Dry roasted, in-the-shell almonds? That’s nuts! I spied these goodies on the bottom shelf at Trader Joe’s. I almost didn’t get them, because I thought you might need a nutcracker for them and I have no idea where mine is. The good news is, though, that the shells are cracked and thin enough so that you can open them with your fingers, just like a peanut. They’re very tasty. My only wish is that the salt pervaded more of the shell, because unless you pry them open with your teeth, you miss that salty goodness. But otherwise, they’re a nice change from peanuts.
A couple of blog posts ago I wrote about Wild Acorns, a store in Orange that sells specialty oils and vinegars. I thought that something like that would do a rip-roaring business in Fairfield. Well, whaddya know? As I was walking past the Community Theater the other day, I noticed a sign in the space formerly occupied by Ulla Surland. It said, “Coming soon! Dash N Drizzle: Fairfield’s premiere oil and vinegar bar.”
So now, between Wild Acorns in Orange, Olivette in Darien and Norwalk, and now Dash N Drizzle in Fairfield, you’ll be able to make some kick-butt salad dressings.
Um, did you realize Mother’s Day is this Sunday? Yeah, it seemed to sneak up this year. If you’re looking for a new restaurant to try, check out Parallel Post in Trumbull (180 Hawley Lane in the Trumbull Marriott; 203-380-6380). They’ll be offering a breakfast buffet for $16.95 for adults, $12.95 for children 6-12 and free for children under 6. Then, starting at 1 p.m. until 6 p.m., they’ll have a special Mother’s Day menu. Here’s a preview:
Raw Bar For Two 39
Clams, Oysters, Half Lobster and Shrimp with Tarragon Mignonette, Cocktail Sauce and Horseradish
Rustic Chicken Soup 8
Orzo, Spinach, Parmesan Cheese
Cachapas Con Carnitas 8
Fire-Roasted Tomato, Lime Crema
Italian Pasta Salad 7
Creste Di Galli, Pepper Cress, Olives, Pecorino Cheese
Gilbertie’s Green Salad 10
Lettuce Mix, Goat Cheese, Celery Root, Ramp Vinaigrette
Grilled Asparagus 14
Prosciutto, Crispy Shallots, Manchego Cheese, Poached Egg
Parallel Post Eggs Benedict
Short Rib Frittata 14
Spinach, Tomato, Mushroom, Vermont Cheddar
Vegetable and Grain Plate 16
Assortment of Grains and Vegetables
Seared Sea Bass 24
Peas, Fava Beans, Fiddlehead Ferns, Maitake Mushrooms
Glazed Salmon 23
Somen Noodles, Baby Bok Choy, Sweet Corn, Shiitake Mushrooms
Prawn n Grits 29
Hot Sopressata, Piquillo Pepper
Butter-Poached Whole New England Lobster 42
Black Rice, Icewine-Ginger Sauce
Roasted Chicken Breast 19
Goat Cheese Farro, Arugula, Pine Nuts, Currants, Thyme Jus
Skirt Steak 20
Black Beans, Corn Salsa, Yucca, Chimichurri Sauce
Beef Tenderloin 37
Onion Gratin, Swiss Chard, Cabernet Sauce
Strawberry Shortcake 8
Strawberries, Vanilla Whip Cream
Banana Crème Brulee 7
Housemade Turtle Cheesecake 8
Chocolate, Pecans, Bourbon Caramel Sauce
Chocolate Panna Cotta 7
Vanilla Ice Cream, Salted Caramel, Toasted Hazelnuts
On a whim, I bought a Living Social voucher to a store in Orange called Wild Acorns. I didn’t know anything about it, except that the store sold vinegars and olive oils. I figured I can always use more of those, so I bought one voucher. Now I wish I had bought more. The store is in an unremarkable storefront across from Bob’s Discount Furniture. You know the area– highly commercial, crazy traffic, not exactly the place to achieve zen-like peace.
Walk into the store, however, and it’s a different story. It’s quiet, it’s pretty and there’s a lot to see. The website says Wild Acorns is “Your local gourmet specialty store.” There are big vats of oils and vinegars (and plenty of little cups so you can taste). There’s a make-your-own trail mix bar, featuring things like yogurt raisins, dried fruits and candied nuts. And then there are teas, coffees, candies, sauces and all sorts of fun gourmet goodies. Here’s the best part, though. I’ve seen a lot of the things they have for sale at other stores, but the prices are much better. For instance, they had a tin of Harney & Sons Chocolate and Coconut tea that I’ve been wanting to buy forever, but I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the $15 that a local store was asking. I found the same tea at Wild Acorns for $6.99. It went right into my basket.
My second item was a bottle of espresso balsamic vinegar. Let me just say, it’s so exciting to discover new taste combinations that perk up your palate. As soon as I tasted it, I had to have it. I’m going to use it on pulled pork this weekend.
My third splurge was a container of buttery, salty Marcona almonds. I got them from the trail mix bar, and I figured I’d scooped about $8 worth of almonds. I was happily surprised when they rang up at $3.
I really like this place and if it was in Fairfield or Westport, I think it would do a rip-roaring business. Orange, though, I’m not so sure. That stretch of road is so busy that people just might drive right by it. I’m very glad I stopped in and I hope it does well, because I know where I’m going to get Christmas gifts next year.
516 Boston Post Road, Orange
Monday to Friday 9:30-6; Saturday, 10-6; and Sunday, 11-4.
Sherri Brooks Vinton is back! You may know this Easton resident as the author of “Put ‘Em Up: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling.” (You can read all about it here.) Now, just in time for summer, she’s come out with “Put ‘Em Up! Fruit: A Preserving Guide & Cookbook” (Storey Publishing, 2013). There are over 80 recipes in this full-color, easy-to-follow guide. Each chapter is broken down by fruit– apples, cherries, lemons, grapes, rhubarb, etc. Yes, there are recipes for jams and jellies, but also all sorts of creative things like blueberry ketchup, cranberry molasses, and strawberry balsamic glaze. As if we weren’t already itching for warm weather, this book will make you crave all the delicious fruits of summer.
After a relatively quiet winter, the local dining scene is heating up again. The Brick Walk in Fairfield lost two restaurants recently: Liquid Lunch and Vino & Mare. They’ll be replaced, soon, though by two new ethnic restaurants. In the former Liquid Lunch location will be Mecha Noodle Bar. According to the website (www.mechanoodlebar.com), it will be a noodle bar combined with a “trendy, community gastropub.” The menu isn’t on line yet, but no doubt it will be a welcome change from the plethora of Italian restaurants in the area. The former Vino & Mare will be home to Bar-O, “a cantina redefined.” Again, no menu is posted, although the sister restaurant is Mezon in Danbury, which features an array of tapas, sandwiches, salads and entrees. (www.baroct.com.)
In Westport, all eyes are on Rive Bistro, overlooking the Saugatuck River. Owned by Eric Sierra (formerly of Bistro des Amis), will feature classic French recipes like Duck Confit with Fingerling Potato, wild mushrooms and frisee, Moules Frites Provencale and Steak Frites.(299 Riverside Ave., Westport; 203-557-8049; www.rivebistro.com.)
Lastly, a new organic, seasonal restaurant has just opened in Norwalk. Oak & Almond took over the former Tuscan Oven location and the menu includes dishes such as swordfish crudo with blood orange ponzu, pickled beets and avocado; pork and ricotta meatballs with spicy tomato sauce; and porcini-rubbed rib eye. (544 Main Ave./Route 7, Norwalk; 203-846-4600; www.oakandalmond.com.)
I tried a few new recipes for Easter dinner and some were so good, I had to share. My friend Heidi made the ham, so all I had to do were the side dishes. I made green beans almondine, honey carrots and this amazing potato salad from The Food 52 Cookbook. Here’s the recipe. The mayonnaise is spicy and creamy–a nice complement to the crisp and fluffy roasted potatoes. I already know this is going to be one of my go-to recipes from now on.
For dessert, I made a lemon custard pie. Here’s the recipe. I’d never made a custard pie before, so I was a little nervous when it came out of the oven and it looked a little … boring. Thankfully, it tasted so much better than it looked. The silky custard, with its bright, lip-puckering lemon flavor, was a light, refreshing way to end the meal. They say you should never try new recipes on guests, but this time I lucked out. How about you? What did you make for your Easter feast?
I usually never go out to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day. I agree with what many foodies say– on this holiday, most restaurants are overpriced and understaffed. Better to wait and celebrate on another night. But, as I was able to procure a babysitter for the evening, and we’d just spent the past week holed up in the house during the snow storm, I was more than ready to get out.
We made reservations at Trumbull’s newest restaurant, Parallel Post. Housed within the Trumbull Marriott, it’s easy to get scared by the thought of a hotel restaurant. I was highly suspicious until I started reading what people had to say on a Facebook page. The reviews were promising. I went a few weeks ago with a bunch of girlfriends and had a lovely time, but I wanted to go with Mr. EatDrink and take the time to really savor the food.
First off, they did a good job in decorating. It feels like a destination, not just a hotel bar. It’s modern and clean with a good mix of tables, low-backed booths and a bar area. Because it appeals to both hotel guests and outsiders, there’s an interesting vibe going on. Some people dress up. Others come straight from the hotel gym.
Chef Dean James Max has six other restaurants in Ohio, Florida, Texas, and the Cayman Islands. Trumbull seems like an odd addition, but certainly a welcome one.
Here’s the only negative thing I’m going to say. The seating is tough. When I went with friends, there were nine of us and we were seated at a long, farm-style table. It was difficult, nearly impossible, actually, to talk with people on the opposite end. When Mr. EatDrink and I went, we were seated at one of the low-backed booths. The table itself was really wide; we felt miles away from each other and sat on the edge of our seats the whole evening. We contemplated turning it so it would be narrower, but decided not to upset the apple cart.
That’s the bad stuff. Now onto the good and the great. Parallel Post is a farm-to-table restaurant, meaning that they try to use as many local, organic, natural and seasonal ingredients as possible. The regular menu is divided into appetizers, soups, salads, vegetables, sandwiches, “meat without feet,” meat, and sweets. They have full bar menu with a few creative drinks.
The evening I went with friends, we all shared the sea salt, house-cut french fries with spicy ketchup and Old Bay vinegar($5). If you’re the type that only eats fries once in a blue moon, these are the ones to go for. They were hot, thin, and crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. For my entree that evening, I had the grilled flat iron steak, roasted fingerling potatoes, winter vegetables and rosemary sauce ($16). The steak was served sliced and was tender. I was concerned that the rosemary sauce might be overpowering (it’s not my favorite herb), but it was just right.
For Valentine’s Day, however, we chose not to order off the regular menu and opted for the special tasting menu instead. There were six courses, all paired with your choice of craft beer or wine ($60 or $80 with drinks). The first course was a raw bar– oysters, clams and shrimp served with cocktail sauce and a mignonette sauce that was so delicious I only wish we had bread to dip in it afterwards. The second course was a potato leek soup with Jonah crab. The silky bisque was creamy and sweet with a good scoopful of crabmeat on top. Next up was a salad of winter lettuce, kumquats, spiced walnuts, 2-year aged cheddar and a mandarin vinaigrette. The taste was so fresh and zesty that it hinted towards the coming of spring.
Seared tilefish with sunchoke, grilled red pears, tatsoi & citron oil was the next course. I’d never had tilefish before. The firm, mild fish had a nice grilled flavor and went well with the bitter greens. The last course before dessert was grilled beef tenderloin with truffle whipped mashed potatoes, yellow oyster mushrooms, spring garlic and a cabernet sauce. This alone was worth it and definitely the best beef I’ve had in a long time. It was buttery and rich and didn’t require any extra seasoning. The potatoes were fluffy and the mushrooms gave a nice contrasting texture. I told the waiter my only regret was that I’d never have this again, but he pointed out that the offer the same tenderloin on their regular menu. At $37, it’s their priciest entree, but well worth it if you’re in the mood for a classic, beefy steak.
Dessert was a Harpoon Chocolate Stout Creme Brulee with Toasted Espresso Beans. The custard was velvety with that signature snappy hard sugar crust. I could’ve done without the espresso beans; I was picking them out like watermelon seeds, but Mr. EatDrink said I was wrong on that. He believed they added a nice, roasty crunch.
I am so excited that Trumbull finally has an upscale, high-quality restaurant. The fact that it’s in a hotel may deter some, which is unfortunate. It’s absolutely worth a try, whether you sit at the bar and have a cheeseburger and a beer or celebrate a special occasion with a Harvest Sangria and short ribs.
180 Hawley Lane