Foxy Foxwoods at The Beard House Preview

When you get an invitation to get a sneak peek, you have to take it.

Whether it’s an advance showing of a movie, a preview copy of a book, or a chance to stay at a hotel during the soft opening…who doesn’t want to know something before EVERYONE else does??

I wasn’t a very popular child…I’m sure that somehow plays into this.

Anyway, I had the chance to preview a menu that the chefs at Foxwoods Hotel and Casino will be preparing at the James Beard House next Friday, July 25.

This was a test run for them, so I got to try every single dish that they will be preparing for the James Beard House diners.

Here are a few of my favorites:

goat cheese

Beltane Farm goat cheese croquettes with roasted beets

This local Connecticut goat cheese is now on my short list of favorites.  It has a rich, cakey texture that melts and becomes super creamy inside its crispy sheath. Served with tender beets that are so sweet that they are almost like candy, this is practically a dessert course.


Raw Stonington summer flounder with citrus chili dredge, apples, and radishes

Be still my heart. One of the most fabulous ceviches I have had in recent memory. The flounder is so soft and sweet it reminds me of a scallop. However, it retains its texture and isn’t at all slimy or mushy. The spicy dredge is hot and tangy with citrus, cooled down by the tiny bits of green apples. This is a must taste!


 Bombster Fleet scallop crudo with olive oil, Kabuso, and aji amarillo

Okay, so I loved both of the raw fish dishes. So sue me! The chefs here clearly have a way with fresh seafood, knowing how to dress and prepare it so that the flavors shine through and compliment, not compete with, each other. The scallops are juicy and pleasantly sweet. The strips of pepper are fruity and spicy enough to make the lips tingle. Luckily, the bright Kabuso citrus and the slick of rich olive oil temper the heat. This is a phenomenal crudo.


Mishima Wagyu ribeye cap “sunomono” with Connecticut summer harvest and aged maitake demi

When this beef arrived, I inwardly groaned. It was brown all the way through – it was overcooked! Well color me TOTALLY WRONG. This beef was tender, flavorful, and so juicy that it practically melted in my mouth. I think the brown color came from the sunomomo treatment, where it was marinated in a sweet vinegar sauce before being gently cooked. It was robust, and beefy with a sweet-sour edge that is unlike any steak I have ever had. It was totally remarkable! The veggies served alongside were fresh and fragrant, and though the giant hen of the woods mushroom was a bit too smoky for my taste, the demi alongside was rich and flavorful. This dish surprised me on many levels and pleased me on EVERY level.

dessert Feta goat cheese brulee with olive oil sponge, peach sorbet, lemon verbena gel, and Summer couscous

Couscous in dessert? Sure! Studded with dried fruits, it’s almost like a lighter version of rice pudding. The brulee is creamy and dense with a sweet graham cracker-like crust. Th soft sorbet tastes like the very essence of summer and the olive oil soponge cake…oh that sponge. It has the funniest texture and a savory-sweet taste that really plays off of the rest of the components. This is whimsical and inventive – the perfect way to end the meal. 

You should buy a ticket to this dinner. I would – heck, I am  considering doing it – it was that great!

If the preview was this good, I can’t even imagine how fantastic the main event is going to taste.

*Disclaimer: I was invited to this meal free of charge. I was not required to write about my experiences, and my opinions are my own and unbiased.

Super Duper Weenie

There comes a time in every woman’s life when she throws down the tasting menu. She bids farewell to calorie counting and she hits the open road.

This period of bliss won’t last long, but she should enjoy it while she can.

If she is very lucky, she will end up at Super Duper Weenie – no, this is not the beginning of an erotic novel blog post.

Sorry to get your hopes up.

It is the beginning of my favorite hot dog in the Northeast.

Fairfield CT, about 45 minutes north of NYC, has been home to the Super Duper Weenie since 1992. That is when Gary Zemola bought what was then the iconic, hot dog shaped truck. He started to churn out delicious hot dogs with home-made toppings, freshly cut fries, and other all-American fare. After several brushes with fame, Zemola made the move to a permanent home.

Don’t expect waiter service. Just line up, place your order, and grab a seat at the counter or in the adjoining room. Don’t be surprised if it’s Gary himself taking your order – he isn’t just the owner here, he is chef and maitre d’hotel as well.

Be sure to get there early. The place fills up and there is a line by 11:15AM.

Count on at least 2 hot dogs per person. It’s not that they are small…it’s just that they are that good.

New Englander with Sauerkraut, Bacon, Mustard, Sweet Relish & Raw Onion

This is the weenie that every Super Duper Weenie virgin should order. The beef and pork dog is cut open then griddled so that each bite is crisp outside and juicy within. It is topped with tangy sauerkraut, sweet relish, salty bacon and the eye-opening pop of raw onion. Nestled in a squishy potato bun, it isn’t that the toppings are so outrageous, it is that they are so high quality. The hot dogs are locally made with natural casings. The relish is made in house. The toppings are layered so that the hot dog can be eaten with ease, some topping in each bite. The combination of construction and ingredients is precise and deliberate. It is savory, juicy, tangy, and toasty all at once. It is the way that I wish the hot dogs of my youth tasted.

Georgia Red Hot with Spicy Sausage, Sauerkraut, Mustard, Sweet Relish

To know this hot dog is to love it. The flavors are loud and brash, with smoke, garlic, and cayenne pepper hitting your palate the second you take a bite. Juicy and plump, the sausage is buried under kraut and pungent mustard. This could be too smokey or too sour, but the sweet relish tempers that beautifully. It brings a high, fresh note to the hot dog that catapults it to higher status. This might have been my favorite dog, if it hadn’t been for…

Dixie with Homemade Meat Chili and Homemade Cole Slaw

This is the hot dog to end all hot dogs. The pork and beef frank is succulent as ever, but it is crowned by the chili of my dreams. The chili sauce is thin with a bit of heat, the sweetness of caramelized onions, and enough salt to make the chili taste truly beefy, like a char-grilled hamburger. The cabbage coleslaw is dressed in a thick mayonnaise sauce. It is creamy and crunchy, the perfect foil for the peppery chili. This was  improved only by a light application of piquant mustard. I could have eaten a thousand of these.

Cincinnatian with Cincinnati Style Chili, Cheddar Cheese, and Chopped Onions

This Cincinnati style chili is filled with oregano, pepper, and a bit too much cinnamon for my taste. Don’t get me wrong – it was still tasty, especially with shreds of sharp cheddar cheese, but after the Dixie, nothing was really going to thrill me quite the same way.

French Fries

Except, of course, for some truly sensational French fries. Fresh cut and sprinkled with salt and pepper, they are just great french fries: crunchy, with creamy insides and a pleasant oily sheen. The pepper adds a pleasant heat that kicks the whole experience up a level.

The other aspect that really brings this experience to a new level is the service. People here really love what they do. Gary had no idea that I write about food. Lorin a partner, manning the grill, didn’t care why I was taking photos. They didn’t have to walk us through the menu, asking us what our tastes were, selecting the hot dogs for us. They didn’t have to kibbitz with us, joking around like we were old friends. Gary certainly didn’t have to cut us off a piece of his own breakfast, a homemade chicken sausage, just because he thought we would like it (it was, by the way, phenomenal). But…they did. They could tell that we were foodies and were thrilled to have us there. They wanted us to have the best hot dogs of our lives, and they certainly succeeded – I defy you to find a better meal for under $5. Super Duper Weenie isn’t just worth a visit if you are in town. It si worth a special trip. Get the Dixie Dog, an order of fries, and sit yourself down for one incredible meal.

Because there are times when a woman, or even a man, just needs a great weenie.

That’s what she said

Super Duper Weenie on Urbanspoon

Louis Lunch – The First Hamburger in America

I visited the birthplace of the American hamburger.

Louis Lunch, open since 1895, invented the hamburger in 1900 when a patron demanded a quick lunch and Louis Lassen slapped a few steak trimmings between two slices of white bread. Thus, the hamburger was born, and very little has changed since that fateful day.

Since then, people have flocked to the tiny New Haven eatery, with only a few seats and even fewer menu items. Everyone who went to Yale has certainly eaten there – every politician, actor, and head of state who ever spent undergraduate or graduate years at Yale sat at the lunch counter that you can occupy this very day.

The history is seeping out of the cast-iron hamburger grills, the same ones used since the day the burger was invented. You can practically taste the history the moment that you walk in and smell the hearty aroma of grilled meat.

Don’t expect fries here, and – whatever you do – DON’T expect ketchup. Don’t even ask for it, lest you be forcibly ejected from the premises. This is all about the meat.

Potato Salad

Some of the best deli style potato salad I have ever had. Thick, creamy hunks of potatoes in a mayonnaise dressing with slices of hardboiled egg. Spiced only with salt, pepper, and the slight bite of chives, this is all about the glory of potatoes – textually and tastewise. Rich and a little heavy, it is a fantastic specimen.

Hamburger with everything – cheese, tomato, onion

This is all about the beef. It’s as close as you will get to eating a steak on bread. Louis Lunch uses a custom blend of 5 different cuts of fresh meat, hand rolls the patties daily, then cooks them in those old-fashioned grills. The patty is coarse and lightly salted – it is really just the taste of meat. Buttery, iron-y, almost funky in its meaty heft. This is a power-filled burger that is all about the meat.  Ignore the soft white bread, the strong white onion, and the somewhat mealy tomato – these are just there for show. The cheese, velvety smooth in texture, is also delightfully melty and provides a wonderful counterpart to the bite of the burger.

The burgers are small, they are not highly seasoned, and they are fantastic.

This ain’t the best burger in America. I like my burgers with some condiments and a side of fries.  What it is, is cheap food, courteous service, and undeniably a lifetime experience. I ate at the place where the burger was invented. That’s incredible to me. And it made the burger, good on its own, fantastic.

I can’t recommend this place highly enough. I plan on making the pilgrimage again very soon, and getting 2 burgers this time.

Louis' Lunch on Urbanspoon

Max’s Oyster Bar’s Phenomenal Crab Melt Sandwich

While visiting a college friend in Connecticut, I had the chance to eat lunch there. Now, I have dined in Connecticut before, and I have eaten well! But that was during the summer. Not a whole lot of places to eat outside with a lobster roll in hand when it’s sub 30 F, you know?
That is why we chose to dine at Max’s Oyster Bar in West Hartford.

The interior is upscale but not intimidating – the sort of place you would expect to find well clad suburban moms and young business executives doing a quick lunch.

Baked Oysters with Caramelized Onions, Brioche, Tasso Ham, and Gruyere Cheese

These are oysters Rockefeller for people who think they don’t like oysters. Lightly grilled, which brought out the smoky flavors that complimented the peppery tasso ham. The Gruyere was applied with a heavy hand, its nutty richness soaking up the fresh, salty juices of the oysters. Soft, thick breadcrumbs completed the  dish. This was a hell of a starter. It was rich, but not at all heavy. The oysters worked so well because they weren’t overtly oceanic – just a bright, briny note in the background. Usually I like the oysters to take center stage, but here they sang clearly in the chorus.

Clam Chowder

Traditional in the best sense of the word. Great New England clam chowder needs no improvements, no accompaniments to jazz it up or reinvent it. It needs a buttery base, a creamy mouthfeel, tender potatoes, pleasantly chewy clams, and smoky bacon. Don’t give me any red bell peppers or mango coulis. Gimme a soup so think you could stand a spoon up in it, and that’s my man. This soup wasn’t QUITE thick enough, but the clean clam flavor and perfect seasoning won me over. This is highly recommended.

San Francisco Style Crab Melt with Blue Crab, Dill Aioli, Jack Cheese, and Sourdough Bread
If this sandwich doesn’t scream “hedonism,” then I don’t know what does. Sweet, juicy crab blended with creamy mayonnaise and fresh dill. It was blanketed in a melty, tangy layer of jack cheese that stretched when I pulled the toasty, buttery halves of the sandwich apart. The crab was warmed through just slightly, so it retained the mild taste of cold crab but absorbed some of the bread’s butter and became aromatic and sweet. Though I don’t tend to love crab and cheese, this achieved the impossible – it highlighted the flavor of the crab and the texture of the cheese so each complimented the other without any competition.

Max Oyster Bar is a great place to grab a Connecticut lunch, and by that I mean fresh, seafood oriented, and reasonably priced. By NYC standards, it was practically cheap. The service was great, the portions were huge, and they really have a way with fish and cheese. This restaurant single handedly convinced me that Connecticut isn’t just a summer destination.

Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough

Birthdays mean different things to different people. 
They can mean reflection over the year past. 
A time for gifts and celebration over what to come. 
Or if you are me…
Huge plates of freshly killed crustaceans. 
I jest…but not really…
For my birthday, we schlepped to Noank, CT. 
Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough is the best lobster roll in America. 
I mean it.
Why else would all these people be in line?
It isn’t for the casual, bare bones dining room.
It might be for the incredibly serene atmospehere. 
What am I saying…who the hell cares about what it looks like?
Cause the real pull is this. 
The lobster. Caught fresh that morning, or sooner. Filled with creamy, rich tomalley, soft bricks of roe that crush with a burst of brine in between your teeth, and…
Rich, tender, meaty but also fresh tasting. So buttery they don’t even need butter.
Of course…a little butter never actually hurt anyone.
Or you can get the lobster roll. 
A quarter pound of lobster meat, served cold mixed with mayo or hot with just melted butter.
The melted butter version is the best.
The way that the butter pools on the soft, sesame seeded bun. The way that the steam invades your mouth, filling it with the clean, breezy scent of the ocean. 
The velvety mouthfeel of hot lobster. 
It is a subtle dish focused on just one flavor.
If you want more variety, try the excellent oysters. Different eeach day, there are often ones from Abbott’s own bed. Small, creamy and mild, they are perfect with a touch of the very horseradish-y cocktail sauce.
Or help yourself to crabcakes – no fillers here. More like solidified crab dip than crab bound with bread, these are creamy, soft and gently crispy on the outside. 
No fries here. Just a mild, sweet, mayonnaise-y slaw and some salty, oily housemade potato chips. 
By the way…when talking about potato chips, salty and oily are positive adjectives. 
And, really, all I have are positive adjectives for Abbott’s. So cheap for what you get: Beautiful scenery, relaxed atmosphere, FANTASTIC food.
Can’t wait till it’s my birthday again.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Mohegan Sun

It was my birthday August 1.
Happy birthday to me!
To celebrate, we went on an eating trip. 
The day started with a bagel with cream cheese, lox and onion.
And ended here.
At Frank Pepe’s in the Mohegan Sun Casino.
Now, I have been to the original Frank Pepe’s, but we were hungry after a few hours of gambling in the casino and didn’t want to schlep to New Haven for a clam pie.
*Note – this is not a comparison between pies. This is a review of a stand alone pizza* 
So we went into this outpost, located right off the casino floor.
Casual, with kitschy touches and the same green booths as at the original.
A huge brick pizza oven.
And a menu with pies.
The only thing it didn’t have was the long line.
Happy birthday to me!
You can get a pepperoni and sausage pizza here. Or one with peppers and onions. 
But why would you? 
You want the clam pie. 
And not the white one that is on the menu…ask for it with red sauce. They will do it. 
And when it arrives…inhale.
The scent coming up from the pizza will be garlicky, sweet, salty and fresh.
Also…the pizza will be insanely hot. 
You will burn your mouth. 
It’s worth it, I swear.
The crust is thin, lightly charred and slightly floppy in the center, like all Neapolitan pizza crusts are. It finises off with a sturdy end crust, pleasantly charred and in spots, but not tasting bitter or rancid. 
Then there are the toppings.

Huge, fresh clams. You can tell they are fresh at first sight because of the irregular sizes of the chopped clams. Large and small, thick and thin, they are scattered over the crust, melding with the sweet, fresh taste of the tomato sauce and the red pepper flakes you will definitely want to apply. The calms are reminiscent of the sea – salty, fresh, deep tasting. They meld with the heartiness of the flour to create the perfect relationship between topping and crust. And the sauce is the secret agent here. More of a tomato sauce and less of a marinara sauce, it is so purely tomatoes -bright, sweet and filled with that tangy fresh tomatoey taste. Woody oregano brings out the earthiness of the sauce. The pie comes with fresh garlic, but I prefer it without. I like the clams to come through without the sharp bite of garlic.

Clearly, I like a lot of modifications. 
Luckily, the folks at Frank Pepe’s are happy to comply.
Happy birthday to me!

Napa and Company: A Perfect Breakfast in Stamford

Another day, another road trip.
This time, up to Martha’s Vineyard, to research an article. But on the way up…
We stopped for breakfast at Napa and Company, a restaurant inside of a Marriott.
There were a couple of things wrong with this situation:
1)It was a little fancy for my tastes
2)It was a hotel restaurant
3)We were in Connecticut and not eating a meal even remotely involved with lobster or Frank Pepe pizza? What kind of a cruel joke WAS this???
BUT…Marmie had been to this place before and swore that it served a fab breakfast.
And my sister said that I was being the Dining Nazi.
She was kind of right…I DID make everyone swear their allegiance to me and my dining plan before we left the apartment.
So, in a desire to be accommodating and less Hitler-like, I let the ladies choose breakfast.
As I walked into the very nice space, I couldn’t help feeling like a road trip fraud.
It was dark and a little swanky.
There was a wall of expensive wines for heaven’s sake! How the heck can I eat fancy and probably soul-less food on a ROAD trip???
Then I tasted the food.
The Napa Breki – 2 Sunny Side-Up Eggs, Charred Tomatoes, Field Mushrooms, Peas, Sugardale Farm Bacon and Sausage.
Wow. There was nothing amazing or different about this breakfast except that it was made perfectly. The eggs were just BARELY set, so they were totally opaque among the whites but still gloriously gooey in the center, without a hard or burned edge among those lovely eggs. The mushrooms were earthy, meaty and woodsy, and the sausage and bacon were sweet, smoky and TOTALLY porky. The peas added a welcome hit of freshness, and played so well off of the rich, creamy eggs. The just burst under my teeth, invading my mouth with their sweet green taste. And the tomatoes. OH THOSE TOMATOES! Less charred, more confited, they were sweet and tart umami bombs. Instead of being chewy or harsh, they were these soft, tomato pillows that were all flavor without any of the sometimes over oily or salty residual tastes that sun dried tomatoes so often have. Really reminded me of summer.
Breakfast Sandwich with Chorizo and Charred Tomato Omelet and Romesco Sauce.
This is your standard breakfast sandwich from your local bodega, if your local bodega was in Spain, and the owner raised his own pigs in the backyard. 
Soft, holey bread that resembled ciabatta but with a more supple crust, cradled a fluffy omelette with garlicky, spicy chorizo and those wonderfully sweet charred tomatoes. The chorizo was zesty, peppery, and dripped fabulously fatty orange oil all over the egg and bread. And the romesco sauce was nutty with almonds, sweet with red peppers and creamy with olive oil. It’s inherent mild flavor was boosted by that flavorful chorizo and the juicy tomatoes.
Pretty much, I could eat this sandwich 3 times a day.
And I am SO glad that I gave up the foodie reins for a meal! In my effort to always eat indigenous and perfectly appropriate food, I sometimes forget that I need to look in the OTHER direction – nicer places can also be unexpectedly delicious, and chain hotels can offer wonderful food at a fabulous value. I would absolutely recommend this place to anyone looking for a well made and unusual breakfast in Stamford.
And…other than that meal…I became the Food Nazi again for the rest of the trip.
So fall in line or get out of the way.
Because these are:
Napa & Co. on Urbanspoon

Summer Shack Attack!

On our way home from seeing our cousins, we stopped at a casino…doesn’t every family?  Oh wait…they don’t?  Well, let me tell ya something-we don’t smoke, don’t steal, and don’t drink(much!), but as we put it…the family that gambles together stays together!  There is somehting about the sound of bells and whistles going off all around a casino that gets my heart racing and my blood pumping.  The minute I walk onto the floor and inhale the scent of cigarette smoke mingled with desperation and hope…I feel at home.  I can spend HOURS at a penny machine or a $2 blackjack table.  Of course I love to win, but even when I lose…I just love the thought that MAYBE i will win.  It’s the possiblity in the air.  That’s what I love about gambling.  My name is Sarah and I am a gamble-aholic
…oh, wait…wrong blog…
Anyway…so after a couple of hours of this:
It was time for some of this:
Jasper White’s Summer Shack, convieniently located in the Mohegan Sun Casino Resort (even saying casino…makes me kinda…hot and bothered…) is an offshoot of the well known chef’s popular seafood shack in Cambridge, MA.  It is just what it says it is-a seafood shack-albeit a huge, nicely laid out one-that serves the freshest fish in all sorts of preparations.

The restaurant is large and informal with a huge open air kitchen.

Tanks full of feisty live lobsters,  just waiting to be steamed and dunked in butter!

The daily specials listed on the menu-look how many different preparations of lobster were available!
We started out with the classic New England Clam Chowder.  Perfect.  Thick, creamy, filled with silky potatoes and sweet, briney clams.  Topped with just a smattering of parsley…this is what you think of when you think of clam chowder.  

Chock full of wonderful clams with just a hint of smokiness from the undertones of bacon.  I thought it was perhaps a bit bland-I prefer a more “seafood-y” chowder-but it was a very good bowl of chowder.  My sister just loved it.

clams on the half shell.  Now THESE were some clams!!!!  Topped with slightly sweet, slightly nasal passage clearing cocktail sauce, they invaded my mouth with the fresh salinity that only shellfish brings.  Tender in texture, cold in temperature, and simply…refreshing…..  These clams are the standard to which all others should be held.  I ate 3 and could have eaten 12 more.

If only I was fast enough.
 You didn’t think we weren’t going to get fried clams, did you?  Fools.
These were simply great.  Is it actually impossible to get a BADLY FRIED clam in the state of CT?  I’m starting to think that is the case…these were crispy outside, positively creamy within, salty, meaty, and fresh with a squirt of lemon.  They really didn’t need any of the excellent tartar sauce on the side.  They just needed my mouth.  Please get these if you come here.  You will become a seafood LOVER.
My sister got the Mussels Arribiata.  WHOA-these were the BEST MUSSELS I have had in a while.  SO GOOD!!!  Each mussel was soft, creamy, without a trace of minerality or grit, just a sweet, oceany taste.  And the sauce…oh the SAUCE…garlicky, oniony, tomatoey heaven that was so spicy my sister’s nose was running.  That’s how we like it.  These were FAB!!!
I chose the Portugese Haddock with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and olives.  Guess what?  I love haddock!  Ok, I know I love comments from the peanut gallery, please!  But really…what a fab rish!!  Firm and flakey, but not as firm as cod, haddock has a mild, non fishy taste that takes well to a preparation such as this.  The salty olives, acidic  tomatoes, sweet onions, and hearty peppers all blended to create a piquant, umami rich sauce that complimented and added to the fish’s delicate flavor.  With perfectly steamed jasmine rice, this dish was a total winner.
Marmie got a lobster.  It was sweet and buttery.  So is she.
What a delicious meal!!  The prices were definitely a bit steep, but hey…you are in a casino…you either have money to blow or are so far in the hole, you might as well just charge one final “hurrah” to your already defunct card anyway!  The seafood could not have been any fresher if I had caught it myself, and was prepared in simply delicious ways.  I will be coming back here for sure…oh yeah, and I will be eating at the restaurant too ;)  Gamblers anon.  Totally.

Donut Delights

Road trips are not all about fried shellfish, no they are not.  You need to balance that out with a healthy dose of fried DOUGH.  I really didn’t have any ideas on how to fulfill this part of the trip, so my sister took a stab in the dark and picked out this little shop:
This is what Fritos and Foie Gras faces look like when approaching dessert:

When we walked in, the comforting and alluring scents of sugar, maple, and butter enveloped us and acted as instant anti-depressants.  If they bottled the scent of donut shops, I SWEAR I would wear it as perfume!
  We  were greeted with rack upon rack of freshly fried donuts-do you see those little icicles dripping off the racks.  Um, they are ICING-CLES.  They are literally DRAPING their donuts in frosting here…how many ways can I say “yes, please?”.
Yeast donuts, cake donuts, old fashioned, fritters, cakes, and pastries of all sort lay warm from the oven just begging to be eaten.  Well, who were we to deny such sweet little desserts?  If they were to be eaten, it was we who would do the eating!  I’m selfless, I know.

As my sister put it “If it’s been around this long, it probably doesn’t suck”.  We are a rather eloquent family like that.

The apple fritter, freshly filled with apple filling.  It had the girth of a hubcap and the taste…

of NIRVANA! Tender, freshly fried dough filled with cinnamon and sugar coated apples and a sticky sweet glaze that was freshly applied.  The apple filling was tender and had that perfect sweet spicy ratio that apple pie filling has.  This was not like other apple fritters-it was different and it was superior.

We also tried an old fashioned.  Whereas the apple fritter was a light yeast donut, this was a cake donut-denser, heavier, richer.

and awesome.  It was more buttery than anything else, with just enough sweetness to remind you that this was a dessert and should NOT be consumed for breakfast every day (though every now and then, it makes a dandy way to start the day).  The inside was dense and thickly crumbed, and moist, while the outside was fried to a crusty golden brown simply drenched in sugary white icing that clung to the lips.  This was a donut to remember.

And my sister and dad tried the coffee cake.

From the look of joy on my dad’s face…the coffee cake was also a success.
What a hidden gem!  Not on any foodie website that I frequent, Beach Donuts is a delicious and special shop near Westport, Ct.  It is well priced, delicious, and a total gem.  And if you go…bring me back an apple fritter, would ya?

A Tale of the Trip…

Thanksgiving is over…our roast pork and kimchi is all eaten and packed away in the fridge (oh yeah you are getting a heck of a Momofuku cookbook post about Thanksgiving…we are rebels like that)…and people who are unafraid of getting trampled to death are waiting in line at 2 am to get deals on electronics and cologne.  Sounds like a perfect time for another Fritos and Foie Gras roadtrip!  On my family’s way up to Boston to see cousins, I laid down the groundwork for lunch:
1)Must not be a chain (although 3 locations were allowed-mini chains can be regional)
2)MUST have whole bellied fried clams
3) Must bring up memories of summers on the cape, riding on my father’s sloop wearing Ralph Lauren sweaters, and clambakes with Mimsy and Bill Jr. at the country club…okay, those aren’t really MY memories, but the restaurant should make me feel like I grew up in New England ok?!  Yeah I want the food to give me false memories…I am slightly demanding.
The place that seemed to fit the criteria was Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale, in Westport, CT.
When we got there at 11:30, there were already a few tables filled, and by the time we left an hour later the place was PACKED!  Best to get here on the early side!

The place was a large, super casual affair, with paper placemats, ketchup readily available, and pictures of Bill  Clinton and other heads of state chowing down on their seafood.  Well if it’s good enough for Bill…

We started with the clam chowder.  Now, this was not New England clam chowder-there was no cream, no bacon, no thick, rich feel.  It was more akin to Rhode Island clam chowder.  A cloudy, semi transparent broth redolent of salt and sea with no other flavors to mar it. Huge pieces of sweet and briny clams.  Tender chunks of Idaho potatoes added heft and just a bit of heartiness to the otherwise light and seafood focused dish.  This was clam soup for the soul.  I could eat about 7 bowls of this and not feel weighed down or tired of it.  It was just so totally…of the sea.  My sister was not a fan, but I am telling you…if you like clams, this soup is for you.

My mom and I ordered the scrod.  No, scrod is not the name for dried bird poop on your car, though that is what it sounds like.  It is actually baby cod!  Now, I know that people don’t like the idea of eating animals.  But I like veal, I love suckling pig, and hey…did you ever eat an egg?  Ok, I’m getting down off my soapbox and re-focusing on the scrod.  It was thin, flaky, and tasted SO mild and sweet!  It was much more like sole than regular cod, and was perfection with just a squeeze of lemon.  I didn’t even use any of the (truly excellent) tartar sauce.  I saved that for…

THE WHOLE BELLY FRIED CLAMS!!!!  Have you ever had fried clams?  Well, whole bellied fried clams are to regular fried clams as Disney World is to your childhood backyard-that is, bigger, sweeter, and BETTER. Anyone squeamish about trying seafood should start out with whole bellied fried clams.  When prepared well, they are not at all fishy, tough, or intimidating.  And these were among the best I have ever eaten.  You just dip them in the accompanying creamy, relish flecked tartar sauce and pop them in your mouth!  Crispy, greaseless batter crunches beneath your teeth and gives way to a soft pillow of sweet and salty brine.  And that is it.  It is the pure essence of clams with nothing else.  I can NOT recommend these bites of heaven enough.  Get these…or I will shun you. 

We also got cherry neck clams on the half shell.  Unfortunately, these were the one item I did not like.  Though I look forward to the cold and savory rush that raw shellfish delivers, these tasted bitter, over mineral-y, and just generally…off.  Though the cocktail sauce was full of horseradish and delicious, I just was not into these.

My father, the human garbage disposal, had no such issues.
Raw clams aside, Lenny and Joes was a fantastic lunch spot.  It was casual, extremely well priced, and had the most delicious fried clams I have had in quite awhile.  There was something for everyone, and it is one of only two locations-BOTH in CT.  I am a clam lover, and now, I am a Lenny and Joe’s lover!