’t have to wait for spring and tracking Hapa down just got a whole lot easier. Gonzalez now has a physical Hapa location in Mamaroneck’s new microbrewery, Decadent Ales inside of the popular craft beer store, Half Time.
I love taking people to the tasting room at Two Roads for the first time and showing them all the history you can touch in the place. Feel how the wooden floor is worn down here? This is where decades of workers had to walk to get between the machines of the factory. Look and you can see some of the machines they built and used, just off from the giant mash tuns which rise up through the floor behind the glass. The wooden floor they cut out for the tuns got chopped into pucks and laid down as the bar surface we're leaning on now. Cool, right? The building next door, Two Roads' 25,000 square foot, $15 million dollar expansion, Area Two, is brand new - but it already has plenty of stories to tell.
Area Two will open to the public on Monday, March 11. The new facility is a short walk across the hop yard from the mothership brewery, on the same side of the street. The focus of Area Two is the production of wild, sour, and spontaneously fermented beers.
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.
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.
The burger at Harlan Publick is always the right move. You know, the one on the Wave Hill Breads English muffin, with the sweet, salty bacon jam, and the cheddar ale sauce that drips down the plump brisket blend patty. No one would blame you if you ordered it every damn time. It’s that good and should be mentioned amongst Connecticut’s best burgers.
Spoiler: Harlan Publick is more than just a burger. I knew this, but it was still tough to look past. Even when I went for dinner and ordered something else, I still thought about the Harlan Burger. I felt guilty. It felt like cheating. And it’s not that the food wasn’t good, it was! Fact is, I’ve never had a bad experience at any of the Harlan restaurants.
I’ll continue to blame the burger for clouding up all my Harlan experiences, including Sundays, because that’s a thing, a thing I overlooked every time I had brunch in South Norwalk. When Harlan Publick reached out to CTbites with a brunch invite, I jumped all over it. SoNo’s my ‘hood and I needed to know if I could get over their burger or at least forget about it for one freaking visit.