Tucked away in a cozy, industrial space is a restaurant that has been quietly crafting amazing farm-to-table meals long before it became all the rage. Jennifer Balin opened Sugar + Olives in Norwalk in 2008 with the goal to make amazing food while connecting people with where the food on their plates comes from. She is also committed to not wasting one bit of it. “We never throw anything away here,” Jennifer said.
I had the absolute pleasure of attending a media dinner here which not only inspired me but also reminded me of why I became so passionate about local food to begin with. The decor and presentation are beautiful, yet down-to-earth, just like the food.
The night started with some fantastic creative cocktails whipped up by bartender Chris Grimm. Each one was elegantly paired with each dish from appetizer to dinner to dessert. My absolute favorite was the Brush Fire with smoked rosemary infused gin, mixed with lemon, simple syrup and a splash of Chambord. The perfect blend of sweet and smoky. The other cocktail that stole the show was the Beet Blossom. A beautifully deep ruby color, the earthy yet slightly sweet drink is made with beet syrup, organic gin, and lime juice. You think it’s going to be overly sweet and fruity, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see it’s not! Last but not least, paired with dessert was the Grasshopper – how’s that for a throwback! Simply made with creme de menthe, creme de cacao, and half + half. Yes, it tasted as good as it looks!
Let’s get to the food! We started with a rosemary flatbread with smoked bluefish pate and fennel fronds. The flatbread was light and crispy and the bluefish was so creamy it was almost mousse-like. Great flavor and smokiness and not too fishy at all. Next we were served vegan rustic tomato soup in a shot glass – what a unique presentation and the tomato flavor was amazing.
One of my favorite dishes was the smoked beets with goat cheese, arugula and pistachio dust. The creamy, tangy goat cheese was a great compliment to the firm beets and lightly spicy tender arugula. A sprinkle of salty pistachio on top was the perfect blend.
Next came a lamb ragu with polenta, which would be the perfect meal on a cold winter’s day. The ragu was made with leftover roasted lamb from the previous day which totally exemplified the nothing wasted philosophy. The polenta was unbelievably creamy, and while I’m not a huge lamb fan – this was delicious.
Lastly, we were served an anchovy chicken with cabbage cooked with mustard seeds in French Pavan (muscat grape and orange blossom liquor) and roasted carrots. This dish had me a little scared at first because I don’t like anchovies, but I had to try it as it looked outstanding. The tender chicken was melt in your mouth with just a touch of saltiness from the anchovies.
I’m not a huge dessert fan – but this one you have to save room for! The sticky toffee pudding made with dates, toffee sauce, and chantilly cream. Amazing. Worth every calorie!
Submitted by Dr. Diane Hayden. For more information, visit www.sugarandolives.com.