Bedford 234 Burger – Not Bad for a Sunday Brunch

A beautiful Sunday, a leisurely 10-mile bike ride…time to re-charge. Where to eat between Yorktown Heights and New Canaan. I used to love the burger at Meetinghouse in Bedford and have heard some pretty good things about the new incarnation, Bedford 234, so we decided to grab lunch.

It is located right off the square, next to the Bedford Playhouse. When we arrived, tables were set up outside, with a family enjoying their brunch, but a few too many flies and bees forced us into the re-decorated interior. The space is still very Americana with paintings and posters of animals next to the American flag, the small bar area upon entering still has the single TV with the Jets game in full force, and the main dining room was 25% occupied.

The menu is filled with the names of all of the farms they use, so I thought the burger had the possibility of being excellent. I ordered an iced tea and the 234 BURGER (medium-rare), which is described as a dry aged blend, served with crispy onions, a choice of cheese (I chose American) and fries. For additional $2.34 (on top of the $18 price) I asked for the maple Sriracha bacon.

The burger is large, my guess is 8-10 ounces, two slices of bacon sat on top of the melted cheese. Lettuce and tomato were also included. I cut the burger in half and it was more towards rare than medium-rare but that is more acceptable than going to medium+. The meat was mild in flavor, surprising from a dry-age blend. The maple Sriracha bacon was good, but lacked any significant maple or Sriracha flavor or spice and the bun was a little on the state side, but it was Sunday. It was much better than most in the area, but for a burger and fries priced over $20, it should have been much better. On a positive side, the crispy onions were about as good as you can get, and the fries were excellent.

Service was fantastic, the server was always available, was pleasant, checked in and did all the necessary good server things.

Overall, it was an OK experience, we had a great time laughing, the service was excellent, but the food was a little disappointing.

635 Old Post Road – Bedford, NY 10506 – (914) 234-5656

Terra Sole (Ridgefield) – Classic Italian with a Few Twists

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Terra Sole Ristorante is located in downtown Ridgefield, down the alley known as Big Shop Lane and sits atop another Ridgefield destination restaurant, Luc’s. The cuisine is based on Italian cuisine, with a few twists from the chef. Established in 2009, the restaurant is the brain-child of Lana and Pietro Polini. Petro was previously the general manager at Siena Ristorante in Stamford and brings his effervescent personality to each table he visits during the course of the evening. His family still resides in Puglia and Rimini, where they own and operate restaurants; serving the cuisine from southeast Italian is in his blood.

I was invited to a media event at the restaurant, and I am very thankful that I accepted. My colleague at CTbites had previously written a glowing review and I was excited to sample the chef’s cuisine. The interior is relaxing, with 55 seats in the main dining area and an additional 10 in the separate bar. There is a large patio where an additional 70 guests can enjoy the food, when the weather permits.

The evening started with a basket of bread, the focaccia is made on site and the other bread are delivered from Brooklyn. I dipped a piece of the bread in the olive oil and was transported to Italy…the olive oil was some of the best I have ever tasted. I asked Pietro about the olive oil and was informed that he imports it from Italy. This was a great start to the meal.

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After a plate of exceptional cheeses and charcuterie, we sampled several appetizers. The first was one of the specials for the evening, a tuna tartare. Large chunks of tuna sat atop a guacamole and fava beans, sitting in a pool of soy and finished with drizzles of wasabi cream. The al dente fava beans added an interesting textural contrast to the otherwise traditional presentation.

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This was followed by “Fichi Speck e Pistacchio.” Roasted California mission figs were wrapped in speck, and served with a dollop of whipped ricotta. toasted pistachios, and finished with a cherry sauce. This combination of sweet from the figs and the cherries was complemented by the salty speck. Served with a few slices of grilled bread this was a favorite of many at the table.

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The “Polpette” was the next dish, and the meat included in this appetizer changes regularly and range from beef to duck and foie gras. The current version is veal, and was served in a delightful San Marzano tomato sauce and finished with shaved Ricotta Salata and basil. The meatballs were delicious with a soft texture throughout.

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This was followed by the “Insalata di Cavoletti,” shaved miniature Brussels sprouts with toasted hazelnuts, crispy imported Pancetta in a truffle Parmigiano vinaigrette. It was served with Westfield goat cheese croquettes. The earthiness of the shredded sprouts was elevated by the addition of the truffle vinaigrette and additional crunch and saltiness from the pancetta. The highlight of this salad was the croquettes, that were soft, delicate and fantastic.

 

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We were also enjoyed two pastas; my favorite of the two was the Cavatelli. It was served with an incredibly deep and rich tomato sauce, that offered just a hint of spiciness.

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The other pasta was a Five Cheese Ravioli topped with a few sautéed mushrooms and drizzled with truffle oil. The pasta was the perfect thickness and the cheese-mushroom-truffle combination was fantastic, with the sautéed mushrooms highlighting the ingredients.

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My favorite dish of the entire night was the “Maile alla Scarpariello;” a double cut Berkshire pork chop stuffed with organic spinach & Westfield goat cheese, finished with Scarpariello sauce, organic escarole, and goat cheese mashed potatoes. The chop was rubbed with a spicy mixture and when paired with the hot & sweet cherry peppers and the sauce created a delicious combination. The mashed potatoes were delicious and the escarole rounded the dish nicely. As much as I loved this presentation, I would have liked it even more without the goat cheese stuffing.

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The “Salmone allo Champagne” was also delicious. It included a Champagne poached king salmon topped with fresh horseradish and paprika and served with organic red quinoa & roasted organic vegetables. The salmon was moist and delicious and was a great complement to the red quinoa. The various vegetable added an earthy component.

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The other entrée was a pan roasted black cod with celery root and mashed potato puree, two varieties of Gaeta olives, capers grape tomatoes, and a swath of sweet pea and mint puree. Thick cut filet was incredibly moist and seasoned, and the Mediterranean style presentation created a plate of vibrant flavors. The sweet pea puree was a nice contrast to the other bold ingredients.

Throughout the dinner Pietro introduced wines he personally chose to pair with each course from one of the restaurant’s two hundred labels.

Overall, the food at Terra Sole was delicious, each dish started with classic Italian dishes and in many cases, were slightly modified. The décor, the service, the ambience and the exuberant host all make for a wonderful evening.

This was a media event. The author was not compensated for this review; the meal was provided without charge. The opinions contained herein are solely those of the author.

 

Great Potential at Winfield Street Deli (Norwalk)

Growing up in NJ, corner delis were everywhere. The biggest decision was whether to go to an Italian deli for a huge meatball, sausage and pepper or chicken parm sub (that is what we called them) or a Jewish deli for corned beef or pastrami (maybe a combo). I first heard ofWinfield Street Deli from Chris Hickey at The Spread, they recently changed the roll on their burger from a potato roll to a brioche from Winfield and it was outstanding. Bread this delicious from an Italian deli in the area required a visit and see if they were delivering great sandwiches.

The small deli is located just down the road from the East Norwalk train station, you will know you have arrived by the bright red awning welcoming patrons. Upon entering you are transported to an old-fashioned Italian deli. A large glass enclosed case fills the right wall, offering meats, cheeses plus a large array of house made salads. The left side has a single table for two plus two stools in front of a shelf to eat. The rear includes a display of the house made breads and pastries, fresh fruit and the ordering station. The walls are adorned with a TV and chalkboard menu in the rear, a large poster of Marlon Brando as the Godfather overseeing the single table and large cans of peeled tomatoes. The airwaves are filled with Channel 12 news intermixed with opera or the theme song from the Godfather. This is a true neighborhood haunt where everyone is addressed by their first name.

The menu includes an enormous selection of sandwich combinations, twenty-four already pre-determined, served as a wrap, on a Portuguese roll, as a wedge (subs for those of us from NJ), enclosed in hot pressed roll, on a toasted ciabatta or, in the case of the Godfather Burger, in a brioche.

On my visits I ordered a few different sandwiches on various breads.

My favorite was the #22, a house made Porchetta. Included in this combination was stuffed pork loin seasoned with garlic, basil, prosciutto, served on a toasted ciabatta with a swath of garlic mayo. The loin was moist and incredibly flavorful, and the crisped prosciutto added a nice level of saltiness while the garlic mayo delivered balance of creaminess and pungency. The toasted ciabatta was extremely thin and crispy, approaching cracker texture. As much as I enjoyed the sandwich I found the amount of filling was very modest and I would have preferred more substance to the entire sandwich.

The #14 is a Salciccia (pictured above), served on a hot pressed panino and includes Esposito Italian sausage, peppers, onions, Fontina cheese & basil pesto. A more accurate description would be a sliced sausage and melted Fontina cheese Panini. There was a scant amount of peppers and onions and mine did not have the pesto. That being said, the sandwich was still very good, but a little salty. It contained a combination of sweet and spicy sausage, of medium spiciness. The sauce and cheese were also very good and the grilled panini was an interesting change from a traditional sausage and pepper wedge. Like the Porchetta, I wanted a larger sandwich, and more onions and peppers and the inclusion of the pesto would have been a welcome addition

The last sandwich I tried was #13, a traditional Chicken Parmigiana. This third sandwich finally reminded me of an Italian deli from my youth, it was sizeable, with a little melted mozzarella and sauce peeking out of the edges of the roll. When I pulled the two halves apart, the cheese created that desired stringiness and I thought this would be a great sandwich. The chicken breast was pounded thin, coated in bread, it looked like the ratio of chicken to breading was really good. First the good news. The bread was outstanding and the cheese and sauce were delicious. Unfortunately, the breading was burnt, and the chicken at the edges was dried out. The chicken in the center of the sandwich was moist, but the flavor was lost in the burnt breading. I showed this to the staff and they were very apologetic, offered a replacement, a substitute or a refund. Good customer service after operator error.

Overall, I think Winfield Street Deli has great potential. The menu includes great choices and combinations. Italian delis are known for large, over-stuffed sandwiches; these were petit and a far cry from the size that I have enjoyed for over fifty years. Once the kitchen ups its game to include all of the ingredients and is careful not to overcook the featured meat this should be a great go-to Italian deli.

69 Winfield St., Norwalk, CT 06855

203.866.4348

Johnny Utah’s in South Norwalk – A Fun Time with a Side of Food

Fairfield County has some great bars with good old fashioned bar food…wings, burgers, fries, onion rings, cheesesteaks, with a wide variety of beers. Recently, many have expanded the menu to include tacos, chili, ribs, chicken and other down and dirty delicacies. When I received an invitation to join a media event at Johnny Utah’s in SoNo I was curious, since this bar also features a mechanical bull (spoiler…not happenin’).

The décor is college rathskeller meets Texas longhorn; long, wooden bars extending from front to back on both side walls, numerous high-top tables, tons of bar seating and “The Bull.” There are plaques of beers throughout, nine TVs on the walls airing sports, a large American flag comprised of beer cans, and on any given night the bar may sponsor a bull riding contest, line dancing or specials on some of the food. While we were eating, there were several groups that were having a blast. I felt transported back to my college days.

Johnny’s menu is pretty straight-forward, bar food that goes with beer. This was not haute-cuisine, farm to table, plates of well-constructed and balanced flavors and textures. This was down and dirty bar food. This was fried. This was sweet. This was sour. This was spicy. This was wings with a choice of more than a dozen sauces. This was a burger served between two grilled cheese sandwiches. This was 32-ounce, multi-person smokin’ rainbow colored drinks. This was foot high milkshakes covered in Reese’s bits or Oreo cookies, and for an additional $5…add a shot of booze. This was college bar food ready to down with pitchers of beer. And there is plenty of the latter, with a long line of taps on both bars, from Bud Lite to Fat Tire. I asked the bartender which was the best seller and she told me, “the late night crowd buys the Bud Lite and the Mermaid Pilsner.”

The menu includes fried appetizers, sliders, chili, four different salads, burgers, pulled pork and chicken sandwiches, ribs, fried chicken, fish and chips, and steak. Prices range from $6-11 for the apps, $9-$13 for the salads, teens for the sandwiches and entrees. I also asked the bartender which item sells the most and she said, “we sell a lot of burgers.”

We started with a few pick-up, lick your fingers appetizers; first the Philly Egg Rolls. The fried wonton wrappers were stuffed with shaved Philly steak, onions, and cheese, and served with Johnny’s BBQ sauce. Memories of burnt tongues forced me to wait until the incendiary melted cheese cooled. There was more fried wonton than filling, which lacked any discernable flavor. They were served with a BBQ sauce, not sure my friends from Philly would approve.

This was followed by a plate of Pickle Chips with chipotle mayo. The slices of sour dills were coated and fried. This was a whole lot of sour, and for a little heat dip them in the accompanying chipotle mayo. Again, they may be an interesting mate to a cold beer but not to my liking.

A trio of wings arrived next and the chef sent the Guinness, the PB&J and the sriracha. I was happy to see both the drummette and the wingette parts of the wing. The wings were meaty, a good first sign, lightly coated and still moist inside. I decided to work my way up the spiciness ladder. First the PB&J. It may take a little getting used to but these were not bad. A bite of sweet and the nutty butter. Onto the Guinness. These were sorta non-descript. Wings should have character, these were neither sweet, nor spicy, nor tangy, not a big fan of this rendition. Then the Sriracha. They were the traditional Buffalo wings’ iridescent red. And the spiciness was there, good kick and with a little dip into the blue cheese sauce, I would order these again. One out of three ain’t bad.

A small bowl of chili arrived next. This contained both beef and beans, but was more liquid than meat and beans. It was first cloyingly sweet and then the spiciness kicked in. I was not a fan and would probably pass on this.

Johnny Utah’s touts itself as a rib and burger joint and the ribs arrived next. The chef immediately told the table they did not have a smoker. They start with full slabs of ribs, dry-coat and slow roast for a few hours, then finish in a covered roaster with sauce in the oven. The meat was fall off the bone tender, but the texture was almost spongy and there was little smoke and less BBQ flavor, it was more steamed meat than what I was hoping would be a down home slab of full-flavored pork. Another pass, but was served with some delicious cole slaw, which I really liked.

The special 10-ounce grass fed burger is served on a brioche bun for $5 and with numerous toppings, each guest can design their perfect combination. Since we could each order our own combination for the burger course, I asked for my normal bacon-cheeseburger medium-rare and added the sautéed onions. This combination, with fries, would raise the price to $12, still a very reasonable price. The first burger that arrived was missing the bacon, the server did a quick round-trip to the kitchen. When I cut it in half it was more well-done than my requested medium-rare so they offered to re-fire. The second burger was raw in the center. Not a good thing from a place that sells tons of burgers. I did taste around the edges and the meat was OK, medium flavor, with a good level of juiciness. The brioche bun was great, from neighboring Winfield Street deli, but the bacon was non-descript. These two main events were disappointing. On the positive side the fries were good and the thinly sliced onion rings were outstanding.

No trip to Johnny Utah’s is complete without an enormous milkshake. Ours was the Oreo. A foot-tall marshmallow dipped glass arrived filled with a vanilla milk shake and topped with whipped cream and more Oreos. It was a fun way to end the meal.

Overall, Johnny Utah’s is a fun place serving bar food. All of the dishes are designed to accompany numerous beers, laughter, a few unintended falls off the bucking bull and watching sports on TV. Go for the food? Not really. It is what it is…go for a fun time.

Really Liked

  • Sriracha Wings (6 for $7.95 12 for $13.95 24 for $26.95
  • Onion Rings
  • Cole Slaw
  • Oreo Milk Shake ($10)

Liked

  • PB&J Wings

Needs Improvement

  • Philly Egg Rolls ($10.95)
  • Pickle Chips ($5.95)
  • Guinness Wings
  • Homemade Beef Chili ($5.95)
  • BBQ Ribs (1/4 Rack $11.50 1/2 Rack $17.50 3/4 Rack $23.50 Full Rack $27.50)
  • Burger ($12)

80 Washington St. Norwalk, CT

203-299-0711

This was a media event. The author was compensated for this review; the meal was provided without charge. The opinions contained herein are solely those of the author.

Spiga – Old World Meets New Italian in New Canaan

Spiga Wine Bar opened quietly in New Canaan a few weeks ago, offering a menu that combines old world Italian red sauce cuisine with modern interpretations of classic dishes. As reported in the CTbites Sneak Peek, the new owners redesigned the interior to offer a family focus for early guests followed by a hip environment as the evening progresses. During its opening weekend, my wife and I visited after a movie and then again with friends for a late lunch. On both occasions we were all impressed with the cuisine, but were a little taken aback by the noise. CTbites was subsequently invited by the owners to visit one afternoon to sample additional items, discuss the changes envisioned to the menu and how the owners are addressing the desire of guests to enjoy conversation with friends and family.

Every visit to Spiga should start with a selection of their Italian meats and cheeses. Ours included Prosciutto di Parma, Soppressata and Porchetta, Mozzarella cheese and olives. Each of the meats offered a different level of spiciness, from the mild Prosciutto to the spicy Soppressata, and all of them were delicious. They can be ordered individually or as a group of one to four meats with Mozzarella.

The menu includes numerous combinations of pizzas, from a simple Margherita to an elaborate “New England” with lobster. The crust of the rectangular shaped personal 12” pizza is crispy from edge to center, with only the slight bend in a slice when lifted. Some may choose to use a knife and fork; this might be a requirement for several of the “salad” topped pies.

I sampled three different combinations. My favorite was the “Calabrese,” which combined a layer of melted Mozzarella cheese and San Marzano tomato sauce, topped with the spicy Sopressata Calabrese and finished with drizzles of hot oil and honey. This sweet-spicy combination offered great heat from the sopressata and the hot oil, offset by a drizzle of the sweet honey. The cheese mellowed the heat and the sauce added even more sweetness.

The “Di Parma” started with melted fresh mozzarella plus chunks of fresh tomatoes and topped with a large mound of lightly dressed arugula and a generous portion of San Danielle prosciutto. The prosciutto was outstanding, with a delightfully soft texture and the cheese and sauce were delicious. I was not as big a fan of the dressed arugula as others, preferring an undressed version.

I was a little apprehensive when the “Roasted Beet” pizza was delivered. It included San Marzano tomato sauce, arugula, cubes of local roasted beets, goat cheese and drizzled with Balsamic reduction. This melding of a salad and pizza was very tasty. The cubes of beets worked well with both the mozzarella and the creamy goat cheese, adding a sweet earthiness to the dish, balanced by the peppery (and in this case undressed) arugula.

I sampled three of the small plates during my visits. My favorite was the “Fried Meatballs” topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, basil and Ricotta cheese. The meatballs were excellent, soft on the interior, surrounded by a crispy exterior and delivered great flavor with just a hint of garlic. The sweet San Marzano sauce was fantastic and the dollops of Ricotta added great creaminess to the dish.

I also enjoyed the “Roasted Brussels Sprouts,” and included a large serving of fried sprouts, paired with crispy pancetta pieces and finished with a honey truffle oil. The sprouts were perfectly fried, crispy on the edges and still firm throughout. The fried pancetta added wonderful salty-smoky flavor and with the cheese added just enough salt to perk the palate.

The last small plate was the “Portuguese Grilled Octopus” that was served with crispy Coppa, baby potatoes, and micro greens. The octopus was very tender, but the texture was off-putting and spongy, and it would have benefitted from a charring on the exterior and the soft textures continued with the potatoes. The crispy Coppa added a slight crunch to the dish, but the current version was not to my liking.

There are numerous salads, with my favorite the “Farro and Quinoa Salad,” served with avocado, cucumbers, scallions, heirloom cherry tomatoes, grilled fennel and finished with lemon-EVOO. The quinoa was a great earthy canvas for the other ingredients. The sweet cucumbers and tomatoes were balanced by the fennel and scallions, and brightened by the lemon dressing.

Another large salad was the “Campagna Salad,” with spinach, golden apples, fresh pears, roasted walnuts, cranberries, Gorgonzola cheese, and Balsamic vinaigrette. A large mound of spinach was surrounded by the sweet thinly sliced fruits, crunchy nuts and pungent cheese. Each forkful brought a different combination of flavors.

With pastas ranging from a home-style spaghetti and meatballs to lobster fettuccine, I decided to try a rich pasta and a light pasta. The “Short Rib Ravioli” was made in-house with a rich, meaty short rib filling encased in a thin pasta sheet and served with a wild mushroom marsala sauce. The deep flavor of the meat was complemented by the earthiness of the wild mushroom and the Marsala sauce. As the cool weather arrives, this will be an excellent comfort option.

On the lighter side, the “Linguini Vongole” was very good. A medium portion of house-made linguini was served in a simple clam broth, with an abundance of cockles, baby clams, roasted garlic, and seasoned with parsley and red chili peppers. The broth was flavorful with a hint of garlic. The pasta was just a touch on the thick side, and the pasta and shellfish were slightly overcooked.

The “Market Cioppino” was excellent. A bowl of lobster, shrimp, calamari, swordfish (this changes daily) and clams, swimming in a seafood tomato broth was served with grilled crostini. Each was perfectly cooked and maintained a soft texture. The broth was delicious. A little red pepper flakes on the table for those, like me, who prefer a little more heat would have made this a perfect rendition.

Overall, Spiga is delivering wonderful pizzas, small plates, salads and main course. I asked the owner about the noise and he told me that they purchased sound dampening material that is being installed throughout the dining area. Likewise, Spiga’s opening menu was very large (this is the owners’ first venture into New Canaan) and they wanted to understand the likes and dislikes versus their other restaurants. Over the next few weeks, the menu will more align with the tastes of the New Canaan guests.

Many thanks to Janes Beiles of Jane Beiles Photography for these wonderful photos.

136 Main St – New Canaan, CT 06840

(203) 920-1351

Really Liked

  • Meat Platter – Prosciutto di Parma, Soppressata and Porchetta with Mozzarella ($25.50)
  • Calabrese Pizza ($16)
  • Fried Meatballs ($9)
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($9)
  • Short Rib Ravioli (Lunch $17; Dinner $20)
  • Market Cioppino (Lunch $23; Dinner $26)

Liked

  • Di Parma Pizza($16)
  • Roasted Beet Pizza ($17)
  • Farro and Quinoa Salad (Lunch $12; Dinner $15)
  • Campagna Salad (Lunch $10; Dinner $13)
  • Linguini Vongole (Lunch $18; Dinner $20)

Needs Improvement

  • Portuguese Grilled Octopus ($15)

The author was compensated for this review; the meal on the last visit was provided without charge. The opinions contained herein are solely those of the author.

Nosh Hound Food Truck Rolls into Stamford: Global Cuisine with Deliciously, Bold Combinations

Nosh Hound Eatery is the newest entry to the Stamford Food Truck scene.When I saw the post by my buddy over at Hey Stamford, I was curious. When I read his praise and a menu that really intrigued me, it had potential, and I decided to drive to Stamford and give it a shot.

Nosh Hound is the brainchild of owners Sam Ralbovsky and Maycie Maringer.  After graduating from the Culinary program at Johnson & Wales University and a three-month cross country food inspired road trip, they returned to Sam’s hometown of Stamford, CT. The two young cooks became enamored by the diverse cooking styles they encuntered on their cross country adventure and wanted to show their passion with a menu of “global cuisine experienced through the medium of sandwiches, snacks, and small bites.”

The menu is full of incredibly creative combinations. I smiled when I saw the heading “The Usuals,” which laid out combinations from Hamburguesa Americana (chorizo spiced beef, onions, Jalapeños, white American cheese and a chipotle “secret sauce”) to a VLT (smoked wild mushrooms, fried green tomatoes, arugula, sun-dried tomato aioli on rye toast). Nothing was “usual” about the menu. They start with foods that we all grew up with and then transform them with addition flavors and textures, inspired by various regions of the world, a Philly Cheesesteak with a Korean twist, a hot dog inspired by eastern Europe or a chicken sandwich with Latin flair.

The truck is new to the streets of Stamford, a mere three weeks, and they are still getting a feel for locations. The Facebook page states that they are parked on Summer Street across from the Ridgeway Shopping Mall on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but as I waited for my food I was told you might also find them parked in front of Dairy Queen and over at Landmark Square, or late at night in SoNo in the circle in front of Harlan Publick.

On my first visit I ordered two sandwiches, the Southern Sammy and the Korean Cheesesteak.

My clear favorite of the two was the Southern Sammy. It was outstanding. It included several pieces of buttermilk fried chicken, topped with slaw, house sweet pickles, Cajun aioli, and served on a brioche bun. With a few of the chicken pieces jutting from the bun I first tasted the fried chicken. It was perfectly fried, but I yearned for a little more seasoning on the coating. That desire for more seasoning was more than satisfied as I worked my way through the combination. The slaw was delicious, adding more crunch to the sandwich and the Cajun aioli was nicely spiced. The sweet pickles were sweet-spicy and the Brioche was a great complement to the ingredients. The sandwich was a great balance of spicy, sweet, crunchy, creamy and buttery. I highly recommend the Southern Sammy.

The Korean Cheesesteak was served on a traditional long roll and included Bulgogi, caramelized onions, melted white American cheese and Sriracha mayo. It was served open-faced and my initial thought was that if the taste was as bold as the visual appeal, it would be a great sandwich. Care needs to be taken to slowly close the roll prior to the first bite. It also offered an enormous boldness of flavors. Unfortunately, the beef marinade was a little overwhelming, much too much sauce, and then the spiciness of the Sriracha mayo kicked in. As much as the melted American cheese tried to balance the spicy-teriyaki, it could not. Likewise, the slivers of scallion that topped the sandwich added more pungency. I kept looking for the caramelized onions for some sweetness, but they were not present in my sandwich, a little growing pains mis-cue during assembly. Adjustment to the marinade could drastically improve this sandwich’s balance.

After my visit I reached out to Sam and Maycie and they were excited about the chicken and disappointed in the cheesesteak and asked me to return. There was great flavor coming out of that truck and on my second visit I enjoyed two new items from the menu plus a cheesesteak 2.0.

The Bangkok Fish Tacos included beer battered Mahi Mahi, coconut, peanut slaw, pickled Thai chile, and a red curry aioli. The thick pieces of fish were lightly coated to give just a hint of crunch while maintaining a juicy and soft interior. The flavors were enhanced by the red curry aioli, which added a little heat and the coconut and peanut slaw added some texture. The pickled Thai chilies added even more complementing flavors and left a nice amount of heat behind with each bite. It was a fabulous taco in both flavor and balance.

I was curious how they would blend a vegetarian option onto the menu with their bold creativity and the VLT quickly answered my question. Served on toasted rye bread, the VLT combined a lightly coated and fried green tomato, with smoked and fried wild mushrooms, arugula and a schmear of sun dried tomato aioli. The lightly coated tomato slice was a great canvas for the other ingredients. The mushrooms offered tremendous flavor, but were just a touch burnt on the edges, and the arugula and sun dried tomato aioli were perfect to brighten the dish and add some spicy notes from the peppery arugula. This is a vegetarian option that even a carnivore like me would order again.

They insisted I try their revised Korean Cheesesteak and I am glad I did. The marinade was complementing the beef, which was now the centerpiece of the sandwich and the inclusion of the two-hour caramelized onions added a wonderful sweetness. In addition, the melted American cheese and the Sriracha aioli were lessened and were in the background to add the Korean spiciness and umami to the sandwich. All of these changes created a superb cheesesteak.

Overall, Stamford has a new, and delicious, option with Nosh Hound. I really liked the fried chicken, it was delicious, the tacos were outstanding, a killer vegetarian sandwich and the revised cheesesteak that combines flavors from around the world. After two visits, Sam and Maycie can definitely combine bold flavors into delicious sandwiches. As they balance the meat and the sauce ratio, this will easily become one of the best trucks in the area and a must go-to. Check their facebook, twitter and website for their locations.

The author was compensated for this review; the meal on the second visit was provided without charge. The opinions contained herein are solely those of the author.

Citarella Greenwich – Fresh from the Dock to your Table

“I’ll meet you at the front gate at 5am.”

This email, which I received from Joe Gurrera, the owner of Citarella, required setting the alarm for 3:30am, grabbing two cups of coffee and driving the hour to the Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx. Visiting the new Fulton Fish Market was something I have always wanted to do, mingle with the best purveyors of the freshest and best selection of fish, just hours before it arrives at stores and restaurants in preparation for the day’s fare.

The history of Citarella dates to 1912, when a small fish shop opened in Manhattan. Over seventy years later, in 1983, Joe Gurrera purchased the shop and Citarella was born. Joe’s passion for fish started when he was a small boy venturing, in the dead of the night, to the original Fulton Fish Market. It was during these nightly excursions that he educated himself on the various fish and, more importantly, how to choose the best of the best.

Gurrera offers dock to table seafood to both leading restaurants and the home cook. With his ownership of wholesale seafood company Lockwood & Winant, he maintains his 40-year relationships with the wholesale fish vendors, and in 2007, he founded Meat Without Feet, a seafood supplier to leading restaurants. The combined companies occupy one of the largest spaces in the Fulton Fish Market. According to Gurrera, “We are the only company to handle every single item. They don’t handle crabs; they don’t handle shrimp. We handle everything.”

Until recently, Citarella had six retail locations, three in Manhattan and three on the East End of Long Island. Earlier this year, Citarella opened its inaugural Connecticut store, its first with an attached wine store. To oversee the wine program, Gurrera hired Sommelier Mary Schaffer, the owner of Napa & Company, a perennial contender for the best restaurant in Connecticut, and consistently praised for its wine program. Schaffer and Gurrera invited CTbites to visit the new Citarella and the Fulton Fish Market to gain a deeper understanding of the passion that is required to deliver the best produce, fish, meats and prepared food to its customers.

The history of the Fulton Fish Market begins in 1807 when it originally opened near the Brooklyn Bridge in lower Manhattan, serving fish as well as other goods. In 1822, the fish purveyors moved to the South Street location, between Fulton and Beekman Streets. The market was located in two buildings, the “Tin Building” and the “New Building,” which opened in 1939, three years after one of the original buildings slid into the river. Fish arrived around midnight and the activity continued through the wee hours of the morning.

After 180 years in downtown Manhattan, the Fulton Fish Market moved to its new, state of the art facility in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx in 2005, with 400,000 square feet of space, representing the largest consortium of seafood wholesalers in the country. It is estimated that about one-third of New York’s entire fish demand, and millions of pounds daily, is handled by these businesses, many owned by the same family for multiple generations.

The massive structure houses every imaginable form of fish and seafood. Upon entering, you are overwhelmed by the size, the activity and the speed by which transactions occur. A wide center aisle separates the two sides into streets. Boxes of crabs, snapper, bass, calamari, flounder and turbot are stacked six high, whole halibuts are presented on ice, and whole tunas lie next to those already filleted; soft shell crabs are neatly nestled like little soldiers in their boxes, lobsters climbing over each other and clams and oysters are encased in webbed bushels. The smell of the sea is everywhere.

Buyers and sellers first hug and then negotiate for the best price for the selected products. After the deal is completed, cups of espresso may be exchanged, friendships cemented generations ago continue each night, and then the packing and delivery begins, when speeding fork lifts move throughout, picking up orders and shooting down the center aisle to the loading docks. It is organized chaos mixed with ballet.

Once Gurrera’s buyers purchase the daily orders, the bounty goes to either the Meat Without Feet prep area for filleting and packaging for restaurants or to the building next door, which houses Citerella’s distribution center. Here, the fish is trimmed and prepared for retail sale at one of its seven locations or sent to the adjoining Commissary. The filleting of fish is joined by meats, which are trimmed, dry-aged, and cut for the stores. The enormous kitchen, affectionately named The Commissary, prepares millions of packaged products and meals per year, from salad, to soups, to cakes and cookies, each are prepared from scratch. On the day I visited, the Commissary was roasting dozens of peppers over twelve feet of open flames, the Chicken Française was being removed from the ovens, cookies and cakes were being frosted and decorated, imported cheese were being grated and packed, fruits and vegetables were being juiced and salads were being assembled.

Once packed, they are delivered to one of the seven Citarella stores. The newly opened Greenwich location is bright and airy. Upon entering, the colors of the produce grab the eye and the wonderful aroma of the ripe fruit hangs in the air. As you work your way through the store, you can choose from soups, pizza, pastry, cheeses, sushi, pastas and sauces, and the aged meats from the Bronx. In the rear is the full selection of the fresh fish and seafood that left the Bronx that morning. Grab a prepared meal or a basketful of ingredients to make a great meal at home; the dock to kitchen was now complete.

I learned a tremendous amount from my visit to the Fulton Fish Market, my time with Citarella’s owner, Joe Gurrera and I gained a deeper appreciation for the entire process of choosing the freshest fish, meats and ingredients that Citarella and Meat without Feet share with the home cook and many of the best chefs in Manhattan and the tristate area.

Citarella

600 West Putnam Avenue

Greenwich, CT 06830

(203) 861-6900