The Brunch Box Food Truck: Get Your Breakfast & Lunch on In Stamford

The Brunch Box opened several months ago, delivering numerous breakfast and lunch sandwiches at locations around Stamford, with occasional visits to surrounding areas and private parties. Jimmy Marcella, a Stamford native developed the concept of The Brunch Box after a lifetime of preparation; as far back as he could remember he wanted to own a restaurant. As a teen Jimmy worked at a local Italian deli in Westchester, scrubbing dishes, mopping floors, stocking soda, eventually prepping, making chicken cutlets and chopping parsley by the case. He saved his money for his self-education, Omakase at 16, elegant dining at 18. He subsequently worked at the Hudson Hotel in Manhattan, toured with his manager and eventually returned to Stamford; he was now ready to fulfill his dream. Jimmy decided to start with a food truck, where he could experience that personal one-to-one interaction with each customer. He thought that “Brunch” was the differentiator from the other food trucks in the area and The Brunch Box was born.

Jimmy’s philosophy is straightforward, “Our goal is to offer fresh, quality products cooked to order on our food truck. The slab bacon from a local hog farm in Pennsylvania to our Portuguese muffins we get overnighted from Fall River, Massachusetts. Quality matters. It’s just tastes and feels that much better! For the consumer and business.”

Each sandwich is served on that distinctively sweet Portuguese muffin (from the same baker from Massachusetts that supplies the bun for the Harlan Social Burger) and reflects Jimmy’s desire to elevate each sandwich with the bun. Over the course of several visits I enjoyed several of Jimmy’s creations.

One of my favorites was The Lox Box (pictured above), layers of Nova lox with cream cheese, tomato, red onion, capers, fresh dill on the Portuguese muffin. The Novy was mild, with just a hint of smokiness; the muffin was an outstanding choice to add great sweetness to the sandwich, and the capers a little saltiness. The tomato and slight schmear of cream cheese contributed creaminess to this great sandwich.

My other favorite was the Brunch Box Breakfast Sandwich, affectionately referred to as the TBB. It starts with a traditional three-ingredient bacon, egg and cheese with a little lettuce and tomato. The Brunch Box takes the sandwich to an incredible sweet-spicy direction with the muffin, and a swath of sriracha mayonnaise that offered a wonderful creamy-spiciness to this sandwich.

Another good choice is the Burger. The meat was mild, with a great sear on the exterior and compressed, which gave it almost a spongy texture (I understand he is now grinding his own meat). The patty was topped with melted cheese, bacon, pickle, lettuce, tomato on the Portuguese muffin. There was great balance with the thick, salty bacon, the ketchup, the aioli and the ripe tomato. Then the pickle kicked in and created a delicious combination.

The Pastrami Reuben included a mound of pastrami covered with melted cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing on the Portuguese muffin. To be fair, this sandwich suffers from the lack of good pastrami in CT. Jimmy searched all over for the best meat, sources it from a local deli, but it was not to my liking. In addition, this time the muffin was not a good substitute for the traditional rye bread that a great pastrami sandwich deserves. I enjoyed the other sandwiches more.

The Brunch Box is turning out some creative combinations. The use of the sweet Portuguese muffins works fantastically in most of the combinations, and the addition of spicy components is the key to many of the sandwiches. In several conversations with Marcella I am convinced he strives for the best in each of his ingredients. I look forward to returning and enjoying more of The Brunch Box’s breakfast and lunch sandwiches.

The Brunch Box

To see locations visit:

https://www.facebook.com/Thebrunchboxct/?fref=ts

https://twitter.com/thebrunchboxct

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CRAVE in Fairfield: Creative American Fare

While Crave Restaurant in Fairfield may seem off the beaten path, it is conveniently located adjacent to the Fairfield Theatre Company and combines a hip vibe with a menu offering a wide array of options from a simple Mac & Cheese to a robust Chicken Scarpariello. The brainchild of owners Peter Prizio and Alfonso Cammarota, the owners’ concept was simple; create a restaurant and bar where everyone would feel at home and serve a global menu with bold flavors. The restaurant consists of two rooms. To the left is a traditional dining area with tables and high-tops and to the right is a bar, with large HDTVs and a U-shaped bar. Overseeing the kitchen is Executive Chef Rigo Lino; many will remember Chef Lino from the Mansion Clam House in Westport. His menu combines his Salvadoran heritage with the owners’ Italian roots.

CTbites was invited to a media event where, over the course of the evening, I enjoyed many of the chef’s creations.

My favorite small plate was the “Eggplant Stacks,” a simple, old-fashioned style eggplant parmesan served in a cast iron skillet. Thinly sliced eggplant was breaded, fried, layered in the small skillet and topped with sauce and cheese and baked. The result was a mouthful of lusciousness. The cheese was perfectly melted and stringy and the sweet sauce was a delight with the moist eggplant slices.

Another simple and delicious small plate was the “Mac and Cheese.” Crave’s version used orecchiette shaped pasta and the three-cheese sauce was ultra-creamy with just a touch of bacon to add salty, smoky and texture,  and enveloped each piece of pasta. A simple topping of bacon bits was a fantastic addition to add a touch of saltiness and smokiness, and just the right amount of crunch. This is a great mac & cheese for adults and children.

The “Filet Tips” included chunks of filet mignon that were seared in a bit of olive oil, cut into chunks and served with a corn salad and red pepper remoulade. The beef was perfectly prepared to medium-rare and delivered a nice level of beefiness. The corn salad was a simple combination of sweet corn, peppers and onions and added a little crunch to the dish. The aioli was a fantastic addition and delivered a nice spicy kick.

The “Ahi Tuna” was covered with white and black sesame seeds, seared, sliced and fanned on a plate, accompanied by a ginger-soy sauce and wasabi cream. The tuna was very mild, almost missing completely. When the sauces were included, the total bundle was very nice. The ginger-soy was an excellent complement.

Two of the small plates were not to my liking. The first was the “Pork Belly.” Three pieces of braised belly sat atop a green salad, which was dressed in a citrus vinaigrette. The first piece was completely fat with no meat while the second did have a fair meat-fat ratio. Although described as seasoned with “16 spices,” the meat was very bland. When a bite was combined with the salad, it was a little better.

I did not like the “Clams Oreganata” at all. Each Littleneck clam was topped with a thick layer of bread crumbs, baked and then finished with a light brown sauce. The clams were overcooked and chewy, the breading was much too thick and extremely salty and the sauce did not work with the already harsh presentation.

The chef also prepared his “Rigatoni Bolognese.” The sauce combined pork and beef and was thinner than a traditional, thick Bolognese, more a meat sauce, complemented by delightfully sweet tomatoes; the meats added nice flavor and texture. The pasta was perfectly prepared to al dente and hefty enough to handle the sauce. A little sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese finished the dish.

The table moved to the Larger Plate section of the menu. The two themes throughout were the significant size and bold flavors.

My favorite was the “Chicken Scarpariello.” Several boneless chicken medallions were sautéed with sausage, sweet and spicy cherry peppers, mushrooms and potatoes and served with a white wine sauce. The sauce combined loads of flavors from the spicy sausage and cherry peppers to the soft creaminess of the potatoes. These ingredients were the perfect accompaniment to the moist chicken.

The “Portuguese Shrimp” was delicious. Five enormous shrimp surrounded a mound of rice pilaf and were accompanied by a few sautéed vegetables. The shrimp were cooked to maintain a firm, yet moist interior. The saffron-infused sauce instilled its traditional color and accents into the shrimp and the rice, which also contained sweet peas and a little heat from diced cherry peppers. The dish was finished with a sauce that included garlic and shallots to give a wonderful and full bodied sauce.

The “Grilled Delmonico Steak” was very good; a very, juicy rib eye. This large steak was served with roasted potatoes, topped with sweet and hot peppers, with a few roasted vegetables on the side. The steak was simply seasoned with salt and pepper and had a great crust from the charcoal grill. To complement this ultra-juicy cut, a wonderful medley of tastes from the sweet and spicy peppers presented significant contrast, with the creamy roasted potatoes adding a soft textural contrast

The “Salmon” was a little disappointing. A large filet was charcoal grilled and offered the same char as the steak, but was over-cooked, and a little dry. The fish was joined by roasted potatoes, vegetables, grilled asparagus, a smidgen of tropical salsa fresca and finished with a drizzle of Balsamic glaze. There were numerous flavors and textures, but they fought a little with each other and the fruit was lost under the char and the Balsamic glaze.

Overall, I really like the atmosphere at Crave; with its casual dining area and lots of TVs to watch the game. Whether you are looking for a pre-FTC dinner, a dinner with friends and family or looking for a sports bar with very good food, Crave can deliver on all of these requests.

52 Sanford St, Fairfield, CT 06824

(203) 292-8080

www.crave52.com

Really Liked

  • Eggplant Stacks ($10)
  • Mac & Cheese ($10)
  • Chicken Scarpariello ($21)
  • Portuguese Shrimp ($28)
  • Grilled Delmonico Steak (Special for evening)

Liked

  • Filet Tips ($15)
  • Rigatoni Bolognese (Special for Evening)

Did Not Like

  • Ahi Tuna ($16)
  • Clams Oregenata ($12)
  • Pork Belly
  • Salmon ($26)

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.

Chef Dan Kardos Returns @ Liberty Rock Tavern in Milford – Sneak Peek

It has been several years since Chef Dan Kardos was creating his signature dishes in Fairfield County. He worked at many of the best restaurants and bars including Napa & Co., Bar Rosso, Harvest Supper, Le Farm and Local. His creativity and fearlessness in the kitchen was a hallmark of his cuisine. After several years working for Barteca in Atlanta, Virginia, DC and a year in a test kitchen, Kardos returned to his stomping grounds in Milford and with three other locals opened Liberty Rock Tavern last week in the building that formerly housed a neighborhood favorite King’s Court bar.

I asked one of Kardos’ partners, Brian Kearney, how Liberty Rock emerged from King’s Court. Kearney was a bartender at King’s Court for six years when the owner retired from the police force and was looking to sell the bar. Kearney and Kardos were joined by two other residents, purchased the business, gutted and re-invented the interior. The new space is hip, ready for neighbors to come in for a few beers, play a round or foosball, table shuffleboard or metal tip darts, throw some money in the new high-tech juke box, watch football games on one of seven TVs or listen to music and enjoy a night out with friends or family.

There is a long bar along the right wall and tables with forty-two metal backless seats in total. The size of the tables vary to seat couples, a foursome and several community-style tables. There is plenty of room between for conversation with friends who are wandering through the room. The walls are adorned with Revolutionary memorabilia. When I ask Kearney why he changed the name and its significance, he told me that there is a memorial up the street dedicated to Liberty Rock, the highest point in Milford and during the Revolutionary War, it was the watch-point overlooking the Housatonic River.

The group retained many of the traditions of King’s Court. Every Thursday evening, they still host a “steel tip dart league” and many of the beer labels remain from King’s Court. Prices range from $2 for a can of Genesee Cream Ale to $6 for a can of Six Points Resin. There are six beers on tap including Fat Tire, Green Flash West Coast IPA, SeaHag IPA, Victory DirtWolf Double IPA, Guinness, and Mam’s Little Yella Pils.

Kardos invited CTbites into his new bar and kitchen to sample some of his creative comfort food meets bar food.

We started with a little smoked trout spread, not normally considered bar food. Kardos started with a lightly smoke trout, adding a touch of horseradish, topped the dip with goldfish, fresh dill, and served it with Ritz crackers and a bag of Lays potato chips. Now we’re talking. The dip was delicious, it could be served at any restaurant in the area with a light smokiness, chunks of trout and creaminess. The crackers and chips made this a perfect partner for a beer.

Next was another item found at few, if any, bars, Burrata. This was no ordinary Burrata dish. It was full of textures from the addition of chunks of mulled apples, acorn squash, and tomato, plus bacon and pistachios. It contained an interesting twist; the apples were spiced with Cayenne pepper. I can’t remember the last time there was a spicy component in a Burrata dish and I really liked the adventurous addition to finish with a beer.

Liberty Rock is a bar, and I really wanted some traditional bar food. And two items on the menu immediately caught my eye; Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich and The Burger.

I started with the Chicken. And it does not get better than this sandwich. The thin cutlet was covered in a scant breading, served on white toast with a slice of melted American cheese, B&B pickles, pickled Jalapeno peppers, thick bacon slices, Ranch dressing and crinkled cottage fries. The flavors and balance were perfect, and again Kardos added a spicy component, not just with the Jalapeno peppers, but he added some ground peppers to the breading and the buttermilk that the chicken soaked in prior to frying. The Ranch dressing and B&B pickles were great additions to this unbelievable sandwich. This is a must order.

No visit to a bar is complete without a burger. And The Burger at Liberty Rock was delicious. The large patty was prepared to my requested medium-rare, was topped with melted cheese, a couple of slices of bacon, a swath of spicy mayo and served on griddled Texas Toast. The meat was rich in flavor and when paired with the spicy mayo, the sour pickle and the salty bacon offered a perfect balance. The thick Texas Toast handled all of the ingredients. This was a fantastic burger.

The opening menu is limited to eight items, with Kardos adding Shrimp and Grits this week and wings as the weather turns cooler. He is excited about the freedom of doing his thing in the kitchen, creating dishes that he wants to prepare. If a dish is not selling, he will take it off the menu. Kardos has proven that he has the talent to create incredible dishes, with his own place he will have the freedom to show this talent. If what I sampled is a pre-cursor to the food to come, Liberty Rock Tavern will absolutely rock.

229 Bridgeport ave Milford CT

The author was not compensated for this review; the dishes were provided without charge. The opinions contained herein are solely those of the author.

HAPA Food Truck’s Ahi Burger is a Killer Sandwich

ahi-tuna-burger
When one of the best, young, rising stars in the area stops you as you walk by his food truck and says, “I really want you to try this sandwich,” you take notice. And when that sandwich raises the bar for food being served from food trucks, it deserves special mention. The rising star is Chris Gonzales, the truck is HAPA, and the sandwich is the Ahi Burger. This is one of the best sandwiches I have eaten in quite some time.

The HAPA food truck has been one of my favorites since it opened. The tacos, the burger, the fries, the Brussels sprouts are all out of this world. I never imagined I would write these accolades about a “tuna burger.” HAPA’s combination starts with wild caught yellowfin, furikake crust, edamame, edamame puree, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato and spicy mayo on HAPA’s Ube bun.

The tuna was outstanding with great flavor and seasoning, not overpowering. The caramelized onions were a fantastic and very unusual topping, it worked perfectly with the tuna, with sweetness and pungency. The lettuce and tomato and the edamame offered texture, juiciness and earthiness and the aioli added creaminess and a touch of spice. And then Gonzales’ sweet blue ube bun kicks in with more delicious sweetness. And let’s not forget to order a side of some of the best fries in the area.

This is one great sandwich.

The author was not compensated for this review; the sandwich was provided without charge. The opinions contained herein are solely those of the author.

Elm Hosts Community Table & Millwright’s for 100% Vegan Night

My name is Jeff and I am a carnivore.

When I saw the announcement that Elm Restaurant in New Canaan was hosting four of the best chefs in Connecticut were gathering in the kitchen to serve a completely vegan menu I was curious. Elm’s chef Luke Venner arranged for chefs Mazen Mustafa, formerly of The Elm restaurant in Brooklyn, Marcell Davidson, from Community Table in Washington, CT, and Tyler Anderson, from Millwright’s in Simsbury. Would these four chefs create a meal this self-professed carnivore would enjoy? The answer is YES.

Mazen Mustafa trained in NYC at several Michelin starred restaurants including Corton, Momofuku Ko, and Restaurant Bouley. Marcell Davidsen brings a unique and artistic approach to his cuisine, celebrating local and natural ingredients, many found as he forages for herbs, flowers, and greens. Tyler Anderson worked with Chicago chefs Charlie Trotter, Sarah Stegner, and George Bumbaris and is a two-time James Beard nominated restaurant Millwright’s in Simsbury, CT. He respects and supports Connecticut’s farmers and artisan food producers.

When I arrived at Elm every table was occupied and the kitchen was abuzz with activity. I wandered to the rear to say hello to Elm’s chef Luke Venner and meet the other three chefs. Mustafa, Davidsen and Venner were busy finishing plates. Venner informed me that Anderson was, unfortunately, delayed out of town due to Hurricane Matthew.

While we looked at the menu I ordered the “avocado, indian corn tostada…” The avocado was serve guacamole–style and was rich, creamy and delicious. The tostadas were similar to poofy pita rounds, but darker. A little combination of the two; delightful, the avocado was great with the almost wheat-like tostada. It was one of our two favorites of the evening. The other was the “buffalo chicken of the woods, blue cheese.” Large sections of hen of woods mushrooms were seared and topped with a Buffalo wing sauce and topped with micro greens and dollops of vegan blue cheese. The mushrooms were dense and were a great complement to the slightly spicy sauce and the creamy blue cheese.

Two of the other smaller plates we enjoyed were the “tomato tartare, ras el hanout, charred bread” and the “pineapple steak, cilantro, peanut, szechuan peppercorn.” The tomato was served as a disk, exploding with the spiced diversity of the ras el hanout seasoning. The pineapple steak was petit and incredibly sweet with a great balance from the cilantro and the peanuts and Szechuan pepper added crunch and spiciness. From the larger plate section, we ordered the “charred eggplant, ratatouille jus, black olive, thai basil” and the “crispy hen of the woods, farro boullion, pickled onion. The vertically sectioned eggplants were charred and delivered a combination of subtle and deep flavors, which were elevated by the jus and the Thai basil. The mushroom dish was an enormous head of hen of woods mushrooms, which delivered both a crispy exterior and moist interior. The farro boullion was a required addition to each bite to add depth.

For dessert we enjoyed both the chocolate cake with banana ice cream as well as the peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies served with a small glass of almond milk.

Overall I really enjoyed this introduction and total immersion into vegan cuisine. Each dish focused on the tremendous and natural beauty of a single ingredient, and then the chefs added both complementary flavors and textures. If I was able to prepare vegan cuisine anywhere close to these dishes, I would definitely place them on my dinner table as frequently as possible.

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

Chef Arik Bensimon Returns at Cafe 47 in Greenwich

47_greenwich_burgerMany of us felt a sense of loss when Le Farm closed and Chef Arik Bensimon decided to pursue his other passion and create beautiful wood bowls. His brilliance in the kitchen, combining ingredients and textures as only great chefs can do, would be missed. Quietly and with no fanfare, Chef Arik has re-entered the Fairfield County food scene, at a small café in The Perfect Provenance in Greenwich, where his latest venture again proves his culinary talents in an environment dedicated to luxury and charity. When we spoke to him after the meal we asked him about this intimate space versus some of the larger restaurants he has worked in. He stated that he wanted this size, a place to serve the foods from his past.

The Perfect Provenance is the brainchild of Greenwich resident Lisa Lori, whose personal mission is to ensure every child can smile. All three of her sons were born with a rare condition, one of the prevented them from smiling. Numerous surgeries eventually corrected each and now Lori’s Three Little Bears project donates a percentage of the proceeds from T-shirts and bags to Operation Smile. These products are featured throughout the Perfect Provenance and have raised over $1 million to Operation Smile. The store is a perfect place for luxurious products and cuisine.

On a quiet afternoon, Stephanie Webster of CTbites and I stopped by with a sense of satisfaction that his talents would again be shared with others.

The small café includes a mere dozen seats, it is open for lunch from Tuesday to Saturday and dinner on Thursday and Friday evenings. The menu is very much a dedication to Bensimon’s French culinary heritage, reminiscent of a French bistro with a Tarte Flambé, a changing Tartare, Moules, Quiche Du Jour and a Dijon Roast Chicken. Daily specials are also offered. We ordered a couple of items from Les Entrées & Salades and from Les Sandwiches.

47_greenwichlambtaco_The Lamb Taco included two large grilled tortillas filled with the lamb and lettuce and served with a sauce of avocado and tomatillo. The lamb was firm in texture, similar to pastrami, from its confit preparation. It was rich and when combined with the bright sauce created an excellent balance.

47_greenwich_salmontartareWe also ordered the “Tartare du Jour” which was salmon on the day of our visit. The tartare was served on a grilled slice of bread and contained tremendous flavor. The diced salmon was joined with dill, capers and also just a hint of spiciness. It was refreshing and outstanding.

47_greenwich_octopusWe also enjoyed the Griddled Octopus, which was accompanied on the plate by chorizo and smashed potatoes. The presentation was finished with a dose of smoked paprika. The octopus was perfectly prepared and was al dente in texture and the smoked paprika was a flavorful addition to both the octopus and the potatoes.

The last large plate we shared was the Hamburger, served with house-made potato chips. The thick patty was served slathered in a Béarnaise sauce and encased in a toasted brioche. The grass-fed beef was rich, prepared to our requested medium-rare and was delicious. Then the burger was elevated to one of the best in the area with a heavenly and rich Béarnaise sauce plus the butteriness of the brioche. When we asked Chef Arik about the addition of the Béarnaise he told us that people place Béarnaise on steaks all the time, why not a burger?

T47_greenwich_pineapplecakeo end the meal on a sweet note we ordered a slice of Marie Antoinette Lemon Coconut Cake. The slice was topped with crème and sprinkled with coconut and toasted coconut. It was sweet and slightly decadent with great flavor.

Overall, Chef Arik’s incredible talent is again on display and available for everyone to enjoy. His ability to master tastes, textures, and incredible combinations in perfectly prepared dishes makes him one of the best chefs in the area. People who have enjoyed his cuisine in the past should be thrilled about his return and those who have not should definitely go to The Perfect Provenance and enjoy the cuisine at Café 47.

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