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Brunch at Norwalk’s OAK + ALMOND

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2014-02-16 12.09.10 HDRA friend once told me, “Brunch without mimosas is just a late breakfast,” and I fully subscribe to that philosophy.  I can’t think of a better way to begin a lazy Sunday than to linger over bottomless mimosas or sip a spicy Bloody Mary, so how could I turn down an invitation to Norwalk’s Oak + Almond to sample their seemingly never ending brunch menu.

Oak + Almond’s Executive Chef, Jeff Taibe, comes from a family of culinary heavy hitters – his brother is Bill Taibe of Le Farm and The Whelk fame. As anyone with an over-achieving sibling knows, having a serious pedigree comes with high expectations and Oak + Almond is no exception.  Like his brother, Jeff takes great pride in locally sourcing his ingredients, but the preparation over an oak and almond wood-fired oven (hence the name) and the bright, clean flavors of his Oak +Almond menu are uniquely his own.  Taibe is constantly tweaking his seasonal menu and experimenting with innovative flavor combinations which keeps things exciting (and provides more reasons to return!).

From the moment we were seated at an 18-foot long, rustic farmhouse table in the center of the elegantly designed main dining room, the food (and drinks, naturally) began to flow.  Boards laid thick with artisanal cheese, house made preserves, croistini, and cured meats were placed before us to nibble, followed by bowls of tender pork and ricotta meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce, and lightly charred and delightfully crunchy wedges of funghi and Margherita style flatbreads grilled in the wood fired oven.

Main courses ran the gamut from classic to inspired, but all exceeded expectations. Two local farm eggs with potato hash and meaty strips of bacon from Saugatuck Craft Butchery and thick toast from Wave Hill Bakery appealed to breakfast purists. The B.E.C. is Taibe’s gourmet answer to the deli breakfast sandwich – crispy strips of bacon, griddled eggs and extra-sharp cheddar is piled on a freshly baked brioche roll.  Those with a penchant for a sweet breakfast should try the fluffy buttermilk pancakes topped with roasted apples, or go for total carb-overload with slabs of brioche French toast with caramelized bananas and candied pecans.

When you take the “br” out of the equation, you’re left with “unch” – and Oak + Almond’s lunch-ier options are no less delish.  Piles of steaming mussels and fries, grass-fed hamburger (with bacon and gorgonzola), homemade pasta carbonara (gooey and delicious with a runny farm egg) and an ever-changing “kitchen sink” salad (a big bowl of healthy Holbrook Farm greens with everything and anything seasonal tossed in).  Taibe wisely provides enough on each plate to share – everything looks so yummy that you can’t help but snag a tiny taste off your pal’s plate.

Last, but certainly not least, the drinks menu…because as my wise friend pointed out, it’s just not brunch without a bit of the hair o’the dog.  The house-blended Bloody Mary is a definite hit with a skewer of pickled veggies perched atop the glass.  Also memorable (and that’s saying a lot after a boozy brunch) was the Oak + Almond cocktail, a concoction of bourbon, bitters, lemon, and almond syrup.  The elderflower fizz (vodka, elderflower syrup, mint, lime) was a refreshing alternative to a mimosa. With about a dozen specialty cocktails and a long list of draft and bottled beers and wine rounds out the impressive drink book.

Oak + Almond’s brunch is served on both Saturday and Sunday from 11am-3pm, making it the perfect start or finish to any weekend.  Cheers!

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