Napa & Company (Stamford) – Enter Chef Adam Truelove

DSC_1292Since opening in 2006, Napa & Co. has received numerous accolades as one of the best restaurants in Connecticut with a creative and inventive menu. Co-Owner Mary Schaeffer told CTbites that her vision from the start has been the “wine country cuisine of Northern California…flavorful, fresh, simply prepared food with its roots based from the European influence of wine growers coming to the area from Spain, France and Italy over the last 100 years.” The restaurant prides itself on “blend(ing) the cultures” of various cuisines. Schaeffer also has a keen eye for culinary talent and last year she hired and handed oversight of the kitchen to Executive Chef Adam Truelove.

Chef Adam earned a degree in Mathematics before following his culinary passion and enrolled at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan. After graduation, he honed his skills at Town and Esca Restaurants before returning to the FCI as a Chef Instructor. He relocated to the Fairfield County area as the opening Sous Chef at Tarry Lodge in Port Chester, the Executive Chef at Pine Social in New Canaan and eleven 14 Kitchen in Greenwich as the Chef du Cuisine. Last year Napa & Co. reached out to Chef Adam and asked him to join its team to oversee the kitchen as Executive Chef.

Over the last year at Napa, Chef Adam has slowly brought new recipes to the menu, added his personal touch to others and retained many of the dishes that regular guests have loved for many years. His vision is to deliver a menu with new twists on traditional cuisine and the dishes reflect a desire to complement rich meats and fish with a sweet and spicy elements.

BL MeatballsA staple on Napa’s menu for many years has been the “Duck & Foie Gras Meatballs.” Chef Adam slightly modified the presentation and the dish is now served with a cinnamon-Port glaze and a smidgen of fig jam. The flavor combination of the foie gras and the duck remains one of my favorites. The textural difference between the exterior and the interior the meatballs was divine. The meatballs were first flash fried and then finished in the oven creating a crispy exterior with soft and fluffy interior. The fatty richness of the foie was perfectly complemented by the fig jam and the concentrated Port glaze added a bold touch of additional sweetness to balance the entire presentation.

BL Crab SaladThe “Crab Salad” included truffle and shaved broccoli and served atop thick slices of cucumber. The crab salad was very mild with two different and delicate components, the sweetness of the crab complemented by the earthy truffle. These light flavors were unfortunately overwhelmed by those of the cucumber, which became the focal point of the presentation. The dish would have been better balanced with more crab salad and a thinner slice of cucumber.

BL Lamb SlidersThe “Lamb Sliders” were served with a honey-yogurt dressing and encased in a brioche bun, accompanied by a quinoa salad. The mini-burgers were delicious with the deep and rich gaminess of the lamb offset by the sweetness of the yogurt dressing. The buttery brioche paired perfectly with the lamb and honey-yogurt. The quinoa salad was dressed with a cumin vinaigrette and finished with grated ricotta salata. The dressing was applied heavily and overwhelmed both the quinoa and ricotta salata and less dressing would better showcase the nuttiness of the quinoa.

BL CodThe two entrées were both delicious. The “Roasted Atlantic Cod” was served with Bacalao whipped potatoes, roasted parsnips, lavender jus and finished with basil oil. This was a wonderful combination and offered two separate introductions of both the cod and the parsnip. The filet of cod was perfectly seasoned and finished to medium rare, allowing the fish to maintain a soft and juicy interior, while the crispy exterior offered a delightful textural difference. The whipped potatoes included two additional ingredients, the Bacalao, which added a little fish background to the potatoes plus parsnip purée that created a touch of sweetness. Chef Adam then scattered diced roasted parsnip on the plate to add an addition layer of sweetness.

BL CassouletThe “Cassoulet” was outstanding and one of the best versions I have ever tasted. This classical French roasted bean dish is traditionally served with roasted meats and Chef Adam’s rendition featured slowly braised duck confit. The duck was fantastic, soft and succulent on the interior with just a touch of crispiness from the roasting process. He added diced house-made wild boar garlic sausage to the beans to create bold accompaniment to the moist and tender duck. The beans were soft with just a slight bite in texture. To add additional texture, the entire dish was topped with panko bread crumbs before it was roasted.

BL Pot au CremeFor dessert we ordered “Chocolate Hazelnut Pot au Crème.” This was served with a piece of grapefruit-hazelnut brittle. The crème was delicious, full of chocolaty goodness and the texture was mildly dense and pleasing to the palate. The brittle was a playful touch to the presentation.

Chef Adam Truelove is slowly placing his mark on the menu at Napa & Co. As he moves into the spring season and includes fresh Connecticut produce I look forward to enjoying many of his additional twists on traditional recipes.

Napa & Company – 75 Broad Street – Stamford, CT 06901 – 203-353-3319

http://www.napaandcompany.com

Really Liked

  • Duck & Foie Gras Meatballs
  • Roasted Atlantic Cod
  • Cassoulet
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Pot au Crème

Liked

  • Lamb Sliders

Did Not Like

  • Crab Salad

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

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2014/3/20/napa-company-gets-a-new-chef-adam-truelove-at-the-helm.html

Napa & Co. – Geat Food in Stamford

Napa and Company in Stamford has another extraordinary chef, Chef Leonardo Marino, overseeing its award-winning kitchen. Chef Leo is slowly modifying the menu to showcase his commitment of using exceptional ingredients to highlight their natural flavors. Three weeks after assuming Napa’s Executive Chef position, CTbites sat with Chef Leo for this “Behind the Scenes,” review, discussed his passion for food and sampled several of his recently premiered dishes.

Chef Leo’s devotion to cooking started at an early age as he assisted his mother and aunt in the kitchen; they inspired him to pursue a culinary education.  After attending the Culinary Institute of America, his philosophy of accentuating the natural flavors was further influenced in the kitchens of some of America’s greatest chefs. While working as the Lead Sous Chef for Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin, Ripert asked him to relocate to Washington DC to take the reins of Chef de Cuisine at Westend Bistro by Eric Ripert. Chef Leo returned to New York in 2009 and joined David Bouley at both Bouley and as the Chef of Bouley Upstairs. In 2010 he joined Jean George Vongerichten, first as the Executive Sous Chef at his flagship restaurant, Jean George, and subsequently as the Executive Sous Chef at The Mark Restaurant by Jean George. After working with all of these legendary chefs, Chef Leo commented, “My mother and my aunt are two of the best chefs,” but he quickly added, “…in addition to Eric and Jean George.”

The first dish was a delightful tomato gazpacho. Chef Leo’s version began with a mound of baby heirloom tomatoes, Marcona almonds, basil and sliced strawberries, all topped with a mini-grilled cheese. The soup, which was comprised of traditional cucumbers, red peppers with just a touch of diced Serrano chili to give the dish a little spiciness, was then slowly poured into the dish. The bright flavors of the tomatoes were perfectly accented by the cucumbers, red peppers and the Serrano chili; and the mini-grilled cheese was both a delicious and fun addition. I really enjoyed this dish as a light start to the meal for both the crisp combinations of flavors as well as its varying textures.

The second dish was a remarkable salad and my favorite of those that I tasted; heirloom tomatoes, burrata, grilled country bread, white balsamic gelee and green and purple basil. The tomato season started early this year and Chef Leo is taking full advantage of the delectable and diverse varieties that are currently available. No less than five different varieties of heirloom tomatoes were served. In addition, the imported burrata was one of the most delicious and creamy burratas that I have tasted. The white balsamic gelee brought a delightful and interesting flavor to the dish and it was refreshingly new to my palate. Lastly, the grilled bread brought a wonderful crunchy texture. This dish would work perfectly as a light lunch or a delicious start to a dinner.

The next dish was a fried, poached duck egg with crispy romaine lettuce, shaved broad beans, and surrounded by a drizzle of house-made green goddess dressing.  Yes, green goddess dressing. Chef Leo explained his fond memories of the dressing and he thought it would perfectly balance the flavors of the romaine and beans. When the dish was presented, Chef Leo cut into the egg and the yolk gently oozed over the lettuce and created a luscious creaminess. He explained that he first poached the egg, then coated the poached egg with panko, and fried the coated egg to create a crispy exterior and a creamy interior. He also mentioned that he added a surprise ingredient to the egg, a touch of harissa to give just a hint of spiciness to the dish.

The third salad that I enjoyed was the red and white endive salad with Port Reyes blue cheese, balsamic vinaigrette and chives. This simple salad delivered fantastic flavors. The Port Reyes, with its medium pungency cheese complemented the slight bitterness of the endive, and when combined with the deep flavors of the balsamic vinaigrette created a delightful and perfectly balanced salad.

One of Chef Leo’s newly introduced entrées is a saba glazed duck breast with New Zealand spinach, Urban Oaks plums, baby turnips, candy stripe beets, strawberries and chanterelles. He first seared the meat, and then slowly braised the duck before searing for a second time to crisp the skin. The duck meat in Chef Leo’s version was cooked to medium, which he believes produces a more tender product. After tasting this dish I fully agree; the duck meat was tender and full of flavor. The accompaniments to the duck were delicious. The candy stripe beets, one of my favorite varieties, worked extraordinarily well with the sweetness of the plums and strawberries, while the baby turnips and the chanterelles added a wonderful, deep earthy flavor.

Chef Leo saved my favorite dish of the day for last; a pappardelle with wild mushrooms, Parmesan cheese and topped with a light mushroom foam. The pasta was perfectly cooked and then tossed with a sauce comprised of mushroom stock, crème fraiche and a touch of Parmesan Reggiano. The dish included a variety of wild mushrooms including chanterelles and shitakes (morels may be included in the near future). The dish was finished with a bit of foamed mushroom sauce. The earthiness of the mushrooms was delicious. The flavors of each of the numerous mushroom varieties brought a wonderful earthiness to this dish and the foam accentuated the deep mushroom flavors. I would highly recommend this dish to every mushroom enthusiast.

Chef Leo Marino is slowly placing his philosophy of fresh flavors onto the Napa menu. As he stated, “The soul of my mother is in all of my food.” After sampling several of his creations, I am extremely excited about the direction that Chef Leo will take the exquisite food at one of my favorite restaurants in Fairfield County.

Napa and Company – 75 Broad Street – Stamford, CT 06907 – 203-353-3319

www.napaandcompany.com

Originally reviewed by Jeff “jfood” Schlesinger on www.ctbites.com on July 29, 2012

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