‘A Taste of Pesach’ cookbook leaves more time for Passover reminiscing

The weather hasn’t been spring-like, but the ads for ingredients for Passover and Easter feasts make me hopeful that long-awaited better weather is ahead.

Passover begins at sundown April 14 with the first seder, the feast that begins the 8-day Jewish holiday. Although they are different spring holidays, both include meals that celebrate tradition and beloved memories. One Passover memory I have is my maternal grandmother making her “famous” stuffed cabbage, and my “job” of inserting toothpicks to hold the rolls together. Indeed, that was a task, as was making sure those picks came out before eating. Fast forward many years …

To see the rest of the column and recipes, please go to


                                   “unstuffed” cabbage

                      Baby Bella & Cranberry Brisket

photos by: David Ticktin

recipes reprinted with permission of Artscroll/Mesorah Publications

American Liver Foundation’s Flavors of Connecticut always well done

Dining was taken to the next level April 1 at the American Liver Foundation’s 13th annual Flavors of Connecticut culinary gala at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville. The evening began with an elaborate cocktail reception, including hors d’oeuvres from 34 Connecticut chefs, who each created two items. Guests nibbled on the delicacies while bidding on hundreds of items at the silent and live auctions.

After being conservative in my consumption of hors d’oeuvres, anticipating what was to come, I settled at the table hosted by Chef Frank Proto of Barcelona in New Haven, one of the 34 tables of 12, each with a talented restaurant chef at the helm. This culinary soiree was more than just eating; each guest witnessed their own culinary expert craft a five- or six-course dinner, tableside, paired with wine.

The Barcelona dinner began with hamachi crudo (sliced yellowtail) followed with watercress salad with hazelnuts, serrano ham, golden raisins and sherry vinegar. The third course, roasted monkfish with artichokes, fennel and basil is one recipe I will be requesting. The next course, rib-eye, was served with spring garlic, smoked cauliflower and mushrooms. The finale of the feast was chocolate pot de creme with an almond cookie. I especially enjoyed the dessert wine pairing, Croft Distinction ruby port.

Each table was decorated with a theme, and boy, did the chefs go all out to vie for table design awards. The most witty table design went to La Tavola Ristorante of Waterbury ; most elegant was won by Mambo Cocina Latina of New Haven and Bin 100 in Milford; “Something out of Nothing” was taken by Millwright’s of Simsbury; Best Floral went to The Willows at DoubleTree by Hilton in Bristol; best giveaway was awarded to The Wharf at Madison Beach Hotel. Guests at their table received a” shipwreck survival kit,” including flip-flops, sailor’s cap, rum, beach towel, bandana and handmade chocolate starfish. Best overall table design went to Caseus in New Haven.

It was an evening of fine dining while helping to fund research, education and advocacy efforts. Think of the event as Connecticut’s most exclusive restaurant that is only open one night a year. Veteran chef participant Dave Foster of Da Legna, one of State Street’s gems, said to Todd Lyon, longtime chef recruiter for the event, “Flavors is my favorite night of the year, because the sky is the limit, and there is no sky.”

The sellout event raised $265,000, the most ever. Plan early to attend next year’s Flavors of CT, scheduled for March 31, 2015. More at 203-234-2022  .

Enjoy the view and Chocolate Mousse at Sage American Grill & Oyster Bar

Found: Joanne Chvisuk of North Haven wrote, “The dark chocolate mousse at Sage American Grill & Oyster Bar, (100 S. Water St., New Haven, www.sageamerican.com, 203-787-3466 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 203-787-3466 FREE end_of_the_skype_highlighting) is worth saving room for at the end of a great meal … will the chef share his recipe?”

Joanne, you are in luck, and so am I, the chocoholic that I am, since chef and owner Dave McCoart was willing to share the recipe, which was prepared by Kitchen Manager Mark Severino and Bill Nunes. It was exciting to re-connect with Bill who graduated from Gateway Community College’s Culinary Arts program and prepares the desserts at the restaurant. To see the rest of the column and recipe please go to this link


To see my food and travel column archives please go to this link


North Haven cook gets her cheesecake alternative from late, great Ibiza in New Haven

Found: Kathy Rocklin of North Haven wrote, “I was on your holiday culinary walking tour, and the Cream Cheese Mousse served at Ibiza, (39 High St., New Haven) was delicious. I would like to replace the cheesecake that I make with this. I know my family will love it!” Food writer Jane Stern was also on this tour, and she, too, asked for this recipe.

I was saddened to hear that Ibiza, New Haven, closed last week. Juan Carlos and Maria Gonzalez and Executive Chef Manuel Romero, you will be missed; hopefully only temporarily, as you take a well deserved break and prepare for a new venture. The 50-plus comments on Facebook said it all about the love of your restaurant. To see the rest of the column and recipe please click on this link


Catching up with Cristina Chang-Bryant of Sweetpea in Cheshire

Editor’s note: Chef du Jour is an occasional profile on an area restaurant professional.

Just celebrating its one year anniversary, Sweetpea - real foods to go, 912 South Main St., Cheshire, 203-271-TOGO, www.sweetpeatogo.com, is worth a visit for quality and inventive food as well as classes and catering. A couple of tables are available to enjoy your purchases.

By the way, it was good to see Sweetpea Chef Maria Ojeda, a graduate from our culinary arts program at Gateway Community College, showing off what she learned with owner Cristina Chang-Bryant.

To see the rest of the column and recipe, please go to this link


West Haven’s Alison Fratarcangeli wins Savin Rock Fireworks’ Chili Cook Off

Congratulations to Alison Fratarcangeli of West Haven who won the 10th annual Savin Rock Fireworks Committee’s Chili Cook Off at Westwoods Ballroom in West Haven. The stay-at-home mom, enjoys cooking and thanks her friends Daryll Proto and Mary Parkin, her husband, Sean Truncone, and her mom, Suzanne Schiano, for encouraging her to enter the contest.

Alison’s mom went to culinary school, and perhaps that’s the reason she has a passion for cooking. She said her chili is more like a stew. When it was announced she was the winner of the 21 entries, she was totally shocked, never expecting to take home the trophy.

Coming in second place was Lou Cappola of West Haven who was the winner in 2010. Third place went to Mike Doran and his nephew Matt Doran, both of West Haven. The People’s Choice went to Al and Sherri Lepper of West Haven for their Chuck Wagon Chili.

For those who wish to enter their chili in next year’s competition Feb. 28, 2015, contact Jim Kelly at 203-988-4148. As you might have guessed, proceeds from the event support the July 3 fireworks display in West Haven.

To see the rest of the column and recipe go to,

Lucky guy Stephen Fries sits down to fine dining in Sarasota, Fla.

                          The Lido Beach Resort

                             Ringling Beach House

Given the weather, it couldn’t be a better time for my fifth annual “Hidden Gems of Florida,” a column I thoroughly enjoy researching.

In 1927, John Ringling brought his Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus — elephants and all — to Sarasota County to escape the winters of Bridgeport.

This friendly city, midcoast in southwestern Florida, sits an hour-plus north of Ft. Meyers and Naples, and an hour south of Tampa-St. Petersburg. Sarasota and her string of eight coastal barrier islands is a delightful and attractive city of art, architecture, beaches, a historic circus family and diverse culinary delights.

On two successive visits, I called Siesta Key and Lido Key “home.” Both islands and accommodations proved to be excellent launching pads for exploring the diverse and delectable food scene.

To see the rest of this column and videos please go to


                         “Dining in the Sand” at The Lido Beach Resort

Artichokes Esther from Mattison’s

Tempt your sweetie with all kinds of baked goods on Valentine’s Day

Love will be in the air on Feb. 14, with the 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards expressing love and affection, according to the U.S. Greeting Card Association.

The ritual of exchanging confections, especially chocolates, is thought to be because of chocolate’s aphrodisiac qualities. Others reason, according to www.foodtimeline.org, the valentine candy phenomenon is just a clever scheme developed by confectioners to promote products in the seasonal lull between Christmas and Easter.

Whatever the reason, what better way to show your valentine and loved ones how special they are on Feb. 14 than by giving a gift of chocolate or other confection you made especially for them?

Checking out the seasonal cookbook displays recently, I browsed through several to see what new titles will help make some delectable treats. Of course, a few had to become part of my collection, so I could experiment.

To see the rest of this column, recipes of these photos from the books, go to  http://www.nhregister.com/lifestyle/20140204/tempt-your-sweetie-with-all-kinds-of-baked-goods-on-valentines-day

To see my food and travel column archives, please click on this link


Mambo Cocina Latina spices up restaurant scene on State Street in New Haven

Found: Joy Habib of Orange wrote, “I am writing to tell you about a new restaurant in New Haven called Mambo (758 State St. www.mambonewhaven.com).

“The food was wonderful, well prepared and presented. The Corn Chowder With Shrimp was outstanding, and we would love the recipe so we can create it at home. Would you be so kind as to ask the chef for the recipe? We would really appreciate that. Many thanks.”

Joy, get out your soup pot, because Chef Alex Morales, who opened Mambo Cocina Latina with Elena Fusco, owner of Bin 100 in Milford, and Gerry Iannaccone, owner of Goodfellas, was happy to share the recipe.

Chef Morales’ cuisine of South America and the Caribbean is inventive, with big flavor, and it is beautifully presented as well. Tasting the soup and the best fried yucca I have had at the photo shoot for this column was a tease, so I went back for lunch with my good friend, food writer Jane Stern and explored more of the menu. To see the rest of the column and recipe, please click on this link


To see my food and travel column archives, please click on this link


Greek Olive in New Haven serves Cod Fish Papillote

Found: Angela Cooke of Branford wrote, “ I went to the Greek Olive Restaurant on Long Wharf in New Haven. I ordered the Cod Fish Papillote; it was superb. It seems to contain parsley, scallions, capers and lemon served on rice pilaf. I would love to have this recipe.”

Angela, chef Kam Tom and owners Anna and Tony Antonakis were happy to share the recipe. In business for 10 years at 402 Sargent Drive in New Haven (the former Howard Johnson’s location), this is not the Antonakises’ first restaurant. They owned Roberto’s on State and Court streets for 11 years and Tony’s International, which was located under the Air Rights Garage.

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant, www.thegreekolive.com, is known for its Mediterranean-style cuisine as well as burgers, breakfast served all day and pastries made in-house. To see the rest of this column and recipe, please click on this link


To see my food and travel column archives, please click on this link