Dorsia (Boca) – Still the Best in the Neighborhood

16-chicken-saparielloWe returned to Dorsia and this is still one of my favorite restaurants in the area. From the minute you enter, the owners are welcoming, friendly and have a personal interest in all of the guests. It is like eating at a friend’s house. The service was flawless, prompt and knowledgeable on both of our visits.

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On the first visit the server mentioned that the special for the evening was an Eggplant Ball. I did not completely understand the server when he stated the dish and I thought it was strips of fried eggplant with sauce and cheese. When it was delivered in a bowl versus a plate I was not sure what it was until I took a forkful and saw it was an eggplant meatball minus the meat. It was soft and full of great flavor. The sauce was fantastic, great deep rich tomato flavor. The eggplant ball was a great choice; it is a little heavy for the start of a meal, but it was fantastic.

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My entrée on the first visit was the Ricotta and Spinach Cannelloni. Make sure you have a hearty appetite if you order this dish. I struggle calling it cannelloni versus manicotti since it was a spinach-ricotta cheese stuffed pasta tubes topped with a tomato-meat sauce. Call it whatever you would like, I call it delicious. The spinach was fresh, not frozen, and when combined with the cheeses was delicious inside the pasta cylinders that were the perfect thickness and texture. The sauce was more a meat sauce Ragu with a small smattering of meat versus a thick and meaty Bolognese, but again, call it what you like it was superb.

On the second visit I ordered the Chicken Scarpariello. The server asked if I would like cherry peppers on the side. I thought that was a great idea and agreed. The dish consisted of a half a bone-in chicken cut into several pieces with red peppers, sausage slices, roasted potatoes and onions. The flavors were delicious. I did add a small piece of cherry pepper to one bite and these were extremely hot peppers, be forewarned if you are thinking of ordering them in the dish. The only drawback was the white meat was a little overcooked. Likewise, to manage expectations, the size of the half chicken was more a size of a Cornish Hen, just a head’s up, but it was more than generous as an entrée with all of the additions.

For dessert, we ordered the Tartufo, vanilla and chocolate ice cream covered in a chocolate shell with a little chopped hazelnut in the core. It was pretty basic but a good ending to the meal with a really good and generous single espresso.

This is still one of my favorite restaurants in the Delray area.

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Seasons 52 (Boca) -Stick with the Flatbreads and Desserts

dessertsOur annual pilgrimage to Seasons 52 was interesting and not in a positive manner. As in previous years, we arrived for our reservation and the hostess escorted us to the noisy bar area. I just do not understand why the hostess failed to ask if we had a preference for the bar or the dining room. We declined and asked to sit in one of the dining rooms, a quieter part of the restaurant.

We shared the tomato and Mozzarella flatbread and the chicken pesto flatbread. I really like their flatbreads, they are the best items on the menu. The tomatoes were super sweet and the crust was crispier than previous years, and did not crumble apart after each bite. This year the chicken was moist and the arugula was also a good topping.

The shrimp and grits is more aptly described a shrimp mish-mosh. Throw a little grits on a plate. Then over-season some shrimp and sauté with tomatoes, chorizo and pancetta and throw on top of the grits. Just a bunch of competing flavors, each too much for the others. Best part was the tomatoes. There is very little on the menu that is worth ordering.

Desserts were brought over. I chose one with a bunch of different chocolates and a little cake. I really like this approach to dessert, order one or two to finish the meal.

In addition, our utensils were dirty, as well as the napkins. Service was novice. The server was obviously very new and management failed to train him adequately, he was very unfocused, just going through the motions. When asked what the evening’s ravioli was filled with, he responded, “nothing.” Really? I mentioned this on the way out and they thanked me and gave a certificate for the next visit.

On the drive home, we discussed having a few flatbreads and dessert the next time we go. Not a bad idea.

J. Alexander’s (Boca) – Sleek Spot with Challenging Food

16-burgerFrom the outside, this restaurant looks like an upscale Florida version of a NJ diner. Once inside, the enormous four-sided bar separates two dining areas with more a pubby feeling than NJ red p-leather booths. The menu ranges from a few unappealing appetizers, many salads and sandwiches, plus entrees. All of the food is prepared in the large, open-viewed kitchen in the rear.

On the first visit I ordered a bacon-cheese burger medium-rare with tomato and pickles plus fries. The menu stressed hand formed chuck daily so I was expecting a very juicy burger. It arrived already cut in half to show it was prepared properly. The first item I noticed was the size of the bun; it was incredibly tall and overshadowed the exposed patty, tomato, pickle, and the single slice of melted cheese; the bacon was hidden under the bun. The second item was the lack of juice extruding from the burger, even though it was chuck and cut immediately after leaving the griddle.

A quick taste of the meat. It was OK but had a bitter aftertaste. It was medium in grind with decent richness. The folded and hidden slice of bacon was also pretty good; the bun was OK but much too large. The two slices of tomatoes were excellent. Overall it was an OK burger but should have been juicier if it was chuck. The fries were horrible. The shoestring variety were cooked a little too long and then the kitchen doused them with salt, head snapping back amounts.

16-tacosOn the second visit I ordered the steak tacos. A swath of sour cream sauce was first shmeared onto three large soft tortillas and topped with a slice of steak, shredded lettuce and Monterey Jack cheese and finished with a little pico de Gallo salsa. The steak was prepared to medium rare. After one bite, I knew this was not for me. The steak was covered with a seasoning package that was both overwhelmingly salty and incredibly spicy. The salsa was also spicy. My wife offered half of her burger and when I tasted it, it was not even as good as the OK burger from the first visit, with a spongier consistency than my first visit. The server and manager asked if I would like something else, and they did a good job, but I chose to call it a night.

Overall Alexander’s exterior of a NJ diner rang truer with the food than the decor. An OK burger, very over-seasoned tacos, but fries that would never be served in NJ.

Atlantic Grill (Delray) – Beautiful Spot Deserves Better

16-scallopsLocated on Atlantic Avenue in the beautiful Seagate Hotel, The Atlantic Grille offers dining rooms with both visual appeal and a menu with a varied set of options. We visited on Christmas Eve so my disappointing entrée may have some justification from a less than full kitchen staff. We were seated on the covered portico overlooking Atlantic Ave., and I would suggest asking for this location in the future, since the only ambient noise comes from other tables, the music from the main dining rooms was filtered out when the doors are closed.

I ordered the Iceberg Wedge for my first course and the Pan Seared Scallops for my entrée.

The wedge was very traditional, with the quartered head covered with a creamy Gorgonzola cheese dressing, halved grape tomatoes and bacon. After I sliced the wedge into bite-sized pieces and mixed, it was a perfectly balance salad, the kitchen added just the right amount of dressing and bacon to lightly cover each bit. If you are looking for a bold cheese dressing, you will be disappointed as the dressing was a milder version of a Gorgonzola dressing, which I prefer.

When the scallops arrived, I was a little taken aback. The photo above is exactly how it arrived. There were five medium-sized scallops, not very large, haphazardly thrown on the plate atop the tiniest portion of parsnip puree I have ever seen. The haricot vert sat alongside the scallops (also appeared to be thrown on the plate) with sherry-bacon vinaigrette drizzled over both. My first bite was disappointing. The scallop was cooked properly but it had cooled from sitting in the kitchen, it arrived at the table just above room temperature. The others were slightly overcooked (interesting since they were only seared on one side), they lost all of their translucence. That would have been overlooked if the sherry-bacon vinaigrette did not completely overwhelm the scallops, creating a bitter combination. Again, that might have been overlooked if there was more than a tablespoon of parsnip puree on the plate to counteract the vinaigrette with some sweetness. The haricot vert were slightly undercooked as well. Over all it was a very disappointing dish. On a positive note, I tasted my wife’s pasta with shrimp in Marinara sauce and the shrimp were really well prepared.

Service was friendly and efficient throughout the evening.

Overall, I was disappointed in The Atlantic Grille but I am giving it some slack because it was Christmas Eve.

 

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