Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Greenwich Wine + Food Festival 2015 Lineup Announced


Thirteen Local Chefs to Be Honored; Legendary Reggae Band The Wailers to Perform

Tickets Now On Sale for Entire Weekend of Festivities

Greenwich, CT – The fifth annual GREENWICH WINE+FOOD FESTIVAL, presented by Serendipity magazine ( and benefitting Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and The Greenwich Department of Parks and Recreation, has announced the thirteen local chefs to be honored on Friday, September 24th at the Most Innovative Chefs Gala at the Roger Sherman Baldwin Park in Greenwich, Conn.  The Serendipity 2015 Most Innovative Chefs will be celebrated as they prepare their signature dishes and inventive fare for guests. 

This year’s list includes:

Alison Awerbuch, Abigail Kirsch at The Loading Dock, Stamford, Conn.

Beck Bolender, One Twenty One, North Salem, New York

Francesco Casu, Golden View Firenze, Greenwich, Conn.

Renato Donzelli, Basso Café, Norwalk, Conn.

Nick DiBona, Madison Kitchen, Larchmont, New York

Erik Erlichson, Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, Conn.

Stephen Lewandowski, Harlan Social, Stamford, Conn.

Brian Lewis, Darien, Conn.

Pat Pascarella, Bar Sugo, Norwalk, Conn.

Matt Storch, The Chelsea, Fairfield, Conn. and Match, Norwalk, Conn.

David Raymer, Strada 18, Norwalk, Conn.

Luke Venner, Elm, New Canaan, Conn.

David White, Vespa, Westport, Conn.

“We are so lucky to have such extraordinary culinary talent in our local community,” said Suni Unger, Founder & CEO of Unger Publishing, Serendipity magazine and the GREENWICH WINE+FOOD Festival.  “The creativity of our honored chefs, as well as all of the foodie talent in our area, has made dining out in this region a fun and unique experience, whether it’s for an elegant evening out with friends, a romantic meal for two, or for a family dinner on a Sunday night.”

In addition to a Silent Auction to raise money for the selected charities, the evening will also feature a performance by The Wailers, the legendary reggae band formed by the late Bob Marley in 1969, which has sold over 250 million albums worldwide.

The Festival Most Innovative Chefs Gala is just one event in a blockbuster weekend lineup; the first Champagne Dinner Under the Stars event will take place on Thursday evening to kick off the festivities, and on Saturday, the Culinary Village, the center of the entire GREENWICH WINE+FOOD FESTIVAL, will offer tastings and demonstrations, celebrity chef book signings, the fourth annual Burger Battle, the second annual Top Bartender’s Showdown, Barbecue & Bluegrass, and a live musical performance by Grammy and CMA award-winning country superstars Little Big Town. 

Tickets are now on sale through or by calling 203.588.1363.  The event’s Facebook page,, will be announcing restaurant participants and schedule updates, as available.

All events will be held rain or shine, and anyone under 21, including infants or strollers, will not be admitted.  Animals are also not permitted.


The GREENWICH 2015 WINE+FOOD FESTIVAL is a three-day event that benefits The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a nationwide organization dedicated to providing healing to children and their families coping with cancer, sickle cell anemia and other serious illnesses, as well as The Greenwich Department of Parks and Recreation. The festival is hosted by Serendipity magazine, in conjunction with other event sponsors.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ten Upscale Burger Chains Compared

Over the past decade or so new types of burger restaurants, more upscale than the Clown, the King and the Redhead, have popped up in an attempt to elevate America's meal. They sit somewhere between fast food and casual dining and I call this style 'Nouveau Burger Cuisine'. Please feel free to use this term, just give me credit for coining it. Some are more upscale than the others, and most claim to use healthier ingredients. I have ranked them in the order of my preference and you may disagree with me. Don't take it too seriously, what follows is simply my opinions and very little separates them. Please note that not all of the new chains are listed, just the ones I have been to. Please feel free to leave a comment, just no spam or links.

Smashburger was started by Tom Ryan in Colorado in 2007 and now has over 300 locations in 32 states and five countries. They have regional favorites to match local tastes, and some darn good shakes. The fries are good, as are the sweet potato fries, and they make a nice side salad as well. Two can eat well for under twenty bucks. Smash is my favorite overall on this list for taste, and consistency. I have been to the Ramsey and Paramus locations.  

Zinburger is more upscale than the rest, and pricier too, but well worth every penny of the eleven bucks for the burger shown above. They are also the smallest of nine with only eleven locations. The burger is cooked to order and they gave me a perfect medium. They have a very nice wine selection, as well as craft beers and they have excellent table service. I went to the Paramus location. 

Habit Burger
The Habit Burger, better known as The Habit, started in 1969 in Irvine California and has grown to over a hundred locations, with some rapid expansion going on right now. They are publicly traded on NASDAQ under the name HABT. They also got the number one in Consumer Reports last year. Their signature burger is the Charburger. I went to the Fair Lawn, NJ location. 

Elevation Burger

Elevation Burger was founded by Hans Hess in California in 2005. They have grown to fifty locations here in the States and the Middle East and offer The beef is grass fed, and free range and the fries are cooked in olive oil, giving them a wonderful crispy taste. Two can eat well here for under twenty bucks. I went to the Willow Grove, Pa location. 

Jake's Wayback
Jake's Wayback Burgers started in Newark, Delaware way back in 1991 as Jake's Hambugers and they have grown to just under a hundred locations. They have a burger of the month, and a shake of the month so I like to try them when I go. Some locations also offer tap beer. I have been to the Thorndale, Pa location and the Monroe, NY one. 

Fuddruckers started in 1979 in Texas and has about 180 locations. It was started by Phillip Romano who went on to start Romano's Macaroni Grill. There are a few unique things about the. One of the coolest things  is the fixings bar where you can add pretty much anything you want, as well as melted cheese for your fries. The other cool thing is the availability of elk, bison, and Wild Boar, and I have tried them all. On the beef burgers you can choose 1/3, 1/2, or 2/3 pound patties. The buns are fresh-baked in house. I have been to four locations, two in Jersey, one in Middletown, NY, and in Myrtle Beach. I find some inconsistency between the restaurants and I feel that the one in Parsippany is the best. 

Shake Shack
Shake Shack was started in 2000 by Danny Myer in NYC and has grown to over 60 locations. They have also gone public so you buy stock in the company. They have a cult following and I so want to love them, but I find them a bit bland. I will give them another try and add some toppings to see if they improve the flavor. They do make killer shakes. I have been to Stamford, King of Prussia, and Ramsey. 

Burger Fi
Burger Fi has close to sixty locationsm, close to half of them are in Florida. They have a prime burger that looks interesting, and hot dogs too. I went to the one in Poughkeepsie, NY, right near Vassar College. They have a very nice craft beer selection there.

BGR- The Burger Joint, has 21 locations. They feature dry aged beef cooked to order over an open flame. While the burger looks rather pedestrian in the picture, it was good quality meat, properly seasoned, and close to the medium I ordered. Overall, it was quite flavorful. I was at the Danbury, Ct location.

Five Guys
Five Guys Burgers and Fries is the biggest, with well over a thousand locations, and one of the oldest, having been founded by Jerry Murrell in Virginia in 1986. It remains a family owned and run operation with Jerry's five sons, the five guys, involved in the business. They have a long list of toppings available for your single or double burger and you can even skip the meat and get a grilled cheese. The fries (regular or cajun) are very good and they give you a copious amount. I recommend sharing an order and they have malt vinegar to dip. 

If Zinburger is the most upscale, Five Guys is the closest to fast food. I don't mean that in a bad way, I do like them, even though I put them last on the list. They are way better than any of the big chains. The presentation is more rustic, read that as being served in aluminum foil to retain the heat. I've been to dozens of locations in New York, North Carolina, Virginia, and Connecticut and have find them to be consistent.   

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Elevation Burger- Willow Grove, Pa

Elevation Burger was started about a decade ago in Falls Church, Virginia and now has over fifty locations. Most of them are on the East Coast with a few in the Middle East. The founder, Hans Hess, came up with the idea of serving higher quality, grass-fed, meats and it was a novel concept at the time. They are what I like to call nouveau burger cuisine, those new slightly upscale burgers chains that have been popping up over the past few years. 

I had the Nyack location on my short list, but found there was one on the way down to our daughter's house so we stopped by the Willow Grove, Pennsylvania location to see what it was all about. Inside it has that modern burger place look, clean and neat. The menu is simple and easy to read and the service was friendly and helpful. 

I ordered the Elevation Burger, a double patty, with cheddar cheese and original toppings, lettuce, pickles, Elevation sauce, and tomato at $6.50. Teresa ordered a single burger with the same toppings and added caramelized onions at $4.50. We shared a regular fries at $3.25 and a drink at $2.25. Just a shade over eighteen dollars, comparable to the competition.   

So, how do they stack up to the competition in taste? The shoestring fries (fried in olive oil) were nice and crispy with good flavor. I like the fact that they have malt vinegar and Old Bay seasoning available. The burgers were quite good, equal to Habit Burger, Jake's Burger Fi and better than Shake Shake and Five Guys, but a bit below Smashburger. I would go again.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Billy Joe's Ribworks- Newburgh, NY

Billy Joe's Ribworks sits on the waterfront in Newburgh and I have been there a few times for happy hour on a Friday when they put out free appetizers. I thought it only right to stop by and have a meal so today being a gorgeous day we stopped by for lunch.

We sat outside to enjoy the view and looked over the menus. I was thinking of the Carolina burger, but I decided on the Brueben, a take on a Rueben, at twelve bucks. It was smoked brisket with cole slaw, melted provolone, and a BBQ mayonnaise on Texas Toast. It was quite good, the brisket was nice and tender, and came with some nice fries. 

Teresa went with the cilantro chicken sandwich, also twelve bucks. She opted for the sweet potato fries which were okay, but the regular fries were better. She said the chicken was good, but the portion was a bit small. 

Overall, a nice place with good service and good food. The view is excellent too. We'll go back again sometime. They have a website for more information. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Cafe AIM- Newburgh, NY

I have passed by this place thousands of times over the years, but never at the right time to stop. About a year ago it changed hands and the new sign intrigued me enough to put it on my list. Well, today was the day and I must say that I have been missing out by not going sooner. 

Outside it looks small, but like a TARDIS it is bigger on the inside. It is clean and nicely decorated with the friendly and welcoming staff wearing black t-shirts adorned with the restaurant's logo. I was told to sit wherever I wanted and the waitress brought a menu. For a small place the menu is extensive and interesting, but I wanted a nice burger so I went with a bacon cheeseburger with chips for $6.79.

The burger was excellent. Nicely charred on the outside and close to the medium I'd ordered. The meat was seasoned nicely with salt, pepper, and I think I detected a hint of garlic powder. There was plenty of crispy bacon on it and the cheese melted to perfection. All of this sat on a fresh, toasted kaiser bun with lettuce, tomato, and red onions. 

Overall, a nice little restaurant with good food, at reasonable prices, and friendly service. I will be back again. I couldn't find a website, but they do have a Facebook page for more information.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Mr. Sushi & Grill- Middletown, NY. My favorite sushi restaurant.

Mr. Sushi is my favorite sushi restaurant. We've been there a few times and each visit was amazing. This time I went away from a roll and ordered the cerviche at twelve bucks. It was an appetizer, yet there was plenty of amazing fish, fruit and so much more. With it I ordered uni sashimi and snapper sashimi at four bucks each, also both amazing. Teresa went with chicken pad Thai for fifteen bucks that she loved. 

Margaritas Mexican Restaurant- Wappingers Falls, NY

Margarita's is a cute little Mexican restaurant in Wappingers Falls, located in a strip mall on route 9. I've seen it a few time when we stopped at Kohl's and today we decided to see what it was like. Inside it is a bit bigger than it looks and is brightly decorated with Mexican music playing on the stereo system.

We were seated and looked over the menus. I was toying with the fish taco, the ceviche, the enchilada mole, and a seafood special. I went with the Fish Tacos, three soft flour tortillas with marinated grilled cod fish served with shredded cabbage, cheese, cilantro and onions in a white sauce for $15.95. It was very good. The fish was perfectly cooked and they put the toppings in a bowl so you can add as much as you like. The tartar sauce was excellent. 

Teresa ordered the Grilled Chicken Quesadilla which was a grilled flour tortilla stuffed with char-broiled chicken and jack cheese and served with sour cream and guacamole for $10.75. At first she thought it was a bit small, but that was because they put it on a huge plate. She said it was very good, and very filling. The guacamole was excellent. 

So, overall a very good meal. Good food at reasonable prices, good service, and nice ambiance. We will be back. They have a website for more information. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Emeril's Burgers and More- Bethleham, Pa

Emeril Lagasse was the guy that got me hooked on the Food Network, and the guy that got me to try different things in the kitchen. I always loved his style and when I want a new recipe to try I start by looking at his on the web. 

I had his Burgers and More at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem on my short list for a while and we decided to stop by on Memorial Day while headed home. 

I went with the Black and Blue Burger at fifteen bucks and got the sweet potato fries as a side. I ordered it medium and it came out as a perfect medium. In fact, it was a perfect burger in every way. Not only was it cooked perfectly, but it was seasoned properly with plenty of flavor. Quite probably one of the best burgers I have ever tasted, and that is saying a lot. The sweet potato fries were okay, but a little undercooked.

Teresa ordered the Prime Burger with Swiss cheese at fourteen bucks with onion rings. Her burger came out a perfect medium-well and the onion rings were excellent. Next time I would order the rings too. 

So Emeril puts his money where his mouth is and runs an excellent restaurant. Stop by sometime if you are in the area. There is a website for more information. 

Sly Fox Brewing

Sly Fox Brewing came into being in 2012 and now has two locations. One is in Pottstown, and the one we went to is in Pheonixville. We went there a while ago and we liked it a lot, so a return visit was in order. 

Now brewpubs may have good food, they may have good beer, and they may have good service, but rarely do they have all three. This is one of those few places that gets all three right. 

I started with a pint of Odyssey Imperial Ale. It was quite good. So good that I had a second and got a growler to take home. I ordered the bacon blue cheeseburger and it also was quite good. A tad over the medium I'd ordered, but still good. 

Teresa and Nicole got the chicken gyro, and they said it was good. Brian ordered the special, venison sausage which had a nice flavor. The kids had mini burgers and they were good too. 

In addition to the growler I picked up a cold six-pack of 113 IPA to go. All told the bill was just $100 for four adults, two kids, five pints, a six-pack and a growler. Cheap. Also, the service was outstanding. 

We will be back again. They have a website for more information. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

How I lost 50 Pounds in Five Months

That was me back in August of 2014, all 245 pounds of me. I didn't realize how big I'd gotten until late November of that year when I went in for a simple physical and the nurse reported my weight, and later called me and said that my cholesterol was quite high. Well, that was my wake up call and I decided that it was time to shed a few pounds. That and the fact that my feet and knees were killing me from carrying all that extra weight around everyday. 

The first thing I did was to assess what I ate that was causing the problem. I realized that cheese, bread, and fatty foods were my problem, so I cut them down radically. Okay, I like beer too, but that was not going to end, nor was I going to switch to a watery tasting light brew. In fact what I did was to up my game and switch to less quantity, higher quality, with Imperial IPAs, or Imperial stouts on the weekends. 

This is me after about forty pounds of weight loss in March of 2015. So, how did I lose weight? Please note that I did not say that this is how you should do it, only how I did it. I am neither a nutritionist nor a doctor. Well, the secret is simply portion control and changing eating habits. You don't need a paid program, especially anyone that requires you to buy their products. 

First, I looked at what I ate and realized that my biggest problem was simply too much food, and the wrong foods, especially too much cheese, bread, and bacon. My diet, five days a week, now consists of a banana for breakfast, a large salad at lunch with homemade dressing, another banana and some raw almonds after dinner. For dinner it is strict portion control with four ounces of protein, a proper portion of starch, and some green vegetables. This all comes to under a thousand calories a day. I know, I just lost many of you, but it really is filling enough. 

So, what do I eat at dinner? Pasta with homemade sauce and four turkey meatballs once a week, fish twice a week, either salmon, tilapia, or shrimp, grilled chicken, and red meat only once a week at home. When we shop I portion out the proteins and freeze two servings for us. The trick is to make the food flavorful and pretty. Also, eat slow and drink a large glass of water before eating. Oh, and we stay away from any processed foods. We make everything fresh.

On Saturday we still go out to eat and I still get a nice big juicy cheeseburger. I did sub out the fries for a salad while I was losing though. Now I eat the fries. On Sunday I cook whatever looks interesting at the store. Today I will make steak fajitas with a homemade guacamole. 

Now that I am down to where I want to be, or at least close enough to it, I am taking in about five hundred more calories per day and I have stayed at 193 for about a month now. I have added a bit of exercise as well by walking a couple of miles a day. Over the next few months I will be posting a few low-calorie recipes for some of the foods I've been eating. 

I went to Sam's club the other day and picked up a fifty pound bag of rice and realized that I was carrying that much around all the time. It was heavy. My feet feel fine now, my knee is better, and my cholesterol is down. I also have a whole new wardrobe as I got rid of all of my fat clothes. I am down from a 42 waist to a 34 and my neck is three inches smaller. I hope to be able to stop using the CPAP machine soon too. 

Like I said, this worked for me. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Frogmore Tavern- Kingston, NY

We were headed up to the Woodstock Chimes annual sale and needed a place to go for lunch. I came across Frogmore Tavern by reading North Country Rambler, a blog run by Joe Steiniger who has similar tastes to mine and I trust his judgement. 

We popped in at about two on a nice Saturday afternoon and were given our choice of seats. We took one by the window and looked over the menus. I was toying with the idea of the chicken and waffles, the Rueben, and the Cuban Press, but the grass-fed burger at thirteen bucks won out. I added Swiss cheese for an extra buck and said that I wanted it medium. 

About fifteen minutes (maybe less) later a beautiful plateful of  happiness was set down in front of me. The meat was fresh tasting and properly seasoned. It was also cooked to a perfect medium, crusted on the outside and pink in the middle. It sat in a fresh bun with just the right amount of Swiss cheese melted to just the right ooziness. The fries were some of the best I've ever had. They were extra crispy, yet soft in the middle. 

Teresa went with one of the lunch specials a grilled cheese sandwich with ramps and eggplant on artisan bread for thirteen bucks. She switched out the fries for a salad with a ginger vinaigrette. She said it was great. 

Overall, great food at reasonable prices with excellent service, Patti was awesome. I agree with Joe, Frogmore is good and we will be back. They have a website for directions and menus.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Burger Fi- Poughkeepsie, NY

Burger Fi is a four year old chain of about 70 restaurants, 26 of them are in Florida where they started, modeled along the lines of the new trend of upscale burger joints. Their philosophy is to use quality ingredients, like grass fed beef with no hormones or antibiotics, and prepare it properly. They even show the calories on the menu which I like.

We stopped by the Poughkeepsie location, near Vassar College, for a late lunch on a Saturday afternoon. The inside is nice with wood, polished metal, and lots of natural light coming through the large windows. 

I was going to order the Twenty-eight Burger at $9.97 which is called that because the ground brisket is aged for twenty-eight days. It looked interesting, but I wanted to try their basic burger  to get an idea of how they stack up to the competition and decided though to go with the Burgerfi Cheeseburger at $5.57 which is a two-patty burger with cheese, house sauce, lettuce, and tomato. Teresa did the 'build your burger' with a single patty on lettuce in place of the bun. We shared a small order of fries (I would call them a large) and a soda. The total came to $16.52, less than most comparable restaurants. 

The burgers were good, quite good in fact. There was plenty of flavor, they were nice and juicy, and fresh tasting. The hand-cut fries were excellent. They were hot, crispy on the outside, and soft in the middle, just the way I like them. So, how does Burger Fi stack up to their competition? I would rate them on a par with Smashburger and Habit and that is saying something. 

They have a nice selection of craft beers and the Coke Freestyle fountain. We will definitely be heading back again sometime, I want to try that Twenty-eight burger and a Chicago style hot dog since they use Vienna Beef hot dogs.  Stop by and see for yourself. They have a website for menus and locations. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

YO! Sushi- Paramus, NJ

YO! Sushi is the largest sushi chain in the U.K. and they are making their way across the pond to the former colonies. The first location in the Northeast is in the Westfield Garden State Plaza, and they opened April 30th. We were invited to the soft opening and I thought it might be interesting to check out their unique concept. 

What makes them unique, at least here in the States, is that they have a long conveyor belt running called a kaiten around the restaurant on which dishes ride looking like flying saucers from an old sci-fi flik. You take what you want off of the belt and dig in. The plates are color coded and each color has a price. They tally up the plates when you finish, and you pay. The plates are covered, so they are protected, and they have a code on them which I assume tells them when to pull the item from the belt should it not have been selected. 

Don't see what you want? Don't worry as they have a menu of hot foods and more available. All you do is push a button at your seat and the white light next to you turns blue. Blink and a server instantly  appears (well it seemed so anyway). What you order is quickly delivered. In a real hurry? They have a cooler in front with items ready to go. 

We tried quite a few dishes and they were all very good. My favorite was the calamari with a ginger taste. It was lightly fried and the calamari was just the right texture. 

I also loved the spicy dragon roll. Not too spicy though, just the right amount of heat.

The salmon was fresh, tasty, and a generous portion.

I tried a seaweed dish that was good also. The dishes are not labeled, but there is a large full-color menu with pictures of each allowing the diner to easily identify the plate like using an Audubon book for bird watching. It actually is quite a fun activity.

Now I can see an upside to this system, and a downside. The upside is that you can start eating immediately upon being seated and see what the food looks like, perhaps leading to trying something different. The downside is that with everything passing by, those plates can rack up rather quickly on your table, as can the bill. I recommend exercising caution and eating slowly. 

Overall, the food is fresh and good. Not what I would call amazing, but quite good. The selection on the conveyor is simple, but the menu is more extensive. The ambiance is cool, the staff is friendly, enthusiastic, and helpful. I would go back again and you should stop by for a unique sushi experience. They have a website for more information.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Dinerluxe- New Milford, Ct.

Nothing says classic American fare as the diner, especially a good Greek one. When I go to a new diner I look at four aspects to determine whether they are great, good, or mediocre. First, the food, they must be able to present a perfect omelet, gyro, burger, or Rueben. If they can't, they should close up. Next, it has to be clean. Third, I want good service, and last I want reasonable prices. Oh, and cool looking is nice too.

We travel to Brookfield Ct. about once a month to hit the Costco and we like to try new places so when a colleague of Teresa recommended the Dinerluxe we decided to drive up and try them. 

I went with the Carnegie Reuben at $8.99. It was the way I like a Rueben, something that can be held in the hand and not some insane open-faced monster oozing cheese. The corned beef was quite nice, the marble rye bread was buttered and grilled on the flattop the way it should be, and there was just the right amount of Swiss and sauerkraut. With it came a copious amount of perfectly cooked fries, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, a large pickle, and a small bowl of some of the best cole slaw I've ever had. 

Teresa went with the parmesan crusted chicken sandwich at $9.79. It had some darn tasty chicken, fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, and arugula with a side of basil vinaigrette, all on a very fresh bun. It also came with fries, pickle, and slaw.

So, let's see how Dinerluxe fared on my criteria. On food and price the place hit the mark. The service was excellent, pleasant, quick, and knowledgable. The place was quite clean too, including the bathrooms. The decor is very tastefully done with what I like to call modern diner chic, a cool nice mix of chrome and color. All that said, I would rate Dinerluxe as a great diner and we will certainly be popping back in the future. I want to try an omelet and a gyro. You should stop by too and see what I mean.

They have a website for more information. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Pauly's Burgers- Walden, NY

Pauly's Burgers is a seasonal mobile restaurant parked at Tin Brook Bed and Breakfast. I've passed by hundreds of times, they are just down the road from my house, and said that I had to give them a try. Today I stopped and I will be stopping by again, often.

I got the bacon cheeseburger to go at $8.75 and it came with copious, and delicious, fries. The burger was 1/4 pound and seasoned perfectly with American cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and pickles. 

They have a website