Monday, August 27, 2018

The Stamford Restaurant Chronicles: Mexicue

I’d like to meet the person who invented the 5-day workweek. Anyone with such bad judgement as to think that adults can get through that type of repetition without a break must have the type of terrible judgement of somebody that you’d want to party in Vegas with. Nearly 10 years in the workforce and I still can’t manage. You wake up Monday morning filled with all of the intention of eating healthy, getting your exercise in, sleeping The Full 8 and then life happens. Making it halfway through the week feels as good of a reason to celebrate as any.

Having recently discovered that my gal pal Val works in Stamford, it didn’t take long for us to come to the agreement on the idea of monthly dinners. Being a Harbor Point resident, I was all too happy to walk over to Mexicue for what would by my third visit. 

On the night before the restaurant opened, they invited all Harbor Point Residents to have a sneak peek of the food and when it came time to bring the bill, they announced to us that all drinks and food at the preview were FREE. I will tell you what, at first – I was blown away by that. I immediately took to the restaurant, which is a good thing as my bedroom window is about 10 feet away from the place.

Visit 2 was far less remarkable. My Mom and I sat outside and the weather was the best part of the experience. We managed to rack up a bill over $100 for 3 drinks, 4 tacos and a small guacamole. Here’s the thing about Mexicue though, it has tremendous curb appeal. It’s trendy and I suspect most people who see it want to go at least once.

In sitting down for visit #3, Valerie revealed to me her inspiring habit of ordering menu items denoted as seasonal for the simple fact that they are limited time only and that she likes to mix it up. I thought that was super fun and adventurous and she put her money where her mouth was when she ordered her cucumber margarita. Trying it, I found it to be extremely potent of the green vegetable and viscous. Val said she found it refreshing and from the picture you can see the drink was really something else.

I am a woman with a weakness for a frozen margarita with salt and after seeing it on their menu, I was disappointed to hear that they actually don’t carry frozen margaritas after all. If that’s the case, maybe re-print the menu? I ended up settling on the house margarita with salt on the rocks and it was on the syrupy side. I’d still get it again (re: weakness), but it was more of a sticky dessert than a chance to get my buzz on. Round 2 was Modelo on draft and that was very cold and enjoyable.

Service was attentive, but we had a good laugh because at the start of our meal, the waiter had his button-down shirt unbuttoned to a notable degree. By the end of the meal, he had undone several other buttons as the night went along. No idea what that was all about but Val said it made her think of this and she was spot on:

To start, we kept it spicy and went with an order of jalapeno guacamole. Normally I would shy away from getting anything spicy at a Mexican restaurant, but this place isn’t your “authentic” Mexican cuisine but rather your trendy Tex-Mex. The chips and guacamole were on point. Extra points because they didn’t awkwardly make it table-side. The heat was pleasant and the avocados tasted fresh.

Every time I eat here, I always feel compelled to order the Romaine Lettuce cups instead of the taco shells, after eating the equivalent of a bag of tortilla chips to start and each time I find my meal to be mediocre at best. On this visit, I got one smoky chicken taco which had slaw, creamy chipotle sauce, pico de gallo and cojita cheese and the cheese was the best part;  seemingly sweet and freshly shredded. The chicken was dried out and supplemented by an overabundance of the chipotle sauce. 

My second taco was the Wild Rock Shrimp which consisted of slaw, sliced mango, salsa verde, creamy chipotle and cilantro. Marginally, the shrimp taco was the better of the two. Part of Val’s order was the BLT Taco and the bacon was so flavorful and thick cut that it would be on my list to order for my next visit.

The view from the restaurant is gorgeous and sometimes a margarita is exactly the fuel you need to get you over the hump to face the end of the week.

15 Harbor Point Rd
Stamford, CT 06902

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Stamford Restaurant Chronicles: ZAZA Italian Gastrobar

With my new dedication to eat my way through Stamford’s food offerings, it gave me the perfect excuse to go to my second favorite restaurant in this town - Zaza’s. I really love everything about this place and with that lens, I may be a bit biased here – but that’s the beauty of writing my own blog. The devil may care, but I do not.

My friend Ali is always good for a trip to Zaza and half a bottle of red wine, so on a Thursday night without a reservation we arrived at 7:15 and were seated immediately. I remember a few years ago that the restaurant was considerably more packed at dinner, so hopefully this isn’t an indication that it’s falling out of favor.

The atmosphere is generally really trendy and appealing in a way a bistro in NYC would strike me. On this occasion, the weather outside was extremely hot and the temperature was in no way moderated on the inside either. It was fine for a girl’s dinner, but if it was a date situation you might find yourself displeased with how sweaty everyone would be before the entrée was delivered to the table. The other thing that struck us as weird was the abundance of red lighting. You can see in this picture it was on the next level.

We started our meal off with a bottle of wine and the host was very welcoming in discussing the options available. The tables are communal, with only a small divider allowing for communication with other parties if both groups should desire.

As an appetizer, we ordered roasted truffle sprouts which are Brussel sprouts in a honey truffle sauce topped with almond slivers. When I come here, I always order this and it’s such a delectable balance of deeply fried greens with a sweet and savory sauce. To be frank, after my meal I experienced something close to a belly ache and that was likely from the decadence of this app, but almost entirely worth it.

For my meal, I ordered the Rosemary Wild Salmon described as using Lemon and rosemary infused oil, served with sautéed spinach and roasted potatoes. I am not a big potato girl, so I asked for double spinach. The spinach itself also struck me as considerably fried so the entire meal tasted delicious. Salmon was cooked perfectly and I ran out of room before I was able to eat as much of the meal as I wanted.

It’s always a homerun at Zaza’s.

Zaza Italian Gastrobar
122 Broad St
Stamford, CT 06901

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Stamford Restaurant Chronicles: Fin II

After 8.5 years of working in the same suburban office park in the northern corner of Stamford, my office has finally moved. Nearly everything about the office’s new location is a pain, with the exception of one thing; the plethora of restaurant options now available to me for lunch. No more being forced into spending $9.50 at the pathetic Riverbend Cafeteria for me, no sir. Also, it really helps that our new office is under construction with no refrigeration available so there’s no guilt to be felt for the additional reckless expense of dining out in the middle of the day.

Walking around downtown, there are dozens of food options to choose from along with plenty of temporary art statues on the street to play around with. At our old location, I would exercise every day during my lunch break, so there’s a real novelty to getting out of the office mid-day for a new experience. All smiles here.

Now working over on Broad Street and not feeling brave enough to endanger myself by going to Curly’s Diner, my colleague and I settled in Fin II because I am preferential to Sushi when I can. We came here on a weekday for their lunch special and I settled on their salmon poke bowl with brown rice and spicy ponzu sauce. I am generally a huge fan of Poke and was surprised to see the long list of ingredients in the dish. I asked that they leave off the kidney beans and tobiko. Honestly, kidney beans at an Asian restaurant? A quick google search and I now know that kidney beans are native to Peru. Very strange.

The salmon itself was actually quite good and the spicy ponzu sauce was on point.. Normally, I am not a big mango fan but the waitress remembered my order in her head, without pen and paper so I was afraid the third omission might have made for some sort of error. Another thing to note is that this dish is not available on their online menu at this time. My coworker, who came with me was given avocado without asking for it and subsequently charged an additional $1.00.

The interior of the restaurant is dark and on the worn side and the restaurant was one notch above feeling grossed out about the cleanliness for me. That being said, the service was efficient and exactly what you would be looking for during a 1 hour lunch break.

The lunch cost $13.99 plus tax and tip, but the portion was on the large side and I had plenty of rice left over when I was done. I would go back because of how convenient the location is, but I'd likely order something different.

Fin II
219 Main St
Stamford, CT 06901

Monday, April 16, 2018

Blizzard to Recover from the Blizzards: Jurassic Peanut Butter Chomp

What do Pluto, the 1980’s and the heat of the Summer in Stamford, CT all have in common? They’re all so impossibly far away that you can barely conceive them in your mind. Dairy Queen, an apparent optimist, does not care about the fact that it has been several months of darkness and consistently spaced nor’easters and instead they are marketing their Summer Blizzards.

This past Saturday we were graced with a sunny day that dared to approach the low 70’s and that felt like a reason to get out and celebrate. Coincidentally, my idea of a celebration is to head to that Big Red Barn and to wait in line behind a dozen other people for the antidote to my seasonal depression; a Blizzard and a red spoon.

Stamford’s Dairy Queen is hit or miss this time of year because the proprietor closes down for the winter months and seems to operate on a schedule during the weekday lunch rush on a willy nilly basis but on this day I was in luck.

I don’t pride myself on being a Jurassic Park fanatic, because I believe that the world already has more than enough of those – but I’ll tell you what I continue to be obsessed with and that’s peanut butter. The “Jurassic Chomp Blizzard Treat” is described as a “blizzard with Colossal choco dipped peanut butter bites and fudge topping blended with creamy DQ vanilla soft serve into perfection”. Perfection is a lofty adjective but allow me to explain below how that is completely accurate.

The ice cream was as good as always with the ingredients all “blizzed” together in consistent ratios but the real star here is what I would call the buckeye candies, which have never been included in a Blizzard of the Month previously. The candies were far more sweet than they were creamy, so I suspect a person who is ambivalent about peanut butter but enjoys sweet chocolate would still be quite happy with the order. The vanilla ice cream was graced with chocolate ribbons throughout that were as ganache-like as hot fudge, so each bite of the entire blizzard had something to enjoy.

Going to go out on a limb here and declare that this is my favorite Blizzard of the Month that DQ has ever had. Previous peanut butter limited time offerings were too one-noted; all peanut butter and lackluster in the plain bites. Also, something should be said for eating 380 calories here guilt free because the weather has me feeling like bathing suit season is light-years away.

Want to take a chomp out of your Seasonal Affective Disorder? Go get yourself one of these Blizzards while they’re still available.