Terrain Garden Cafe

561 Post Rd E. Westport, CT 06880 • (203) 226-2732 • shopterrain.com

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As a store this place is lovely. Easily 5 knives. I mean just look at that picture! The setting will charm the pants off of you, so be sure to wear clean underwear. And if you’re decorating your house, your deck or your garden this is essentially Nirvana for Druids.  It’s also Anthropologie’s finest achievement to date, although & Co is opening soon, so TBD on that one. But I don’t do stores, so who gives a squat, right? I review restaurants and as far as this one goes, it could stand for some improvement, to put it mildly. Perhaps the people running the shop should take over the kitchen?

From the café, I thought the chai latte was good enough, but the croissants are crapsants. Chewy and doughy. And dinner doesn’t fare much better, the short ribs were overcooked and the burger and fries were just okay even though it had all the right stuff, from caramelized onions and sticky mushrooms to Swiss and the prerequisite brioche bun. Yet with all that, it somehow still didn’t hit the wow bar. Little Barn down the street has much better burgers if you ask moi.

The burger wasn’t alone though, because even the pear cobbler a la mode was equally lacking in flavor. Fortunately the wine was good and the service friendly, but if you ask me, your money is better spent on rustic pots, topiaries and terrariums.

2 teeth

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Cask Republic

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

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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

Soho House

29 9th Ave. New York, NY 10014 (212) 627-3647 sohohouseny.com

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Although I’m not a member, I’ve been to the New York Soho House several times now (as well as Chicago) and while it is MUCH bigger and more modern than the Norwood, I find the attempts I read online to distinguish them from one another to be a fools errand, because if you ask me, I find them to be VERY similar in terms of vibe. Both are styled in a way that pays homage to a simpler time (pictured), while somehow contrasting that with a modern sense of urgency to be as cool and connected as possible.

This is not to say that I am above the scene, au contraire. In fact, I kinda love it. And if one must join a club of such upward standing, at least it is FAR cooler than some of those stuffier, crustier joints in midtown. Not to mention shockingly affordable, I have to say.

Service has always been very good every time I go, from the bartenders to the wait staff, and although the hosts can be a bit self-important, for the most part even they have been tolerable.

As for the food, I have dined her almost every way imaginable from a simple dinner for four at the restaurant to a huge private dinner with tables the size of aircraft carriers to a cocktail event with passed hors’d’oeuvres. And while all encounters have netted out somewhere between good and decent, I will give you a few of the highlights to keep an eye out for should you happen to find yourself rubbing elbows with the muckety mucks.

Of all the nibbles I’ve partaken over the course of my visits, these are the three worth standing by the kitchen for- First and foremost being the spicy crab cakes, which pack some nice kick for such little suckers. The sliders are also pretty money, and always perfectly cooked, seemingly a challenge for most sliders, being so small, they tend to come out overdone at virtually 90% of the places that serve them. So mad props to Soho on this one. But perhaps the best thing of all was a lentil salad served in a bib lettuce wrap. I know it sounds hard to believe amidst the company of lobster, short ribs and sliders, but I stand by my word. Taste and believe.

A few notches down from those would be the flank steak and fries, the charred broccoli, the short ribs with horseradish cream (mainly because they were a touch dry- flavor was good though), the crostinis, the lobster roll and the Swedish meatballs. And truth be told, the only flat out miss for me is the arancini. The risotto is just way too dry.

So with three winners, one loser and a gaggle of belly fillers, I think it’s safe to net the house out at a strong three. Never stayed in the hotel though, so don’t yell at me if I’m missing the best or worst part of the place. I’m just a the food guy, remember?

3 teeth

 

 

 

 

 

Moderne Barn

430 Bedford Rd. Armonk, NY 10504(914) 730-0001 modernebarn.com

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In truth, I would actually give it 2.5 knives, but Ferocious Foodie don’t play that, so alas, I feel the need to round down out of sheer ferociousness, well, that and because it’s very overpriced for what it is. And what exactly is that? Mediocre, inconsistent execution of seemingly interesting preparations served up in a nice, but noisy dining room that’s perhaps a bit too large for its own good.

So, with the food being all over the map, consider this your culinary Garmin. In terms of liquid starters, I had the Pear Tree Martini, which goes down easier than you can say “I’m sorry occifer. I didn’t realize the stop sign was green.” But as for the more chewable starters, I’ve had the octopus, which is a solid good, although I can’t say it lives up to the rave reviews, especially when you can get better tentacles just right down the street at Fortina.  The broiled Bluepoint oysters with blackberry barbeque sauce, bacon and maytag blue cheese (see what I mean about the preparations sounding good?) are terrible. And whatever my wife’s,  salad was, don’t get that either. It came horribly over-dressed.

As for entrees, I’ve had the short ribs, which are just okay, better when you combine them with the bone marrow mashed potatoes- like biting into a meaty cloud with a smoky finish. The burger also hits the spot with the help of gruyere, caramelized onions and rosemary sea salt fries. But unfortunately, once again, wifey missed with the fig & prosciutto pizza which was a not so distant cousin to cardboard.

Yes, with so many hits and misses you’re bound to feel like Indiana Jones trying not to step on the wrong tile, but fortunately the light at the end of the tunnel arrives at dessert, which is where the Barn shines brightest. Both the Chocolate Hazelnut tart and the Ginger Peach Crumble were excellent! So good they almost make you want to forgive them for all of the other duds… almost.

My advice? Drinks and dessert, and you are golden!

2 teeth

Daniel

60 E 65th St. New York, NY 10065  (212) 288-0033danielnyc.com

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There are so many NYC restaurants that become so hyped that it is virtually impossible to live up to the expectations you have when you walk in the door. Fortunately for me, my expectations were kept in check by a few nay-sayers, which Daniel seems to have its share of.

That said, my experience lived up in spades. First, I actually found the decor to be quite a step up form many of its peers. The dining area is MUCH nicer than Per Se, Jean-Georges & Bouley. And the table we had was amazing, looking out over the entire room.

The canapes were just okay but four out of the six courses were excellent. From the unbelievable short ribs to the duck terrine to the Dover sole and lastly, to the finale, a chocolate, caramel, peanut volcano– Just incredible. Now, I know a lot of people expect that everything should be excellent at a place like this and for prices like these it probably should be, but that’s seldom been my experience and 4 of 6 is pretty damn good.

We also had the wine pairings which I highly recommend. The only one that seemed a touch off was the Dover sole, but so many were spot on and only made the meal that much more special.

And last but not least, the service. This might be my only major nit and I’ve seen other people say it too- The staff really comes off as if they are trying SO hard to be perfect- But they most certainly are not. Reaching across the table, dropping things, taking your plate before you’re done- They need to hire the guy who trains servers at Thomas Keller restaurants.

But apart from that- a must for high-end foodies. Easily one of the top ten meals in NYC.

5 teeth

Lucques

8474 Melrose Ave. West Hollywood, CA 90069 (323) 655-6277lucques.com

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I think the legalization of medical marijuana is the only possible explanation as to how this place got 4 stars on Yelp. Either that or people only voted on the decor and service, both of which are great.

But the food!?! Are you kidding me?! What a waste of taste buds. The best thing we had were the olives & almonds (pictured) that come with the bread. Neither of which they actually make. Everything else was lacking. The ricotta dumpling app being the only solid good. The soft shell crab app being “eh.” The scallop entree tasted fishy and the other flavors in the dish simply didn’t work with the mollusks, better on their own. And the short rib entree was equally underwhelming. Cooked well, but simply lacking flavor. The sum of its seemingly delicious sounding parts netting out to be a heavy mush reminiscent of dog food.

So, why did we order dessert you ask? Because, we were hoping for some form of redemption. Unfortunately, it never came. Both the caramel tart and the creme fraiche cake were as equally bland as everything else.

Guess I should’ve known better as I was equally nonplussed by AOC. Oh well, at least I spared the wife from the disappointment.

2 teeth

Bedford Post

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

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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

Maharlika

111 1st Ave. New York, NY 10003(646) 392-7880maharlikanyc.com

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While I definitely like places like this, a little more down and dirty, away from all the pomp and circumstance of what it means to be fine dining in NYC (which I also love, don’t get me wrong), I found the decor a little too down and a little too dirty. In fact, decor is such an afterthought here, I literally don’t think they thought about it at all. And by sitting us between the bus station and the kitchen, even though we had a reservation, certainly didn’t help. So that explains the docking of one star.

As for the other star, service was fine, so it wasn’t that. It was actually the food. Which pains me to say it, because I also loved it. I think one of the other reviewers had the same criticism, that while ALL of the dishes are filled with terrific flavors, they simply need to up their game on how to cook some of the meat. For example, the spare ribs were a touch dry and the short rib was very dry too. Meanwhile, the oxtail was as moist as can be, more like the short ribs should have been.

As for some of the other dishes, the special shrimp starter was the weakest of everything. No flavor comparatively to other dishes. The pork belly, while good, and an interesting blend of textures, was VERY difficult to eat, because you practically needed a power saw to slice into it. This was perhaps an inflamed issue, because we literally had to ask for knives at the table three times.

Spam fries with banana ketchup were good, but what is the level of difficulty here? You’ve got fatty reconstituted meat battered and deep fried and dipped in sweet ketchup.

Desserts were passable, one being coconut flan, which I’m not a fan of categorically. The other being the Mango cheesecake, which I liked, because the hint of mango gave a lightness to an otherwise heavy dessert. But outstanding it wasn’t.

So, why the three knives then, after all of this bitching and moaning? Because I saved the best for last. The eggplant side dish is just awesome. As is the fried chicken and waffles (pictured)- best I’ve ever had. So perfectly cooked I could honestly go back just for that (okay, and the eggplant).

3 teeth

The Ultimate Short Ribs

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Daniel – New York, NY

I literally remember not a single detail about them other than the fact that post chewing, somehow it was etched in my mind that these where the end-all-be-all ribs of the short variety. Perhaps it’s because I suffered from such an intense foodgasm that I blacked out, lost in a blur of moist, beefy fractals. That or I was really drunk. Whatever it was, they left an indelible impression. Apparently.

Vinegar Hill House – Brooklyn, NY

Everybody comes here for the pork chop ever since Ted Allen went on Best Thing Ever and raved about it, but as much as I loves me a good pork chop, I actually think Little Owl beat them (take note Ted). But sadly, it’s what Ted overlooked that is truly remarkable. Their short rib stew with gorgonzola and roasted veggies is like nothing I’ve ever tasted in my life. Every bite is literally packed with so much flavor it’s enough to give your taste buds A.D.D. It’s not overdone though. It’s perfect. No, it’s beyond perfect. It’s my short rib soul mate.