Sono Baking Company

44 Church LnWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 557-8626 • sonobaking.com

I can’t say I looooove Sono Bakery, but they definitely have far better croissants than Isabella et Vincent which everyone seems to tout. Guess I’m just spoiled by the ones I used to get at La Tulipe in Mt. Kisco, NY where I used to live. Although, to be fair, that was pretty stiff competition, because those croissants were world-class. Then again, to be fair in the other direction, Patisserie Florentine in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, and even the friggin’ Croissant Gourmet (terrible name) in Winter Park, FL both have much superior croissants, so I’m not sure what the problem is here in Westport, a town that has no shortage of amazing restaurants.

But before I get off on a rant (TM Dennis Miller), Sono has lots of merits. The first being that it’s more than just a bakery, offering a full menu of made-to-order breakfast and brunch options. Plus, the seating area and vibe inside is pretty cool, granted the parking situation outside is not. No parking lot and most of the street parking is off limits for one reason or another, making it feel more reminiscent of Manhattan than Westport. So personally, I recommend walking or biking if you’re close enough, it’ll help burn off what you’re about to eat.

And now for the BIGGEST reason to come here, two words; Monkey Bread. Yes, the Monkey Bread, or more like “money bread” steals the show. Dense and dripping with frosting. It’s worth a parking ticket, it’s so damn sintastic. I also dig their cranberry zucchini muffin for a less sweet option that’s nice and moist and can help balance things out if you go splitsies with someone on one of the sweeter options. #bestofbothworlds

La Boulangerie par Jean Luc Pelé

104 boulevard Sadi Carnot06110 Le Cannet, France • +33 4 93 45 36 32 • www.jeanlucpele.com/fr/

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Located on a tiny, pedestrian-only rue, sits this bakery/grab-and-go café with a few tables outside and pretty decent looking pre-prepared food. For example, the roasted veggie sandwich on a long narrow focaccia roll filled with peppers, mushrooms, zucchini and squash, dressed with a pesto spread looked mighty tasty from the other side of that glass case. But after taking a bite, I was quickly reminded that even in France, pre-prepared food that’s been sitting around in a case is seldom life-changing. So don’t be Francophooled.

Also, along with the sandwich, I tried a cup of their avocado gazpacho, which sounded and looked very intriguing. Sadly, the flavor of avocado was quite absent, or taste in general, for that matter. Perhaps the sweets are better.

All in all, it’s not terrible, but why settle when you can just head to Cocoon around the corner- it’s less than a two minute walk and easily two to three knives better. Plus the name is a lot shorter and easier to pronounce.

2 teeth

Chingu

1107 Broadway New York, NY 10010(917) 647-5911chingunyc.com

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Let me just say that I am a Bigbimbap fan. In fact, I like it virtually any way it comes. With beef. Pork. Raw fish. Chicken. Tofu. I like it every way but bad. And unfortunately Chingu, despite it being very close to the name of one of my favorite beers in the world (Xingu), served up about the only bap that I thought was bibimblah. In fact my wife makes MUCH better at home. So don’t get lured in by the booth at Broadway Bites, either that or be sure to douse it with healthy amounts of Sriracha. Fortunately there are so many better options to be had at the other booths, not to mention Koreatown.

2 teeth

L’Amico

Eventi Hotel • 851 6th Ave. New York, NY 10001 • (212) 201-4065 • lamico.nyc

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The best the Evanti hotel has to offer. Forget Lupulo and Vine, L’Amico is where it’s at. And yes, I just ended a sentence with a preposition. I’m bat-shit crazy like that.

Apart from the overly sweet Arnie Palmer, there really wasn’t a miss to be had, starting with the special summer appetizer, the zucchini pasta. It was, well, very light and summery. But still fresh and full of flavor.

On the heavier side, the prosciutto and artichoke sandwich with mayo and harissa is L’Awesome! Also on the heavier side, but just not quite as good, is the sopressata pizza. It holds its own, but it just wasn’t that interesting, compared to everything else.

3 teeth

Sessanta

60 Thompson St. New York, NY 10012 • (212) 219-8119sessantanyc.com

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Not all that long ago if you saw a restaurant located in a hotel it was like the kiss of death. But that was before the likes of Maialino, NOMAD and Dirty French. So, when I heard all the rave reviews about this new place in the Thompson Hotel I said to myself, “Self, let’s add it to the list.”

Now, it just so happens that it wasn’t on the list for very long though, because I just recently had a business dinner there and got to see whether it was all that or all hype.

The hotel itself is rather quaint, like the street it’s on, but the restaurant is actually rather sizeable winding around corners and bars with its soothing wood, ribbon walls that almost give it a midcentury vibe.

Off on the wrong foot, we embarked with a Brunello that was very strong on the tannins almost to the breaking point, which didn’t do the food any favors, because it really didn’t complement a single dish. And it’s a shame too, because most of the food could’ve benefited from a little help.

Among the starters in need were the tuna crudo, which was what one might expect from a tuna crudo. Nothing more. Nothing less. Well, maybe except for the additions of zucchini and caper berries, neither of which moved the needle in either direction.

But far guiltier of not moving the needle were the beef tongue sliders, which were so surprisingly bland it felt like you were being cheated out of the gluttony you thought you were buying into.

Also on the bland list I would put the highly revered Struncatura Spaghetti (AKA Peasant Pasta). I had heard from friends and blogs alike that it was exploding with flavor. The saltiness of the anchovies, the heat of the chilies, the heat and saltiness of the neonata (a condiment from Calabria made from baby fish). But I guess the chef must’ve imploded under the pressure of serving the Ferocious Foodie, because what I got out of this dish was neo-nada. Go with the lamb ragu. It’s so much better. More on that later.

Moving up a notch from bland was the marinated calamari with puffed black rice and crunchy celery hearts, which proved to be a textural stroke of genius, contrasting greatly with the squid and making what could’ve been yet another snore just passably interesting. But even with that said, I would still opt for the braised octopus with couscous, apricots and turmeric. It was tender, flavorful and apart from the meatballs, the only thing I would ever order again.

Speaking of the meatballs (pictured), they are pretty amazing. Easily the best thing on the menu. But these ain’t your run of the mill balls. They’re made with spicy Italian sausage, red peppers and Sicilian honey, which almost acts like a candied coating, creating a hard outer shell, locking in the juices. But the true magic is when that honey and heat coalesce in your mouth to create a sonata of sumptuousness.

The other high point of the meal was the Tagghiarini (lamb ragu) pasta, made unique with crunchy bits of baked ricotta salata. The flavors of the ragu were bursting, the cheese was crunching- So then why isn’t it something I would order again, you ask? Because after a few bites the crunchy gimmick passes novelty and starts to become distracting and dare I say off-putting. Like crunchy bugs or burnt bits of lamb floating in your sauce. It’s great as a shared dish, but to commit to an entire bowl yourself is a bit overkill on the crunch.

Dessert also proved to be a tale of two Sessantas with the peach cake coming out dry and worthless. Whereas the cream filled puffs, an Italian take on profiteroles, were a far superior way to end your meal.

So, in all fairness, Sessanta is probably a three knifer, but because of all the hype, being lauded as one of the best new openings in New York according to Thrillist, it is teetering precarious on the edge of two, because apparently they have already started to slide. C’est la vie, as they say not in Italy.

3 teeth

Bellizzi

153 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY10549 • (914) 241-1200bellizzifood.com

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If you are just going for pizza, be warned that without kids you will likely find this place to be hell on Earth. It’s part arcade, part romper room- oh, and part pizzeria. But if you order delivery, none of that really matters, now does it? All that matters is the food. And to be fair, that’s usually all that matters. After all, I’d rather eat an incredible meal in a hovel than a crappy meal in a castle.

So, shocking as it may be, this garish, kid-laden eyesore actually manages to serve up a pretty mean pie. My favorite being their namesake, the Bellizzi Special with lemon thyme crust, roasted peppers, zucchini, herbs, and a killer sauce- My wife and I were both extremely impressed. Better than 80% of the pies you get in Manhattan.

Beyond that pie, however, the drop off is steep. And if you don’t have kids I strongly urge that you head elsewhere for your pizza-fix. In the immediate area I recommend Old Stone Trattoria or surprisingly Village Social. Both have solid pies, without the cheese… meaning cheesy decor. The pies obviously have cheese.

2 teeth

Westchester Burger Co.

106 Westchester Ave. White Plains, NY 10601 •  (914) 358-9398westchesterburger.com
353 N Bedford Rd. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 •  (914) 218-3200

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Please don’t take these three knives lightly. I mean these guys custom season every burger to match its accoutrements. And as a result, there are burgers on the menu that easily make their way into the four knife realm. The problem, is that there are a lot of two knife burgers as well. And the sweet potato fries that everybody raves about are just “eh.” If you really want sweet potato fries to rock your world, go to Blue Smoke in Manhattan. Also, the shakes, while good, get by more on the guilty add-ins as opposed to the ice cream base.

But back to some of those four knife burgers… Numero uno would be the Napa Burger- WOW! Almost every time I don’t get this, I regret it. Fortunately it’s too big for my wife to finish, so I usually get a few bites anyways. So what makes this burger so good it guaranteed a return visit all on its own? Well, first, they marinate the patty in a Zinfandel sauce and top it with goat cheese and watercress- all aboard a sweet brioche bun. It’s somethin’ special.

Another high would be the Ba Da Bing, made with spicy Italian sausage, as opposed to ground beef, broccoli rabe, provolone, balsamic glaze all atop a focaccia bun. It’s quite inventive and quite good.

And coming in third for me would be the lamb burger served with squash and zucchini, a yogurt sauce and once again, focaccia. They can go a little crazy with the sauce on this one, so I’d recommend asking them to go light or to put it on the side.

In the middle of the road would be their namesake, the TWC – their classic with a twist, or as I like to call it, a high end Whopper. Good, but nothing I would ever order again.

Same goes for the Graziella, The Balboa and The Firehouse. Just nothing about any of them makes a big enough impression to make it worth ordering again. Especially the Firehouse. I mean with a name like that, you’re expecting some heat. C’mon, break out the habaneros or jalapenos or chili peppers- hell, break out something other than just chili.

Service was friendly and fast and they are always great with the kids. Decor is nothing THAT special, however. Not sure why so many people rave about how cool it is. Guess they don’t spend much time in the city… or at Chipotle. It’s not bad, don’t get me wrong, but it’s pretty normal by my standards. Like a Chipotle.

3 teeth

Vinegar Hill House

72 Hudson Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11201(718) 522-1018vinegarhillhouse.com

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Two words: Short ribs. My God! I know everyone raves about the chop, but my wife and I had them side by side and the chop paled by comparison. Served as a stew with a medley of vegetables and Gorgonzola, it was one dreamy bite after another and among the best short rib dishes I’ve ever had. And what an incredible feat to put out such mastery from a kitchen the size of a walk-in closet.

As a whole, everything was excellent that first meal. I had the octopus app and wifey had the watermelon salad. Both solid. Then the mains came, and we know who won that battle (see above).  But the okra & zucchini side we got was also pretty killer.

And for dessert, the Guinness Chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting held it’s own as well, managing to satiate our sugar cravings, but without being all that sweet necessarily. Tempered by the beer I suppose. Oh, speaking of booze, even our cocktails were quite good.

In fact, the only nits we had were it’s location, which isn’t the most convenient on Earth, and the hostess who is often sporting a bit of a tude. Upon returning, however, a bit of spottiness has arisen. The menu has changed to be much more hit and miss, but when it comes to the pork entrees they still seem to know how to wow you just enough to keep you coming back.

So, in summary, what might’ve been five knives once upon a time has slid to four. It’s still fantastic and totally worth the wait, as they don’t take reservations, but the misses as of late have pulled it back a hair from perfection.

4 teeth