Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Eats of Stamford: Paloma

Despite our three wonderful beaches and priceless views of Long Island, it's easy to forget that Stamford is, in fact, a coastal city.  This is partly because much of our waterfront has been used for industrial purposes until recently.  With the wave of development at Harbor Point and elsewhere, it seems like we'll get to enjoy more and more of our coastline.  If you can't wait until Cummings Beach resembles 1940s Havana, a great place for waterfront dining is Paloma, from world-renowned chef and Food Network star Aarón Sánchez.

This thick tome is just the drink menu.  Seriously!

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of dining at Paloma with a veritable plethora of fellow bloggers from CT Bites, Food Dudes, Talk-a-Vino, Hamlet Hub, Savory Sweet Eats, CT Lifestyles, Home Place Blog, Fairfield County Foodie,, Hey Stamford!, and Connecticut Magazine.  What a crowd!

Paloma's menu offers a variety of Latin-inspired dishes that will scratch any itch you may have.  Like chicken?  Try the Cuban marinated roasted chicken.  Ribs?  Braised short ribs.  Seafood?  You get the picture.  Enough of my blathering - let's go to the photographic evidence.

First up were the appetizers, starting with Lobster Ceviche in a passion fruit habanero sauce.  It was sweet, spicy, and delicious.

Next was Tai Tiradito - raw snapper in a spicy sauce.  I love sushi beyond words, so give me raw fish and I'm happy.  Add some spice to the mix and I'm even happier.

Continuing the app parade were shrimp tempura (top) and crab (bottom) tostadas.  Perfect little finger foods!

This little skillet of joy is Queso Fundido.  It's got huitlacoche, wild mushrooms, and jalapeños.  Yeah, it was awesome.

Albóndigas are meatballs (obviously), and these bad boys were rich and delicious.  They came in a chipotle broth with mint and queso cotija on top.  The astute reader will have noticed that all of these appetizers had some kind of spicy ingredients; Chef Aarón is known for his love of everything picante.  Heck, he even has a show called Heat Seekers, where he suffers and sweats through insanely spicy dishes for our entertainment!

Mexican Street Corn comes topped with chipotle crema and queso cotija.  I'm pretty sure I ate that entire plate.

OK, enough foreplay - on to the entrees!

These braised short ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender.  The veggies were delicious, as was the horseradish gemolata.  10/10; would eat again.

Cuban-Style Chicken is marinated roasted chicken served with a pickled salad and tamarind chicken fried rice.  Yummmmm.

This is Garganelli Pasta, and the sauce is ground chorizo, cauliflower, and grilled escarole in a tamarind reduction.  Another clean plate for me.

These jumbo shrimp might be the illegitimate offspring of Godzilla.  Seriously, they were HUGE.  They came with chile de arbol butter, which is buttery and spicy - two of my favorite words!

For a brief intermission so you can digest, here's a shot of the awesome wood-fired grill where the magic happens.

OK, that's enough of a break.  It's time for dessert!

Believe it or not, these are churros!  These little round balls of deliciousness are filled with dulce de leche and served with agave-vanilla crema on the side.  They were warm and sugary and amazing.

Not to be outdone, here's cheesecake in a jar!  It's got salted caramel (oh yeah), crumble, and whipped cream, with a cherry chunk cookie on the side.  Leave room, yo.

Almost as good as the food at Paloma is the atmosphere.  If you can, I highly recommend eating outside on the patio.  You're right on the water, surrounded by the sights and sounds of Harbor Point.

 Man, just writing this post made me hungry again.  Meet me at Paloma!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Get excited for Ethopian food!

First we lost Galangal.  Then Egané, followed by Plateau, Chinese Mirch, Rodizio Grill, Saigon Cafe, and the incredible Kit's Thai Kitchen.  Restaurants that feature interesting and different food seem to have short lifespans here, but, alas, there's hope!  Teff is coming soon!  They're going to serve Ethiopian and Eritrean food right across from Mill River Playground.  Ethiopian food is hard to describe, but it's probably unlike anything you've had before.  I love the meat dishes served extra spicy.  I'll definitely write a mouth-watering post about Teff once they're up and running!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Mysterious Manhattan Street

Just blocks from the gleaming new high-rises at Harbor Point and the hopping bar and restaurant scene of downtown Stamford lies a pocket of utter decay.  If you've ever been to the train station, you've probably driven right past Manhattan Street, which is tucked in between Atlantic Street, the Urban Transitway, and the train tracks.

This odd little street has intrigued me ever since I happened upon it during my ramblings about town.  Even when the buildings were occupied they were in bad shape, and they've gotten worse since being vacated.  The condition of these buildings, and that people were living and gathering in them, is startling considering the general affluence of our city and county.

Now that the whole street is empty (as part of the train station redevelopment), it holds a whole new level of interest for me, since I've always been fascinated with abandoned buildings and urban decay.

I'll add some captions to provide context or commentary, but I think the pictures mostly speak for themselves.

This is a close-up of the notice taped to the red door above.

This was the view inside that slightly ajar door in the picture above.

On the door was another warning from the city about the dangerous condition of this building.

The owners apparently took the matter seriously, because when I walked by a week later, the door was boarded up.

And a week after that, it was secured with a steel roll-door.

I don't want to turn this into an editorial, but who keeps buildings that they own in this horrible state?  I don't understand why someone would buy expensive real estate and then let it crumble to the point where it's basically condemned.  Were they taking the loss in property value as a tax write-off?  Were they just betting on the train station development to push the values up?  Even if that were the case, why would you forgo even the most basic maintenance, especially considering people were living in the buildings?  I can't imagine the conditions that people had to tolerate inside those apartments.

Here's a look inside the window with the bars on it:

One of many broken upstairs windows.

This furniture store looked desolate even before it closed.  I could never tell if it was an actual functioning business.  It moved to a new location on Henry Street, and the old store was the site of an arson in December.

More open and broken upstairs windows.

That DirecTV dish looks a little out of place on such a decrepit building.

A creepy open cellar door.

An antique radio-TV combo inside the vacant church.

Another abandoned church.

Does anyone have any idea when this store closed?  Even before the street was vacated, I never saw it open.  Did anybody ever buy anything there?

Another creepy basement door.

Apparently, this wasn't a coffee shop but a club - and the site of a murder in 2011.

At the corner of Pacific Street and the Urban Transitway sits this new or renovated building, but it's completely empty.  My guess is that its surroundings make it a hard sell.

At the end of Pacific Street you'll find this great old brick factory building.  You can almost picture those giant wooden double doors being used to bale hay or unload Yale and Towne locks.

Bonus: a partial ghost sign!

Here's a shiny rendering of the proposed redevelopment at the train station site.  That smaller building on the left looks like it's on the site of present-day Manhattan Street.  Maybe the owners of the abandoned buildings that currently line the street were, in fact, hoping for generous buyouts.  We'll see what happens with this ambitious -- and contentious -- project.