Sunday, December 12, 2010

Restaurants: Avellino's, Fairfield, CT

I cannot explain why I hadn't been to Avellino's in years.  I remember being there with my extended family for some sort of special dinner.  I remember the food being good.  I remember not having any complaints.  What I do not remember is why it took me something like five years to go back.  I can only chalk it up to the fact that I love trying new restaurants, and lately it seems like something new is opening every five minutes.

When a group of our friends all decided to go out to dinner recently, we had a few requirements.  We wanted to eat in Fairfield Center, we wanted a place that takes reservations (so many places will not take them it seems), and we wanted a cuisine that everyone would enjoy.  I'd just had a conversation with someone about Avellino's, so I suggested it and it was settled. 

The menu and food were excellent.  Our group tried a few different salads (the Formaggio di Capra --above--was the hands-down favorite---a salad of baby greens, warm goat cheese, dried cherries, candied walnuts and pears) and antipasti.  We ordered a wide vareity of delicious entrees, including Veal Brasiola, Seafood Risotto, swordfish, and pastas.  One pasta dish, a classic orechette with broccoli rabe and sausage was ordered by two of my friends.  The waiter happily substituted regular broccoli for the broccoli rabe, and even asked if they prefered their sausage sliced or crumbled (they did one of each).  Judging by the "mmmms" and clean plates around the table, everyone was very happy with what they ordered.

The service was also excellent.  As I mentioned, not only was the waiter friendly, but more than happy to meet our various requests for substitutions and changes to the menu.  He also committed our entire order to memory---seven people with seven drinks, seven first courses, and seven entrees (with all our changes!), and got every single thing correct.  A seasonsed professional for sure.  When I asked for additional grated cheese he suggested I try the dish first fearing the cheese may make it taste oversalted, and sure enough, he was spot on--no extra cheese was needed. It was perfect as is.  This is a man who knew his way around the menu.  After we were all too full for dessert, he even brought us a little sample of a special dessert they were serving that evening just so we could taste it...on the house. 

The entire evening was a great experience.  I wish the lighting was a little more subdued (we all commented on how it seemed too bright in the dining room), but everything else was fantastic.  Again, I have no idea what took me so long to go back to Avellino's, but you can be sure I'll be going there again very soon! 

1813 Post Road (near the Mill Plain Road intersection)
Fairfield, CT  06824
(203) 254-2339

Lunch:  Monday through Friday 11:00 - 2:30PM
Dinner: Sunday through Thursday 4:30 - 9:30, Friday & Saturday 4:30 -10:30

Photos from 

Click to learn more about my Connecticut cooking classes or read my Season To Taste food blog.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Restaurants: BONDA, Fairfield, CT


Bonda is back…and this time it’s right in Fairfield! Bonda was previously located in Westport near the train station, and was better known as a take-out/catering establishment called Abbondanza. In fact, for ages I thought it was only for take-out, and did not realize that to the left of the catering store-front was a fabulous, sit-down restaurant. Luckily for me, we have Westport friends who were ‘in the know’ and shared this gem with us. However, apparently I wasn’t the only one who was misinformed about Bonda’s identity, and so prompted the relocation and switch to become a full-service restaurant, and only a full-service restaurant.

Owner and executive chef Jamie Cooper is thrilled about relocating to Fairfield, on Hillside Road in the former La Colline Verte space (more recently this spot housed Fraiche). As a native Fairfielder, Cooper seems happy to be working close to home, focusing on what he does best, which is turning out great food in a fun, funky, beautifully designed space. For those of you who previously dined at this location, you will barely recognize the new Bonda dining room. Decked out in the signature Bonda-bright orange, Cooper’s wife Kim was the creative eye behind the renovation. The first thing you’ll notice upon entry is a full bar, perfect for before or after-dinner cocktails. According to Cooper, it is the first bar in Greenfield Hill in over one hundred years. The bar then gives way to the first of two dining rooms, both decked out with oversized vintage prints. The back room is more intimate with its aubergine-colored walls, for a quieter dining experience. However, the vibe in both rooms manages to be classic and hip all at the same time.
The food at Bonda is as reliably delicious as it was at the Westport location. Each of the several times I’ve dined, my meal has been excellent. The cuisine is best described as “new American” as it borrows from many cultures but does not focus on just one (menu will be online soon). Cooper said when developing his menu he chose to include a variety of options so meals at Bonda could range from a casual burger (the Bonda Burger has caramelized onions and cheddar and is served on a toasted English muffin), to a fancier ‘special occasion’ meal (you’ll love the Grilled Romaine with Parsley-Caper Vinaigrette as a starter and Pan Roasted Wild Pacific Salmon over Cauliflower-White Bean Puree as an entree). Some of the other dishes I particularly enjoyed are the classic Iceberg Wedge with Organic Berkshire Bacon, the Fresh Papparadelle with Braised Rabbit Ragu, and the Maple Brined Pork Chop with Butternut-Sage Mash.

Lately it seems as though Fairfield has become quite the dining destination, and Bonda just made it even better.

75 Hillside Road
Fairfield, CT
Open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday beginning at 5:00pm

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, October 25, 2010

Now Open in Fairfield: Tasti D Lite AND Pinkberry

Fairfield is now the home of not one, but two new 'ice cream' shops.  They amazingly opened practically the same week, and from the buzz I hear around town, have already developed cult-like followings.  Both are chains better known in other parts of the country, but particularly in New York City.  Tasti D Lite actually opened it's doors in NYC in 1987 and has been popular ever since.  Pinkberry, a relative newcomer to the scene,  began in California in 2005, but has also become extremely popular in NYC.

The similarities between the two are many---both tout a healthier alternative to ice cream.  Both are relatively low-calories; a small serving of Tasti D Lite will run you between 70-100 calories, where the same small serving at Pinkberry is 100-140 calories (depending on flavor).  They each have a dizzying number of variations and fresh toppings. However, that's where it ends---the flavors are really entirely different.

Tasti D Lite, located in the Staples Plaza (which seems like a poorly selected location, in my opinion), is ice cream made from non-fat milk, so it actually tastes like ice cream, and is surprisingly creamy considering there is less than 3% butterfat (most ice creams have up to 10%).  Pinkberry, in a comparably fantastic location right on the Post Road in Fairfield, is actual frozen yogurt with live cultures, and it tastes tangy like yogurt.  So, it is really a matter of personal choice---you are either more of an ice cream person or a yogurt person (I won't tell you which I am). 

Both have a fairly limited number of actual flavors being swirled (no "31 Flavors" here), but have a lot of topping choices. Tasti D Lite had Chocolate,Vanilla, Red Velvet, and Oreo-Peanut Butter "on tap" as they said, but also has at least a million flavor combinations they will make for you right there (which blends in various toppings and flavored syrups).  Pinkberry also had the traditional chocolate and vanilla, plus mango, pomegranate, coconut and pumkin (seasonal).  The toppings ranged from freshly cut fruit, toasted nuts, granola, and then more sinful options like chocolate chips and even rainbow sugar cereal.  I have to admit that in both shops I was a little overwhelmed with too many choices. 

I think because of Pinkberry's great location (right next to Colony Grill) and the media blitz it received, business has been gangbusters.  There has been a line out the door every single time I've passed by.  The times I've been to Tasti D Lite have been a little off-hours, but it wasn't enjoying the luck as it's downtown competition (but is at least three times the physical size).  But, as people get out to try both, I have a feeling people will start showing their either like yogurt or you don't.  But if you don't, then you have to be willing to drive a little out of the way if you want that lower-cal alternative to Dairy Queen.

You never can have enough ice I wish them both the very best of luck!

Learn more about Tracy's Connecticut cooking classes or find her recipes on her Season To Taste blog.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Post Road Food Finds in Fairfield

Today marks the opening of the much anticipated Colony Grill on the Post Road in Fairfield (in the former Fairfield Stationers space). I, for one, cannot WAIT to go, as I'm still thinking about that delicious 'hot oil pie' I had in the original Stamford location a couple months ago. If you've never experienced the hot oil pie, do not let the name turn you away. The thin crust pizzas drizzled with a spicy 'hot oil' are to die for! NY Rangers captain and Olympian Chris Drury is one of the keep your eyes peeled!

I also tried Gofer Ice Cream last night, also on the Post Road (next to Fin Sushi). They have lots of hard ice cream flavors (including Cookie Monster--a neon blue ice cream with cookie dough, sure to tempt your kids and stain their insides), plus soft serve, including a fat-free, no sugar-added option called Gofer Lite, which is surprisingly creamy and tasty. The Post Road was in dire need of a kid-friendly ice cream shop ever since Baskin Robbins closed several years ago. Gofer to the rescue!

A little further down the Post Road, The Beach Cafe re-opened as The Shack Hometown Grill, which has a more streamlined, barbeque-inspired menu. Despite the great space, the Beach Cafe's menu was all over the place and never found it's niche. The Shack is a great family-friendly re-incarnation, and the bar scene is definitely hopping after-hours. I've gone a few times with my kids and everyone was happy (and they ALSO happen to have Cookie Monster ice cream on the kiddie menu---go figure).

Also soon to open are the Old Post Tavern (on the corner next to the Community Theatre), and The Greenhouse Grill (in the former Sarabande location on Unquowa Place). Unlike "Main Streets" in other towns, Fairfield is doing an excellent job of keeping lots of restaurants coming in, which makes for a much livelier downtown scene after the stores and banks have closed for the evening. Keep up the good work, Fairfield!

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!