Saturday, January 24, 2009

Craftsteak At MGM Grand At Foxwoods

Located in Ledyard.

Craftsteak is celebrity chef Tom Colicchio's gift to Connecticut.

It's the incredible taste, not the exorbidant prices, which make it such a gift.

Mr Colicchio is co-host of Bravo's Top Chef.

He also owns other properties in New York.

On our lone visit so far, my wife and I took along her mother.

The dining room is, of course, large(it's in a casino, afterall), and nicely appointed.

The menu features, as you might expect, steak.

But these aren't your garden variety steaks.

These are the grass fed, corn fed, wagyu variety.

Now, if you're like me, you think there's nothing terribly special about steak.Oh sure, it tastes great. But you can accomplish that at home, simply by buying a prime rib-eye and throwing it on the grill. I never order steaks at restaurants; and consider Outback a really great scam.

That's what I had always thought, and practiced.

I was wrong. And so are you.

In other words, if you think you know don't.

I started with fresh bacon(Colicchio's terminology for pork belly), my wife with hamachi, my mother-in-law with a Caesar salad.

The salad was fine, as expected.

I don't care much, at all, for raw fish, so I'm no judge of the hamachi, but my wife enjoyed it.

My pork belly was good, but I have to admit, I've had the Hole In The Wall Pub in Little Wilbraham, England.

Onto the mains.

I had a grade 11 wagyu New York strip steak, my wife the skirt steak, and mother-in-law the corn fed filet Mignon(she committed the sin of ordering it well. She knows better, being a test cook for Delia Smith, but cannot bring herself to eat steak with even a hint of pink.)

Sides are served family style, meaning one order will feed 2-3 people.
I wasn't buying this, so we ordered 3 sides: fingerling potatoes with bacon, Tokyo turnips, and cippolini onions.

The food arrived.
Oh, my!
Not only did I finish my 7 ounces of New York strip(at $30 per oz. I couldn't justify 8 ounces), but helped my wife finish her skirt steak.(And I'm not a big guy.) Impossible to describe the flavor, suffice it to say, you will never eat a better steak...ever!
My wife's steak was cooked well, after being ordered medium. Our server offered to return it to the kitchen, but suggested we taste it before doing so. It could not have been better. Or maybe it could have, but we didn't care!
The steaks were served with 3 sauces, the only one of which I remember was chimichuri.
Simply delicious.
I didn't care for the filet mingnon, but it was cooked well, so it's really not fair to judge it...and it wasn't wagyu, doubly unfair, perhaps.

The fingerling potatoes and bacon were excellent, as they should have been. Fingerlings have a dense, buttery texture, and bacon, well, it's bacon!
The cippolinis, roasted, were also excellent. Nicely caramelized. Very tasty.
The Tokyo turnips were so salty as to be inedible. But we didn't complain.

If you like steak, go!
If you love steak, go!
If you think you know steak...go!

Cafe Grounded

Located in Guilford.

A local breakfast and light lunch establishment, which also serves limited menu dinners Thursday-Saturday nights.

We have never sampled the lunch or dinner menus, so I can only speak to the breakfasts we've tried.

The restaurant is housed in an old airplane hanger-type building.
Think: the barracks in Gomer Pyle, USMC.

It's a relatively small space occupying two levels.

Downstairs, you can, in good weather, dine on the front patio.

Inside on the main floor are the counter, kitchen and a few tables.

We always opt to sit upstairs.

A few of the tables are indeed old airplane seats.
And I must say, they look very uncomfortable.

Otherwise, your choice of seating are of the bistro variety.

Choose your table carefully, as some are not level.

The food:

Ah, to a (displaced) southern boy, there are few things better than biscuits and gravy.
And Cafe Grounded serves, as a complete breakfast, some delicious, if very heavy, biscuits and gravy.

Easily my favorite thus far.

We've also tried the eggs, apple wood smoked bacon, sausage patties, home fries, and grilled veggies.
All are very tasty, especially the home fries, which have a hint of spice to them.

You won't be raving about the place, but you will know you can get a nice meal in a nice local place.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Madison Beach Hotel-Crow's Nest

Located in Madison.

The Madison Beach Hotel touts itself as "The Shoreline's Best Kept Secret."

It is.
And for good reason.

We live in the adjacent town, and until we happened upon it, quite by accident, on the internet, had never heard of it.

Given that shoreline dining opportunities are a rarity in Connecticut, we were, needless to say, quite excited at this find.

The hotel is located directly on the Madison beachfront.
Inside are the restaurant, The Wharf, and, upstairs, the Crow's Nest Lounge.
We opted for the lounge.
Since the food comes from the same kitchen, I'll assume that the Wharf food is just as awful as that of the Crow's Nest.

To start we ordered an antipasto plate.
This was abhorrent.
It had obviously been sitting out all day.
The Parmesan shavings were so rubbery as to be inedible.

And then it happened.
Our waitress, stood at the table with a list in her hand, comparing what was on the plate to the items on her list, ensuring that we were given exactly what we ordered.
It was the oddest dining moment I have ever been witness or party to.

We had both ordered the fish & chips.
These were awful, both the fish and chips.
The batter had been scorched.
The chips were of the frozen variety, and of the especially awful frozen variety.

It is very disappointing to find such a coveted piece of real estate occuppied buy such an awful dining establishment.

We will not return.

du'Glace Bistro & Patisserie

Located in Deep River.

Situated in the heart of Main St in a rustic red 100 year old building, du'Glace is certainly inviting from the outside.
The patisserie, which adjoins the bistro, is closed in the evenings.

Once inside, you notice a small bar area to your immediate right.
Directly ahead of you is the hostess station.
It appears that the waitresses take turns, when they are available, with the hostessing duties.
My wife had made our reservation for 7:30 Saturday night.
Our reservation could not be found by the first waitress.
Enter the second waitress. She found our reservation had been entered for Friday night.
"No problem," we were told.
No one had called to confirm our reservation.
She proceeded to seat us immediately.

The dining room is not small enoug to be called intimate, but it is cozy.
There are exposed blacks pipes and support beams overhead.
The walls are painted a creamy, slightly orange color.
Two of the three walls(the front is a window) are decorated sparingly.
The third has 3 painted murals. They are nice and not intrusive.

The menu is a 4"x11" laminated card.
My wife observed that this could mean the menu doesn't change that often.

Appetizers included frog legs, grilled garlic sausage, escargot, tomato and basil tart, and a bacon & leek among a few other offerings.
Also on offer was a chicory & bacon salad with warm vinaigrette.

My wife chose the bacon & leek tart, which also came with a side of mescalin salad; I chose the chicory & bacon salad.

Entrees included trout almondine, calves liver in a bacon cream sauce, sweetbreads in a creamy mushroom sauce, coq au vin, and steak frites, among others.

My wife chose the steak frites; and, deciding I could prepare liver to my satisfaction at home, I chose the sweetbreads.

The wine list is good, but nothing special.
I had a Riesling, my wife a pinot noir. Both perfectly acceptable.

Placed first on our table were two Gruyere choux pastry.
These, of course, were light and tasty.

Then our tiny bread loaves arrived, warm, but not freshly baked, though they were accompanied by some nice butter.

Our starters arrived.
My wife's bacon & leek tart was very good, though not exceptional.
My chicory & bacon salad was exceptional. The warm vinaigrette was nicely balanced, and the bacon-oh, my!-large slab bacon was smoky wonderfulness.
Full disclosure: I love the pig-his belly, his ribs, his bacon!

So, we're off to a good start.

Then the mains arrived.

Since the mains are served with no side dishes, I had ordered carrots vichy, having no idea what that meant.
It means mint. And I don't care for mint.
Mint should only appear in juleps and my toothpaste. But that was my fault.
The creamy mushroom sauce was rich and overpowering.
The portion was too large for finishing.

Now, the is their steak frites.
The cut was skirt, which my wife ordered medium.
It was prepared to order and was a nice piece of meat. Good steak.
However, the unpardonable sin of any bistro is frozen frites.
And these were frozen frites.
Forgettable but unforgivable.

For dessert my wife ordered the raspberry chocolate tart, and I had the chocolate bombe.
Both from the patisserie, we assume.

The desserts were winners.
And one of my pet peeves is the seeming unending trend of pairing raspberries with chocolate.
They worked well together in tart form.
My chocolate bombe was indeed nice. Creamy chocolate through and through.

All in all, not a horrible experience.
But the sub par entrees don't warrant a repeat visit.

We will, however, sample the patisserie when we are up that way again.