Return to JAX – Keeps Getting Better

Pulled Pork BLMy second visit to JAX started with more confusion. As much as I convinced myself at the end of my first visit that the next sandwich would be “The Che,” “The Chicken and Waffle” or “The Spread” when I stared at the chalkboard I wanted everything. I was finally pulled to the register by the “Smoked Pulled Pork” and ordered. The menu described this sandwich as 16hr pork, high brow slaw, house Q, topped with Alton Brown’s Koolickles (Dill pickles brined in Kool-Aid) on a Portuguese roll. As I waited, I ogled at OPF (that’s “Other People’s Food”) and saw a variety of sandwiches that I absolutely needed to try on subsequent visits. Each was large, well-constructed and looked absolutely delicious.

My Pulled Pork arrived and it was the same size as my Cuban from the first visit, and almost looked like its twin sibling. The slow-cooked pork…it was outstanding, overly tender; rich in flavor and could easily stand on its own as a platter. The other ingredients elevated the pork…the slaw delivered just a touch of background tartness, the sauce added and increased level of spiciness and then the Koolickles kicked in with an interesting grouping of sweet-sour. All of this deliciousness was encased in a wonderful roll. The combination delivered a perfect balance of smoky, sweet, spicy, sour, savory…absolutely wonderful.

To rewind to my first visit, I ordered the “Cubano,” with Black Forest ham, pulled pork, Swiss, house pickles and creamy house mustard, served on a pressed Cuban roll. It was previously a challenge finding a great Cubano in the area, and Jax’s rendition was delicious. My first bite was a mouth-watering explosion of flavors. A full description of this phenomenal combo can be found at:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2014/10/19/jax-co-opens-in-sono-from-the-owners-of-mamas-boy-breakfast.html

I cannot wait to return to JAX. For the next few visits I will continue to work my way through more sandwiches…is “The Che,” “The Chicken and Waffle” or “The Spread” up next? It’s a tough decision.

46 North Main Street – South Norwalk, CT – 06854
203. 857.1414
http://www.jaxandcoct.com/
info@jaxandcoct.com

Jax & Co. on Urbanspoon

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.

Mama’s Boy – Southern Hospitality in South Norwalk


After several visits to Mama’s Boy Southern Table and Refuge in SONO I can highly recommend this restaurant for its food and ambiance.  Fairfield County native and owner Greer Fredericks, and her business partner Ami Dorel, bring a southern feel to the décor, and Chef Scott Ostrander is making his mark on the menu with some great dishes.

The “BBQ Pulled Pork” contained great texture and flavors that were accented with a touch of spiciness from the jalapeño corn pancakes. The Mama’s Bourbon Q sauce added a deep rich element to the dish.

The “Charleston Crab Cakes” were served alongside a medley of tomato, corn, butterbeans, and lemon herb aioli. The cylinder-shaped cakes were full of crab and the accompanying vegetables were a perfect complement for sweetness and texture.

DSC_1551-001The menu also offers “Deviled Eggs” with house-smoked Tasso, and okra pickles. The Tasso added smokiness to the creamy yolks, and the major difference between Mama’s and others is the pickled okra. Combining a piece of okra with the deviled eggs was like no other Deviled Egg I have ever tasted. The “Salt ‘n Vinegar Fried Oysters” were fried perfectly and were delicious with the addition of the vinegar.

The Soup & Salad contains two great options. The “BLT Salad” was delicious, but not a reduced calorie recipe. It included fried green tomato, candied bacon, artisan lettuce, and topped with a buttermilk-herb dressing. The combination of the sweet and peppery bacon, the crispy fried green tomato (a thicker slice would have been preferred) and the sweet field lettuces created a delicious salad.

The “Shrimp and Grits” is becoming their signature dish and it just kept getting better. On my latest visit the appetizer-sized dish contained three U-21 southern white shrimp, sitting atop Fall’s Mill grits, topped with house-smoked Tasso, spring onion, and finished with pimento cream gravy. The shrimp are sweet and the grits were fantastic; the texture was creamy with a little crunch.

True to southern cuisine, Mama’s offers its version of the traditional chicken ‘n waffles. “The Little Yardbird” includes pieces of hens that were first marinated in pickle juice and hot sauce and then deep fried. The result was an incredibly moist meat with flavor and texture from the crispy coating. Paired with the waffles, bourbon infused NY sorghum (I prefer a sweeter, more maple-y sauce) and braised greens.

SONO now has catfish on the menu. Mama’s Boy serves its “Corn Bread Crusted Catfish” with Carolina Anson Mills rice, okra, Vidalia onion and smoked tomato.  The filet was moist on the interior and crispy on the exterior while the corn bread coating gave a sweet component to the fish. The sauce was delicious and contained dices of both okra and additional tomato; the rice was a soft textural complement to the dish. I added a few drops of hot sauce to give the dish a little kick.

The “Mushroom and Dumplings” is actually “potato gnocchi, exotic mushroom blend, herbs, and a sunny side farm egg.” The potato gnocchi were sautéed to achieve a crispy exterior and then combined with Mitaki, Oyster and Cremini mushrooms. Sitting atop was a fried egg, awaiting the release of its creamy yolk, which added a great flavor and creaminess when released. The seasoning was slightly off on the dish I sampled with the gnocchi under-seasoned, a little too much vinegar in the mushrooms and a little too much salt sprinkled on top. This is definitely a re-try for my next visit.

And save room for one of the best desserts, Mama’s Boy’s Pecan Cheese Cake. A creamy wedge of moist cheesecake was accented with a sweet topping of maple and pecans. This was a perfect way to end the evening.

DSC_1376-001Overall Mama’s Boy Southern Table and Refuge is an excellent choice in SONO. The food is creative, inventive and offers a new cuisine to the area and the atmosphere is relaxed, fun and very southern.

Mama’s Boy Southern Table & Refuge

19 North Water Street – South Norwalk, CT – (203) 956-7171

Really Liked:

  • BBQ Pulled Pork
  • Charleston Crab Cakes
  • BLT Salad
  • Shrimp & Grits
  • Little Yardbird
  • Pecan Cheesecake

Liked:

  • Salt ‘n Vinegar Fried Oysters
  • She Crab Soup
  • Corn Bread Crusted Catfish

Needs a revisit:

  • Mushroom and Dumplings
  • John’s Island Frogtown Stew

A more detailed review appeared in http://www.ctbites.com at

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/6/23/mamas-boy-southern-table-refuge-southern-in-sono.html

Mama's Boy Southern Table & Refuge on Urbanspoon

Best Restaurant Burgers in Southwest CT – #6 Nola Oyster Bar (SONO)

Each year a burger created by Dan Kardos has appeared on my list of favorites and the 2013 Best Restaurant Burgers includes another fantastic burger; now prepared at NOLA Wine Bar in SONO. The menu includes numerous fish creations ranging from Shrimp & Grits to Lobster & Waffles, and one of the stand-out items is this fantastic burger. bl2 nolaChef Dan Kardos continued his tradition of great hamburgers in his newest kitchen. Kardos used Saugatuck Craft Butchery dry aged blend of short rib, chuck and brisket that was grilled to a perfect char. He topped this patty with melted Beemster cheese, mushrooms, bacon, and frizzled onions and black pepper mayo. The flavor of the meat was outstanding and the toppings were delicious. The cheese was flavorful and complemented the richness in the meat. The bacon was thick and perfectly cooked but was just a little salty. The burger was served with curly fries that were fun and fantastic.

Read the entire list of best Restaurant Hamburgers at http://www.ctbites.com at:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/5/19/ten-best-restaurant-burgers-greenwich-to-new-haven-2013.html

Nola Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Best Restaurant Burgers – #2 Chelsea / Match

This is not the first time I have written about the cheeseburger at Match and its sister restaurant Chelsea…they are both so great. I witnessed the creation of this masterpiece and it continues as an incredibly delicious array of flavors and textures. Chef Matt Storch continues to push the envelope with flavor combinations and the burgers at both of his restaurants are fantastic.

What separates this burger from the others is the Bacon-Cheese Béchamel sauce. Unlike any other cheese topping in my tour. And the French fries were also the top of the list.

bl2 chelseaThe “Chelsea Burger” and the “Match Burger” each delivered an incredible array of flavors. Chef Matt Storch’s burger started with Craft Saugatuck Butchery’s rich, grass fed short rib, chuck and brisket combination. After grilling to create a crisp char and smokiness, the burger was dipped in a Bacon-Cheese Béchamel, a process created by Chef Storch. Bacon bits sat atop the cheese-dipped burger to add saltiness and then sweet-sour onions finished this presentation. The burger was encased in a sweet onion brioche from the Good Bread Company in Port Chester, which added just a little more sweetness to the burger. The fries at Match were the best I tasted, and Chef Storch told me he worked years developing his technique; crunchy on the exterior, soft and moist on the interior and were the perfect complement to the burger.

See the full list of the Best Restaurant Burgers from Greenwich to New Haven at http://www.ctbites,com:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/5/19/ten-best-restaurant-burgers-greenwich-to-new-haven-2013.html

Ciao

Match on Urbanspoon

The Chelsea on Urbanspoon