Prairie Dogs – Great Potential; Needs Time

prairie_1I really wanted to love this place. With two of my favorite dishes, burgers and dogs covered with creative toppings, I was hoping for a great couple of options. The website espoused local, fresh and natural ingredients, the combinations looked great and it was in a neighborhood which is beginning to boom with great food.

prairie_2I arrived at 600 on a midweek night and there were a couple of people at the bar and a few at tables. The interior is well done, relaxing with a great Marilyn Monroe poster adorning the rear wall and the entire left wall is covered with a chalk board menu. The owner (I think it was the owner) approached and I asked for the “Tree Fort Root Beer” on the menu. They did not have it and he suggested, and I ordered, the Boylan’s Birch Beer.

prairie_4I looked through the menu and ordered the Bahn Mi Joy Dog and a BYO Burger with American cheese, crisp onion strings, and B&B pickles. He suggested that a small order of fries would be a great accompaniment.

prairie_3The Dog was all-beef in a natural casing and topped with char siu pork, chicken liver pate, pickled carrot, daikon, jalapeño peppers, and cilantro and a schmear of shoyu mayo. The dog was surprisingly mild in flavors with just a hint of saltiness. The pork was almost tasteless with a boiled meat flavor and texture. The liver was the highlight of the ingredients and delivered a good amount of flavor, the carrots and daikon were crunchy and also flavorful. I was hoping for a bright bold set of flavors in this combination and it just fell flat and was a bit disappointing

prairie_6The burger had great potential. The meat had great flavor and was cooked with a loose grind, but a little sparse at probably 4 ounces. The strips of bacon added just a hint of smokiness and saltiness and the American cheese was creamy and perfectly melted. The crispy onion rings delivered a touch of pungency and crunch and the B&B pickles were excellent. Unfortunately, the kitchen overcooked the burger to medium-well, eliminating all of the juiciness, and then over-salted the patty before placing it on the bun. A little more care may have made for a great burger.

The kitchen took both a similar and slightly different approach in the preparation of the fries. First they were under-cooked, and then they were over-salted. Not a good combination.

Overall I still love the concept and if they can get the correct balance of flavors and instruct the kitchen to prepare as ordered and as the product deserves this may become a really good burger and dog place, but they still have growing pains to address.

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Five-Course Tasting Menu @Bar Sugo – Norwalk

Several years ago I sampled Chef Pat Pascarella’s Pasta Bolognese from his original pizzeria and pasta storefront hidden off the beaten path on route 123 in Norwalk. It was one of the best Bolognese I had ever eaten and over the years I have enjoyed many of Chef Pat’s creations. He recently introduced Bar Sugo’s full-table Pasta Tasting menu and invited CTbites to sample the five courses, each very different…from a straightforward tomato and basil to a complex lobster, morel and truffle. The incredible Bolognese that Chef Pat served me several years ago was a prelude to the fantastic five courses that I enjoyed with wine pairings from Megan Pacarella.

The first course was a traditional Spaghetti with tomato and basil. The pasta was cooked to al dente with just a small bite to the texture. It was swathed with a rich and thick tomato sauce with a smattering of torn basil leaves. The sauce was a deep and vibrant concentration of tomato flavor. This simple presentation proved that a great dish requires only perfectly cooked pasta and a rich, delicious tomato sauce.

This was followed by two filled pasta courses. The first was a golden beet and Robiolina cheese stuffed Casonsei. The triangular pockets were served atop a butter sauce, accented with a drizzle of saba and finished with a sprinkling of poppy seeds. The Casonsei were minimally filled with the golden beets and cheese purée which offered a touch of sweetness from the beets and a slight tanginess from the cheese. The saba delivered a delightful sweetness and the poppy seeds were an excellent addition to add earthiness and a little crunch.

The next course was Ricotta Ravioli topped with peas, a mint and pea purée and a few shreds of pickled ramps. The mint and pea purée was fantastic with the peas served al dente to add a little textural difference. The pickled ramps were a great addition and added a different twist with its pungent notes to complement the earthiness of the peas and the mint. These three ingredients created a perfect balance to this dish.

The fourth and first non-vegetarian pasta was a Fusilli Bianco & Nero. A traditional fusilli was paired with a squid ink fusilli. The twin pastas were swathed with a smoked tomato sauce and served with chunks of sausage, shrimp, smoked tomato and “pickled hots.” This playful “surf and turf” interpretation featured various competing components. The sausage, tomato and pasta were wonderful and the addition of the pickled hots added a great layer of spiciness. The squid ink with the shrimp and pickled hots was a different flavor profile, combining the mildness of the shrimp with the spiciness of the peppers. In the end, I really enjoyed the sausage and pepper combination and would order that as a separate and delicious savory pasta.

Chef Pat saved the best for last and when I say best, the fifth pasta was one the best entrées I have eaten in quite some time. The presentation began with a delightfully soft ricotta Gnocchi, which was served with chunks of lobster, morel mushrooms, with a black truffle butter sauce and finished with a smattering of black truffle pieces. The gnocchi were the perfect canvas for the decadent combination of the rich lobster, truffles and morels. The holey texture of the mushrooms captured the sauce with each bite and the lobster added a mild sweetness. The entire dish was elevated with the addition of the black truffles, which added a rich and fragrant earthiness. This was a brilliant execution in every aspects.

Overall, the five pastas that Chef Pat prepared were fantastic. From the simplistic tomato and basil to the highly complex gnocchi with morels and lobster, each showcased a balanced approach to pasta with creative and delicious combinations. I hope each will be available separately to Bar Sugo guests so more people can enjoy some of the best pasta in the area.

#pasta #barsugo #patpascarella #norwalk