Tag Archives: wine bar

IMG_2774

A Taste of New Canaan

My friend Terry is writing a food article for New Canaan Patch (which I’ll link to once it’s published). When he asked if I wanted join him for the eating research, I didn’t hesitate with my response: “Sure!”  If there’s one thing I can do well, it’s be a food wingman. It’s easy, actually. You just have to possess a good appetite and not be picky.

Without spoiling Terry’s article, I will say that a) we ended up sampling at three restaurants, which was about all we could handle before our stomachs exploded, and b) we really hit a home run on this outing. Each dish was uniformly excellent. Not a bad one among the bunch. Whether it was pure luck or a reflection of the quality of New Canaan restaurants, I came away impressed.

Here’s what we ate:

First up, Farmer’s Table, a cozy eatery and bakery utilizing locally sourced ingredients from chef/owner Robert Ubaldo’s farm in Pound Ridge, and his brother’s John Boy Farms in Cambridge, NY.

These tasting cups of butternut squash soup (smooth and silky) and lentil chorizo soup (earthy and a little spicy) were a great way to rev up the appetite and warm up on a cold day.

Beneath these greens — a bright salad of lentils and quinoa tossed with vinaigrette.

Normally at a restaurant, I’d probably gloss over an entree of grilled chicken, considering it too pedestrian a dish to take a chance on. But this grilled chicken with vegetables changed my thinking. Just outstanding. Chicken can dry out so quickly; this one was cooked to the perfect level of doneness. It was juicy and moist, and deeply flavorful from the mustard vinaigrette marinade.

We were off to a great start. Next on the list, the Japanese restaurant, Plum Tree.

For starters, the usuzukuri, a delicate serving of thinly sliced fluke with ponzu sauce.

Then it was on to this beauty of a sushi plate. Let’s see, we’ve got yellowtail and salmon nigiri, tuna sashimi and a “Flower” maki of tuna, tobiko, avocado, cucumber and lettuce.

So artful, it was almost a shame to eat anything. But we did.  Wonderfully fresh fish and clean flavors all around.

For our third restaurant, Cava Wine Bar & Restaurant.

I should have taken a pic of the interior because it’s really warm and inviting inside. The aroma from the wood-burning oven doesn’t hurt either. This is a restaurant tailor-made for a romantic dinner on a cold winter night.  Or, for two dudes researching a food article.

Here’s our P.E.I. mussels appetizer.

The mussels were huge and plentiful, drenched in a garlicky-wine tomato sauce and served with chewy, warm foccacia. With a side salad, this could be a complete meal.

Roasted salmon with sauteed veggies and a pinot noir reduction.

Like the chicken at Farmer’s Table, the salmon was perfectly cooked; crusty on the outside, moist on the inside.

Last, but certainly not least, my favorite dish of the day: pappardelle with chicken, wild mushroom and truffle oil.

Simple, rustic and utterly delicious. I’m assuming the al dente pappardelle was homemade. Sure tasted like it. And I just loved those meaty wild mushrooms. I wanted to eat this dish in front of a fireplace after a day of snowshoeing, and then take a nap afterwards.

As you can see, eight dishes, all winners in their own way. I wish I had something to nitpick, but I don’t. We ate well on this day, my friends. It was a fine afternoon in New Canaan.

Farmer’s Table
21 Forest St.
New Canaan, CT
203-594-7890

Plum Tree
70 Main St.
New Canaan, CT
203-966-8050

Cava Wine Bar & Restaurant
2 Forest St.
New Canaan, CT
203-966-6946

Q&A with Anthony Colasacco of Pour Cafe and Wine Bar

The weather’s getting cold and you’re looking for a relaxed, intimate spot to gather with friends or take a date.  Where should you go?  The answer: Pour Cafe and Wine Bar in Mt. Kisco.  I recommend Pour to everyone because there’s nothing else like it in Westchester, and because it’s just so darn cozy. Remember how George Costanza wanted to be ensconsed in velvet? You’ll want to be ensconsed in Pour.

I caught up with Anthony Colasacco, the owner of Pour, and we chatted about the place, the wine and the food — don’t forget about the food!

HT: How did the whole idea for Pour come about?
Anthony: I frequent a lot of wine bars. I just love the cool little vibe of getting to sit and hang out. When this place came, I always loved the space, and it’s just perfect. And honestly I think it was the Italy-Spain trip my son and I took that really kicked me in to the manifesting of this place. Where just everything was revolved around sitting at the bar, small plates, food, wine…

Speaking of food, I don’t think a lot of people realize how good the food is here.
They don’t get it. It’s all the small plate stuff. You can come here for your meal. Grab a bean dip or one of those cheese plates, you’re full. And I am first and foremost a foodie. Above and beyond wine, booze, everything, I’m a fanatic for food. And some of the stuff we have is really interesting, like the flatbread with the guanciale on it. That’s awesome! I go out of my way to find interesting food, and do things that are a little different. The flatbread with the speck and the gruyere and the caramelized onions. There’s a lot of food here! That’s the one thing I think needs to be recognized.

Everyone I know who’s been here absolutely loves this place. What makes it so unique?
The vibe, for sure. The atmosphere. It’s chill, there’s no tv, the music’s low enough you can actually talk. It’s a house. People are relaxed. You get people that come and they kick their shoes off, I mean they put their feet up, it’s really like hanging in a house. You are in a house.

Is your clientele mostly hardcore wine aficionados?
No, definitely not. We get a couple, but on a whole I’d say 5 % wine snob, wine geek, 95% regular people. They just want to come and try out wine. They kind of want to be told what to drink almost. Not told, but guided.

And you have wine tastings here?
Oh yeah, we’ve got the Pinot Noir one coming up.  December 2nd.   We did that one 8 months ago, that was the biggest of all the wine tastings.  People love the Pinot.  We’ve done chocolate tastings, beer and cheese, scotch, bourbon, we’re doing the absinthe, all kinds of things.  We’re definitely going to work out some interesting ones.

You’ve mentioned to me that your customer base is mostly women.
During the week, a lot of ladies night out. Birthdays, book clubs, mom’s clubs, whatever reason just groups of girls. That’s usually what it is during the week, and it’s date place on the weekends. I wouldn’t say it’s a singles scene by any means. You know what’s cool though you can come single and have a great time. I honestly have a lot of women customers who come in by themselves. They come in, grab a glass of wine and hang out all night alone because they’re always going to meet somebody to hang out, chat with someone where it’s not a meat market.

So the guys should really be taking advantage of this male/female ratio.
You would think. But they’re just not getting it. I think when the guys come here they’re usually with a woman. We get the guys, they love to come and have the scotches and the bourbons, but no, it’s usually dates.

With everyone trying to save money these days, are people cutting back on wine?
I think people are still willing to spend a little extra for a good quality glass of wine. We’re paying attention to the fact that times are tough. But you can come here for a lot less than it’s going to be in a restaurant. You’re gonna come, you’re gonna have a cool time.

Pour Cafe and Wine Bar
241 Main St.
Mt. Kisco, NY 10549
914-864-0606

Velo Pulls Ahead of the Pack

On Sunday, Danielle was a woman on a mission.  We both read The Journal News’s review of Velo, and she told me what she wanted:

“The goat cheese tartlet and the risotto.”

Here’s what we discovered about Velo: It’s the latest “bistro & wine bar” to hit the area (like “fusion”, this “wine bar” thing is exploding in popularity), the dining room is understatedly decorated with bicycling art, and the food is really, really good.

(I knew I was going to like Velo when I read that owner/chef Anthony DeVanzo is an avid cyclist and spotted an old, black and white Tour de France photograph on the wall.  That appealed to my cycling nut side, spawned in 1988 after I first saw Breaking Away and started riding around in bike shorts with Mendelssohn’s “Italian Symphony” racing through my head).

I should note that Danielle and I were talking so much at dinner that I completely blew it on snapping pics of the dining room (being a conscientious blogger takes some practice).

One other note: our server was fantastic.  He managed to be friendly and helpful (especially when it came to the wine list), without being overbearing or God forbid, doing something insane like crouching down to eye level to take our order. Don’t you just HATE when servers do that?

For an appetizer we shared what else, the goat cheese tartlet.

Oh, to eat this every day…  Flaky, buttery crust — check. Creamy goat cheese — check. Drizzled honey sauce and fresh thyme for that savory zing — double check.  I’m betting Velo can’t make these tartlets fast enough to satisfy its hungry customers.

Danielle gave me a bite of her chianti risotto with black truffle. It was super creamy and luxurious.

Here’s my cioppino with clams, mussels, scallops, arctic char and a giant prawn:

You could have just given me a pile of bread, and I would have happily dunked it in the broth all night long.  The seafood was fresh and sweet, but as Danielle noted, “That’s not going to be enough food for you.”  She was right.  She knows my human garbage disposal tendencies.

Our dessert was the cardamom spiced twisty donut served with crème anglaise and wild berry compote.

That’s a fancy way of saying “Donut with scrumptious dipping sauces.”

Velo’s got it going on.  Maybe I’ll get a chance to meet Chef DeVanzo one of these days and we can talk bikes and food. And then I’ll swipe a goat cheese tartlet when he’s not looking.

GRADE: A-

Velo Bistro Wine Bar
12 N. Broadway
Nyack, NY 10960
845-353-7667

Mima Vinoteca: Pass the Bombolini, Please

I rarely go out for Italian food. Not because I don’t like it — it’s just that many Italian restaurants feel homogenized to me, like they’re all doing similar versions of “101 ways to serve tomato sauce.” So with that said, let’s give thanks for the arrival of Mima Vinoteca, a wine bar and bistro in Irvington that’s serving inspired and soulful Italian cuisine.

I’m all about “cozy”, so my first impression of Mima was, “Ahhhh, this is my kind of restaurant!” The exposed brick, muted lighting and intimate atmosphere make the 75-seat space warm and inviting — a definite home run of a date place (keep it in mind fellas). The rustic feeling translates down to the menu: a phenomenal Italian wine list, imported cheeses, handmade pastas and stick-to-your-ribs meat dishes.

For an appetizer a few of us shared the clams and mussels in a garlic tomato broth.

The clams were deliciously sweet and the broth practically screamed out, “Dunk me with bread!” But there was a problem: the mussels were gritty (definite no-no) and had a slightly fishy odor (even bigger no-no), so I stuck mostly with the clams.

Here’s my entree, braised short ribs with pearl onions, baby carrots and spinach gnocchi.

It’s the middle of June, but I could easily imagine eating this dish on a cold night in the dead of winter. Talk about comfort food.  The meat melted off the bone and the homemade gnocchi were so soft and light; I only wish there were more of them.

But this is what brought me to utter ecstasy.

Don’t you wish you could reach through your computer screen and grab one?? They’re bombolini — sort of like a zeppole (Basically a fried dough ball.  Speaking of round objects, remember the legendary SNL skit where Alec Baldwin plays a character named Pete Schwetty?   Well, the bombolini led to five minutes of jokes…). The outside was warm and golden brown; the inside was soft and slightly sweet from the ricotta fresca mixed in with the dough.  A little powdered sugar on top, some caramel dipping sauce, and it made one hell of a dessert.  I’m about ready to go out and buy a deep fryer so I can whip up a batch of these bad boys.

One moment pretty much summed up the evening. Anthony, who was sitting next to me, ordered the asparagus risotto with salsa verde. He took a bite, paused for a moment and said softly, “This is really good.” I looked over five minutes later and his entire plate was wiped clean, down to the last grain of rice.

“I’m surprised you’re not licking the plate,” I joked.

“If I were at home I probably would,” he said.

Me too.

GRADE: A-

Mima Vinoteca
63 Main St.
Irvington, NY
914-591-1300