Terrasole: outstanding dining in Ridgefield

Terrasole: outstanding dining in Ridgefield

Terrasole, just off Main St in Ridgefield has been serving fine Italian food for over ten years. Founded and managed by Pietro Polini, and with executive chef Eugene Jerome, Terrasole is one of the finest Italian restaurants in Connecticut. The food and excellent service reminded us of the food we had in Italy: it is just that good!

We visited Terrasole twice recently, once on a quiet Sunday evening and again on New Year’s Eve. Despite the crowds of the holiday evening, the wait staff and kitchen never missed a beat: both experiences were outstanding.

You will notice that your table may contain a wrapped bottle of extra virgin olive oil as well as one to use on your food. While we usually brush aside those little puddles of olive oil for butter (and they will bring you some right away) this is one time when you want to savor their house brand olive oil. Then, if you agree, you can buy a bottle to take home. We did and we are so glad: it is rich and flavorful, one of the best we’ve had.

You know you are in an outstanding restaurant when you see the fascinating menu, including the beautiful Arancini Aragosta: “Imported carnaroli rice risotto balls filled with fresh Maine lobster, crab, peas & burrata cheese served over lobster bisque sauce.” We’ve never had anything quite like them, and they were quite delightful.

But, their take on the classic beet salad is fascinating as well. Dubbed Carpaccio di Barbietole, this is essentially a beet carpaccio, served with baby arugula, almond goat cheese rondure, and white truffle essence vinaigrette.

We also tried their rearranged Caesar Salad, served with grilled romaine heart and creamy parmigiano dressing, shaved imported sharp provolone, and grissini (bread sticks). Again, rising far above expectations, this was an outstanding version of this classic.

linguinii vongole

Terrasole has two seafood and pasta dishes we found entrancing. One was Linguini alla Vongole, which was fresh linguine pasta tossed with rock shrimp, cockles, cherry tomatoes, imported Portuguese octopus, white wine, parsley, pepperoncino, and shaved imported bottarga (salted cured fish row). This was exquisitely delicate and a dish we’ll return to again and again.

Their other outstanding version is a Tagliatelle al Frutti di Mare alla Annie McNally (shown above). This dish starts with homemade tagliatelle, and is served with fresh Maine lobster, Maya prawn, clams, calamari, PEI mussels, scallops In a spicy San Marzano tomato sauce. This was outstanding and somewhat reminiscent of lobster Fra Diavolo, but much richer with all the other seafood ingredients. Utterly amazing.

lobster ravioli

On New Years Eve, they had Lobster Ravioli on the menu: two ravioli for the appetizer portion and four for the entrée. This was a rich, smooth, creamy delight, and yes, two were enough for an appetizer and four plenty for dinner. Try it whenever they add it to the menu, as it was one of the best ravioli we’ve ever had.

Our other entrée was also a menu addition, a red snapper special served with a puff pastry and white truffled cream vegetable side dish, along with some excellent gnocchi. Quite an excellent addition.

snapper special

And, of course, there are some desserts to sample, but there was no question that our favorite was the profiteroles. Quite a sumptuous portion at that. Rather than chocolate sauce, they were served with melted chocolate that had begun to solidify on the ice cream. A great way to end the evening.

profiteroles

Terrasole also has a wine bar personality. You can order wine, meat and cheese from the Salumi e Formaggi menu. Another great opportunity for a lighter visit.

Terrasole is simply an outstanding restaurant. The staff are warm and friendly all the time you are there and the food is outstanding. You’ll see!

facade

Flameout- the story of why IBM Instruments crashed and burned

Flameout- the story of why IBM Instruments crashed and burned

In the summer of 1978, a group of IBM executives met in Armonk to form the Instrument Systems Task Force and explore IBM’s entry into the chemical analytical instrument business. The IBM PC was not yet even a glimmer in Don Estridge’s eye, and the only well-known personal computers were the Apple II, the Tandy TRS-80 and the Commodore Pet.

By October, IBM’s Corporate Management Committee had approved the venture and IBM Instruments was soon formed. This book explores and memorializes the rise and successes of IBM Instruments and its eventual demise, only about 6 years after it was announced. To many, this was a shocking failure from one of the greatest computer companies in the world, and it is worth taking some time to examine how the Instrument Division grew and how it finally was shut down.

It tells the never-before written full story of IBM Instruments and why everyone who worked there misses it.

nr80 announce

This corporate Greek tragedy details the ideas for great products like a redesigned NMR spectrometer console that concealed obsolete electronics, to a desktop computer far ahead of its time that received far too little support.

Successes included an excellent AF series NMR spectrometer and an IR spectrometer based on new PC-AT, as well as a satellite PCNMR workstation package for the PC-AT that revolutionized the organization of NMR labs.

But eventually, IBM’s Instrument business unit was shut down and we all went off to other jobs. What they did wrong was mostly management-based, not technical and the book explains it in detail.

Flameout: The rise and fall of IBM Instruments- a business study wad just published and is a great book for anyone interested on how small businesses grow and sometimes do not. Early readers have called it

  • “A must-read! “
  • “I think the book deals with some important issues still relevant today.“
  • The value of writing these things up is huge”.

The book is available on Amazon.

The Misen Nonstick pan

The Misen Nonstick pan

Our last nonstick pan wore out years ago, and we didn’t bother replacing it because they are hard to care for: the coating flakes off and isn’t edible, of course.

But we decided that we really wanted to make better fried eggs, and a nonstick pan really makes a difference. The Misen Nonstick Pan, which has been heavily advertised on the Internet and FB seemed a possible candidate. It looked better made than those cheap pans that come from the As Seen on TV conglomerate and we thought we’d give it a try.

both pans

The 10” Misen pan compares favorably with our Allclad 10” pan. It’s heavy and well-made, weighing 42 oz. The Allclad weights 37 oz, probably because it lacks the same sort of handle. The coating is PFOA free and is described as a three layer DuPont platinm coating.

 

 

To illustrate the problem we wanted to solve, we fried a couple of strips of bacon in the Allclad and 5 more in the Misen pan and compare the residue. The Allclad pan had streaks where the sugar in the bacon caramelized on the pan, while the Misen had some floating debris that did not stick to the pan or to the eggs.

 

 

We were easily able to fry 4 eggs at once in the Misen pan, and they didn’t stick at all while cooking. It was pretty easy to baste the eggs with a little bacon fat while they cooked, although they did move easily so we couldn’t tip the pan too much while spooning.

frying eggs

With any nonstick pan, you are supposed to use a non-metal spatula. We have one that see Melmac on it. Others might be wood, silicone or nylon, and in any case, you can slip the eggs onto the plate two at a time without breaking the yolks.

2 eggs fried

In terms of egg cooking, we are completely sold: the Misen is a great pan.  We were disappointed to learn that the instruction sheet says that we shouldn’t have put it in the dishwasher, but since it washes so easily, that isn’t a huge problem.

The Misen instructions say cook only at medium heat, and never above 450˚ F. You shouldn’t scrub with pan with metal or abrasive sponges, but thus looks like it would be unnecessary. And you shouldn’t shock the hot pan by pouring cold water in it. You also shouldn’t stack other pans on top of it (without padding). We paid $45 for our pan plus $5 for shipping and it arrived in about 4 days. It’s a really nice pan and we hope it lasts a long time.

The easiest way to poach eggs

The easiest way to poach eggs

Forget egg poachers! Forget those rubber cups!

The easiest way to poach eggs is in a pan of simmering water. You slowly slip each egg into the pan of simmering, salted water and cook for 2 ½ to 3 minutes. We demonstrate it in the video below.

We also repeated it adding a little vinegar (2-3 Tb) to the water to keep the white from spreading. The vinegared version then requires that you rinse off the eggs before serving in a bowl of warm water.

Both methods work great and easily scale. You can get 4-5 eggs in a 3-quart pan and 8 or more in a larger frying pan.

Below is a photo of the vinegared version.

vinegared version

Filet Mignon Stroganoff

Filet Mignon Stroganoff

You may think of Beef Stroganoff as a sort of noodle casserole with tough pieces of indifferent beef included. Perhaps a church supper favorite, but nothing memorable.

Well, thanks to the inspiration of a chef at the long gone Christopher Inn in Columbus, I have an entirely different recipe in mind that you will love. You make it with Filet Mignon.

OK, this isn’t a church supper dish, and may be a little more expensive, but it is now a fancy meal with medium rare beef in it. And since filet mignon has no bones or fat, you really don’t need a lot of it per person: maybe ¼ to 1/3 pound each.

  • 1 lb filet mignon ( to serve 4) cut into small cubes.
  • ½ lb mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 scallions, minced
  • 4 Tb butter
  • 1 medium onion, minced coarsely
  • 12 oz beef broth
  • 2 Tb dry sherry
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 2 tsp dill weed
  • 2 Tb minced parsley
  • 1 cup rice, cooked
  1. Heat 2 Tb of the butter until it foams, and add the sliced mushrooms.
  2. When the mushrooms begin to give up their water, add the minced scallions, and saute until they soften.
  3. Remove the mushrooms and scallions to a bowl.
  4. Add more butter and saute the minced onion until softened. Remove onions to the bowl.
  1. Pour back any butter from the bowl, and saute the beef a few pieces at a time until just browned. Leave them medium rare.
  2. Remove the beef to the bowl and add the beef broth. Reduce the broth to less than half a cup, add the juice from the meat, and the sherry and cook down briefly.
  1. Add the sour cream and stir until warmed.
  2. Add the dill weed and the beef and mushrooms and heat through.
  3. Place the stroganoff in a serving bowl and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
  4. Serve over rice.
Mom’s mac and cheese

Mom’s mac and cheese

My mother never made macaroni and cheese from a box for us, even though that blue box was created back in 1937, before I was born. She always made it from macaroni, milk, cheese and a little flour to thicken it. She also usually included wieners in the mix  and backed it in the over until it was brown and bubbly. So we’ve been making it mac and cheese based on her model ever since.

Mom probably include a bit of onion in her cheese sauce, and we always have. And sometime in the last couple of decades, we started added a little chopped green (and red) peppers to pick the flavor a little. But it still is a quick meal, taking just over half an our from start to finish.

I think she always used elbow macaroni, because all the other cool shapes weren’t yet available. We’ve settled on shell macaroni, but you can use any shape you like. Our latest revision of this recipe uses heavy cream instead of making a bechamel sauce. If you go this route, be sure to NOT use light cream, which will curdle when you bake it.

  • 1 lb macaroni, any shape you like
  • 1 lb wieners
  • 1 sweet green pepper or a mixture of any colors you like, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • Olive oil
  • ½ lb cheddar cheese (or any mixture of cheeses you like), cubed
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 Tb Worcestershire sauce
  • Breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 375˚
  2. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil and cook the macaroni until tender. Avoid stopping at al dente as the pasta will soak up the cheese sauce while baking.

3. While the pasta cooks sauté the onions and peppers in the olive oil until tender,
4. Add the cream and Worcestershire sauce.
5. Stir in the cubed cheese and stir and heat until melted.

6. Slit the wieners lengthwise so they will heat through and lay in a casserole dish.
7. Add the just-cooked macaroni, but don’t over fill the dish.

8. Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
9. Bake 20-25 minutes until the cheese sauce is bubbling and hot.

baked

Serve at once.

Egg Foo Yung: an easy dinner

Egg Foo Yung: an easy dinner

This simple recipe can be considered a “Chinese omelet,” with meat and vegetables. It takes very little time to prepare and served with rice makes quite a satisfying meal. This recipe is derived from one by Joyce Chen.

ingredients

  • 7 eggs
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • ½ cup celery, cut in thins strips
  • ½ cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup cooked pork or chicken
  • 1 Tb sherry
  • Olive oil

Gravy

  • 1 cups chicken stock
  • 1 Tb soy sauce
  • 2-3 Tb flour mixed into 1/3 cup of water

If you are using pork, cook it briefly so it is still tender. We found that if you use a boneless pork chop, you can cook it most effectively by placing the chop on the trivet of an Instant Pot with 1 cup of water. Cook for 1 minute and do a slow release for about 5 minutes. This should give you pork at about 138˚ F. You can then cook the rice in the pot while you are making the Egg Foo Yung.

  1. To make the gravy, heat the chicken stock in a saucepan and add the soy sauce. Mix the flour and water together in a small cup and slowly add to the stock with stirring until the gravy is thickened. Discard any lumps.
  2. Cut the pork or chicken into strips and then into small pieces for the “omelet.”
  3. Cut up the mushrooms and mince the onion.
  4. Cut the celery by shaving strips off the stalk so they are similar in size to the bean sprouts.
  5. Put the bean sprouts, celery, mushrooms, onion, sherry and pork in a mixing bowl and add the 7 eggs.

6. Mix the eggs gently with the meat and vegetables using a rubber spatula so as not to break up the pieces.

7. Heat the oil in a wide frying pan and scoop out about ½ cup for each patty. Fry on both sides until browned lightly.

Serve with rice and gravy.

 

 

 

Rustic Bread: Great bread with almost no work!

Rustic Bread: Great bread with almost no work!

I am grateful to Bob Scrofani for pointing out this simple bread recipe published on YouTube as Rustic Bread by “Flavors of Spain in the Southwest.” This is an experience report on how I did it and how you can, too.

The recipe is embedded in the video and in the comments, and it assumes you have a kitchen scale. There are hundreds of reasons to have one around, but I give the U.S. measure equivalents as well. The recipe uses all-purpose flour, and I use King Arthur for this. The cup/weight equivalent may vary for other flours.

This recipe takes very little work, but a bit of time, include 4 episodes of folding, 20 minutes apart. and a slow 12 hour rise.

  • 1000 g all purpose flour (7 ¾ cups)
  • 20 g salt (1 Tb plus ¼ tsp)
  • 1/8 tsp yeast (they suggest 1 g, but yeast particles vary a lot between vendors)
  • 780 ml water (26 oz) at 80˚
  • A plastic storage container (with lid) that holds at least 12 cups.

You will also need either a 4 qt cast iron Dutch oven or an equivalent casserole dish. We used a 2.5 quart Corningware casserole dish, and it was plenty big enough. Our storage container held 21 cups, and the dough never rose more than halfway inside the container.

  1. Weigh out the flour in the storage container, and add the salt, yeast and water. Mix with your gloved hand. You can try a wooden spoon, but it doesn’t pick up the flour along the bottom as well. Mix until all the dough is cohesive. Cover for 20 minutes.

2. After 20 minutes, you can begin folding the dough over itself inside the container until it is together in the middle. Try to stretch it each time you pick up a corner. You can do this best with a moistened hand. Cover for another 20 minutes.

stretch

3. Repeat folding after 20 minutes

4. Repeat folding the 4th time after another 20 minutes.

5. Cover and allow to proof/rise for 12 hours. If you can’t bake it at that time, refrigerate the dough, covered until you can.

6. When you are ready to begin baking, put the casserole or Dutch oven into a 475˚ F oven to heat.

7. Turn out the dough on flour board and divide it into two. Fold and stretch each one into a ball, and put each ball in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap or a plastic bag and let it rise for an hour.

8.  Remove one dough ball and flour it. Take out the baking dish and cover. Lay one dough ball into the disk, cover it and put immediately into the oven.

9. Bake covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes.

in casserole10. Remove the bread to a cooling rack. Make sure it is done by tapping on the bottom. You should hear a hollow sound. Be sure to let the dough cool at least 30 minutes.

11. Reheat the baking dish and cover in the oven and bake the second loaf the same way.

Even after all this baking and cooling, it is possible that the bread may be slightly damp.   I suggest you slice it half an hour ahead of dinner to make sure the slices dry out.

sliced

If you have left-over bread, you can make it into very good toast. In fact, you can slice the whole loaf, freezing the slices and take out a few for toast any time you want.

toast

 

Revisiting Sono Seaport

Revisiting Sono Seaport

Since we last visited Sono Seaport this spring, they have remodeled the place and chef Matt Storch (of Match and Match Burger Lobster) has remodeled their menu. The seafood is still provided by the Bloom Family and is as fresh as ever. The seating in fair weather is still outside on picnic tables and under umbrellas, although there seems to more indoor seating available for the cool weather to come. The umbrellas have been upgraded to much nicer ones, and the chairs along the larger tables are much nicer, too. The picnic table seem the same: hard to get both legs under if you have big feet.

But the soups are delicious and a greatly improved part of the menu. The clam chowder ($7 a cup) is at least as good as ever, although now served in pressed cardboard inside of dishes. The Lobster and Ocean Bisque ($8 a cup), is excellent with real pieces of lobster in it as well as at least one scallop and pieces of several other fish included. Again, no dishes, though.

lobster roll

The Lobster Roll on the menu is available in ¼ lb, ½ lb and 1 lb sizes for $21, $36 and $69. This is a Maine lobster roll, which is to say made with cold lobster and citrus mayonnaise, and served with potato chips and slaw. By contrast both Match sites serve a hot Connecticut buttered lobster roll. However, the delicious ½ lb lobster roll we got had an enormous amount of lobster that we could barely finish.

fried clams

If you are looking for classic fried clams, however, you may be disappointed. The menu only includes Clam Strips ($14). (Shades of Howard Johnson’s!) If you want actual belly clams, you won’t find them. The waitress suggested ordering Whole Clams and have them fried. Six clams for $14 and twelve clams for $28. These are meatier, she said than the clam strips but pretty expensive.  The 12 clams we got had less meat than the usual order of belly clams.

They’ve also done something weird to their French fries. They seems to have been par-boiled and then single-fried, which leads to a sort of mushy potato with a hint of having spent a little time in the fryer. Not all that successful. Skip them and ask for the onion rings.

mouse cake

They only had about 3-4 desserts, not printed on the menu, but we split an order of Chocolate Mousse Cake. The mousse was fine but the cake was tough and dry.

Both the Fisherman’s Feast and the Belly Clams  we had this spring are off the menu, as is the Lobster Ravioli. We hope some of these return.

tables

Sono Seaport is at 100 Water Street in Norwalk, and is open daily 11am to 10pm.

 

American Seasons: very disappointing

American Seasons: very disappointing

American Seasons has been helmed by chef/owner Neil Ferguson since 2015 and they had been doing quite well. But last night was simply an embarrassment. Maybe Ferguson was away and maybe the B team was in the kitchen, but we came away really disappointed and downright annoyed.

menu

The diminutive menu was delivered on one side of a single 8 ½ x 11” sheet, somewhat rumpled and stained. It has only 7 entrees and 7 appetizers, and last night it was hard to pick one we really wanted to have: none of them sounded very good. And they weren’t.

To be fair, the hot dinner rolls they served with butter were very good and one of the appetizers was quite good, but it went downhill from there.

parfait

That really good appetizer was the Chicken Liver Foie Gras Parfait with House Made Vegetable Pickles, and Toasted Brioche ($19). In Paté speak, a parfait is a smoothly ground mixture of meats. And it succeeded: it was silky smooth and delicious. We probably could have used more brioche to finish it off, but we held back to save room for our entrée. Bad decision.

beet salad

The other appetizer was a fairly ordinary beet salad ($18). Nothing special about it.

fluke

But my entrée, the Pan Roasted Local Fluke Brown Butter Vinaigrette, Capers, and Island Grown Salad ($45) was a horror. It was smothered in capers, the vinaigrette was very sour, and the fluke was tough and dry. We left it unfinished.

chicken

And the other entrée, Crisp Skinned Giannone Chicken ($39) with Fondant Potato, Carrot Purée, Honey Roast Carrot, and Sherry Vinegar Jus, was tough and dry. All of the chicken was chicken breast and it was just overcooked. Now the Giannone chicken procedure involves brining the chicken overnight and then air drying it to produce tender meat and crisp skin. Neither was in evidence.

We’ve written about American Seasons here, here, and here, and in all cases the result was better than this disappointing evening. It doesn’t seem that the kitchen was trying very hard especially considering the prices. Our bill with 3 glasses of wine, including tax was $186.18.