Monday, February 17, 2014

Oak + Almond for Brunch, Dining, and More in Norwalk CT


Social Media Tasting Event

On Sunday, after a gentle snowfall dusted the state, I headed out to Norwalk CT to visit one of Fairfield county's newest additions, the Oak + Almond Restaurant for a mid-day brunch. We've been having one heavy snowfall after another here in New England, so believe it or not, two inches of snow is now considered a light dusting!

Chittara Carbonara at Oak + Almond

Oak + Almond opened in the summer of 2013, and is quickly becoming a must stop for happy hour, lunch, dinner, late night fare, and, of course, a wonderful destination for a leisurely Sunday Brunch. Located right on Main Avenue, next to the Norwalk DMV, Oak + Almond offers easy access from the Merritt Parkway, with plenty of on-site parking. A big plus for me!

We started with the traditional brunch beverages of a Spicy Bloody Mary and Mimosa.

Spicy Bloody Mary and Mimosa

Both were perfectly made. The Bloody Mary had a great blend of spices and a hefty dose of horseradish, just how I like it, spicy warm, but not fiery hot. The Bloody Mary was attractively garnished with a pickled carrot, and baby onion. The Mimosa was just as tasty, with the correct balance of a hearty pour of champagne with a splash of orange juice. They have an entire drink book menu, so for those not wishing to partake in the usual brunch beverages, there are signature craft beverage items like the Oak + Almond Cocktail (four roses bourbon, luxardo triplum  orgeat, lemon, with a smoked sea salt rim, bittermens tiki bitters), the paper plane, the black dahlia, and where there's smoke.

I should also mention that we were a large group of fourteen and we were seated at a massive table that easily accommodated all of us quite comfortably. In addition to the main dining room, there are two additional dining areas that open behind shoji screen sliding doors that can easily accommodate private parties.

The atmosphere during the day was bright, light-filled, and airy. Tables are situated at comfortable distances apart, so that even when the dining room is full, there is still a sense of intimate dining.  There is a small cocktail lounge to one side of the restaurant, and a chef's table to the rear, where one can dine while observing the open fire oven, chef and kitchen preparations. How fun would that be??!!!


Time to move on to the all the amazing food we sampled at this tasting! We started with some sample size selections off the brunch menu, and I was glad to see so many local CT food purveyors listed that I was already familiar with. Wave Hill Bakery for muffins and breads, Hollbrook Farms for greens,  a wide array of cheeses from 109 Cheese + Wine in Ridgefield, and many more! The best thing about the farm to table movement is that it all supports LOCAL!

We indulged in sample size and shared platters of:  a combination of the Artisan Cheese Board and the Meat Board, Pork and Ricotta Meatballs, Charred Octopus, and two types of flatbreads (funghi and margherita).
Sample Tastings

Everyone loved every item we sampled, but I must say that the pork and ricotta meatballs in a spicy marina sauce were a hit, favorited by all, and something I would love to re-create at home. Is it possible that a meatball can be creamy tasting?  Well, this one was, and I could have eaten the whole bowl pictured above and more. I also loved the cheese and meat boards, and could imagine myself meeting with friends for cocktails and ordering both boards and enjoying the wide array of meats and cheeses, nuts, crostini, and fruit preserves available. And the pickled vegetables were amazing! Done on premise, I even found myself nibbling on the stems to enjoy every last flavorful bite.

Combination of the Meat Board and Artisan Cheese Board

For my main entree, I ordered the Chittara Carbonara, made with guanciale, pecorino, a farm fresh egg, and black pepper. Delicious! Guanciale, made from pork cheeks, is a more refined yet powerful flavor compared to those who typically use pancetta when making their carbonara. The pecorino cheese, made from sheep's milk offers a buttery and nutty flavor.

The chittara (pronounced key-tahr-rah) pasta, a tad wider, porous, and more dense than a typical noodle, was the perfect accompaniment to these rich flavors, especially when I broke the yolk open and gently rolled it in to the pasta dish. While I'm not certain if the pasta was made on-premise, it certainly tasted like it was.

Here's some of the other main fares my table mates selected:
L-R across from top
Buttermilk Pancakes w/Roasted Apples, Kitchen Sink Salad w Grilled Shrimp, Kitchen Sink Salad w Grilled Salmon
Eggs with Sausage-Potato Hash-grilled toast, Brioche French Toast with caramelized bananas and pecans
Mussels + Fries, Scrambled Eggs-bacon-potato hash w grilled toast, Rolled Oat Granola w fruit, yogurt & red bee honey

I did get to taste a sample of both the pancakes and french toast. The pancakes were extra light and fluffy due to the addition of  extra egg whites, and the french toast tasted like bananas foster for breakfast. So good, and slightly sweet, with the caramelized goodness from the bananas and nuts.

For our happy ending for dessert we sampled the chocolate tart with olive oil vanilla gelato, and a house baked walnut and milk and dark chocolate chip cookie.  I had read a "tip" on foursquare to try the cookie, and...it...was...AMAZING.  Chef Holly sprinkles a bit more than a dash of sea salt over it, and as every pastry chef and baker knows, sweet desserts need to be tempered with salt.



This cookie was more than tempered with salt...it was undoubtedly enhanced and elevated by it. I ate more than my fair portion of it...and apologies to those around me for not playing nice and sharing as well as I should have.  The chocolate tart had the same treatment and the salt definitely brought out its fudgy goodness. The olive oil drizzled over the gelato simply made it all the more decadent. Who knew! Commenting on my facebook pictures was my friend Jenny who noted that her grandmom would add a dab of olive oil to gelato, and now she does too! Well all I can say is Jenny, Jenny's grandmom and Chef Holly are certainly on to something! This is genius! I'm a convert now and will certainly do the same! It definitely enhanced the flavors!

We so enjoyed all the brunch items at Oak + Almond and hope to return soon for a delicious dinner!

Oak + Almond
544 Main Avenue
Norwalk CT
203.846.4600
www.oakandalmond.com

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For more pictures from my visit to the Oak + Almond click HERE and don't forget to like the Home Place facebook page.

Disclaimer: We were invited to this promotional sampling at the Oak + Almond by members of  the Oak + Almond Management and Marketing Team, however, the views and opinions expressed herein are our own.


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4 comments:

  1. Great photos! Haven't been back since they opened but I sure enjoyed it. Need to get back soon!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Andrew! It was a great meal, and everyone was raving over what they ordered. That burger will be on my plate the next time I'm there. Everyone was raving about the cippolini jam on it. They were dipping everything in it from fries to bread, and loving it.
      And I must have another one of those cookies.
      Or two.
      Okay. Maybe three.

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  2. Your photos look great! Got me reminiscing about the fantastic meal we had ;)

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  3. Omg, everything looks amazing! I'm going to have to check this place out, I don't often eat brunch but this just looks too good to pass up!

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