If you haven’t heard already, Anthony Bourdain is coming to town.
The host of the the Travel Channel’s wildly popular No Reservations and author of Kitchen Confidential, etc. will be at the Palace in Stamford on Saturday, February 12 and here’s your chance to win a pair of tickets.
All you gotta do is share a recipe in the comment section of this post for a Super Bowl party dish and we’ll select a winner at random. (I’m really just trying to crowd-source ideas here, but whatever, they’re free tickets)
Make your submission by Friday Feb. 5 at midnight and I’ll announce the winner on Sunday.
That’s pretty much the deal.
DETAILS: Tickets are $39.50 and $47.50 through scalive.org, by phone at 203.325.4466, or at the Palace Theatre Box Office. A limited number of VIP packages are available for $83, which includes premium seating and an exclusive post-show meet-and-greet and book signing with Bourdain.
P.S. Feel free to drop a recipe, but if you are or are related to a Hearst employee or have ‘Preovolos’ in your last name, you will be excluded from the contest…which pretty much rules out 90% of the LBC’s audience.
I kept hearing about this pizza joint where the concession stand at the Darien Ice Rink used to be. But it couldn’t possibly be any good, right?
This dude I work with My boss has been raving about it. Endlessly.
He repeatedly attempted to persuade me to check it out, but there was always a conflict. At his own Christmas party, we almost snuck out and headed over for a pie until it became crystal clear that both his wife and my girlfriend would view this as rather rude and that the fallout wouldn’t be worth it, even for New-Haven style pizza.
Long story short: I finally made it and it’s totally legit.
Owner Billy Ferguson brought in chef Derek Furino, a former long-time employee of Pepe’s, so the pies at Behind The Net are pretty damn good. Derek and I talked dough and technique as he shucked fresh bivalves for a white clam pie. Clearly he doesn’t stray far from New Haven tradition, but he also takes a shot at a Stamford classic: the sausage and hot oil pie. This dude even uses DeYulio sausage and while it’s nothing like the famed SHO served at Colony, it’s worth trying out.
My favorite pie of the night was the plain mozzarella with red sauce that came straight from the oven with a near perfect crust while others in our group preferred the white clam ( I felt the crust was too thin).
But anyway, it’s probably the best pizza in Darien and definitely the best pizza you will ever eat in an ice rink.
ABOVE: Alvino Villa and his daughter celebrate the opening of Casa Villa’s second location in Stamford.
NEW CASA VILLA: 886 EAST MAIN STREET, STAMFORD
Casa Villa is one of my favorite things about Stamford.
It’s been an island of solace in times of homesickness. It’s provided me with holiday meals, lunch breaks and more than a few tacos al pastor. It’s unquestionably my neighborhood favorite.
While the little restaurant on West Main Street will always be a special place for me, I eagerly awaited the opening of their second location in Stamford, this one on the East Side.
I’d ask owner Alvino Villa when the new restaurant would be ready and for months the answer was always “two more weeks.”
Alvino was sweating the details — and for good reason — he’s owned restaurants for long time but we wanted this one to be special.
Casa Villa has a loyal following across a broad spectrum of Stamford’s residents and this is their time to shine. The food is always going to be good, but the new location is Casa Villa’s chance to step out street-corner taqueria mold.
When they opened last Monday, I was happy to be one of the first customers. I found Alvino inside with his family and a few employees, most of whom were doting on the lone diner. It was the first night and everybody seemed excited — Alvino was beaming, showing friends and family around the new digs. He fiddles around with the lights for a while, taking down the pendant lights a touch until it wast just right.
Inside it’s modern and dramatically lit. Mexican-themed, but subtle. In many ways, it feels a world away from the original location on the West Side.
The front of the restaurant features a few high, round tables with a view of the counter and kitchen, the main seating area is around the corner.
The menu is almost identical (the biggest difference is inclusion of alcohol), so regulars and new comers alike will not be disappointed.
But the best news is that the prices are are so ridiculously reasonable. I haven’t made a side-by-side comparison of the menus, but for all the bonuses (off-street parking, full table service, beer, etc.) the prices are only marginally higher than I’m used to at Casa Villa.
Since opening night, I’ve been back twice and will probably stop in again this week. I can’t get enough.
I never really considered making homemade bagels before. I mean, why go to the trouble (which I assumed was immense) when I can always hit up Village Bagels on Hope Street?
Trouble? Turns out, not so much.
My sister occasionally makes them using Peter Reinhart’s recipe when the family is together. Unlike her, I don’t actually own the book (something I should probably rectify) but Deb at Smitten Kitchen has an old post with her own adaptation of the recipe.
I sent this around to a couple of friends who immediately dismissed it as being too complicated. If you take a closer look, however, it’s not that complex of a process. Anybody can do this.
In fact, they were so successful I can’t even expand on the recipe here, other than to say the next time I make these (today) I will make all 4.5-ounce bagels, the smaller versions were sort of pointless. If you weigh out the bagels to this size, the recipe will yield a baker’s dozen. (Incidentally, the recipe requires barley malt syrup, which was pretty easy to find in Stamford)
LBC NOTE: This post is one of my ongoing contributions to The Hamblogger. Please, please check out the site, it’s awesome.
You could tell by the look on my face I had no idea where Stevens Street was when my buddy Tim was trying to tell me how to get to Blue Cactus Grill. While not exactly hidden, the newish deli and grill in Norwalk is definitely tucked away — nestled in a residential neighborhood adjacent the city’s hospital and not far off of Interstate-95.
Icy mounds of dirty snow from last week’s massive Nor’easter linger and in the fading afternoon light of winter, the small strip of mom-and-pop stores look slightly depressing.
But Blue Cactus, with its hand-lettered chalkboard out front and shiny new signage, is at once a beacon of hamburger-righteousness and of the American entrepreneurial spirit.
It’s as if to say: vicious snow storms, economic downturn and candy-ass gourmet burgers be damned, we persevere in the name of ground beef and twice-fried potatoes.
Surveying the scene inside, it’s clear this place means business. Sparsely decorated with a vaguely Southwestern theme, Blue Cactus doesn’t exactly lack character, but the ambience is not the main draw. With one table and a long counter, it’s not meant for a leisurely lunch, but it’s also not just another neighborhood deli serving limp burgers from frozen patties on cheap, bready rolls.
From the beef, which is a custom blend of chuck and sirloin (83/17) from Danbury’s Omaha Beef Company, to the house-blended seasoning and remarkably chewy and light local buns, the burgers here are obviously not your ordinary deli fare.
In fact, they’d give most sit-down burger joints a run for their money.
Owner Vic Amereno, who has a long history in the restaurant and catering business, is a native of Connecticut, but twelve years in Tucson, Arizona left a mark on his culinary style; much of the menu features Southwestern-style dressings, salsas and condiments. (The sandwiches are served with an appropriately-themed cilantro lime coleslaw)
But Vic and I are of the same mind (we’d both prefer a basic burger) and I order an archetypically American creation — a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, pickles and Thousand Island dressing.
Oh yeah, and french fries.
The french fries are what drew me in first; they are light and perfectly seasoned. Cut on the premises from Kennebec potatoes (the same as In-N-Out), soaked to remove much of the starch and double-fried, they border on exceptional examples of thin-cut fries.
But the burger itself is also impressive. A full eight ounces of fresh beef is seared on the hot top and then transferred to the grill, awaiting a couple slices of American cheese, condiments and plating.
It’s a double-fisted affair, but not overwhelming. The bun holds up well under the circumstances and as strange as it sounds, it was one of my favorite things about this burger. Its plainness in no way distracts from the meat and condiments and the chewy texture provides for light, yet substantial conveyance for the meaty goodness contained within.
In a world of trending toward gourmet brioche buns, slathered in butter or otherwise adorned or adulterated, there is something to be said for a basic, high-quality bun.
What Blue Cactus offers is not the best hamburger I have ever had, but a prime example of what can be done with good ingredients and a little care. The result is a product that far exceeded my expectations from what a first blush appeared to be a simple neighborhood deli.
Vic acknowledges his location may be less-than-prime but he adds, “I just hope the food speaks for itself and that people seek us out.”
EL CHARRITO: JACKIE ROBINSON PARK, STAMFORD & 7 APACHE PLACE, GREENWICH
I’ve been hanging on to this news for quite some time and it’s been killing me. While Alex Terron from El Charrito has been hinting at a new location, she wouldn’t give me the address until last night.
Well now it’s official: El Charrito, the bright-yellow taco truck with a cult following on Stamford’s West Side, will also offer takeout from a new location at 7 Apache Place in Greenwich.
This comes at a time when the area is seeing a veritable taco renaissance. From a second location of Casa Villa, to Bar Taco in Port Chester and Lola’s in downtown Stamford, Mexican food in this part of the world is finally, slowly coming of age.
Terron told me they’d been renting a commercial kitchen to prep food for the truck and when an opportunity opened up in Greenwich where they could combine this with a small takeout operation, they jumped on it.
Alex and her husband, Carlos, are two of my favorite small business owners in Stamford if for no other reason than for the energy they bring to their work — they are constantly putting new things on the menu and tweaking recipes. On a recent visit, I found Carlos poring over recipes in the back of the truck while working on some new salad dressings.
I’ve never seen a guy more excited about salad dressing before, but this is what makes El Charrito special and this is why I’ll be one of the first customers on Monday.
P.S. Incidentally, Moe, of Moe’s Burger Joint in Greenwich, told me recently he’s thinking about opening a taco shop in Greenwich. He’s Egyptian, but no newcomer to Latin-American cuisine — he owns Geronimo in New Haven and Sonora in Port Chester.