Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fast New Eats in Fairfield

If you’ve driven down the Post Road in Fairfield Center lately, you may have noticed the bright yellow food truck parked outside the library.  Christophe’s Crepes began serving up crepes-on-the-go late this summer and has been going strong ever since.  Reminiscent of the street-side crepe carts I first experienced in Paris almost 20 years ago, Christophe, a Frenchman, whips up fresh crepes to order right in front of you.  Both savory and sweet crepes are available--- among the offerings are ham or turkey and mozzarella, jam filled crepes, Nutella crepes (with or without freshly sliced banana), chocolate and toasted almond, to name a few.  He also serves fresh Belgian waffles!   So whether you’re looking for a satisfying lunch or a mid-afternoon sweet snack, be sure to say “bonjour” to Christophe in the crepe truck .

Christophe’s Crepe Truck
(646) 596-6879
Parked on the Post Road in Fairfield Center midday (not on rainy days).  Also available for catering/parties.

ChiliBomb Chili Factory is the newest addition to Fairfield’s Black Rock Turnpike.  Opened in September, ChiliBomb serves 6 types of chili daily.  Traditional chuck wagon chili, vegetarian chili, and the award winning Chipotle Turkey Chili are among the daily offerings.  The OMG Chili is for professional eaters only--- it is made with ‘ghost peppers’, one of the hottest peppers out there.  The menu is gigantic and a little confusing with all its bomb-themed names for everything.  However,  the staff is extremely enthusiastic and very willing to explain the dozens of combinations to be made with chili, toppings, and sides.  You may need an interpreter on your first visit, but once you figure out that it’s really simply a matter of choosing a type of chili, whether you want it served on top of something (like a potato, rice or in a burrito), and what toppings you’d like, you’ll be rewarded with a yummy hot meal (although my suggestion would be for them to check out the super-simple menu boards at Chipotle Mexican for inspiration!)  ChiliBomb also serves burgers, hot dogs, fries and mac & cheese.   It’s definitely a nice change of pace from the usual lunchtime sandwich, or a great alternative to take-out! 

ChiliBomb Chili Factory
2445 Black Rock Turnpike (next door to Swanson’s Fish Store), Fairfield
Monday-Saturday, 11am-8pm.  Sunday, 11am-4pm

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What's New in Fairfield: Pancakes & Crepes!

Whenever my parents visit from out of state, they always make the same comment.  "It doesn't look like there is a recession in Fairfield!"  Based on the fact that it seems like more new restaurants/food spots have been opening lately than have been closing, I'd have to agree.  Maybe we Fairfielders are just in a state of denial, or we just love a good meal out!  Now, right in the same neighborhood there are two new choices for griddled goodness...Chip's and Bon Appetit Creperie.

Chip's, a family-friendly pancake house popular in Orange since 1966, has now opened a Fairfield outpost in the former Blockbuster Video space on the corner of Black Rock Turnpike and Tunxis Hill Cut Off.  They have over 40 varieties of pancakes which you can order as a full stack, a short stack, or as silver dollar pancakes.  They also have omelets, French toast, and Belgian waffles, in addition to a full lunch menu.  I loved one of the house specialities, German Apple pancakes, which had the apples cooked right into the batter, rather than only on top.  They also have several different flavored syrups, which is just sort of fun.  If you go on a weekend, arrive by 8:30 to avoid a line, but if you do get there later, rest-assured that the giant line does move very quickly.  The restaurant is huge and the tables do turn over fairly quickly.

Just a few blocks north you'll encounter Bon Appetit Cafe and Creperie, now open on the bottom level of the Billy's Bakery building at 1879 Black Rock Turnpike.  I'd heard raves about it, so recently checked it out myself.  The dessert crepes definitely lived up to the hype.  My favorite was the simple jam-filled wheat crepes...light, sweet and delicious.  My friends all loved the Nutella crepes, but there were so many delicious sounding varieties you could go back a dozen times and never have the same one twice. The entree crepes were made mostly from buckwheat and everyone in my party agreed we would have preferred the lighter regular wheat variety, but enjoyed the different fillings (I liked the prosciutto and goat cheese, and my girlfriends enjoyed the smoked salmon filled variety).  The many sandwiches on offer also sounded wonderful (the Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame are calling my name), so I will definitely go back soon to try those. The cafe is definitely a welcome addition to the ever-expanding diversity of Fairfield eateries!

Read about more new Fairfield food openings in the SportsPlex (Cinch and The Stand Juice Company) on my blog for the Connecticut News at :

Monday, August 22, 2011

Farm-to-Table, Delivered Fresh to Your Doorstep!

GrazeDelivered began in our area about a year ago, and delievers artisinal foods, prepared meals, and farm fresh meat throughout Fairfield County.  The idea came about when Westport mom, Christy Colasurdo, teamed up with Vermont-based friend Julianna Doherty Konczal, to bring quality foods being produced by small, family run farms to a wider market.  By keeping prices on par with WholeFoods, they are hoping to gain a loyal client base who want the added convenience of free delivery to their door.   Think Peapod, but with high-quality, Vermont-sourced, artisinal foods.  It's the perfect solution for busy people who want to feed their family wholesome, pesticide-free, minimally processed, regionally produced foods without having to squeeze in several trips to the market each week.

Speaking of convenience, my favorite thing about Graze is the "bistro", where you can order a wide variety of homemade prepared meals and/or recipe kits for busy families.  Everything is made with "the best seasonal Vermont produce, meat and cheeses." Dishes can be ordered a la carte and are packed in small portions for families with diverse tastes and/or eating schedules.  A special 'kid-friendly' menu includes options like free-range chicken tenders (which are also  gluten-free),  mini-meatballs, and taco kits, which include pre-marinated, cooked meat wrapped up with all the fixings.  The whole family will love the weekly pizza or burger kits, and those with grown-up palates won't want to miss the "globally inspired" or "traditional" dish of the week.  There are plenty of other prepared options, including vegetarian and gluten-free entrees, plus soups, salads, sides, grains, pestos, and salsas.

I barely got our first delivery unpacked before my kids tore open the bags of freshly baked raspberry mini-muffins.  Our fresh milk, probiotic yogurt, and farm fresh eggs made for a perfect start to our busy day.  Our order included a Pizza Kit, which was a pre-baked flatbread pizza crust, sauce, grated mozzarella, and lots of freshly cut veggies including colorful peppers, onions, and mushrooms.  The kids loved assembling our dinner and I loved the convenience of needing only to turn on the oven (or grill, had it not been pouring rain!).  We also tried the tender chicken fingers and mini-meatballs packed in a delicious tomato sauce.  It felt good knowing all the meat came from animals raised in a sustainable and humane environment.  My husband and I enjoyed the "globally inspired" butternut squash ravioli with maple cream sauce and chicken entree.  The portions (ours served two) were so simple to heat up on a busy evening and took the stress out of dinnertime.

Even if you love too cook and don't want prepared foods, Graze is also a great way to get Vermont farm-fresh milk, eggs, artisan cheeses, hormone/antibiotic/nitrate-free meats, and even baked goods as part of a weekly delivery.  Like with the bistro items, you can choose to have a standing order, or you can switch it up each delivery based on your needs that particular week.  They really have all your bases covered.  They didn't even forget Fido!  Organic, Vermont-made dog food and biscuits are all part of the fun!

I'm such a big fan of eating seasonally, eating locally, and supporting our regional sustainable-practices farms.  By combining Graze Delivered with a CSA share or trip to a local farmers market for fresh Connecticut-grown fruits and veggies, you may never need to go to the grocery store again!   Cheers to that!

1-888-WE GRAZE

Click here for more information about Tracy's Connecticut cooking classes at The Secret Ingredient Cooking School, or to read her other blog, Season to Taste.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"What's Cooking?" on Connecticut Channel 12

The Secret Ingredient is what's cooking!

You may have seen me on Channel 12 over the weekend demonstrating one of my very favorite side dishes, a Black Bean Salad with Cilantro.  As promised, here's the recipe!  Enjoy!

Black Bean Salad with Cilantro
Serves 6 as a side dish
 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup diced carrot
½ cup diced red pepper
2 scallions (green parts only), sliced thinly
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
For the dressing:
1 clove garlic
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine beans, carrots, peppers, and scallions in a large bowl.  Prepare the dressing by combining  the garlic, and vinegar in a small bowl.  While whisking, add the olive oil in a steady stream to create an emulsion.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pour over the salad and mix gently but thoroughly (gently to avoid mashing the beans).  Add the chopped cilantro and mix again.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  
This can be made up to one day in advance.  Store in refrigerator in an airtight container.  Check seasonings before serving.

Click here for more information about Tracy's Connecticut cooking classes at The Secret Ingredient Cooking School, or to read her other blog, Season to Taste.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Restaurants: Artisan at The Delamar Southport

**My below review of Artisan originally appeared on on July 25, 2011.

The highly anticipated Artisan Restaurant opened in the Delamar Southport Hotel on July 13 and has been going strong ever since.  Described as “New England inspired cuisine influenced by the rhythm of the season and the farmstead offerings,” Artisan hits the mark

When we first arrived and glimpsed Artisan’s large, beautifully appointed garden patio in the hotel courtyard, we felt transported somewhere far from of Fairfield.  Outfitted with a full-service bar, it is a perfect spot for pre- or post-dinner cocktails.  Large, comfortable chairs dotted with brightly colored throw pillows surround candlelit cocktail tables.  Along the patio’s perimeter are cushioned banquets and tables for dining, and against the building is a large pergola complete with dining tables and ceiling fans (which were much appreciated the steamy evening we visited).  Inside, the beautifully lit space boasts a nice tavern area which gives way to the large yet intimate-feeling dining room.  There is even a funky glassed-in private room for groups up to ten.  The entire restaurant is bathed in creams and sages and oversized floral designs grace two of the walls.  The atmosphere outside felt very hip (my husband, fresh off a west-coast business trip, was getting a California vibe).  Inside was a bit more subdued, but had plenty of energy and was a great setting for a meal.

And then there was the food!  The menu was nicely balanced with inventive dishes, some of which would appeal to the more adventurous and others that would suit the meat-and-potatoes crowd.  To start, I chose the “tuna crudo, watermelon, tomato, avocado with citron essence”.  The gorgeous cubes of sashimi-grade raw tuna were beautifully presented in checkerboard-like circle with the cubed tomato, avocado and yellow watermelon, and was topped with shaved radishes and a citron drizzle.  It was absolutely fabulous.  My husband chose the Connecticut oysters and Cape Cod clams from the raw bar which were super-fresh and briny.  For an entrée, I chose the local striped bass with a tomato-squash gratin  (although they ended up substituting halibut—a change of which they informed me).  I was presented with a perfectly cooked, moist filet served over a tasty mélange of vegetables .  My husband ordered the sea scallops over mushrooms, English peas, and roasted tomatoes, which was equally delicious.  As for wine, we were presented with only a list of selections by the glass, with 5-6 wines in each category, plus two rosés.  Although not extensive, the list had enough of a selection to make everyone happy and was not overwhelming.

Amazingly, we found room for dessert.  I didn’t get past the first listing.  “Fresh strawberries with  balsamic essence, rosemary biscuit and basil ice cream”...done!  The amazing basil ice cream was presented alongside a strawberry sorbet, over the biscuits with small, sugary sweet strawberries rimming the plate.  My mouth is watering all over again just describing it.  Everything at Artisan was really excellent and I cannot wait to return.  It might just be my new favorite spot!

275 Old Post Road, Southport, CT 06890 
(203)307-4222 for reservations

Serving dinner 7 days a week, starting at 5:30pm.  Breakfast and lunch service to begin Monday, August  1, 2011.

Appetizers $8-14, Entrees $24-38, Wines by the glass $8-18

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer at Pinkberry

I've blogged about Pinkberry before, but I needed to add a new post because I'm pretty certain the new summer flavors were created especially for me.  I don't know how they managed to get into my head, but they succeeded in choosing two of my very favorite flavors of all time: watermelon and salted caramel. 

In addition to the standard flavors available (original vanilla, chocolate, pomegranate,and  coconut), seasonal flavors are added to the mix every few months.  Watermelon temporarily replaced the mango flavor for the summer, but fear not, mango will be back. Much like the mango, the watermelon is fresh tasting and a little on the tangy side.  If you like yogurt, you'll LOVE this, but even if you don't, you'll still love it. 

On the complete other side of the spectrum is the salted caramel.  Sweet and salty all at the same time, it's absolutely delicious.  If you prefer the chocolate to the vanilla at Pinkberry, you'll love this summer flavor.  I tried it with crushed sugar cone and a sprinkling of salt on top.  Yum doesn't really begin to describe how much I loved this.

As I mentioned in my last post, I love all the fresh fruit toppings available at Pinkberry, but for those of you wanting to indulge there are plenty of sweets to satisfy you.  After swirling and topping your treat, the staff always passes your dish to you with two hands, as if they are presenting you with a gift.  Speaking of staff, they work very hard at Pinkberry, preparing the toppings fresh every day, plus making brand new batches of every flavor every single morning.  No left over fro-yo here.  The machines are completely emptied, cleaned and disinfected every single night.  I'm not sure I ever gave too much thought to this before, but I like the idea of everything being completely fresh. 

Owner Jamie Karsen, a Fairfield-based former corporate CEO turned dessert purveyor, says a second Connecticut Pinkberry is on tap to open in Greenwich soon.  I'm just glad Fairfield got in on the action when it did.  For me (and my kids), dinner at Colony Grill and a hop next door to Pinkberry for dessert sounds like just about the most delicious Fairfield family outing!

Open daily 11:30am-11:00pm
1512 Post Road
Fairfield, CT 06824-5911
(203) 292-9366