Crawfish Boil

Ever since my son started college at Tulane University, we have become obsessed with New Orleans style food. When we visited, we made sure to try all different types of traditional dishes and desserts, including delicious Cajun and Creole food. In New Orleans, you will find that everyone knows the difference between these two schools of cooking, but to my suprise barely no one understands the differences between these two outrageously amazing, yet completely different styles of food. Cajun food comes from the Cajun people of Southern and Western Louisiana, who can trace their ancestry back to the Acadian French people who settled in the region after being kicked out of their homeland in northeastern Canada.

Cajun food is inspired by the basics of classic French cuisine, but has incorporated the ingredients that are common in the tropical Louisiana climate. Cajun food is spicy and heavily seasoned with different spices such as paprika, green onions and parsley, and is usually cooked for a long period of time in one pot. The beginning of all authentic Cajun food begins with the “holy trinity” of vegetables: green bell peppers, onions, and celery. Along with this, many recipes begin with creating a roux, which is a mixture of oil (or any other fat on hand) and flour, which can be cooked at any degree from blonde (a beige color) to very dark (which looks like a burnt caramel). The longer you cook your roux, the more flavor it will impart to the dish that you are making.

Creole cuisine is the other major style of food in New Orleans, and it comes from a mixture of French, West African, Caribbean, and Italian cuisines. Creole food and Cajun food seem very similar, but they have a few defining differences. Creole food relies more on the use of tomatoes and creamier sauces and recipes, and a Creole style roux will use butter (unlike the Cajun use of oil). Creole food is a little spicier, yet both Creole and Cajun cuisines have many of the same dishes, such as jambalaya and gumbo, yet they will be prepared differently.

This past weekend, my son was reminiscing about the amazing bounty and quality of food that was available to him in New Orleans, and decided to make a crawfish boil. In Louisiana, a crawfish boil is an excuse to throw a party in the springtime, and it is a time to be around family and friends, while enjoying the spicy and sweet flavor of the fresh crawfish. We ordered 15 pounds of live crawfish online from Louisiana, and when they arrived, cooked them in a boil flavored with many different Cajun spices, like paprika, chili powder, garlic and onion, and added in aromatics like lemon and scallions. The proper way to boil crawfish is to season your boil, add your crawfish, and turn off the heat.

The crawfish absorb the seasonings, and then you place them in a closed box or bowl for 15 minutes to steam and continue to absorb flavor. While the crawfish steam, you make corn, potatoes, and andouille (or kielbasa) sausage, and then eat them all together. This is a time to put your utensils down, grab a roll of paper towels and a beer, and enjoy your food and company! Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Where to order your crawfish:

lacrawfish.com

Zaza Italian Gastro Bar

Stamford has always been a hotspot for homestyle Italian restaurants, with family owned places scattered throughout the city featuring hearty, rich and delicious specialties. I have driven down Broad Street in the downtown area countless times during my life in Stamford, and I often overlooked the countless restaurants that dot the street. Recently, I drove past Zaza, an authentic Italian-style gastro bar, and decided I had to take my family there. Directly in the city center, steps away from the shops on Bedford Street and the nightlife on Summer Street, this restaurant has it all. Once you walk into the restaurant, you are welcomed by an extremely cozy environment, with people sitting throughout the bistro-style restaurant, eating the specialty small plates and drinking from the extensive wine list Zaza offers.

This is a fun restaurant, with people of all ages enjoying their meals, and is not the place to go to if you want a quiet dinner but rather where you go when you want to experience how an authentic, yet modern Italian restaurant works. The menu is stuffed to the brim with multiple small plates, pastas, and main courses that sounded as delectable as they truly were.

To start, we decided on the burrata (a stuffed Italian mozzarella with a classic, fresh mozzarella outside with a creamy, sweet filling), the meatball tasting plate (a mixture of Zaza’s classic meatball, a turkey option, and the spicy house recipe), as well as the fan favorite of fried calamari. The burrata practically melted in your mouth, leaving only tastes of fresh milk and the spicy afterbite of the fresh olive oil.

The meatballs were light and flavorful, with our favorite being the spicy, chili based one. The calamari, easy to find on a menu yet hard to perfect, was crispy and fresh, and the squid itself was tender to the bite.

Watching the waiters walk by with plates of pasta of all different sizes and shapes, we decided to order four very different styles. The gnocchi pesto was soft and supple, with the fresh bite of basil cutting through the richness of the pasta.

Even though fettuccine bolognese is a classic option, Zaza stepped it up with the fresh, housemade fettuccine and a spicy meat sauce.

Both the bucatini puttanesca and the angel hair marechiara were superb, with the bucatini being briny and flavored with olives and anchovy, and the angel hair being perfectly al dente and covered in loads of fresh and perfectly cooked mussels, clams, and shrimp.

We definitely ate more with our eyes than our stomachs, and by the time the plates were cleared away, we simply had no room for their dessert menu, or their cappuccinos which came from the high-tech Italian machine in the corner. Overall, Zaza provided a traditional Roman style meal and atmosphere, and we will be definitely be back within the month.

Zaza Italian Gastro Bar

122 Broad Street, Stamford, CT 06901

(203) 348-2300

Kano Noodle Bar

In recent years, Stamford has seen an increase in the number of Thai restaurants, but a new restaurant has taken the city by storm. Kano is a Thai-Vietnamese style noodle bar that specializes in both traditional street food found in Southeast Asia as well as the usual Thai and Vietnamese dishes that we love. In the past, I have found that a lot of Thai restaurants in the area feature more or less the same menu, so it refreshing to a see a restaurant that is embracing authentic street-style cuisine, and the results are fantastic.

When you walk into Kano, which is located on Summer Street directly across from the movie theatre, it feels as if you are walking into a restaurant in Bangkok. It is open and bright, with the walls and ceilings covered in traditional bamboo steamers, an interesting and beautiful decor. The restaurant is new, as the owner told us they opened up only 6 months ago, but the food that we had tasted like the chef had vast experience in the complex flavors and combinations of Southeast Asia.

The menu has many options, ranging from the common noodle and rice dishes including drunken noodles and pad see ew (stir fried noodles flavored with a sweetened soy mixture), to Vietnamese pho and summer rolls. Once you flip the menu over, you can see that the restaurant has embraced the “street food” concept, and features a long list of dishes you would find on the street, including Thai beef noodle soups, papaya salad and sticky rice, and crispy skin duck curry.

For those who love ramen, you will be happily surprised to see a list of different types of Japanese noodles, alongside the noodle soups from Southeast Asia. We started with the crispy spring rolls, filled with rich chicken and vermicelli noodles, and served with a sweet and spicy chili sauce. The edamame were cooked perfectly, not too salty yet not bland.

From the fully stocked menu, we ordered the chicken pho and the Thai Penang curry. The pho was everything that I love about heartwarming chicken soup, chock full of fresh veggies, moist chicken and rice noodles, and Thai basil.

The curry was spicy and thick, with hints of chilies and fish sauce. The sticky rice on the side was amazing, and there was not a drop left when we finished. The server was extremely knowledgeable about the menu and the dishes on it, and was able to tell us how the dishes were made and with what ingredients.

Kano Noodle Bar has really stood out for us out of the Thai restaurants we have been to in Stamford, and it is a great family restaurant that will leave you with a full stomach and only a miniscule dent in your wallet. When your in the mood for authentic Southeast Asian food, Kano is the place to be!

Kano Noodle Bar

227 Summer St, Stamford, CT 06901

(475) 619-9025

Bullpan Korean BBQ

With the many new restaurants opening up in and around downtown Stamford and the Harbor Point area, Bullpan Korean BBQ is the only Korean barbecue restaurant that has found its place. This spacious, two story restaurant has found a home on Summer Street, only steps away from the newly revitalized downtown area, including the Stamford Town Centre and both Bowtie movie theatres. Many know Korean barbecue from the countless social media posts about family and friends sitting around a built-in grill on a communal table, with platters upon platters of various meats, seafood, and side dishes surrounding it. Although it may seem intimidating for first-time Korean barbecue eaters to cook their own meals at a restaurant, Bullpan has created a comfortable, fun environment where the staff is well-versed in how to correctly prepare and cook the barbecue along with the customers.

When you take a seat at this large, family friendly establishment, you are treated with the traditional Korean appetizers, known as banchan. Banchan are usually cold, pickled items including kimchi, pickled cucumbers and radish, and fish cakes (odeng). While you enjoy the small dishes, you can have a chance to pick dishes from the menu, which includes many traditional and delicious options, varying from soy-garlic chicken wings (crunchy and delectable) to the tteokbokki (thick rice cakes in a spicy, sour red sauce). Nothing is more traditional to drink with Korean barbecue than soju, a Korean rice alcohol that pairs perfectly with the grilled meat and seafood, cutting through the richness without being too strong. Bullpan has a wide variety of different soju, but it is incomparable to the range of meats and other protein that they have to offer for the main portion of your meal.

The menu at Bullpan does a great job of telling you how much you should order based on how many people you are with, and they offer combination specials as well. Our favorites were the tender, fatty pork spareribs, along with the spicy, crisp bulgogi (thin strips of pork meat marinated in a spicy sauce made with the fermented Korean paste known as gochujang). With the meats, we ordered a delicious tofu and seafood stew was both complex and simple at the same time. You are guaranteed leftovers, which somehow become even better the next day at home. Bullpan has proved that it has the potential to become a Stamford staple, and along with being in a prime location and having amazing food, also appears to be paving the way for Stamford to become to the next food-hub in the state!

Bullpan Korean BBQ

485 Summer St, Stamford, CT 06901

(203) 569-9618

A Taste of Stamford: An Introduction

Welcome to my first post! Being a Stamford resident for the past 15 years, I have found that my family and I frequent the same 5 or 6 restaurants, even though the city has added numerous spots in the past few years. Coming from a “foodie” family, I know that good food and amazing restaurants are able to connect not only your family, but the surrounding community as well. Being a real estate agent, my job is to not only to find forever homes for people and their families, but to find a forever home where they can go out, find friends, and eat good food. The food scene in Stamford reflects the diversity of the population, and many of the best restaurants in Stamford are overlooked, or even hidden. Through this weekly blog, I hope to introduce everyone to only the best restaurants our city has to offer, both new and old. Stay tuned, and stay hungry Stamford!