Cask Republic

99 Washington StNorwalk, CT 06854 • (203) 354-0163 • caskrepublic.com

cask_republic_south_norwalk_2016v1

Located on the hip, main drag in SONO where you have no shortage of cool places to eat, you will find Cask Republic, which I’m not too sure I would ever label as “cool” based on its décor. But compensating for the ambiance Cask pushes the pendulum handily in the other direction when it comes to the consumables.

Kicking things off, the Christmas in Kentucky cocktail is a must get, made with Eagle Rare Bourbon, Luxardo Plum Triple Sec, Fernet (an Italian form of bitters), mulling syrup and even more bitters, of the black walnut variety. Now I’ve never actually spent Xmas in Kentucky, but if this is how they roll, book me a ticket!

For starters wifey and I shared the Bavarian pretzel with cave-aged Amish cheddar and grain mustard ale sauce. It’s not exactly light, but it’s pretty darn good. As are the roasted brussel sprouts with pancetta, carmelized onions and maple glaze.

Also labeled a “small plate” for some bizarre reason, unless you are Gulliver and all this time I’ve been blindly ignorant to the fact that I’m a Lilliputian, the beer braised beef short ribs with grilled bread and an egg yolk on top are a massive triumph. Best thing we had (pictured).

The IPA marinated freebird chicken also held its own, but head to head with the short ribs, it’s no match. Not for a lack of trying though, sexed up with a black truffle risotto and a foie gras demi glaze.

Closing arguments were strong as well, delivering the second best thing we had, two scoops of Big Dipper Ice Cream Factory’s finest. Never heard of it before in my life, and now I’ll never forget it. It was out of this world… and cue the pun groans.

4 teeth

Advertisements

Spoon and Stable

211 N 1st St. Minneapolis, MN 55401(612) 224-9850 •  spoonandstable.com

slide-venison

The food scene in The Mini Apple has officially arrived. Not that there haven’t been gems here and there over years. But now the level of the game has risen so high, at so many restaurants, that I can safely say that Minneapolis can compete with almost any city I’ve ever been to.

Case in point, on a Monday friggin’ night, this place had an hour wait and not an empty seat at the bar. And for good reason. The chef, Gavin Kaysen, is James Beard winner and a former disciple of Daniel Boulud. But not only did he learn a thing or two from Danny Boy, judging from the décor, he picked up a few tricks from Jean-Georges as well, because this place is tres chic. On old horse stable from 1906 turned to gold with white brick walls, wrought iron details, a divided light wine cellar in the center of the dining room, and a long wood bar overlooking the kitchen as a unique twist on a chef’s table, which is where we sat.

Beyond having front row seats to an episode of Iron Chef, the other plus to sitting there is that you not only get recommendations from the waiter, but from the cooks as well. And to quote Quagmire “Giggity, giggity!” were they spot on with their suggestions.

The first reco being a dish we would’ve never thought to order in a million years, yet turned out to be the best of the night, the Autumn Vegetable salad. The centerpiece is an orgasmic disc of squash placed over a bed of spelt berries, pecans and figs that were marinated in red wine vinegar and cloves all pampered in a buttermilk dressing. Need to add this one to Ultimate Salad.

The other recommended starter was pretty damn great too. A bison tartar folded into a harissa aioli and topped with cilantro and radishes. Then served with socca chips as your utensil for piling on the remarkably seasoned meat.

For entrees I had to go with the lamb shank since wifey don’t play that, and while good, it was definitely the most mortal dish of the evening. Fall off the bone moist, and served with yellow eye beans, artichokes and an herb salad that was a bit junipery. The other entrée, however, was a marvel of pasta technological advancement. The Raviolo al Uovo is a single, softball-sized ravioli that contains a sunny side egg inside it! And its magnificence is only magnified by its preparation, with Swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, pecorino and brown butter.

Even the side dish was wow-worthy taking an old staple like creamed spinach and making it new again with the addition of a Midwestern guilty pleasure, fried cheese curds.

And finally, the pumpkin custard dessert was an awesome seasonal finish to a meal that won’t soon be forgotten. The custard itself being just okay, but when you had with the apple cider sherbet and the candied pepitas (pumpkin seeds)- look out!

Just eat here already would you! So I don’t have to keep going on and on about it. And I’m not just saying all of this because of the Willet bourbon and Amarone are making me all lovey-dovey. Although it is helping.

5 teeth

Norman’s

4012 Central Florida Pkwy Orlando, FL 32837(407) 393-4333 • normans.com

MONGO+VEAL

Oh Yelpers, I find it laughable that you compare the service here to the likes of the French Laundry. I have been to both and it’s like comparing Michael Jordan to some guy who owns a basketball. The sommelier , while good, was an apprentice as opposed to a master. The waitress and back servers made several mistakes including taking away a plate while my friend was still chewing and leaving a newly presented dish go unexplained. I think you’re letting the fact that it’s in a Ritz Carlton fool you. Now I’m not deducting a knife or anything for this, but I am calling bullshit on the “impeccable” service.

And as for the romantic décor, it isn’t. It’s nice. But you can’t help but notice you are in an expansive hotel wing.

But don’t think this is another bash session on Yelpers, after all, they got a few things right. For example, the Yucca stuffed shrimp with habanero was very good. I expected a little more heat from the dish, but it’s still definitely worth ordering. Another great recommendation was the pork belly served with an artichoke puree, brussel sprouts and a sherry reduction. Best thing we ordered. And finally the key lime cheesecake was another solid call from the Yelping contingent.

But here’s what they missed:

The ciabatta bread is insanely good, tasting more like a beignet than ciabatta to me, but no complaints there. Just try to control yourself or you’ll never make it to dessert. I know, I sound like your mother.

Another miss is the consensus of praise for the fried green tomatoes. I’m guessing most of these people have never had the dish before because it’s typically savory and even a touch tart. Whereas Norman’s serves it in a tempura batter with a tomato jam on top that turns the dish decidedly sweet, which isn’t to say it was bad, but when you order an iconic dish, your mouth starts to prepare itself for a certain set of expected flavors, so to zag so drastically from it just didn’t work for me.

And the biggest infraction of the night was the chicken. So overcooked and dry it was humiliating… for the chicken. To have died in vain for such poor performance is a poultry tragedy. And while the preparation surrounding it was nice, it was brought down by its headliner.

The second biggest miss came right on the heels of the chicken, with the Havana Banana dessert. And normally I’m bananas about bananas, but this dish is so unworthy of the hype I almost want to hunt down the Yelpers who touted it and pull out their tongues because they obviously aren’t using them properly.

Funny enough, however, the free dessert that comes with your check was the best of the lot. The dark chocolate, hazelnut truffles are incredible. Great way to end a good meal. And while I am only giving it three knives, it’s definitely better than Primo across the way, which I also gave three knives. So consider this an honorary three and a half.

3 teeth

Bedford Post

954 Old Post Rd. Bedford, NY 10506(914) 234-7800 • bedfordpostinn.com

Bedford_Post_Bedford_Grilling_Recipe

Chances are if you are thinking of heading here you already know the whole Richard Gere thing. And about the farm to table spin. So, let me just cut to the chase- The food is VERY good. If I was just rating the food and decor (which is fantastic- modern meets country barn) than I would have probably gone so far as four knives, because everything we had tasted SO incredibly fresh. Simple dishes, but the ingredients are always impeccable. We ate lunch at the Barn and ordered from the Market Fresh Menu, which consisted of a grain salad, a mussels in broth entree and an apple pie for dessert. The apple pie was the only thing that was just so-so.

Now for the rub. The service is horrendous and slow. Granted everyone is extremely nice, which is pleasant- but when they constantly have to be asked repeatedly for things and leave dirty plates in front of you for 30 minutes, being nice only goes so far.

Additionally, I have also eaten dinner at the higher end Farmhouse. And again, the food was excellent for the most part. And again, the service was spotty. So it seems to be their MO.

The short ribs, the ravioli filled with creme fraiche and the brussel sprouts were among the show-stoppers. The fact that no bread came to our table for an HOUR and that the wine didn’t arrive until the last bite of our appetizers- that was the fourth knife stopper. It really leaves me scratching my head why they can’t they seem to get the service thing down. In either restaurant! Seems like such an easy one to nail, but it is SO bad that it truly detracts from the rest of the experience, otherwise this would be an easy 4 knives.

3 teeth

No. 7 Sub

1188 Broadway New York, NY 10001(212) 532-1680 • no7sub.com

sandwich-a-day-no-7-sub-brisket-chinese-mustard-pickled-mushrooms-flatiron-new-york-ny

Okay, I’ve been here about 100 times without exaggeration, so suffice it to say that I kind of like it. But to be fair, it can be very hit and miss, so here is a little guidance to help you weed out the winners from the losers…

Décor is virtually non-existent  as the place is pretty much just a counter. Service is also relatively minimal as a result. So it’s basically a grab and go dynamic. That said, the sandwiches really are something special. Such unusual combinations and creative uses of ingredients abound, like the lamb meatloaf with strawberry pico de gallo and curry, the bologna, which is very good- but insanely thick and hearty. The brussel sprouts with granny smith apples, which is nice in the summer. The broccoli, which some people swear by, but I find to be just okay. The chicken guac- which tastes like a lot like a chicken burrito in sandwich form. And, a veggie burger that tastes like a dead ringer for a Big Mac.  But while the place is capable of incredible culinary wizardry, they unfortunately mix in enough duds to make you want to cling to the tried and true, for example the eggplant parm (now a zucchini parm), voted by New York Magazine as one of the top 100 sammy’s in the city and it is truly all of that and a bag of chips. In fact, those chips make it onto the sandwich itself and that sandwich quite handily makes it makes it onto my own personal Top 20! Best eggplant parm sub I have ever had. Granted, an unusual take on the classic, so traditionalists beware. This baby has pickled jalapeños and barbeque potato chips in it. Yes, you heard correct. Chips on an egg parm. Crazy, but man does it work!

Apart from that, there has only been one other sub to reach epic status like the parm, the roast beef with garlic and mint – quite possibly roast beef’s highest achievement on this Earth.

Some sides of note would be the spicy muchim pickles and the pineapple gazpacho. Skip the moon cookies. All in all, so close to 4 knives for me, and if you stick to the winners it would easily be that, but because they are woefully inconsistent over time, I gotsta go three. “And that’s all I have to say about that.” -Forest Gump

3 teeth