Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Food Food, Connecticut Style

For our two year anniversary Mike and I, after much debating and realizing our first choice of Buffalo NY might leave us trapped at the airport in mounds of snow, decided to go to Stamford CT overnight to sleep peacefully away from cats and various Bronx noises. It's only an hour from here and for 4.50 per person each way on metro north, you can't beat the travel cost. After living in large states for most of my life I really get a kick out of going to another state even though it's closer than I think.

We got a nice room at a nice hotel, which was conveniently located in the middle of a downtown area which was mostly restaurants and strangely, fur stores. After we dropped off our stuff we went out and got some lunch.

Restaurant #1: Buffalo Wild Wings. I know, I know. Chain restaurants aren't something to write about. But I happen to love that place. So does Mike. They have really good wings! And their Guinness is always fresh, and who doesn't love a beer with wings? Mike kept feeling funny about drinking in the afternoon, but it was 3:00 after all, not 12:00. Plus we were on vacation. Not interesting food writing, but tasty none the less.

Restaurant #2: We walked around after lunch, scoping out dinner locations that we had read about in the booklet in our hotel room. We don't know anyone in Stamford, other than fictional characters from "The Office" who are not actually people we know and not actually in Connecticut, so we didn't have any inside info on where to eat. While walking, we spotted empty canole shells in the window of some Italian-ish place. Mike and I love a canole, so after walking another block, to the end of the "downtown area", and past 2 fur stores, we went back and got 4 of them. They filled them while we waited, the sign of a proper canole, and we took them back to our room. Angels sang as we each ate one. Usually I can't eat more than a half of one at a time, but these were amazing. Not too sweet, no weird mini chocolate chips in the filling. Nothing like laying on a king size bed eating great canoles. And there were still 2 left.

Restaurant #3: Dinner. The ideal thing to have at night, especially to celebrate anniversaries. Generally one chooses a place known for good food, but as we didn't know what was good, we went with checking out the menu and seeing how crowded the place was. We walked past a Napa Valley wine country California cuisine type place, unfortunately attached to the hotel, which made it seem maybe a little off, although the menu looked good. Mike didn't think it looked good though, and as we have different tastes, I figured I would let him decide. There was a Spanish place across from the hotel that looked pretty promising, the menu looked good, and there were a lot of people inside, all seemingly enjoying themselves. I love Spanish food, at least what I've had of it. Anything containing chorizo gets and A+ in my book. So we decided to eat there.

Interior. Night. Restaurant: Barcelona.

After being seated, our very (unrealistically) enthusiastic waiter came up and asked us what we would like to drink. Neither of us had decided on a wine yet, as it had been about 2 minutes. When we said we didn't know yet, he came back at us with a "Have you been to this restaurant before?" I said no, I haven't. He said, "Do you know what tapas are?" I said yes, I do. I like them. He said, " Well let me tell you what they are. They are little plates of food that you usually order about 5 to 10 of, and share with your table." I said, I know, and we would like to look at the menu for a minute. He then started asking us what types of wine we like, and grabbed the bottle list from me and handed me the menu of wines by the glass, assuming we would not want to order a bottle, as we would have had he not been such an asshole. Or if I had still had the menu of wines by the bottle. It was obvious that he demanded an answer about wine asap, so we ordered what we wanted. About a minute later he came back with our wine and asked if we had decided. As he had previously described in great detail a few of the menu items, and seemed to be in such a hurry to take our order, we asked for the three things he had suggested and on top of that a tuna tartar and a calamari. Having rid ourselves of him once again, we attempted to enjoy our night. But wait! Tiny water glasses = guy filling water glasses constantly. CONSTANTLY. Not only was he at our table every time either one of us took a sip, but he felt as though he had to talk to us, in his ridiculously high pitched voice every time he poured more water. I'm not talking your usual male falsetto, I'm talking my impression of a 3 year old girl times 5 with a little creepy Michael Jackson in there, just for fun. If that wasn't enough, we were shoved next to a woman and her friend who can be defined by her comment to the friend, "Sorry I brought you to a place you're uncomfortable with. I guess I know this type of food better than you." Come on! Food isn't brain surgery! Order what sounds good and eat it! The mean woman's friend looked sad and shy and I felt bad for her. It's not like we were at some fancy 59th st. Columbus Circle $300+ per person place. We were at a Spanish restaurant in Stamford. Not so surprisingly they also offered a large plate of meat Argentinean style, which sounded great but not after downing a canole and some wings. Argentinean at a Spanish place? Sure, but if you're going to do something, stick with it. It's better to do one thing well than to spread yourself all over the place like some two-bit hussy. (Or Spanish restaurant).

The meal.

Our food came out, one or two plates at a time, which was the way it should be. That's about the only thing they did right. To define my meal at this place in one word, "salty". Like they dipped everything in a layer of salt before it came out. I had wings for lunch and didn't find them overly salty. To say the food was salty is an understatement. As someone who cooks food for a living, I am careful about salt. I usually salt less because if someone wants to pour salt on their food, that's their business. I don't want people having heart attacks in my restaurant. The only thing nearly edible was the tuna tartar, if you didn't eat it on the potato chips they provided for eating it with. It was actually perfectly tasty, by itself. There were enough capers in there that I had to avoid some of them. Salt Assault. Mike and I didn't get to talk much during our special anniversary dinner, but I agreed with him completely when he asked for our check before we were even done with our food.

Here's the compare and contrast segment of this blog:

Tonight, while still thinking about this "fine dining" experience, I looked up the reviews of  Barcelona to see if anyone else had the same opinion  as we did. Here they are, in order.

"Very cool inside, but a little loud"

This person said other things, about liking the food, etc. Now people rate restaurants based on temperature and volume?

This is my favorite:
"- chorizo w/ figs -- my fav., though the sausage was a little hard, but the taste is excellent."

Chorizo? Hard? Really? I didn't know that a cured sausage that is hard should be... HARD?

From the same reviewer...

tuna tartare -this was a disappointment compared to the various interpretations I've seen in NYC, also a bit bland.

It's Bland because you ate so much salty crap before you ate something that was actually not salty. And your NYC versions, probably better because they weren't so damn salty.

Just for fun, a girl who knows her sea creatures:

"The chef obviously understands the delicate precision in the timing needed to cook cephalopods like this."

I could go on for hours but I have realized that this is a Spanish place in Connecticut so it's really not worth it. I might not even be this angry about the whole thing if I hadn't woken up in my hotel room looking like the Michelin Man, my face so puffy from so much salt that my eyes were folding over on themselves and I had to walk all over the huge mall shopping for anything because there's no tax in Connecticut. Mike bought shoes. I watched through puffy eyes. We ate lunch at P.F. Changs. It was good. I got the Shanghai Street Noodles. They came with a wedge of lime, and the shrimp was cooked perfectly. If they had anything in Shanghai called Shanghai Street Noodles, I'm sure it wouldn't eat it. But anything was good after my sodium saturated Stamford Spanish shitty food fest. You're welcome for the alliteration.