Great Local Burger in SONO

Hearst Full BurgerIn my continuous and unending search for great hamburgers in Fairfield County, I returned to SONO to sample Chef Dan Kardos’ latest version at LOCAL Kitchen and Beer Bar. Kardos is no stranger to my “Best of” list with previous version from both Harvest Supper in New Canaan and NOLA (at this same location) earning a spot. The interior of the restaurant has been transformed, with more woods and lights plus the rear room (never my favorite) was converted into a Bourbon Bar. The new décor gives a much hipper and fun feel.

Chef Dan’s latest version is named “THE LOCAL BURGER” and includes all natural, humanely raised beef, sautéed wild mushrooms, bacon, Swiss cheese, fronions and black pepper mayo, encased in a Wave Hill bun…served with French fries and a pickle. I ordered it medium-rare and as I waited I looked through the menu. It includes four entrées, with the remaining items small and shared plates. Likewise it is very diverse in its cuisine’s origin, from Cuban Wraps to Pizzettes, to Pulled Pork Sliders and Thai Popcorn Chicken, the menu is a stroll around the world.

Hearst Cut BurgerThe burger arrived and the first item I noticed was its size, particularly its height. The patty must include at least 8-ounces of meat (sourced from Saugatuck Craft Butchers), covered in melted Swiss cheese. The cheeseburger sat atop the bacon, fronions and an array of sautéed wild mushroom. I cut in half and it was cooked absolutely spot on to medium-rare, the interior glistened with juice. A quick bite confirmed that Saugatuck Craft has great meat and the kitchen took care in forming the patty, allowing the meat to maintain its medium grind. The oozing Swiss cheese delivered creaminess and a great nuttiness. The fronions, wild mushrooms and bacon were intermingled under the patty, with the earthiness of the mushrooms the centerpiece of the flavors. The bacon was mild with just a touch of saltiness and the onions added additional saltiness. The pepper mayo added creaminess and a little spice. The Wave Hill bun continues as my bun of choice.

The fries were excellent, soft on the interior with a good crispy exterior, and seasoned perfectly.

Overall I though Chef Kardos’ newest burger, “The Local Burger” is delicious, with great flavors.

JAX – Mama’s Boy’s Other Child Opens in SONO

CTB CubanoWhenever the owner of a restaurant that serves great food announces a second location, I am excited to see where this second venture will lead.  After hearing that Greer Fredericks, the co-owner of Mama’s Boy in SONO, was opening JAX around the corner on North Main, I couldn’t wait for my first visit. JAX opened a few weeks ago and currently serves a wide range of breakfast options, plus a tremendous selection of creative sandwiches at lunch. It is also placing the final touches to its soon to be released take-away dinners, and awaiting the delivery of its ice cream machine.

©jeff “jfood” schlesingerLocated just south of the SONO theatre, the interior is completely redesigned, accented with a red painted art nouveau ceiling and lots of wood throughout…it is definitely the sister restaurant to Mama’s Boy. There is a long communal wooden table from front to back, seats along the window, a large display case, a separate open refrigerator with a great selection of beverages and blackboards on two walls announcing the menu.

CTB BreakfastWhen I walked into JAX, Greer was behind the counter, handling orders, making suggestions and bringing her southern charm to Norwalk. The menu is colorfully painted on the enormous multi-colored blackboard spanning the entire left wall. On my first visit I ordered the “Cubano,” described as Black Forest ham, pulled pork, Swiss, house pickles and creamy house mustard, served on a pressed Cuban roll. It has been a challenge over the years finding a great Cubano in the area.

CTB MenuJax’s rendition was delicious…my first bite was an explosion of flavors.  The sandwich started with a pile of pulled pork, which was tender, juicy and full of smokiness. The Swiss cheese offered a touch of nuttiness, the pickles added both crunch and a little tang, the mild black forest ham contributed more smokiness and then JAX swathed the roll with a spicy house-made mustard. The combination was outstanding, and the spicy mustard really kicked up the heat. Next time I will make sure it is grilled.

I cannot wait to return to JAX when it is in full swing. For now I will just have to work my way through a few more sandwiches…is “The Che,” “The Chicken and Waffle” or “The Spread” up next? It’s a tough decision.

46 North Main Street – South Norwalk, CT – 06854

203. 857.1414

http://www.jaxandcoct.com/

info@jaxandcoct.com

Table 104 (STM) – Not a Hit

BL Meatbals
Table 104 recently opened on Long Ridge Rd just north of Saks on the way to the Merritt, the fourth re-incarnation of this space (Matteo’s, Fio’s, and Minetto’s to name a few) over the past several years. In addition to the restaurants available in the strip malls on High Ridge, Table 104 offers an option to downtown Stamford. Parking is available in an attached lot, with valet parking on the weekends. We recently visited and sampled several small plates, a two pizza combinations, a pasta and one of their larger plates.

BL Arancini
My favorite dish of the visit was the “Sicilian Arancini with the Bolognese Sauce.” The arancini were perfectly cooked to maintain its interior moistness; and the kitchen did an excellent job in frying each ball to create a crispy exterior. They sat atop a mound of Bolognese sauce, which was very good…this dish was the highlight of the visit. The other small plate, The “Meatballs, Pork-Chicken Beef, Grilled Crostino, Marinara, Shaved Grana.” was disappointing. The meatballs were severely undercooked, borderline raw, spicy and once we tasted the very rare interior we stopped eating them.

BL MushroomPizza
The first pizza to arrive was the mushroom pizza. The mushrooms were pretty good and worked well with the cheese. The toppings on the other pizza were sausage, et. al. The sausage was also pretty good, unfortunately both suffered from a crust that was very bland.
BL Pasta
The pasta dish was capellini combined with shrimp, arugula and grape tomatoes. Other than a few slices of garlic, the dish was significantly under-seasoned, it was very bland. BL Steak
The “Grilled Hangar Steak, Smashed Fingerling, Roasted Peppers, Leeks, Mushroom Ragu,” ordered medium-rare, was served rare-raw. Other than a little vinegar flavor from the chimichurri, It was also under-seasoned. Unfortunately it was overwhelmed with oil from the chimichurri. The potatoes were well prepared but they too were without any seasoning.

Overall it was a very disappointing visit to Table 104. Other than the arancini, the other dishes were not memorable.

Table 104 Osteria-Bar on Urbanspoon

Tierra (Westport) – Big Bold Burger

CTB 1
When someone says, “you gotta try this burger,” I place on the list and visit as many as possible. Last week a buddy told me that I needed to visit Tierra and try their burger, and on a beautiful afternoon I journeyed to Westport, grabbed a table outside and ordered the “Tierra Burger, Topped with Home-made Chorizo, Chihuahua Cheese, Pequillo Pepper Aioli.”

The burger was served open faced, accompanied by a mound of blue Terra chips. On one side was a generous patty topped with a thick layer of melted cheese…and I could see sautéed peppers and onions (not described on the menu) peeking from under the cheese. The other half was covered with a liberal swath of the aioli. I cut the burger in half and it was perfectly prepared to medium-rare, the darkish red of the interior glistening with juice. The kitchen also took great care in keeping the medium grind intact, avoiding the tendency to compress the patty.

US3
I always taste a little of each of the ingredients. The beef was mild and not overly seasoned, while the crumbled chorizo, as well as the slivered sautéed Jalapeño peppers and onions were spicy and delicious. I wondered how it would all work in unison. The first bite was an explosion of flavors. The most notable was the chorizo, Jalapeño pepper and onion combination. Together these three items were fantastic. The Chihuahua cheese (similar to a mild cheddar) calmed the spiciness of these other toppings. The aioli also contributed a cooling aspect to the composition. The bun was one of the most buttery brioche I have tasted in my burger quest, but was out of balance with the other ingredients, almost fighting with them versus complementing.

Overall, the Tierra Burger is one of the most flavorful burgers in Fairfield County. The chorizo and Jalapeno peppers were the centerpieces of the combination. The beef patty was more a complement to these ingredients, versus vice versa. The Chihuahua cheese and aioli were great additions to soften the spiciness of the chorizo and peppers. If you are looking for a bold, Latin-inspired burger, Tierra is a great choice. For me, the combination of ingredients was more aligned to a fantastic taco than a burger.

Tierra on Urbanspoon

Le Languedoc (Nantucket) – Outstanding French Cuisine

When you think back on memorable meals, my recent meal at Le Languedoc qualifies as a perfect event. From the décor, the ambiance, the service and the food, each component was a perfect 10.

Located in downtown Nantucket, this French restaurant has several rooms and our group was seated in the rear room. The server asked for drink orders and described the additions to the menu for the evening. Included on our night was an appetizer of tomatoes and Burrata plus a lamb dish for the entrées. She mentioned the prices of each at the end of the presentation (which was perfect) and then allowed the table to decide from the regular menu or the specials.

For my appetizer I ordered the Tomato and Burrata Special and the Grilled Quail for my entrée.

The tomato and Burrata arrived and is was a generous portion, this was not the beginning of a small plate dining experience. The tomatoes were thickly sliced, sweet and delicious, and the Burrata was as creamy as any I have eaten. Basil leaves, plus a few drops of basil oil and extra virgin olive oil complemented the dish perfectly. The kitchen also added a few other greens, which were delicious but unnecessary.

My entrée arrived and I was pleasantly surprised that two full quail were included. Quail are usually very difficult to cut so I asked for a steak knife and when I made the first incision it was boneless, a fantastic way to serve. The quail was perfectly seasoned with a good amount of salt and pepper and cooked to retain all of its fantastic flavor and maintain its juiciness. The sides that accompanied the dish were a great balance of earthiness plus crunchiness that allowed the delicious quails to shine. We passed on dessert since we planned on ice cream at the Juice Bar down the street.

Overall this was an outstanding meal and our weekend in Nantucket.

I highly recommend Languedoc on any visit.

Proprietors Bar & Table (Nantucket) – Absolutely Outstanding

Proprietor’s is located on India Street in downtown Nantucket and the chef is creating some of the best dishes I have ever enjoyed. From the first bite of the bread to the last bite of the Moroccan Donuts, Proprietor’s is a restaurant that everyone who enjoys creative and delicious food must place on their list while in Nantucket.

The meal started with what I thought was going to be a simple slice of bread, but this was no ordinary bread. It was filled with a small amount of meat, and the texture of the bread was like none I have ever tasted. My instincts immediately kicked in…this might be one of those hidden gem restaurants that soon become a difficult reservation to obtain.

Our first course was the “Tuna Sunomono.” Several slices of tuna were topped with Peruvian Soy, Red Chile Sauce, Crispy Yucca, Yuzu, and Sesame. The fish was fresh, mild in flavor and the toppings added a touch of heat and just a smidgen of saltiness. It was a great beginning to tease the palate. The “Tater Cubes” were like none you have ever tasted, they were outstanding. Crispy Shredded Potatoes were perfectly fried and topped with Joppiesaus, Farm House Gouda, and served alongside a Beet Pickled Egg. The combination of the fried potatoes and the melting cheese delivered textural differences and great flavors.

This was followed by the “Cuchifritos,” the dish that most in our group thought was the best of the evening. A plate of Pork Riblets were topped with Sweet Chili Mojo, and served with Cheesy Masa Fries, and Annatto. The riblets were crisped on the exterior before the sauce was applied. The riblets remained crispy under the outrageously delicious sauce. My issue with the dish was the fries, they were grainy and a little off-putting.

Next to arrive was my favorite dish of the evening, the “Shaved ‘Pork-Umms‘,”comprised of Berkshire Pork, Scallion, Sesame BBQ sauce encased in a house-made Kimchee Biscuit. The meat was perfectly prepared, soft and moist with great flavor, and the Kimchee Biscuit made this dish spectacular, it was divine and created a combination that ranks as one of my favorites of all time. Following the pork was the Apalachicola Shrimp, which included 6 large shrimp, topped with Garlicky Green Sauce, Chili Threads, Corn Nuts. The biggest issue was that it followed the pork dish and the bar was very high at this point in the evening.

Last to arrive was the “Grass Fed Bavette Steak,” which was also delicious. It was served with a Potato Purée, Aigre Doux, and a Marrow Baste. The beef delivered a deep, rich flavor that worked really well with potato purée and the combination of the sweet and sour components of the aigre doux and additional richness of the marrow delivered a great flavor combination. I really liked this dish but the meat was a little tough.

Overall the meal was outstanding at Proprietor’s, from the bread through the desserts, it is a must go to restaurant on Nantucket.

Proprietors on Urbanspoon