I was invited to Oak + Almond in Norwalk for its Four Roses Bourbon dinner to sample some of Chef Joseph Italiano’s creative cuisine paired with one of the country’s best bourbons. Working alongside Chef Italiano for this special event was Chef Chris Vacca, who our readers know from serving one of the best burgers in Fairfield County from his food truck, Bounty. Chef Italiano has been at the helm for several months after stints at Bistro B in Westport and Bridgeport and with Chef Pat Pascarella at Bar Sugo.
We began the evening with a wood oven roasted Hudson Valley quail with speck, wild mushrooms, and stewed chickpeas, paired with an Old-Fashioned. The de-boned whole quail was stuffed with a variety of sliced wild mushrooms. The bird sat atop the chickpeas and stewed tomatoes. The quail was juicy and delivered a mild flavor, not gamey. The mushrooms were wonderful, very meaty and earthy and the chickpeas and tomatoes were an interesting addition. The dish offered a variety of flavors and textures but was a little under-seasoned.
The second course consisted of whole wheat fettuccine topped with braised rabbit Sugo, chestnuts, grainy mustard, and topped with Pecorino Romano cheese…served with the Oak + Almond cocktail. The pasta was perfectly cooked to al dente, with a great earthy quality. The rabbit was delicious and soft with great flavor. The mustard added a back-note of spice, while the chestnuts complemented the other ingredients with both textural difference and a sweetness. Like the quail, the dish would have benefited from additional seasoning.
The entrée included slices of rotisserie wild boar shoulder served with duck fat potatoes, Cipollini onions over a bed of roasted peppers and topped with crispy sunchoke chips. The dish was enhanced with agro dolce and served alongside a glass of Woodsman. The meat was beautifully prepared to medium rare, offered deep flavor and was delicious. The accompaniments were outstanding with the sweet-sour balance of the Cipollini onions and peppers. This dish was perfectly seasoned and exceptional.
We completed the meal with a slice of local honey pecan pie with bourbon rosemary ice cream paired with Single Barrel bourbon, a double gold winner at 2014 Denver International Spirits Competition. The pie was spectacular, one of the best pecan pies I have ever tasted. It started with a rich, buttery crust and the filling was sweet, creamy and wonderful. And the pecans were outstanding, delivering both a crunchiness and a wonderful flavor…everything was impeccable. The ice cream added both a creaminess and an offsetting profile with the bourbon and rosemary.
Overall, the evening was filled with great conversation and food. I loved the wild boar and pecan pie. As a bourbon neophyte I was fascinated by the versatility of the spirit. From the intensity of the Single Barrel that was served with the dessert to the Oak + Almond, which reminded me of a Margarita, I was impressed by each round of the drinks. With spring on the horizon, the inviting deck at Oak + Almond is almost ready for guests to enjoy Chef Italiano’s wood oven cuisine.
544 Main Ave – Norwalk, CT – 203.846.4600
- Wild Boar
- Pecan Pie
- Stuffed Quail
- Fettuccine with Rabbit Sugo