Tag Archives: Connecticut

CT Chefs Challenge 2015 – MaurPowerFoodie Competes! #CTChefs

That’s right. As you may recall from an earlier post, I have been selected as 1 of the 8 chefs to compete in this year’s CT Chefs Challenge on September 18, 2015, the 5th annual showing of the event.

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This is going to be one intense challenge as I take on 7 of the best chefs CT has to offer. Just check out this list of the competitors:

Mark Vecchitto – Seehund German Pub: 2014 Winner
Adam Bedini – StrEATery
Justin Kern – Meeting House Pub
Trevor McGrath – YooNeke: Hells Kitchen Season 9
Carlos Baez – The Spread
Joshua Morosi – A Chef’s Choice
Jason Maur – MaurPowerFoodie: MasterChef Season 3
Carol Koty – The Waterview and Lockwood Lodge: World Food championship competitor

Now Carol and I go way back, and I am psyched to cheer her on (for 2nd place after me). But the competitors aren’t the only amazing part. The event will be hosted by the unstoppable Chef Plum of PlumLuvFoods (you may recognize him from The Taste, Guys Grocery Games, Cutthroat Kitchen, and more) and judged by Chef Derrick Prince (Master Chef Season 2), Judy & Joy (who have made their rounds throughout the culinary world), Ken Tuccio (Welcome to CT), and more! Not to mention my buddy’s over at OmNomCT covering everything on Social Media. It is just ridiculous, in the most amazing way!

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Now for the question on everyone’s mind, what will I be making? I am not going to give it all away, but I am sticking with my BBQ roots, but with an extreme upscale twist. Going to be killer, especially thanks to the help of the Chef/Owner of Bar 140 in Shelton, CT, Joe, who has agreed to Sous Chef for me.

The event is taking place at the Lincoln Culinary Institute in Shelton. You can purchase tickets here!

COME OUT FOR THIS! It is going to be one hell of an event and you do not want to miss it.


Saucy n’ Sauced Up: BBQ and Beer Bashes in Danbury, Stamford + Ridgefield Coming Soon

Looking for some great BBQ events coming up? Check these out!

 

Saucy n’ Sauced Up: BBQ and Beer Bashes in Danbury, Stamford + Ridgefield Coming Soon.


Tarry Lodge – New Haven, CT

New Haven, CT has become one of the greatest spots in CT for quality food from a great variety of cultures. But when talking about New Haven food, the Nation knows it for one thing… Pizza… or since I am in CT I should say Appiza. When bringing a new pizza restaurant to town, it is important to bring something unique, something different, something fresh. That is exactly what Tarry Lodge delivers.

Chef Drew

One of the restaurants from the great minds and talents of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich (for those who do not know, I have a “history” with Joe Bastianich) , alongside Andy Nusser and Nancy Selzer, the team has done it again. First thing done right, get the right Chef. They have done this with a friend of mine, whom I met while he was the Sous Chef at Tarry Lodge in Westport, Executive Chef Andrew Marsilio.  Chef Drew has combined his training and experience to carry out an amazing menu with the skills of a master. Speaking of the menu, they got that right too. This classic Italian menu celebrates the tradition of taking fresh, quality ingredients, keeping it simple, plating them beautifully, and cooking them perfectly. Along with the plating presentation, add a great ambiance (albeit a tight fit when the restaurant is packed), and a quality wine list (which it better be with Bastianich on the team) and my friends, you have yourself a restaurant that will strive in the bustle and hodge podge that is New Haven, CT.

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Alright, onto the food. First, I must than Chef Drew for sending out a couple extra courses beyond what I ordered for me to try (the Octopus and the Tiramisu). But, let’s start with the beginning.  We started of with the Heritage Pork Polpette (meatballs) and Chef’s Octopus.  The Polpette was seasoned to perfection. A simple tomato sauce, some aged grated cheese, salty and savory with just a touch of sweetness fresh ground pork.  The only issue, it was served next to my favorite thing I ate all night, the grilled Octopus. I love octopus… when it is cooked right. So often, even the best of chefs overcook Octopus, leaving it rubbery. Not at Tarry Lodge. Not only was the texture buttery and tender, but the  acid of the lemon, the squid ink, and the touch of spice from the shishito peppers truly brought out the best in these tentacles. I wish my photo had come out so you could see the vibrant colors and artistic plating on this one too, but just trust me, the fact that you eat with your eyes first only helped enhance this dish. Onto our entree…

Guanciale pizza

As I said, when doing pizza in New Haven, it not only has to be great pizza, it has to be unique. Pizza does not get more unique than this house specialty Guanciale pizza. Guanciale is an Italian cured bacon made from pork cheek. Similar to a pancetta, but with a much stronger flavor, it only makes sense to pair it with the bold, earthy tones of black truffles. Many people in the food world talk about the different flavor palates, one of which that escapes most people is Umami. The savory, earthy goodness from truffles is my perfect example of Umami. Add in the salty guanciale, melted cheese, a lightly seasoned, crispy crust, and the rich egg yolk and you have a truly decadent, flavorful pizza. Every ingredient working with the other ingredients in harmony to create a depth of flavor that enhances with each bite. I want to try the other pizzas here too, but am hard pressed not to order this every time I go.

Gnocchi

The other entree for us that evening, my personal favorite pasta dish to order when I go to a good Italian restaurant, Gnocchi. At Tarry Lodge, they prepare their gnocchi All’ Amatriciana, which is in a sauce made with the above raved about guanciale, tomatoes, and pecorino cheese. If you are looking for something to compare it to, the closest I could give is a non-creamy vodka sauce. Though, as above mentioned, guanciale has a very bold flavor, so it shines through in this sauce. But the star of this dish is the gnocchi itself. Not only are the dumpling flavorful, they are as pillowy as I imagine a cloud to be, literally melting in one’s mouth. As full as we were after all this, it was time for dessert, so we ordered the flourless chocolate cake…

chocolate cake

Fresh cream on top, pistachio crumble, and rich chocolate cake, with no flour (that means it is healthy, right?… cause we ate the whole thing). Creamy, velvety, goodness. Definitely enough for both of us to finish off the meal…OH WAIT! Chef sent out another dessert….

tiramisu

TIRAMISU! Now I am extremely cautious in ordering tiramisu. Most places either soak the lady fingers in too much espresso and that is all you can taste, or cover it in so much cream that it is almost not a cake…. or both!. I think as you can see above, Tarry Lodge does neither. They serve up a classic, traditional, simple tiramisu and the 3rd best tiramisu I have ever had. The first was made homemade for me in Italy when I toured through the Country with my choir when I was 16.  The second was at a celebrity chef dinner in Chicago this past October (though that one was admittedly far from traditional, with a butter toffee crunch on the bottom), and then comes Tarry Lodge. Traditional with a capital “T” there is just a hint of espresso, a perfectly sweet mascarpone, moist ladyfingers throughout and topped with fresh cream. I couldn’t ask for more… even though I wanted to. In fact we were so full, and our neighbors at the next table, a very nice couple with whom we had a great conversation throughout the dinner, was staring so intently at it when the brought it to our table, we even offered them a bite, which they enjoyed thoroughly with us.

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Thank you so much to Chef Drew, general manager Steve Bayusik, the amazingly attentive waitstaff, the kitchen crew, and everybody else at Tarry Lodge for a meal not soon to be forgot. In fact, I will be back tomorrow night for dinner with some friends before a show to share the experience. As for you Joe Bastianich, consider the hatchet buried… I forgive you for rightfully kicking me off MasterChef for a terribly plated dish. My skills have improved greatly, maybe I will see you again, but all I really have to say is thank you. Thank you for helping to ignite a true passion food in me, thank you for continuing to help create fantastic restaurants for me frequent, and thank you for dinner… wait, I thought they said the next one was on you… oh well, I’ll still be back there tomorrow. Go enjoy a night at Tarry Lodge with Chef Drew and the crew. If you see me there, don’t hesitate to say hi, but don’t be offended if you find me in a food coma at the end of the meal. Till next time, this is Jason “MaurPowerFoodie” Maur signing out.

 

Tarry Lodge Enoteca and Pizzeria on Urbanspoon


Two Roads Tap Takeover at the Tavern

Looking for a fun night out this week? Come join me this Wednesday at Tavern in Monroe, CT for the Two Roads Tap Takeover. The first of what is planned to be many tap takeovers, this features a flight of 4 different Two Roads Beers and a small plate to go with each one for just $22.00.

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Four beers, mac and cheese, shrimp, smoked salmon and fried fish! What more could you ask for?

 

There will be open seating but Tavern is suggesting you make reservations. Call 203-880-5007. Also check out the Facebook event here.

 

Hope to see you there, but if I don’t, no worries, I will be telling you all about it. Till next time, this is Jason “MaurPowerFoodie” Maur, signing off.


Pork in the Park – Stamford, CT – Cooking Demo!

That’s right everybody… I will be doing a full out cooking demo at this year’s Pork in the Park BBQ Festival in Stamford, CT. Definitely come check out the entire festival this weekend. There will be other amazing cooking demo’s. Fabulous food and drinks, and perhaps the thing I am most excited about… A KANSAS CITY BBQ SOCIETY SANCTIONED COMPETITION!!!!!

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Festival Dates & Times

Saturday, July 13, 11am – 8pm​​​​

Sunday, July 14, 11am – 5pm​

Admission costs

$15.00 for adults

$5.00 for kids.

Children under 5 are FREE!​

As for what I will be teaching you all how to cook. I can tell you it will involve a lot of fantastic ingredients, homemade BBQ sauce, some booze in basically each and every element of the dish (tequila, vodka, and beer will all be used), a refreshing twist, and you DO NOT WANT TO MISS IT. My demo is on Sunday the 14th from 12:15-1:00. Please come check out how I put MaurPower on the Plate for a Summer BBQ Spectacular. Here is the jalapeno infused tequila in the making!

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Check out OmNomCT (the people who invited me to demo and a fantastic food blog) for the list and schedule of all the demos! Right before me is another reality TV chef from America’s Baking Competition. PLUS… local chefs and BBQ Competitors. And here is a sneak peek as I begin my prep for this Sunday!

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Until next time, this is Jason “MaurPowerFoodie” signing off. Come check out an awesome festival this weekend. I guarantee a great time for all.


The Iron Bridge @ 100 Church Hill – Sandy Hook, CT

Last week I posted a teaser trailer posing a very important question…. Did I find a new Best Burger in CT.  Some of you may remember when I took my trip to Pub 25 for an inside look at the building of my favorite burger in the state. Well, I was told that I had that right there, in the same town there was competition I had not tried yet. The “Home of the Burger & Brew”, The Iron Bridge @ 100 Church Hill.

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So, I  took a trip to the Iron Bridge to try this Burger & Brew deal. First things first, if you are looking for a good deal, this is it. $9.49 gets you a 12 oz gigantic burger, curly fries, a fried onion brick, and a mug of draft beer. It is so much food, I could not finish it in one sitting after starting of my meal with the soup of the day, a sheet crab & corn bisque.

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When Iron Bridge says “Soup of the Day”, you can tell they mean it” Fresh ingredients and made that day. With a little bit of Cajun flare, this bisque had great depth of flavor and just a bit of kick on the after taste. The owner Ray, told me they have one regular who lives all the way up in Hartford and makes the trip just to have this soup when it is on special. After my soup, I knew Pub 25 might actually have competition for its crown, so I took a trip into the kitchen to see where the magic was made. What did I find…?

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…A plethora of fresh, hand formed burgers larger than a fist. These monstrous creations looked great. A little bit leaner than your average burger with a 90/10 ratio, I could still see that a lot of thought, time, and trial went into making these burgers exactly how Ray wanted them to be. The next step in the process is to season and flame grille these babies. Flame grilling gives you great flavor and a nice slight char on the outside. I went back to my seat and waited for the delivery of this…

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Topped with sauteed onions and bacon, by creation was complete. So first I had to go right for the burger. Juicy,  well cooked… This is a great burger. Now, when it comes to burgers I have found there to be two major schools of thought. First, let the meat talk for itself… keep the seasoning light, and just make sure you use fresh, quality meat. This is what Iron Bridge does and they do it extremely well. I would liken this style of burger to the home of the original Hamburger Sandwich in the Country, right here in New Haven, CT… Louis Lunch. Very simple but very tasty. The second school of thought is to try and enhance the flavor of the meat with the right seasoning blend. Big, bold flavors that play with your taste buds. This is the style of the burger at Pub 25. So which is better? I will get to that in a little bit. First, back to this meal. As I mentioned, you also get curly fries (these were pretty standard, but perfectly cooked with a nice crunch but not overdone) and an Onion Brick. This onion brick, to me, was the highlight of the meal. Think crispy onion straws to the EXTREME! They take a bunch of very thinly sliced onions, dip them in a perfectly seasoned beer batter, and fry them together into a brick of unhealthy, fried goodness. Crispy on the outside, and nice flavorful onion on the inside, what makes this special is not only how well it is cooked or how well it is seasoned, but the fact that the batter does not overpower or hide the flavor of the onion. Over all, this was a fantastic meal.

So now, onto the verdict… Did Iron Bridge take away the throne from Pub 25? Well… this all goes back to those two schools of burgers (see how I tied everything together), and my personal preference are those big, bold flavors offered by Pub 25. Just remember, this is a matter of opinion. Iron Bridge still offers a great product and is well worth your trip to try it for yourself and make your own decision. I know I will be back to try some of the other dishes I saw make their way out of the kitchen while I was there.

While Iron Bridge may be “The Home of the Burger & Brew”, it is not the home of my favorite burger in CT. Pub 25 can keep that title…. for now.

The Iron Bridge @ 100 Church Hill on Urbanspoon

Until next time, this is Jason “MaurPowerFoodie” Maur signing off…. “Om Nom Nom… mmmmm…. Burger….”


A Philadelphia Feast!… In Norwich, CT?

Philadelphia, PA… The city of brotherly love, a wealth of historic sites and stories, and home to one of the most iconic American foods known to man: The Philly Cheese Steak! One of my all-time favorites. Whenever I go down to Philly I am sure to get a cheese steak. I tend to try a different place every time using a method taught to me by a good friend from Philly: look at the people coming out of the restaurant and if you can see grease through the bag… go inside and order yourself a cheese steak. The only problem with the Philly Cheese Steak, I could only get one in Philly. Much like the famed Baltimore Crab Cake or the New England Clam Chowder or so many other great staples throughout the world, anywhere besides Philadelphia that claimed to have a Philly Cheese Steak, lied. I am not saying I have not had some wonderful Steak and Cheese sandwiches, just that they were not Philly Cheese steaks. That is until I was invited up to Norwich, CT to try Philly’s.

Located at 33 Sherman Street in Norwich (down the street from Backus Hospital), when you drive by Philly’s, it is easy to ignore from the outwardly appearance and simply drive on by without even noticing it. That would be a mistake. This has to be one of the best kept secrets in the State of Connecticut. While not much to look at, Philly’s delivers authentic Philadelphia flavors and quality better than anywhere else outside of Philadelphia itself… in fact, it pretty much transports you down to the City of Brotherly Love. Two warnings: 1) There is not really many places to eat. Outside there is a small counter with a few seats, but there are no tables inside, so come expecting to take out or stand at the counter and eat (like I did) unless you get one of the coveted outside spots.


I was lucky enough to have owner Shem Adams (pictured below) there to walk me through the men and prepare me a feast of a tasting course by course. Shem is originally from Philadelphia, which probably explains why he has been able to create something that gave me an unexpected reaction to eating his Philly Cheese Steak, describe a little later (everything in its time).  He first came up to CT in 1994 and then moved up permanently in 1997. After years of going back and forth to Philly just to get a load of his favorite sandwich, Shem decided enough was enough. In 2010  he decided to start Philly’s and spent the year preparing the restaurant to open. When it did in 2011, it was immediately welcomed by the town residents, quickly becoming the place to go for lunch and to have provide the food for local events and fundraisers. Plus, Philly’s delivers to the Norwich area from 11-2 for lunch. Shem was taught the secrets of the true Philly Cheese Steak by his friends back down in PA, and brought the magic up with him.

Anyways, enough already with me rambling on… Let’s get to the FOOD! He started me off with the Buffalo Chicken Fries.

The fries were well seasoned and perfectly crisp out of the frier, topped with a monstrous portion of chopped Buffalo Chicken prepared with a “Doctored-up” Frank’s Sauce (as Shem put it) and a “drizzle” of Ranch Sauce. I started munching away at the sinfully delicious platter, barely getting my complimentary words out to Shem in between bites when Shem stopped me and asked one simple question… “You like ketchup?”. “Of course!” I replied. Shem responded “Put a little on them.” as he slid me the bottle across the counter. This took a great platter of fries to whole different level. The sweet tartness of the ketchup melded into the smooth ranch sauce and simply made me utter one word… “Duuuude!” That’s all I needed to say as Shem smiled knowing full well that my meal was only beginning.

Next up came “The Broad Street Bully”. An accolade winning sandwich (featured as one of the best sandwiches in THE COUNTRY by The Travel Channel), this goliath of meal is packed with Extra Meat (Twice-Shave Rib-eye), provolone, Fried Onions, Mushrooms (though I got mine without), sweet and hot peppers, pickles, and of course… Cheez Whiz.

This overstuffed behemoth could satisfy the hunger of any body, not to mention the fries I had already eaten, but I dug right in…

And after one bite, I, Jason “MaurPowerFoodie” Maur, the man who has probably never stopped talking a day in his life, was speechless. FINALLY, an authentic Philly Cheese Steak NOT in Philadelphia. Every single ingredient melded into the next; there was no need to chew because the meat was sliced so thin it just melted in your mouth; each flavor played off the other creating a simple feeling… comfortable bliss. This was the moment that teleported me out of Norwich, CT and down to Philadelphia, PA. I do not know if I can type the words to fully do this sandwich, so I will type just one, “GO!”. Experience this or any one of the other many different varieties of Cheese Steaks. Quite possibly the most intriguing to me is the sandwich that is 100% Shem entitled “The Barkley”. Made with both steak and chicken, 3 cheeses, and a host of other toppings, this is my next order when I return. Philly’s also offers chicken instead of steak for any of the sandwiches, a variety of hoagies, and can even do a vegetarian option without the steak. One last look at the Fries and Cheese Steak before I devour them and the meat on the slicer ready to be sliced fresh for the next sandwich.

So I had some delicious food already under my belt (and pushing it out with each bite) but my feast was still not over. Next came something completely foreign to me: The Original Tarantini Panzarotti. Made by Shem’s friend Leo from Camden, NJ (right outside of PA), this was something I had never heard of yet tasted.

What’s inside that crispy, fried homemade crust? Quite simply, mozzarella and home-made sauce. This is your basic childhood pizza bite ON STEROIDS! Freshly fried with a flavorful crispy fried dough on the outside, the inside is filled with oozing, melted goodness.

If you want a trip back to your childhood, this is how you get it. I don’t know if I can go back to pizza bites after having these, but I may start trying to make them myself, though I am sure it will take me some time to get them as perfect as these.

And of course, what meal would be complete without dessert? Certainly not this feast. But for dessert we went off menu! I have been given permission to share with you one of the secrets of Philly’s: Fried Philly Bread!

As I said, this item is not on the menu, and actually not even available every day. When you go, ask for it. If they don’t have it that day or have sold out (which they do fast), GO BACK FOR IT! This is a fried cinnamon spice baked bread that is then fried to the point that there is a crispy, cinnamony outer crust, but the inside is still super moist and fluffy. The cake is then topped with vanilla ice cream and a house-made butterscotch sauce. Far from the healthiest way to finish a calorie packed meal, it was certainly the best way I can think of to end the feast. I devoured the dessert down to each spoonful of that butterscotch sauce. Also, be sure to try one of the many flavors of one of Philly’s favorite drinks, Jarritos. I went with Fruit Punch and am going to get Pineapple next time.

Quite simply put, do not miss out on this hidden treasure of Connecticut. Thank you not only to Shem (pictured below with me), but to the rest of the staff at Philly’s Marlon (pictured below, original customer and new employee), Ed, and Evan, for an amazing meal. You certainly showed me why Philly’s is the true replication of the City of Brotherly Love.

I also talked to Dave, Jess, & young Jamie who were enjoying their Barkleys and Fries. Dave had been many a time and bragged to Jess of the quality of these sandwiches, and Jess was not a believer… Until, like me, she took one bite. They all gave the food two thumbs up as their mouths were too full to comment fully. But did manage to let me know they will back… A lot! I know am looking forward to my return visit. Be sure to check out their website, friend them on facebook, and follow them on twitter. Call for your order (860)912-1057 and be sure to tell them MaurPowerFoodie sent you.

Until next time, this is Jason “Maur Power Foodie” Maur signing out. I am going into a food coma now.

Philly's CT on Urbanspoon