Many restaurants that are open will serve up a Thanksgiving themed meal on November 24. Our friends at Ballo will do just that. If you find yourself at Mohegan Sun Casino during the Thanksgiving holiday, stop in for some good food.
The recently opened BALLO Italian Restaurant and Social Club at Mohegan Sun (1 Mohegan Sun Boulevard in Uncasville, CT 06382), will offer a special Thanksgiving menu all day on Thursday, November 24th. The special holiday menu will be available during lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. in addition to the a la carte menu. The cost is $39 per person. Reservations are suggested. The menu is as follows:
-Classic Caesar Salad
-Butternut squash soup with toasted pumpkin seeds
Roasted Turkey served with apple sage stuffing
Accompaniments Served Family Style
Gravy, cranberry sauce, whipped sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts with pancetta
-Spiced Apple Sundaes
Graphic Artist and former bartender, with a hint of amateur magician and poet, I appreciate the value of a good home cooked meal and always save room for dessert. I am Robert Koch.
Marathon runner, big fan of traveling, outdoor enthusiast. I love staying active as well as eating all kinds of food. In other words, "I keep things balanced." Huge fan of southern cooking. I am Damion Patrignelli.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Many restaurants that are open will serve up a Thanksgiving themed meal on November 24. Our friends at Ballo will do just that. If you find yourself at Mohegan Sun Casino during the Thanksgiving holiday, stop in for some good food.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Since then, Americans have been trying to one up our allies across the pond, but it's just not the same. Now I've never been to London, so I don't really have anything to compare it to, but as a foodie I've always learned to appreciate the original. It's just a shame that fish and chips has changed, even in jolly old England. It's almost impossible to find a place that wraps the delicacy in a newspaper cone, because of health and safety issues. But enough sidetracking with history and whatnot, let's get to the nitty-gritty.
I've had my share of fish and chips, and have been impressed by what our area offers. My favorite growing up was always Streets of London on Wall Street in Norwalk, which has now been converted into Latin Flavor and Fish. I've also tried the selection at Pagano's (also in Norwalk) and have even gone as far as ordering it at the Adirondack Pub and Brewery in Lake George, New York (check out our review of that for evidence). With that being said, it takes a lot to impress me. And out of all of the places I've had this dish, I've gone back for it and will more than likely have it again at Tavern on 7 in Norwalk.
The menu is a mix of bar favorites like burgers and wings (try the Honey Teriyaki Glazed Wings, you won't regret it), along with salads, steak, pasta and fish dishes. And it doesn't hurt that they happen to keep a rotation of a Brooklyn Brewery beer or two around. So with a brew in our hand, we set our eyes on the Guinness Fish and Chips.
Yes, you read right. Now most places would serve cod or haddock as the fish of choice, but Tavern on 7 uses scrod. In fact, their website description lists it as "Boston scrod, dipped in Guinness drought batter, served with a lemon tartar sauce and hand cut fries."
This is no joke when I say that you have to try this, the fish along with the tartar sauce tastes great. But for a true experience, go with some malt vinegar. The fish is golden and flaky, and it doesn't fall apart on your fork. We don't necessarily condone drinking, but it's even more awesome with a beer.
Once you've had this, it's hard to go back to Tavern on 7 for anything else. I personally think that they single handedly ruined fish and chips for all of us, it's that good. It may not be British, but it does this fellow Yankee proud.
Tavern on 7
611 Main Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06851
(203) 642 - 3791
Monday, November 14, 2011
A month ago I contributed an article about John Tunney’s latest creation, Ballo Italian Restaurant & Social Club. Now, I am pleased to bring you a sneak peek at not just the décor, not just a menu preview, but of the reason we are all here, for the food.
With Ballo set to open to the public on September 22, I went to a press preview to sample their new age Italian cuisine and the classics we are familiar with.
But first, let me take you on a brief tour of this restaurant/bar/dance club/lounge. Remember that preview article? All that construction and the pictures of what it will look like? Seeing those photos is one thing, seeing this place in person is another. The wraparound marble bar, the sphere-like hanging lamps, the giant lanterns, and the fireplaces, give Ballo a glow unlike any other restaurant in Mohegan Sun Casino. The tall archways, high ceilings, and artwork, created by Tunney’s brother, will make you feel like you left Connecticut and teleported to Italy. The lounge area with these eclectic and comfortable zebra striped chairs, make you want to kick it with your friends while you sip on a drink. In fact, when you’re here, you will feel like you left the casino.
Enough furniture talk. That whole “kick back and have a drink idea,” let’s do it. There is no better way to start your Ballo experience then with their signature drink, the Ballo Limonata, consisting of Spirit Vodka from Italy, Cointreau, and a blood orange ice cube of sorts. The Limonata is a strong, yet smooth drink, with a lemon-lime flavor, that will change as the frozen blood orange melts away.
Out of the eight course meal, there were many highlights. My personal favorite was quite basic, the meatballs. Think back to when grandma or mom used to make them. When you try these, they will erase those childhood memories. Ballo’s meatballs are made with only six total ingredients according to Chef de Cuisine Shaun Colan. While I cannot fault him for not giving us reporters the recipe, the meatballs are made primarily of pork. These will be the lightest, most tender meatball you will ever have. The fresh tomato sauce has a bit of spice to it, when people look away, mop up that sauce with a piece of bread. Other featured appetizers are the Ballo Caprese Salad and the Crispy Artichokes with arugula and lemon. The artichokes are first poached in high quality extra virgin olive oil, roasted in the oven, and flash fried in a sauté pan at high heat to give it that crunch.
If you like pizza, try one here. Ballo likes to serve pizza right out of the oven without much waiting time. We were served their Sweet Sausage Pizza with roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, and provolone. The dough was light and that mixture of toppings provided that salty/sweet thing most of us like.
For pasta, try Ballo’s creamy Tagliatelle with prosciutto and parmigiano. To get an idea about this dish, think alfredo, only better. Other pasta options include Ravioli with ricotta, mascarpone, and basil pesto, and Chitarra with lobster, carbonara, and bacon. You know that sounds good. Some of the entrees are classics like chicken or veal parmigiana, Veal Marsala, Chicken Francaise, and Branzino. Swordfish, Cod, and a tender Filet Mignon with heirloom tomatoes, grilled radicchio, and arugula are some of Ballo’s lighter menu items.
Prices at Ballo are reasonable for fine Italian dining. Nothing on the menu is over $35 and most appetizers, salads, and pizzas are in that $8-$15 range. So if you want a great meal and don’t wish to spend $80 per person at Bar Americain or Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, Ballo is the choice for you.
If you’re still in doubt about Ballo, they will feature D.J.s, and dancing all over the floor and on the tables. Who can pass up fun like that?
Another great addition to Ballo is the wonderful staff they have in place. The bartenders know their drinks, the wait staff knows the menu and seems to know about food, and everyone here has personality. I don’t know about you, but I love that.
Relax with a drink, eat great food, do it with good people, and have fun and dance, but do it at Ballo.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
When you make a dinner reservation, you expect to be seated upon arrival. When that reservation is for 10 p.m., you do not expect a crowded restaurant. That was not the case at Tarry Lodge in Westport. This Tarry Lodge is the second (the first is in Port Chester, NY) to be opened by famed restauranteurs Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. You can expect a wait, and waiting is a pet peeve when you are hungry, but the food at Tarry Lodge makes up for that.
Chances are that you may need a reservation. I made one nearly a week in advance and could only get in at that late hour. The wait was frustrating but the staff at Tarry Lodge was welcoming. They continuously checked on our table and chatted with us a bit. The free glasses of Prosecco brought over by a manager to say “Sorry for the wait,” softened the anticipation of great food. This wait provided an opportunity to look around. This place was packed and bustling with a grown up crowd hanging out with friends and family and others that were here on a date. A dim lit dining room with the windows removed provided a relaxing summery feel. The décor was simple; a large table in the center of the dining area where strangers sit together mixed with more private tables and chairs should you not want to sit with people you do not know. A few highlights of Tarry Lodge are sure to be the bar area where you can sit and have a drink and a snack. And the most interesting part is the pizza bar. Have a seat at a bar stool while you watch your pizza being pounded out, flipped up, made to order, and put in the oven right in front of you.
Finally it was time to be seated.
Right away you can tell that Tarry Lodge keeps it simple. The menu consists of a few appetizers, salads, pizza, pasta, and entrées. In each category there are limited choices but let’s be honest, don’t you hate going to a restaurant that has a novel of a menu? Have faith in a short menu and in restaurants owned by people with credibility. Being that Tarry Lodge’s full title is Tarry Lodge Enoteca Pizzeria, we decided to start off with pizza.
Choosing a pizza was difficult. We wanted to sample every one. After a vote, we decided on a Margherita and a goat cheese pizza with pistachios and truffle honey. The Margherita had a fresh sauce, the right amount of mozzarella, and was my favorite of the two pies. This is a pizza anyone would enjoy with an ice cold beer. The goat cheese pizza was creamy, and the toasted pistachios added a crunchy aspect with the nuttiness really coming through. Tarry Lodge has perfected a dough that comes out of the oven crispy, chewy, and light all at once. Other pizza options are the burrata with pancetta and chile oil, a clam pizza with garlic and oregano, and meatball with jalapenos, oregano, and fontina cheese. Pizzas range from $9-$18 and will be worth your money.
For an entrée and if you are a spaghetti lover, you cannot go wrong with the Spaghetti Ala Amatriciana. This is that Italian dish we are all familiar with but this is quite possibly the best version of it in the area minus the meatballs. This is a straightforward dish with a classic tomato sauce, some onions, garlic, and guanciale (pork cheek with a similar taste to bacon but saltier and softer in texture). A blissful bite is the pasta with the guanciale. There are chili flakes in the pasta give you that needed kick but it does not overwhelm.
Other popular dishes at Tarry Lodge are Lamb Chops Scottadita with mint pesto, Gnocchi with brown butter and sage, and Lobster with Meyer lemon oil. It is doubtful that anything on their menu will disappoint. Prices are moderate also. Two pizzas, three entrées, and three desserts at $8 each only came out to $107.
Come here on a date night, come with your family, bring some friends. You will leave full, satisfied, and wanting more. You may even find a new favorite dish like I did with the spaghetti. We should expect greatness from Batali and Bastianich. They delivered with Tarry Lodge.
30 Charles Street
Westport, CT 06880
(203) 571 1038
Monday, November 7, 2011
Smokey Bones is a popular place in RI. It’s well known for its BBQ style food and burgers. It has that twist between Ruby Tuesdays and Texas Roadhouse. (For those of you unfamiliar with Texas Roadhouse, take a look at our previous posts).
Smokey Bones is also very popular for something else other than their style of cooking. So...let’s start with an appetizer, and probably the best app I've ever had. They are well known for their chicken chili nachos. Everybody who is anybody orders this when they walk in the place. Some even come just for the nachos. Everyone loves them. I bet even vegetarians take on a platter of them when they come to this place, and lie about it later. These nachos are a beautiful centerpiece for your table. Served on a large tin plate, piled high, and covered in an array of edible colors. Chicken chili, peppers, jalapenos, sour cream. Just simply amazing.
Once we downed the nachos, it was time for the main course. With all the options I had to choose from, I had to get a burger. This place knows how to cook a burger. You get it they way you order it, and you get it fast. I got the Smokehouse Burger. It’s your typical western style burger with BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese, smoked bacon, fried onion strings, and a whole onion ring. If you are a fan of burgers, you must have this place on your bucket list of burger joints to hit. All I have to say is every time I am in RI; I make it a priority to go to Smokey Bones.
Smokey Bones has multiple locations, for one near you, visit http://www.smokeybones.com/. And follow them on Twitter @SmokeyBonesBar.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
So your weekend begins like any other. After sleeping in till 11 you decide to roll out of bed and take a shower. You give a few calls to your friends to see what they are up to. Maybe hit up a place for lunch. I'm sure you get the picture.
Mine began a little differently. I woke up at about 6:30 a.m. Race morning. I was taking on another half marathon. And when I got to the start line that morning I was already craving food and I knew that my energy jellybeans and water were not going to cut it, but it would have to do for the time being. While I ran the race, I thought about what I was going to eat after. Something I commonly do because as a runner, when you run 13.1 miles, you want food right after.
I thought of a few good places that I could go where I could make a pig of myself. At about mile nine, it hit me. I wanted some good old fashion BBQ. Being that I am a fan of the South and Southern cooking, that is usually a tough task in the North and in the tri-state area. As many of you Northerners know, you can’t find good Southern cooking here. And if you do, it's a needle in a hay stack.
I remembered one place long ago in Shrub Oak, New York. It’s about the next town over from where I live. I ate at the place once before and I didn't remember if I liked it or not. So I had to refresh my memory. After all, it was probably eight years ago when I was first there. Bob-B-Q's.
I went home, showered and was off for some BBQ. I pulled into the place, jumped out of the car and made my way to my after race meal. Before I got in I smelled the BBQ cooking. They had a smoker out back which was giving off the scent. I got to the front and ordered my meal. There was so much to choose from. You could get just about anything BBQ you could think of, beef brisket, ribs, burgers, hot dogs, pulled pork, chicken. They even had small side dishes such as BBQ corn, mashed potatoes, and corn bread. You name it. For a small place, the menu was huge!
I had to go with the pulled pork sandwich and a side of fries. It’s what I had been craving since mile nine of my run. They service was great. Real fast and the girl at the counter was very polite. In about five minutes, my meal was ready and she brought it out to me. I took my first bite and I fell in love. It was the best pulled pork sandwich I ever had in the North. And to be honest, some of the Southern places I had gone to had some competition as well. This thing was mouth watering. It was steaming hot, just how I like it. Just the right amount of BBQ sauce where you can enjoy the taste of the pork as well. The fries were just a side, but perfectly crisp. The sandwich was even made Southern style with the slaw on it as well.
So if you have a craving for Southern cooking and you live in the North (preferably Westchester or Putnam County) you have to try Bob-B-Q's. For ten bucks you can walk away with a perfect pulled pork sandwich, crispy fries, and a soda. Bob, wherever you are, you are a blessing to the north.
958 E. Main Street.
Shrub Oak, NY 10588
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
A few weeks back I was on assignment for CBS doing one of my reviews. After finding a parking lot nearby Butterfield 8, where I was reviewing a comedy show and dinner, I noticed a small café called Volta. Now, I’m a sucker for really good gelato so obviously I saw the word “Gelateria” on Volta’s sign. I figured I would stop in after my review if they were open late.
Thank you Gelato Gods. And I really mean that. The best dessert I had in Downtown Stamford in recent years was the crackpie at Market. Well, they are closed now. Disappointing, yes, until I discovered this tiny gelateria and creperia.
Volta is very European looking, clean but elegant, with a friendly staff that will gladly let you sample some of the flavors to help you make a decision. But I am confident that any gelato choice here will not prove to be a bad one.
Usually I would order something classic, chocolate or vanilla, but I was feeling adventurous. I went with the medium sized cup and chose coconut and Oreo. The coconut was creamy with real coconut in it. It actually took me back to my childhood when my Puerto Rican grandmother would split coconuts on the front porch and make an ice cream like substance out of them. Sorry grandma, I have fond memories but Volta’s version was texturally smoother and will bring me back for more. Luckily my grandmother has no idea how to use the Internet to read this.
The Oreo was equally as awesome. Just as smooth as the coconut and very “Oreoey.” Yep, that’s a word now. Can I get the copyright to it?
In addition to gelato, Volta also serves salads, sandwiches, coffees, crepes, fresh juices, and alcoholic beverages.
I will be back at Volta and I urge you all to forget about dessert at the other places and give them a shot. Now I have to try other flavors. But how do I give up on coconut and Oreo? Oh I know…buy the larger cup to put more flavors in. Sounds like the only answer.
Volta Gelateria Creperia
30 Spring Street
Stamford, CT 06901
This sweltering summer, version 2011, has not kept Fairfield County locals away from the Westport Farmer’s Market. Vendors can be seen all around, talking to customers and giving out free samples of everything from the typical farmer’s market fruits and vegetables, to meats, pizza, coffee, cheeses, and baked goods. I was among the crowd on a hot day in late July to experience a truly tasty farmer’s market experience.
Walking around the farmer’s market, you can see nice deep red tomatoes, beautiful flowers to give to your loved one from gardens all over Connecticut, the greenest of green veggies, sweet strawberries and other fruits, fresh baked tarts, cookies, and brownies. And of course all the townspeople shopping for the freshest organic ingredients for dinner that night. Let’s not forget the children tugging on mom and dad’s clothing to ask for an ice cold lemonade to cool off and to go with a homemade pretzel.
The Westport Farmer’s Market even had outdoor yoga by Kaia Café which operates out of Greenwich and Westport. In addition to yoga, they specialize in healthy food options like fresh squeezed juices, salads, wraps, smoothies, and juice cleansers. Sono Baking Company out of Norwalk looked to be a busy table with their fresh baked tarts, cookies, and pretzels. The best bread at this outdoor market comes from Wave Hill Breads. Their ciabatta bread with roasted red peppers and olives will have you hooked after you sample it. Their three grain ciabatta was also a highlight.
As I walked through the market I sampled cheeses, breads, and even a few salads. The salads samples were courtesy of Bistro Du Soleil from New Canaan. If you are looking for light, healthy options, visit them. They were kind enough to let me snack on two salads, the quinoa and a salmon salad. When eaten together, these salads complimented each other well. The quinoa was light and fluffy like it is supposed to be and the salmon was fresh. Trust me, even if you are not a fish lover, you will enjoy this salmon salad or the combination of the salmon and quinoa.
A welcomed sight on a hot, humid day was ice cold milk in a glass bottle from Smyth‘s Trinity Farm in Enfield. If something ever looking refreshing, this was it. The nostalgia of a glass milk bottle will take some customers back to their childhood. “We have 26 cows in Enfield where we get the milk,” said owner Anne Dugas. “Our whole family runs the farm and we use all organic practices with our cows.” In addition to milk, Smyth’s Farm also has yogurt, cheese, cream, butter, and eggs.
One of my favorite stops of the day was Raus Coffee. Owner Donny Raus and Nando Casinelli sell a bottle of brew called Cold Roman. Cold Roman is delicious when served like its name suggests. Cold. A few ounces of Cold Roman and some half and half makes for a strong, refreshingly cold iced coffee. “I always do my best to produce good coffee,” Raus said. “I work hard because I want people to enjoy the product and I would not want to tarnish my name. Ever.” Cold Roman sells for $21 for a glass bottle and refills are available for $18.
I look around and try to notice one important thing at outdoor markets. What are the vendors eating? The answer, wood fired pizzas from Skinny Pines Brick Over Caterers. Standing in front of an extremely hot brick oven was owner Jeff Borofsky making classic pizzas like cheese, pepperoni, and breakfast (bacon, egg, and cheese pizza). The crust has that burnt in some areas effect that pizza enthusiasts love and that crispy, chewy texture. This is a can’t miss for $9-$11 per pizza.
Peace Tree Desserts had my new favorite cookie. A chipotle chocolate chip cookie. Soft baked, chewy, chocolaty, and with a spicy finish. A customer believed in it so much that she let me have a piece of her cookie! She was right. The cookie was big and for $3, something this good is a bargain. Owner Robyn Eads operates out of Westport says that they keep everything organic. “We use all local, sustainable ingredients, some are from these vendors right here,” she said. “That chipotle cookie is most definitely the best cookie around.”
The Westport Farmer’s Market is located in the Imperial Avenue parking lot in Westport, Connecticut and is open from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Thursdays from May 23 to November 3. For more information on the farmer’s market, visit westportfarmersmarket.com.
When you go to the Westport Farmer’s Market, make sure you stop by some of these places to meet some of the great people behind these great products. Take your family and bring plenty of cash. You will not be able to leave without multiple bags of food. While you’re at it, stay and have lunch too.