My Top Five+ Fairfield County CT Dishes from 2013

2013 was an amazing year for food lovers in Fairfield County…several great restaurants opened, several chefs moved and are now creating incredible meals in new locations, several more restaurants announced their openings and I cannot wait.

During the year I enjoyed hundreds of courses in Connecticut and on my travels. With all of those flavors and textures, it was an incredibly difficult task in choosing my five favorite Fairfield County dishes for 2013. In fact, I did not since I couldn’t whittle the last one from this list, so it is six, plus three special categories.

Here are my favorite dishes from 2013:

  • elm – The “Tagliatelli Neri” is over the top umami heaven. The dish begins with hand-made cuttlefish ink pasta topped with Peekeytoe crab, sea urchin, sea urchin butter, Calabrian chili, garlic bread crumbs and brightened with Meyer lemon juice and oil. The flavors dance on the palate and textures from the silky pasta to the crunchy garlic bread crumbs, are like none I experienced anywhere else.
  • Match – “Pho” is an incredible Vietnamese soup that Fairfield County needs to embrace. The broth is made from oxtails, ginger, onion, cinnamon, and star anise. When served, thinly sliced rib eye is added and cooked and then finished with cilantro, noodles and Sriracha. This dish is absolutely magical in its complexity of flavors and textures.
  • South End – “Nonna’s Meatballs” are comprised of pork and veal (that’s right, no beef) that are lightly mixed with tons of sheep’s milk ricotta and Parmesan cheese, then lightly fried and cooked in a crushed tomato sauce. The soft and tender texture of South End’s meatballs separates them from all of the others…they are fantastic.
  • Nola –The “Poached Lobster & Cornbread Waffle” is one of my favorite combinations in the area with butter-poached lobster, Queso Fresco cheese, topped with a brown sauce served with sweet, crispy waffles. The outstanding flavors are complemented by the best brown sauce north of Mr. B’s Bistro in the French Quarter.
  • Mama’s Boy – The “Shrimp and Grits” just keep getting better. Perfectly prepared U15 white shrimp, red peppers, scallions, and Tasso sit atop Tennessee sourced grits and finished with a simple garlic butter, white wine, and cream sauce. The grits are my favorite and when paired with the shrimp create an outstanding dish.
  • Bar Sugo – The “Spaghetti Neri” includes squid ink pasta, smoked tomato sauce, shrimp, bread crumbs and Bottarga. The pasta and shrimp are complemented by the smokiness and spiciness of the tomato sauce, but the entire presentation is elevated by the Bottarga, which adds a delightful brininess to the dish.

Top Hamburger – The Whelk – Over 70 hamburgers comprised my 2013 Hamburger search and The Whelk’s hamburger was my favorite. Full of rich flavor, encased in a great bun and topped with some great cheese, onions and house made pickles.

Top Bolognese – Cava Wine Bar – My colleague at CTBites, Lou Gorfain, and I scoured lower Fairfield County for our Bolognese round-up and my personal favorite was Cava’s Gnocchi with Bolognese. What set this apart from the others was the soft, ricotta gnocchi that were pillows of deliciousness.

Top Pizza – Locali – This newcomer uses age-old pizza-making techniques, San Marzano DOP tomatoes and house made mozzarella. The flavors, texture and the perfect amount of char from the wood burning oven produce some of the best Neapolitan pizza this side of the Campo dei Fiori.


Best Restaurant Burgers in SW Connecticut – #4 elm Restaurant (New Canaan)

Before Chef Brian Lewis opened elm restaurant I was forewarned that his hamburger was extraordinary. And yes it is. When the restaurant first opened the burger was still in the distance, but once the Sunday Brunch offerings were in place, this burger made a huge mark on my palate. It is an exceptional pairing of flavors and textures and is a further indication of the genius that Chef Lewis brings to the kitchen.

bl2 elmThe “elmburger” is another winning dish created by Chef Brian Lewis. The burger started with an incredibly flavorful meat topped with soft and sweet caramelized onions and a layer of melted Gruyere cheese. The caramelized onions were the best that I sampled on my travels and the Gruyere added a slight nuttiness to the dish. (The cheese changes often). Unlike any other burger in the area, the elmburger sits atop a swath of Sriracha aioli that added just a touch of heat (the only burger tasted that included a spicy component) to take the flavors to another level. The bun was toasted and a delicious addition to the meal. The burger was served with thick cut fries.

Read the entire list of best Restaurant Hamburgers at at:

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Best Restaurant Burgers in Southwest CT – #2 South End Burger

South End Restaurant in New Canaan opened in 2012. The brainchild of Owner / Chef Nick Martschenko and his business partner Keith Siskind, South End is a hot spot in town. On any night the restaurant boasts a busy crowd enjoying Martschenko’s modern day interpretations of traditional food. With one of the best meatballs in the area it is a go-to spot. And the hamburger is fantastic. The “South End Burger” is one of the best hamburgers I have ever eaten.


(Photo courtesy of Jane Beiles and CTbites)

The “South End Burger” created by Chef Nick Martschenko started with fantastic beef, topped with double smoked bacon, American cheese, South End burger sauce and served on a Wave Hill poppy seed roll. The flavor of the meat was perfect, and Chef Martschenko charred the exterior while maintaining a medium rare interior that oozed tons of juicy goodness. The bacon was crisp and flavorful and complemented the meat. A few slices of B&B pickles adorned the burger and added another delightful flavor and the melted American cheese encased the patty. The sauce was a chunky spiced ketchup-y delight, which added another flavor level. The roll was light on flavor and allowed the bold flavors inside to shine. The fries were delicious, lightly salted with a dusting of parmesan cheese and was a great side for the burger.

Check out the entire top 10 list at at:

South End on Urbanspoon

Jfood’s Top 10 Bar Burgers – Greenwich to New Haven #4 Cherry Street East

The second week of the countdown to the best Bar Burger from Greenwich to New Haven continues. And in the Number 4 slot is Cherry Street East. This institution burnt to the ground several years ago and the owners and locals joined forces to rebuild an exact replica of the former CSE. I am glad they did, since the Vermonster combination is one of my favorites in the area.

Minolta DSCThe “Vermonster” was served on an English muffin with bacon and sharp Cheddar cheese. The 8-ounce burger was ground and hand-formed daily on-site and cooked on a gas-fired indoor grill. The meat reminded me of the old-fashioned soda shop burgers and the Cheddar cheese and bacon added great flavor. The English muffin was a great addition and added just a little bit of tang. The fries (regular and sweet potato) were very good but the house cut onion rings were probably the best in the area and a perfect side for this great burger.

See the full list of my Top-10 Bar Burgers at:

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South End – A “Modern Tavern” in New Canaan

In early July CTbites previewed the opening of South End, the newest addition to the New Canaan restaurant scene.  Nearly two months of frenzied activity has confirmed the local appreciation that the creative cuisine of Chef Nicholas Martschenko is alive on Pine Street.

Overseeing the front of the house is Keith Siskind, his business partner, and the duo redesigned the interior at South End to create a relaxing atmosphere by intertwining rustic charm with modern comfort. The tables are carefully arranged to allow for pleasant conversation and the overall noise level creates a vibrant buzz without overwhelming intrusion. With upwards of 85 seats, 30 of which are contained around the energetic bar area, South End offers pleasant ambience to enjoy the wonderful cuisine that emerges from the kitchen.

The duo’s ambition to create the “Modern Tavern” is a rousing success. Siskind developed an excellent relationship with two local breweries, New Canaan’s Charter Oak and Stamford’s Half Full (Bright Ale) and both are prominently displayed on the taps overlooking the bar. In addition to these local brews, South End’s taps are serving a Pilsner from Brooklyn Brewery and Palm, a Euro Pale Lager from Belgium. The bar is also stocked with numerous beers, liquors and wines.

While enjoying a beer, wine or cocktail and perusing the menu, you may want to consider nibbling and sharing two of South End’s wonderful appetizers; Nonna’s Meatballs, which are absolutely delicious, or a selection of Artisanal Meats and Cheeses, served on a piece of reclaimed wood.

One of my favorite hot appetizers was the trio of Prosciutto Wrapped Figs stuffed with goat cheese and served with blistered grapes and finished with Saba syrup. They were delectable with an outstanding flavor combination of the sweet figs offset by the saltiness of the prosciutto and the deep sweet-sour composition of the Saba syrup.

The recently introduced Roasted PEI Mussels were served in a tomato and fennel broth that was slightly thickened with rouille and served with slices of grilled garlic bread. This dish delivered a fantastic combination of flavors; the tomatoes adding a sweet quality to the tender mussels while the fennel added a delightful licorice accent to the broth.

I recommend South End’s Heirloom Tomato Salad (end of the season upon us) that includes several varieties of seasonally ripe tomatoes, a touch of a tomato gelee, plus a tiny scoop of basil ice cream sitting atop a slice of mozzarella. The flavors of the tomatoes were sweet and delicious and when combined with the mozzarella and basil ice cream and a little of the pesto created a wonderful balance of flavors and textures. This was a refreshing and delightful dish.

My favorite appetizer / entrée was the Grilled Fresh Bacon, served atop mustard spaetzle, and paired with peach chutney and a sherry sauce. The meat was slow-braised and incredibly moist. The sherry sauce was brushed over the meat to create a wonderful balance of flavors and the slightly crisp edges of the spaetzle were a great offset to its soft texture. The peach chutney added a sweet and delicious complement to the slightly sour sherry sauce.

Chef Martschenko’s talent to create incredible pasta dishes was evident in several of the pasta dishes that I enjoyed. All of the pastas are house-made and shows the passion he developed as the Executive Chef at i Trulli.

My favorite pasta was the Tagliatelle Bolognese, a version that should remain the cornerstone of South End’s ever-changing menu. The pasta was the perfect thickness to handle the rich flavors of the veal, pork, and beef based Bolognese. The sauce was a traditional preparation and finished with rosemary and basil. On each visit this dish was ordered by at least one person at our table and in every instance the entire table tasted and thoroughly enjoyed the rich flavors of the sauce combined with the texture of the pasta.

Another recommended choice is the Veal Cannelloni, house-made crepes stuffed with veal, spinach and ricotta cheese and served with a Sicilian pistachio sauce.  A second recommendation is one of several variations of the Orrechiette, whether with a delicious braised rabbit or ground Italian sausage. The sauce that accompanies the Orrechiette changes often and I have enjoyed the braised rabbit as well as the sausage and broccoli rabe.

The entrées include selections of fish, meats and poultry. Three of the entrees that I thoroughly enjoyed included the Roasted Amish Chicken, the Grilled Pork Chop and the Scottish Organic Salmon.

The Roasted Chicken was described by Chef Martschenko as “the epitome of the modern tavern” cuisine. It was served atop spinach plus a wide assortment of mushrooms. The tarragon jus was a perfect complement to the perfectly roasted chicken. The chicken was succulent and the skin was crisped to perfection. The mashed potatoes were served in an iron crock and were whipped with oil and finished with butter and cream; totally decadent and absolutely delicious.

The Pork chop is first slow braised, then finished on the grill and served with diced potatoes (sweet and russet) plus spinach; the cooking method created a perfectly consistent and juicy doneness to the meat and the quick grill added a textural difference. The sherry sauce was outstanding, reduced almost to a consistency of a demi-glace, with intense flavors and perfectly complemented the pork, the crispy potatoes and the bacon.

For a lighter choice, the Salmon is a delightful option. The asparagus vinaigrette brought the entire dish together and was served with a variety of beans and peas, potatoes and a wonderful selection of mushrooms. The salmon was incredibly moist on the interior and the skin was perfectly crisped.

Chef Markschenko is also preparing scrumptious desserts including the South End Sundae and Raspberry/Nectarine Cobbler. The Sundae pairs pistachio and vanilla ice creams, a fudgy chocolate sauce, Luxardo cherries, roasted almonds, and is served with an anise biscotti. The ice cream was delicious, but the highlight was the Luxardo cherries; and when covered with some of the rich fudge, was a perfect ending to the meal. The Cobbler delivered a perfect balance of crunchy and smooth, with the fruits baked to maintain a crisp texture, the sweet streusel topping added addition crunchiness and the smooth toasted almond ice cream created a perfect partner to the cobbler.

After a mere two months, South End is a welcoming restaurant in New Canaan serving delicious and constantly changing choices. Chef Martschenko continues to develop flavors and combinations for his guests in New Canaan enjoy while Siskind has created a relaxing and friendly environment for all to enjoy. The New Canaan restaurant footprint now extends to Pine Street with the addition of South End.

–          South End – 36 Pine Street – New Canaan, CT, 06840    –


Originally publishes on on  September 30, 2012

South End on Urbanspoon

Cherry Street East v2.0 (New Canaan) – Great Burger at Local Watering Hole

On a fateful day in April 2006, Cherry Street East, known affectionately by locals and regulars as CSE, suffered the ultimate catastrophe: It was engulfed in flames and two hours later it was a total loss. Many loyal patrons stared at the ashes of their local pub, their beloved hangout, and the place that served their favorite hamburgers since 1977.

But Cherry Street East was more than just a pub; it was part of the fiber of New Canaan, and fear struck the community. Would CSE become just a distant memory? The owners, John and Mary Bergin formed an alliance with many customers and residents, and together they reconstructed an exact replica and re-opened in 2008.

The first floor is dominated by an L-shaped bar with nine stools and three TVs behind the bar broadcasting numerous sport events, plus CNN or MSNBC. The always-occupied bar serves six beers on tap—Bass, Bud Light, Guinness, Sierra Pale Ale, Smithwick’s Ale, and Stella—with additional choices available in bottles. Surrounding the bar are eight two-person tables plus eight booths to serve an additional 50 customers; if that’s not enough, there’s another dining room on the second floor. The atmosphere is extremely relaxed, engaging, and friendly. The staff has been there for years and treats everyone like they’re a member of the family.

With the structure now rebuilt to its former glory, the big question was, would the legendary burgers return? After several years of enjoying their burgers, my answer is an overwhelming “YES!”

Their eight-ounce burgers are made of hand-pattied 80/20 certified Angus chuck ground daily on the premises. Each of the more than 1,000 weekly burgers is carefully cooked to order on an indoor gas grill. I always order my burgers medium rare and in each instance my burger was received as ordered, plus the server followed up to check if it was cooked properly.

The coarse ground patties have a firm but tender texture and deep beefy flavor. They’re seasoned with a slight amount of salt and pepper and obtain just a touch of smokiness from the grill. The patty was juicy, but not to the point of soaking the bun.

CSE offers 14 predetermined combinations—I recommended the “Vermonster” ($10.50) topped with cheddar and bacon on an English muffin—but the customer can customize their own combination. A bacon cheeseburger ($10.50) at CSE includes two slices of creamy, melted American cheese (Swiss, cheddar, Jack and smoked mozzarella are other options) and three strips of mildly salty bacon, complemented by half-sour pickle chips. By default it’s all encased in a soft Kaiser roll, which tastes better if you ask for it to be grilled. For a more flavorful choice, substitute the roll with an English muffin, whose flavor and texture better complements the beef. I found the roll a little too bland to hold up to the richness of the meat, and I appreciate the crunchiness that the toasted English muffin adds to the burger.

Other toppings include tomato, lettuce, grilled peppers or onions, mushrooms, chili, guacamole, jalapeño peppers, and salsa. Mix and match to your heart’s content, or if you can’t decide, go with one of the pre-constructed burger options. If you prefer an alternative to the beef, CSE also offers a turkey and a vegetarian patty, although not having tried them, I can’t vouch for either.

And let’s not forget the burgers’ remarkable co-star: the housemade, hand-cut onion rings, well worth the $2 surcharge. The thickly sliced onion rings feature a crisp breading and onions that are moist and not too sweet. They would taste even better if they were salted immediately after they were removed from the oil, but customers can salt the rings at the table. CSE also serves russet and sweet potato fries; I prefer the sweet potato over the mild russets.

Cherry Street East is a burger destination and after one bite you understand why; the meat has a full, rich flavor, and reminiscent of all the burgers you love when you grill at home. If you are in the mood for a great hand formed burger with a side of delicious housemade onion rings or some fries, then Cherry Street East will satisfy those cravings.


This was posted on today as my first contribution to A Hamburger Today:

Cherry Street East on Urbanspoon

elm Restaurant Opens in New Canaan

At 5:44PM on the first day of spring, March 20, 2012, the kitchen at elm Restaurant in New Canaan hummed to life as it received an order from the dining room. This was no ordinary order, it was the restaurant’s first. The order ticket began…Appetizers – 1 grilled Spanish octopus, 1 citrus cured hamachi, 1 local lettuces from millstone farm, 1 roots, shoots, fruits and leaves, and 1 soft farm egg ravioli… elm was officially open. The outstanding staff that Chef Brian Lewis had assembled sprang to action. The months of planning, the weeks of training, the hours of preparation were now tested as the guests arrived and the orders placed.
As we enjoyed wine and draft beer, the server brought a pan of house-made bread that is a cross between a brioche and a biscuit, served with house-made butter topped with a smoked paprika and citrus salt. It was a delicious beginning, and over the next two hours we thoroughly enjoyed several courses and numerous dishes. At the end of the meal we all agreed that this was something special; this was an opening night meal that would be remembered as extraordinary. The high expectations that were building for weeks were greeted with superb food.
On opening night I noticed subtleties in the décor, the place settings, the service and the overall demeanor of the staff that can be described as relaxed elegance. Our server was calm, friendly and professional as she both described some of the dishes and ingredients and offered suggestions. And the nuances that Owners Laura Barker, Kristen Eveland and Chef Brian Lewis placed on each aspect of the dining experience instilled a sense of calm. Their attention to the tiniest detail created an incredibly relaxed and enjoyable evening.
The appetizers are all delicious. The incredibly tender octopus is slowly braised and served with guanciale, pea shoots and served over a black aioli and topped with crisp fried garlic and smoked paprika breadcrumbs. The hamachi is a delicious trio of presentations: a tartare, a citrus cured loin and a sashimi belly. The latter is wrapped with a thin slice of Asian pear. The flavors of the hamachi are combined with several forms of yuzu and ginger oil and finished with a fennel puree, crispy shiso and red beets plus a little cilantro. The combinations of these flavors were citrusy with just a touch of heat from the ginger and yuzu. The local lettuces and the roots, et. al. are farmed at Millstone Farms and present a variety of seasonal ingredients. Chef Lewis prepares the roots, shoots, fruits and leaves with a variety of methods including raw, braised, confit, dried and pureed. Included in this cacophony of flavors and colors is an incredibly flavorful mousse comprised of goat cheese and medjool date puree. These last two appetizers present a crisp and refreshing start to the meal.
The soft egg ravioli are three raviolis, each filled with a different ingredient and are amazing. The first is filled with sheep’s milk ricotta, slightly accented with mint and olive oil. The flavors are a delightful combination. The second filling is a soft cooked farm egg yolk, that when combined with the other two raviolis, adds decadence to the dish. The third ravioli is my favorite. The filling is a spinach and parmesan puree, incredibly smooth and flavorful.
We next enjoyed the Hudson valley foie gras, served two ways. The preparations include a seared piece of foie gras, paired with apricot marmalade, and topped with beluga lentils, pata negra ham and a touch of a sherry vinegar sauce. The second presentation is a terrine accompanied with dried pistachios, some crumbled and dried pata negra ham with a touch of apricot gellee. The sweet and sour components and the different textures are fantastic. This is a true delight for those who are foie gras fans.
The table ordered three extraordinarily delicious entrées; the beef tenderloin in smoked butter, the sea scallops with riso venere and the trio of local pork with pimenton. The grass-fed beef is roasted in hay and accented with smoked butter and salt, and served with oatmeal cooked in mushroom stock, roasted mushrooms, melted and crisp shallots, spinach and finished with a touch of red wine sauce. The beef is incredibly tender and flavorful and the additional flavors create a perfectly balanced and delightful presentation. The scallops are sweet and sautéed in paprika oil to a crisp exterior while maintaining the succulence of the interior. They are served with deliciously prepared Italian black rice, with a touch picholine olive salsa and a salted cod sitting atop. This is a delightful dish. The trio of pork includes pieces of belly, shoulder and bacon wrapped loin. The perfectly prepared pork presentations sit atop heirloom smoked grits accompanied by a soft cooked egg. A delicious sauce of smoked paprika and smoked paprika salt combines with a green tomato jam, currents and bourbon walnuts to complete the presentation. Each piece of pork presents different textures and flavors and the sauce and green tomato jam are delectable.
The desserts prepared by Pastry Chef Caryn Sabinsky are incredible. We ordered four to share including the carrot cake, the toffee pudding, the chocolate & banana, and the dark chocolate bread pudding. The carrot cake is a modern interpretation that includes a cake made with grated carrots and served aside small scoops of carrot curd, walnut brittle and caramel ice cream. This is a delightful dessert. The toffee pudding is made with a puree of dates and is served with a toffee sauce plus some crème fraiche. The sweetness of the dates and the toffee is perfectly offset with crème fraiche. The chocolate & banana contains layers of chocolate and banana cake and covered with bananas, some drizzled dark chocolate and cashews. This is served with caramel ice cream. The last dessert that we absolutely loved was the dark chocolate bread pudding. The house made bread is mixed with two different chocolates and served with vanilla ice cream and cocoa nibs. For the chocolate lovers in your group this is a perfect choice.
During the evening the menu allowed us to create a wonderful tasting menu, I enjoyed eight different presentations in the pre-dessert courses and in the near future Chef Lewis will expand on this theme and present a four-course Farm Tour and a seven-course Chef’s Tour.
Overall this was a wonderful evening with superb food and I look forward to many more memorable meals at elm Restaurant.

Review was originally published on on April 1, 2012

elm Restaurant, 73 Elm Street, New Canaan, CT, 06840

203- 920-4994

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Boulevard 18 – Delicious French Bistro in New Canaan

Un autre grand restaurant Français ouvre dans New Canaan. Oops, I got ahead of myself. What I meant to say was another fantastic restaurant, Boulevard 18, a French Bistro and Wine Bar, officially opened last Friday in New Canaan and the food is delicious.

The 62 Main Street address has been transformed into a little bit of Paris by owners Steven Semaya, Luciano Ramirez, Henry Rosenbaum and Chef/Owner David Raymer. The seating in the front bay window area with a single six person high-top table is in view of the spectacular wrap-around zinc-top bar that can serve up to fifteen customers. An additional five customers can drink or dine at a high-top table across from the bar. The dining room in the rear has been transformed into a Parisian Bistro and includes a beautiful antique map of Paris adorning the large wall overlooking the dining area. The acoustics are vastly improved with a noise reduction “tin” ceiling.

The opening night menu includes numerous “Small Bites” to enjoy with pre-dinner drinks, plus traditional appetizers and Entrée offerings. The “Small Bites” include Roquefort-stuffed Olives, Deviled Eggs, House-Made Gruyere Gougeres (small puffs of cheese pastry), House-Made Herb-glazed Nuts, and Devils on Horseback (dates stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon).

A large selection of Charcuterie, Cheeses and house-made Sausages, including Merguez, Boudin Blanc, Duck and Red Wine, and Seafood are offered as appetizers as well as a classic Steak Tartare, Brandade de Morue (a pureed salt Cod), Grilled Octopus, Boston lettuce or Frisee salads. For those who wish to enjoy the Fruits de Mer, Boulevard 18 serves Oysters, Clams, Shrimp, or Dry Sea Scallop Cru, singularly or on a Petit or Grande Plateau.

The Entrées include Grilled Leg of Lamb, Chicken Paillard, Roasted Salmon and a grilled fish du jour, plus an assortment of salads including a Salad Nicoise and a Salad of Duck Confit and Roasted Beets. Of course, the Boulevard 18 menu offers traditional Moules Frites and Steak Frites with either a New York Strip Steak or a Hanger Steak.

A traditional rendition of a Bistro classic, the Boulevard 18 Onion Soup au Gratin is a combination of chicken and beef stocks that present a mild and flavorful result. The onions are slowly cooked to release their natural sugars to a soft consistency and the soup is topped with a combination of Gruyere and Comté cheeses that were perfectly melted for a delicious result.

The Salad of Chopped Seasonal Vegetables is a cacophony of colors and flavors whose ingredients include lettuces, micro-greens, Gigante beans, watermelon radish, sweet peppers, carrots and tomatoes, all lightly dressed with a vinaigrette. The abundance of flavors creates a delightful combination and makes a delicious and refreshing lunch and, if desired, can include either shrimp or chicken. The Frisee Salad is delicious and is topped with a perfectly poached egg to complement the lightly dressed frisée and lardons.

The Seafood Sausage is delectable and I suggest that the table orders this appetizer to share so everyone can enjoy. The sausage is comprised of shrimp, lobster, scallops and bronzino, along with a little cream, but contains no bread. The texture allows for the various fish components to maintain their individual integrity and the flavors work extremely well together and are delicious. There is a slight ‘kick’ in the spice level which I found a great addition. The Bacon and Leek Tart is reminiscent of a slice of quiche with a delicious and buttery crust to encase the creamy and leek flavored custardy interior. The tart is served with a very lightly dressed and salted green salad.

Chef Raymer’s Steak Frites includes a choice of a delicious NY Strip steak or a Hanger steak, each perfectly grilled to my requested medium rare. The two cuts of meat are delicious, extremely tender with the Hanger Steak adding a deeper and richer flavor. The frites are incredibly crispy on the exterior with a light and airy interior. A light dusting of salt and pepper finish both the steak and the frites. Overall, both were excellent choices. The Duck Magret with caramelized baby turnips and a prune-Armagnac reduction includes a large breast that delivers a smoky and peppery taste, and is prepared rare, unless requested otherwise. The aged breast meat is incredibly flavorful and the sweetness of the reduction was a perfect complement to the richness of the meat. The caramelized baby turnips add another sweet element to the dish.

For dessert I enjoyed the Apple Tart and the Chocolate Mousse.  The Tart is delicious.  The buttery crust is topped with thinly sliced layers of apples with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce to complete. Each part is delicious and together this is a perfect way to end the meal. The Chocolate Mousse has a great texture with a soft and silky consistency. This dessert includes a small dollop of sweetened cream atop.

The wine selection includes over eighty French labels and there are twelve beers on the menu. The majority of the wines range from $30 to $80 a bottle, with a couple a dozen over $100. Over twenty wines are also offered ‘by the glass.’ Beer choices include Coors, Hoegaarden, Brooklyn, Czechvar, Allagash, Cisco Brewing and St. Peters with prices between $6-9. Aperitifs and cocktails are also available.

Many say that a review should not occur during the first few weeks after opening. But with the quality of the food leaving the kitchen at Boulevard 18 on its opening weekend I was glad I was able to enjoy many of their opening menu and look forward to many more meals at the newest addition to town.

Boulevard 18, 62 Main Street, New Canaan, CT 06840


Originally posted on on February 19, 2012

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Carpe Diem – Delicious Northern Italian in New Canaan

Food lovers of New Canaan rejoice! Carpe Diem, a Northern Italian inspired restaurant by Alan Basaran, has opened and the housemade pastas are delicious! Basaran, a North Stamford resident and owner of Carpe Diem Restaurant in New York City, is excited about creating delicious Northern Italian cuisine in New Canaan, his wife’s hometown.

After studying finance, Basaran followed his lifelong passion and entered the culinary world, advancing through the kitchen hierarchy of line chef, sous chef and ultimately head chef. His love of interacting with customers brought him to the front of the restaurant and this rare combination in all aspects of the restaurant over the last twenty years is evident at Carpe Diem.

Carpe Diem’s newly redecorated space on Locust Avenue is divided into three dining areas. The most informal space is to the left of the entrance and includes a five seat bar plus several tall tables. For those looking for after dinner drinks, ample standing room is available; and on weekends the atmosphere is vibrant. The main dining area to the right offers a white-table clothed dining experience for up to forty-five in a very relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. The last area in the center of the restaurant contains a semi-private area for up to twenty customers. The rooms are separated by floor to ceiling two-sided built-in wine racks. The walls are decorated with numerous photos of wild horses as Alan and his wife are both horse lovers; these photos add an openness to the rooms. Overall I found the rooms incredibly inviting and relaxing and I am looking forward to warmer weather when the front patio will allow for al fresco dining.

To oversee the kitchen, Basaran tapped Chef Victor Pastuizasa, the chef from his New York’s location for the last fourteen years. The long-standing relationship between the two culinary professionals allowed this duo to immediately present delicious food at the newly opened New Canaan location.

The menu includes a wide selection of appetizers including soups, salads, cheeses, cured meats, plus a few delicious seafood and chicken options. Entrées include a wide variety of pastas, meats, seafood and chicken. Basaran is currently sourcing from local purveyors and is in the process of developing and expanding his relationships with several others. The menu will vary slightly as seasonal ingredients become available and Chef Pastuizasa is excited about his flexibility to offer these in the daily specials.

Current appetizers include a Mozzarella di Buffalo with roasted red peppers and Prosciutto di San Daniele. The wonderful flavor of the prosciutto paired with the creamy mozzarella and sweet pepper offers a delectable start of the meal. The Carpaccio Palmito includes several paper thin slices of raw filet with avocado, hearts of palm and a few drops of truffle oil. The rich flavors of the beef are supplemented by the earthiness of the truffle oil. The Ahi tuna tartare with crostini delivers diced tuna presented atop of a guacamole of avocado, jalapeño peppers, capers and onions. The flavors of this appetizer are bright with just a hint of spiciness. For those with a bit of an adventuresome palate, the fried artichoke offers a unique experience with the whole trimmed artichoke quickly fried to present a crispy exterior with the artichoke heart maintaining its wonderful character. In the coming weeks Carpe Diem will add a house made Burrata to the menu.

The long pastas and all of the sauces are made in house. Of particular note are two delicious choices. The first is the Spaghetti with shrimp, scallops, mussels, little neck clams, arugula, and radicchio in an organic tomato sauce. The two jumbo scallops are perfectly prepared, the two extra large shrimp are sweet and delicious and the shellfish add a nice richness to the dish. The addition of the arugula and radicchio bring a nice peppery background to the dish. The second is the Penne with sausage and peas in an organic tomato sauce with just a touch of cream. The pasta is perfectly cooked to barely al dente, the house made sausage is delicious and the addition of the sweet peas creates a truly delightful choice. The Pappardelle with a Bolognese sauce is also delightful. The pasta is cooked al dente and offers a perfect texture that is complemented by the mild flavors of the veal and the beef Bolognese. The Spaghetti with green peas and prosciutto in a pecorino cheese sauce is also delicious. The saltiness of the prosciutto and the sweetness of the peas are enhanced by the creamy sauce to create a rich and flavorful dish.

My favorite of the entrée choices is the Veal Piccatina, medallions of veal that are quickly pan seared to create a crisp exterior while maintaining a moist and tender interior. The lemon sauce is bright and the acidity of the lemons is complemented by the saltiness of the capers. Accompanying the veal are light and fluffy mashed potatoes, prepared simply with garlic and rosemary. The grilled and sliced Prime Ribeye steak is served over a mound of fresh greens, lightly tossed with the house dressing. The steak was perfectly grilled to medium rare and seasoned simply with salt and pepper. Likewise pan grilled lamb chops are served with a potatoes gratin.

For dessert Carpe Diem offers several choices and my favorite is the Tiramisu which is light and creamy with a light touch of Cointreau. The individual apple pie is also delicious. The nutty and lemony dough is full of flavors and is served with a mild vanilla gelato. The Crème Caramel is another excellent choice and delivers a creamy texture complemented with a delicious caramel sauce plus several gelato flavors including chocolate and my favorite, the blackberry Cabernet are also available.

After only a few weeks on the New Canaan restaurant landscape, Carpe Diem is presenting many delicious choices in a relaxed and inviting environment.

 Carpe Diem, 26 Locust Avenue, New Canaan, CT 06840


Originally reviewed by Jeff “jfood” Schlesinger on on January 8, 2012

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