Sunday, September 27, 2009

Restaurants: Crumbs Bake Shop, Westport, CT

Over the summer while I was window shopping at the Westport Tiffany's something off the beaten path caught my eye. Nestled behind Tiffany's and across the street from the Westport Public Library lies a (relatively) new confectionery mecca, Crumbs Bake Shop. Crumbs is a chain featuring gourmet cupcakes and has several locations in the Tri-State area, including the new spot in Westport, plus New Canaan and Stamford (and MANY in New York City). They also have shops in California, but the rest of the country will have to wait for such luxury.

The store sells coffee and other drinks, plus cookies, brownies and other baked goods, but the cupcakes are clearly the centerpiece of the shop. They are huge and beautiful! They are sold individually ($3.75 for the large, gourmet cupcakes, $2.50 for the smaller plain ones), or in "Taste Packs" which include a dozen mini cupcakes. They are not cheap, but they really do make quite a splash.

Chocolate lovers will be in heaven with favorites such as "Brownie", "Oreo", "Blackout" and "Fudge Chocolate Chip"---as I was with "Squiggle" which is a homemade version of my favorite old-school Hostess creme-filled cupcakes. Those looking for something a little different will enjoy the "Cosmopolitan", "Key Lime Pie", "Fluffernutter", or "Red Velvet". However, I found the chocolaty-flavored cupcakes to have much richer flavor and better moisture.

Crumbs cupcakes are huge and really very pretty. I think anyone would be thrilled beyond belief to receive these as a hostess gift, or they'd be a gorgeous alternative to cake for any occasion. Pricey, yes, but very impressive!

Crumbs Bake Shop
40-44 Post Rd
Westport, CT 06880
Mon - Tues: 8:00am - 9:00pm, Wed - Thurs: 8:00am - 10:00pm, Fri - Sat: 8:00am - 11:00pm, Sun: 8:00am - 9:00pm

Top photo from

Monday, August 31, 2009

Ommegang: Belgian-Style Beer Brewed in NY

On a recent trip to visit my family in upstate New York, we decided to finally take a tour of the Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown. Mind you, the brewery has been there for years, but I'm not sure what on earth took me so long to get there!

Ommegang began brewing in Belgium in 1549. In 1997, it opened a US microbrewery on a former hops farm right outside of Cooperstown. Recently, Ommegang was "upgraded" to a regional brewery, and distributes its beer all over the United States.

Driving up to the beautiful, huge, cream colored Belgian barn-style buildings, you feel like you're in Napa. Luckily for us, a tour was just beginning as we arrived, so we jumped right in and began learning about the Belgian brewing process. We started in the "kitchen" room where all the ingredients are mixed at the beginning of the process, and followed it all the way through to the bottling room, then to the fermentation room where the bottled beer sits at 85 degrees for two additional weeks before getting shipped out to distributors. Unlike other beers which have a limited shelf life, Ommegang beers actually improve with age, like fine wine. In fact, the brewery has been leasing "cave space" in the nearby Howe Caverns, but will soon be digging "a great big hole" (as described by our adorable tour guide) on the brewery property to simulate their own cave-aging conditions. The guide assured us that their beer is great to drink right away, but true beer connoisseurs may prefer the taste of the aged brews.

Then it was tasting time!! In all, we tried six beers. We started "light" and tried the Belgian white Witte (my favorite), with flavors of orange peel and coriander. We then moved on to golden Hennepin, the "rich ruby brew", Three Philosophers (cherry undertones), the ambers Biere du Mars (my friend's favorite) and Rare Vos, and finally, Chocolate Indulgence (nicknamed "Obamagang" because it was rolled out at inauguration time earlier this year). We also tasted a few cheese spreads made with beer...the blue cheese variety was the best of the bunch.
The beer is bottled both in traditional 12 oz bottles, or 750ml corked bottles (the same size as a bottle of wine). We opted for a case of the 12 oz Witte bottles, but they also have variety packs available in both sizes.

If you ever find yourself in upstate New York near Cooperstown, definitely check out Ommegang. Not only do they brew some fantastic beers, but the brewery is in a beautiful setting, which they invite you to enjoy with a picnic.

Ommegang beers are available in Fairfield at:

Photos from

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Restaurants: Eating Out In South Norwalk, CT

South Norwalk is one of my favorite places in Fairfield County. It has the vibe of a fun New York neighborhood...but is much closer to home and you can actually park your car! All summer I've been sticking closer to Fairfield, but over the weekend we celebrated our anniversary with a great night out in SoNo.

It had been a while since we ventured down the Turnpike, and I was surprised to see lots of changes. For those of you who are looking for a fun outing, definitely check out what's happening in South Norwalk!

There are lots of good places to grab pre- or post-dinner drinks. We enjoyed martinis at The Loft, but the Rouge Wine Bar (both on Washington Street) also looked promising. Lots of the bars and restaurants have either sidewalk seating or open-air tables, where you can watch the world pass by on a warm night. When it was time for dinner, we headed across the street for a wonderful meal at Match (also on Washington Street), which is always packed, so be sure you make a reservation! Same goes for Pasta Nostra (Washington St.), Barcelona, and Kazu (both on North Main Street), which are all fantastic and were equally as packed that evening. Reservations are definitely recommended at each of these places.

For a more casual meal, try Burger Bar (fab burgers right next to the movie theatre), Brewhouse, SoNo Seaport Seafood, or The Ginger Man. Other places I noticed that looked worth a return trip were Coromandel Indian Bistro, Osetra Oyster Bar, Strada 18 Apizza e Vino, and Pane e Panini (lunch).

I also made a note to mention the new Tribeca Coffee House (in the former space of Stone Cold Creamery on North Main Street), Caffeine (Washington Street), and Chocopologie (South Main Street) where you can grab coffee, desserts, or even a light meal.

South Norwalk has a lot to offer for an afternoon stroll, an evening out with friends, or date night with your other half. I've barely scratched the surface, because there are many, many more eateries to discover! Next time you're looking for a great eating destination, hop on the Turnpike to exit 15 and discover South Norwalk for yourself!

To learn more about Tracy's Fairfield-based cooking classes, go to:

For Tracy's recipes, check out:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Food Openings in Fairfield, CT

I just took a walk down to the newly expanded Brick Walk Promenade, and am very excited about the food happenings in Fairfield! Lots of yummy openings on the horizon....

Amore Bakery is set to open later this week and will feature cakes, cupcakes, biscotti, and a selection of baked goods from SoNo Bakery in South Norwalk. This well-located bakery will be a welcome addition to Fairfield Center!

Pizzeria Molto Mozzarella and Wine Bar plans to open the first week of September. The space is fabulous---with high, red upholstered booths, old-fashioned tiled floors, a long bar, and high ceilings. It's very urban-chic! The owners tell me they have a full liquor license on the way and can't wait to open in a few weeks.

Flipside Burgers is scheduled to open September 1st, in the former Flying Dish space (which has been redesigned and redecorated). This new burger joint looks to be a great place to grab a burger alone or with the kids, but without feeling like you're eating at a chain. The chef/owner also owns Mediterranean Grill in Wilton.

All of the above restaurants are located in the Brick Walk, Post Road, Fairfield, CT.

I've just added new classes to my fall line-up of cooking classes at The Secret Ingredient Cooking School---be sure to check them out at: !!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Restaurants: Harborview Market, Bridgeport, CT

Harborview Market, located in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport (adjacent to Saint Mary's by the Sea), has been around for years, but outside of its immediate neighborhood, is perhaps one of Fairfield County's best kept secrets.

The bustling market selling all types of grocery provisions, and also does a brisk restaurant business at both breakfast and lunchtime. Mornings they offer house made croissants (and on weekends, chocolate filled ones too!), muffins, and other baked goods, as well as bagels, pancakes, french toast, eggs, and the like. They also serve a wide variety of lunches, for eat in or take out.
The atmosphere is extremely casual, and there are an eclectic collection of antique-style tables scattered throughout the front of the market where you can eat, or, better yet, in warmer weather you can bring your food outside to one of the many sidewalk tables. Orders are placed and paid for at the counter inside, however staff members will happily bring orders to your table if they are anything requiring more than a minute or so to prepare (like pancakes, etc).

Harborview Market is decidedly "old school", which is exactly what I love about it. There is no pretension, no fussiness, and nothing formal about the entire experience. You feel almost transported back to a simpler time; there is nothing ultra-modern about this place and I think it is perfect just as it is. In this "throw-away" society where we discard and knock down anything that no longer gleams, it is absolutely refreshing to sit and enjoy a bagel at a true neighborhood place where coffee is actually called coffee, it's not odd to share a table with a stranger reading his newspaper, and your view is a residential neighborhood, rather than a shopping plaza or gas station.
Harborview Market
218 Harborview Avenue
Bridgeport, CT
Photos by kHyal, 2008 (via Facebook)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Movies: Food, Inc.

Coming (hopefully) soon to a theatre near this YouTube trailer for a new documentary on the food we eat and why it is making us sick....

Food, Inc. trailer

Monday, June 15, 2009

Restaurants: Garden Catering, Fairfield, CT

Garden Catering, the well known establishment revered for its fried chicken and famous chicken nuggets, has opened an outpost on Black Rock Turnpike in Fairfield. It began in the late 70s in Greenwich, and later expanded to Old Greenwich, Stamford, and Westchester County. Now Fairfielders can see what all the buzz is about! One friend, who is originally from Old Greenwich, said "I grew up on Garden Catering chicken bits at their original location and couldn't be more psyched about them opening in Fairfield!"

Breakfast sandwiches are served all day, along with burgers, hot dogs, chili, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and of course, chicken (take out or eat in). Since Garden Catering is known for their chicken, I decided to try their famous nuggets, which are all white meat and hand-cut. These are definitely not your usual chicken nuggets! On the side I got a big order of "cones", which are like fried mashed potato balls (think "tater-tots" that actually taste good), plus some fried zucchini. Everything was a hit with the kids and grown-ups alike. I enjoyed my nuggets sprinkled with their special seasoning (which is similar to a Lawry's-type seasoning), and dipped into the sweet and sour sauce (they also have barbeque and honey mustard).

I'll admit I was a bit skeptical, since I'm not a huge fan of fried food, and generally speaking, avoid any food with the word "nugget" attached to it. However, everything really was delicious--and no trans fats! It took every fiber of my being not to eat the entire container of cones on the car ride home! This is a great idea for a quick meal or a picnic. My friend said it best: "You absolutely cannot beat the huge chunks of white meat nuggets with their special seasoning, especially when you need to grab something for the beach!"

Just be sure NOT to close up those bags and containers in which the food is served...everything will lose its fantastic crispiness! The staff is well versed in all of this, so they will remind you if you forget and begin sealing everything up!

I'm definitely going to go back to try the salads and wraps.....and am glad to have another take-out meal idea up my sleeve! It is also a great idea for a casual party. Check it out!

Garden Catering

2074 Black Rock Turnpike

Fairfield, CT


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Restaurants: Amici Miei Cafe, Bridgeport, CT

I've blogged about my favorite Bridgeport eateries before, and with so many new spots opening in downtown Bridgeport, I'm adding more to my list all the time! Downtown Bridgeport has really become a nighttime dinner destination, and now you'll want to head there for lunch as well!

Today I went to check out Fraiche Burger (997 Main Street), only to find its chef/owner, Marc Lippman, outside with take-out in his hands! Due to circumstances out of his control, he had to push the opening of the very casual burger shop to Monday, June 15th. He did give me a sneak-peak inside and at the menu while my daughter kept herself busy drawing on the giant chalk board that runs the entire length of the restaurant. I'll definitely be stopping by next week, but in the meantime, I asked him where we should eat! He pointed to his take-out boxes and recommended his friend's new place, Amici Miei Cafe, which opened this week on the very next block (957 Main Street). We headed right over.

At first glance, I thought Amici Miei (that's "A-mee-chee Mee-A-ee") which is Italian for "my friends" was a serve-yourself-and-go-sit kind of place, similar to Senor Salsa (formerly La Salsa). The counter at the front was crowded with people, whom I realized later, were just taking food to go. As it turns out, the large booths and smattering of tables are for table service, and we were seated in the back atrium area (a glass covered courtyard, of sorts, which could greatly benefit from some large potted trees or dividers to define the space a bit). The inside decor is very modern, with bright orange walls and black accents. The open kitchen and very high ceilings give the space an urban feel, which lent itself to the overall good vibe of the place.

The menu is casual Italian----pressed panini and tramezzini* sandwiches with a variety of fillings, salads, and thin crust pizzas. The delicious sandwiches came with a nice little pasta and bean salad, and the individual pizzas were generously sized and tasty. Better yet, the entire menu was priced from $4.99 to $7.99! Amici Miei is open for lunch and dinner Mondays-Saturdays. I hear a liquor license is on its way as well!

Amici Miei Cafe
957 Main Street (near the Courthouse)
Bridgeport, CT

*Tramezzini are smaller sandwiches made from sliced bread, rather than rolls.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Restaurants: Cafe Madeline, Fairfield, CT

You may have noticed that Caffe Quattro has a new name, "Cafe Madeline". Owner Madeline Migliorini has obtained a liquor license and has turned the cafe into a full-service restaurant. Fear not, the delicious panini, pizzas and gelato are all still on the menu, but are now joined by a larger selection of "small plates", salads, and entrees.

I have always enjoyed lunch at the cafe, and often take my kids for their fabulous gelato. I've now added it to my list of favorite casual dinnertime destinations. It is small, so getting a table during the evening rush can be tricky (get there early if you can). I especially love sitting outside in the warmer weather...sipping great wines by the glass (or bottle!), enjoying fantastic food, and watching the world go by! In this budget-conscious economy, you'll love that many of the entrees even come with a salad!! How's that for value? The service has always been excellent, the food is wonderful, and the location can't be beat. Check it out soon---there's a good chance you'll see me there! :)

Cafe Madeline
1603 Post Rd
Fairfield, CT 06824
(203) 259-5800

For more information on my Connecticut cooking classes, check out The Secret Ingredient Cooking School website, or my Season to Taste blog for everyday recipe ideas!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Now Open: Fairfield Cheese Company, Fairfield, CT

The Fairfield Cheese Company opened its doors last week in the Post Road space formerly occupied by The Budding Gourmet (next door to Harry's Wine's and Liquors). It is the newest endeavor by local caterer Chris Palumbo and business partner, Laura Downey. The shop will carry anywhere from 35 to 40 varieties of artisinal and locally produced chesses at any given time, as well as a selection of charcuterie (cured meats, sausages, etc). In addition, locally made honey, biscotti, and other specialty items like gourmet olive oils, spreads, and my favorite, Spanish membrillo (quince paste) are also on hand. Glazed metal tubs emblazoned with the Fairfield Cheese Company logo are also available to create adorable gourmet gift baskets, perfect as a housewarming, hostess, or birthday gift for your favorite foodie. Better yet, the folks over at Harry's will even help you select a bottle of wine to compliment your gift basket or cheese selections.

The fun doesn't stop there--- beginning this fall, the FCC will begin offering cheese tasting and wine pairing classes in the spacious back section of the store, which is set up as a classroom. Check the store or website (currently under construction) for schedules.

Fairfield Cheese Company
2090 Post Road (Harry's Corner)
Fairfield, CT 06824
203-292-8194 (currently under construction)

Click here to read more about Tracy's Connecticut cooking classes and her other food blog, Season to Taste!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Restaurants: New Burger Openings--Fraiche Burger Joint, Fairfield CT

Blackened Burger at Barney's Gourmet Hamburgers
Burger connoisseurs, prepare yourselves! There is big burger news in Fairfield!

Open right now:
Fraiche Restaurant, which I blogged about previously, has reinvented itself as Fraiche Burger Joint (75 Hillside Road, Fairfield) and everything on the menu is under $22. According to today's press release, Fraiche Burger Joint will offer " 'the greatest burger on earth' (according to Connecticut Magazine) and “Millionaire’s Macaroni n’ Cheese” –a mouth-watering concoction of five different cheeses finished with truffle oil." I loved Fraiche, and can't wait to try its new, more casual, less expensive incarnation. A smart move during these tough economic times!
Open the week of June 15th:
Also from the owner of Fraiche will be Fraiche Burger in the newly-renovated Arcade Building in downtown Bridgeport (997 Main Street, near the Peoples Bank headquarters and Courthouse). Again, according to the press release, this outpost will feature " 'a modern twist on the classic burger' offering a selection of burgers, hot dogs and other fast food staples including a smaller version of Chef Lippman’s Classic Burger from Fraiche Burger Joint in Fairfield - for under $6." Now that's something to talk about!
***Please note that Fraiche Burger is now closed.

Future opening--- you heard it here first!
When I was taping my most recent appearance on News Channel 12's "What's Cooking", I met the chef/owners of Mediterranean Grill in Wilton. They shared with me that they will soon be opening a brand new, low-key but high-quality burger restaurant on the Fairfield Post Road space formerly occupied by the recently shuttered Flying Dish. It will be family friendly and offer casual fare that mom and dad will love too! I'll keep you up to date as soon as I hear more! Keep your eyes open and your ears perked!!
Above photo by "pointnshoot".

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Product Review: Three Punks Relish and Buitoni Reserve Pastas

From time to time, companies send me products to taste-test. Obviously, their hope is that as a food blogger, I will then write something about them---hopefully something good. I've had a few things that I did not like, but decided to contact the company representative privately, rather than bad-mouth them all over the internet. I feel the same way about restaurant reviews/profiles; if I don't like a place, I just don't write about it.

That brings me to the first of two recent products that came into my hands. Three Punks Relish is an "authentic Austrailian tomato topping" produced right here in Connecticut. Although it is called "relish" it doesn't really resemble anything Americans call relish. It is more like a chutney, which can be used as a glaze for meats or vegetables. This family recipe originated in 1920, and was created by the owner's Australian grandmother.

Over the weekend I grilled a butterflied whole chicken, and slathered it with this relish during the last 20 minutes of cooking. It was DELICIOUS! My entire family loved it (including my sometimes picky children). The glaze caramelized nicely giving a sweet flavor to the skin. I think it would be equally good on fish, pork loin, or even as an alternative topping for a burger. Three Punks Relish is sold at Billy's Bakery and The Pantry in Fairfield, but they are adding new stores all the time, so check their website for updates.

The second product is a new line of fresh pasta from Buitoni. Their new "Riserva" line is designed for those looking for something a little fancier than regular ravioli. As my mother can attest, I have always been a bit of a ravioli/stuffed pasta freak, so when I received this package I was pretty excited. They make four new varieties which include Chicken Four Cheese Ravioli, Quattro Formaggi Agnolotti, Spicy Beef and Sausage Ravioli, and the selection I was sent, Wild Mushroom Stuffed Agnolotti. They all are found in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.

The package states that the pasta is filled with "fresh portobello and crimini mushrooms, imported Grana Padano and Parmesan cheeses and fresh roasted garlic." This is all fine, however I find it strange that they are acting like portobello and crimini mushrooms are two different mushrooms! Portobello mushrooms are simply criminis that have been allowed to grow bigger (which is why criminis are often referred to as "baby bellas"). This aside, I set out to do some tasting.

I decided to keep the sauce extra simple so I could really taste the flavors of the agnolotti (which is basically a half-moon shaped ravioli). I stuck with a Sage-Brown Butter Sauce (recipe on my Season to Taste blog) and topped the whole thing with lots of parmesan cheese. I must say it was really delicious. The filling was ample and very flavorful. There were actually more mushrooms than anything else, unlike many other filled pastas which are mostly ricotta or some other filler. My only complaint is that the package is very small...just 9 ounces. One package was only enough for two appetizer portions, so plan accordingly.
So, there you have it....two new products on the market, both get a "thumbs up" from The Secret Ingredient!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Restaurants: Martel, Fairfield, CT

At a time when many restaurants are struggling, Fairfield’s newest eatery seems impervious to the faltering economy. Martel, a casual French bistro opened by the owners of Pane Vino in Westport, has been bursting at the seams since it opened in February. It is located on the Post Road in the former space occupied by Rory’s, however you’d be hard-pressed to find any similarities (save for the same bad parking situation).

Although the building’s footprint remains the same, the interior and exterior have been completely rehabbed. Among the changes are the flipped layout; the bar is now in the front room and the dining area in the back room. Both are attractive and feature both mahogany colored and black lacquered woods, red upholstered banquets and booths, and marble topped tables. The high ceilings, low lighting, and heavy framed mirrors all add to the bistro ambiance. Patrons are directed to use the front door which leads into the bar, rather than the side door which most of us had become accustomed to using at Rory’s. However, during peak hours, it is extremely difficult to navigate through the narrow and very crowded bar in order to reach the hostess stand, which is located in the middle of the restaurant.

On each of my visits, this was exactly the case. Martel does not take reservations, so expect to wait if you arrive past 6pm. There are a few bar tables that are first-come, first-served, but unless you don’t mind dining in the loud bar area (or having people backed up against your table while you eat), you are better off waiting for a table in the dining room.

The menu is moderately priced and casual. It includes a variety of sandwiches, burgers, and salads, but also has a very nice selection of entrees which range from comfort food (braised short ribs, meatloaf, truffled mac and cheese) to classic bistro fare (steak frites, roasted chicken) to Italian inspired (vegetable lasagna, lobster risotto, fettuccine Bolognese). There is also a lot of seafood, which seems to be a speciality of the house.

The wine list is also moderately priced, and includes about twenty bottles priced under $30. House wines are sold by the glass or by the carafe. The dessert menu is traditionally French, and features crème brulee (but flavored with banana and maple), a classic apple tarte ala mode, a trio of chocolate pots de crème (like a rich chocolate pudding), and beignets (which are similar to Zeppole, but light as air) to name a few. Word is that the ice cream sundae with toasted almonds is excellent, if you’re in the mood for something decidedly more American.
Each time I visited Martel, the service was good and very friendly. Our servers were always helpful and enthusiastic about both the menu and wine list. The pace of the meal was just right….not too fast or too slow. We did not feel rushed at any point, and were able to enjoy our wine and linger over coffee without being given the evil eye.

Whenever I’m eating out and planning to write a restaurant profile, I always keep my ears pricked for quotes from other diners. At Martel, I heard one woman say, “I don’t eat out often, but when I do, I’ll definitely come back here!”. Another person said she enjoyed the seared scallops so much that she “all but licked the plate clean” (they really were excellent). I heard a couple people (including one person in my party) commenting that they were not happy with their dinners, including the lobster risotto (“very little lobster”) and the seafood casserole (“lacking in flavor”). However, most people I talked to seemed to be very happy with the food and their overall experience.

I think Martel hits the trifecta with a good atmosphere, good food, and good wine. Oh, and good prices too. What more could you want?

My favorites: Mussels Au Gratin , Seared Scallops over Farro, Braised Short Ribs

Martel Bistro & Bar
2316 Post Road
Fairfield, CT

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Farmers Markets, CSAs, and More

Although I'm still not posting regularly on this blog, I wanted to post information I've collected on local (Fairfield, CT area) resources for where to BUY LOCAL!!! This is by no means a complete listing, but provides links and contact info for many area farms and farmers markets.

Remember, eat locally, change globally!!!

Websites of Interest Find farmers markets and CSAs in any area. Connecticut farmers markets, educational programs, information Find Connecticut farms, CSAs, recipes Official site of Chef Michel Nischan The Dressing Room: A Homegrown Restaurant, New Haven, CT

Local Farmers Markets
Greenfield Hill Farmers Market, 1950 Bronson Road, Fairfield. Saturdays, June-October 12:30-4pm.
Westport Farmers Market, 25 Powers Court (behind The Westport Country Playhouse), Thursdays, June-November, 10am - 2pm.
Winter Market at the Fairfield Theatre Company, 70 Sanford Street, Fairfield. Saturdays, January-April, 10am-1pm.

Area Community Supported Agriculture Programs (CSAs)
Fort Hill Farm (Organic)--18 Fort Hill Farm Road,New Milford, CT 06776-3306
(860)350-3158 (local drop-off points)

Gazy Brothers Farm—391 Chestnut Tree Hill Road, Oxford, CT 06478
(203)723-8885 (local drop-off at Greenfield Hill Farmers Mkt)

Sport Hill Farm (Organic)-- 596 Sport Hill Road, Easton, CT 06612
(203)268-3137 (farm pick-up only)

Stone Gardens Farm—83 Sawmill City Road, Shelton, CT 06484 (203)929-2003 (farm pick-up only)

Stoneledge Farms (Organic)--359 Ross Ruland Road, South Cairo, NY 12482 (pick up at Trinity Church, Southport)


Picture courtesy of Gazy Brothers Farm.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Full Plate

In 2008, I filled up my plate,
with classes and projects I did instigate.

I'm happy to say, I love what I do,
but this time I bit off more than I can chew.
Now in 2009, I'm strapped for time,
so I'm taking a break from blogging at The Secret Ingredient Online!

Please visit me at my other blog, Season to Taste, at

I post original recipes, photos and tips TWICE weekly (which is part of the reason I'm so busy!). Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a recipe!

For more information about my cooking classes, visit my website, The Secret Ingredient Cooking School, at

Photo of Nick Tahous Garbage Plate by dangler.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Favorite Food Finds of 2008

I follow several food blogs, and it seems as if everyone is putting together their "Best of 2008" lists this week. So, I decided to follow suit and create a list of my own favorite things from 2008. Think Oprah's "favorite things" show without all the fancy give-aways! Here it goes:

Favorite local restaurant: Osianna in Fairfield. Blogged about it ages ago---still love it.

Favorite lunchtime discovery: Roly Poly sandwiches. These sandwiches can be ordered cold or warm and have tons of interesting combinations to choose from. They are big too, so half a sandwich is more than enough. I'm especially excited about the new Fairfield location on the Post Road (next to Vincent et Isabelle French Bakery)! Where have I been all these years?

Favorite cookbooks I got this year: I've cut back considerably on cookbook purchases, but these I received as gifts and are great: 1. Mediterranean Fresh by Joyce Goldstein. A beautiful collection of salads and small plates with great photography. 2. Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's by Deana Gunn & Wona Miniati. The perfect book for the busy cook---lots of yummy recipes using great short-cuts available at Trader Joe's.

Favorite food-related tv shows: Everyday Food and America's Test Kitchen--both on PBS. I love these shows because they are so practical....not all the flash of some of the Food Network shows. Just good, straightforward cooking and tips any cook will appreciate.

Favorite new wines: Luzon Verde Organic Jumilla Red Wine from my favorite wine shop, Mo's Wine and Spirits on the Post Road in Fairfield. It is a simple red wine perfect for every night drinking...remember a glass of red wine a day is good for you! Plus, it's organic! At about $8 a bottle, you can't go wrong.

Favorite new cheese & crackers: Cambozola---- a fantastic combination of Camembert and Gorgonzola. I found it at Trader Joe's. And on that note, the Gorgonzola Crackers, also at Trader Joe's. Great on their own or with mild cheese.

Favorite new gadget: The Bialetti Mukka Express stovetop cappuccino maker my husband bought me for Christmas. It is just like the Bialetti "macchinetta" I blogged about earlier this year over at Season to Taste, but has the added attraction of a built-in milk frother for perfect cappuccini in under 5 minutes.
Favorite tip: This is from my friend Elena in Italy, whose family was in the restaurant business. If you have champagne left over, don't toss it. Put the handle of a spoon into the neck of the bottle and refrigerate. I've had it stay bubbly for an entire WEEK!

Favorite "can't wait" for 2009: From the owners of Fairfield's Fraiche restaurant, Fraiche Burger which will be opening in the early part of '09 on Main Street in Bridgeport.

What are YOUR favorites of 2008-----or things you can't wait for in 2009? Let me know by leaving a comment! I'd LOVE to hear from you!

Happy New Year and all the best in 2009!
Champagne photo by dotw.