Morano Gelato

57 S Main StSte 101 – Hanover, NH 03755 • (603) 643-4233 • moranogelato.com
When our friends implored that we simply must go to this “amazing” gelato place in Hanover, you can imagine that this was met with a healthy dose of ferocious skepticism. I didn’t tell them this at the time, obviously, but they read the blog, so I guess the jig is up.

Well, I’ll be damned, because it just might be the best gelato I’ve ever had. The Almond Rum Crunch being an Ultimate and a firm glove across the face of lesser gelato peddlers. You heard me Grom! I don’t think I have ever tasted the presence of the rum in any other ice cream that bears its name like did at Morano. Just wow.

In fact, this place was so good, I made my friend take me back for seconds! Not on the same day mind you. I do have someself-control.

My only gripe on day two is that about 80% of the flavors changed, which has its plusses, but the loss of Almond Rum Crunch was a rough one for me, I’m not gonna lie. Still going through the loss, so I kinda don’t wanna talk about it right now. Need my space.

Fortunately, Morano crushes it on a bevy of other flavors like the Dark Chocolate which is so rich it probably doesn’t get hit with the AMT.

Equally strong, but wildly different is the Wild berries flavor, bursting with fruity brightness that leaps off of your spoon into your mouth. Same can almost be said for the Black Raspberry, but it’s a touch less unique, so I wouldn’t quite put it at the same level.

Of the nutty persuasion I gotta give it to Pistachio. Always a gelato crowd pleaser and Morano handily delivers. The hazelnut is also strong, but just not quite as flavor-forward as its greener compadre.

On par with the nutters I would place the Espresso, which manages to toe the line masterfully between creamy dessert and powerful coffee kick, paying faithful homage to the drink from which it hails.

A notch down from there would be the Stratacca or Chocolate chip. It’s still VERY good mind you, but when you are choosing amongst diamonds, gold starts to lose a bit of its luster. You feel me?

In fact, the only two flavors that were just okay for me were White Chocolate and the

Strawberry, Nutella Crunch. I know, right? Would’ve expected those to be winners too, but it’s kinda hard to complain when so many other flavors are lit.

Not too shabby for a woman who just decided to visit Italy for a few months to learn how to make gelato and winds up schooling everyone!

Oh, and if you don’t live anywhere near Hanover, fret not. She has two other locations. One in Chestnut Hill, MA and the other in Westfield, NJ. Sadly, there are none near Westport, CT, but I’m working on that. 😉

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Mecha Noodle Bar

1215 Post RdFairfield, CT 06824 • (203) 292-8222 • mechanoodlebar.com
 

This just might be the most happenin’ strip mall in America. You’ve got Brick + Wood, Milkcraft and then right next door to that you’ve got Mecha. And all three are so damn good that they all have a long, damn wait.

Wait aside, Mecha is like Mecca for ramen. Worth the pilgrimage for great food. The décor is pretty cool as well, marked by the simple touch of 2×4’s dangling overhead to connote noodles. They’ve also cracked the code between kid-friendly and adult crowds, but sadly this secret is out, so there’s pretty much a wait no matter when you go, unless you just happen to hit the seam between rushes.

For those of you visiting from Westport on south, you’re probably wondering how it stacks up to Kawa Ni. Quite well, I would say, although very different vibes. I’d say Mecha is much more casual and high energy, whereas Kawa Ni is more intimate and adult skewed.

The menu is more noodle-based than Kawa Ni though, but very tasty in its own right. We started with a pair of Thai Iced Teas and the roasted mushroom dumplings, which were excellent, particularly with the brown butter miso sauce.

For noodles, I went with the Pho Shore, which as the name implies is loaded with seafood and other goodies. Speaking of which, be very careful with the thai chili add on. I like heat and this kicked my ass.

Wifey was smarter (as usual) and put the heat control in her own hands, opting for the Veggie Ramen and Sriracha on the side. This was also very good and we will definitely be going back. At an odd hour.

A very, VERY strong 3 knives for Mecha. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Milkcraft is right next door for dessert.

Walrus & Carpenter

2895 Fairfield AveBridgeport, CT 06605 • (203) 333-2733 • walruscarpenterct.com

This is going to sound like a bad porno plot, but after having done Rothbard in Westport, I couldn’t wait do the sister. I mean this in the most culinary sense, of course. After all, this is family blog. Okay, so maybe a highly profane, very disturbed family with kids in need of therapy, but a family nonetheless.

So back to Walrus & Carpenter. I mean, the name alone had me. It just sounded cool. And to know that this was the older sis just had me all the more intrigued.  Unfortunately, in the restaurant there are no walruses or carpenters to speak of, although the predominant wood paneling does suggest that at least at one time there were in fact carpenters on the premises.

Like her sister, Walrus is also a gastropub, but unlike her younger sibling, she is much more hit and miss. For example, I found the heirloom tomato salad with fennel, arugula and almonds to be quite good. Whereas the fried oysters with lemon-shallot aioli, while tasty, was so over breaded that you could taste nothing of the mollusk, essentially netting out as fried balls of batter dipped in sauce.

Speaking of fried and battered things, the chicken is quite good. Cooked moist-ilicious and jazzed up with a spicy-sweet combination that makes it better than your average bird.

The gnocci and the pulled pork sandwich, however, were both the epitome of average. Bland as balsa wood, not that I’ve eaten a lot of balsa before, but I’d imagine it’s even worse than melba toast. For a better pulled pork sammy I’d head to Q in Portchester.

But just when I was about to get all down on Walrus they showed that they are more than just whiskers and tusks, bouncing back with some strong baby back ribs.

We were too full by that point to get dessert though, but thanks to the rally I think we’ll be back to check out their sweets game.

Barcelona

971 Farmington AveWest Hartford, CT 06107 • (860) 218-2100 • barcelonawinebar.com

If the Bar Taco next door is anywhere near as good as the one in Westport, CT, then I’m not sure why you would go here unless, like the one in Westport, the wait for a table is just way too crazy long.

Okay, I lied. For brunch, there is one other reason I can think of, the DIY Bloody Mary table. Just pick your vodka (Tito’s), then choose your base mix. Sriracha, Horseradish, Chipotle or Black Pepper. Then load that baby up with virtually anything your heart desires. Bacon, cornichon, olives, celery, bell peppers, papadew peppers, marinated mushrooms, pearl onions, cauliflower, cheese, pickles… this could take a while. Seriously. The table is that bountiful.

But apart from the Bloody Mary’s and a couple other dishes, it’s a bit of a letdown. The sangria is so watery it doesn’t even pack the punch of grape juice. The meatballs owe an apology to the cow that died in vain.

Equally disappointing was the lamb chop with romesco and arugula. First they served it raw. Then they served it eh.

The pulpo (octopus) with smoked paprika is just okay, but if you know me and how much I like octopus, for me to be so tepid can only mean one thing, skip it.

Also located in the okay corral are the mixed greens with manchego & pistachios, the Brussels sprouts, the broccolini and much to my chagrin, the veggie paella loaded with eggplant, sprouts, peppers, asparagus and disappointment.

The winners, while sparse, could add up to a decent meal, though, if you played your cards (and ordered) right. For example I found the Mushrooms a la Plancha to be pretty darn tasty. Made with crimini, shitake and button. The Patatas Brava where also bravo, zazzed up with salsa brava and a garlic aioli. And since I’ve never met a charcuterie and cheese board I didn’t like, let’s throw that in too.

But if you’re like me and good isn’t good enough, your options dwindle further still, to only two dishes. The jamon and manchego croquettes and the chorizo with sweet and sour figs in a balsamic glaze. The latter being the best thing of the lot. And as you can see, we tried a LOT.

Farmers Table

 

12 Forest St. New Canaan, CT 06840 • (203) 594-7890

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With a name like Farmers Table I guess I was expecting a little more hardcore quaintness (a strange coupling of words if ever there was one), but it’s not for a lack of trying, it’s more that they come up short. Guess I was expecting something more like The Dressing Room formerly in Westport (RIP).

Interior decorating skills aside, the Farmer’s Table also came up short in the kitchen, starting off with a promising, fresh, well balanced mango, strawberry, arugula salad that was quite good. Unfortunately they brought it back down with a breadbasket that was not-so fresh.

Then there was the jerk pork, which was decent, but a bit over-cooked and a lot under jerked. And finally, the Shrimp Mojo, a dish inspired by Austin Powers (kidding) proving to be better than the pork, but alas, still flawed being that it is overly sweet to the point where it could be off-putting to some. Fortunately I would not be numbered among them as I have a pretty insatiable sweet tooth.

Gripes aside, if you go early the place is good for kids and the food is better than most places you’d probably take them in the vicinity.

2 teeth

Shake Shack

Madison Square Park New York, NY10010(212) 889-6600shakeshack.com

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Once upon a time, this was easily 5 knives. I mean the Shack Stack (a fried portabello cap stuffed with cheese atop a beef patty) was hands down the best fast food burger I had ever had. But that was back when the Shack was just a shack. Before they expanded to Grand Central, the Upper West Side, Westport, Connecticut and Istanbul, Turkey. It’s the classic case of “how big do you get before you get bad.”

Well, having been back a gaggle of times between now and 2004, I can officially say they have reached it. My how far we have fallen Mr. Meyer. And while the Shack may have upped its game again for its recent 10 year anniversary, it’s right back to its old habits. Which is sad, because in its hay day it truly was worth waiting in that absurd line. A line so HUGE that if you were strolling through New York City and happened upon it, you would think someone was giving away free money. A line I, myself once waited in, and I don’t do lines. Shit, I even cut the line at the Vatican to get into the Cistine Chapel. And yes, if there’s a Hell I’m most likely going to have front row seats.

Oh, and speaking of Hell, as long as you were halfway to dying of a heart attack after that burger, another must was their black and white shake. I mean it is called the SHAKE Shack after all. So thick and creamy you could literally feel it dragging your stomach down to your feet. And then you obviously had to have the fries with it… I’m feeling dejafull just typing this.

3 teeth

Bar Taco

20 Wilton Rd. Westport, CT 06880 • (203) 222-8226 bartaco.com

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I’ve been wanting to try this place for a while, granted the Port Chester location, because I didn’t even know this one existed. So, the hype-factor was dangerously high.

Fortunately Bar Taco rose to the occasion and surpassed it. Everything was on point. Even the service, which seems to get dinged a lot in other reviews. Maybe the managers listened and hired some new staff? Anyways, no complaints. They were even attentive to the kids. The only thing that took an unusual amount of time was the dessert, but the waiter kept checking in with us to tell us it was coming. Seemed like the kitchen had fallen behind with the sudden rush, so hard to blame the waiter.

As for food, it is VERY worthy. For example, starters like the salsa verde were among the best I’ve had. The corn is also something pretty special. The chips however, while adequate, are just chips. As is the guac and the chipotle slaw.

Then there are the tacos, of course. We had many and here is how they fared by stars:
Duck – 5 Stars
Pork Belly – 4 stars
Portabella – 4 stars
Rib-eye – 3 stars
Vercruz fish – 3 stars
Fried Oyster – 3 stars
Baha fish – 2 stars

I feel the need to caveat that the tacos are very small and that we are not a bunch of gluttonous pigs (you need 3 to 5 per person). I also feel the need to caveat that the duck is SO good that when I go back I’m getting three of those and a portabella.

Dessert was also money. The chocolate tamale with vanilla ice cream vanished from the plate like a porterhouse in a pool of piranha.

And last, but certainly not least, the Bar Taco Margarita. Nicely done. A smooth, artful blend with an alcohol kick. If I didn’t have to drive home I would have easily had another.

Oh, the setting didn’t hurt either. Sitting outside overlooking the river- it was the perfect end to a nice day at the beach. Only further solidifying my strong desire to move to Westport one day.

4 teeth