Category: Restaurants

Blackstone’s Steakhouse, Norwalk

Blackstone’s Steakhouse, Norwalk

Sunday night we decided we had to try the well-known Blackstone’s Steakhouse in Norwalk. They also have restaurants in Greenwich, Stamford and Southport, each with similar but slightly different menus.

Despite it’s unprepossessing exterior at 181 Main in Norwalk, we are delighted to tell you that this is an excellent restaurant a a terrific atmosphere, excellent service and outstanding food. Of course, being a steakhouse, it is not inexpensive, but there are some non-beef items on the extensive menu that are more budget-minded.

tables

The decor is warm and elegant with white tablecloth settings and wine and water glass already in place. You know when you enter that this is sure to be an excellent meal. And it was.

When you sit down, you are served a dish of colorful olives and a basket of warm bread, with a dish of real butter, not that drippy olive oil.

crab cake

We each started with their Maryland Crab Cake ($14.95). It was pretty much all crab with very little filler and a mild, spicy flavor you could enhance with their cucumber/wasabi sauce. This was a great idea and added a lot to the crab cake.

The wine list is extensive and they do offer w number of wines by the glass.

For steaks, one of ordered the Steak au Blue, prime New York strip steak topped with Blue Cheese Gratinee’ ($41.95) The meat was juicy, tender and flavorful and cooked exactly medium rare. We loved it and brought home leftovers for a sandwich.

steak au blue cut

Our other entrée was essentially a bone-in Ribeye, although on sale that night for $43.95. We were impressed at how it was carved and served in little medallions, as well. Also, tender and flavorful.

Finally, we shared an amazing dish called “1/2 Cottage Fries and 1/2 Fried Onions.” The cottage fries were essentially potato chips, but the fried onions were spectacularly tasty and we alternated onion bites with bites of our steaks.

onion rings

We didn’t have room for desserts, but they are fairly conventional: apple pie, chocolate mousse, carrot cake, lemon/orange sorbet, tartuffo, tiramisu, cheesecake, creme brulee and lava cake. Maybe we’ll get to try some next time!

We were incredibly impressed with the staff’s charm and professionalism and are sure to return to Blackstone’s whenever we feel like a great steak dinner.

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New restaurant moves into Greydon House

New restaurant moves into Greydon House

When the Greydon House hotel opened in Nantucket in 2016, it was lacking a restaurant, but one opened in the late fall, headed by Chef Marcus Ware. And as people began to visit it, they were extremely impressed.

We first visited in August of 2017 and praised it highly. In fact, we called the food and service “extraordinary,”

However, this didn’t last, and by 2017, it was apparent that Ware wasn’t paying much attention to this island outpost among his many restaurants. We felt it had “slipped of its pedestal.” Similar dishes were prepared in much more slapdash fashion, and service was not what it had been.

Apparently, the management of Greydon House agreed, and replaced Ware and his restaurant with Via Mare, a new Italian small plates restaurant run by Chef Dre’ Solimeo and Sarah Todd from Ventuno, whom we have always praised highly.

Via Mare’s menu Is creative (and somewhat folksy in its descriptions: “taters” for example)  but the overall we have of the menu is “we can’t wait to eat there.”

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Here is their description of their farfalle:

Butterfly pasta, spring vegetables, parmigiano crema, prosciutto, black truffles.

Or how about their small plate black bass:

Black bass crudo white asparagus, pickled ramps & sorrel

They also have a couple of large options such as this delicious-sound steak:

Bistecca: Porcini & parmigiano crusted steak, black garlic aoli — black summer truffle

Welcome, Via Mare! We can hardly wait!

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Via Mare is open Tuesday through Sunday 5:30pm until 10pm. The bar is open until 1am. Photos provided by Via Mare.

Red Rooster Pub opens in Wilton

Red Rooster Pub opens in Wilton

After a couple of months of downtime, the former Portofino restaurant has been transformed into a Red Rooster Pub. While the owner, Tony Ramadani, remains the same and the kitchen staff much the same, this is a new restaurant with a new, somewhat more informal menu.

Ramadani owns two other Red Rooster Pubs, one in Ridgefield and one in Newtown. While the menus are much the same among the 3 restaurants, the Wilton pub adds an extra page of Portofino Classics, including Chicken Parmesan, Rigatoni Con, Capellini Piedmontese, Mushroom Ravioli, Jalapeno Chicken, Shrimp Papardelle and Seared Salmon, priced from $20 to $24, and a kid’s menu.

Their main menu is simpler than in the Portofino days, with appetizers including wings, tacos, chili, 8 salads (plus make your own from a checklist). The Mains section is just Fish and Chips, Mac and Cheese, Baby Back Ribs, New York Strip Steak and Fried Clam (strips) Platter with only the steak over $20.

Completely new is the In Hand menu of grilled chicken, veggies, steak, pulled pork, Reuben, DLT (duck bacon, lettuce and tomato), turkey wrap, French Dip, two Chicken Wraps all reasonably priced and mostly under $15.  They also have 16 different “burgers” on the menu, several of which we have to try soon. All come with fries or onion rings.

The popular Portofino pizzas haven’t gone away either: there are still a whole page of pizza choices available.

beveragesTheir beer list includes 8 on draft an about that many more bottled craft beers, and their wine lists includes about 10 red and white choices by the glass.  Their dessert menu is simple but just what you want to go with this menu.

room shot

The Wilton pub opened last Thursday, and we understand it was packed all weekend, so we went Monday evening. At 5:45 there were plenty of tables, but by the time we left, almost all of them were full, which would seem to indicate that they have a success on their hands.

salad

For our first meal there (but not the last) we ordered an excellent Mediterranean Salad ($12.95), which would seem to be more or less a Greek Salad with Baby Mixed Greens, Pickled Red Onion, Tomatoes, Cucumber, Feta Cheese, Olives, and Balsamic dressing. It was sizable and there was plenty for us to share. If you just want a little salad, you can get a “Sub Side Salad” for $2 with any of the In Hand menu items.

shrimp

Then, one of us ordered the Shrimp Papardelle ($23.95) which was almost enough for two in itself. That night it was served with linguini, as they ran out of the wider papardelle noodles. Its served with shrimp, tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, and pesto sauce. The shrimp were tender and flavorful and the pesto plentiful.

french burger

 

friesBut we had to try out one of their new burgers, so we ordered the French Burger ($15.95) with mushrooms, caramelized onion, Brie, lettuce and tomato, and served with piping hot French Fries. Onion Rings and Sweet Potato Fries were also available, but these French fries were outstanding. And the Brie and caramelized onion worked very well on this enormous burger. We finally had to resort to a knife and fork to finish it, but every bite was worth it.

We didn’t have room for desserts, but we will sometime in the future.

This restaurant looks like a winner for Wilton and for Ramadani and we wish them well.  Oh, and they take credit cards!

bar area

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Rizzuto’s in Westport is still excellent

Rizzuto’s in Westport is still excellent

We haven’t visited Rizzuto’s excellent restaurant (and oyster bar) in too long, and we are delighted to report that it is better than ever. It’s a risk to visit any restaurant in a Saturday night when they are busiest, but the staff was right on top of everything even though every table was full. They were, thoughtful, fast, efficient and never missed a thing. And the food was outstanding.

crab

One of our appetizers was a Pan Seared Jumbo Crab Cake, Maryland style ($14) which may be the closest we’ve ever had to a Maryland crab cake outside that state. I was meaty, with a spicy, mustardy tang, and was served with an excellent remoulade along with tomatoes, salad green and lemon. Really worth the trip for this one alone.

chowderOur other appetizer was their New England Clam Chowder ($9) served with plenteous clams, potatoes and a bit of bacon. Another ideal starter for your dinner.

On their specials menu that night, they served pan seared Chilean Sea Bass ($36) on a delicious Wild Mushroom Risotto, with asparagus and lobster cream. And yes, there were a few pieces of lobster in it as well. Sea bass has proliferated just about everywhere you go these days, but this sea bass was perfectly cooked: tender, juicy and flavorful. And the lobster sauce topped it to perfection.

sea bass

Our other entrée was also from their nightly specials:  Rigatoni al Forno ($24), baked with  Italian sausage, eggplant, mozzarella, parmigiano Reggiano, plum tomato sauce and fresh basil. This, too, was simply outstanding and so filling we brought some home for lunch.

rigatoni

We had to split a dessert to see what they were like. The one we chose was called Chocolate Truffle Ring Ding ($8) which was chocolate cake with a chocolate cream filling,  chocolate ganache and freshly whipped cream. A nice finish to the meal.

ringding

We definitely have to go back there more often, as this was one of our best experiences in some time.

bread

Mint: Ridgefield’s fine new Indian restaurant

Mint: Ridgefield’s fine new Indian restaurant

Mint opened only a month ago on Route 7 (296 Ethan Allen Hwy) and is already serving excellent Indian cuisine to happy diners for lunch and dinner every night of the week. They also offer takeout of their entire menu.

Anticipating that it might get crowded later, we went about 6:15pm last Saturday, and there were already 3-4 tables occupied, and they continued to fill up all the time we were there.  The menu offers appetizers, breads, tandoori grilled kebabs, salads, soups, and lamb, chicken, seafood, vegetarian and Indian Chinese items, as well as a few desserts. There is also a Kid’s Menu. Their drinks menu consists of wines and beers.

Even though you might think this is a small restaurant from the façade, it opens into quite a nice sized dining area with simple, but elegant décor. When we were seated, we were immediately given a basket of light, crunchy Indian breads and three sauces for them: chutney, sweet soy and a mildly spicy green dipping sauce. All were very good.

We decided to throw caution to the winds and order one appetizer and three entrees so we could try out more of their cuisine. This turned out to be an excellent idea, because everything we tried was excellent. All if their dishes come in serving bowls with ladles, to facilitate sharing, which we definitely did.

mancurian shrimp

Our appetizer was Shrimp Manchurian ($9): crispy shrimp with hot cilantro garlic sauce. If you are concerned about being overwhelmed with hot Indian spices, just ask for “medium” which is only mildly spicy. And, don’t worry if you don’t want the cilantro, it was only in the sprinkled leaves and easily avoided. The shrimp were indeed crispy, sweet and hot and a truly delightful appetizer.

lamb rogan

One of our entrees was Lamp Rogan Josh ($20), a north Indian spicy lamb stew, although it was pretty mild as delivered to us. The lamb was extraordinarily tender and the stew smooth and elegant. Usually recipes for this delightful stew include garam masala (blend), ginger, turmeric, cardamom and garlic, and we detected hints of all those in this delicious stew. Note that they provided rice, “decorated” with a few pieces of crunchy carrots and some peas.

butter chicken

We’ve made Butter Chicken ourselves, but theirs ($17) is way better: smooth and silky with butter, cream, tomatoes, and the usual garam masala among the excellent blend of flavors in this dish. They suggested that this dish is easy to take home leftovers from, and that you could even make sandwiches from it.

coconut shrimp

Finally, their Shrimp Moilee ($22) was an exceptional dish, made with curry leaf, ginger, onion, blended into a smooth coconut milk sauce. It is surprising dishes like this that make you want to come back and try the rest of the items on the menu (and there are many).

Mint is an excellent new restaurant just up the road, in the complex with the Day’s Inn. The food and service are outstanding, and we expect to return often.

Mint’s online menu emphasizes their ability to provide nearly all of their menu for take out, and this might be great for surprise guests as well as a last minute dinner. But we really liked the atmosphere in their elegant restaurant and suggest you give it a try.  It is really quite impressive!

 

 

The Barn Door: a great family restaurant in Branchville

The Barn Door: a great family restaurant in Branchville

signThe Barn Door has been at 37 Ethan Allen Highway in Ridgefield (Branchville) for about two years now, and it looks like they have found a winning formula. The service is fast and gracious, and the food way better than you’d expect at a “family restaurant.” Everything we had was extremely good, and most of it excellent.

They started us with some delicious bread, served with a tomato coulis, in a beautiful presentation.

bread

Our appetizers were their crab cakes with corn relish and chipotle aioli, which seems to be a recurring special that one staff member told me was one of their most popular dishes. It’s easy to see why: it is full of crab and sufficiently spicy (mostly with mustard) to compare favorably with benchmark Baltimore carb cakes. And the two cakes give you quite a lot of crab. If you were planning of having a substantial main course, two people could split these crab cakes!

crab cakes

For one entree we had an excellent Lemon Chicken. It consisted of chicken breasts with pasta and Meyer lemon, sweet cherry peppers and a sweet, lemony sauce, decorated with parsley. This was an absolutely outstanding dish we recommend highly whenever it’s on the menu.

lemon chicken

Out other entrée was classic Fish and Chips, served batter fried with hot, fresh French fries, coleslaw and tartar sauce. Like all of their other entrees, the portion was substantial and some of the best fish and chips we’ve had anywhere recently. This one is on the standard menu and you can order it anytime. We will certainly have it again.

fish and chips

The Barn Door is a wonderful discovery for us: the prices are reasonable, and the food is outstanding. We are probably going to start going there whenever we want a moderate night out, because the service, atmosphere and cuisine are excellent.

Parking sometimes is crowded at the Barn Door, but if their lot parking is full, there are usually spaces in a lot across the street. The Barn Door is located on Route 7 just south of the intersection with Rte. 102 and pretty much across from the Branchville train station.

See you there!

bar

 

 

Where to have breakfast in Wilton

Where to have breakfast in Wilton

While our kitchen was being remodeled, we had ample opportunity to try various breakfast spots on the area, and all of them have things to recommend them.

Orem’s

Of course, Orem’s would be on our list since it is a well-regarded diner, recommended in Jane (and Michael) Stern’s Road Food. We have been going there for years, and have had quite a number of their breakfast items, from eggs, to pancakes, to French toast to omelets, and just about everything has been well prepared and served amazingly quickly. The wait staff is unfailingly friendly and soon recognizes you when you return. These photos show eggs and sausage, and blueberry pancakes.

Village Luncheonette

We had forgotten what a gem the Village Luncheonette is. It’s right there on Old Ridgefield Rd in Wilton Center, just across the driveway from Village Market. The staff is friendly and the food excellent. Our eggs were perfectly prepared, although they accidentally made us 3 instead of two and of course we had to eat all 3 because they were delicious. We liked the fact that they split the link sausages in half so they heated through. We’ll certainly go back more frequently. But beware: they don’t take credit cards.

Connecticut Coffee

bagel ct coffee

Connecticut Coffee and Grill does a brisk takeout business for their bagels and breakfast sandwiches, and they both conventional coffee and about 8 specialty coffees on tap all the time. Jimmy and his staff work quickly to hand you your order, and if it is the same every time, they may already have it for you in a bag when you walk in the door. We think their bagels are top-notch, and when we went there for a sit-down breakfast, we ordered them, buttered with cream cheese, and they were amazing. The French Toast the people at the next table had also looked fantastic. Their menu is extensive.  You can order breakfast sandwiches, eggs and pancakes and an huge array of lunchtime sandwiches. The place always seems busy, and has been for all of the 15 years they’ve been in Old Post Office Square, 16 Center St.

Uncle Leo’s

Uncle Leo’s Coffee and Donuts opened in Wilton (17 Danbury Rd) just a few weeks ago, and already has a substantial following. “Uncle Leo” is Leo Spinelli and the nephew is making excellent donuts and bagels using his recipes. The bagels are comparable to the ones at Connecticut Coffee but the donuts are far superior to anything else in the area. They have around a dozen tables where you can eat your breakfast, and their menu is the same as in the Georgetown shop, with breakfast sandwiches, Danish, muffins, turnovers, giant breakfast plates, omelets, eggs, toast and home fries. They also have a substantial lunch hot and cold sandwich menu.  Beware of their Boston Crème donut which is so full of custard you’ll need a spoon to manage it. But it is delicious!

 

Thursday night Prix Fixe at the Schoolhouse

Thursday night Prix Fixe at the Schoolhouse

The Schoolhouse at Cannondale always serves delicious, creative food, but Thursdays are a real bargain when you can get a 4-course meal for $49. If you want a different wine to accompany each course, it costs $85, but if you just order some wine by the glass the whole evening is an astonishing bargain.

Last night’s menu gave you two choices for each of the four courses, which explains why the menu is so inexpensive: there are only eight dishes to prepare.

For the first course, one choice was a Kale and Cabbage salad with almonds, pickled shallot, golden raisins and Umami vinaigrette. While it looked pretty salad like, it was a bit more like a fruit salad, with the raisins cutting the bitterness of the brassica, and quite tasty.

The other first course was a Curry Carrot Soup (above) with a coconut-peanut granola and Black Sheep Yoghurt. This was a spectacular success, and I can’t wait to try to duplicate it as it was utterly delicious, with the smooth carrot soup and curry contrasting with the nutty granola and swirled with the yoghurt.

For the second course, you could choose Torches French Raclette Cheese, with Currant-Apricot Mustardo and Wave Hill Toast, or Pork Rillette, Pickled Fennel, Raisin Verjus, toast and watercress. Eating the warm Raclette by spreading it on the toast with a little of currant-apricot mixture was an unexpected experience, and the Pork Rillette was a smooth spread that also nicely set off with the Raisin Verjus and Fennel.

pork loin

For the third course you could order either Bronzini with toasted farro and Juilienne vegetable en Blanc, Fennel-Tomato broth and Kalamata Olive tapenade, or Roast Pork Loin with Horseradish Spätzle, Brussels Sprouts and Caraway-Beet Coulis. We both ordered the pork loin, so you get only one picture. We particularly were pleased with how tender and juicy the pork was, as many other restaurants tend to overcook it. This was just right, and the Spätzle were a really great idea and went well with the Brussels Sprouts.

bread pudding

Finally, we could order either Bread pudding with salted caramel sauce, peanuts and cinnamon whipped cream, or Maple Panna Cotta with cranberry chutney. We both ordered the bread pudding which was apparently made from Wave Hill bread, too, was a lovely finish to the meal.

We couldn’t have been happier, and now that we know their “secret,” we’ll come back on Thursdays in the future!

 

Want to drink Margaritas with a bunch of soused seniors?

Want to drink Margaritas with a bunch of soused seniors?

 

Margaritaville is a 1977 Jimmy Buffett song that despite its simplicity became a huge hit for Buffett. It’s essentially a mournful break-up song set to what Buffett himself calls “drunken Caribbean music.”

Cashing in on what turned out to be his biggest hit, Buffet franchised a series of Margaritaville restaurants, serving middling but undistinguished American food and less than distinguished service. There are now about 30 of them, mostly in the South, but there is one at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT.

Not to stop there, his company has franchised Margaritaville Resorts, mostly in the South and Caribbean, but there is one coming to New York City as well. These are hotels with pools and the Margaritaville restaurant featured, along with some sort of entertainment.

But now, we learn that his franchising organization has formed a new business for “55 and over”: senior living. The first of these is in operation in Daytona, call Latitude Margarita. Another has also opened in Hilton Head. We learned about these from an article in this Sunday’s Times Magazine. This is a development for the 55 and over crowd of homes ranging from $200K to $300K in a senior living community for “active residents,” which is or will include a Town Center with shops, concerts presumably other activities.

One Yelp reviewer said it was like being on a permanent Carnival Cruise with noisy neighbors! And a real estate expert said “I see the appeal, but it has a good chance of wearing out quickly.”

The problem I have with all of this is that even though we fit their age demographic (and then some), the idea of an age-restricted community with no young adults or children sounds stultifying. You keep young by interacting with younger people, not getting snockered on salted Tequila drinks every night.

And just how much activity is there really? Are there singing groups you can join? Are there wood working and other crafts available? What about community theater, where seniors really tend to thrive?  And to tell you the truth, we prefer gin and tonics!

Oh, and that beach they show in all their brochure. It isn’t on the property. It’s a shuttle ride away.

Restaurant Prime in Stamford: Outstanding

Restaurant Prime in Stamford: Outstanding

Prime: An American Kitchen and Bar in Stamford is simply an outstanding restaurant. While primarily a steakhouse, their menu also includes duck, chicken, salmon, branzino and Beef Wellington, along with a substantial sushi menu.

We found the service some of the best anywhere we have dined, and the food top notch.  The restaurant is in one of several buildings in a large lot at 78 Southfield Ave, which you may have thought was still part of Greenwich Ave heading towards the Sound. Just look for the large “P” for “Prime” on the sign with the 78 on it at the entry to the parking area. You will see a big lighted Prime sign ahead as well.

sculptureThe beautiful restaurant overlooks a little branch to the Sound and features a lovely view as well as a stunning sculpture along the walkway.

The interior is white tablecloth elegant with plenty of staff attending to your needs from the moment you arrive. In fact, not only did our waitress check on us several times, the restaurant manager came by twice to make sure everything was fine.

rollOur meal started with a fresh hot “tree” of rolls all baked together, rather like big Bear Claw. This arrived even before our cocktails did. The bread was warm and flavorful, and they brought butter without being asked. No olive oil in sight, thank goodness.

One of our appetizers was Shrimp/Lobster Wontons ($17): large pieces of shrimp and lobster pan seared in wonton dough, served with hoisin sauce, miso mustard and watercress. Just as excellent as it looked.

Lobster shrimp wontons

caesar3Our other appetizer was a Caesar salad ($14), made properly with romaine, parmesan, crunchy croutons and a classic garlicky Caesar dressing. Caesar salads are where many restaurants fall down, but not here. This was one of the best Caesar salads we’ve ever been served, with nice thin slices of parmesan cheese to top it off.

 

All right, this IS a steakhouse, and the prices for steaks are pretty high, and the sides are all ala carte. They do this because the meat they buy is so expensive and they don’t stint here. You can order one of 6 “enhancements” for $6 and a butter poached lobster enhancement fore $32. However, if you forget to order bearnaise or whatever, they provide you with a free sweetish sort of gravy that goes very well with your steaks. And the steaks are so good, you really don’t need any of them.

We ordered the 8 oz Petite Filet Mignon ($44) and the USDA Prime 16 oz New York Strip ($56) Both were perfectly done:  juicy, tender and very flavorful. And cooked perfectly medium rare.

We ordered a side of Prime Fries ($13) that came in a basket for the two of us that provided more fries than we could ever eat. But, just as we were starting, we noticed the waitress bringing someone a basket of onion rings. We enquired as they weren’t on the menu and learned they had just added them ($12). We ordered those, too and munched on some from each of the two baskets with our spectacular steaks.

smores sundae

While we didn’t strictly need it, we had to see what their desserts were like. They have six, and of them, we ordered the Smores Sundae for 2: graham cracker, marshmallow, warm brownie, chocolate sauce and vanilla bean gelato. It was every bit as good as it sounds.

Our bill with 2 cocktails, 2 glasses of wine, coffee and tea was $267 before tip, but was one of the best meals we’ve had this year. We will definitely go back once in a while.

And in a very nice touch, our waitress gave us her business card so we could request her next time. Ask for Kelsey Tate. And the manager asked us again on the way out how things were and urged us to come back. We will.

diners