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

Fleisher’s Craft Butchery (Westport) – #8 on 2015 Best Burgers

fleish_15_burger_1A few years ago Saugatuck Craft Burchery opened in Westport, buying locally-raised meats and poultry, dry-aging the beef on premises and selling to the public. A second phase was opening a cafe using their meats as the centerpiece to the menu.

fleish_15_burger_3The “Craft Burger” is the next new addition to my Best Burger list. It included dry-aged beef, IPA fondue, bacon bits, bitter greens, and an onion ring served on a brioche. The meat was fantastic, perfectly prepared to medium-rare and delivered that wonderful rich flavor we have grown to expect from this butcher. The IPA fondue was a thick cheese sauce that covered the top of the meat and the mini-cubes of bacon were a great addition. The ingredient that elevated this burger was the bitter greens. It added a level of complexity that none other contained and the sweetness of the brioche was fantastic.

Click to add a blog post for Fleisher's Craft Butchery on Zomato

Five-Course Tasting Menu @Bar Sugo – Norwalk

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Washington Prime (SONO) 2.0 – Enter Chef Howard McCall Jr.

rsz_ctb (2)Patrons of Washington Prime will find comfort in the cuisine of its new Executive Chef Howard McCall Jr. This unassuming chef is not new to SoNo or the kitchen at Washington Prime; he started in the kitchen at Barcelona twenty years ago and was the opening Sous Chef at Washington Prime last summer. Prior to joining Washington Prime he oversaw the kitchen at Mint restaurant in North Carolina, which influenced his new Southern style cuisine.

CTbites was invited to meet the chef and sample some of his new additions to the menu. Chef Howard exudes a soft personality, allowing his culinary talents to speak. His recent changes to the new menu range from a creative American Soul Rolls to a Braised Lamb Shank, plus modifications of previous favorites. Each maintained the focus on the main ingredient with delightful accompaniments…more akin to Southern comfort food.

Three of the Small Plates were delicious.

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The first was the Short Rib. A large, single, boneless rib sat atop a dollop of the braising liquid and the chipotle onion jam, then crowned with two onion rings and finished with micro greens. The slowly braised rib was tender and succulent; and when paired with the spicy onions created a spicy-earthy combination. The onions were soft, but be prepared for a little spiciness from the onion jam, while the sauce was a wonderful and rich offset to the spicy onions. The onion rings were perfectly fried with a crispy exterior while retaining an al dente interior.

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Chef Howard took great care in allowing the rich flavors of the prime beef to stand out in the Steak Tartare. The dish included diced prime beef mixed with finely diced shallots, parsley and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. It was served in a swath of truffle vinaigrette, accompanied by a quail egg. The scant inclusion of the shallots was perfect and when combined with the truffle vinaigrette was outstanding. Make a divot in the beef and add the quail egg and combine to create an even richer experience. A sprinkling of Parmesan cheese added a touch of saltiness. This is one of the most delicious tartares in Fairfield County.

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Not to be outdone by the tartare, the Mac + Cheese is the creamiest I have tasted in quite some time. Chef Howard chose orecchiette to deliver his four cheese (White Cheddar, Yellow Cheddar, Asiago and American) mixture in each bite. This simple combination created a beautifully balanced taste. The texture was velvety and then the crunchy bacon-breadcrumbs kicked in. The pasta was cooked to a perfect al dente. There were additional bacon bits within the dish. This may be the standard for other Mac + Cheeses in the area.

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The last Small Plate I sampled was the American Soul Rolls that combined sausage, broccoli rabe, mashed potatoes served a la egg roll, with a spicy tomato-veal demi-glace dipping sauce. The potatoes were soft and creamy and were complemented by the crispy egg roll skins and a tomato dipping sauce worked well with a crispy potato combination. The spiciness of the sausage was balanced by the smoothness of the potatoes. I could probably enjoy the Soul Rolls accompanied by a beer at the bar but thought there were too many elements competing in the dish.

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I also sampled two of the large plates and really enjoyed the Braised Lamb Shank. It was served nestled in polenta, crispy Brussels sprouts and topped with rich gravy and a few onion rings. The large shank was perfectly braised to maximize its tenderness and the Brussels sprouts were fantastic, crispy and sweet. The polenta was creamy and mild…a great canvas for the all of the rich flavors of the dish. And lastly, a few perfectly fried onion rings perched on top to accompany an already great presentation.

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The SONO Fried Chicken was an enormous half chicken served with its traditional accompaniments, mashed potato and gravy, plus braised greens. I started with the sides…they were fantastic. The potatoes were creamy, lightly seasoned and the gravy was excellent. The braised greens were outstanding with a sweet syrup and bacon. The two enormous pieces of chicken were disappointing. The ultra-crispy fell off the chicken and cutting the chicken was incredibly difficult. The texture of both the breast and the thigh was too firm for my taste and the entire chicken was under-seasoned.  As much as I loved the sides, the chicken was not to my liking.

Chef Howard’s cuisine is Southern comfort with a modern twist. He has a delicate touch that allows the main ingredient to maintain the focus of the dish with accompaniments that enhance the flavors. I look forward to returning to Washington Prime and enjoy many more of Chef Howard’s new creations on the menu.

Really Liked
– Short Rib
– Steak Tartare
– Mac + Cheese
– Braised Lamb Shank
– Mashed Potato and Gravy, Braised Greens (in SONO Fried Chicken)

Did Not Like
– American Soul Rolls
– SONO Fried Chicken

Bick’s Burgers (Danbury) – Outstanding Burgers & Fries

BL 1The burger at Bick’s is one of the finest in the area. The interior is NJ Diner from the 50-60’s with its four red and white booths and ten swivel bar stools overlooking the griddle. The base price of $6.95 rises quickly as you can choose from five cheeses ($1.25), eight sauces ($0.75), other toppings ($1.50) including three different varieties of onions, avocado, bacon olive tapenade, mushroom ragout or fireworks slaw, served on your choice of sesame, potato, house-made brioche or a truffle brioche.

BL 2I ordered my traditional bacon cheeseburger with American and caramelized onions on a brioche with umami ketchup. With a choice of either regular French fries or sweet potato fries, I asked for half-half on the fries.

BL 4The burger was outstanding. The meat delivered a deep, beefy flavor, the grind was loose and the patty was perfectly prepared with a char on the exterior and medium-rare on the interior. The onions were buttery soft and sweet, delicious, and the thick-cut bacon added just a touch of saltiness without overwhelming the meat. The cheese was melted and the brioche brought great buttery flavor in a soft and moist bun. The umami ketchup delivered a wonderful earthiness to the burger.

BL 3The French fries were hand-cut on the premises and were fantastic. They were crisp on the outside and soft and moist on the interior and the flavors were excellent. You do not need any ketchup to enjoy these fries. The sweet potato fries were very good, but compared to the regulars, well, I would order a full order of the regulars. If you want to add spice, order the Cactus ketchup, it has a great kick.

Bick’s is serving one outstanding burger.

Bick's Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

“V” Versailles Reopens in Greenwich – Sneak Peek

BL ExteriorVersailles has reopened on Greenwich Avenue. Considered by many as one of the best patisseries in the area before it closed, this is not a not a mere re-opening but a reincarnation; the new Versaille will not only feature the wonderful pastries that were a fixture on Greenwich Avenue, but the new owners will bring an expanded menu of bistro fare. And the new owner is none other than Marc Penvenne, a former employee of Versaille, who, with his wife Evelyne opened Méli-Mélo, across the street. “We couldn’t let Versailles go” Penvenne said “our goal is to do our best to continue its legacy so we waited to announce our opening and collected feedback from customers.”

Then the couple launched its grand opening menus.

Le Petit Dejeuner includes omelets, granola, pancakes and of course French toast, and do not forget the house-made patisserie items. Versaille’s Le Dejeuner menu offers an array of traditional bistro selections including Croque Madame or Monsieur, salads, patés and escargots or for those with a heartier appetite, Boeuf Bourguignon and Duck Confit.

As nighttime approaches Versailles transforms into an evening bistro with traditional bistro fare. From poached salmon to entrecote, to beef tartare and the ever-present roasted chicken, Le Diner menu will transport you to the streets of Paris. For a lighter meal, guests can order rillettes de saumon, a green lentil salad, escargots or a selection of cheeses or charcuterie. The menu is designed for both the Le Petit to Le Gourmand.

I look forward to checking out Versailles for an in depth look at the rustic country fare and if I happen to enjoy a few pastries as well, c’est la vie.

Versailles Bistro & Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Barrique Bistro & Wine Bar (Stamford) – Delicious Bistro Fare

photo 4Barrique Bistro and Wine Bar opened several months ago in the location that formerly housed Jean Pierre restaurant and continues to offer incredibly delicious bistro fare, plus other southern European cuisine.  The décor is relaxed and reminds you of dining in a bistro on the streets of Paris.

The “Escargots” with garlic butter were encased in their shells, brimming with garlic butter, served with a traditional escargot holder and a small fork. Removing the escargot from the shell was difficult as the escargot were very deep within and I finally decided to cut the shell in half. Once removed, the escargot was beautifully prepared, mild in flavor and were complemented by the garlicky butter, which was not overpowering. This was a nice way to begin Le Diner.

Another fantastic appetizer was the “Wild Mushroom Risotto” with white truffle oil. The Arborio rice was perfectly prepared and maintained just a small amount of “bite” on the interior. There was a nice selection of mushrooms, including cremini and oyster that added earthiness, and the reduced stock was creamy and delivered a delicious complement to the rice. I highly recommend this dish.

The roasted “Organic Chicken” was served atop a mélange of baby arugula, fingerling potatoes, cherry tomato, and finished with a drizzle of Balsamic. The chicken was crisp on the exterior and wonderfully moist on the interior. The sweet tomatoes offset the peppery arugula and the balsamic added a fantastic layer of additional flavor. This is a great roasted chicken. The “Organic Salmon” was a simple and pleasant rendition with artichokes, fingerling potatoes, carrots, and wild mushrooms. The large filet is more than enough for a hungry appetite and he accompanying ingredients made for a bright a delightful dish.

The “Skirt Steak” was served with cipollini onions, wild mushrooms, charred asparagus, and finished with a Bordelaise sauce. The steak was a large portion (it filled the entire diameter of the dinner plate) was prepared to my requested medium-rare (another steak at the table ordered medium and serve very rare needed a re-fire). The steak was rich in flavor, and the Bordelaise sauce was delicious with the onions and mushrooms and the deep flavors of the meat were paired perfectly with the sweet onions.

For dessert the “Crème Brulée” and the “Chocolate Mousse Cake” were both delightful. The Brulee was incredibly creamy, and the crisped thin sugar topping was the perfect proportion. The cake, from Matthew’s Bakery was outstanding. Thick layers of cake and a fair amount of filling were fantastic. Both of these desserts are highly recommended.

Overall Barrique Bistro and Wine Bar is a relaxing restaurant, offering delicious bistro cuisine. Bon Appetit.

Barrique Bistro & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Matt’s Bar (Minneapolis) – Jucy Lucy in Paradise

Matts Bar is the quintessential local watering hole, everyone from the neighbor wanders over and you almost expect to see Archie Bunker discussing football with Norm. Founded in 1954, it is not the beer or the mixed drinks that brings non-locals to Matt’s, it is the allure of one of the great culinary creations of the last fifty years, the Jucy Lucy. While others may spell Jucy differently, Matt’s contends that the misspelling is symbolic of the misguided attempts to serve with inferior products. After enjoying numerous Jucy Lucies at Matt’s and other location in the Twin Cities Matt’s is definitely one of the best. As you look around the dining area, there is not a person who is not enjoying a Jucy Lucy, a traditional burger, plus a huge mound of fries.

Prepare to wait on line most nights, but when you enter the bar, you have the option of a table, booth, or grab a seat at the bar that extends the entire length of the right wall.  Located at the front of the bar is a small griddle fully loaded with a maximum 12 sizzling burgers, plus a small deep fryer.  The menu includes the Jucy Lucy, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, single or double, ham and cheese and grilled chicken, plus fries in two sizes, full and half.

For those who have never experienced the pleasures, and potential pains, of a Jucy Lucy, it is comprised of two patties, sealed along the edges to encase a wonderfully delicious molten cheese. They are grilled to an exterior char and placed on a basic bun. I normally choose a sing JL plus fired onions and these are no ordinary onion that are slapped on the griddle and fried, these have a secret, added ingredient, a little jolt of the grease from the deep frier, heh why not?  And when ordering the fries, a half order is more than enough, I once sat next a person who asked if he could order a quarter order.

The burgers are placed on the griddle and allowed to crisp on one side before flipping. The same occurs for side two and then a small hole is cut into the top to see if the interior cheese is fully melted and allow for a little steam to escape. When finished, it is placed in a simple roll, fried onions are added and a mound of fries join paper-lined plastic “plate.”

When the burger and fries arrive, the fun begins. Do not, I repeat, do not, bite into the burger for several minutes. Those who do not head this warning with suffer the JL Burn, half on the roof of your mouth, the other half on the lips. Bide you time, enjoy a few of the delicious fries and be patient. When the time is right, take a small bite, carefully releasing the gooey cheese. There is nothing earth-shattering about the flavors, but this is a great cheeseburger with fried onions on a simple bun, and somehow it all tastes better as a stuffed creation. And one is usually not enough…on every occasion, when our group is finished with the first Jucy Lucy a second round is ordered.

Matt’s Jucy Lucy is one of my favorite renditions in MSP. It is consistently delicious, the fries are always freshly prepared, crispy and perfectly salted and the atmosphere is a relaxing neighborhood haunt.

You can’t go wrong with friends and a few Jucy Lucies at Matt’s.

Matt's Bar on Urbanspoon

Primary Food & Drink (Greenwich) – Outstanding & Creative Cuisine

Primary

Primary Food & Drink, the newest member of Master Chef Graham Elliot’s expanding restaurant group, opened in Greenwich this past December under the direction of Executive Chef and Managing Partner Merlin Verrier. The restaurant is serving some of the most innovative and imaginative interpretations of traditional recipes using unique combinations and ingredients.

BL Bar AreaWith six Michelin stars in his portfolio, Chef Verrier worked under several of the great chefs in America. His culinary experience included stops in his native California, Oregon and Colorado where he was eventually noticed by James Beard Award winner Chef Jennifer Jasinski and promoted to Sous Chef at her Rioja Restaurant. His travels brought him to Chicago in 2008 where his business relationship with Chef Elliot commenced. One month after joining Chef Elliot, he was promoted to Sous Chef and a year later he was overseeing the kitchen as Chef du Cuisine where he received his first Michelin star. Chef Verrier now brings his magical cuisine to Fairfield County.

BL Dining RoomTo fully appreciate Primary’s cuisine, it is important to understand the philosophy of Chefs Elliot and Verrier, who told CTbites, “We both like people thinking outside the box, a way to add something to this dish. So it’s this non-stop progression of keeping these people on their toes and not being a robot.” This mantra guides the development of the menu and in the construction of each of the dishes. They are not a repetitive series of harmonious bites, each presents a different experience in flavors and textures. Guests need to leave their preconceived notions at the door and vacate their culinary comfort zone to enjoy the complexity of Chef Verrier’s interpretations.

BL Foie LollipopThe “Foielipops” are a pre-cursor to the creativity of the food. These are not listed on the menu but ask your server so you can enjoy these delicacies while you look through the menu. Circles of rich and creamy foie gras mousse are trimmed with salmon colored “pop rocks.” Some will burst in your mouth and others add a sugary complement to the richness of the foie gras; this is a fun way to start the meal.

BL CaesarThe “Deconstructed Caesar” included three mounds of gem lettuce, topped with a small Spanish anchovy filet, the middle mound sat atop the oft-mentioned “crouton Twinkie.” The crispy lettuce was complemented by a delightfully light and lemony anchioade. The Twinkie offered crunchiness plus a mild creaminess from the interior’s Parmesan cheese “cream” while the Spanish anchovies delivered just a hint of saltiness. There was the slightest accent of garlic and pepper to complete the dish. This was a very light-handed Caesar salad.

BL TartareThe next dish was the “Beef Tartare” and it delivered a very different profile. The flavors were accentuated by cornichons, horseradish potatoes, Dijon mustard, roasted garlic, and Worcestershire sauce and sat atop a house-made baguette. The richness of the meat was augmented by creamy sous vided egg yolks and then the chef playfully added a sour component with finely diced pickled egg whites. This was a delightful interpretation.

BL GnocchiThe “Toasted Gnocchi” were delicious. The potato gnocchi were lightened with the addition of ricotta and then crisped. They were the perfect canvas for the flavors and textures of the accompanying ingredients. Sautéed foraged mushrooms added a deep earthiness and the Parmesan Reggiano brought a mild saltiness to the dish. All of these items were nestled in a pool of brown butter that delivered a nutty component and increased the overall richness of this presentation.

BL SalmonWe next enjoyed a wonderful “Scottish Salmon.” A flawlessly prepared filet sat atop a mélange of grains, vegetables and fruits including wild rice, puffed rice, organic freekah, Brussels sprouts, crisped salmon skin, d’anjou pear, Brussels sprout leaves and greens; finished with whole grain mustard seed caviar and mustard vinaigrette. This was one of the best salmons I have ever tasted. The fish was crispy and perfectly seasoned on the exterior, and moist and soft on the interior with a deep flavor. The sweetness of the compressed d’Anjou pear, the nuttiness of the freekah, the crunchiness of the wild rice, and the sour and spiciness of the two mustard preparations were a perfect balance to brighten this presentation.

BL TunaThe “Ahi Tuna” was the only dish that I was not fond of. The large filet was coated with a spice rub that included smoked paprika and chili, seared to rare and was accompanied by Plantain chips, plus a combination of hominy, mango salsa and served with whipped avocado and lime crema. The spiciness of the rub overwhelmed the tuna and the other ingredients did not complement each other.

BL StroganoffThe “Beef Stroganoff” was fantastic with a unique twist to a familiar recipe. Chef Verrier deconstructed each of the major components and then created a delicious rendition of each of the elements. The plating began with rich truffled mushroom purée, topped with crisped spätzle and a few black trumpet mushrooms, topped with a large beef filet and finished with additional black trumpet mushrooms, crème fraiche and thinly sliced pickled shallots. The filet was incredibly rich and tender and when combined with the lushness of the mushroom purée and the earthiness of the mushrooms created a delightful decadence. The spätzle lightened the dish and the pickled shallots added sour notes to balance the other ingredients.

BL LambChef Verrier’s interpretation of “Moroccan Lamb” was outstanding and flawless in its construction and presentation. This was the best dish of the evening, and one of the best I have ever tasted. A mound of shredded lamb sat atop sweet garbanzo beans and topped with a slightly-spiced Harissa accented red cabbage slaw and a few deep-fried eggplant spears. The dish was finished with a sprinkling of orange gremolata. The lamb was marinated in yogurt and then slow roasted for hours resulting in a mild flavored, succulent, fall-off-the-bone, braised lamb. Prepared similar to “baked beans,” the sweet garbanzo beans were enriched with Merguez sausage and accompanied with a few pipings of curry yogurt to complete this North African inspired dish. This interpretation was brilliant.

BL DessertFor dessert we ordered a chocolate-cacophony. Included in this dish were dehydrated microwaved sponge cake, white chocolate pound cake, milk chocolate ice cream, coconut crisp, toasted peanut pound cake, peanut semi-freddo, salted caramel syrup, chocolate nougatine, and honey comb crumble. The various flavors and textures that each of the elements brought to this dish were creative and incredibly delicious.

Primary Food and Drink is an outstanding restaurant serving delicious, creative cuisine. I look forward to numerous return visits to enjoy more of Chef Verrier’s inventive presentations.

Primary Food & Drink

409 Greenwich Ave · Greenwich · CT

(203) 861-2400

Really Liked

  • Deconstructed Caesar
  • Beef Tartare
  • Toasted Gnocchi
  • Scottish Salmon
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Moroccan Lamb
  • Chocolate Dessert

Liked

  • Foielipops

Not Fond of

  • Ahi Tuna

This review was originally posted on CTBites at: http://www.ctbites.com/home/2014/3/2/graham-elliots-primary-food-drink-opens-in-greenwich-outstan.html

Bar Sugo 2.0 (Norwalk) – Enter Chef Paul Failla

BL InteriorSlightly more than a year ago, restaurant Bar Sugo opened on Wall Street in Norwalk featuring a variety of owner/Chef Pat Pascarella’s fantastic pizzas, meatballs and delectable pastas. Pascarella recently handed the reins of the day-to-day culinary oversight to Chef Paul Failla, and CTbites re-visited to taste Chef Paul’s cuisine and his creative spin to the menu.

BL Chef PaulChef Faillia attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park before accepting a position at Burger Bar in South Norwalk. His culinary training continued at Dolce in Norwalk, The Atlantic Grill in Manhattan and The Saltwater Grille in Stamford, where he met Pascarella. He subsequently worked with Chef Dan Kardos at The Whelk and was one of the opening chefs with Chef Kardos at NOLA Oyster Bar.

BL MenuWhen Pascarella first approached Failla about joining Bar Sugo, he was looking for a successor to continue his vision of “food that Italians eat every day” while allowing the new chef to add his individual flair to the dishes. Chef Paul accepted the challenge and he is already placing his mark on the menu, focusing on Italian small plates. Guests create their meal from a selection of cheeses with house-cured meats, Bar Sugo’s meatballs (a few modifications are already appearing), up to twenty Cichettis (small plates), six pastas, or one of six brick oven pizzas. He told CTbites, “We will change several items on the menu on a weekly basis.” After an initial visit Chef Paul is succeeding in presenting delicious and full flavored selections.

BL BurrataThe “Burrata Bruschetta” was served atop stewed garbanzo beans, arugula pesto and topped with toast points. The Burrata was ultra-creamy and mild in flavor and the Garbanzo beans added a touch of earthiness and a bit of a bite in texture. The highlight was the arugula pesto that added a little saltiness and nuttiness from the Parmesan cheese.

CTB Brussels SproutsBar Sugo’s “Brussel Sprouts” was paired with chunks of squash and sautéed with sherry and truffle honey, which created and crispy caramelized exterior. The Brussels sprouts were “like candy,” sweet, crispy and incredibly delicious. This is a great choice to share amongst your group.

BL OctopusThe “Octopus” was presented with orange segments, potato wedges, and kale chips, all coated with a harissa infused sauce. The octopus was soft on the interior with just a slight crispiness from the kitchen finishing the presentation on the grill. The octopus was flavorful and the orange segments added a little sweetness and offset the spiciness of the harissa. The kale chips added a little textural contrast but the seasoning was slightly uneven with one receiving all of the salt while the others were missing any hint.

BL Short Rib 2I enjoyed two of the meat options. The “Short Rib” was served atop celery root puree, plus a few fried oysters (not normally included but some local oysters arrived from Norm Bloom earlier in the day). Unlike many other wine-braised short rib preparations, Chef Paul veered slightly from the norm and developed an interpretation of a traditional English combination. The celery root was accented with a horseradish crème fraiche that was a tangy and enjoyable balance to the richness of the beef, creating a modified English Beef with horseradish sauce. The addition of the fried oysters was strange and was more confusing than complementary.
BL Lamb The “Millstone Lamb” was served over a puree of smoked sunchokes, bacon olives and crispy faro. The meat was exceptionally tender and flavorful and the puree added a mild earthiness to the dish. The crispy faro added a surprisingly delightful crunch. This combination was fantastic.

BL PastaChef Paul saved the best for last and a special call-out is required for his “Spaghetti Neri,” one of the best pasta preparations I have tasted. The squid ink pasta was served in a smoked tomato sauce with shrimp, and topped with bread crumbs and Bottarga. The pasta was perfectly prepared to al dente and the mild smokiness and spiciness of the tomato sauce was delicious. The entire presentation was elevated with the addition of the Bottarga, salt-cured fish roe that added a brininess to the dish that was fantastic. The shrimp were cooked perfectly with a slight crispiness to the exterior and a soft interior.

BL Pana CottaChef Paul prepared an “Apple Panna Cotta” for dessert, topped with an oatmeal streusel and finished with a drizzle of sweet caramel sauce. The apples were first steeped with cinnamon, which created a very mild apple flavor, I would have preferred more from the apple. The streusel added a great crunchiness to the dessert and the caramel sauce was delightful. This was a great way to end the meal.

Moving into the second year of business, Chef Paul Failla is elevating the culinary scene to an otherwise challenging location nestled between stores with similar signage. Once inside, the vibe is alive. The food is exciting and the prices allow for a reasonably priced dinner for a couple or shared plates for a family that will not break the bank while enjoying great company.

Outstanding:

  • Spaghetti Negri

Really Liked (In Descending Order}:

  • Millstone Lamb
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Apple Panna Cotta
  • Short Ribs
  • Octopus
  • Burrata Bruschetta

This review was originally posted on http://www.CTbites.com at:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/12/1/bar-sugo-20-enter-chef-paul-failla.html